Tag Archive - Orthodoxy

As Much As They Could Bear

They were his closest friends.  True, he had been investing himself deeply in a group of men and women for three years.  But these three…they had gone deeper. And he wanted to share something with them.  Something very intimate.  An extraordinary moment.  A memory that would linger long after he was gone.  And he would be gone.  Soon.

Transfiguration-lewis-bowman

So they climbed a mountain.  Mount Tabor.  Funny how much of his story had been unfolded, would be unfolded, on mountains.  The three planted themselves, but he walked on a little farther.  Suddenly, he was not alone.  There were figures on either side of him.  Figures from beyond…from the other…

And he was changed.

The glory had simmered inside him for as long as they had known him.  Sometimes they caught glimpses of it in his eyes.  It had wrapped them round when he had calmed an angry sea.  It had filled their bellies with fish and bread and wine.  It had flowed from his fingers into people who were wounded and hurting and had made them well.  But now….now a visible glory radiated from him like fire.  His face shown like the sun and his garments were whiter “than any launderer could bleach them”.

The hymnody of the ancient church says Peter, James and John saw his glory that day, “as much as they could bear“.  It makes me think of the recurrent phrase that permeates the Gospel of John, “and his disciples believed in him”.  They believed…as much as they could.  And the next day, or the next week, they saw more of who he was, and they believed a little more.

He had been creating a space in them…for belief…for glory…

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. On this day I am reminded that God’s glory is all around me on a daily basis. I have only to walk with eyes open. And I pray that as I continue to look for His glory in humble places, that I will become able to bear more, and more of His glory. And that one day that I may see His Uncreated Light.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”  ~John 17:24

Lord, Make Me Humble. But Not Yet.

The Holy Fathers say that, unless we humble ourselves, the Lord will not stop humbling us…Until you have suffered much in your heart, you cannot learn humility.

I read these lines. I even underlined them. I talked about them with my friends. Then, promptly forgot them.

The line I remembered is this:

Our holy Father Symeon says that a person who has attained humility of the mind cannot be hurt by anything in the world.

Yes, please.

Both quotes are from Our Thoughts Determine our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica. It is a rather prickly book. The sort that gets all up in your business. Provoking, inspiring, humbling

I sit in Starbucks on Sunday afternoon with three lovely friends who are also reading the book. I say to them…out loud…that I want this. I want this humility that renders me invincible.

Then, on Monday, God obliges with a generous dose of humiliation…of suffering in my heart. How convenient! And I thank Him. Oh yes, I do! First I thank Him by being hurt. Grieved. Sad. The grief festers into bitterness. Indignity that wrongs committed years ago still cast a shadow across my life, despite the fact that I have repented and am striving to live honorably. I don’t deserve this! (See what I mean.) But the bitterness is short lived. It dissolves into despair. I will never move past this. No matter what I do. And this cloud hovers over everything. And nothing looks right. Nothing tastes right. My stomach hurts. And I cry myself to sleep…

Lord, make me humble.

But not yet.

The phrase is St. Augustine’s, though he prayed to be made chaste. Perhaps he and I both missed the point. To acquire either takes a great deal of practice. And the practice is very like the training runs I am currently doing for an ultra marathon. Painful. Dirty. Smelly. Exhausting. And, did I mention, painful. Very. Painful.

But, just like in marathon training, there is pain, then recovery. A chance to catch one’s breath before plunging back in. And, also like training, when the wounds have healed, I hopefully emerge stronger than before. A little bit closer to the goal.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from running is that you don’t quit just because something is really hard, or because it hurts. And sometimes it hurts like hell. So, I’m not quitting. Even though I have such a very long way to go. And sometimes it seems impossible. And I get angry at myself for not being better at this.

Lord, make me humble. But not

Lord, make me humble. But

Lord, make me humble.

 

*Bolds in the quotes mine.

Pray in Me

When I wanted my children to listen to me…really listen to me…I would cup their little faces in my hands and gently turn them toward mine. When our eyes locked, I would begin. Sometimes morning prayers feel like that. Like God has taken my face in His hands and turned it towards His. So that I may see Him. Really see Him. So that I may hear. So that He can tell me who I am. The gaze lingers long after the sound of the words has faded…

Pray in me.

