It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. C. S. Lewis from Mere Christianity
….in the garden there was nothing which was not quite like themselves— nothing which did not understand the wonderfulness of what was happening to them— the immense, tender, terrible, heart-breaking beauty and solemnity of Eggs.
… if an Egg were taken away or hurt the whole world would whirl round and crash through space and come to an end— ~Frances Hodgson Burnett from The Secret Garden
I revel in being the good egg. Smooth on the surface, gooey inside, often a bit scrambled, yet ordinary and decent, indistinguishable from others, blending in, not making waves.
It’s not been bad staying just as I am. Except I can no longer remain like this.
A dent or two have appeared in my outer shell from bumps along the way, and a crack up one side extends daily.
It has come time to change or face inevitable rot.
Nothing can be the same again: the fragments of shell left behind must be abandoned as useless confinement.
Newly hatched and transformed: there is the wind beneath my wings. I’ll soar toward an endless horizon that stretches beyond eternity, no longer ordinary.
A new book from Barnstorming is available for order here:
You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are, He wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to go on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Life Together
In your hands
The dog, the donkey, surely they know They are alive. Who would argue otherwise?
But now, after years of consideration, I am getting beyond that. What about the sunflowers? What about The tulips, and the pines?
Listen, all you have to do is start and There’ll be no stopping. What about mountains? What about water Slipping over rocks?
And speaking of stones, what about The little ones you can Hold in your hands, their heartbeats So secret, so hidden it may take years
When I myself go to the doctor, I am to trust I’m seeing someone who is meant to know me thoroughly enough that he or she will help me move out of illness into better health. This is how acceptance feels: trusting someone enough to come out of hiding.
As a physician myself, I am reminded by the amount of “noticing” I need to do in the course of my work. Each patient, and there are so many, deserves my full attention for the few minutes we are together. I start my clinical evaluation the minute we sit down together and I begin taking in all the complex verbal and non-verbal clues offered up, sometimes unwittingly, by another human being.
Now, during the COVID19 pandemic, my interactions with patients are all “virtual” so I don’t have the ability to observe as I usually do, so I need them to tell me outright what is going on in their lives, their minds and their hearts in spoken or written words. I can’t ‘see’ them, even on a screen, in the same way.
How might someone call out to me when their faces are hidden?
I can’t witness first hand the trembling hands, their sweatiness, the scars of self injury. Still, I am their audience and a witness to their struggle; even more, I must understand it in order to best assist them. My brain must rise to the occasion of taking in another person, accepting them for who they are, offering them the gift of compassion and simply be there for them, just them, right now.
God doesn’t struggle in His Holy work as I do in my clinical duties. He knows us thoroughly because He made us; He knows our thoughts before we put them into words. There is no point in staying hidden from Him.
He holds us, little pebbles that we are, in His Hand, and He discerns our secret heartbeats.
We, the hidden, are His.
This year’s Lenten theme for 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 will search in the silence for your hiding place. In the quiet, Lord, I seek your face. Where can I discover the wellsprings of your love? Is my search and seeking in vain? How can I recover the beauty of your word? In the silence I call out your name. Where can I find shelter to shield me from the storm? To find comfort, though dark be the night? For I know that my welfare is ever in your sight. In the shadows I long for your light. Lead me in your footsteps along your ancient way. Let me walk in the love of the Lord. Your wisdom is my heart’s wealth, a blessing all our days. In the silence I long for Your world. ~Liam Lawton
Days pass when I forget the mystery. Problems insoluble and problems offering their own ignored solutions jostle for my attention… And then once more the quiet mystery is present to me, the throng’s clamor recedes: the mystery that there is anything, anything at all, let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything, rather than void: and that, O Lord, Creator, Hallowed one, You still, hour by hour sustain it. ~Denise Levertov from “Primary Wonder” from Sands of the Well
Here is the mystery, the secret, one might almost say the cunning, of the deep love of God: that it is bound to draw upon itself the hatred and pain and shame and anger and bitterness and rejection of the world, but to draw all those things on to itself is precisely the means chosen from all eternity by the generous, loving God, by which to rid his world of the evils which have resulted from human abuse of God-given freedom. ~N.T. Wright from The Crown and The Fire
Inundated by the constantly bad news of the world, I must cling to the mystery of His magnetism for my own weaknesses and flaws, my bitterness. He willingly pulls evil onto Himself, out of us. Hatred and pain and shame and anger disappear into the vortex of His love and beauty, the mucky corners of my heart vacuumed spotless.
We are let in on a secret: He is not sullied by absorbing the dirty messes of our lives. He is sustaining us; we are anything rather than void.
Created in His image, sustained and loved, thus reflecting Him, we are washed forever clean.
