wick and wax

 

wick and wax 2We vigil the night before Easter,

Entering sanctuary in silent darkness—

Till spark meets candlewick and

Fire shines.

Passed from one taper

To another,

Flames grow strong above candles held steady,

And collective glow pushes back the gloom.

We wait in already-but-not-yet time,

Anticipating Resurrection daybreak,

Still grieving in the night of death.

This greater reality is

Held small in my hand—

The flame of glory

Rising from wax,

Melting it,

Dripping tears.

Wick and wax,

Flame and tears,

Glory and sorrow,

Rise and fall—

Already and not yet.

 

Weeping endures for the night

But joy comes in the morning

a turn at the wheel

056

April of 2009

I could blame it on the quality of the light or the setting sun,

But it was more probably that I’d just asked my oldest if she’d like to take a turn at the wheel—

And that made me look at my own hands on it

and notice how worn and age-spotted they’d become.

Strange that I mind my own aging far less than I mind theirs.

The little ones are not so little anymore. The youngest is in double digits—something that bothers me more than I let on,

The middle ones are doing nearly-teenager kinds of things with their friends,

And the oldest, though she remained in the passenger seat, could have sat where I was.

I don’t know which of these caused my heart to gain weight and sink low.

When they were small, banshee loud and wild,

I thought moments like this would never, never come.

“They’re going to live with us forever, you know.”

My husband often said that, generally after a minor catastrophe or an interminable putting-to-bed,

And we would both laugh.

But now…

Stop, I think, stop.

For it is not the “not keeping up with them” that I fear

As much as it is the being left behind, losing my belonging with them.

Silly, I tell myself. You’ll simply belong in a different way.

And yet the exhausting “being needed” of their younger years

Is giving way to an independence on their part that makes me anticipate loneliness.

Strange that the fulfillment of what I have worked so hard for

Should cause my heart such pain.

“You’re going to leave soon,” I say into the quiet car,

and my oldest, somehow reading my mind, responds,

“Not for two more years, Mom.

That’s still a long way off.”

But she doesn’t realize.

Two years is a blink.

I’ll turn around and find her gone,

With the twins graduating high school,

And the youngest out gallivanting with friends.

I shiver,

She sees and turns up the heat,

And I want to cry.

After ten pages of trying to encapsulate ATONEMENT…

coffee and kindle

coffee and Kindle–really good friends when writing papers! The beautiful mug was made for me by my Em! Love it!

Alternate title: A bad poem attempting to do what ten pages did not! 

Justification, reconciliation, substitution, payment, victory, sacrifice, ransom, freedom, satisfaction…

Too many words!

Yet not enough.

Words enough to fill books upon books,

Yet still not enough to fully explain the how—

The what, even!

Well, it’s understandable—

Paul himself spoke in metaphor

And mixed them like disparate ingredients in a stew—

Trying to convey the whole with parts—

With the whole being the best meal ever,

Filling, enlivening, comforting…

Hmm, I, too, just used metaphor,

bringing in yet another in an attempt to wrap my mind around

the atonement, that definition-defying word,

the At-One-Ment of those so very much at odds:

God and creation,

Beginning in harmony,

And then not—

With the fault being wholly NOT God’s.

In the great gulf between: sin, death, evil,

Impossible for creation to bridge.

So crossed instead by the injured party,

(Oh, terrible pun–yet true!)

The birth, the life, the death, the resurrection of God-made-flesh,

And the far off was brought near.

At-One-Ment was accomplished!

How?

Through the death of Christ, we say.

But, really, how? How? How did that death make one again what had been so seriously separated into two?

Oh dear,

We resort to metaphors once again,

Each one expressing just a part. Only a part

Of a glorious, beautiful, magnificent whole.

BIG—encompassing all of humanity, past, present, future.

The entirety of creation as well.

Yet small, too.

For I, one among billions, a speck in the universe,

I am At-One with the Holy One.

And you, fellow speck, you can be, too!

Incredible.

He in me. I in him.

He in you. You in him.

We—you, me, we two—AT-ONE as well!

We all—creation days one through six—

At One!

Could there be a more amazing mystery? A mystery worked through mystery!

“For God so loved…”

Ah, the need to understand momentarily set aside,

I rest,

Grateful.

From dark to light

DSC_0743Daylight saving turns

The dimmer knob of the day,

And the afternoons are cut short.

Dusk chases my children in.

They stare through

windows at the settling gloom.

They are no longer young.

They remember what autumn brings.

“When?” they ask.

“When will daylight grow again?”

“Around Christmas,” I tell them.

They sigh. Still so far away!

With a more gradual movement,

A global twisting,

We lean away from the Sun.

Darkness now pursues

us home from school.

Outdoor hours are few

And precious.

Suddenly, new light!

Not much—small, twinkling,

Strung in trees, across porches—

But shining bright with hope

against the encroaching shadows.

My children’s eyes sparkle.

Though tiny, these pinpoint lights

Remind us: Christ did come!

They proclaim: He will come again!

True Light will return

Triumphant

Once and for all!

Until then, my children,

Even as dark presses close,

Let us, filled with True Light,

Shine as small beacons,

Gleam like tiny stars

Beam as heralds of Hope.

Christ has died.

Christ has risen.

Christ will come again.

A family, a people

Small Carolina town

Throwback general store

Both my boys looking at the comics

Side by side

Yet the sharp “What’chu doin’, boy?”

Is not directed at the two,

Just the one,

My child with dark skin.