And yet, echoes of the words reverberate in my mind throughout the day. I find myself in a situation that is over my head. Floundering. Lost. And the words bubble up in me. Like breathing.

Pray in me.

And when I would like to fix the impossible. When I feel utterly helpless. When I do not know what to pray, I borrow the words from the morning. I appeal to One who speaks on my behalf with “groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)

Pray in me.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Glory to thee, our God, glory to thee.

O heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who art in all places and fillest all things; Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O gracious Lord.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: have mercy on us. (Thrice)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

All-holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy God, visit and heal our infirmities for thy Name’s sake.

Lord, have mercy. (Thrice)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

~The Trisagion Prayers of the Orthodox Church


Lord, give me the strength to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely on Your Holy will. Reveal Your will to me every hour of the day. Bless my dealings with all people. Teach me to treat all people who come to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unexpected events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me the physical strength to bear the labors of this day. Direct my will. Teach me to pray. Pray in me.

~Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow

*Photograph by Joel Smith

And Life Reigns!

It is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of the mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder. ~Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

Mine was a weekend shrouded in the most delicious mystery. Mystery dread and strange. Mystery radiant and glorious. I was so undone by it that I have been thus far unwilling to attempt to write of it. Even now, I give you only the cheapest of postcards….

Friday Night, The Lament:

The funeral bier is the first thing I see. It sits in the middle of the room, lovingly bedecked with flowers. Candles burn at both ends. The room is very dark, lit mostly by candles. It is right. For the great Light has been extinguished. We stand with Joseph as he prepares the body of the Beloved. We see his tears. And together we sing songs of disbelief. Songs of lament.

Oh my sweet Lord Jesus,
My Salvation, my Light:
How art Thou now by a grave and its darkness held?
How unspeakable the mystery of Thy love.

A mother’s dirge:

Ah, my precious Springtime!
Ah, my Son beloved.
Ah, whither fades thy beauty?

Light more dear than seeing,
O my Son most precious,
How in a grave dost hide Thee?

Then, as little girls scatter rose petals all around the bier and the priest douses all of us with holy water we sing:

Myrrh, the women sprinkled,
Stores of spices bringing
To grace Thy tomb ere dawning.

We process behind the bier. Out of doors. All the way round the church. When we re-enter, we walk under the bier. Covered, as it were. His blood be on us… I take off my shoes afterwards, with some of the little girls, to feel the rose petals under my feet. Wearing the story in my body. This night we leave him in the tomb. But not asleep. Oh no, not asleep…

Saturday Morning, The Harrowing of Hell:

We read the stories of Jonah, and of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, others who were hidden but not idle. I can almost feel the earth rumble under my feet as death begins working backwards…

Today hath Hades sighed, crying, “My power hath vanished because I received a dead Man as one of the dead, but could not hold Him completely. Rather, I lost with Him those who were under my reign. From the beginning of time I have held control over the dead. But this One raised all.”

The priest moves among us tossing rose petals and bay leaves while the children beat on the backs of the seats with sticks. And we are become part of the victorious march through hell. Liberating the captives. I pick up a rose petal and a bay leaf that have fallen on the music stand in front of me. I roll them around in my fingers, inhaling their scent. The scent of freedom.

The priest begins to prepare the Eucharist directly on the funeral bier. It is one of the most devastatingly gorgeous moments of all of Holy Week for me. It is almost more than I can stand. With the sound of hammering, and of lament still ringing in my ears, I stand before the funeral bier and receive the Body and the Blood.

Finally, the priest blesses the baskets of bread and wine we have brought to share. We gather for a meal of sustenance. Our journey is almost complete. The very air vibrates with whispers of Resurrection…

Saturday Night into Sunday Morning, Great and Holy Pascha:

We gather at 11:00 and sing hymns and prayers. Just before midnight, all lights are extinguished save the flame that burns continuously on the altar. We pray for a time in the darkness. The tension is almost unbearable. Anticipation causes my heart to pound. Then the lone voice of the priest sings…

Come ye take light from the Light, that is never overtaken by night. Come, glorify Christ, risen from the dead.

