Wonder-Lust

So, in the parlance of the Jamaican oral tradition,

“Riddle-me dis

Riddle -me dat

Guess me dis riddle and par’haps not!’’

Translated: “Tackle this puzzle with me and see if you can figure out its meaning or not!”— What do you call a middle-aged, empty-nesting couple, hit by wonder-lust, (not wander-lust), stepping out of the boat and landing in the hinterlands of …wait for it…Germany?!!

Do you give up?! —“Claude and Denise!!!” Yes! Us! Me and the hubster! We are in Germany for the next few years! What started out as a necessary job development move has blossomed into a full-blown, fresh “Yes!” to the One who said, “Follow Me..!”. So we have stepped out of the Proverbial boat and have found amazing grace carrying us along. We are looking at each other and wondering…“ So…how are we doing this?!“

We are burning no ships behind us, much to the comfort of our loved ones back home in the US. However, we have found ourselves in the glorious company of those dreaming dreams again, catching fresh visions and singing new songs along the foot-paths and neighborhoods of a small but developing German town, language and translator apps in hand!

There is more than just the sun rising here in Germany—it’s also the Glory of the Lord! The church bells ring regularly; chirping birds flit by; a distant donkey brays. The rain falls. Sleek modern windmills grace the tops of hills, as do solar panels the roofs of homes of austere modern design, as well as surly turrets of tree smothered castles. Ancient forests skirted by copious black-berry bramble, watch as school-children, horse-drawn carriage, construction crane, and tractor travel a long asphalt road snaking its way lazily between harvested fields freshly tilled to receive the Fall rains—Ordinary time, ordinary people, on whom His glory rises.

Wonder with us about His ways as we wander the pathways He opens before us!

Auf Weidersehen!!

Christ in Our Ordinary Storms

As the COVID pandemic reached and spread across the United States where I live, many commentators described it in storm terminology. Lately, however as it has remained with us as a hovering nightmare, the metaphor has needed some adjusting! Yet undoubtedly, even at risk of seeming insensitive to those who have suffered great loss to COVID-19, many can attest to wondrous unexpected blessings, even miracles which have come in its wake, as a crazy storm has settled into our ordinary days.  Seeing the ‘Christ In the Storm’ Rembrandt recently used by a friend as his Facebook profile photo reminded me of this post which it inspired a couple years ago. Hope you enjoy and share it!

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Christ in Our Ordinary Storms

Christ_in_the_Storm3I can only imagine the jaw-dropping experience it must have been for the curator and other staff of the New England museum as they stood, the morning after, March 18, 1990, before the empty frame still hanging on the wall. Rembrandt’s 1663 masterpiece, ‘Christ in the Storm’, had been stolen.

Searching around on the Internet for another of Rembrandt’s works, I came across photographs of the gorgeous piece and the stupendous story of its disappearance.  Rembrandt’s renowned ability to cast light on the subjects of his painting from unapparent sources was evident even in the tiny photos available online. His style produced an eerie animation effect on the roiling waves of the sea, as it spitefully tossed the boat with its thirteen occupants: twelve at their wits end and one, calmly asleep, about to be roused.

Christ_in_the_Storm1The dramatic high-point of the painting for me, if a painting can be said to have one, is the disciple at the prow of the boat, desperately grasping the torn edge of the mainsail. His occupation being to hold it to the mast from which it had been jaggedly torn, separated, along with the rigging which now whipped and lashed wildly above the entire scene in mocking abandon.

Christ_in_the_Storm4To think that an activity that was such a normal part of the everyday life of most of Jesus’ disciples could also just as typically cast them into such an extreme circumstance was a compelling analogy. To these Middle-Eastern fishermen sailing this sea was ordinary life, and the Sea of Galilee was indeed known to go, rather unexpectedly, from glassy serenity to wild bucking tempest. Which is why, had it not been for Jesus’ agenda, they probably would have been safely put in to shore somewhere. How maddening it must have been for them, in light of these facts, to have Jesus calmly snoozing in the bottom of the reeling vessel!

Can you feel their pain? Have you ever been there? I have. Maritime imagery keep speaking, keep calling me out on the water where all my inadequacies become exposed: my lack of tacking maneuvers to sail into head-winds without breaking apart; where anchors seem baseless and rigging ropes whip mockingly useless way over my head and I am left feeling quite like the one disciple trying desperately, by hands and feet, to hold sail and mast together. These also, are the long ordinary times of our lives.

Ordinary time: that second lengthier period between Pentecost and Advent when the glorious truths gleaned and reinforced in the high, holydays of the church’s liturgical calendar, are tried and proven in the normal humdrum, or frantic extremities, of our daily lives. So, it’s normal for children to grow up and move away and for parents to grow old and require care and for our bodies to age and dare us to do today, things so easily accomplished yesterday, without painful consequence. Why then do these ordinary circumstances try us so? Could it be that we were designed for peace? For joy? For rest? Why the unrelenting laws of entropy, the poet’s prediction of mortal man’s expectation of trouble, — ‘as certain as the sparks fly upward’? Murphy’s observation turned law? Sin’s gravity.

But there is a Light shining always, though sometimes from Shrouded Source, that reveals the Truth that rests like ballast at the bottom of the boat of our ordinary times— it’s Emmanuel, for whom we waited; Paschal Lamb, for us crucified; Risen Lord, triumphant over death and Hades; Divine Paraclete, now accessible. Prone in our boat He waits to be invited, waiting to demonstrate that He does care, listening for the fervent or gentle beseeching, for the tug at the hem of His garment or the unabashed seizing and shaking of His shoulder that bears the government of nations and ages. God, in the midst of our ordinary days, invites us to ask, seek and knock — to pray.

Rembrandt chose, wisely perhaps, to freeze frame that moment just before the Lord of Creation commanded the elements of the storm to return to a peaceful calm. Yet how inspiring would it have been to see the whipping rope of that rigging fall gently down to hang limp, reachable and manageable, alongside the now steady mast. How comforting to have viewed the relieved expressions on the faces of the twelve, awestruck, as they observed unruly waves tucking their frothy tails between their aqueous limbs and slinking away to cavernous depths.

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Even so, Lord of the winds and waves, speak to the storms of our ordinary lives: lasso the hounds of war breaking forth from the gates of our nations, threatening to consume our sons & daughters; transform deceived minds that foment chaos in hopes of unveiling a new world order or of revealing a religious messiah whose adherents slaughter the innocent and crucify the faithful. Mend our broken moorings and anchor us again in Truth that does not shape-shift with the times. Heal our storm-tossed bodies, stretched and strained beyond capacity’s design. Help us submit again to Creation’s rhythms and know Your Sabbath rest.

May the thieves of the masterpiece restore it to the viewing world and, more important, may You hear our cry in our ordinary days, as we cast the full weight of our expectation on Your revelation: Christ the King! in the Midst of Our Storms.