Looking for the image

pilsen-mural

When my niece Anna visited, we spent an afternoon hunting murals. This is a mural in progress in Pilsen.

Before we moved, we held one last yard sale in an effort to avoid extra drop-offs at the thrift store. People asked, naturally, “Where are you moving?” Our response—inner city—garnered a lot of head shaking, puzzled looks, raised eyebrows. A couple people even offered gloomy predictions. “You’ll miss this,” they said, gesturing at the trees and yard. “You’ll get tired of the noise and the people and the dirt.”

I nodded. I was sure they were right. I’m sure now they’re right. I will certainly miss, deep in my soul, the waving trees and open spaces and wooded trails that were a great part of my life in our old town.

But I’ve asked, since even before we moved, that God would open my eyes to see loveliness right here in our new neighborhood. I’ve asked him to gift my eyes to look beyond the trash and poverty and sorrow and see elements of beauty.

He’s answering this prayer, but not in the way I expected. Yes, I do notice the old, turn-of-last-century architecture in our neighborhood—somehow-still-complete stained glass, gorgeous old stonework, intricately carved wooden doors—and the neighborhood gardens and the creativity of things like truck-tires-turned-flower-planters and murals brightening abandoned buildings.

But I’ve been most surprised by the beauty I’m noticing in God’s masterpieces, His people, these fellow bearers of His image. I’m seeing more than the destitution of those who hang out all day at the closest L station—I’m seeing the ways they cram close under the bus shelter when it rains, waving their arms at those outside to join them. I’m taking joy in the older men playing chess at dusk at the edge of the park, just under the rumbling L train, their heads bent low in concentration. I get a thrill of excitement at every baby I see, with face fresh and innocent, at every little girl with her hair fixed just-so, at every daddy proudly walking his kids to school. I’m looking for potential and not threat in the groups of young men sitting on doorsteps or walking, strong and sure, down the streets. I’m noticing the city worker riding on the back of the trash truck, dancing in plain sight of everyone to the music coming through his headphones. I’m thankful for the watchful eye and gentle wisdom of the neighbor who’s lived in the house across the street nearly his entire life. I love that on the same street corner on a Sunday morning I saw a man dressed for church—cane, hat, polished shoes, vest, and tie! so sharp!—and an older woman dressed in cheetah pajamas, hood with cat ears pulled up around her face. They seemed comfortable in each other’s presence. I’m noticing the woman, sitting on the seat of her push walker, earnestly carrying on a conversation with the air in front of her, and rather than feeling discomfort, I’m wondering if maybe she isn’t talking with God, maybe she “sees” more than I do.

Will I miss my regular romps through the woods? Absolutely. That forest spoke to me of the beauty and grandeur and glory of God. I saw God in it. But it’s not God’s greatest handiwork.

We humans are. No matter what brokenness we carry—be it obvious or more subtle (even socially acceptable—like greed)— we are still his intricate, beloved creations who carry the image of God!

And that’s not limited to only the “beautiful ones” among us, nor to the saintly, the brilliant or the gifted. You, me, the lady in cheetah pajamas, those who hang out at the L station all day/every day, the alcoholic who regularly sleeps it off in the alley behind our house…

Made in the image of God.

I’m looking for that.

Advertisements

Gifts

My friend Sandy taught last week at our church’s women’s Gathering service. We are studying a few of Jesus’s I Am statements this winter term, and though she was teaching on “I am the Light of the World,” she began with some background on all the I Am pronouncements. She pointed out that when Jesus’s audience heard his statements beginning with “I Am,” they knew what he meant: he was identifying himself as God!

So, as WE study the I Am statements, we can understand that they reveal to us great truths about God Himself: Father, Son, and Spirit. Sandy reminded us that Jesus doesn’t finish these “I Am” statements with abstract ideas but rather “link(s) every I AM with a tangible, material thing—something of this world, part of Jesus’ humanity—a light, a grapevine, a shepherd, a door, a gate. Each of these things is Jesus’ way to help us understand and believe this great God who loves us with a great love. Jesus describes the love of God in ways we can understand, so we can believe and love him back!”

Then Sandy shared this beautiful quote from St. Ignatius: “All the things in this world are also created because of God’s love, and they become a context of gifts, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.”

I loved what she said, and I thought that today I would just share a few pictures of the “God gifts” I’ve noticed and taken pictures of in the last couple weeks. May you notice many God gifts today.

sunset

I love to walk in the woods. I don’t know why this red tanker car has been left on the tracks so long, but I love seeing it against the dark woods–with a brilliant pink sky blazing above and shimmering below in its reflection on the pond ice.

sunset 2

a wider view of the same sunset

it is well

one of my daughters gave me this sign. It sits next to a bird, another gift, this one from a dear friend.

pj the secret agent

They (my children) are all four of them gifts, but I had to take a picture of my youngest dressed up as a Secret Service agent! Those glasses barely stayed on for the picture!

red train tanker in snow

ANOTHER view of that train, but this time in the very early morning light–almost blue!

blurry pond

I have no idea how I blurred this picture so badly, and I almost deleted it, but then I thought it looked like an impressionist painting–so soft. Look close and you can see the red train.

chai, you coming?

According to her, there is no point in stopping and taking pictures. “Come on!”

 

 

 

In the woods, walking slow–a sort-of poem

I always put disclaimers before I post my “poetry.” This is particularly true when I post one of my “poems” just after posting a piece by someone who really can write poetry. (If you haven’t read high school Tyler Jackson’s “Beloved,” please follow the link and do so.)

I am working on (or at least processing) several blog posts right now, a couple of which will be in the confessional living series, but as none of them is fully formed, I am instead sharing my creative-ish ramblings on walking in the woods, which I love to do no matter what the season, what the weather.

In the Woods, Walking Slow

Birds sound out—I imagine they are sharing the news,

The weather forecast, the society page.

One last note, and there is unusual silence,

Deep, weighty.

Perhaps even ominous.

I stop, too—the better to sense the wolf of Grimm’s dark tale—

scan the trees, then laugh at myself.

Another birdcall, and my eyes follow the sound, sliding up dark trunks

To trace the branches black against the darkening sky.

Dusk is here.

I step further,

seeing less, listening more,

hearing the Spirit’s whisper:

“I am here.”

The Holy hangs in the air around me,

In the Joy of the birds, the Mystery of the imagination, the Beauty of the branch-laced sky

God IS—Big and Real.

In the woods

I practice stillness

And know.