Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It's A Sweater

I started a new pattern a few days ago.
My husband took one look at the thirteen inch long
by one-inch wide piece of knitting hanging off my needles,
and said, "What is it?"
"What do you think it is?" I asked.
"A doll scarf?"
"Nope. It's a sweater."
Right now, it's mostly a ball of yarn.

But somehow, as I thought about it,
and thought about those things that God has begun,
and this unfathomable piece of work in my hands,
I thought about His faithfulness to complete the work He has begun,
and knew I could say with confidence, "It is a sweater."
I do not have the steadiness that He has,
or guaranteed existence of myself until it is finished,
but should I remain alive, and able to do the work, this is a sweater.

I've been pondering fruit a lot this year.
Human fruit. Blossoms. Zygotes.
Swelling but unripe apples.
All fruit is a sign of life and union.
Communion. Intercourse.
And it grows at its own rate.
And I am due on Friday, but I don't know her birthday yet.
I know she's alive, because she keeps kicking me.
But she will be born in God's time.

And she will have things in common with all of us,
and things that mark her uniquely, too.
And she will be smaller than her siblings,
and weaker, and more dependent.
Further from reproducing than some of them are.
At a different stage of development.
And 100% one of the family.
As much the future of our family as they are.
They are my future grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Of course, to produce them, they will have to be living and unified.

"Abide in Me," He said, "and you will bear much fruit."

Sunday, January 19, 2014

If I Had Been Alone

A man told us his story -- well, a very small part of it, anyway --
and it touched my heart.
He is a farmer.
And he's seen a lot of trouble.
Financing through bankers, and at the mercy of the weather and the markets.
This crash and that crop,
and lenders who suddenly demanded payment.
I looked at his boots while he spoke.
He'd been hurting, but there were trees to trim.

He started in the past, telling about the bankers,
and the stress, and the trouble.
And he said, "I would have given up, if I had been alone."
But he wasn't alone in his trial.
Someone else would have suffered worse if he had given up.
And he hung in there for their sake.
He kept planting and kept working,
and filled out more paperwork than anyone should have to fill out,
and he looked down and saw the name of a lender
whose card had been sitting on a desk for five years longer
than the man had been gone from the company.

But he called the company, and the president asked to meet him.
And he had been hurting when he went,
but they called in some other men,
and they laid hands on him and prayed for him,
and then they lent him a hand, too.
And a big crop came in -- with prices he'd never seen in his life.
And he offered a deal to some sharks
and against all odds, they took it,
and he was free.
And he thought he had lost the farm, but it was not lost.

And all I could think about while he spoke was how having a fellow sufferer,
and that fellowship of suffering
had given him endurance to keep working.
To plow in hope, when it was hopeless.
To trim the trees that hadn't put out enough fruit.
Or whose fruit had been badmouthed by celebrities,
and no one would buy it and eat it.
To work another day and pray another prayer,
and reap a harvest of mercy.
And how two are better than one,
because one loses heart.

Sometimes, faith plods on,
but it gains the strength to do it through fellowship.
And maybe you are the strong one, who wanted to give up,
but you had someone at home who was sick in bed,
and you couldn't let them bear the cost of your quitting.
Or maybe you're the weak one, who couldn't do the work,
but your very presence lent strength and purpose of heart
to the younger man who could --
if only he had a reason.
Let's be each other's reason to work another day,
even if we can't be the one sweating in the field.

They held each other up.
The one stuck behind in pain
and the one working through the pain
both benefited because of the love there was between them.
And that is looking out for the interests of another more than oneself.
You see, he said, "He was more heavily invested than I was."
And he couldn't let him bear it all himself.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Mark of Healing

I caught myself staring at a scar the other day.
Something maybe you would look at and think how ugly it is.
But looking at it, I thought,
"That looks good. It's healthy. It has mended well."
My mind summoned up its beginning,
and I remembered the events leading up to its making.
How the unhealth that eventually ended in an open gaping wound
was so much worse than this healthy distortion of my skin.

