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All the Rage

But Naaman left in a rage, saying, “I thought that he would at least come out to me, pray to the Lord his God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and cure me!”  (2 Kings 5:11)

Rage is a voracious devourer. Erupting from the molten madness within, it spews red-hot lava into the atmosphere, consuming every living thing in its insatiable appetite. It makes volcanoes of us all—desolate mountains of destruction.

No one wants to live near a volcano. People don’t scour the housing ads for property near the bottom of a smouldering hill. Orchards don’t grow in its wake.

Bubbly springs don’t nourish the soil, and flowers don’t fence it in. It is a self-righteous fountain of fury, fed by wrong thinking. I thought … he would wave his hand over the diseased spot and…

If we trust in our own thinking it will eventually let us down.

I thought my marriage would last forever… I thought my healthy lifestyle meant I would never get cancer… I thought my children were going to come back home… I thought I would have a husband by now…

I thought…

And when it does, we can choose to be filled with rage and sentence ourselves to barren captivity, or…

So Naaman went down to the Jordan, dipped himself in it seven times, as Elisha had instructed, and he was completely cured. His flesh became firm and healthy like that of a child. (Verse 14)

…trust God.

Our feeble thinking was never meant to be the framework for what we believe. We are always learning, being changed, and seeing things from new perspectives. If we lean on what we think is right today, tomorrow it may be a broken fence post crumbling beneath the weight of our insecurities.

Naaman eventually chose to trust God, and even though what God wanted him to do was absurd and humiliating…to him, it was what he needed to do; it’s what we need to do to get to a place where we can receive what God wants us to have.

Trusting God sometimes seems childish, foolish, and humiliating in seasons of distress—but it is the only sure way to breathe wellness and life back into a dying landscape.

Crumbs

In times of plenty

it’s hard to imagine

that crumbs

could be anything but waste, to be wiped away with the trash.

A good meal

is taken for granted

in times of plenty.

Sometimes, when my heart is filled up with plenty–plenty of activities; plenty of dreams; plenty of goals to achieve–I give God the crumbs.

When my prayer time gets swept away with the wastefulness of life it’s never long before famine sets into my soul.

And I find myself back at the altar,

begging just to taste the crumbs at His table, once more.

I’m a Node, You’re a Node

It was blizzardy when I left class early. The wind pelted the few exposed centimeters of my face and jabbed at my eyes as I followed the other wayfarers into the warm refuge of the bus terminal. Still half an hour before departure—I thought I’d spent more time at the drug store than I had.

The grime accosted me the first time I had to wait inside—months ago; but now it seems normal, inviting even.

I walk around and look through windows at nothing in particular. I watch the others without trying to be obvious or ill-mannered—people make me curious. I check my phone to see if my daughter messaged me and take a seat along the back beneath the window; that way I can catch what’s going on. Also, there are a few empty seats in a row.

Mostly it amazes me. The cacophonous quiet. That so many people could be in such a small space and only a spattered few are engaged in some kind of conversation. There’s a double row of seats facing me like someone set them up to play musical chairs. People slip in–trying not to make contact with the person next to them, as though they might detonate. Some are pacing, some passing through—but almost all are busy button pushing or scrolling across the lighted screens of their gadgets. I’d like to blame technology for our lack of horizontal contact, but if I’m real honest, I don’t need technology to keep me from not striking up a conversation with a complete stranger. Still, there’s something surreal about seeing so many people hooked up to the heavens—completely oblivious to what’s going on around them.

I think about what I was reading in computer class—about networks. They can be hierarchical or peer-to-peer; and all the devices connected to them are nodes. A woman walks by in front of me looking like an angel, her face glowing from the notebook device she’s looking into as she goes. She’s a node, I think to myself with a smile. We’re all nodes, connected to something.

I enjoy being here today; watching people go by, waiting for my bus. Sometimes I listen to sermons on my Mp3 player, but for the moment I’m contented just holding God’s hand with my heart. His is a secure connection–hierarchical and peer-to-peer at the same time. And I’m just a little node… learning to be content, even when the ride (as it often will) takes me places I’d rather not go.

Hanging On My Prayer Line

This morning, as I was hanging my laundry on the line in descending order of weight and size, I took my time to drape the last few articles—with stains—facing the sun. Nothing can disintegrate mustard spots and fade the vilest blotches of blood like a June morning’s piercing rays. Last week I hung a white tunic up with a mango mark that hadn’t come out in the wash, and hours later I reeled it back in without spot or wrinkle. Okay, it still had a few wrinkles­—we’re at the mercy of the wind for that—but the yellow fleck had forever fled from the sun’s penetrating gaze.

That wasn’t the first time this morning I’d aired my dirty laundry, though.

I hauled my basket full of soiled cares and sullied concerns to my prayer place and washed them in the water of His Word. I let His mercy pour healing agents into the rinse as I scrubbed every anxiety over the washboard of His wisdom and commands. Ours is no quick-cycle chemical cleansing—prayer is a ‘roll up your sleeves’ kind of rewarding work.

