Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy.
These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.
A solstice moment
when light replaces
where darkness thrives:
there is a wounding
that tears us open,
so joy can enter the cracks
that hurt the most.
Oh, is it not enough to be
Here with this beauty over me?
My throat should ache with praise, and I
Should kneel in joy beneath the sky.
O beauty, are you not enough?
Why am I crying after love,
With youth, a singing voice, and eyes
To take earth’s wonder with surprise?
I, for whom the pensive night
Binds her cloudy hair with light,—
I, for whom all beauty burns
Like incense in a million urns?
O beauty, are you not enough?
Why am I crying after love?
~Sara Teasdale from “Spring Night”
When you stand before the most amazing sunset
or when you see the beauty of a human face,
whether it’s a little baby
or a lovely wise old person,
there is a haunting quality to it,
as though it’s not just complete in itself.
It’s a signpost to a larger truth
that is just around the corner,
just out of sight.
We can’t grip it,
can’t get our hands on it.
It’s as though we’re hearing the echo of a voice,
and we’d love to hear whose that voice is
and what story it’s telling.
Part of the joy of beauty
is the realization that it is part of a larger whole,
most of which appears to be just out of sight.
We are drawn forward toward something…
and left waiting, wondering.
~N.T. Wright from Life, God and Other Small Topics
Beauty is the link that connects,
the magnet that brings us home,
to look beyond,
to think more deeply,
to believe in something beyond our grasp~
Beauty leaves us crying after love
that bleeds for us
and heals all that is broken in us.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
~from the hymn “The Love of God”
by Frederick Lehman, derived from Jewish poem Haddamut,
written in Aramaic in 1050 by Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai
We try to wrap our arms and minds around that which is so immense, so infinite, so eternal, so mysterious, so unimaginable — in the hope we can hold it in our consciousness, even if momentarily.
We can try with metaphor and parable and poetry and our finite imagination.
Yet God’s love permeates everything from the empty space between tiny atomic particles to the clinging/flinging forces of the galaxies in the vast universe. It is impossible to fathom or describe.
We may try but we can’t — and simply be the image bearers we were created to be.
This has been a wild weather month on the outside:
heavy winds at times, damaging hale storms, snowfall covering the foothills, sweaty sunny middays, torrential unpredictable showers, ankle-deep mud.
And inside my cranium:
words that flew out too quickly, anxiety mixed with a hint of anger, too easy tears, searing frustration, feeling immobilized by the daily muck and mire.
The unpredictable month of May needs no explanation for acting like October, December and August within a span of a few hours. I am not so easily forgiven or unburdened. I end up lying awake at night with regrets, composing apologies, and wanting to hide under a rock until the storm blows over.
But in the midst of all the extremes, while the storm is raging, a miracle takes place:
it can only happen when brilliant light exposes weeping from heavy laid clouds, like the rainbow that dropped from heaven last week to touch the earth right in our backyard, only a few feet from our barn.
God cries too. His wept tears have lit up the sky in a promise of forgiveness.
He assures us: this storm too will pass.
He assures us because He knows we need it.
When you consider the radiance,
that it does not withhold itself
but pours its abundance without selection
into every nook and cranny not overhung or hidden;
when you consider that air or vacuum,
snow or shale, squid or wolf, rose or lichen,
each is accepted into as much light as it will take,
then the heart moves roomier,
the man stands and looks about,
the leaf does not increase itself above the grass,
and the dark work of the deepest cells
is of a tune with May bushes
and fear lit by the breadth of such
calmly turns to praise.
~A.R. Ammons from “The City Limits”
in fact, in truth,
–whether we accept or believe or not
makes not one whit of difference–
God Himself who pours His radiance
into every nook and cranny,
even into the dark corners of our doubting hearts.
He pulses there,
hidden and forgotten,
circulating life and light
until we find our voice
that turns, illuminated, to praise.
I know from experience that when I allow busy little doings to fill the precious time of early morning, when contemplation might flourish, I open the doors to the demon of acedia. Noon becomes a blur – no time, no time – the wolfing down of a sandwich as I listen to the morning’s phone messages and plan the afternoon’s errands.
When evening comes, I am so exhausted that vespers has become impossible. It is as if I have taken the world’s weight on my shoulders and am too greedy, and too foolish, to surrender it to God.
~Kathleen Norris from The Quotidian Mysteries
These are days with no breathing room,
no time to stop and appreciate each moment
as a bud about to burst into bloom.
And it is my fault
that I’m not breathing deeply enough~
simply skimming the surface
in my race to the end of the day
as time’s petals, so open, so brilliant, so eternal
close up unseen and unknown.
Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’:
aim at Earth and you will get neither.
~ C.S. Lewis from The Joyful Christian
The night sky was still dim and pale.
There, peeping among the cloud wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains,
Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while.
The beauty of it smote his heart,
as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.
For like a shaft, clear and cold,
the thought pierced him that in the end
the Shadow was only a small and passing thing:
there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.
~J.R.R. Tolikien, The Return of the King
We long for a heaven that feels so elusive;
we who are so weary
and with so much need
seek out Light so seemingly
beyond our reach.
Yet by reaching beyond the here and now
we find heaven descended to us
in His incarnate earthliness.
No shadow cast in this worldly darkness,
and no iron nails
can quell the beauty
of His everlasting brilliance.