We’re told the earth would be a much healthier place if man wasn’t here. Our very presence disturbs the balance of nature: the climate has changed, we make messes, we don’t clean up after ourselves.
Yet we are here and were meant to be from the beginning – instructed to name and admire the creatures who came before us. The Creator Himself formed humans to be the disturbance nature must cope with from the beginning of time. And nature doesn’t take it lying down: it likes to flood and quake and blow and burn us to bits when it pleases. It is an uneasy relationship, to say the least.
Yet who else is there to admire two shy woodpeckers who would prefer I simply go away?
Deal with it, woodpeckers. I’m here to stay, just watching you watching me.
It is possible, I suppose that sometime we will learn everything there is to learn: what the world is, for example, and what it means. I think this as I am crossing from one field to another…
At my feet the white-petalled daisies display the small suns of their center piece, their – if you don’t mind my saying so – their hearts. Of course I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know? But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given, to see what is plain; what the sun lights up willingly; for example – I think this as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch – the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the daisies for the field. ~Mary Oliver from “Daisies”
I am content realizing I won’t understand what this world means, (and why any of us matter when we are all made up of the same atoms as everything else in existence);
No, I will remain in the dark until I cross from this field to the next. I have to wait for heaven itself to see how the Sun illuminates what matters.
It is all mystery in the meantime, and sometimes a mean and joyless mystery – with pain and heartbreak and suffering, but just enough loving sacrifice to make it worthwhile.
How are our atoms different from that stone, or that tree or that daisy?
We are breathed on. As God’s breath surges within us, we laugh out loud, weep mightily and sing out His Words – struggling to be suitable for this field, so often trampled and broken, but with plans to flourish plentiful in the Sun of heaven.
Do you know why you exist? Because God wanted you to be. ~John Lennox, Oxford Professorof Mathematics
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them… Genesis 1: 27b-28a
Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. Revelation 4:11
Creation is the arena in and through which God wishes to reveal himself. In creating, in preserving, in pursuing; in hallowing, in participating, in wooing— the Father, the Son, and the Spirit have made all creation, and all its creatures, great and small, their delight. ~Kathleen Mulhern in Dry Bones
I like the thought of being “wooed” into existence by God, being specifically wanted, molded and formed by His Holy Hands.
Indeed most mornings I must be wooed into climbing out of bed, tackling the day and tending my own part of creation. The night may have been sleepless, the worry endless, the efforts I make futile – what the heck is my purpose here anyway?
Yet I’m here for a reason, as is every other unique and precious person on earth. We all are formed to reflect His image, revealing His glory, as insignificant as we may feel within the vast universe of His creation.
There is only wooing wonder in the worthiness of all He has made, and that includes…me.
This year’s Lenten theme on Barnstorming:
God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, and accepts us as we are. But by His grace, He does not leave us where we are. ~Tim Keller
I am struck by the otherness of things rather than their same- ness. The way a tiny pile of snow perches in the crook of a branch in the tall pine, away by itself, high enough not to be noticed by people, out of reach of stray dogs. It leans against the scaly pine bark, busy at some existence that does not need me.
It is the differences of objects that I love, that lift me toward the rest of the universe, that amaze me. That each thing on earth has its own soul, its own life, that each tree, each clod is filled with the mud of its own star. I watch where I step and see that the fallen leaf, old broken grass, an icy stone are placed in exactly the right spot on the earth, carefully, royalty in their own country. ~Tom Hennen “Looking for the Differences” from Darkness Sticks to Everything.
We dwell so much on our differences rather than our similarities, especially in an intense political year like this one. There is nothing wrong with “otherness” if each other is seen as God sees us.
We each are one of His precious and specially-made creations, worthy of existence even in our muddy, rocky, fragile state.
These days, though a “snowflake” is disparaged in the political banter of the day as weak and overly sensitive, there is nothing more uniquely “other” than an individual crystalline creation falling from heaven to the exact spot where it is intended to land. Something so unique becomes part of something far greater than it could be on its own, blending in, infinitely stronger, but never lost.
I am placed here, weak as I am, in the exact right spot, for reasons I continue to uncover and discover. I try every day, as best as I can, to not get lost and, of course, to stay out of the mud.
We’re not always sure we’re on the right road, are we? Too often we’re struggling to find our way in the dark.
Suddenly things are under water, the bridge is washed out, there are potholes everywhere, the fog line disappears in the mist, a mudslide covers both lanes – the road seems impossibly impassable.
Yet we set out on this road for a reason and a purpose; this is not wasted effort. If we can’t see where we are going, fearing we may plunge off an unseen cliff, we pause, waiting until the light is enough to take the next step.
