Sunday, August 25, 2013

Every Stone In A Wall

I am a member of AAA.
Our first year of marriage, we locked ourselves out of our car three times,
and have mostly maintained membership since.
As a member, I receive AAA Northern New England Journey magazine.
They often have articles that interest me.
But two days ago, I sat down to read one about New England's rock walls.
I love our rock walls.
In fact, I engineered one myself several years ago.
In the AAA article, it mentioned a workshop two men were giving
to pass the craft on.
It's a skill that could be lost, if it isn't taught.

The article explained some of the principles behind building one.
For stability, the wall cannot be plumb.
It tapers in a gentle A shape, the weight at the bottom.
But this really caught my attention:
"When mortar isn't involved, just two things hold a wall together: 
gravity and friction...
Always maximize the contact between stones; the friction is important. 
When a stone is placed correctly, 
it's almost a visceral  sensation, according to Headrick.
'You can feel that stone serving a purpose 
when it clicks into place and fills a void,' he said.
And yet, as he and MacMartin acknowledged, it is rare to find a perfect stone.
'Every stone is going to have a virtue and create a problem, 
and the key is to create a problem with a solution,' said MacMartin. 
'It's like chess or Tetris. You always have to think ahead.'
One solution that appeared to take some students by surprise 
was the use of so-called hearting stone, 
angular wedge-shaped pieces 
measuring anywhere from three to five inches in diameter. 
Those stones comprise the heart of the wall, 
shimming the spaces between the larger stones 
that present the wall's public face.
Unlike pea gravel, hearting stone prevents the components of a wall from shifting.
And it brings another benefit as well. 
'There's a source of pride 
knowing we placed every stone in a wall,' Headrick said."
(article written by Peter Crabtree)

The Scripture speaks of us as living stones being placed together.
I have long had a mental image of a long line of Christians from the ages,
coming one by one to lay down in the wall,
each one carrying the implements of his martyrdom --
and following behind our Lord Jesus Christ with His cross on His shoulder.

He is the master builder, and each one of us presents Him with a problem,
being imperfect, and not exactly suited to our positions.
But we are each of us a solution, too, in His hands.
He places us where gravity pulls us inward and downward,
and where friction rubs us against each other, in perhaps uncomfortable ways.
But that gravity and that friction give us stability, and hold us together.
They show His skill in building something to last.
The public faces of His building are not the strength of it.
It is the small stones at the heart of it
that allow friction and gravity to be evenly shared throughout the wall.
We bear each other's burdens through our placement,
each one of us essential in the integrity of the structure.
Each one carefully considered for its faults and its virtues:
used to strengthen the whole, and to compensate for someone else's weakness,
while also being perfected by the stones placed to hold us up.

Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless 
but chosen by God as valuable. 
Come as living stones, 
and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, 
where you will serve as holy priests 
to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ. 
~1 Peter 2:4,5

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

As We Actually Are

"He had always managed, somehow, to follow a canonized saint when he was called to a parish, someone who had worn a halo and been surrounded by seraphim, even when walking to the corner for a newspaper.
   In his first parish, it had taken a full year to be forgiven his green innocence in the wake of a priest who, mellowed by age, was wise and all-knowing, not to mention full of truth and light.
   Though he was again and again the leading choice among the candidates, the frost inevitably came as his congregations sized him up.
   One parish had chosen him because he was unmarried but later wished he were married with children.
   Another liked him because he was unaffected but decided he needed more charisma.
   One search committee thought that being slightly under five feet nine inches in his sock feet was a characteristic that lent spiritual humility but changed their minds and wished he were taller."

My husband recently accepted a request to pastor a church far from where we live. I read this in one of the Mitford books last night, and it made me laugh. If you could build the perfect pastor, complete with every quality you ever liked in a human being, I am sure the result would not be whatever you actually got in a pastor. I mean, really: we don't even get to choose every quality we want in our spouse. My list would be so long, that no living man could fulfill it. It would include many things that would disqualify the father of my children. And I also would not meet every item on his list. We don't get to cherry-pick our children's beings, our spouse's, our sibling's, or our fellow church member's. And yet:

The Scripture tells us to love one another with a fervent love,
to forgive one another,
to bear with one another.
None of those things have to be instructed
when we are complete in perfection.
We don't have to forgive those who are never offensive.
We don't have to bear with those who don't annoy.
And no one has to tell us to love those who are lovable beyond all measure.
One of the things I appreciate so much about God's Word
is that it acknowledges us as we actually are -- not just what we should be.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Not Everything

I don't really have a green thumb.
For all the tomato plants I have grown every year,
I haven't had much to show.
I try to start seedlings indoors,
but I start them too soon or too late,
or I forget to water them.
I threw out a whole tray of seedlings that didn't make it this spring.
I had an empty planter box, and on a whim,
I started throwing veggie scraps into it to compost.
That's where the seedling failures went.
And one day, I looked in the compost pile, and saw a happy little plant.
I didn't know what it was until I came upon some roadside plants for sale,
and saw the label on a cucumber plant.
Sure enough, I have been harvesting cucumbers lately from my discard pile.
And I was just sitting here thinking about the things we throw away.
The people we write off.
The ones we assume will never have any fruit.
Maybe it's you you've given up hope on.
But keep watering.
Not everything that looks dead is.
And seed comes to life when it's watered.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

On Our Faces: Strength and Peace

I read Psalm 29 this morning.
It's a call to honor the Lord for His glory and strength.
It is full of the roaring of the sea,
and thunder,
and power,
and the splitting of cedars, and their shattering,
and mountains skipping and leaping,
and bolts of lightning,
and earthquake,
and twisting oak trees,
and forests stripped bare,
And floodwaters that the Lord rules over.
"The Lord reigns as king forever."

I like to visit the ocean during storm --
but I don't get too close.
I love thunder, but it scares me, too.
I remember a long few nights when that ice storm
knocked out the constant buzz of the power,
and the only sounds we heard
were the sounds of trees splitting in the woods and crashing
over and over again.
We'd look out the window in the dark
and hope the ones that fell
were not the ones that shadowed the house.
I've ridden out earthquakes,
and they leave my knees quaking.
One time my husband and I
were standing in our kitchen during a lightning storm,
and lightning struck our driveway,
about twenty feet from our kitchen window.
Instinct threw us both on our faces to the ground.
It isn't a power you stand up to.
As a child, I walked through a burned out forest during a tornado warning,
and its atmosphere imprinted in my mind.

This chaos shows me small and weak.
They all overpower me.
They make me catch my breath
and fall on my face,
and stand back at a safe distance,
and shelter under doorways.

But the last verse -- it really amazes me.
"The Lord gives His people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace."