Friday, January 25, 2013

Predictable routines leave little time for unexpected sightings of glory

Was that you, Lord, in the lady with the purple coat?

She wore purple with a red cap shielding her from the rain. Robed in purple she was, topped with crimson: a familiar combination hearkening from the past but hardly a royal appearance today.

She hobbled clutching her cane in her right hand and pushing a three-wheeled cart with her left, wobbling upright with each step with her zipped bag swinging in curious balance as a pendulum from the elbow. She looked right at home leaving the bus station or making her way through an airport terminal, but not here—not crossing Meadowbrook Road on East frontage road at I 55. She held my gaze as I waited at the light.

We say we are watchful, looking for opportunities to serve and to be mindful of your Presence among us, Lord, but are we really? We usually see what we are expecting to see while on our way to work on a busy morning.  Predictable routines leave little time for unexpected sightings of glory.
Then again, you show up at unexpected places. I heard myself ask aloud to no one present, “Was that you, Lord?”

Her gait told me she needed that walking stick. She caught my eye and halted my heart for a moment, but did I stop to pick her up, to see if I could help? No. She was a stranger, and I was on my way to somewhere else.

Aren't we always on the way to somewhere else when you break through our day and beckon for our attention? We need you to make it clear, Lord, if we are to step aside and see a great sight. I have this rule, you see, a rule that I do not pick up strangers. I'm a little bit afraid of taking them into my car for some perfectly good reasons you would understand. But when we need to set aside our closely-held rules, we need you to make it clear, else we just go on about our business, living by our own rules--kind of like I just did today when I saw her brown skin glistening wet and the morning rain on her purple coat.

This mental conversation filled the space of a glimpse, just the time it takes for a light to turn from red to green, but a glimpse is all we have sometimes, is it not?

 Just a brush with glory. 

A brief visitation. 

A few seconds should be enough when we walk closely enough with you to recognize you when you have a task for us, to be your hands and feet in the world today to relieve suffering, to lighten another's load. But we can be so encumbered with our own cares, as I was this morning, that we cannot see another's.

We may miss the message.

We may not see you when you show up at times and places we are not expecting.

And I was strongly impressed with the reminder to look for you in the faces of the hurting, the aged, the lonely. The glimpse turned me inside out. My little morning sadness about other things vanished in a breath--the breath that I took in as I asked aloud, “Was that you, Lord?"

You give us our next breath, and you take it away. You take it away with beauty, nature and music, and you take it away with pain. And in that split second when we inhale silently and take in the sight before us, you remind us you are present.

So, yes, perhaps that was you, Lord, not transfigured at all but mysteriously present nonetheless in the realigning of my thoughts, the shuffling of my priorities so that I might refocus and see more fully all about me.

Later my friend Betty told me of an auto accident at County Line Road where a woman had been walking in the midst of busy traffic. An ambulance’s blue lights held waiting cars at bay while an upturned cart was spinning silently at the edge of the road. I wondered if I had seen her earlier, but I was on my way to somewhere else.

On the way to somewhere else: that’s where much of life happens. Lord, speak to my heart. Interrupt my day with ordinary sights and sounds so that I do not miss an opportunity to serve, to learn.

To you O Lord, I lift my soul. Show me your paths and teach me to follow; guide me by your truth and instruct me.” Psalm 25: 1, 4.

Monday, January 14, 2013

January Days: New Beginnings in 2013

"To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. 

To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. 

But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.

It is what we need more than anything. 
It liberates us from pretense; humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us."

~ Tim Keller

[emphasis mine]

And so I'm thinking.....

Freedom from posturing and pretending.
Always comes at a price.

Cannot occupy the same space alongside pride.
Pride consumes all the air.

Something's gotta give.

To be known and loved as we are--not as someone else wishes we were--is a rare experience in our world.
That kind of love fortifies us for the task at hand, for the tasks of a lifetime. We dare to do great things because we are not afraid.

We are not afraid of failure. We are not afraid of losing the love we once thought we had to earn. Because, we reason, if we had to earn it, we could also forfeit it in one fell, disapproving swoop.  

Fear of failure holds us hostage no more; it holds no power to control or to manipulate.

And we dare to do small things with great love, as Mother Teresa suggested, which is no less bold than attempting greatness from the outset.

Love always liberates, never enslaves.
We need that kind of fortifying power, that kind of strengthening of our souls when life threatens to destroy that which we thought would stand firm. For some, that means we witness the deterioration of marriages, homes, relationships, health. A picture of glacial calving comes to mind with its constantly changing state of an icy coastline. Calving may occur bit by bit or in tumultuous crashing, but few are spared the changing shape of things to come in this world.

We make life plans. 

Think things are settled for a season. 

But when one thing changes, as my mother says, it changes everything. Life unravels around the edges first because that's where it's most vulnerable. Unbound cloth, as it were.

We come to find that confidence placed in anything other than the love and grace of God will not always endure. But a life of faith bound up in this powerful love and held together in grateful communion with the God who will never let us go and does not leave us alone does not merely endure--thank you, Jesus and Mr. Faulkner--it prevails.

Thanks be to God.