Speak to us of clothes

And the weaver said, speak to us of Clothes:

And he answered:

Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.

And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain.

Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment,

For the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.

Some of you say, “It is the north wind who has woven the clothes we wear.”

And I say, Ay, it was the north wind,

But shame was his loom, and the softening of the sinews was his thread.

And when his work was done he laughed in the forest.

Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean.

And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.

-Khalil Gibran

Speaking About the Sun

Joy is contagious, just as sorrow is. I have a friend who radiates joy, not because his life is easy, but because he habitually recognizes God’s presence in the midst of all human suffering, his own as well as others’. Wherever he goes, whomever he meets, he is able to see and hear something beautiful, something for which to be grateful. He doesn’t deny the great sorrow that surrounds him nor is he blind or deaf to the agonizing sights and sounds of his fellow human beings, but his spirit gravitates toward the light in the darkness and the prayers in the midst of the cries of despair. His eyes are gentle; his voice is soft. There is nothing sentimental about him. He is a realist, but his deep faith allows him to know that hope is more real than despair, faith more real than distrust, and love more real than fear. It is this spiritual realism that makes him such a joyful man.

Whenever I meet him, I am tempted to draw his attention to the wars between nations, the starvation among children, the corruption in politics, and the deceit among people, thus trying to impress him with the ultimate brokenness of the human race. But every time I try something like this, he looks at me with his gentle and compassionate eyes and says: “I saw two children sharing their bread with one another, and I heard a woman say ‘thank you’ and smile when someone covered her with a blanket. These simple poor people gave me new courage to live my life.”

My friend’s joy is contagious. The more I am with him, the more I catch glimpses of the sun shining through the clouds. Yes, I know there is a sun, even though the skies are covered with clouds. While my friend always spoke about the sun, I kept speaking about the clouds, until one day I realized that it was the sun that allowed me to see the clouds.

Those who keep speaking about the sun while walking under a cloudy sky are messengers of hope, the true saints of our day.

-Henri Nouwen, Here and Now

For my son, on his birthday

He is one who has taken many steps
along life’s road
bearing witness
to the rhythms of time.
He has known the sun’s warmth
upon his neck
and the sting of winter wind’s bite
upon his cheeks.
He has felt the pain of loss
at autumn’s death
but stands in hope,
because he knows
spring promises rebirth.
Life lived in the flow
of days
and seasons
and years
has endowed him with strength.
In courage, he journeys on
protecting and providing
for those battered by life.

Along the way,
he hungers for truth
and forages for understanding,
wherever it may be found.
He was wired with
both reason and curiosity.
Although he knows the map,
he’s not afraid of exploring.
He drinks deeply from wisdom’s spring
and nourishes himself
by listening to others with humility
knowing that every interaction
is an opportunity for growth.

His footprints leave impressions of goodness.
He seeks to bless his fellow travelers.
As he walks along,
he leaves the road
better than he found it.
He tries to live
by the rules of the road,
yet in humility
he knows that he will fall
-repeatedly-
because he understands
the path of goodness
is more journey
than destination.

As he courses on,
he looks not only to the road ahead,
but lifts his face
to the heavens.
He is aware
that night brings darkness,
but he knows too
that heaven’s canopy
is dappled with beauty and light.
He lives with a present awareness
of the beauty of the cosmos.
He appreciates
that all of creation
constantly reveals
a beautiful Creator.
As he gazes in awe
at God’s magnificence
he cannot help but glorify God
with the beauty
of word, form, and song.

Son, my prayer for you on your 13th birthday is this:

That as you journey in courage,
you develop the strength
to pursue justice
and a clear voice for those
who cannot speak for themselves.

That as you journey toward wisdom,
you allow God’s truth
revealed in his word
and in his world
to equip you for a well-lived life.

That as you journey toward goodness,
you look to the ways of Jesus.
This road can be bumpy at times,
but Jesus showed us how to walk well.