Sometimes I get up from on my face before God fully cleansed and refreshed. Other times, like this morning, I find there are things that just don’t come out in the wash.

So I hung them up on my faith-line. I tethered them to mercy, and secured them with trust—carefully positioning each one before the Son’s face. He sees them, I know. They don’t stand a chance against His penetrating gaze.

Clouds might get in the way, this is true. But out there they will stay until He comes through.

I like to think that prayer is a little like doing my laundry. I have to keep up with it or I don’t have anything to wear. Sometimes a gentle rinse cycle is all I need. Some requests get put through the wringer. And some things just have to hang and dry.

purify yourselves and change your clothes. Genesis 35:2

Spring Cleaning

Ah, spring—and a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of…

Mud, of course.

The snow’s finally beginning to melt around here, and underneath it all is lots of muck—in my front yard, anyway.

Looks like there’ll be a little more excavation going on, and in the meantime we get to enjoy everything the bulldozer trudged up.

I’m saying enjoy because the neighbourhood kids and I have been finding really cool rocks to paint. We spent the afternoon out front with newspapers spread across the patio blocks–and painted everything from ladybugs and bees to Easter eggs and each other.

I must say, Haley’s execution of me is remarkable—it looks just like me. Of course, Sammy doesn’t think so, but these children are too young to appreciate the beauty of painting a fresh face on every morning.

I figure, if you’re stuck with a front yard full of rocks and dirt, you might as well make the most of it.

We sure did.

It’s going to take some work, though, to get the lawn looking good again—wouldn’t want the front yard like this the rest of the summer. Want to go back to the way things were, before it all got dug up.

I’m wanting some other things to go back to the way they were, too–before some things inside of me got all dug up; when nothing was more important than the nearness of God.

“If you, Israel, will return,
then return to me,”
declares the LORD (Jeremiah 4:1).

We’ll have to rake up all the soil, dig out the rocks and get rid of the weeds and other debris that was churned up.

“If you put your detestable idols out of my sight
and no longer go astray…

It will all need to be levelled out before planting grass seed,

   “Break up your unplowed ground
and do not sow among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD,
circumcise your hearts…

 

Spring’s a good time to get things ready; to realize–some of those mountains that just won’t budge?

Can only be taken out one little stone at a time…

The Perils of Slaying a Giant

While everyone may have been thrilled about Goliath going down, not everyone was thrilled about who God chose to accomplish it, and his unyielding faith. David’s brothers despised him, and later Saul’s envy was so out of control David spent years in hiding and constant flight.

Are we willing for God’s deliverance to come through the faithful hand of someone else? Someone whose life might cast a shadow over our own–and might that shadow look a little like envy or contempt?

 

Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag…

 

I go down to the valley
where Goliath begs to be felled;
from where he is a mite
scaling the footprint of God.

But he has become a giant,
and I find solace in the crowd;
comfort in the collective
cowardice. All of us
tethered to the same insecurities;
fastened by familiar fright.

United we stand
against our own success.

Pity the poor lad who dares
divide us asunder

with just a fist full of faith
and  a pocket full of rocks.

Life in the ‘Loco’ Lane

I’m hoping to be just like my dog, Loco, when I grow up. Not that I want to bark at strangers and follow myself around the house all day—just that I’d like to be as consistently happy as she always is.

From the moment I surface beneath my mound of blankets to hit the snooze button for the first time each morning, until I submerge again into the sandman’s shadows—she’s happy. And she’s not just ‘happy’ happy, she’s ecstatically thrilled about everything. If I get up from reading, a wagging tail propels her into spirals around my feet. Any sudden movement brings on a whole new carnival of contentment; a gala celebration.

If she goes outside she’s overjoyed. When she comes back in she tears up the floorboards with her enthusiasm. Even if she’s sound asleep and I slip quietly by, her tail—as if stirred by my overwhelming presence—wags at my passing. She’s no less enthusiastic about everything life has to offer than she was nearly a decade ago when she christened the threshold of every happy moment at the altars of our affection, with her wiggling wee bursting bladder.

Everything with her is as new as a freshly spanked baby’s bottom—she lives on the delivery ward of blessings about to be birthed; the cusp of perpetual penchant.

She’s the sound of an ice-cream truck on a sunny Saturday morning. She’s new furniture and old books, slapstick comedy, clowns and every happy thing you could conjure up.

If she were a drink she’d be champagne; if she could fly she’d alter the earth’s orbit. She lives life like it’s some huge pie eating contest—gobbling up all she can before time runs out.

And, it’s not as though she’s any stranger to hardship, either.

 

 Oh, the troubles she’s seen…

 

She just knows how to bounce back from it is all. She doesn’t know anything about letting circumstances keep her down.  

         

So, yeah—that’s pretty much the way I’d like to embrace the rest of my life. Living like it’s a walk in the park, because truthfully—sometimes it’s more like a walk down the plank.

