Monthly Archives: August 2009

Enjoy

I found this lovely blog post over at The Rabbit Room. Contemplative, convicting, comforting. Read it here: Old Roads: Alberta Homestead

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Squirrel Nutkin

I zipped into my driveway the other day and noticed that my yard has once again shed one garment of color for another. Wildflowers come in waves here; purples and blues in the storm days of June, whites in the high heat of July, gold in the mellowed warmth of August. Sunflowers line the highway now- and the square of grass I see every time I pull in the driveway. Midday was overhead when I drove in,  sun was lemon butter, late day air lazy and cool, the sky stippled with cloud and blue. I sat for a few extra minutes to finish a song on the radio and at its last strains, glanced up to find two squirrels capering onto the stage of my vision.

In the pine woods beside the garage they leapt after each other in a zany chase up craggy pine knots, and thick, summered grass. One pranced my way. He was an athletic little fellow, fat and glossy as a pet mouse, tail twitching over his head like a feathered fan. He found a ping pong ball and began to toss it; round and down he went, diving to catch it and fling it up again. One of his tosses landed the ball on a knotty old stump soaked in sun gold, and with a leap he mastered it and sat as a small king, arching his ears. And then… leap, flip, whirl! A royal acrobat he was. Never have you seen such swift, wanton flips, such self assured nosedives and exuberant twists into air buzzing with gold. Triple flips and dances upon landing and an ever-triumphant return to the stump throne. At one last instant, he stood to his noblest height, ears stretching, stretching, tail twitching…  he was gone.

Not an eye in the universe to see his magnificent show but God’s and mine. The dance and the play and the whirl, they were all part of his soulish property to caper and twirl, and yes, exult in the taut energy of his limbs and the yellow cool of summer and the glorious fact of his existence. No one tells him to be glad, no command is laid upon him to be squirrelishly full of life. He simply is as he was made to be.

If I could be like him, what would I be? If I were to live out my soulish properties, free of restraining voices or deceptive whispers, what actions, or songs, or twirls would mark the unseen minutes of my days? I am human and wise when compared to squirrels, yet I am slow to see, and slower yet to be that which my maker intended. The simple do really do confound the wise. When my heart is a little more like that squirrels, I shall be wise indeed.

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So she dances…

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I am revelling in the wheatfield piroutte of this lovely painting. I am charmed beyond words to proclaim that it is now mine and hanging gracefully in my room. It’s my first purchase of an original. (Someday, when I am a famous writer, I will be a patron of the arts and buy originals galore for my Rivendell of a home.) I spotted this beauty across an entire parking lot; she was propped against a sale table at a local resale shop. Watching her reminds me of a Josh Groban song I love:

So she dances,
In and out of the crowd,
Like a glance.
This romance is,
From afar, calling me silently…

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Wondering

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“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I would ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.”

-Rachel Carson

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Cantus by Arvo Part

I love having a brother studying music and composition and conducting right in the heart of Boston. It means he gets to hear reams of celestial sounding music and then eventually, I do to. When Joel is home on break, I always end up with a few new composers. One of my favories from this trip is Arvo Part. An Estonian composer, he writes music that is a mixture of sacred and modern classical. I find myself immediately stopped by the strains of his music. This cantus is a world of its own, to hear it is to enter it, even for a brief instant.

Joel said (I couldn’t hope to phrase it more elegantly), “it’s very affecting music. It deeply affects you just to hear it. It’s fearful, in an awe-inspiring sort of way because every note is so charged with meaning.”

I hope you love it as we have.

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A bit more danger…

I promise. I promise. I am going to move on to other topics besides struggle and danger and all that stuff soon. After today, I’ll jump into some joy and beauty again. I’m really not as sober as I sound. In fact, for a jot of joy today, you can exult with me in the fact that autumn is almost here! (Feels like it is already with the mist of this day and the chai at my elbow.) So. One last spurt of brooding, because after my post on Risky Beauty, I found this article at Christianity Today: Danger: God.

I love finding people thinking similar thoughts. I love how the author pushes my conclusions further; not only is God full of danger amidst his beauty, His followers were never supposed to lead safe, contained lives. To love God is to get catapulted into the vast unknown. You never know what might happen. Once, on an achingly long roadtrip through the northwest that provoked endless hours of conversation, my brother and I got to talking about how pervasively the American ideal of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” influences our expectations. We both admitted to having at one time really thought that loving God meant having that dream come true.

What we have both found and are still daily finding, is that to love God, is often to lay down the life we wanted. To give up the liberty of choices and plans formed purely on our own desires. Even the pursuit of happiness; we crave and fight for joy. But this is still the broken place. Problem is, living in modern America is a bit like living in a bubble. I am thankful a million times over for my lovely little blue car, for the proximity of a half-dozen shadowy, song-haunted little coffee shops with “fair trade, organic coffee in five different roasts.” (I’m sitting in one right now!) But, as the CT author said, the safe confines of suburban American condition me to relate to God with such a deep expectation of safety and comfort that I am a little shocked, and yes, outraged when loving God means an upset to the boat, a strong wind blowing over my waters.