The deacons take light from him. We take light from them. And the glow begins to spread across the room. We follow them out into the night. Soon a long ribbon of light wraps itself all around the building. We return to find the doors closed to us. We read of the myrrh bearing women who found an empty tomb. The priest sings prayers of praise to which we respond “Christ is risen from the dead trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” And as we sing we thrust our flames high into the air.

Then the priest pounds on the door. “Lift up your gates, O ye princes; and be lifted up, ye everlasting gates, and the King of Glory shall enter in.” A voice from inside calls back “Who is the King of Glory?” Ten year old Katy, who has come to stand with me, looks up and smiles. It is a marvelous moment. The priest answers “The Lord Strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in war.” Three times this happens before the doors are flung open and we enter a brightly lit church to begin the celebration.

The rest of the service is cacophony and blur and light and joy. At numerous intervals, the priests run up and down the aisle with the censor–the one with the delightful bells–and shout out “Christ is Risen!” to which we respond “He is risen indeed!” They do this in a host of different languages and it is fun to try to figure out how to answer them. Father Stephen delivers St. John Chrysostom’s marvelous Paschal homily. We receive the Body and Blood of the now-risen Christ. And our joy is made full.

Following the service, we feast together well into the morning hours. And the glory of the Resurrection fills our hearts and our stomachs. And Life reigns.

His Blood Be On Us and On Our Children

 

Lights are low as we gather. Tonight we read twelve passages from the gospels that treat of the voluntary death of the Saviour. We begin with John’s account of the final moments Jesus shared with His disciples. Pouring himself into them one last time. Preparing them for what was coming. The tender prayer. For them. For us.

We read of the betrayal. The arrest. The sham trial. The denial. Of Pilate’s cowardice as he washes his hands, magically absolving him of all responsibility. But the people own their choice. “His blood be on us and on our children!” Until this moment, I have never considered the irony in their words. They mean, of course, that they are not afraid of the consequences of their actions. They cannot know yet that this man’s blood will be life to them, and their children, should they choose to accept it.

After the reading of the fifth gospel, the lights are extinguished altogether, all but the candles flickering before the icons. An ominous portent. The priest comes from behind the iconastasis dragging the cross. In one motion, we all sink to the ground. Faces to the floor. And from beneath his dark burden, he sings…

Today He is suspended on a Tree who suspended the earth over the waters.
A crown of thorns was placed on the King of Angels.
He who wore a false purple robe, covered the heavens with clouds.
He was smitten who, in the Jordan, delivered Adam.
The Groom of the Church was fastened with nails, and the Son of the Virgin was pierced with a spear.
Thy sufferings we adore, O Christ.
Makes us to behold Thy glorious Resurrection.

In the dark stillness of this moment, I hear it. The pounding of the hammer. I feel each blow like a kick to the stomach. His blood be on me. I did this.

We read of the agonizing hours on the cross. The mocking. The ultimatums. The vinegar. The aloneness. The mother. The darkness. The veil. “It…is…finished.” The spear. Blood and Water. For the saving of the nations. His blood be on us.

*In Orthodox worship we “anticipate the day”. Therefore, last night’s service commemorated the Passion of Christ. This afternoon His body will be removed from the cross and laid upon a funeral bier covered in flowers. Tonight we gather to sing lamentations for the Beloved. It is important to linger here. To allow ourselves to sink into the grief of this moment. Only those who have tasted death fully appreciate the power of Resurrection.

His blood be on us and on our children!

Oil of Gladness

Last night I hit the wall.

All distance athletes have a healthy fear of “the wall”. For marathoners it usually comes around mile 18-20. An inscrutable boundary. Despite all the miles under your feet, you suddenly are convinced you can go no further. In 5 marathons, I have never hit the wall. Oh sure, I’ve hit my lactate threshold, where I feel like I have the flu: aches, chills, nausea. I’ve even had to let go of time goals and change strategy. But the dreaded DNF (did not finish) has never seemed an option. Last night it seemed like an option.

