Good Friday’s Clarion Call In A College Town

I am a disturber of ducks.

I see the mallard first, standing on one leg atop a small rock near the reeds. He is so still, so perfectly iridescent with his blue green head. I instinctively grab my phone and stupidly try to sneak up on him. He drops his hidden orange leg. I see movement of a speckled brown and white mound. The mallard’s mate is ruffling her body up and over a divet in the ground she’d been lying in. I could have stepped on her lovely, camoflaged self.  She and her companion slip almost imperceptibly into the pond. It is clear in the way they make small circles in the water and shake their tail feathers they are agitated. I slide the phone back into my pocket. I am a disturber and an agitator. All I  wanted was a picture of a one-legged duck I could post on Instagram.

On a rare Friday off with nothing needing doing, I had headed to Bates College for a walk around the pond. I needed to get out of town, away from the familiar walking path I normally take in my neighborhood. Bates is pretty and small in that New England collegiate way. I love the place. It’s a miniature sanctuary in the middle of the city. Even though the sound of traffic can be heard in the distance and students and faculty are always out and about, it never feels crowded or noisy. The cat o’ nine tails that edge the pond and the path that encircles it seems to buffer the mad, mad world that contorts a few hundred yards away.bates.jpg

I love it when I’m lucky enough to hear the bells toll. They make me think of God. To me they are a clarion call to pray, to celebrate, to remember. Sometimes they peal wait. Sometimes they clang make haste. 

On this day I was trying to find my way back to right thinking. On the first go around the pond, it was the mallard that reminded me how reflexively tied I am to getting the right picture instead of picturing the right thing. I quickened my pace. I was thinking that school is hard and that the brokenness of children was taking its toll and nothing in this mad, mad world seems right. Nothing at all.

We are Alice falling down the rabbit hole.
Up is down. Down is up.
Right is wrong. Wrong is right.

These children.
Living in a world so far off course it is hardly recognizable.

danny and izzy

These children are not afraid of the monsters under their beds, but they are afraid of going hungry. These children are not afraid of the latest horror movie or the blood-fest video game some teenager has shown them, but they are afraid that they’re stronger than the adults in their lives who are supposed to be taking care of them.

They’re afraid that getting to school, preparing a meal, finding clean clothes and staying away from abuse is all up to them.

“And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

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These children. So quick with a hug and a fist.
So quick with a profanity, so quick with a gift. Here, I made this for you.
So quick to hold hands, small fingers imperceptibly lacing through mine.

The tales they tell while they are coloring.

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It is on the fourth go around the kid hurt that tries to choke the hope out of me by whispering, “You will never be able to fix this,”  is loosening its grip.

Of course, it’s true. I can’t fix it. Every school day I am confronted with the reality that humans are a messed up lot and we’ve messed up our wee ones. However,  I do not have to give in to the Despiser of our souls, the one who loathes children from their womb- beginnings and is hell-bent on destroying them the moment they inhale their first God-given breath. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.

By not giving in to his lies that all is lost in the next generation, I become a disturber and an agitator of another kind. I become like Jesus, who turns tables on the plans of the enemy.

When the bells tolled four o’clock as I rounded the bend near the Arts Center, I was awakened  once again that I am not the fixer. I am a bringer. I can bring what has been fixed for me on today’s Friday, the Good One.

I can bring mercy and I can bring hope.
I can bring hands that guide, pick up, and rescue.
I  can bring hands that wash, hands that button and zip against the cold.
I can bring hands that wipe tears.

spring at bates

I walked up the natural amphitheter and turned back toward the pond. It was settled for me again that to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is to believe that the cross is enough for a mad, mad world and all its children. To believe that Jesus fixed it like He said He would back in the beginning. This is my clarion call. This is my prayer. Let the bells toll.

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But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.

 

 

 

 

The Wind And Its Mercy

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The wind blew my neighbor’s screen door right off its hinges. I had woken earlier in the night to its howl. I thought it was the train. Then the bang of tree limbs against the side of the house penetrated my sleep haze. It’s just the wind. I rolled over and went back to sleep. I like the wind. My mother does not.

Perhaps it has something to do with her jostling about in my grandmother’s womb during the Hurricane of 1938. hurr1938(pvhn3.wordpress.com)

When I say I like the wind, I mean I mostly like the wind. I have a line. It’s an invisible line, but I know when the tempest crosses it I find I’m the first one up at the window scanning the sky. I’m watching how fast the clouds move…how far back the trees are bending.

