It was one of those days when the sun poured gold into the air, and flecks of light floated in shafts that fell through the branches of yellow leaf and green.
We’d had dinner at a place on the edge of a lake, and now we were going back to town. There was a simple way to get there, but she didn’t take it. Instead, we
drove the country roads with the corn rows flicking by, each one visible for a half second, then gone. “Hello, hello, hello,” they said, then “Good-bye, bye, bye, bye.”
The soybeans, we agreed, had turned burgundy overnight, but it was the cornfields we watched, as if we were waiting for the waters to open, as if we might cross over Jordan. ~Joyce Sutphen “Country Roads” from After Words
Traveling the country roads around here can feel a bit like seeking the entrance to the promised land: we can see it, just over there, glowing with so much potential. We haven’t quite found the way, it flicks by so quickly. It’s not yet our time, so we tread hungrily on the outskirts almost tasting the promise and waiting for the invitation to come.
The warning of the Book of Job is that it could happen to us too: everything we have strived for, cared about, loved and valued taken away.
If we are stripped bare naked, nothing left to us but our love for God and His sovereign power over our lives, will we still worship His Name, inhale His Word like air itself, submit ourselves to His plan over our plan?
I know I fall far short of the mark. It takes only small obstacles or losses to trip me up so I stagger in my faith, trying futilely to not lose my balance, falling flat-faced and immobilized.
When I’ve seen people lose almost everything, either in a disaster, or an accident, or devastating illness, I’ve looked hard at myself and asked if I could sustain such loss in my life and still turn myself over to the will of God.
I would surely plead for reprieve and ask the horribly desperate question, “why me?”, girding myself for the response: “and why not you?”
The invitation that I most don’t want to receive, scary and radical as it is, is from God straight to my heart. He invites me closer, asking that I trust His plan for my life and death, no matter what happens, no matter how much suffering, no matter how much, like Christ in the garden, I plead that it work out differently, more my own choosing that it not hurt so much.
The invitation to His plan for my life has been written, personally carried to me by His Son, and lies ready in my hands, although it has remained untouched for years. It is now up to me to open it, read it carefully, and with deep gratitude that I am even included, respond with an RSVP that says emphatically, “I’ll be there! Nothing could keep me away.”
Or I could leave it untouched, fearing it is too scary to open. Or even toss it away altogether, thinking it really wasn’t meant for me.
Even if, in my heart, I knew it was.
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ ~C. S. Lewis
(Jesus said) I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning from “Aurora Leigh”
It is difficult to undo our own damage…
It is hard to desecrate a grove and change your mind.
The very holy mountains are keeping mum.
We doused the burning bush and cannot rekindle it;
we are lighting matches in vain under every green tree. ~Annie Dillard from Teaching a Stone to Talk
I need to turn aside and look,
to see, as if for the first and last time,
the kindled fire that illuminates even the darkest day and never dies away.
We are invited, by no less than God Himself,
through the original burning bush that is never consumed
to shed our shoes, to walk barefoot and vulnerable,
and approach the bright and burning dawn,
even when it is the darkest midnight,
even when it is a babe in a manger who lights a fire in each one of us.
Only then, only then
can I say:
“Here I am! Consume me!”
Within our darkest night, you kindle the fire that never dies away, that never dies away. Within our darkest night, you kindle the fire that never dies away, that never dies away.
What if you slept And what if In your sleep You dreamed And what if In your dream You went to heaven And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower And what if When you awoke You had that flower in your hand Ah, what then? ~Samuel Coleridge “What if you slept”
This mountain, this strange and beautiful Shuksan flower that appears suddenly as we round a corner on the hour drive up the Mt. Baker Highway: this mountain has one foot on earth and one foot in heaven – a thin place if there ever was one.
The only way to approach is in awed silence, as if entering the door of a grand cathedral. Those who are there speak in hushed tones if they speak at all.
Today Mt Shuksan wears autumn lightly about its shoulders as a multi-faceted cloak, barely anticipating the heavy snow coat to descend in the next two weeks.
I hold this mountain tight in my fist, wanting to turn it this way and that, breathe in its fragrance, bring it home with me and never let go.
Ah, what then?
Home is not nearly big enough for heaven to dwell. I must content myself with this visit to the thin edge, peering through the open door, and waiting until invited to come inside.
2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22: 2-14
When the invitation comes,
(and it has),
we don our finest,
prepare ourselves to
starving for the feast to start.
The celebration will be
as if heaven has come to an earth
in clouds of pink.
May my eyes see, my ears hear, my heart understand. He prepares me with parable.
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” Luke 14: 16-24
We all have our excuses. I have plenty to spare.
Too tired, too busy, too stressed, too committed, can’t be bothered.
I’m not paying attention to the generosity of the offer — all that is asked of me is to say “YES!” to the invitation. I may not be asked again if I turn it down the first time, so no more excuses.
Then I too will search those city streets, alley ways, roads and country lanes for there is still room. There is still room for all without excuse.
May my eyes see, my ears hear, my heart understand. He prepares me with parable.
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may): I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.
I’m going out to fetch the little calf That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young, It totters when she licks it with her tongue. I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too. ~Robert Frost “The Pasture”
We all need an invitation to work together about now. In these times when it feels like everything is going to hell in a handbasket, we all have some picking up and cleaning and clearing to do — and we can accomplish more if we do it side by side.
The world is continually trying to renew itself despite our attempts to destroy it so we need to pay attention. The air and water can clear if we put in some effort, there is new life all around us ready to thrive if we tend it lovingly like a mother.
Come with me to do what needs to be done. You are invited. We sha’n’t be gone long.
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