I sat in the parking lot at church and sobbed. Physically and emotionally spent. I had talked myself out of even coming more than once. But I knew this was the place where hope was. So I dragged myself out of the car, slogged through the rain, and stepped inside. I stopped to kiss the icon of the Bridegroom and held on to it for a moment. For dear life.

Just as the chanters and the priests began singing the service, a fierce, wild storm commenced out of doors. Ferocious claps of thunder made my body vibrate. Slashes of lightening hurled themselves at the windows. Something deep inside me exulted in this. Almost as if the turmoil inside me had been unleashed upon the elements.

And they sang on. The service of Holy Unction. Anointing. Seven Epistle passages. Seven from the Gospels. About those who were sick being made well. About those who were lost being found. About those who had been restored being sent out into the world to carry life, like bread, to others. One epistle in particular lasered itself to that profoundly weary place in me…

Brethren, we do not want you to be ignorant of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead; he delivered us from so deadly a peril, and he will deliver us; on him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers.  ~II Corinthians 1:8-11

When all seven candles had been lit and all seven passages read, the priest held the Gospel book over each of our heads and blessed us. Then we came forward to be anointed with oil.

The blessing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; for the healing of the soul and body of the servant of God (your name here) always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

I kissed the Bridegroom again as I left. And again I lingered, this time with gratitude. Then I went out into the rain with the oil on my forehead and hands. Bandaged. Fed. Ready to run on…

We haven’t far to go, best beloveds. Keep running!

 

Make Radiant the Garment of My Soul…and Save Me

I behold Thy Bridal Chamber richly adorned, O my Savior.
But I have no wedding garment to worthily enter.
Make radiant the garment of Thy soul,
O Giver of Life and save me.

It is, for me, one of the loveliest, most poignant services of the whole church year. Bridegroom Matins. And the Church is kind enough to give it to us on three evenings of Holy Week. My story is all tangled up in here. And I sometimes feel like God and I are curled up in an armchair looking through an old photo album as He gently whispers, Remember…..

On the third evening we ponder the stories of Judas the traitor and the fallen woman.

I am the arrogant Judas, frustrated that God does not act as I think He should. Willing to take matters into my own hands. Faithless. Disloyal. Greedy. As much as I abhor his choice, it is a choice with which I am all too familiar.

I am also the fallen woman. Desperate. Without resource. Without hope. Standing outside the bridal chamber, filthy and unclothed. So broken that I would risk humiliation to pour myself out at the feet of One…the only One…who can save me.

Why is one saved and the other hopelessly lost?

When the sinful woman was offering her spice, the sinful disciple was making a bargain with the transgressors of the law. The one rejoiced in pouring out the spice so great in price, while the other hastened to sell the Priceless One. The one knew the Master, the other was separated from the Lord. She was freed and Judas became a slave to the enemy. Indifference is evil, but great is repentance

Ah for the wretchedness of Judas! For, seeing the adulteress kiss the traces of His feet, he was thinking with deceit of the kiss of betrayal. She loosed her braids, and he was bound with wrath, offering instead of spice, rotted evil; for envy knoweth not how to honor anything which is good

I belong here. In the Bridal Chamber. Not because I have done the right thing. Not because I have proved myself worthy. But because I have thrown myself upon His mercy. Because He has clothed me in His own righteousness, of His good pleasure.

Near the close of the service is sung the Troparion of Kassiani. She is my patron saint, and it is this hymn, in part, that wed my soul to hers. She has given most exquisite expression to the groaning of my soul.

A woman who had fallen into many sins
perceiving Thy Divinity, O Lord,
fulfilled the part of a myrrh-bearer,

And with lamentations
poured that sweet smelling oil of woe
on Thee before Thy burial;

Woe is me! she said.
For night surrounds me,
dark and moonless
and stings my lustful passions
with a love of sin.

