Thursday, October 31, 2013

blown away

It's a magical night, tonight.  In the midst of all the frenzy about when and where to trick or treat, the blustery storms, the blog posts about people suddenly becoming convicted to the evils of celebrating Halloween, and the barrage of cute kid pics, I wonder how many of us actually stepped outside and just felt alive.

Not so much out of conviction as a general desire to avoid the rain, Quinn and I spent the evening in playing strategy board games, like the hopeless nerds we are. But now, he is asleep and I am on the porch because I can't quite bring myself to go inside.  It's just too alive out here.

If you aren't in Nashville or if you didn't go out today, the wind is swirling through the trees, sending the newly emerging fall colors into a kind of frenzied dance.  Some trees along my drive went from fully loaded to completely bare over the course of the day, and yet the wind remains relentless in its determination to strip every last leaf from the arms of its mother tonight.

It's a restless night to match my restless heart.  This would be the perfect night for the beginning of a story.   If I were a character in a novel, I might hear voices in the leaves or see a face in the wind.  A gnome might pop in for a spot of tea, or perhaps the tree in my front yard would spontaneously combust, opening a portal to another dimension.

It's not cold enough for goosebumps, yet they dance along my skin as if the whole world were alive with the breath of God.  "Ah," the spirit whispers, "but it is.  Only perhaps today you have been still enough and I have been loud enough for you to finally notice."

I've been reading a lovely little book by N.D. Wilson called Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl.  It's pretty fabulous.  Although he's primarily a secular juvenile fiction writer, this book serves as his statement of faith and a deeper call to the wonder and awesomeness of God's creation.  It isn't really quotable because he travels along at breakneck pace, intoxicated by creation and the story woven by our creator. It almost feels like he's on drugs, and indeed he does apologize in the preface for being intoxicated with this life we live.  I am reminded that God is way past crazy.  He is completely ridiculous in the way he lavishes out his love and unreasonably extravagant with his creativity.  I suspect most of us would find him terribly gauche and embarrassingly over enthusiastic if we were to see him laugh and cry and rejoice over his creation.

Throughout the book I find myself laughing out loud, caught of guard, simultaneously reprimanded for my lack of faith and reminded of the very things that brought me to faith.  It has been exactly what my creator ordered, to see through a new set of eyeballs, to feel through a redeemed skin, and to taste flavors beyond imagining.

Before Quinn went to bed tonight I said we should play one last game.  He was very excited and asked me what the rules were.  I said, "It's very simple.  We go stand on the deck and the first one to get blown away loses."  He laughed and we continued getting ready for bed.  But now as I sit here on the porch, I can't help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, the first one to get blown away by this wind might actually be the winner.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


From Day Will Come by Keane:
The winter night has wrapped a rag around your eyes
And stolen your sight
Oh you seem so far away
I hope you find your way back someday
I miss you, I miss you

Some days set your world on fire
And some days they sink like stones

That's when your heart will cry out
Until your body is numb
And the night will try to tempt you
But the day will come
It has been a long winter of the soul these past few months.  Many, many of my days have sunk like stones.  In some ways October is always a rough month.  Intensity at work, exhaustion at home, shorter daylight hours - all these things work together to make it hard to see each morning's new mercies.

October 27th would have been Emmett's 34th birthday.

Alice Walker has a volume of poetry out entitled, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing.  The title alone is perfect, but the poetry is exquisite.  In the preface she says
It struck me one day, while dancing, that the marvelous moves African Americans are famous for on the dance floor came about because the dancers, especially in the old days, were contorting away various knots of stress.  Some of the lower-back movements handed down to us that have seemed merely sensual were no doubt created after a day's work bending over a plow or hoe on a slave driver's plantation.  
Those days that set my world on fire - those are the days that are most appropriately described as days where I'm overwhelmed by the desire to dance, when I crank up the music, put on my favorite apron, and make something fabulous in the kitchen or get outside and run around with Quinn like I'm still six years old.  As a new creation in Christ, I am learning to contort away the various knots of my sinful nature and embrace who I was created to be.  That process will be awkward, and I may end up looking like Elaine from Seinfeld more often than not.

