These last few days of winter are a reawakening of nature’s rebirthing rhythms, with increased activity of all the wild creatures and birds around us, and most importantly, God’s renewal of our weary wintery hearts.
Some late winter and early spring mornings still are pitch black with blustering winds and rain, looking and feeling like the bleakest of December mornings about to plunge into the death spiral of winter all over again.
No self-respecting God would birth Himself into a dawn as dark as night.
But this God would.
He labors in our bleakest of hearts for good reason. We are unformed and unready to meet Him in the light, clinging as we do to our dark ways and thoughts. Though we soon celebrate the rebirth of springtime, it is just so much talk until we accept the change of being transformed ourselves.
Though soon the birds will be singing their hearts out and the frogs chorusing in the warming ponds, we, His people, are silenced as He prepares us and prepares Himself for birth within us. The labor pains are His, not ours; we become awed witnesses to His first and last breath when He makes all things, including us, new again.
The world and its creatures, including us, is reborn — even where dark reigned before, even where it is bleakest, especially inside our healing wintery hearts.
What word informs the world, and moves the worm along in his blind tunnel?
What secret purple wisdom tells the iris edges to unfold in frills? What juiced and emerald thrill
urges the sap until the bud resolves its tight riddle? What irresistible command
unfurls this cloud above this greening hill, or one more wave — its spreading foam and foil —
across the flats of sand? What minor thrust of energy issues up from humus in a froth
of ferns? Delicate as a laser, it filigrees the snow, the stars. Listen close — What silver sound
thaws winter into spring? Speaks clamor into singing? Gives love for loneliness? It is this
un-terrestrial pulse, deep as heaven, that folds you in its tingling embrace, gongs in your echo heart. ~Luci Shaw “What Secret Purple Wisdom” from The Green Earth: Poems of Creation ~
The road that took Him from wooden manger to wooden cross is one we walk in joy and terror through His Word.
He is given to us; He gives Himself to bring joy to our miserable and dark existence;
He dies for us; He rises to give us eternal hope of salvation; He calls us by name and we recognize Him.
This mystery is too much for too many unwilling to accept that such sacrifice is possible. His sacrifice and many parts of His body continue to be oppressed and persecuted every day. We are blind-hearted to the possibility that this Spirit that cannot be measured, touched, weighed or tracked can stir and overwhelm darkness. We prefer the safety of remaining tight in the bud, hid in the little room of our hearts rather than risk the joy and terror of full blossom and fruitfulness.
Lord, give us grace in our blindness, having given us Yourself. Prepare us for embracing your mystery.
Prepare us for joy. Prepare us to bloom.
What is the crying at Jordan? Who hears, O God, the prophecy? Dark is the season, dark our hearts and shut to mystery.
Who then shall stir in this darkness prepare for joy in the winter night? Mortal in darkness we lie down, blind-hearted, seeing no light.
Lord, give us grace to awake us, to see the branch that begins to bloom; in great humility is hid all heaven in a little room.
Now comes the day of salvation, in joy and terror the Word is born! God gives himself into our lives; Oh, let salvation dawn! ~Carol Christopher Drake
Light chaff and falling leaves or a pair of feathers
on the ground can spook a horse who won’t flinch when faced with a backhoe or a pack of Harleys. I call it “horse
ophthalmology,” because it is a different kind of system— not celestial, necessarily, but vision in which the small,
the wispy, the lightly lifted or stirring threads of existence excite more fear than louder and larger bodies do. It’s Matthew
who said that the light of the body is the eye, and that if the eye is healthy the whole body will be full of light. Maybe
in this case “light” can also mean “lightness.” With my eyes of corrupted and corruptible flesh I’m afraid I see mostly darkness
by which I mean heaviness. How great is that darkness? Not as great as the inner weightlessness of horses whose eyes perceive,
correctly I believe, the threat of annihilation in every windblown dust mote of malignant life. All these years I’ve been watching
out warily in obvious places (in bars, in wars, in night cities and nightmares, on furious seas). Yet what’s been trying to destroy
me has lain hidden inside friendly-seeming breezes, behind soft music, beneath the carpet of small things one can barely see.
