I'm inspired by my several friends who keep daybook entries on their blogs. I hope they consider it a compliment that I am imitating their good ideas here.
I took my camera on our walk the other day. It was a walk for stretching the senses more than the muscles as I stopped every few feet to line something up in the viewfinder. There's need in life for both kinds of exercise - feeding both body and soul. Emerson said, "How does Nature deify us with a few and cheap elements! Give me health and a day and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous!" It was on this trail last summer that I caught a glimpse of a kingfisher: one bright blue flash in a dive toward the water below and me standing there in wonder. Just the one glimpse and now I am on a continual treasure hunt.
God never leaves me in one place. No matter how I feel about it, He is continually stretching, pulling, pressing me into a different shape; conforming me to His image, I hope.
The more clamor that comes from the political world, the more I find myself sitting back quietly and watching. Not allowing my mind to form opinions, not allowing other people's words to shape me in one direction or the other, just waiting and listening. Seems to me that underneath all of it - left, right, blue, green, red - are two big problems: self-protection and judgement. Both are at odds with the gospel-call of laying down our lives and loving our neighbor. Over breakfast this morning, Meagan and I talked about how so much of modern politics invites laziness. People must be understood in groups that can be measured, weighed, and demonized or idolized, if necessary. But gospel-love requires seeing everyone as an individual, without bias or assumption, taking each person and each need carefully and considerately. It requires listening and learning and waiting patiently for God to show the answer. Nearly impossible in the modern political world.
I've been thinking about the command to practice hospitality towards everyone - including our own families. After years of hard loving I now most frequently find myself with a heart that is shuttered up and closed off to the one in my family that needs it most. I read this yesterday:
"When we relate to a difficult person, we operate from a basic assumption: I need to protect myself. But to live the way of hospitality means extending grace to people. You cannot be hospitable and gracious from behind your high wall. If you live by grace you become helpful. You become accepting. Even when it is impossible to accept certain behaviors and impossible to like them, you accept them. The centrality of love insists that we give the hard-to-like a chance. " ~ Radical Hospitality, Homan and Pratt
The reality of living with a difficult person means you have to give the hard-to-like new chances every hour of every day. Releasing the hurt, opening the door back up, digging down deep to believe that this next hour could be different, could be better. It's simply not possible without Christ, without prayer. I am making my slow way back to that place on my knees.
I wrote a letter last week - the first one in months. I've been deep in procrastination, I admit. Procrastination leads to guilt; guilt leads to paralysis. It felt like quite a victory to answer that one letter. And of course, as soon as I did, I remembered how great it is to pick up a pen and write a friend.
towards a reading life::
I'm in the middle of a lovely collection of essays by Miroslav Volf. This is the first time I've read him, trying to get ready for the Justice Conference in February. He's the kind of thinker I enjoy, asking hard questions, turning accepted answers on their heads, writing out of experience and suffering. In an essay called "Taking God to Court" Volf argues that in order to truly worship God, we must wrestle with Him honestly over the questions of injustice and sin in the world - in one example, a man expresses anger that while his mother was at church praising God, his uncle was at home molesting him. Taking direction from the book of Job, Volf considers:
"The dissonance between the belief in a mighty and loving God and the experience of unnecessary and unremedied suffering is too shrill to the soul's ear not to demand a resolution....
Calling "right" what is manifestly wrong, just to be on God's side, is no way to speak rightly of God. Precisely because God is loving, truthful and just, God will not put up with deceitful justifications of the unjustifiable even if it takes the form of humble piety....To speak rightly about God in the world of innocent suffering requires argument, complaint and accusation. Their absence would not only entail the hypocrisy of false reverence instead of true worship...It would also entail the hopelessness of merely putting up with suffering instead of seeking to overcome it."
towards keeping the faith::
For most western Christians, Advent begins this coming Sunday, the 27th. Our whole family is looking forward to the quiet rhythms of prayer and candlelighting each night. It's such a beautiful, reflective time of worship. In my devotion time this month, I've been writing my own Jesse Tree devotions. It's been wonderful to sink into the stories and prepare my heart to go through them again with the family.
towards keeping a record::
There are still leaves on the trees, but the temperature has dropped to the upper twenties at night and is not getting above the 40's during the day. Cold for this time of year. The pipes are all frozen and the kids haul water to the duck house by hand. The roads this morning were slick with ice patches. When we drove through the city today on the way home from church, the tallest buildings had lost their heads in the thick fog. The cold, clear days make the tree branches appear jeweled with their colored leaves and the shimmering condensation. The plum tree by the front door is alive with Oregon juncos enjoying the bird feeder. No chickadees yet, but I'm anxious for their arrival.