At the top of a week which saw observations as varied as All-Saints Day, Reformation Day, The Day of the Dead, and Halloween, I was thankful to hear a retelling of a seminal moment in Church history, specifically of the Protestant Reformation — excerpts of the speeches and prayers of Reformer Martin Luther. His famous, oft-quoted, closing words, that “…to act against one’s conscience is neither right nor safe…” struck me with even greater force than it previously had, as I was compelled to examine the profundity of Luther’s grasp of what constitutes SAFETY.
There he stood, at the mercy of a Council and authorities determined to incinerate not only his writings but his very person, yet he directed them to consider the danger he would be in should he violate the truths he had become convinced of, by the Scriptures, regarding God, Mankind and Christian faith.
My local fellowship’s current focus on the book of Daniel was without doubt informing my own reflections here, and I cannot help but believe that that prophetic book’s great testimony had also informed Luther’s as he answered at the Diet of Worms. He, like the young Hebrew exiles, held firmly in his grasp the reality that burning to death while tied to a stake, being thrown into a den of hungry lions or cast into a fiery furnace was rather to be chosen than the eternally self-destructive action of denying the integrity and basis of the regenerating, transformative experiences of the soul that has tasted fellowship with the true and living God.
And though there is a literal hell to shun, with its attendant physical tortures, heeding Luke’s counsel in chapter 12:4-5,
“And I say to you My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say, to you, fear Him!”,
“These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, who shuts and no one opens, …I know your works. See I have set before you AN OPEN DOOR, and no one can shut it; for you have little strength, you have kept my word, you have not denied my name”.
Night that loathes to give way to day
Earthbound water and heavenly fire
Tussling to rule, cloud the new day’s desire
To break forth upon the night of man
So crawling we go to catch-as-catch-can
Loathing to take the one step that is possible
Doubting that in ‘the next step’ we find
The way that is open to sighted or blind
Focusing on the grey swirl that is seen
We reach forth our arms and embrace the screen
Make clear to the faithful plodder the way
With light from above he’ll steward the earth
For the Creator’s nature is shouting forth
The Truth that draws the final line
That determines our rise or vain decline
Your bushel of doubt is overthrown
‘The next step’ brings the piercing ray
And now through the dark like an arrow true
Comes word by the song-bird the day’s broken
My feet were dangling over the edge as I peered furtively, through my iPad screen at stormy issues of publication, Facebook & blogging. My inexperience with and fears of the Internet were as giant waves threatening my demise before I even launched. But I need not have feared, for the One who moves in a mysterious way, already had His footstep planted on this storm in my teacup. And His smiling face bid me come walk with Him…on oceans.
managing personal expectations, new beginnings, new friends, writers, writing,
The first of my Kansas Sunrise triad of poems, titled ‘First Impressions’, was one of those that I read as we flew into Wenatchee. In it, over 23 years ago, I had sought to capture the way in which this whole new world of Leavenworth, KS impacted my tropical senses—soil, normally rich and dark brown, glistened instead with sparkly bits, the sun did not come up from behind the mountains, and in fact, without my Blue Mountain ranges, I struggled to keep oriented ordinally—all of this being affected, of course, by my expectations.
A Pilgrimage Launched
|Image by WenatcheeOutdoors www.WenatcheeOutdoors.org|
Driving up from the Wenatchee airport, visually trying to come to terms with the stark semi-desert landscape of the foothills of the Cascades, I was surprised by the sight of sunflowers, of all plants! I had adopted Kansas’ state flower as my personal ‘avatar’ the day we flew into Leavenworth, on our way from our wedding and honeymoon in Jamaica, to start life together. The flight path had taken us over fields of sunflowers, providing an assurance to my heart, from that time forward, that I would survive & thrive in this new temperate clime just as they did—facing the ‘Son’. Now here we were, in the Pacific Northwest, 25 years later, taking advantage of the opportunity to also celebrate our silver anniversary, encountering sunflower garden after sunflower garden on our way to another Leavenworth, just in Washington!