So the light will come. I believe it will. I know it will as it always has.
We are waiting for snow the way we might wait for permission to breathe again.
For only the snow will release us, only the snow will be a letting go, a blind falling towards the body of earth and towards each other. ~Linda Pastan from “Interlude”
I wish one could press snowflakes in a book like flowers. ~James Schuyler from “February 13, 1975”
I wait with bated breath, wondrous at today’s snowfall, to see the landscape transformed. Each snowflake falls alone, settling in together in communal effort. And each is created as a singular masterpiece itself.
We, the created, are like each snowflake. Together we change the world, sometimes for better, too often for worse. But each of us have come from heaven uniquely designed and purposed, preciously preserved for eternity through God’s loving sacrifice.
Without Him, we melt between the pages of history.
Why shouldn’t we go through heartbreaks? Through those doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son. Most of us fall and collapse at the first grip of pain; we sit down on the threshold of God’s purpose and die away of self-pity… But God will not. He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son and says, “Enter into fellowship with Me, arise and shine.” If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart. ~Oswald Chambers from “Ye are not your own” from My Utmost for the Highest
The great mystery of God’s love is that we are not asked to live as if we are not hurting, as if we are not broken. In fact, we are invited to recognize our brokenness as a brokenness in which we can come in touch with the unique way that God loves us. The great invitation is to live your brokenness under the blessing. I cannot take people’s brokenness away and people cannot take my brokenness away. But how do you live in your brokenness? Do you live your brokenness under the blessing or under the curse? The great call of Jesus is to put your brokenness under the blessing. ~Henri Nouwen from a Lecture at Scarritt-Bennett Center
There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus. ~ Blaise Pascal
Everyone is created with a hole in their heart that has no murmur, doesn’t show up on scans or xrays nor is it visible in surgery. Yet we feel it, absolutely know it is there, and are constantly reminded of being incomplete. Billions of dollars and millions of hours are spent trying to fill that empty spot in every imaginable and unimaginable way.
Nothing we try fills it wholly. Nothing we find fits it perfectly. Nothing on earth can ever be sufficient.
We are born wanting, yearning and searching; we exist hungry, thirsty and needy.
Created with a hankering heart for God, we discover only He fits, fills and is sufficient. Only a beating heart like ours can know our hollow heart’s emptiness. His bleeding stops us from hemorrhaging all we have in futile pursuits.
The mystery of the vacuum is this: how our desperation resolves and misery comforted by being made complete and whole through His woundedness.
How is it possible that through His pierced limbs and broken heart, it is we who are made holy, our emptiness filled forever.
Divinity is not playful. The universe was not made in jest but in solemn incomprehensible earnest. By a power that is unfathomably secret, and holy, and fleet. There is nothing to be done about it, but ignore it, or see. ~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities— his eternal power and divine nature— have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1:20
We weren’t conceived by random happenstance, including so many millions not welcomed but wished or washed away before taking a breath.
We are here because we were earnestly needed and wanted, by a power and divinity beyond comprehension with a capacity for love and compassion beyond anything in our earthly experience.
We aren’t a cosmic joke, or random couplings of DNA. We aren’t pawns in the universe’s chess game.
We may look silly as we intentionally loll about in the smelly stuff of life, or we may think what we say or do doesn’t matter a hill of beans, but we are created to clearly see God for who He is, and in whose image He made us.
He won’t be ignored; we have no more excuses. It is time to open our eyes, to come and see.
We humans contribute to the world’s gloom,
like dark shadows on a dark landscape.…
But now this man from Nazareth comes to us
and invites us to mirror God’s image,
and shows us how.
you too can become light, as God is light.
What is all around you is not hell,
but rather a world waiting to be filled with hope and faith.
This world is your home as surely as the God who created and wrought it is love.
You may not believe it, but you can love this world.
It is a place of God.
It has a purpose.
Its beauty is not a delusion.
You can lead a meaningful life in it. ~Jörg Zink “Doors to the Feast”
In this dark world we search for inspiration and a sense of purpose in the most unlikely places:
this past week, we were awestruck by the devotion of a mother killer whale in nearby Puget Sound who has carried her dead baby on her nose for over a week, unwilling to abandon the lifeless body to the sea.
There is tragic beauty in such demonstration of profound love, a recognition of our own losses and helplessness in the face of death.
We too are carried by our Savior through His relentless devotion and love for us, never to abandon us.
Even in the face of loss and consumed by the darkness of the world, we love as we are loved, body of His body.
HOW TO SWIM AN ELEGY
Lo, let that night be desolate;
let no joyful voice come therein.
Let them curse it that curse the day,
who are ready to rouse up leviathan.