And I thought about how we judge things, and how He judges things.
Because to an untrained person,
maybe that slight discolored swelling with unbroken skin
looks healthier than a draining incision.
But the incision has a future of life and healing,
and the swelling has nothing but death in its path.

And don't we sometimes look at each other and judge each other wrongly?
We see the surgeon's wound, and judge the patient dying.
Or we see the unbroken skin, and judge the patient well.
Or we see the scar, and we don't think,
"How beautiful! She's healthy and whole and functional!"
And the one with the unbroken skin, we pronounce unspotted,
though they are being eaten up by uncleanness.

The scars of healing are not unclean. 
"But if the bright spot stay in its place, and be not spread, 
it is the scar of the boil; 
and the priest shall pronounce him clean."
Leviticus 13:23

"Thou art all fair, my love; And there is no spot in thee." 
Song of Solomon 4:7

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Still Walking in a Promise

"We're not the people that we used to be," she had answered.
It was a conversation that happened some time back,
when someone who loved them had come and asked them to help.
To reenter something they had been a part of in the past.
But they had gotten bruised, and scarred,
and they were still walking with a limp in a sense.
When she told us about it, she had tears in her eyes.
I nodded, understanding completely.
In fact, I cried, too.
Have you been there:
wary of joining the group?
Maybe knowing better that this might cost you big.
That your feet will be hurt in the journey:
probably blister and bleed.
Maybe someone will accost you in the road.
Maybe you'll be too weary to make the top of the next hill.
That happens sometimes.

In my youth, I did the high jump.
I started out pretty well.
I liked it.
It was not that difficult to run and leap and twist and land on that big cushion.
At first, to get the form down, we did it without the bar up.
Just to give us boldness in what action we needed to learn.
Then, the bar was put in place, and we ran at that.
That was fun, too.
But one day, with the bar a little higher,
I ran and jumped, and twisted, and landed on my back on the bar.
I landed just enough on it, and not into it,
that I hung suspended for a second before it came down with me on the cushion.
That hurt.
The next time I tried to do it,
I couldn't get the message from my brain to my body to jump.
I gave it a few attempts, and walked away.

I found myself thinking again about Jacob in his old age after this conversation.
So beaten down, with losses and deaths he'd mourned.
Separation he had not wanted brought on him by jealous family members.
It seems like it had been awhile since he'd been on the road
when the call came that he had to make another journey.
A message from the son he had mourned:
"I will provide for you. There's only hunger where you're living."
He saw the carts sent for him, and his spirit revived.
He packed up and went down to Egypt,
stopping to worship on the way.

The place he stopped to worship was where his grandfather had worshiped.
Abraham had planted a tree there.
His father Isaac's enemies had made a vow there with him,
recognizing that the Lord was with him.
The Lord had spoken to Isaac there: "I am with you."
And he too had built an altar and worshiped the Lord.
It was the place Jacob had left when he began his long travels.
The place he had spoken of when he said to the Lord,
"If I return safely to my father's home,
then the LORD will be my God."
It appears he hadn't been back there yet.

The place of promises, and altars, and hope.
The place of his youth, of his quest for a bride.
Where he had not gained yet all the things he lost on the way back.
He arrived back weary, bent over and limping: widowed.
But there he was, come back to worship.
Because all those losses had not changed the Unchanging One.
His promises stood, even though Jacob stooped and limped.

And the Lord spoke to him again.
"I'll go with you, and bring you back again."
And that weary old man set out once more on the long road in his old age.
Probably a lot slower.
But still walking in a promise.

You may not be what you thought you were when you first began to walk.
The sun has baked lines into your countenance.
The tricks others played on you have left you disillusioned.
The son who disappeared left you grieving all these years.
Maybe one child dishonored you unthinkably.
Your daughter came home crying and ashamed.
And it's been a lot of drudgery in the eighteen chapters that passed
from when you went out to when you came back to this place.
But He hasn't changed.
His promises stand.
And although you may say,
"Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life,
and they have not attained to the days of the years of my fathers,"
God is with you in this return.
And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, the most powerful king of his time.
And the lesser is blessed by the greater.
And God is still interested in your journey.