The eye is also a lamp, says Matthew, a giver of light, bestower of incandescent honey, which I will pour more cautiously
over the courses I travel from now on. What’s that whisper? Just the delicate sweeping away of somebody’s life. ~Gail Wronsky
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5: 14-16
Some days I am dreaming awake with wide-open eyes. There is a slow motion quality to time as it flows from one hour to the next to the next, and I can only take it in, watching it happen. Life becomes more vivid, as in a dream — the sounds of birds, the smell of the farm, the depth of the greens in the landscape, the taste of fresh plums, the intensity of every breath, the reason for being.
There is lightness in all things, as the Creator intended.
Yet much of the time is rush and blur like sleepwalking, my eyes open but unseeing. I stumble through life’s shadows, the path indiscernible, my future uncertain, my purpose illusive. I traverse heaviness and darkness, much of my own creation.
We live in an imperfect world, with imperfect characters to match. Our imperfections should not keep us from dreaming of better things, or even from trying, within our limits, to be better stewards of the soil, and more ardent strivers after beauty and a responsible serenity. ~Jane Kenyon from “In the Garden of My Dreams”
Beauty is always right outside my back door, whether it is growing in the soil, unfurling in a misty dawn moment or settling into an early twilight serenade.
It heals me after an imperfect day and an imperfect night’s sleep.
Today I want to be different. I will strive to be a steward for serenity, striving to find beauty in all things, aiding its growth and helping it flourish.
Never perfect but I’m not giving up. Never perfect but serene with the responsibility of always trying, always wanting to be different than I am and change my little part of this world.
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
I don’t wanna hear anymore, teach me to listen I don’t wanna see anymore, give me a vision That you could move this heart, to be set apart I don’t need to recognize, the man in the mirror And I don’t wanna trade Your plan, for something familiar I can’t waste a day, I can’t stay the same I wanna be different I wanna be changed ‘Til all of me is gone And all that remains Is a fire so bright The whole world can see That there’s something different So come and be different In me And I don’t wanna spend my life, stuck in a pattern And I don’t wanna gain this world but lose what matters And so I’m giving up, everything becauseI wanna be different I wanna be changed ‘Til all of me is gone And all that remains Is a fire so bright The whole world can see That there’s something different So come and be different; oh-oh I know, that I am far, from perfect But through You, the cross still says, I’m worth it So take this beating in my heart and Come and finish what You started When they see me, let them see You ‘Cause I just wanna be different, ye-ey I wanna be different I wanna be changed ‘Til all of me is gone And all that remains Oh is a fire so bright The whole world can see That there’s something different So come and be different I just wanna be different So could You be different In me Songwriters: Micah Tyler Begnaud / Kyle Lee
All the paths of the Lord are loving and faithful Psalm 25:10
“All does not mean ‘all – except the paths I am walking in now,’ or ‘nearly all – except this especially difficult and painful path.’ All must mean all. So, your path with its unexplained sorrow or turmoil, and mine with its sharp flints and briers – and both our paths, with their unexplained perplexity, their sheer mystery – they are His paths, on which he will show Himself loving and faithful. Nothing else; nothing less. ~Amy Carmichael–Anglican missionary to India 1867-1951
Sometimes we come upon forks in the road where we may not be certain which path to take. Perhaps explore the Robert Frost “less traveled” one? Or take the one that seems less tangled and uncertain from all appearances?
Sometimes we have chosen a particular path which looked inviting at the time, trundling along minding our own business, yet we start bonking our heads on low hanging branches, or get grabbed by stickers and thorns that rip our clothes and skin, or trip over prominent roots and rocks that impede our progress and bruise our feet.
Sometimes we come to a sudden end in a path and face a steep cliff with no choice but to leap or turn back through the mess we have just slogged through.
Navigating the road to the cross must have felt like ending up at that steep cliff. There was no turning back, no choosing or negotiating a different pathway or taking time to build a staircase into the rocks. His words reflect His uncertainty and terror. His words reflect our deepest doubts and fears–how are we to trust we are on the right path?
When we take that next step, no matter which way, we end up in the Father’s loving and faithful arms. He has promised this.
More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them.
It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems.
My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress.
But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.