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Archive for October, 2013

Refuge

It’s been rough. That’s what I might tell you about the past couple of days.

Rough. Late-hours-and-not-enough-sleep rough. Company-and-hosting rough. Classes-that-go-on-too-long rough, not to mention the ever-haunting “remember-all-these-future-obligations!” rough.

There’s been a plethora of graces and gifts that I haven’t written down for lack of time, and then there’s been gifts, falling into palms I’m learning to keep open, which I have no clue what to do with. Like the children of Israel, gathering up manna for the first time and wondering “what is it?”, I’m finding myself squinting at grace-gifts that burn, distress and confuse. I’m looking through narrowed eyes at these gifts and wondering “Really? A gift, a grace…..really? Why this….Why and how is this a gift?”

If my soul’s an ocean, lately it feels as though there’s some ill winds blowing. Winds to churn up filthy foam, to batter against ships and afford no rest to those upon them.
And I come home to try and relax. I feel like eviscerating somebody instead.
I listen to an audio of the Bible and the words fall on my ear….. “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.”
                               My refuge…my refuge in time of trouble. And yet I had not been seeking it, not as I should have been.  The rough hours should have had me opening my hands more, more, even more to life-giving grace, to gifts sent with Love…yes, even the hard gifts. I was running, senselessly, into the ravage of the storm and not towards my refuge. I am closing my hands and cutting off my air supply.
So, a few devotionals and a couple of Psalms later, nothing’s changed. (Weren’t expecting that, were you?) The class still went on too long, there’s still future obligations, and I could use some coffee, chocolate and a nap–though with enough of those first two, I might dispense with the last. 🙂 I’m not ready to hear a detailed discourse of various historical dictators (courtesy of my brother), and I still feel like a yowling, hissing cat when somebody calls me.
And yet, everything’s changed. Ann Voskamp says “Peace isn’t the absence of the dark. Peace is the assurance of God’s Presence in the dark.”
And so it’s time to stop battling these rough hours on my own…it is time to stop battling, and to rest in the Refuge. My Beloved is calling me to rise up and come away.
Gladly then, I shall……..

My Refuge may not keep away the pain or the fatigue…after all, He is the Refuge IN time of trouble. And His presence will sometimes be IN the darkness….

But now, now there are powerful arms wrapped around in a fierce embrace, keeping me warm and loved.
And I would challenge all the forces of Hell to try and break through those arms.

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Chain link

I don’t have time for this.

That’s what I’m thinking, that’s what I know as I sit down at the keys to hastily write.

But truth is, I do have time. I must have time. Time for this grace.

The challenge swirls around like a circling shark and I don’t know why I’m not terribly overwhelmed, distressed, morose and grim. The challenge–

A cluttered, messy house that is not ready for guests. And the first guest is arriving in less than twenty-four hours.

I’m no stranger to this challenge. The giant of unorganized chaos has taken up residence in my home for years. It became worse when the “Year of the Moves” hit us. My mother’s servant heart somehow found its calling in helping with  moves…a divorcing couple, a church in the midst of a makeover, the old pastor and his wife seeking new housing near their son,  a family of five taking off to the other end of the country.
And my mother, she was there for each one. And each one left a small inheritance of the miscellaneous, giving her charge to dispose of it as she saw fit.

As the now-famous line goes, “Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!”

And so the giant lived and grew and flourished in our home. There was too much else to give our attention to him…too many classes, too many needs…too many reasons to put off the devastating effect that waging all out war on him would bring on us.

And yet, once a year, we must wage war…really, we must wage compromising parley to try and contain his devastations, to hide it away. And that once a year event…sometimes twice a year event…is called the arrival of company.

It is that war that faces us this evening, and I know what it means. All-nighters. Stress. Anger. Weariness. And barely satisfactory results.

A wonder then, that I am not in straits of misery!

But a miracle has entered my life recently, a book by name “One Thousand Gifts”, and to tell you fully of it would take a flurry of posts. Which I shall save for another time.

Suffice to say that it has opened my eyes to the never ending rain of grace, of gifts from God, that rain on us continually. Those gifts that would quench and heal our bitter, shriveled souls if we would only open our hands to receive it.