But I'm finding that hard times not only require furious dancing, they carve out the spaces in my soul that make dancing possible.  In Phantasties, George MacDonald says
As in all sweetest music, a tinge of sadness was in every note. Nor do we know how much of the pleasures even of life we owe to the intermingled sorrows. Joy cannot unfold the deepest truths, although deepest truth must be deepest joy.
There is an elusive connection between truth, sorrow, and joy, but I'm pretty sure that connection has something to do with dancing.  So where's my apron?  This night is trying to tempt me with it's siren song, and I am weary.  very weary.  So it's time to get my groove on and dance until I can see daylight again because the day will come, so I might as well dance like it's already here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ooh Shiny

Sometimes I feel like an overstimulated raccoon.

Seriously.  There are just too many shiny things to look at.  Emmett used to love it when I got my engagement ring cleaned because I'd play with the light to make it sparkle, and then he'd feel all manly like he'd just dragged home a buffalo he'd shot or something.  We were definitely ridiculous.

I took a class last year where we looked at a lot of poetry, and the teacher would often read a poem and then ask something like, "What sticks out to you? What shimmers?"  I began to realize I am continually asking myself that same question as I walk through life, like I'm on a covert raccoon mission to find all the "ooh shiny" things I can before I die.  If you don't know what I mean by those little "ooh shiny" moments, think of a conversation with a good friend where they say something that sticks with you, or that Bible verse you've read a thousand times that finally makes sense, or that song lyric you can't get out of your head.

Sometimes I go weeks without any shiny moments.  Those are hard weeks, where I can't see the shiny because I'm not looking outside of my self.  And there's nothing shiny on the inside of this girl.  Trust me, I've looked for it, dressed it up, painted over it, and still can't make it shiny.  The past few weeks, maybe even months have been hard ones, difficult to see anything shiny.

But then someone says something and everything I'm reading or working on or studying begins to fall into place.  I got an inkling that something was brewing when I was working through one of John Newton's letters.  In a letter about the fallen state of man (because that's what I write letters to my friends about, sheesh!) he says, "but for the grace of God, the Earth would be the very image of hell."

That quote was the first bit of shiny I'd had in weeks, and it was like the snowflake that starts the avalanche.

But for the grace of God, the Earth would be the very image of hell.

Wow.  If that doesn't sum up how depraved we are, then I'm not sure what does.  I'm not sure why he even wrote the rest of the letter.  I'd have written that single sentence and then been like, "boom! I'm outta here!"

One more time.  But for the grace of God, the Earth would be the very image of hell.

I've been a Christian a while, and I'm not sure I've ever really understood what the grace of God means, but that sentence gives me a much better idea.

I have lots of friends who either are counselors or are in counseling, so I feel like I'm constantly using counseling lingo.  Shoot, I could probably play one on TV. I can't even remember which one of my friends said this, but it went something like, "If you're not in love with the idea of marriage more than the person you're married to, then you won't stay married."

Genius.  It was like God slapping me upside the face with a truckload of shiny.

Yeah the quote's about marriage, but it was like God was telling me, "you have to love the idea of me more than your experience of me in this moment or we ain't gonna get anywhere sweetheart."

I mean, duh.  It's so obvious after it hits you over the head.

In the book Where The Red Fern Grows, they make a raccoon trap where the hole is big enough for the flat hand to go in but too small for the fist to come out.  I've always wondered if this trap was legitimate, but apparently raccoons are so stubborn they won't let go of something they've picked up. So the raccoon just sits there, stubborn to the death because it won't let go of whatever was in that hole.

And I got my fist wrapped so tightly around my own agenda that I'm sitting on a log just mad as can be at God for not working things out like I asked.  Here I am shaking my fist that's stuck in a trap and looking like an idiot and missing all the shiny things out there because I'm so fixated on this one little piece.  All I have to do is let it go.  Why is that so hard?