The LORD speaks, “I prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies”. So, I pull out a chair and take a seat at the table. I mean, what else can I do? And I eat.
* * * * * * *
In 1888, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “Out of life’s school of war—what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” This aphorism has been quoted, paraphrased, and parodied by people throughout the world since.
Yet 2,000 years before, a young shepherd boy and giant killer, who will later become King of Israel, said it this way: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”, delivered as a poetic praise to G-d.
The symbolic table of trust—an inexpressible mystery that transcends my limited understanding. My enemies become bread at the table of trust. I eat the mystery, no matter how difficult to swallow. And I am stronger because of it.
Love & Peace,
Author’s note: When I refer to “enemies” I am not referring to people, but the enemies of my soul. I understand all too well, that at times, my greatest enemy is myself.
Driving along the rim of wild, navigating a backcountry road in Maine, I embrace the solitary. Content in the fellow-less firmament, holding hands with nature, I enjoy an awareness of simply being. Until …
A stranger walking the road ahead. Who is she? Why is she here? And the biggest question of all … do I stop to ask if she needs help? Fear would say no, but a greater faith speaks.
“Hello there. Are you okay? Would you like a ride?”
“A ride would be much appreciated.“
By the rim of the wild, I could not turn away from the tears in her eyes, so I left my fellow-less firmament to hold hands with a stranger that day.
“What’s your name?” (it seems the right thing to ask).
“Amy”, she replies (a name I know means beloved and dearly loved).
She tells me her story: a broken-down vehicle, miles to hike to her wilderness camp, eight passerby and not one willing to stop. A sad lament of rejection, loneliness and fallen faith in her fellow man; I cringe.
I silently entreat the light of God’s love to shine upon The Beloved’s discouraged heart, as we drive the distance to her rustic camp and deliver her safely at tent’s door.
Days later, in a serendipitous moment, we meet once again at the local town store.
“It’s you! I was just telling my family about the kindness you showed me.”
Amy the Beloved’s face shines with renewed faith and hope in her fellow man because of one small act of kindness.
Something happened that day in the wild, when I did not turn from the tears of another but made the decision to hold hands with a stranger.
Could it be that holding hands with nature, in the wrap-around presence of the loving Creator God, brings an awareness of a deeper spiritual connection we have with all of God’s creation? An awareness that empowers me to hold hands with strangers?
Holding hands with strangers is rarely comfortable, especially for an introvert like me. Yet I have to believe that the reward for doing so is exceedingly great.
Love & Peace,
I think we need to do some deep soul searching about what’s important in our lives and renew our spirit and our spiritual thinking, whether it’s through faith-based religion or just through loving nature or helping your fellowman.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
A walk in the wood. A rustic log bench. An invitation to take a seat upon nature’s pew, so I do.
The memory comes out of nowhere—and everywhere—at the same time. I’ve experienced it before, and acquiesce to the process.
The church pew feels hard and sticky against the back of her bare legs. The man up front is talking … a lot. He says that God gets angry when we do bad things.
The girl squirms. She wants desperately to pop her thumb into her mouth, to soothe herself from the uncomfortableness of it all, but the shame she’d feel if the others knew she still sucks her thumb keeps her tiny hand balled tightly against her side.
And besides, she doesn’t want God to get angry with her for doing “the bad thing”.
So instead, she wiggles next to her father and hides her face in the scratchy tweed of his Sunday-best. In the hidden place, she breathes in and sighs, or maybe it’s a yawn, or maybe a little of both.
Without a word between them, and as nimble-fingered as a stealthy pickpocket, her father quickly reaches into an inside pocket, silently unwraps the lolly and pops it into her mouth.
The memory lingers softly. There’s nothing sweeter and more satisfying than the taste of a father’s love.
My father was far from perfect, but he was kind. He rarely, if ever, raised his voice and never his hand. I did not doubt his love for me—ever. He helped form my view of God as a father in a positive way. For this I am grateful.
I realize others have a different story. Raised voices and heavy hands fill their memories. They weren’t loved in a healthy way. (I don’t pretend to understand.) Because of their experience, they may have a difficult time relating to God as father. For this I am sorry.
