how faint a whisper

glimpses of God in a heaven-crammed earth


1 Comment

for my friend, on her wedding day

I woke up early this morning, easing out of bed and lacing up sneakers to slip out into the dawn. Down the driveway and onto the road I ran into the early stillness, the mist swirling around the edges of the woods like steam, the air quiet, the broken blacktop empty. I rounded the corner and the fields opened and rolled into the edge of the sky. The sun was just peeking over the trees, a ball of unnaturally deep red, and the richness of the golden green soybeans danced in its slanting light. It was ordinary, and yet astoundingly beautiful, and as I ran, I thought of you. Just down the road, you slept. I wondered what your first thoughts were, on this mind and body and heart filled day. I prayed for your joy and thinking of you, I drank in the stillness. The rest of the day will come, and it will be full, and fast, and beautiful, but it can wait for just a few minutes. Already I can feel the heat burning off what little late summer chill this morning had. Even for all the beauty coming, I would not wish this day on any faster. I would not miss this. Change comes so quickly on its own.

By the time I have run on and turned around to reach this point on the way home, the sun is fully ablaze, high and orange and so bright I can hardly look at the fields, their nuances of color bleached by the daylight. The humidity sits like a blanket and the trees stand motionless in it, bursting with life in their fullest green of the year.

Today you asked us to stand with you and witness, which really is just another way to say to see, and then to tell. In a few hours, these friends that love you will start to come. From hours and states away their cars will pull down this country road and park on the grass. They will walk through the trees and sit in their shade and wait for you. They will come because this day stands as one of the few times we give physical testimony to that which is always true: that we each only have two eyes, and cannot possibly see it all alone. Today you pledge to each other, and we to you, that we are meant to walk together in this beautiful broken world. See into each other’s blindness, be strong in each other’s weakness. It is not good for man to be alone. So as I ran, I prayed to witness well. I prayed for open eyes, to pay attention.

You did not see these morning fields, but in the winter, if ever the snow lasts so long you have forgotten what colors are, I will paint them for you with the words of memory. I will tell how rich they were, how glory giving. When the winds of life blow relentlessly, I will remind you how still the trees stood. How they arched over your vows and stood straight and tall by your side, silently clapping their hands in praise to the giver of all good gifts. We will wonder together at how deep their roots were driven into contentment with the simple that is asked of them. When some of the days are not nearly as perfect as this one, the blueness of the sky replaced by gray and the peals of thunder, I will remind you that sometimes, sunshine is blinding. Sometimes it distorts. Sometimes the most beautiful of colors are only seen as it sets, or plays games of hiding behind trees and clouds. Sometimes it is only in the slanting beams of the hidden light that you can see for the first time clearly all the dust in the air and how it has settled on dreams. And if the sun should ever seem to disappear all together, and you find yourself in that just before dawn dark of all darkness, I will stay up with you in your sleepless fear. We will go outside and wait for the sun to rise. I will remind you that it always does.

It’s late. I ran out of the stillness and into the fullness of this day. We laughed and sang and got choked up and stood and gathered and ate and danced. The light shifted low again and the end of summer corn stretched toward the evening sky. I saw you sneak off for some pictures in its foreground, and I was glad that you captured the beauty. Then we waved you off into this new life and slowly, the rest of the cars disappeared as suddenly and unseen as they had come, this great cloud of witnesses. And now the sun has dropped altogether, just a glow on the edge of the hills, and the stars are out. We sit in darkness together by the pool, exhausted but so sweetly full. Suddenly with clean up finished, shoes off, and hair down, it’s all ordinary again, except richer. We’ve sat here, but never at the end of this day. You’ve never been gone. But I’m thankful that all of this is less a separation as it is a saturation. Two lives have blended to one. Two families are sitting together, their laughter drifting into the quiet evening. When we leave, we hug them truly. Good has been filled with goodness. Life will not always be this simple, the days this perfect, the fellowship this sweet. Beauty will more often be ordinary, but that does not mean it’s not richer. All His paths drip with abundance. And when this world says everything contrary; that life’s hardness cannot be good, that dying to your desires cannot bring life, that stillness cannot be worthwhile, that all that marriage asks cannot possibly make sense…

…walk with me. We’ll go outside and down to the edge of the fields to watch the sun rise, and we’ll tell each other again how beautiful the colors of your covenant were today. How beautiful, in the light of His grace, they always will be.


Leave a comment

of ropes and hands

gunks2

The rope loops down, through the harness and up to re-trace its path through the knot. Up. Right. Down. Left. Up again, parallel to the rope hanging off the rock. Pull it tight, dress it right. My hands weave through motion almost without thought, as repetition has trained them to do. If only other areas of my life were trained so, by repetition, until I always knew the right way to go without conscious thought. So sure of each motion, like this knot. It holds my life, this knot. But I never doubt it. Not because of my ability in tying, but because I trust whomever, much wiser than I, knew this was the knot I would need to tie. And so my hands are free in following this pattern in a way they could never be without it.

