Always in Beauty

From my book, Soil of the Divine

Morning breaks forth after cool night,
like a child from the womb
sometimes noisily
sometimes with barely a sound
but always in beauty.

Whether coiffured clouds
or baldheaded sun,
the morning’s emerging light
and blanket of dew
remind of God’s mercies
each morning made new.

From the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours.
-Psalm 110:3

Are you grateful?

I awoke at four. My internal timekeeper has recently decided the day begins then, even when I have the day off. After a shower, coffee, and some time with Jesus, I looked at my schedule for the day. I smiled at the words “Jason Off.” My only other responsibility for the day was to transport my dear brother and sister-in-law to the Ice Age Trail. They were beginning a three day, 26 mile hike.

At about 8:30, Derrick called and we agreed to meet in Cornell, a small town northeast of Eau Claire. They would leave their vehicle sit and I would transport them to New Auburn where they would begin their eastward journey. As the oldest sibling, I could not resist parenting them once more. “The heat index is going to be 110 degrees. Are you sure?” “Yes,” came the confident reply.

We loaded their gear into my non-air-conditioned F250 and caught up some. We talked about tattoos as they celebrated my recent acquisition, and we talked about kids, and art, and bed-making. I explained that research demonstrates that unmade beds are healthier, because they are not incubators for cooties. Bridget wasn’t buying it.

We also talked of gratitude, a virtue many of us fail to practice regularly. It is easy to devolve into a rhythm of complaint. Our lives become minor chord progressions that never seem to resolve. Negativity becomes what it hates. Thoughts continually focused upon what is bad give way to depression.

Yet, there is so much for which we can be grateful if we are willing to open our eyes. As I drove the country road north into Cornell, fields mostly of green surrounded me. I passed by one field still dressed in brown and I wondered whether the farmer chose to leave it fallow for the year. At full sprint, a well-muscle coyote darted in front of my truck. It seemed on mission, though I saw no roadrunner.

When I dropped Derrick and Bridget off at the trail head, we stood in a grassy field. There were purple flowers, and white, but the orange ones stood out. Only a single plant, flaming brightly like a campfire in the midst of a large clearing. I hugged them goodbye and began the trip home.

Along the way, I saw a thrift store and yard sale sharing the same parking lot. I had already driven past when it captured my attention, so I reversed course. Selling out of the back of an old trailer was an even older gentleman. His kindness was palpable. He frequents estate sales, but he only likes the ones that are handled by the family. I learned that when companies run them, they are too expensive. Although several tables held treasures untold, only one item captured my attention: a nondescript 12-string guitar. Its only marking was a small green tag, which read

-38-

I looked again to be sure. I hadn’t mistaken the price. Together with its brand new soft-sided case, I didn’t even hesitate. The man had never seen a guitar with twelve strings and he wondered if I played. I told him, “Yes. A bit, but not as well as my son.” I had no desire to barter, but he said to me, “how ’bout an even 35?” I smiled and handed him three crisp bills, eager to share my find with my family. IMG_1856

As I drove the 30 minutes home, I was reminded of God’s goodness. He is everywhere present–in the generosity of an octogenarian, in a blossom’s flame, in the speed of a coyote, and in the embrace of a brother.

If we were willing to pay attention and stay present to the moment, we could fill a notebook each day with the things for which we are grateful.

How about you? What are you grateful for today?

Raindrops are liquid joy
celebrated by the thunder
with claps of praise.

Dandelions

In the spring of the year
they rise from their slumber,
slender stalks supporting
saffron heads,
their bright composure
punctuating the cool green;
yet they are transient.

Bright blonde giving way to
tousled gray
until a breeze blows upon it
and it’s gone.

But God is a forget-me-not.
His steadfast love never ceases,
though He plucks and blows
upon the flower,
He spreads the seeds
upon the wind…
His breath carries life abundant
where many see death.

 

A reflection on Psalm 103 from my book Soil of the Divine.

Consider the Birds

I awake once again,
the sounds of birds
greeting the morning.

For them, every day
is the Lord’s day.
They make no distinction
between Sunday
and any other day,
worshiping continuously.

I expect birds will be in heaven,
but here on earth,
they teach us about
the presence of God.

If we attend to them,
they instruct us in worship.
Robins and sparrows
teach us songs of joyous praise.
Doves teach lament.

What would life be like
if Christians took their cues
from the birds?

From Creation

The True Light’s illumination
shines brightly on creation
from creation.
To see,
we have only to open our eyes.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

-John 1:9

Winter Kavod

The blizzard’s heaviness
omnipresent
branches genuflect
ancient trees
sigh beneath the weight
thoroughfares erased
houses too
subsumed beneath
opalescent quilt
the world’s cacophony
dulled
silence prevails for a time

How quick we are
to push back
resisting
the weight of glory
preferring disenchanted convenience
to the purity and power
of winter’s kavod.

*kavod is a Hebrew word meaning heaviness, usually translated “glory” in the Old Testament scriptures.

Creation Song

In Thumbprints in the Clay, Luci Shaw shared that fully one-third of the Bible is written in poetic form, yet we read it like an auto repair manual. In our desire to “get it right,” we read each line with mechanical precision, but we fail to notice the musical staff dwelling nearby. There is no doubt that God’s blueprints for creation were precise and logical, but I wonder how many of us, while considering God’s precision exclude beauty, consciously or subconsciously. For example, we attempt to wrestle Genesis 1 into submission, seeking to prove our preferred understanding of how God created, rather than wondering in amazement that He created. We fail to feel the rhythm.

Eugene Peterson wrote in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, “There are two sets of three days each of creation activity. The first set of three gives form to the pre-creation chaos of [Genesis 1:2]; the second set of three fills the pre-creation emptiness…There is another interesting rhythmic variation. The third day of each three-day set comprises a double creation. So the cadence becomes: 1-2-3/3, 4-5-6/6…When we speak this text aloud, or listen to it being spoken, the text gets inside us. We enter the rhythms of creation time and find that we are internalizing a creation sense of orderliness and connectedness and resonance that is very much like what we get from music.”

As I think about God’s creation, I find myself wondering if God sang the world into creation. Words, yes, but music too. CS Lewis must have wondered this as well; in the sixth book of the Narnia series, The Magician’s Nephew, Aslan sings creation into being.

Christianity is not merely cognitive, but carditive; not merely brain, but heart. As we read the revealed word, we would do well to also pay attention to its rhythms.

And to our own.

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