However, the essence of fatherhood springs from God, not man. The behaviors of our earthly fathers, no matter how good or bad, are not the standards by which God’s love can be measured.
God’s love transcends the borders of my life experiences into a wild wilderness I am longing to brave. It takes courage to go at it alone—a lonesome transformative journey of the heart that I’ll be navigating the rest of my life.
The first step is always the hardest, but the journey will take your breath away.
Love & Peace.
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God!” 1 John 3:1-3 NKJ
Some days I pick up The Good Book and it’s a surgeon’s knife.
The story begins with Daniel, a young nobleman taken by force into captivity in Babylon, sometime around the year 600 BC.
Daniel, serendipitously chosen to be trained in service to the King, is assigned a daily amount of food and wine from the King’s table. However, Daniel resolves not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, considered ceremonially unclean according to his faith. And even though refusing the King would likely cost him his life, Daniel stands firm in the courage of his convictions.
I lay down The Book. The two-edged knife-words cut deep… “the courage of his convictions”.
The probe digs deeper still: when have I demonstrated the courage of my convictions? The confidence to do what I believe is right, even though other people may not agree or approve?
I tend to capitulate far too often in order to keep peace (many times sacrificing my own inner peace in the doing). Yet I have stood firm a time or two in demonstrations of the courage of my convictions, albeit with shaking knees.
“My mother always taught us that if people don’t agree with you, the important thing is to listen to them. But if you’ve listened to them carefully and you still think that you’re right, then you must have the courage of your convictions.”
For me, those demonstrations of the courage of my convictions have resulted in my greatest life lessons. Yet I suspect, albeit with shaking knees, that more opportunities await just around the corner.
So I pray that I might first listen well. And then, if need be, I pray for the courage of my convictions.
Love & Peace,
“But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Looking up from mopping the floor, I see my first-born at the door. Innocent child hands pressed close to the heart. Compassion tears pool at the brim of her lashes. I wonder what could be wrong.
Brows wrinkle, eyes squint; I look hard at the little brown fluff laying between hands and heart … and gasp. To my complete and utter horror, the little brown fluff is nothing more than a dead field mouse.
“Oh My God! Put that thing down—it’s dirty!” I shriek.
My solemn little girl says not a word (she knows me well by now), but only turns on her heels and out she goes with a bang of the wooden screen door.
I lean hard into the mop. The spotless floor shines casting dark shadows across my mind. When out of the shadows Wisdom speaks:
It seems to me of great importance to teach children respect for life.
And wouldn’t respect for life include both honoring its sacred beginning as well as its sacred end?
I drop the mop and run to the light—to the kitchen window of my soul. And through the pane, on bended knee with garden hose in hand, she carefully washes the “dirt” away from the little brown fluff she found.
In the moment, I am led by a child into greater heights of compassion and understanding.
Life — from the very moment it begins to its very last breath — is the pinnacle of God’s creative imagination and power. The sanctity of life, from womb to tomb, transcends all political rhetoric of our day.
Love & Peace,
“… And a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6
A new box of crayons—the smell, the colors—pure joy. Each one perfectly wrapped and marked with glorious names like forest green, aquamarine and azure blue. With coloring books spread out in front of me, I sigh. Yes, a perfect sigh of contentment and bliss. It doesn’t get any better than this, UNTIL …
Out of the corner of my eye, I see her. Sister number 1. The perfect one who can do no wrong. I can’t help myself; I have to look. Her picture doesn’t look like mine. I avert my eyes but like a bad train wreck, I can’t help but take a look back. I sigh. Not the earlier sigh of contentment and bliss … for my 5-year old ego was deflating fast.
Her coloring page—magnificent beyond compare. Every color selected with care, complementary hues harmonizing throughout. But here’s the thing that really stood out: She outlined every color with a solid black line in a way that made her picture look, well … like beautiful stained glass. Sigh. (Do I hear the angels sing?)
So, what can I do but try it, too? I dig deep for the lonely black crayon (unused and still perfectly sharpened) and carefully, I trace a solid black line around every color on the page. After way too long, I sit back on my knees to admire my “stained glass”. And, sigh. No contentment–no bliss; and definitely no angels to be heard.
