how faint a whisper

glimpses of God in a heaven-crammed earth

wonder

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“The practice of paying attention is the rarest of gifts because it depends upon the harshest of disciplines. So uncommon is it for us to grasp the beauty and mystery of ordinary things that, when we finally do so, it often brings us to the verge of tears. Appalled by our own poverty, we awake in wonder to a splendor of which we had never dreamed.”
– Belden Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes

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The sun was shining yesterday like healing after a long, cold winter. The trees have exploded into buds white and pink and green, tiny fragile versions of their full selves. Every year I tell myself I’m going to notice. I’m going to watch and see the actual day when they first appear, when the green tendrils start sneaking up the brown blades of grass. But every year I miss it. Every year there is some morning when I wake and all of a sudden spring is here. The buds are open and the grass is a shade of green I had forgotten existed. The wonder of new life is bursting forth from every crack of the earth.

IMG_5551And yesterday was Sunday, and on Sundays there is little else I want to do but wonder. I had been away from home for a week, but still, nothing on the to-do list was going to be accomplished. Which is not the same thing as saying that nothing got done. The last week held more productivity for my heart and soul than many weeks prior. I was stilled by the reminder of Easter and the rest of relationship. I was strengthened through the encouragement of fellowship. I was restored in remembering that both my life and my faith exist most often in the ordinary, simple joys. Steaming, black mugs of coffee. Diner homefries. Making music. Making dinner. Listening. Laughter. Tears. Prayers. A Friday that defines good for us, and displays it on the Sunday, and every day, that follows. Buds on trees. Behold, all things have become new.

IMG_5510smallEvery day, every moment, this newness is offered. But on the heels of Easter, on the heels of a week of gifts, I felt its grace, and I wanted to drink in the wonder of newness, both in my life and the world around me. And so I found a path, a wilderness in the city, and I ran. I needed to not say anything, even to myself, but just listen. The rhythm of running shoes keeping time on packed dirt, my own breath, in and out, heartbeat in my ears. I needed to not look for anything, but just see. Late afternoon light dancing with still mostly bare tree limbs, young leaves quivering in the slightest whisper of wind, color arising from brown.

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Running forces me into slowness. I may not cover much ground, nor very quickly, but in the end I have really seen it. I have noticed for the first time things I have driven by hundreds of times. I would much rather measure my life this way, and sometimes I feel as though I have, some of my most vivid moments with the Lord attached to memories of ground covered by foot: red clay African roads, dust-choking desert, Adirondack pine-soft trails, New York cornfields, and quiet city-morning streets. Sometimes alone, sometimes in the sweet conversation of journey with others. I don’t often have anything to hold at the end: maybe a few photos or a leaf pressed into a book. And nothing on the road tells of my ever having been there. The trees don’t sing my praises or affirm my cries. Perhaps some wouldn’t consider the simplicity of such a life much of an accomplishment, but I would rather see 3 miles of road than miss hundreds. I would rather fully see one of the Lord’s ordinary, everyday gifts than get caught in the dizzying parade of the gifts I plan out for myself. I would rather be in trembling awe of one facet of the Lord’s beauty than know it all, and simply grow accustomed to Him.

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Returning from my run in the bliss of exhaustion, I set out to retrace steps with my camera and never make it more than 200 feet down the path. Maybe some people would say my vision has shrunk, but is seeing a greater number of things really better than seeing a few as great as they are? There is enough wonder here for an afternoon. Probably many. Am I content to make it no further? There was enough wonder in last week to remind me that I serve a God who “crowns the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip abundance.” And suddenly all that I have laid out on my proposed path for my life, and the anxiety with which I pursue it, are the only true waste of time.  Am I content in His everyday abundance?

There is enough wonder in Easter to draw my gaze for a lifetime. Am I content in the promise of newness?
There is enough splendor in God to bring me to tears in my poverty, and enough in the mere opening of His hand to satisfy me. Am I content? The wonder is enough.

And if it is not, have I ever really seen His beauty? Christ is enough for me.

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