Friday, February 25, 2011

sick day

My, oh my, do you have any idea at what an abysmally slow pace a day can creep by when you have a fever, and can hardly move your creaking joints, and certainly can't sleep? Well, I suppose there's a pretty good chance that you do - more people than just me get fevers, after all. Still, if the news breaks tomorrow morning that, by some freakish turn of events, this day took a whole week to get itself over with, I won't be terribly surprised.

I've been the fifth of us to fall prey to this bug within the last couple of weeks, and the level of tip-toeing and sympathy (at least among our younger members) seems to have dropped significantly since our first victim fell. That isn't to say that Sam doesn't lovingly doctor me up with his "preciouses" (chewable vitamin C's), or that Eli isn't willing enough to run and get whatever forms of nourishment and hydration I require. They're a fine little set of caregivers, if a little on the short side.

But they're still little boys, and my day of lolling helplessly around the living room came well-equipped with more than its fair share of light-saber thwacking, hollering, arguing about who had pulled the tallest stack of DVD's out of the closet, as well as climbing all over me and asking the same questions multiple times.

Now. I love my brothers. However. With all the aching and head-aching and fevering and despondent clock-watching I was busy doing, by the end of the afternoon I didn't feel like I had such a very great quantity of time or patience left over for these things. So when my family went out to eat for supper, I kind of thought ... ahhhh, yes. the house to myself. You know.

So while they were gone I finished watching Spiderman 3 (which I'd started earlier), ate some toast and canned peaches (why not live it up?), and re-read the first two chapters of The Hobbit. When I was smaller (ten? twelve?), I recorded myself reading The Hobbit aloud on cassette tapes, and gave it to my dad for Christmas. At the time, it was rather embarrassing to listen to (is my voice really that squeaky??), but tonight as I read through those familiar passages, and heard my own younger voice lisping along in the back of my mind, the memory was a sweet one. (But maybe anything can seem sweet, from far enough away.)

Curled up in Dad's chair, wrapped in a blanket, eating toast, and reading The Hobbit, I almost felt like a child again. But a child alone, home by herself with only a rabbit and an obnoxious dog to keep her company. And when I looked up and saw that it was 10:00, it wasn't fun anymore. I'd had my time alone, and now my family needed to come home. Morbid visions of why they hadn't returned yet flashed through my mind. It was a precious cargo that Santa Fe was carrying back to me, all of them together, all of my family together...

I shook myself by the mental scruff, and quieted my heart to pray briefly for their safety, instead of freaking out about their very reasonable absence of two hours. Finished my chapter, turned off the light, dozed for a bit. Not long afterward, as I wandered the house in search of another blanket, I saw lights in the driveway, and my heart was happy again. The loud voices, the lights, the thump-thump-thumping little footsteps everywhere, the silly questions ... yes, this is how it should be.

In conclusion, I think the point of this post is either:
A) I like to have my family around me;
B) Being alone isn't all it's cracked up to be (especially at night);
C) I'm still feverish;
or probably D) All of the above.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

it wasn't me

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, 
who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God 
in the face of Jesus Christ.

In the beginning, God didn't see a speck of flickering light struggling for survival in the blackness of space. He didn't take it up gently and coax it into a spark, didn't feed it and stoke it until it exploded into Daylight, divisible from and irreconcilable with Night.

How could it be, apart from Him?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was without form, and void,
and darkness was on the face of the deep.

There was nothing. Without form. Void. Darkness. Nothing.

Then God said,
"Let there be light":
and there was light.

In my beginning, God didn't find me struggling, wallowing in the darkness and filth of sin, loving yet hating it, searching blind for a way out. He didn't see my outstretched hand and come to lift me up, didn't take that little glimmer of truth and nurture it into a steady flame.

How could it be, apart from Him?

And you He made alive,
who were dead in trespasses and sins.

There was nothing. No feeble gasping, no clinging desperate to a last fading spark of truth. Darkness. Nothing. Dead.

Then God said,
"Let there be light":
and there was Light.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

medical update

Well, here's the scoop. Some time ago I found myself experiencing significant difficulties in a variety of life areas, and after a period of research and testing, was diagnosed with what has come to be known as Oymbr Syndrome. It's an affliction approximately as old as dirt, but most of the currently available remedies are still in the experimental stages. I did some looking around and decided on one called Imncleuiaseomo. (What, did you ever hear of a prescription med that was easier to pronounce?) It came highly recommended, and the fine-printed columns of possible side-effects and fatalities weren't noticeably longer than average. Plus it was cheap. Good deal, right? The only thing is ... it isn't working. Not only is it not taking care of the Oymbr Syndrome from which I already suffer, but it has turned against my system and added to my calamities a developing case of Toad Disease. The longer this goes on, the slimmer grow my chances of surviving - and, frankly, they weren't that great to begin with.

