"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Monday, January 23, 2017

Clanging Cymbals vs. Windchimes

As I opened my Bible to 1 Corinthians 13 several weeks ago and read the first verse, my mind immediately took me to an incident that occurred at the local post office back before Christmas. The line was long and I was about 12 people deep before my turn to mail my package. A cake. In front of me was a woman with her boxes and in front of her a man who was obviously very suspicious of the government. His loud tirade began with cell phone tapping through the towers in Alabama and digressed quickly, moving from our then current president to the incoming incumbent. He was definitely not happy with the first and already trashing the second. Fortunate for me, the woman between us was taking most of the brunt from the storm. She would look at me from time to time and I could see the letters HELP written across her eyelids when she blinked. But all I could do was just give her a pathetic grin that said, "I am so sorry. I feel your pain." And this was just the beginning. It was Christmas after all, and fodder for more, as the advocate for "truth" moved from politics to peace -- and that there would be none until the Prince of Peace Himself comes. True. I could agree with that statement, and so I gave my sheepish grin again and nodded carefully. But then we moved on to the great white throne judgment where God would separate the sheep from the goats. And on it went, louder and louder, until we, he, had finally made his way to the customer service desk. I'm not sure, but I think I heard a collective sigh throughout the lobby.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal (1 Cor. 13:1). I had my word picture. And it has stuck to me like white on rice. Why? Because I know that I have been that individual.

If there is any one particular material possession that brings me great joy, it would be the chimes my husband gave me for Christmas so many years ago now. Just this morning, I sat in the darkness and listened as one lone tube was struck, leaving its sound in the air until every vibration was dissipated throughout the neighborhood. And then another. Finely turned. Rich. Deep. Beautiful. Just one tone, the same each time, reaching to the depth of my soul.

As the wind began to stir, all the chimes were touched and the one note turned into a melody, a song, until the whole yard was filled with the very tones that when played in order sing "Amazing grace." I let them wash over me and I found great healing ... and peace.

As I picked up my morning reading, I was directed of all things to 1 Corinthians 13 again and was instructed to read the entire passage multiple times. I was asked to become a part of it and to see what images it brought to my mind. To see what phrases resonated within me and to meditate on those shreds of revelation. I was to let the the words come crashing into my spirit like waves on a shore. And to be aware of any memories or experience it kindled.

The word picture of earlier came to mind, but this time it was coupled with the sounds of my chimes that hung just outside my window on the eave of the house. The chimes that were now alive with dance and were singing joyously.

Yes, the world is full of noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. If anything, the last weeks have certainly proven that to be true. And so my thoughts turned to earnest prayer. "O God, may I not be among their number. Rather, let me be one who is moved by the wind of Your Spirit, Your holy Breath, and in doing so, peals forth Love."

Then and only then is there any hope for true Peace in this world.

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; 
and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (NRSV)

Just an ordinary moment...

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Thin Places

Thin places. Those places of awakening when God is especially close. They are porous. Permeable. Where the boundary between what is and what isn't becomes soft. Where the walls become thin. Where we can glimpse the realm of the eternal. And where the eternal can seep through and touch us.

A friend told me recently that when she walked into the chapel at Sancturio de Chamayo, she burst into tears. It was a thin place for her. But it doesn't have to be a place.

Like beautiful music and good poetry.

Like the sacraments of holy communion and baptism where we are awakened to mystery. Or like  a common meal around a dinner table when we realize that every meal is communion.

Like when you hold your first grandchild.

Like when the sun begins its ascent in the east -- and God begins pouring out new mercies. Yes, the stillness of God -- presented Tuesday morning in a white woolen blanket of fog. Not to put down paper and pen would have been a sin. An affront to the One who was coming close. Is this how Elijah felt? It was not a time for dancing or singing or even prophesying.

No. Moments like these are for awareness. For being silent. For beholding. For just being.

Thin places. They are everywhere. Let's all ask for the grace to have eyes to see.

The Lord your God is in your midst...
He will rejoice over you with His gladness,
He will renew you in His love...
Zephaniah 3:17a

Just an ordinary moment...