Accept the fountain of my tears,
O Thou who drawest down from the clouds,
the waters of the seas

Incline to the groanings of my heart,
O Thou who in Thine ineffable self-emptying
hast bowed down the heavens.

I shall kiss Thy most pure feet
and wipe them with the hairs of my head;

Those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise
and hid herself for fear.

Who can search out the multitude of my sins,
and the abyss of Thy judgments,
O Savior of my soul?

Despise me not, Thine handmaiden,
for Thou hast mercy without measure.

“May He who is going to His voluntary passion for our salvation, Christ our true God…have mercy on us and save us forasmuch as He is good and loveth mankind.”

*All unattributed quotes from the Lenten Triodion, Bridegroom Matins service. Also, you can sample my favorite recording of the Hymn of Kassiani HERE.

Soul Stink

One of the unfortunate results of a cleansing fast is the stink. Exiting toxins imbue every bodily secretion–saliva, sweat, urine–with the putrid, rotten odor of death. Death leaving the body……

I am SO over Lent!

It is making me stink.

Or rather, maybe, it is making me aware of the stink–the putrid, rotten odor of death–that dwells in me. A few days ago I sat across a table from friends–one Protestant, one Anglican, one Orthodox–each of us keeping Lent in our own way. We talked about how weary we are of Lent. How weary we are of ourselves. Petty, tired, irritable, hungry.

Consider this: In the poignant book, Unbroken, I just read about Olympic runner turned WWII flyboy, Louis Zamperini, whose plane was downed over the Pacific. In the 45 days during which he was at sea (before being captured by the enemy), he only ate every 7 or 8 days or so, IF he could snag a bird or fish. At first I thought, “How could I be so ungrateful while eating fresh strawberries and mangoes?” And then………then it occurred to me that while he was eating rancid Albatross on a boat surrounded by sharks under the burning sun on the edge of starvation, “At least he didn’t have to watch other people eating bacon!”

See what I mean?

And that’s not nearly the worst of it.

Selfishness…

pettiness…

weakness…

Putrid.

Rotten.

Death.

But….

….the earth is beginning to rumble….

Yesterday was Lazarus Saturday. If there was ever a guy with a potential stink problem, Lazarus was that guy. And yet, Lazarus defied death. Even the odor of death. Not by his own power. It was a gift. From One who loved him enough to weep over him.

And today….

Today, that One comes riding on a donkey…a parade of victory that belies the agonizing road that awaits Him. And yet, He carries LIFE with Him. I will greet Him with hope. Because I need Him. As desperately as Lazarus needed Him. I am wallowing in death. I am covered in its stench. I need LIFE

Hosanna in the Highest!! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!!

 

The Way of the Heart

“What is required of a man or a woman who is called to enter fully into the turmoil and agony of the times and speak a word of hope?”

Abba Arsenius was a well-educated, well-situated Roman in the court of Emperor Theodosius when he prayed this prayer, “Lord, lead me in the way of salvation.” It was the beginning of an odyssey. God would ultimately answer his prayer with these words. “Arsenius, flee, be silent, pray always…”

In his powerful book, The Way of the Heart, Henri Nouwen distills the essential wisdom of the desert fathers into these three things: Solitude (flee), Silence, and Prayer. When these become as natural to us as breathing, we will know the joy of continual communion with the Father and the words we speak will be life.

“Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter.”

I am defined by the people around me. I depend on them to tell me whether I am ok. Solitude rids me of this scaffolding. “…no friends to talk to, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me–naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful,deprived, broken–nothing.” It is a terrifying prospect. But as I carve out my own desert where I “dwell in the gentle healing presence of [my] Lord” the false self is extinguished and I am transformed.

Though it seems ironic, compassion is the fruit of solitude. As I face my own brokenness, I can enter with others into the places where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, broken. When I stop using others as a yardstick to measure myself, I no longer need to judge them. “Compassion can never co-exist with judgment because judgment creates the distance, the distinction, which prevents us from really being with the other.”

“Silence is the discipline by which the inner fire of God is tended and kept alive.”