Now, confession time. Pretty much everything written above is, in its own way and to its own degree, true. However, the following points should be taken well into consideration when evaluating these claims:

  1. The Oymbr in Oymbr Syndrome is shorthand for the ailment's more scientific description, Oh, You Must Be Right.
  2. The original name of the drug mentioned was also judged overly lengthy - I Must Now Commence Learning Everything Until I Am Strong Enough On My Own - hence the acronym, Imncleuiaseomo.
  3. Toad Disease is named after its three most distinguishing symptoms: Tired, Overwhelmed, And Depressed.
Let's flesh this out a little. First, Oymbr Syndrome - closely related to, but not to be confused with, its very healthy counterpart, Wycbr-Icio Condition (Well, You Could Be Right - I'll Check It Out). Patients afflicted with Oymbr Syndrome typically begin their self-inflicted descent into poor health by setting their foundations in the unqualified proposition that the self knows very, very little indeed. The patient goes on to observe the vast quantities of knowledge and wisdom available in (and beyond) the universe, as well as the apparently unshakable confidence of many of its inhabitants. The patient then concludes, rather hopelessly, that by simple virtue of being other than itself, the bulk of the intelligent-seeming members of the human race whose ideas come into conflict with its own, must by default be correct about most things. Faced with an argument or opinion to which the patient has no immediate answer, the instinctive response is owl-faced uncertainty of potentially indefinite duration.

Except in rare, often terminal cases (in which the patient is rendered practically non-functional by an absolute failure to stand on any kind of principle in the face of any kind of contrary breeze), the most severe symptoms of Oymbr Syndrome manifest themselves only sporadically, and generally in response to semi-methodically selected types of stimuli. Ideas out of sync with the mob are frequent targets, as are subjective or ambiguous topics, and assertions made about the patient's own self.

This may be why the antidote known commonly as Imncleuiaseomo has gained such popularity in the general public. The alluring promise of the Knowledge of Everything is hard indeed to deny, and who is there among you that does not hotly desire the glorious defense of being Strong Enough On [Your] Own? It solves handily the double problem of knowing very little indeed, and of uncertainty in the face of disagreement. If you know Everything - I mean, seriously. What could go wrong?

Well, this is where Toad Disease comes in - an ancient, pervasive, and extremely contagious ailment if ever there was one. It has more causes than science has yet been able to number, but it's been confirmed that one of them is as a side-effect of the drug discussed above. Because, you see, To Learn Everything is a tall order. Really tall. Like, ain't-no-way-in-a-million-billion-years kind of tall. And even if the patient somehow did manage to miserably live that long, the cold fact is ... s/he will never be Strong Enough On [His/Her] Own. No can do, sorry. 

Faced with those statistics, who wouldn't be Tired, Overwhelmed, And Depressed? For real.

So Imncleuiaseomo doesn't cut it. I'm trying to come off it even as we speak, but it's kind of habit-forming. Death'll make me come clean, though - no worries. Still, in the meantime, what do we do about this besetting Oymbr Syndrome? I can't just live that way, for Pete's sake. So do I have to die that way?

Answer: No. 

There's a cure. It's called Grace, which for once isn't an abbreviation of anything, but its whole glorious, beautiful name. Grace brought home in this instance by steady application of Wit (sorry, one more acronym and I'll quit) - What Is Truth? And how will we find the answers? Read the Book, plead with its Writer, and I think we'll find that, in His time, He gives liberally to those who seek. 

You don't have to know Everything - you just have to know Him.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

a life

little tiny heart
thumping, thumping
little tiny beautiful body
resting in the quiet dark

little baby heart
lurching and crying
lights are bright
air is cold
voices are loud, ecstatic
everything bangs

tiny soothing heart
quiet, trusting
warm skin on warm skin
learning of mother
of safety
of love

treasured little heart
beating stronger
exploring a bright world
crawling, walking, leaping
sometimes falling
the world is also hard

selfish little heart
ears plugged
crowns its own kings
beats its own blood
brushes off loving wounds
charges reckless on

broken heart, undone
discovers an unkind world 
pounds in anguish
it will not yield
if we are not king
who is?

empty heart and soft
finds it filled, restored
held in rhythm
by a strong enough hand
grieved indeed
but rejoices

little beating heart of flesh
pulses to serve, yet fights
little beating heart
whispers how long, how long
it is fragile
and knows it

weary burdened heart
a road so long
a sky so dark
it is too much
too much to bear

precious ransomed heart
you cannot be alone
I promised
would I lie?
do not waste these last days
live well
and then come home

Thursday, February 10, 2011

something to offer

It was a Sunday evening, and there were four young adults in a small car with a manual transmission. They were on their way to church, but as it happened, they went left instead of right, and started looking for a place to turn around. They missed a driveway hidden under a blanket of snow, but found a gravel road instead. Unfortunately, the darkness and the falling of many snowflakes made it difficult to see, and what was meant for a U-turn manifested itself instead as a small car parked neatly in a snowbank on the side of the road. The small car was valiant, but not very heavy, and not very strong. It was stuck.