The rope isn’t heavy lifted in sections, but it carries the weight of responsibility. It feels rough, passing through my fingers, solid and strong. With eyes trained above, I don’t watch the rope, but I feel every pull and lift and bend with my neck, my shoulder, my arms, my hands, all the way down to my fingertips. They open slightly, slide, tighten, pull. Like familiar moves of a dance you love. And all the while, my right hand never leaves the rope. Not until the climber I hold is safe, attached to another anchor. Only then does every muscle loosen. I look down and open cramped hands to see the blackness the rope has left as it passed through. Not heavy, but I bear its weight.

1375734_10103846507694624_267396754_nWe dangle off the side of the rock, a hundred feet below and a hundred feet above. No way to get where we are, no way to get where we’re going, except to climb and depend. My feet push off the wall in front of me, the purple webbing that holds me to the rock taut as a bowstring. I crane my neck to gaze at where the ropes above us disappear over a ledge and into an expanse of sky. Somewhere beyond the ledge he is climbing, and I belay, without words, without sight. Just a rope through which to communicate, and a constant readiness to hear him with it, and if he needs it, respond. As I hang in trust off his anchor, he trusts my hands, guiding the ropes and dropping them into the expanse below us.

I will ask much of my hands today. If not holding rope, they are gripping the rock. Sometimes my fingers wrap around a hold, steady in its solidness, while other times I am holding on barely by tips, clinging desperately, every tendon screaming. They may give at any moment, callouses scraping off the rock. My arms may fail, unable to pull my weight as high as I ask them to. My toe may slip off the tiny crack it’s wedged into. But you don’t think about falling, you think about climbing. And more often than not, that tiny crack and fingertip hold prove more than adequate if I trust them instead of my strength.

My hands reach back to the chalk bag, more routine than necessity sometimes. The fine dust sifts through the air, marks my path up the rock, and adds its white stain to the indelible imprint of the day. Broken nails and dirt, scraped and bloody knuckles, white powder caught in every crevice. They’re not pretty, but that’s because they were useful. I will gladly bear the scars of usefulness.

1383762_10103846520104754_952605346_n

I may not fall, you know. I may never need the rope. But I could not climb without it. Its hold gives me freedom. Its knowledge, confidence. I need the hands that hold the rope. They free my hands to trust the holds provided by the Rock for this climb.

gunks4

I try one last climb, and she steps in to belay. I am tired. I can’t give what I need to win this fight. Not today. Again and again I fall, dangling from the rope, looking up at the move I cannot make. As I fall, she catches me. As I swing in the air, she holds me.  So intent on the climb, I am not even conscious of the rope. I have no fear, and no doubts. It isn’t until returning to the ground, actually, that I turn, look, and really see. She’s loosening the rope, un-clenching her hands. And I am thankful.

We take the ropes down. I coil one in loops, feeling the reality of its weight as it is concentrated entirely on my shoulders. Dusk is falling and in the shadows the day is beginning to blend into memory with the rock face behind us. My hands are tired. My body is tired. Life is often heavy. But in this reminder of simplicity, my heart feels light. We climb and we belay. We succeed and we fall. We hold each other’s ropes in our hands. The climb continues.

gunks3

Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4: 11-12

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
The effective, fervant prayer of a righteous man avails much.
James 5:16

photo credit: Kristin Schroder


Leave a comment

joy is…

these guys…
IMG_0940
pirate faces…
IMG_0930
my brother as a father…
IMG_0952
and that he brought us this girl.
IMG_0938

Joy is 10 years of friendship with these girls…IMG_2538
that has lasted through lives that look just a little different than they once did.IMG_2557b

Joy is this miracle turning one:
IMG_0887
and this kind of freedom…
IMG_1314
and this face.
IMG_1195

Joy is fall apples sweet off the tree…
IMG_1303

IMG_1323
and beauty in the absolutely ordinary.
IMG_1410

Joy is how they love and care for each other…IMG_1262
and know how to live well, and love well, life.
IMG_1338

Joy is a first reunion after 5 years…
IMG_1238
ending summer with this view…

IMG_1050
and with these girls.
IMG_1273b

Joy is communion and friendship and grace…

phone conversations with sweet friends, and the ache that is missing so many others. Being sharpened and edified and challenged and encouraged and loved.

Joy is understanding a fraction of what Paul meant when he said, “I thank my God every time I remember you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…”

Joy is the common love of Christ, and in that finds its source, its fuel, its meaning.

Thank you. To all who fill my life with such joy.

I cannot claim these words, but find them resonating in my heart as to the joy that is sharing in the nature of true friendship:

“Look up, friend! The world is too beautiful for my eyes alone.”
(Jer Clifton – http://www.jerclifton.com – a college friend.)