And as much as we’d like them to be—trite and shallow canine comparisons, however clever—are not enough to keep some of the very sobering situations and circumstances from seeping inside and petrifying the very marrow of us.

We can’t always tear up the floorboards to the next adventure when the next adventure is another disappointment or letdown.  Sooner or later, exuberance buckles beneath the last straw. It’s not all that easy to wag your tail in that place, much less sit up and beg for more. But God doesn’t expect us to, either.  He promised to find us wherever we’ve been scattered to—bring us back, bind up our injuries and strengthen us.  That’s where I’ve been lately—getting all bandaged up and better.

I can’t help feeling more exuberant about life again, though I’m nowhere near altering the earth’s orbit yet. Some of those circumstances and situations are just as foreboding.

Still–I aspire to live life like my loco little dog–in a carnival of contentment; on the cusp of perpetual penchant–bouncing back from the brink like it was just a nasty old bath or something.

There is Grace

I have to confess–God has been nothing but GOOD to me. Lately I feel as though I am living under the Divine downpour of His love and mercy. At every turn I hear His still, small voice of compassion–from the wellsprings of His goodness–bubble up from inside of me; cleansing and healing, and washing all the debris right out through my tear ducts. I think I would always like to rest in this place. Feels like grace to me…

I have found there
is grace
at the end of the day;
sweet grace
cosseting me–
tenderly
culling me;
dressing my injuries–
a poultice
drawing the weeping

healing within,
pouring clean water over
all my sin.

When faith is frayed
on grace I lay
my  weary soul.

And still I long
to know;
not just go till
the end of the day
to find there was grace
all along the way.

Blessed

This is a cleave poem. I was first introduced to them while spending a lot of time on a writing/reviewing/critiquing site. This genre, created by Phuoc Tan-Diep, was introduced to the site by a very talented writer. I’ve since discovered that the art of combining more than one poem (I read one that had four poems in total) goes back well before cleave poetry. But, since that is how I learned it this is what it will always be to me.

I also like the ‘cleave’ concept–that each thought leans into and is dependant on the other. We are left with a tapestry of words to wonder over; woven works of art having something truly unique to ponder  depending on which way you look at them. And when you read one all together it is like taking a step back to gaze on the complete picture.

Last night I was thinking of Job, and how much better his life was after his suffering was over. God blessed the latter part of his life more than the first. Sometimes we forget that suffering will end, and that, if we are truly trusting it to a faithful heavenly Father, our lives can only be all the better for it. That’s what inspired this one.

Read it through first as one complete poem; then read each side separately. There are three distinct poems or variations of thought in this.

Blessed

If Job became                                   blessed

more than he was before                       are

the cruel arrows of                            those who

plunder wasted, should we                           mourn for

the suffering, despair? Knowing—                 they

rise up now and                                                        shall

in the end                                                     be comforted

 

 

 

Poinsettia Regretta

In case you were thinking of asking me to take care of your plants while you were away for the holidays, there’s something you might like to know.

This is what my poinsettias looked like only hours after bringing them home last week.

When I’d spotted these lush plants on sale as I was scooting down the aisle, I couldn’t help but imagine how wonderful they would look on the piano. Since it was my last stop—just a moment’s drive from home—I scooped them up, and off we went.

But we live in a dangerous part of town (what with KFC being just across from Canadian Tire) and after my senses were assaulted on the way to the van, we were taken captive and somehow I found myself in a line-up handing over a ransom for supper.

By the time Shopper’s Drugmart enticed us in for a little pick-pocketing fun I’d completely forgotten all about my plants. It wasn’t until we started to unload the van, and I saw the cavalcade of wilted petals weeping between the passengers seats like a funeral procession, did I remember I was supposed to get them straight home—out of the cold. I had, once again, assassinated another houseplant—two this time around.

That meant I needed to plop them atop the piano for a while.

Part of me secretly hoped they’d bounce back. They didn’t. Part of me wanted to be reminded of how beautiful it would have been… if only. And part of me thought I should remind myself of my mistake. After all, wouldn’t it be living in denial if I didn’t? Having to face up to them for awhile might make me feel rotten enough about wasting all that money to never do it again.

I felt the need to explain it to my friends when they were over. Susan, of course, thought it gave a sort of ‘Goth’ look to my Christmas decorating. They all thought it was a funny, unfortunate mishap.

But every time I saw the dead plants, I only felt worse. It was just another one of those ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ reminders tearing away at my confidence. So, yesterday, when I happened upon this gorgeous poinsettia (on my very last stop), I decided to give myself another chance.

This morning I threw the dead ones out.

Sometimes we keep little reminders of our shortcomings around. But what we really need to be reminded of, is that life is already hard enough. We have to be intentional about not letting all the things that go wrong (even when it’s our own fault) flash-freeze us on our way to where we’re going.

But if they do?

For goodness sake, throw them out! Don’t set them up somewhere in front of you where you’ll always be reminded of them.

It’s okay to start over.

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