The four young adults climbed out of the marooned vehicle and discovered a snow shovel in the trunk. For a time the only masculine personage in their midst applied himself to scooping snow with it, until such a time came as seemed fitting for two of the feminine bystanders to apply their weight to the front of the car while he tried to back it out. Unfortunately it turned out to be what they call a no-go.

One of the girls said, How about if I try driving, so he can push. (Guys are stronger than girls, you know. Usually.) She had started to learn to drive a stick once, after all, she said. Sadly, this mission had also to be aborted in its trial run, in spite of the best intentions. It was becoming a sad situation in the middle of nowhere, with only the sub-zero winds and lots of snow flying around, and no parents answering their phones.

Then the girl who had been standing by the side watching (because she only had summer shoes and no socks on her feet, and in such a condition objected to wallowing around in snow drifts) - this girl said, How about that other girl, the one that's my sister? She can drive a stick.

And the girl who was her sister froze, and she looked out of the corner of her eye for a bush to hide behind. There weren't any, though, so her thoughts flew around in the open air: I can, she thought, but I haven't known how for very long, and I don't do it very well. What if I do it wrong? What if I get it more stuck, or what if it comes loose and I fly it right across into the other ditch, or what if I run over someone? I can't do it, I mean I can, but I ... but all she said was, Well, I can, but ... well, okay.

So she tried, and it took some time, but in the end it was she that sat behind the wheel when at last the small car was dislodged and went spinning happily back onto the beaten path. She was happy, but not very proud. That was no path to heroism - to get volunteered in the homestretch for a job you should have taken up at the gate.

Maybe you've guessed by now that that girl is me, and that the story in which I so ingloriously participated is true. Well, it is, and it's actually not even a week old.

I do that a lot. I stand in the midst of a Situation, and I hold what could (or could not) be the Key; but I'm afraid. I feel so very young, so foolish, so inadequate. I think I'm probably wrong. I'll mess it up. I'll hurt someone, and it'll just be better if I stay out of the way and let someone else take a risk. So many doubts, like so many snowflakes, or maybe so many gnats - What if what I think is the right thing to say, turns out to be insensitive and hurtful? What if my idea falls flat? What if I offer my opinion, and everyone disagrees? What if we end up worse off than we are now, just because of my input? I haven't been here long enough yet to be useful ... I'm too small ... too weak ... I don't understand.

But I'm realizing that if I wait for myself to be big enough to help, I think I'll wait forever. All I can do is grow smaller, as I realize who I am. Yet, in spite of all my nagging doubts, if I stop moping at my miserable reflection and look down at what I hold in my hands, I find that, of all things, I do have something to offer. I've been entrusted with more gifts than I can quite wrap my mind around, now that I look - an entire life (as far back as I can clearly remember) lived in a solid, loving, Christian home; a phenomenal family; a so-far peaceful lot in a so-far prosperous nation; friends, neighbors, and a church family like most people only dream about; an un-boxed education, and a few minor talents - just to tick off a few. And the crowning, unforeseen glory: the blood of God's own Son poured out to save me from eternal fire, and the promise of His Spirit to indwell, comfort, and sanctify me for as long as I walk this earth - and the sure hope that this gift is freely given to all who believe.

None of these gifts are mine, I can't take any credit for them - but they've been given into my hand, which seems to make me an intended vehicle for their distribution. What shame if I held such inestimable treasures, given to me for a reason, and I only clung to them useless forever, too afraid of stumbling to venture out into the dark to give them away. Certainly I lack wisdom, but if you read the first chapter of James, I think you'll find that He can take care of that difficulty, too.

In fact, I have yet to hear of a difficulty He can't take care of. Not a single crooked stick He can't use to draw a straight line, if only we'll yield ourselves to His touch, and stop trying to stand up on our own.

How about you? Is there a gift you've been clinging to, afraid to seem arrogant in raising your hand, afraid of falling short? Do you know the truth of the gospel? If you've been given something to offer, offer it! Don't wait, like I did, for someone else to do it for you. Life is too short, and time is far too precious, to live that way.

Pray about it earnestly; and then, like those shoe people say, Just Do It.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

my morning in a nutshell

This morning, when the little ticker in my alarm clock set the people on the radio to yammering about whatever they were yammering about, I laid in my bed and thought, "Dude ... I worked hard last night. I didn't get home until late. I took a shower and nursed my sore throat. I didn't go to bed until like 1:00. Nature forbids that I leap yodeling from my bed at this unearthly pre-dawn hour."

