Tuesday, September 25, 2012

a musical room

The first room was small and jam-packed with furniture.  Juliet couldn’t remember how it all got there, but she suspected the exclusive Flibbertigibbit Club had something to do with it.  She studied her cousin, Whitney, who was backed against the opposing wall, for any sign of hope or excitement and only saw frustration.

Juliet worried it would be painful getting into the hallway.  The entrance to it was narrow and tight and blocked by a bookcase, but apparently the doorway was magically stretchy.  So far it hadn’t stretched for Whitney, and certainly not for Juliet.

Whitney started kicking and throwing things.  Juliet was turned off by it, so she found a space on the floor and curled into a ball, trying to make herself disappear.  Eventually she got up and said, “Whitney?”  No response.

Juliet daintily took hold of the stem of a Victorian lamp, let her fingers run up and down its ridges like feathers sweeping away fine powder.  Whitney stopped the childish tantrums for a moment and beheld her flighty fingers in an amatory trance.

When she snapped out of it, she said, “We’re stuck here.”

“There’s so much furniture in the way,” Juliet said.  “And the door’s not cooperating.”

Whitney shook her head in defeat.

“There’s got to be a way,” Juliet said.  She tipped her head toward the bookcase.  “I’ll go on top.”

Dust particles slowly danced in sunlight below the frame.  “Yes, this is the way!”

Whitney joined her atop the bookcase.  Together they inhaled the dust.  The doorway stretched and they slipped into the hall.  Whitney grinned from ear to ear, but Juliet was cautious because the hardwood was slick with sweat and slime.

At the next room, she knocked and the door was opened by a tender-eyed, bearded dwarf wearing a pink hat.  Before stepping in, she looked around for Whitney and realized she had withdrawn into the cloakroom.

Juliet smelled crushed weeds and forgotten corners and freshwater fish, though the room was empty save for a few stacks of papers to her right.  To her left was a tiny window the size of a paperback novel and from it a shaft of light met the floor, forming a yellowish rectangle in front of the dwarf’s feet.

“Welcome, stranger,” he said.  “Come a little closer—closer to me.”

Then Juliet began to sing, and it was as though he pulled her voice out from her larynx with invisible silk ribbon.  She sang with gentle melancholy about unexpressed regret and discontented love.  And she listened to her own voice, as if from a distance, while the dwarf continuously pointed to the window.

With eyes on the window, she dropped in slow motion then pressed her cheek to the floor.  She wanted to feel vibrations.  When her singing began to fade, music took over and she couldn’t tell where it came from.  She shifted to a different spot and put her ear to the floor.  Were those vibrations she felt?  It was more like a tension in her eardrum.


She came quickly, and stood in the doorway.

“Whitney, is that it?!  I thought it was supposed to make me gasp with pleasure or soar over the moon.”

Whitney only shrugged and ducked deeper into a gray, wooly cloak.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

the unexpected visitors

Tonight at our little church, our music group was finishing the second verse of a hymn called Crown Him With Many Crowns, and I was accompanying on the organ.  As I was blasting out the music, I sensed a presence behind my right shoulder, so on the final note of the verse I lifted my hands and turned to see a curly haired man smiling at me.

I love it when strangers arrive unexpectedly.  "Hi," I said to him.

"Um... my friend and I are on kind of a mystery tour and he's brought me here.  He has cerebral palsy.  Can we come in for about half an hour?" he said, with an accent (Australian, I think).

I beamed.  "Of course!"

I suspected his friend was none other than Luke, the only person I know who has cerebral palsy.  And I was right.  During his birth twenty years ago, the doctor made a terrible mistake.  As a result of that mistake, Luke is confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak.

The curly haired man, Paul, pushed him in and we all gazed at him in awe.  His arms and legs were strapped to the wheelchair and his bare feet seemed to reflect the light.

Amazingly, his computer enables him to communicate via a special kind of sticker placed on the middle of his forehead.  With the move of his head, the cursor glides across the screen and clicks on words.

"Will you pray for cerebral palsy?" the computer voice said.

We gathered around him and he began thrashing around in his chair with gasps and groans of excitement.  We put our hands on him and prayed for miracles.  All the while he seemed to become more and more excited.  When I began to speak a prayer, he thrust his head toward me and made more throat noises.

"I want sing Here I am to Worship," the computer voice said.

I settled at the piano and we sang.

Next, the computer voice said, "Come, Now is the Time to Worship."  And we sang some more.

We all went home, blessed and thankful.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Net


… the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.  When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore.  Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.  This is how it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In his book Kingdom, Grace, Judgment Robert Capon says the original word for net in this parable is sagene, and it shows up only once in the New Testament. Sagene is a net that’s dragged through the water, unselectively gathering everything in its path.  So, too, the kingdom takes in everything.  And hopefully the church, as a visible sign of that kingdom, likewise does not discriminate.
It’s not our business to judge who is wicked and who is righteous.  It’s the fishermen (angels) who will sort the fish, and even then they’ll not be judging.  They'll only be separating according to God who will judge.  Here’s what Capon says about the Last Day:
It occurs… after the general resurrection: every last person who arrives at it arrives in the power of Jesus’ reconciliation.  The judgment, therefore, is first of all the announcement not of vindictiveness but of vindication.  Everyone who comes before the Judge has already been reconciled by the dying and rising of the Judge.  The only sentence to be pronounced, as far as the Judge himself is concerned, is a sentence to life, and life abundant.
It’s only those who want to argue with what Jesus did on the cross who are then pronounced willfully evil.  They’re determined to reject Jesus and his invitation, the offer that’s mercifully given to them despite their rottenness.
Both heaven and hell are populated entirely and only by forgiven sinners.  Hell is just a courtesy for those who insist they want no part of forgiveness.
So to conclude, I understand this to be a parable not about judging between various kinds, but about Jesus accepting all into the kingdom and judging in light of having already reconciled everyone to himself.  If I want to reject it, I can.  But I would rather accept it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

the power of apology

I was having a bad day last year, maybe one of my worst.  In the evening when I put our daughter, Tamara, into bed I thought she seemed a little glum herself.

"I was really grumpy today, right?" I said.  I had been like a fungus absorbing the death of the world, and I knew I had robbed her of something wonderful.

She nodded.

"I'm sorry about that."  When I said it, a smile erupted on her face and her eyes lit up.  She snuggled into her pillow and went to sleep... happy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

in the backyard

A tiny worm, about the size of a hangnail, moved millimeter by millimeter across my notebook page, its body scrunching then lengthening.  I said to my son, Trevor, "Look, it's a little worm!"  I pressed my finger to the page and the creature climbed delicately onto my skin.  Trevor put his finger next to mine and we watched the worm travel from me to him.

Then he dropped it, by accident, into the grass.

While he sat in the sandbox, I put my face to the sun.  I basked in warmth, let it absorb into my pores, light up my body.  Peace—a joy relaxing—made me feel like I was almost floating.  I thought about how lucky I am to live outside the fast, stressful pace of society, to be with a man who makes that possible for me.

Then I mourned my failures to care for myself, to count myself worthy, to love and enjoy.

I have a history, a way of looking at the world, a way of doing things.  Broken though I am, I have value.  I am me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

maybe prayer is...

Prayer can be...
a smile
a secret dance
a diary entry
a whisper
silent thoughts
a question
a plea on behalf of another person    

... anything expressed with an awareness of the redemptive Mystery who is God.

Monday, September 3, 2012

composition 7 - "Sight"

You had eyes for me
You had eyes for me

You borrowed words from me
so I could see.

Has any of this been real to you
as it has been for me?

You had eyes for me