Liquid Bubble Wrap

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As a child I liked to go out far into our hay field and find the tallest patch of grass.  There, like a dog turning circles before a nap,  I’d trample down the tall waving stems that stretched up almost to my eyes, and create a grass nest, just cozy enough for me.  I’d sit or lie down in this green fortress, gazing up at the blue sky, and watch the clouds drift lazily by.  I’d suck on a hollow stem or two, to savor the bitter grass juice.  Scattered around my grassy cage, attached to the broad grass stems, would be innumerable clumps of white foam.  I’d tease out the hidden green spit bugs with their little black eyes from their white frothy bubble encasement.   I hoped to watch them spit, to actually see them in action doing what they do best, but they would leap away.

The grassy nest was a time of retreat from the world by being buried within the world.  I felt protected, surrounded, encompassed and free –at least until I heard my mother calling for me from the house, or a rain shower started, driving me to run for cover, or my dog found me by following my green path.

It has been years since I hid in a grass fort or tried to defoam spit bugs.   I am overdue, I’m sure.

A few years ago, on a spring morning, when the grass was particularly tall, I was driving into work on one of our county’s rural two lane roads, going the speed limit of 50 mph, in a grumbly mood and wishing I was heading somewhere else on a bright and sunny day.  My mind was busy with the anticipation of my workday when I noticed a slight shift to the right by the driver in the car ahead of me.  It inexplicably moved over the fog line and then suddenly I realized why, in a moment of stark clarity.  A huge empty gravel truck and trailer rig was heading north, moving at the speed limit, the driver seemingly oblivious to the fact his huge trailer was starting to whip back and forth.  As he approached me much too quickly, his trailer was whipping back to the center line, approaching me full force at a ninety degree angle from the truck, filling up the entire lane in front of me.  I had no choice but to run my car off the road into a grassy field to avoid being hit head on by the still attached but runaway trailer.  Only by chance were there no deep ditches at that particular point in the road.  My car dove right into tall grass, which enfolded me, like a shroud of green,  shielding me from a tangle of metal and certain death.  It was a near miss, but a miss nonetheless.

I sat still for a moment, gathering my wits and picking up what was left of my frayed nerves from where they been scattered.   All I could see in front and around me was grass, just like my little childhood fortresses.   It was very tempting to stay right there,  buried in the safety of the grass and hidden away, just as if I had been a spit bug wrapped in my foam cocoon, feeling my heart race from the relief of still being alive.

Instead I drove to work to do what I initially planned to do that day, abruptly made aware of the privilege of having a life to live,  a job to go to, and a grassy field ready to swallow me.

It was only later, after I called my husband about what had taken place, that I cried.  Until then, I couldn’t stop smiling.  I had felt encased in liquid bubble wrap, spit-protected by something bigger and stronger, in whose image I had been made.

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Awaiting His Arrival: From Hidden to Known

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So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2: 16-19

 

Her fate seizes her and brings her
down. She is heavy with it. It
wrings her. The great weight
is heaved out of her. It eases.
She moves into what she has become
sure in her fate now
as a fish free in the current.

She turns to the calf who has broken
out of the womb’s water and its veil.
He breathes. She licks his wet hair.
He gathers his legs under him
and rises. He stands, and his legs
wobble. After the months
of his pursuit of her now
they meet face to face.

From the beginnings of the world
his arrival and her welcome
have been prepared. They have always
known each other.
~Wendell Berry “Her First Calf”

 

Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth’s immeasurable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.
~Philip Larkin “First Sight”

When I Love

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But what do I love, when I love You? 
not physical bodies,
nor temporal glory,
nor the brightness of the light,
dear to earthly eyes,
nor sweet melodies of varied songs,
nor the fragrant smell of flowers,
and ointments, and spices,
nor manna and honey,
nor limbs welcoming the embracing of flesh.

None of these I love,
when I love my God;
and yet I love a kind of light,
and melody, and fragrance, and food,
and a kind of embrace
when I love my God,
–the light, melody, fragrance, food,
embrace of my inner man:
where my soul is floodlit by light
which space cannot contain,
and there is sound that time cannot seize,
and there is fragrance which no breeze disperses,
and there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lessen,
and there is a bond of union that no satiety can part.
This is it what I love when I love my God.
~Augustine in Confessions

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Listening to Lent — By and By

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Some bright morning when this life is o’er
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away.

Chorus:
I’ll fly away, oh Glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die Hallelujah, by and by
I’ll fly away.

When the shadows of this life have gone
I’ll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly
I’ll fly away.

Oh, how glad and happy when we meet
I’ll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I’ll fly away.

Just a few more weary days and then
I’ll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I’ll fly away.

When I die Hallelujah, by and by
I’ll fly away…
~Albert Brumley

Most of us don’t want to let go
of this familiar soil,
rocky and muddy as it is.
By and by may seem too far
but it could be today.

As I’ve watched folks die,
it is not so much flying away
but letting go of here
to be led there to that new home,
picked up and carried
to a Hallelujah by and by.

 

A Canticle for Advent: Grace Out of the Void

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It’s the season of grace coming out of the void
Where a man is saved by a voice in the distance
It’s the season of possible miracle cures
Where hope is currency and death is not the last unknown
Where time begins to fade
And age is welcome home

It’s the season of eyes meeting over the noise
And holding fast with sharp realization
It’s the season of cold making warmth a divine intervention
You are safe here you know now

Don’t forget
Don’t forget I love
I love
I love you

It’s the season of scars and of wounds in the heart
Of feeling the full weight of our burdens
It’s the season of bowing our heads in the wind
And knowing we are not alone in fear
Not alone in the dark

Don’t forget
Don’t forget I love
I love
I love you
~Vienna Teng “The Atheist Christmas Carol”

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Genesis 1: 1-2

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
John 10:27

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
John 21: 15-17

Cynthia Yih Shih (Vienna Teng professionally), a graduate student at the University of Michigan in the Global Sustainable Enterprise Institute did not grow up Christian but some of her songs show distinct Christian influence, especially this tongue-in cheek-entitled Christmas carol.  The comfort found in these words, heard by mostly secular audiences,  are echoes of the gospel.

There is no longer a void or darkness upon the face of the deep.  Instead Grace has come in the face of Jesus the Son,  through God the Father who moves among us, His Spirit changing everything, now and always.

Do not be afraid.
You are not alone in the dark.
You are loved.
Don’t forget.