I cringed internally as I approached the massive, limestone structure. The Natural Bridge Historic Landmark in Glasgow, Virginia, was impressive at night. But here, in the stark, honest light of day, its size and bare-ness were just disturbing. What kind of force scoured that massive hole through a rock that has otherwise survived centuries of Nature’s weathering, eroding influences? A river persistently flowing, as the guide suggested? I don’t think so! That literal monolith stood like a visual punctuation, illustrating that cataclysmic moment in the Old Testament when “…the fountains of the great deep were broken up” (Genesis 7:11b).
|Natural Bridge, Glasgow, VA|
It was a natural wonder in itself, how we came to be actually having a family vacation this year, the years of a single family Summer plan were seeming to become a forgotten thing – ’empty-nesters’, a tag we were already donning. Yet somehow, in the midst of study abroad program, youth mission’s trip, and relocating graduates & undergraduates, a hybrid vacation package emerged — A free-ferry ride across the James, to dinner at the Virginia Diner on Friday marked the first thaw, as we breathed in the fresh air, standing on the deck of the ferry and laughing at the ‘river’-gulls (?) ‘hanging-three’ at the brunt of the vessel.
Saturday was the day for the main stop of our family’s ‘staycation’ this year. ‘Over-nighting’ in the grand old Natural Bridge Hotel afforded us the chance to spend Sunday morning calmly sitting at varying vantage points, drawing the bridge in the art medium of choice offered from several options in my cooler bag. I had cautiously suggested the activity, as one to turn our thoughts God-ward, since we would not be with the gathered church that morning. I had asked that we do it quietly, reflecting devotionally on any thought or idea inspired by this aspect of Creation, as we captured it on canvas.
To my grateful relief, all three of my college/career aged kids fell to the activity with almost impassioned gusto! All three interpretations were as unique & as significant as each ‘artist’ — a freshly graduated (& employed!) junior video/editor designer, a 3rd year architecture student (female) and a high school senior taking his first tentative steps in community college towards biomedical
I was reminded afresh of the paradigm altering experience we had been called to participate in, as cross-cultural, inter-“nation”-al, Christian homeschoolers—bridge people! if ever there were ones!
Appreciative as I was of what I saw in my family that morning—diligently, seriously working on those renderings of that natural site for almost two hours, I might have missed its starkness had I not had a chance to see them further through the eyes of passersby. Scarcely an individual, or family going by, failed to acknowledge, quietly or with voiced approval, what they observed not just of the children’s abilities, but of the sheer idea of taking the time to capture in pencils, charcoal or pastels, Nature’s display of God’s handiwork, instead of briefly shooting a quick pic with their phones and moving on. What was it that I detected in their questioning eyes and wistful glances—A longing? A hope? A pledge to try again? A memory of the really important? The uninvited, unexpected attention,
though awkward, felt purposeful.
Just as it is quite possible that many have driven over Natural Bridge, (US Highway 11 literally runs atop this landmark!) without realizing its presence or significance, I realized how demanding seasons can make us rush by significant structures that are anchoring us to meaning & purpose. I felt provoked by the reactions of Natural Bridge’s visitors, to examine afresh our family’s call, and to cherish the proven rhythms and values that have shaped us. I experienced new appreciation and gratitude for my brave children, knowing the trials of the unique paths they each take and was strengthened in my awareness that we are in no way accomplishing this in our own strength. I felt proud of them & pledged to keep praying for them a lifestyle that identifies, savors and represents their Creator well, to their generation, in a day when many will be oblivious & spurning of the truth of Creation’s message.
I had a Psalmodic moment sitting there, feeling the precious oil upon the head, and my cup running over, catching a glimpse of the Good Shepherd in the face of the Natural Bridge, maybe not in the way many have claimed to during the light show, but His glorious face nonetheless, leading us on towards the next season. I wondered what yawning fracture of human experience we would next be called to span by the grace of the Cross, that Bridge of all bridges. His glory being perfected in our weakness, leaves us confident that the same Hand that released the fountains of the deep & caused the Jordan to flood will continue to also design paths that point Home, though they lead through oceans, deserts or rocks
[Natural Bridge’s overtly Christian light-show theme, based on the Bible’s seven days of Creation, is scheduled to be discontinued in a few months, as it transfers into the State’s Department of Conservation and Recreation system. Nevertheless, may the starkness of daylight continue to reveal, the testimony of Creation, and Creation’s God.]
I could hardly believe my eyes : a real, live breadfruit in my local, generic, suburban, South-Eastern American supermarket. Approaching the stand, with my mouth caught agape somewhere between a crazy grin of delightful recognition and amazement, I picked up the familiar cantaloupe-like, green, rough-skinned fruit from my homeland- a Jamaican breadfruit.