That as you journey by grace,
you never forget that
you are one who was made
in beauty.
Whatever brokenness
or pain
or darkness you feel,
it cannot extinguish
the light
of the beauty
of God
that exists in you.

Rhythmicity

Five Minute Friday
Prompt: Repeat

Our solar system pulses with rhythm. Every 365 days, we make a turn around the dance floor, spinning all the way. Ever in a hurry, Mercury makes the trip in 88 days, while Pluto takes 248 years. (Perhaps Pluto’s pace explains why cosmologists decided it no longer deserved the title of “planet”).

Today, I looked out of my office window and beheld a tree dressed with fire. She clothed herself this way last year too, celebrating the fall gala. Yet even amidst the rhythmicity, this year is entirely unique. The leaves’ arrangement approximates, yet does not copy, last year’s gown.

What a wonderful world where rhythm’s repetition still manages to make things brand new.

This post is part of the 5-minute Friday linkup.

The Pause

Write 31 days, day 17
Writing Prompt: Pause

“What happened to my day?” I wondered aloud as I walked through the nurse’s station at quarter past four. How could it possibly be this late? The day was not particularly overburdened patient-wise, but I’ve been at my desk for over nine hours, minus the brief visit with my wife over lunch. Patients were seen and reports were written, but without a break to catch my breath.

Normally, I take time to pause. Before the workday starts, I sit in the corner chair, eyes closed, and ponder Christ’s presence. Later in the morning, or perhaps mid-afternoon, I take a walk. A slow walk. I saunter. Amble. I listen to the leaves and watch the birds. I feel the breeze upon my neck or the sun upon my face. I breathe. Life is better when I am not hurrying through it.

For consideration: take five minutes to pause today. Or thirty. 

In the Little Things

Write 31 days, Day 10
Writing prompt: How

Each day, every one of us faces the question, “how will I choose to live today?” Some of us approach the question with intention, though most of us, I suspect, simply drift through our morning routines. Let me suggest, though, that even if we never have consciously considered this question, it still shapes us. We choose whether we will take a shower, surf the Internet, or greet our spouse with a kiss. We choose whether to walk with our shoulders back or staring at the ground. We choose whether or not we will think poorly of those who believe differently than we do.

For me, it has been beneficial to intentionally consider how to approach each day. Borrowing from Chuck DeGroat, I ask myself “how can I be an ambassador of shalom today?” or from my friend Curt Thompson: “am I living as an outpost of goodness and beauty?” I firmly believe that we can make the choice each day, indeed in each circumstance, to strive toward wholeness and peace or to degrade toward bitterness and division.

Last night, when I came home from work, I was irritable. Perhaps 20 minutes later, Heather asked me if I needed anything because I “seemed short.” She was right, and I told her so, but it was for no reason I recognized. It helped me to own that emotion and ask myself, “how does my attitude toward my wife, my son, and my dogs press toward shalom?”

None of us will get this perfect. We are all broken. Yet our imperfections do not disable our capacity to strive toward wholeness. I pray that more and more people will strive to embody truth, goodness, and beauty in their daily routines, and that those choices will push back a little bit of the darkness.

Reflection:
What daily rhythms help you to live toward wholeness?  How can you stretch toward deeper wholeness this week? 

Each Breath, Inspiration

Write 31 days, Day 9
Today’s prompt: Inspire

To inspire is
to breath life.
So often we wait
for something…anything
to energize us
to get creative juices flowing.

But are we paying
to the present
moment?

-To criss-crossed rakes, slumbering
beneath the blanket
quilted leaf by leaf.

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-To a 9 year old
contemplating the rain or perhaps
multiplication’s complexity.

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-To ducks
upon ponds and puddles
contemplating the rain or perhaps
multiplication’s complexity.

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-To a benevolent Dane
enthroned upon
a burgundy dais
overseeing the play
of his loyal subjects.

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Each whisper…each blink
a breath
an inspiration.

For reflection: 
What inspires you in this moment?

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