So I laid there for awhile, and the radio peoples' talk didn't make any sense at all, because I kept dozing in and out of it. Something about 'defining spiritual moments' and chainsaws. I already said it didn't make any sense.

Then, suddenly. A great big, huge, exciting Something broke in upon my unstable consciousness - a memory of something really fabulous, something momentous about this day, for which it was not only worthwhile, not only imperative, but absolutely thrillingly delightful to get out of bed and stay awake all day. It was really exciting. I flicked on my reading lamp and laid there smiling, ignoring the radio people, mulling over this pleasant surprise.

If only I could remember what it was.

Friday, February 4, 2011


I stood on a little mound of dirt under the tree, shivering and clutching my camera; intense; studious. The sun was setting, and it was glorious ... glorious ... glorious ... I knew there was glory, and I could see it, smell it, taste it ... soaring in, strewn careless and exquisite all across the horizon - as if sunsets were a dime a dozen, so here, have one on me. But who would have dreamed up such colors, and splashed them just like that all over the sky? Who would have thought to splay the clouds out like feathers, and to bathe them in a glow that took your breath away? Whose idea was that? It was an awfully good one, I'll tell you. And I wanted to go swimming in it, to open up all my pores and drink it in, I was so thirsty - I wanted to melt away in it and learn it and become it. But I knocked up against the glass. There was a window there, and I could only look through at the glory. I wanted through, I swayed back and forth a little with the depth of breathing, the longing ... but the sun sank, and the clouds faded, and that was it. Muddy twilight, and I turned around and walked slowly back to the house.

I stood in the salty white sand and I sank, while the waves played around my ankles and took the sand out from under my feet. I stared out across the water, and I knew it was vast ... I knew it. I pictured a globe, and I pictured a map of the world, and I pictured all the blue, all the blue. I imagined how far it must go, how deep, how angry. The waves rolled in from China, and I wondered what they brought with them, and where they found it. You could touch the waves, you could grab them, and it was like you were never there. You could dig up the earth and blow holes in it and stack it up with skyscrapers and draw spiderwebs of highways all over the map - but you couldn't touch the blue. It just was, and it just had been, since the beginning. Who decided it would be a good idea to put so much water on our little planet, and who filled it all full of salt? I could feel the years rolling in through the waters, ever and ever, untouchable; I heard joy in its liberated roar; and I wanted to dive in, wanted to roll away with the sea foam, wanted to dissolve like all that salt. But it was an ocean, and I was a girl, and I stood on the sand, and the waves surged on.

I laid on my back in the damp, dark grass, flat on my back on the crust of the earth, spinning through the universe, and just laying there. I looked out at the universe, while the earth clung to me and kept me from flying out into it, and I shuddered when the damp crept in through my sweatshirt. There were fireballs out there in the sky, roaring, towering, convulsing with brilliance and power, too bright to even think of looking at, too hot to survive, too huge to understand. I should have been terrified. But when they looked at me from the universe, they looked from so far away that all I saw in return were little glitter-flecks strewn across the blackness, little pinpricks in a thick velvet curtain, bright and cold and shaking with life. You know those times when you stand before something amazing, or realize something astonishing, and all your insides fall away and there's nothing left but wonder? I missed it that night. I looked out at that universe, and my heart beat against my ribs, and I knew there was glory ... but my beating heart didn't understand. It looked up at a painted ceiling and it didn't understand.

And now you're going to laugh at me, because the analogy that comes next is so very foolish - it really is. But that's fitting, isn't it? Look at the western horizon in the evening, look out across that unbounded sea, look up and try to imagine the vastness of space ... and look to its Creator ... and then look at me, my plaid pajama pants, my stained sweatshirt, my sleepy eyes. I'm pinching my lip right now while I think, and I have a sore throat. It is fitting that my analogy should be foolish, is it not? His strength is made perfect in weakness.

Because I think that, in all of those instances, when I looked out at the glory, and reached for it, longed for it, sucked in my breath - I stood on the edge of a spiritual sneeze. It was coming, I felt it build; I waited, and my heart pounded ... but nothing. A pause, no breath. Nothing. And that was it; and I had to turn my back and keep walking.

I don't know - I like sneezing. It reminds me of standing on mountains and by oceans and under sunsets, and almost catching that glory. It reminds me that when my heart pounds after something I can never quite latch onto in this life, it's only because my quarry is in the next. It reminds me that in just a few short days my sneeze will come through, and I'll fly away into His glory, and I will be caught up in it ... and of all wonders ... this creature of dust will become like Him. 

Who would write a story like this? Hallelujah.