You never know what may cause them. The sight of the ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you’ve never seen before. A pair of somebody’s old shoes can do it. Almost any movie made before the great sadness that came over the world after the Second World War, a horse cantering across a meadow…
You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure.Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next. ~Frederick Buechner fromWhistling in the Dark
I’m not paying close enough attention to the meaning of my leaking eyes if I’m constantly looking for kleenex to stem the flow. During the holidays it seems I have more than ample opportunity to find out the secret of who I am, where I have come from and where I am to be next.
So I keep my pockets loaded with kleenex.
It mostly has to do with welcoming family members back home for the holidays to become a full-out noisy messy chaotic household again, with puzzles and games and music and laughter and laundry and meal preparation. It is about singing grace together before a meal in five-part harmony and choking on precious words of gratitude. It is about remembering the drama of our youngest’s birthday twenty six years ago today, when she was saved by a snowstorm.
It certainly has to do with bidding farewell again as we will this weekend, gathering them all in for that final hug and then letting go.
We urge and encourage them to go where their hearts are telling them they are needed and called to be, even if that means thousands of miles away from their one-time home on the farm.
I too was let go once and though I would try to look back, too often in tears, I set my face toward the future. It led me here, to this marriage, this family, this farm, this work, our church, to more tears, to more letting go if I’m granted more years to weep again and again with gusto and grace.
This is the secret of me: to love so much and so deeply that letting go is so hard that tears are no longer unexpected or a mystery to me or my children and grandchildren. They are the spill-over of fullness that can no longer be contained: God’s still small voice spills down my cheeks drop by drop like wax from a burning candle.
Here is the mystery, the secret, one might almost say the cunning, of the deep love of God: that it is bound to draw on to itself the hatred and pain and shame and anger and bitterness and rejection of the world, but to draw all those things on to itself is precisely the means, chosen from all eternity by the generous, loving God, by which to rid his world of the evils which have resulted from human abuse of God-given freedom. ~N.T. Wright from The Crown and the Fire
Inundated by overwhelmingly bad news of the world,
blasted 24/7 from cable TV,
highlighted in rapidly changing headlines online,
tweeted real time to our pocket phones from every nook and cranny~
We cling to the mystery of His magnetism for our weaknesses and flaws.
He willingly pulls our evil onto Himself and out of us.
Hatred and pain and shame and anger and bitterness
disappear into the vortex of His love and beauty,
the dusty corners of our hearts vacuumed spotless.
We are let in on a secret, the mystery revealed:
He is not sullied by absorbing the dirty messes of our lives.
Instead, once we are safely within His depths, He washes us forever clean.
With monstrous head and sickening cry And ears like errant wings…
The tattered outlaw of the earth, Of ancient crooked will; Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb, I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour; One far fierce hour and sweet: There was a shout about my ears, And palms before my feet. G. K. Chesterton from “The Donkey”
Palm Sunday is a day of dissonance and dichotomy in the church year, very much like the donkey who figured as a central character that day. Sadly, a donkey gets no respect, then or now– for his plain and awkward looks, for his loud and inharmonious voice, for his apparent lack of strength — yet he was the chosen mode of transportation for a King riding to His death.
There was a motley parade to Jerusalem: cloaks and palms laid at the feet of the donkey bearing the Son of God, the disorderly shouts of adoration and blessings, the rebuke of the Pharisees to quiet the people, His response that “even the stones will cry out” knowing what is to come.
But the welcoming crowd waving palm branches, shouting sweet hosannas and laying down their cloaks did not understand the fierce transformation to come, did not know within days they would be a mob shouting words of derision and rejection and condemnation.
The donkey knew because he had been derided, rejected and condemned himself, yet still kept serving. Just as he was given voice and understanding centuries before to protect Balaam from going the wrong way, he could have opened his mouth to tell them, suffering beatings for his effort. Instead, just as he bore the unborn Jesus to Bethlehem and stood over Him sleeping in the manger, just as he bore a mother and child all the way to Egypt to hide from Herod, the donkey would keep his secret well. Who, after all, would ever listen to a mere donkey?
We would do well to pay attention to this braying wisdom. The donkey knows. He bears the burden we have shirked. He treads with heavy heart over the palms and cloaks we lay down as our meaningless symbols of honor. He is servant to the Servant.
A day of dichotomy — of honor and glory laid underfoot only to be stepped on. Of blessings and praise turning to curses. Of the beginning of the end becoming a new beginning for us all.
And so He wept, knowing all this. I suspect the donkey bearing Him wept as well, in his own simple, plain and honest way, and I’m quite sure he kept it as his special secret.
Seventeen years ago we were in the middle of a hot August like this one. With no air conditioning then, as now, we use fans and at night hope for comfort from any cooling breeze drifting through the window curtains. Sleep is elusive when one is very busy sweating.
I remember waking suddenly from a fitful sleep in the dark of night, startled by a sound I could not readily identify. I lay still, my eyes wide open staring into the black space of our bedroom, discerning the sound of intermittent splashing in the adjacent bathroom. What the heck?