This morning I read:

When my heart was embittered, and I was pierced within,
Then I was senseless and ignorant. I was like a beast before you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you.
You have taken hold of my right hand.
With your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. (Psalm 73:21-24)

I get so tickled at myself, the way I get so scrunch-facedly irritated at the heavens for not performing according to my idealistic expectations. I probably am a little like a beast with an almost irrational anger at having my comforts upset by even the smallest upsets of relationships, plans, and desires. But there, do you see it? God never lets go of me. Despite my stupidity and blinkers, God has taken hold of my right hand, just like a Father with his tiny girl. He won’t stop guiding me just because I’m bitter. His counsel will direct my steps and guide my heart regardless of my grumpiness, or my modern expectations, or my suburbanite blindness.

And that’s something I need to know. God is dangerous. My life is supposed to be risky. But in the middle of it all is my Father. This grace that sees all my protest and bluster and reluctance as little more than drip of rain. He’s guiding me, not just to being good, but to glory. Beauty. And it’s up to Him mostly, because I am my beloved’s, and He, holy God of the universe, is mine. Ah.

The end.

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Risky beauty

On our last day, the waves were like young Viking warriors. Swift-footed, gold-headed, blue-eyed as summer, they came to us with swords in upraised hands. To swim was to fight. To flail and tumble with each blow of sparkling water. There were instants when my head went down into the surging cold, when fear would scamper across my heart… retreat… and come again. In ocean water there is a grasping of some power that is so much vaster than my own, some chanting of a song so much clearer than my thought, its very touch provokes a sudden trembling. And yet the very wild at its core beats forth its beauty and makes its loveliness unlike any other within the sighted world. I looked upon it, swam within it, and knew that it was good.

I thought something similar last month as I climbed high into the mountains. At one sharp peak, I’d stooped to watch the tree sea in the valley when a shout of thunder sent me jumping to my feet. I spun around and found a storm stalking my steps, its navy, ragged edge now just above my head. Being a few thousand feet nearer the sky here makes lightning a force to be properly feared, so I bolted down the gravel, slipping down the red rock trails to the safety of my cabin. As I ran, I watched, head up, eyes widened as a ship of cloud sailed over me, navy as night, purple as sunset, whipped forward by a desperate wind. I knew the danger that is posed me, the fury it could impartially snap down on my uncovered head. But it was beautiful with a grace only touched in risk. And something inside me knew that it was undeniably good.

Good, as in right. Wholesome. True. I must admit my spirit struggled for an instant in calling something that could kill me “good.” How can something with the power to destroy be good? But in that question, it came to me clearly that I am used to thinking that what is controllable, and loveable, and safe, is what can be called beautiful. Raw power, unbridled energy, make me afraid, and so I usually deem them wrong. It’s a natural response. In the hands of most humans raw power is corrupted. Since the fall, things of power have the ability to hurt, kill, and destroy. In modern society, we are wary of anyone who has to much power. We seek to equalize. Even our modern standard of living keeps us insulated from the vagaries of rogue winds or the wild touch of rain in the night. Power, even when it is breathtakingly beautiful, is something we have learned to avoid.

What does this shape us to believe about God?

I had to ask myself that as I scrambled last month, and swam the other day, because it was God’s creation in which I was finding all this risky beauty. Truth is, God IS unmitigated power. His holiness is a force much greater than the wildest storm that has ever swept over the earth. His ability, his light, his presence, is searing as lightning, earth-shattering, awesome. And dangerous. God’s power, His holy wild is a force that judges and contends with nations, leaving them shattered and destroyed. And yet, His power is incomprehensibly good. Because love is founded in the very nature and core of our Creator, God’s power takes the shape of grace for all those that choose to love and hold fast to Him as their own. I have always been afraid of loving God because I feared His fearsome holiness might find me lacking. But for me, for all God-lovers, I know now that wildness comes to me as mercy. For me, His power is a fierce, earth-altering grace.

Because of this, there is no way I can relate to God as containable, comprehensible, or within grasp of my expectation. Being out in the primeval elements that reflect the force of his soul helped me to remember that. I cannot expect him to respond to evil with passivity, to ultimately allow any rebellion against His goodness to endure. I cannot expect Him to act or be or visit me in ways that fit the neat contours of my modern notions and polite expectations. Neither can I expect Him to leave sin dormant in my heart. To love Him means the destruction of all that is wrong in me.

I have discovered that beauty, that great love of mine, can be dangerous. That storms and seas rollicking up over the edges of creation are risky, and mighty, but ultimately good because their Maker is. And in their wildness I touch a sliver of the power that indwells me, a drop of the riotous grace that floods every corner of my being. It’s true, there are parts of me that will be shattered by His power. But there are also parts of me that will be remade by a loveliness formed of that same strength. Grace given me that is wild as God’s own goodness. And for me, there could be no greater beauty.

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