I remember one night when I was little having to leave a big tent in a hurry, my father throwing one of my sisters up onto his shoulders. He wouldn’t let another sister go back to get a sneaker that got pulled off her foot as hundreds of us made our way across a mud-sodden, shoe sucking field. The wind whiplashed our hair into our mouths and pressed our shirts into our chests.

In the headlights of the cars trying to leave the field -turned -parking lot, I could see my father’s face had gone tight, the muscles working at his mouth. It was an unfamiliar sight as he was, and still is, a man who is hardly afraid of anything. A man who, two summers ago, didn’t blink an eye in an overhead lightning storm, calmly rooted to his front porch regaling me with yet another story while I jumped from my rocker at every flash and peal. He is a man who stares down dangerous things like copperheads and bully police officers.

Yet, even this man has a line.

That night in Pennsylvania when word came during an outdoor church service that a tornado had touched down a mile away, instead of staring the thing down, my father chose to high-tail us out of there. Wind does that sometimes. It makes us want to run.

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Most of us welcome its cool gentle breeze on a hot day. We breathe in her autumn flurry as she rustles the leaves into a dance.We laugh out loud at her gusts that carry our kites over the dunes.

It’s when the wind takes a turn and threatens to knock us down…to fiercely flatten us…promising to pummel then push us up against a wall…it is here that we learn we are at its mercy.

It’s like when you decide to walk the two miles to the doctor’s office for your son’s nine month checkup on a beautiful fall day, only to have the pediatrician say, “I don’t like the look of his liver….I need to run some tests.”

A gust flutters your heart on a very long walk home.

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Or when you’re dreaming about the new house your husband is building and what your new kitchen will look like and maybe there will even be a sewing room. You overhear the girls giggling about the color of their new shag carpet and finally, the boy will have his own room. Then one day you and the kids are abandoned, the place you’re living in, with its ugly lime green cabinet and mattress- on- the- floor beds is abandoned, too. That new house? Just a wind ravaged shell of framed nothin’.

Hurricane force winds changes the whole landscape of your life.

hurricane katrina(Hurricane Katrina in Black and White- http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/)

Maybe it’s the day your uncle kisses your aunt good-bye, tousles his sons’ heads and whispers in his six month old daughter’s ear right before the end of it. You never walk the fields of his farm with him again because a man came drunk-careening down a hill at six o’clock in the morning and didn’t see your uncle pull out of his driveway.

You taste the bitter pill of a tornado’s destruction.

2013-08-29-MitchDobrowner_FunnelCornfield(Mitch Dobrowner- Huffington Post)

Wind.
It blows seeds and rips trees.
How do we live with its uncertainty?
How do we breathe peace when we don’t know what the next storm will bring?

The only way to embrace all the windy days is to realize they are all His.

Who has ascended into heaven and descended?  Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son’s name? Surely you know!

Surely we know, we need to know His name is Jesus. The One that can hold the wind in His fists holds us, too. He is the only One who promises to get us to the other side.

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

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For the life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being.

But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hands…

My times are in his hands when an out of the blue incident happens in a far away land and my son is there in the midst of a storm that blows hard for six days and I can’t go to be with him. I know he is being buffeted about, that a dishonest and injurious wind has him pushed up against the dark side of humanity  and nothing nothing nothing is in his control or mine or his dad’s. We get bits and pieces of the truth like debris blown about desperate for a place to land.  I know this boy. He who has stood up to injustice his whole life is now facing some of his own and that his heart, my heart, so many hearts are being shaken to the core and I can’t do a thing about it.

I am at mercy.

Mercy is not just a thing one receives. It’s a place. It can’t be seen, but one knows when one has been there. We are smart to get low when the ferocity of a tornado or hurricane blows through the landscape. And we are oh so wise when we find ourselves at the threshold of God’s ferocious mercy and we realize we must get low.

It is in this place of mercy where God’s majesty and power and His amazing amazing amazing love that we discover how much this love covered us. How much His love rescued us. How much His love searched through the rubble of our sin-blown, wind blown lives and put us back on solid ground.
And not one of us deserved it.

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So like God to cloak His majesty and power in invisibility and then show the results of His power in the dirt, the bud, the water, and yes, the wind. Dare I say, the human heart, too?

“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

This is the wind of mercy.
This is the wind of grace.

Many heartfelt thanks to all the friends who rallied around the Traveler and helped him move forward. There are some windy days when we just need a little help from our friends.