Our five year old daughter’s bedroom was the next room in the hallway on the other side of the bathroom. I called out her name, wondering what she could possibly be doing in the middle of the night, making splashing noises in the bathroom.
No answer. More splashing.
Now I was worried. I got up, walked into the hallway, peered into the dark bathroom, unable to see anything amiss. I flipped on the light switch. As my eyes tried to adjust to the sudden illumination, I was able to see one thing that most definitely did not belong in this picture: a rat’s hind end and long tail disappearing back down into the toilet. I gasped, shut the bathroom door quickly and gathered my wits. There is nothing that will turn one’s stomach quite like seeing a rat in a place it absolutely should not be.
I checked my daughter’s room, flipped the light on quickly to scan the floor and her bed, and she was soundly sleeping and all seemed fine. I shut off her light and shut her door quietly.
Then I woke the man of the house, the only reasonable thing to do in such a situation.
I’m not sure he believed me. Maybe I had only imagined I’d seen a rat? Maybe it was all a dream? Maybe the heat was getting to me?
I went and got a broom and handed it to him. He opened the door to the bathroom a crack, and saw little puddles on the bathroom floor and dirty wet marks on the toilet seat. He quickly closed the door again and looked at me. There definitely had been a grimy little something in that bathroom. But where was it now??
He opened the door again and went in, getting the broom handle ready to clobber the varmint. He peeked into the toilet and there was nothing to be found except some scummy debris floating in the water and scattered on the seat. He flushed. He flushed again. Nothing.
It was really hard to believe that a rat would voluntarily dive back into a toilet bowl and swim into the pipes …. unless it was headed for another toilet bowl. We quickly closed the toilet lid, piled books on top and went to check the other bathrooms–no signs of disturbance, wet paw prints or other ratty evidence of invasion.
There is little rational thinking that goes on in the middle of the night when a rat has swum up your pipes into a toilet. I admit to being a little emotional. That’s when we went for the bleach and poured a gallon down each toilet bowl, flushing a dozen times each, thoroughly disrupting all the healthy bacterial flora in our septic drain field. It did make me feel better momentarily. We closed all the toilet lids, closed all the bathroom doors and didn’t sleep a wink the rest of the night. When we inspected the toilets in the morning, one of the other toilets had been “visited” as well, but with the lid shut, the rat had disappeared back down the pipe.
In the morning, we coolly told lies to our three children. We told them two of our toilets were plugged up and they had to use one only, and always put the lid down afterward. We decided if we told them about a rat in the bowl, they would never feel safe about sitting on the toilet again. There is the potential of a real psychological PTSD (post-toileting stress disorder) entity. I certainly didn’t feel safe about sitting on the toilet and kept furtively looking down, which doesn’t make for a very relaxed bathroom visit. It can be positively constipating.
We did a search under the house, around the house, trying to figure out where rats could have found access to our septic system. Finally, we discovered that a pipe previously connecting the septic drain field to our temporary single-wide trailer living quarters during our major farm house remodel the previous year had never been completely sealed off when the trailer was removed. It was an open invitation to rodents seeking a cool dark (and wet) place to hide during a hot summer.
It wasn’t the end of our rat woes, but it was the last time they breached our plumbing. We later had a major invasion of our barns, requiring the ongoing services of expert exterminators as well as super duper cat defense. I’m proud to say I’ve not seen evidence of rats or their homely furry selves for years now.
We never told anyone about this little middle-of-the-night episode. In fact, our children thought for years we had sudden massive toilet failure at our house.
Until I blogged about it because it is a good tale (tail??) to tell…
It is such a secret place, the land of tears. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Sometimes not so secret.
Sometimes the landscape of tears is right there for all the world to see, hiding in plain sight, camouflaged by transparency.
Sometimes they glisten jewel-like under the sun, appearing more like fire than water.
May these teardrop sparks dry in place without a trace, self-extinguishing in forgiveness.
Gems remembered, lost in time, and let go.Nobody deserves your tears, but whoever deserves them will not make you cry. ~Gabriel Garcia MarquezI always knew looking back on my tears would bring me laughter, but I never knew looking back on my laughter would make me cry. ~Cat Stevens
I’ll tell you a secret: poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes, they are sleeping. They are the shadows drifting across our ceilings the moment before we wake up. What we have to do is live in a way that lets us find them.” — Naomi Shihab Nye
Poems stayed hidden from me for decades. I was oblivious a hundred times a day to their secrets: dripping right over me in the shower, rising over hills bright pink, breathing deeply as I auscultated a chest, settling heavily on my eyelids at night.
The day I awoke to them was the day thousands of innocents died in sudden cataclysm of airplanes and buildings and fire, people not knowing when they got up that day it would be their last. The poems began to come out of hiding, show themselves and I began to see, listen, touch, smell, taste as if each day would be my last.
I have learned to live in a way that lets me see the hidden poems and now they overwhelm me. They are everywhere.
And I don’t know if I have enough time left to write them all down.