Give me flexible boundaries—no hard, black-lines for me, please. Joy, freedom and creativity flow best when I’m free from the opinions of men. It’s not easy—especially as a person of faith (everyone has an opinion when it comes to religion). But I choose not to hide behind a stained-glass life when it comes to living my faith.
“Come now, and let us reason together”, says the LORD to me (as good and as bad as the next). And we talk together outside of man’s stained-glass (so easily shattered by stones). You see, it’s easy to manage sinful behavior safely hidden behind religion’s confines. But what if instead we learn to manage our freedom outside of those safe black lines?
Love & Peace,
“Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18
The poetry of life. A framework of poetic structure: rhythmic qualities, imaginative awareness; brimming with aesthetic-beauty moments (if only I’d stop long enough to notice).
A life arranged by the Creator-Master Poet. Composed to call forth a human-heart response through meaning, sound and the rhythms of a faith-enlarging life.
It takes a strength beyond self to reveal the poetry of life. Its ambiguity, irony and metaphorical connections have left my life open to myriad interpretations (and people can be so cruel).
It takes connecting serendipitous dots with hopeful imagination and the strength of endurance for the perfection of The Poet’s passion to be revealed. A glorious unveiling of unrequited love that has power to turn even my tears into poetry.
Our choicest plans have fallen through, our airiest castles tumbled over, because of lines we neatly drew and later neatly stumbled over.
Piet Hein, poet and scientist
Our daughter has followed the path of her God-formed interior design into a career in interior design. “Form follows function”, Amanda says, “always.”…“The way a space looks is not as important as how the space functions.” Her words throw light; I am intrigued, HGTV- binger me.
Form follows function… yet, how often do I do just the opposite—elevating outward form at the cost of diminishing function? Form-chasing. Neatly drawn lines that look good but later cause me to stumble for lack of the more important heart-function.
Could it be that my function in life is what is most important—not the form it takes? Form follows function… if true, wouldn’t the God-created interior design of heart-function be what matters most?
In a moment of clarity, mind-eye opens. Forms are designed to change; we are movable designs, fluid, ever-changing with the ever-changing seasons of life. Function remains constant, foremost; the unique heart-function design within each of us—a design first rendered in the heart of the Master Designer Himself.
We begin living the words, form follows function… elevating our inward heart-function above outward form; the becoming, more important than the doing. And life’s airiest castlestumble; the lines we neatly drew now gone. And we find ourselves living, moving and breathing the words, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”.
Love & Peace,
“Make mistakes, take chances, be silly, be imperfect, trust yourself and follow your heart.” Anonymous
My thoughts are 3 dimensional. I take a hard look, flip them over, turn them upside down and then do it all over again. It’s not easy living a life of 3 dimensional thought and translating those thoughts onto 2 dimensional paper. I mean, what happens to the missing dimension?
I can only suspect it lives in spirit—in the writing’s heart and soul. That, to me is the challenge—to go beyond the visible, the recognizable and the momentary, to somehow express the invisible qualities of the spirit of thought into mere words on paper. To fill paper with the breathings of the heart, as Wordsworth would say.
The beloved Apostle penned his chronicles of the Christ. He describes him as logos, the Word made visible, giving his audience a new, unique view of the Invisible Spirit of God through a powerful divine self-expression: Jesus Christ, the living Wordof God.
The Word clothed in skin and fleshed out among us.
If the Invisible God expressed His thoughts perfectly through logos, is it possible for me to experience logos in such a way that my words could somehow express the invisible, the sometimes unrecognizable, Spirit-thoughts of God?
I’m reminded of how the Apostle ends his narrative—the Aramaic is especially poetic, “The world itself would be emptied out into the books that would be written”. John is speaking of logos, the Living Expression of the Invisible God, wrapped in a multitude of good thoughts towards mankind.
There is always a word, wrapped in a thought. Followed by another. Followed by another. An unending ballad published among the heavenly seas, its verses written far into eternity.
To travel in thought beyond the visible, the recognizable, the momentary into the beauty realm of Spirit … into the beauty realm of prose, I suppose … for me is heaven.
A mind forever Voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.
Where are your thoughts traveling today? Perhaps you’ll find God waiting for you there. For no one is ever really alone and He makes for a marvelous traveling companion.
Love & Peace,
In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul. Psalm 94:19