Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving [Because I Belong.]

It occurs to me that without a few key gifts in this life, all others are rendered meaningless.

The eve of Thanksgiving. I flop into bed with Romans 8 on my heart, fresh from neighborhood youth Bible study.
And as I ponder, as I set to counting blessings once again, I suddenly see how this one gift makes all others worth counting...

You've read the stories-- Joe Wheeler style.
You know, the ones where some little orphan waits for Christmas, wants nothing more than someone to belong to. Someone to want them.

I've always read them with somewhat of an "awwww!, poor kid." reaction.

But you know, I've recently found out that that poor kid is me. 

- - -

I look up from my Bible and my friend's lip trembles, and I catch it in an instant, because my heart does the same.
It's this word-- "Debtor." 

I'm a debtor. Romans says so. (and my heart tells me the same.)
I've never seen more selfishness in the mirror in my life. Nor foolishness. Nor pettiness. Nor pride.
It's awful.
A debtor I am.

But right on the heels of this word with such weight, on this eve of Thanksgiving, comes this other word--


I'm adopted.

I'm a debtor, not because I've sinned, but because I belong.

- - -

My head finds the pillow. My tears join my friend's.
I shake my head in silence, and though orphaned I should rightly be, I fly again at open arms.
And my Thanksgiving prayer is simple:

Thank You for wanting me.

- - -
Thanksgiving tradition: All kids in the kitchen. At once.
feast for the eyes
pilgrim zone
best ever: sharing the all-American holiday with Australian friends and sweet neighbors
no indians this year...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Life is a Vapor

Merciful sleep.
Merciful blackness, the backdrop for a million galaxies.

"Stars. You see them best on the darkest night." 

I turn over, sleep, to see in my dreams the strength of arms, and wills, and hearts... of friends that wouldn't let go. That poured sweat, and poured out sobs with us on a cold night under open heavens.

There's something familiar about this feeling.
We'll dig another grave tomorrow.
For another one of our best friends.

We'll say another round of goodbyes.
That's three times by open graves, once by our open door, since June.

But as night turns into day, then turns to night again, one thing hits me harder even than the loss of another cherished treasure. It's how I cherish the ones that are left.

Because life is a vapor.
I'll always be glad I stopped mid-stride, retraced two steps to the kitchen trash and fished out my apple core after lunch. Just because I knew she'd like it.

It is the last thing she would ever eat.

But what of the rest?

While visions of a twisting, straining, struggling animal, and of brave friends fighting through hot tears for a chance at life pass before sleepless eyes, I wonder:

These treasures, I mean the ones I have left, do they know how much I love them?

Morning comes and it's still black. I awaken slowly, pause to feel my heart beat its steady 45.
But I'm by no means the first. Someone else has been up, waiting for the morning to start.
He's pretty polite. Doesn't usually awaken me before my time. But neither does he wait long after my eyelids first flutter.

The cold nose finds its way to a tear-stained face, pushes a time or two, and retreats to take up racquetball, sock, or whatever else can pass for a toy at 4 am. And he stands there, and his beady eyes beam. He's happy to see me. And every morning he tells me the same. He stands there, wags his tail until he can't take it any more. Prances and dances, and makes a fuss, as if we'd been separated by months and miles, rather than short hours since last night.
Just because he loves...

But wouldn't I wish I'd done the same, made a ruckus when I'd first seen my sister, brother, mother, father in the morning? Wouldn't I wish I had, if one morning they were gone?

I have news for you. For me.

That could happen any morning.

Life is a vapor.

Fight for it. Cherish it.
And not just when it's hanging by a thread...

Sleep, Diamond baby. Sleep.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Imprisoned at Liberty?

This feels awkward. I'm not going to lie. I've never done anything like it.

I slide my ID under bullet-proof glass, the guy with the badge takes it without even a hint of a smile. 
I take a seat and eyes wander over brushed aluminum characters on the wall. 
Sheriff's name. Undersheriff. County supervisor. Date built.

I shift weight around. Watch people come, sign in, sit down.
He opens a heavily barricaded door. Motions for us to come. 

"No cell phones? No weapons, nothing in your pockets?"
I hold up empty hands.

The metal detector shrieks when I pass under. Maybe my belt buckle?
He points me down the long concrete corridor. 

"Right at the end. Then all the way down."