Years before,

Sitting in a crowded Ugandan church

Watching his tiny self

Dance in the aisles,

I wondered,

What are we doing—

Giving him a family

But displacing him from a people?

When he was small, our conversations about race

Were easy.

He called himself chocolate,

The rest of us vanilla,

In high summer, I became

Milky coffee.

Now, though, they are harder.

How to explain to him,

To his sisters and brother,

That the odds facing them

Are not exactly equal?

That what we’ve told them—

Human is human. Period.—

Is not a reality out there

And King’s dream

Is still a dream.

And underneath all this,

Even now,

the question haunts me:

We’ve become a family

But what about his people?

~~~~

I thought this post could use a little lift. This was a fun, impromptu moment in Target when PJ saw this awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle jacket!

I thought this post could use a little lift. This was a fun, impromptu moment in Target when PJ saw this awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle jacket!

Our fourth child was born in Uganda. His mother died of AIDS; his father was estranged and never met him till we began the adoption process. In many miraculous ways God made it very clear that we were to adopt our son. But even as I worked in Africa to get legal guardianship, I wondered about the issues he would face growing up as an African child in a white family, in a predominately white area, in a country where the color of your skin still determines a lot. Racial reconciliation takes on a whole new level of importance when you have a child who is a different race. When I read about the horrifically high numbers of African American men in prison; when I learn that five times the number of African American babies are aborted compared to white babies; when I hear that an African American college professor in the town just two over from mine has been stopped by police more than 20 times in the last couple years just so they could “see what

I couldn't resist posting this one, too!

I couldn’t resist posting this one, too!

he was up to”… I think, “This is what’s facing my son,” and I ask God how I am meant to draw attention to this injustice, how I am meant to fight it—both for my own son and the sons and daughters of other women.

And under all this, I still fear the effects on my son of growing up without a community that looks like him.

Joy

window ScotlandThough I want joy—unceasing,

I experience only moments of it

Much between is grit-my-teeth “showing up.”

None of it is horrible;

I can always make the comparison—

To parents of children with cancer

To those suffering persecution or

being abused

To orphans, single moms, trafficking victims,

Others who have lost loved ones…

The juxtaposition brings guilt,

Which coils in my gut,

A python heavy, growing heavier.

Ach, guilt is no answer.

Joy requires realization,

That though life is often cruel because of heartbreak,

It more often is simply hard because of paradox:

who we are is not who we want to be,

the grand beauty we dream of

is not actualized in the day–to-day—

and the movie screen is an insufficient substitute.

If we settle, give up the longing, and live half-lives,

No joy.

But when we plumb beyond the temporal shallows,

Shoving past the “too weak” desires

To the eternal depths beneath,

We discover Joy has a Name,

A Face, a Person—

Whom we are invited to Know.

Inspired in part by C.S. Lewis’ opening words in “The Weight of Glory”:

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (26)

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.

Odds and Ends: a recording, a verse, a suggestion

A RECORDING: If you didn’t read the last post, a poem by Wheaton Academy student Tyler Jackson, please scroll down below this post to see it (or follow the link above). The more I read her poem, the more I am influenced by it, so I made a recording of it in case any of you would rather hear it (poetry so often has a different effect when it’s listened to) or listen as you read along. Here’s the recording:

A VERSE: In my latest post in the Confessional Living series, it was implied but not actually stated that the Holy Spirit most often uses the very Word of God to make us aware of our hidden (or not so hidden) sins. Hebrews 4:12 is a oft-quoted verse about the power of Scripture. I’m putting it here in the New Living translation because it makes the verse new and fresh even to those who have quoted it since they were children. I am also including verses 13-16 because the Gospel, hallelujah, goes beyond our sin to the Savior who rescued us through His own sacrifice.

Hebrews 4:12-16 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. 14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

*Here is Hebrews 4:12-16 in several different versions/paraphrases.

A SUGGESTION: Are you wanting to read Scripture more and allow God to use it to change you? Bible Gateway has recently added a section to its website titled “Scripture Engagement.” Here’s the first paragraph on that page: “This section of Bible Gateway, created in partnership with the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement, outlines a set of practical exercises and activities you can undertake to interact more meaningfully with the Bible.” I would encourage you to check it out by following the link above.

Guest Writer: Tyler Jackson’s poem “Beloved”

Beloved
I don’t want a fairy tale that’s sweet on the mind, but fades when the book closes
I don’t need curled up pages, binded by hardback covers on wooden shelves
I want petals penned in stone
literature so smooth it’s like a lullaby
Scripture so strong it sets fire to hearts closed up by the world
I want words written on flames that dance through fields of roses
I want graphite to flow through pages like an evening spring
I want poetry to hit so hard it leaves scars on the very parts of your soul you’ve locked away
I don’t need illusions and alliterations to unlock the chains you bind to your feet
You’re a child of wrath, living within the glory of darkness
so unaware of the brightness
I want to show you a different world
where literature isn’t just princes and witches
I’ll show you pages that were written in the sky, bright like stars and timeless like the universe
God breathed they say
Sonnets of love and sacrifice
just stories they say
But I tell you, I don’t believe in fairytales
So give me a reason why we hold the rambles of man as greater than the words inspired by one greater than all
For He calls you Beloved, is that not more wonderful than all the praises of man?

Tyler, a very talented writer and photographer, is a junior at Wheaton Academy. She went with us to Scotland in January 2015. This poem was written as she reflected on her time in a country that has such a rich heritage of Christian faith but now has so few who believe in and follow Christ.