And I am counting, and I am recording in a little green-flowered journal, those gifts I was blind to. And in the naming, I see not just the gifts, but the face and the love of the God who gives them.

Twenty minutes ago, a load of clean laundry was whisked off of the line and into the dryer…the cue to string more wet clothes in their place.
And my father called, and I walked out in bare feet to the backyard.

Not even our outdoors has been protected from this giant. A pile of scrap wood awaits future use on one side. A tangle of tomato-cages, peeled wood-finish and PVC pipe lay in garish glory above the pile.
And as I walked out to hang up the clothes, I saw a flash of movement in it.
A mouse? A rabbit?

I froze and turned my head.
A chipmunk? Not here in the city, surely….

Of course not. It is a sparrow. A little she-sparrow, sitting in the frame of jumbled wood. And I’m captivated.
I haven’t taken the time to write down any Heaven-gifts today, opting instead to trust it to my memory in hopes of jotting it down later.
And I add to today’s list now.

“Number..two-hundred and something…A little sparrow in the wood.

Number two-hundred and something else…the gorgeous pattern of color and feather on her back.”

I watched the little bird hop out of the wood-pile and onto our back porch. I look at her feet. Tiny little feet and legs, and without glasses they’re just little dark lines from where I stand. How I wish for my glasses…so I could see each line of her little toes.
“Number two-hundred and yet something else…sparrow legs and toes.”

From there she makes a little flying hop right into one of the diamonds of our chain-link fence. The diamond’s width is barely large enough for my hand to fit through, and yet it is just the right size to afford her a perch. Her whole little brown body fits in the diamond.
And she just sits there.
And I just stare. I have laundry to hang and a room to prepare. Why is life such an emergency? Why do we rush from one event to the other in a frantic scramble that never ends? I won’t. I won’t give up the gift of the moment. The sparrow stands there, and so do I.
And just then, the little sparrow stands up high (however a sparrow does that) and peeks over her shoulder at me. Her little face, in profile, framed in the next higher diamond of the fence.
Number….something. Sparrow peeking over her shoulder at me, in the frame of fence.
Why is she sitting there, I suddenly wonder. What is she waiting for? What do sparrows think of? Does she have plans for the evening?
A smile splits my face at a new and happy thought. Do sparrows, the very birds that Christ keeps His eye on, count gifts? Do they count Heaven-blessings? As I hear the voice of God pointing out the bird and whispering, “Would you look at that sparrow, just standing there and looking at you?”, perhaps she’s hearing the same voice saying, “Would you look at that human, just standing there and looking at you?”
I smile. A birdie with a blessings book. I wonder what number I’d be listed as.

My father comes out, laundry basket in hand, and phlumpfs the load onto the porch. He catches sight of me just standing there.
“What’s the matter?”

I smile, full of joy. “Look. Over there.”
He looks. The sparrow stays just a moment, and when he turns away, the movement launches her into flight, a blur of tan leaving me. A moment later, and the fence is empty.
We turn to hang up clothes. The air is cool and crisp with the bite of Autumn. Just a few days ago we saw several inches of snow, now all gone. The ground is cold too, under my bare feet. The cold travels up my soles in a dull, not unpleasant ache. I lift my head in time to see the gliding, smooth flight of four blackbirds, their wings making a silhouetted scallop pattern against the sky. And I count gifts.
Pleasant cold-ache. Bite of Autumn. Blackbirds ornamenting the sky.
 
A burst of unpleasant words break out behind me. Irritation over pants that shouldn’t have been washed again so soon. Anger underlying the sentences. Yet another soul tearing into soul…over nothing.
I shake my head. This grace-gift of mine, this awareness of the need to see that grace and those gifts raining all around me is new. It has been, and is continuing to be, life-changing.
But they haven’t had eyes opened to it yet, haven’t seen the rain that could flood away the unnecessary hurts, the anger, the bitterness, the petty squabbles that grate on souls. Not so petty, after all….
It is alright. And I console myself with the knowledge that the eye-opening can come to them, that God can bring it to them. All is not lost, and there is still joy.

And I remember a sparrow, peeking back at me over her shoulder.

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