Oh, the sound of the place. The sound of black dress shoes on a hard polished floor, bouncing off concrete walls and ceilings. So hollow. So empty.

The wind whips outside, but not even air can get into this place uninvited.
Warm though it may be, I pull my long coat closed tighter over purple shirt and tie. As if upturned collar of black cashmere can keep the foreign-ness out?
And I walk. And I wonder...
And I don't have long to wait. 

He lights up when I come around the corner. And so do I. And suddenly, there's nothing awkward about it... 

Nothing, except the glass. The cold glass between me and my friend. We press hands against it, close the gap between us except for the last 3/4 inch. And I pick up the black phone on my side, look him in the eyes--

        So good to see you, man."*

And we talk like the old friends we are, only, this time I have to watch the clock. 
At 17 minutes we dive into Romans 8:35... Suddenly the words have new meaning.

"Who shall separate us from the love of God?!"

Once more we leave fingerprints on the glass. And I turn away and leave him sitting there... Turn away so others dear can see his face, hear his voice. And my eyes burn, and my heart burns. And I fiddle with the long row of buttons on my coat and my soles make that hollow mocking sound until I've reached that door... That door that opens to my touch. 

-  -  -  -  -

For days I see it. See the stripes he has to wear. See his sister's face when she said thank you. See his mother, writing another letter even while sitting in the waiting room. I see the coldness of steel and glass and concrete everywhere. I see the same solemn guard smile and chat with them-- they've been here lots of times. And under it all, through it all, I see this heartbeat of freedom. I see this peace. Behind thick glass I see in the eyes of my friend this liberty...

And I hear the echo, as if I were still sitting in that concrete vault:

"Who shall separate us from the love of God?!"

And then, I see myself.

And I see Jesus

He, dressed in His best, white all over, signing in, and sitting down. Because believe it or not, He doesn't have keys to this place. 
He has to wait.

He passes under, through the fortifications, comes around the corner, and I light up. Because of course I'm glad to see Him... But there's still this glass between us. And he raises a scarred hand to it, and I raise mine too. And of course I want out, but for some unjustifiable reason, I want to keep my pride intact even more.

And pride is a prison.

So He comes in, tells me how good it is to see me... and all at once, time is up, and He must go. 
And I let Him go. Watch Him walk out. 
And His eyes fill with tears. And His great, beautiful heart burns...

Mostly because, quite unlike the case of my old friend, the keys to this place are in my pocket.

My friend is free, in jail. 
And I'm imprisoned, at liberty.

Oh, the tragedy. To ever let pride be my prison. 
The prison that keeps Him out, more even than it does me in.

"Who [what?] shall separate us from the love of God?!"


Nothing but my own choices...


Friday, November 2, 2012

Obvious Invisible

"For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made..." (Romans 1:20)
His heart is written out in face and flower and framed in full color of falling leaf...It's everywhere. 
If I cannot understand the heart of God, the purposes of God; If the invisible is a mystery, the cause lies with me. In me.
It's that time of year again. I sit arms folded in my leather desk chair to keep my warmth in. 
Who knows what the temp is in here. 
"...So that they are without excuse." (ibid)
Little lights shine like stars where the wall meets the ceiling. My eyes wander from one to the next.
Invisible, visible. Invisible, visible. The obvious impossible. Unthinkable. 
I start up. Take up the book again, scour the page with something almost like a glare.
If this problem is all mine, you had better believe I will find the solution. 
 "Invisible...visible." They did, they didn't... (verse 21)
because they didn't. They didn't give Him His due. They didn't "glorify Him as God" of their lives. And so they couldn't see Him, where He was indeed to be found. 
 He was there, but their eyes were darkened.
We see Him, when we give Him what is due Him.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Never Stop Believing

"The just shall live by faith."

Not "we should live," as though there were actually another way...

But rather--
that unshakable confidence in the promises, in the Providence, in the power of the Almighty is like the air that sustains our very life. That without it, we turn grey and cold and waxy hard.
For death is only life minus breath...

"The just shall live by faith."

...and that this confidence all consuming, this believing that grips so deeply it necessarily changes the believer himself, shall not alone be the air that fills lungs with life, but also the spring from which newness of life flows... "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed, from faith to faith."

"The just shall live by faith."

...and that the necessary result should be fidelity.
Because the end of faith is faithfulness.

"The just shall live by faith."

Never, never, ever stop believing.

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