When the door of the steambath is continually left open, the heat inside rapidly escapes through it; likewise the soul, in its desire to say many things, dissipates its remembrance of God through the door of speech, even though everything it says may be good. ~Diadochus of Photiki

“Out of his eternal silence, God spoke the Word” Likewise our words “can only create communion and thus new life when they embody the silence from which they emerge…when the word calls forth the healing and restoring stillness of its own silence, few words are needed: much can be said without much being spoken.”

“Real prayer comes from the heart.”

To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing, within you. ~Theophan the Recluse

Prayer is not meant to be an intellectual exercise in which we figure God out. Nor is it bargaining, manipulation, or an opportunity to impress God. Prayer of the heart is vulnerable, exposed, simple, and ceaseless. “When, for instance, we have spent twenty minutes in the early morning sitting in the presence of God with the words ‘The Lord is my Shepherd,’ they may slowly build a little nest for themselves in our heart and stay there for the rest of our busy day.”

“Ceaseless interior prayer is a continual yearning of the human spirit towards God.” ~from The Way of the Pilgrim

How I wish I could say to you that I have fully integrated this into my life. But perhaps being discomfited and knowing the longing are worthy first steps…

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me.

 

*Unattributed quotes in the post are by Henri Nouwan.

 

Souvenirs…of Silence

Any retreat into solitude and silence has, for me, two parts. There is that extended quiet that gives way to deep, restoring breaths…to uninterrupted reflection. And there is the hope that some of the quiet will accompany me home; that I will remember to find silence where I am…in the midst. Here, a few of the meditations and moments that I carry with me…

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

These are the words of the Jesus prayer. It has for centuries been an integral part of the prayer life of Christians seeking a way in. A way into stillness. A way into the unique mystery within themselves. It has for some time been part of my own prayer life. As I journeyed toward my oasis, I listened to a remarkable teaching on this prayer, on the invocation of the Name, by the venerable Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. He spoke of its two-fold use. In the midst of our daily lives, the prayer helps us to “find Christ everywhere”, to see all of life as sacramental. And, as part of our dedicated prayer time, it is one way to “create silence”. I have listened to it several times hence. It was a most worthy beginning.

Two of the three nights I was away, I fell asleep to a lullaby of raindrops against a tin roof. One of those nights there was a spectacular storm. I snuggled beneath the covers, watching flashes of lightening and feeling the reverberations of thunder with my whole body. In the morning, I awoke inside a cloud. A cocoon of sorts. A place of resting…and becoming.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin

I paused in the center of this bridge for a very long time…spellbound by the movement of the water. Very nearly undisturbed in its flow, its gentle gurgle seemed to work itself inside me. More silent than an absence of sound. More still than an absence of movement. Oh, that I might sing silence into those around me as this stream sang it into me.

“Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man.” ~Fyodor Dostoevzky

My friend, PJ, speaks of our shared ache for beauty. As I stumbled into a whole field of glorious Virginia Bluebells, ache was a most apt description. A glory almost too intense to be borne. A take your shoes off for you are breathing holiness kind of moment. A remnant, a memory of a world unseen, yet home. Wide awake. Delicious agony.

“He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die…that we may appreciate the joys of living.” ~Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

It’s ok if you don’t get this photo. I’ll warrant you its beauty is unconventional. But I found it captivating. That is to say, I found the tree with its multifarious hangers-on captivating. Perhaps one of the most valuable things God has been showing me of late is that gifts do not always come in the forms I expect…or ask for. But if I am willing to open my hands…if I will humble myself and receive as He is pleased to give, He is faithful to show me the beauty He has designed for me. For my good. For the good of those I love. I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.


I offer my profound thanks to Mary Claire and Nordeck for graciously opening to me their own particular piece of paradise. Your kind hospitality overwhelms me.

Thank you to my family for letting me go…for verily pushing me out the door.

And thank you, especially, to my extravagantly generous Father who is always, ALWAYS, waiting for me when I slow long enough, when I open my eyes wide enough, to see Him…from your sometimes unwieldy and recalcitrant daughter.

 

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