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.
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
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
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.
I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery–air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”
The Bell Jar by Sylvia path
The words capture me. I read them again, “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery …”. A surging rush forward of mesmerizing colors and sounds. I breathe it in, nature that is. My senses quicken. Yes, this is what it is to be happy, I say to myself.
I am a peripatetic soul. I’m at my creative best when I’m moving about outdoors. Nature, sunlight and movement inspire me. I walk out my imagination in creation.
Ninety-three percent of all communication is non-verbal, the researchers say. For me, movement in nature is a means of non-verbal communication with God. I move into a state of flow, a place of deconcentration that opens The Way to something bigger, something beyond my own self.
Something natural, something spiritual, something peaceful happens while moving in nature. I become wrapped in the living, visible garment of God and for me, that is what it is to be happy.
“For in him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28.
Love & Peace,
About Sylvia Plath, whose quote I reference above…
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) is a poet whose troubled life and powerful work remains a source of controversy. Plath suffered from bouts of severe depression throughout her life, her first serious breakdown occurring in 1953 and later remembered in her autobiographical novel The Bell Jar (1963). During an extraordinary burst of creativity in the autumn of 1962 Plath wrote most of the poems on which her reputation now rests. However, that winter was particularly severe and Plath became increasingly isolated and depressed: on February 11th 1963 she committed suicide by gassing herself in the kitchen of her flat. https://www.poetryarchive.org/poet/sylvia-plath
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. 1-800-273-8255.
Every time you feel in God’s creatures something pleasing and attractive, do not let your attention be arrested by them alone, but, passing them by, transfer your thoughts to God and say: “O my God, if Thy creations are so full of beauty, delight and joy, how infinitely more full of beauty, delight and joy are Thou Thyself, Creator of all!”
This statement has me thinking. Have I ever felt persecuted when I’ve been contradicted?
Persecuted—a strong word. Never has my life been threatened because of my political or religious beliefs. There were a few times when I was treated unfairly by those who contradicted me—misunderstood and misrepresented by those who didn’t agree with my way of thinking. Not sure I’d call that persecution, though—more like an opportunity for some needed character development on my part, I’d say.
And then there’s the flip side. Have others ever felt persecuted when I’ve contradicted them? My guess is yes, most likely. I recall some strong reactions from others with whom I disagreed–involving words like close minded, judgmental, disloyal and deceived.
But I rather focus on those times of honest, direct and respectful heart-to-hearts, when we’ve come through to the other side with no bruises, no wounds and no battle scars. Thankful for those precious times when two agree to disagree and still remain open to relationship for the sake of love.
The bible tells the story of two brothers named Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau had a disagreement that led to a broken relationship lasting many years.
The evening before reuniting with his brother, Jacob wrestles all night with “a man” (who really is the Angel of the Lord). Jacob calls the place “God’s face”, because he saw God face-to-face and lived.
At daybreak, Jacob leaves his wrestling match and moves on to meet his brother. Upon seeing Esau, Jacob cries out, “To see your face is like seeing the face of God”!
Sometimes God hides Himself in our disagreements. Sometimes He hides Himself in those who contradict us. Sometimes we just need to keep wrestling through until we can see God’s face in the face of the contradiction. That’s not persecution—that’s love.
Have you ever felt persecuted when you’ve been contradicted? Try envisioning your brother, and your difference of opinion, coming right out of the heart of God. It may give you a new perspective worth exploring.