Beginning Thursday at 3:00, we drove for twenty-four of the next fifty hours so we could see a forty-five minute concert. Nuts. Yes. Worth it. Absolutely.
My son Anders is leaving today with his college choir for a ten day tour of Ireland and England. The Friday farewell concert was my only chance to hear this year’s Nordic Choir sing so a few weeks ago we set our minds on making the trek. As a added bonus, we were able to sneak into the rehearsal and watch director and choir make the final tweaks to their performance–the re-shaping of a vowel sound, the visceral energizing of a final chord, the delicate dance of ascending and descending vocal lines intimately held together by the competencies of the singers, the artistry of the director, and the idea of composer. It was stunning.
There was a moment that captured it all. At a break in their vocal dance, the director paused and said this, “When you obsess too long over the small things, you never get to experience the big things.” Ironic. They had poured themselves into the music starting phrases multiple times to get just the right mood, shaping and re-shaping their body, their instrument, their sound. No detail was to small to dissect. But (and this is a big but) the goal through the small things, was to experience the big thing. If they lost themselves in the small things, never moving beyond technique or style, they would never experience the big thing–the awe of making thrilling music together, the wonder at the artistry of the composer, the gift of becoming instruments of the spirit’s voice to a gathered community, each one of us, in our own way, longing to be inspired.
What about you? Are you able to experience the big things or do you find yourself consumed with little things. I hesitate to define what those are for you. You are a better judge of your life than I could ever be. But, I know the big things in life will somehow elicit joy, awe, wonder, unspeakable love.
It’s Monday. Many details will press in on you today. Can you make space for joy, for wonder, for love? Peace. Kai
The Imprint of God
It is not you who shapes God, it is God who shapes you.
If then you are the work of God, await the hand of the artist
Who does all things in due season.
Offer God your heart, soft and tractable,
And keep the form in which the artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist,
Lest you grow hard and lose the imprint of God’s fingers.
Do you ever have concepts you know to be true but you revolt against them anyway? I believe the above words of Irenaeus. God is the one who shapes us through God’s Spirit, in due season. Our role in the process of transformation is to offer our hearts, keeping our clay moist, awaiting the imprint of God’s fingers. On my best days, I’m good with that. Yet many days, I am unwilling to give myself over to the process.
If I don’t see the results I’m hoping for–greater patience, a more expansive love for others, a deeper commitment to justice, I wonder if God is paying attention. If the change in my soul is delayed, I am quick to make the work of transformation my responsibility with all the ensuing guilt and defeating self-talk when it doesn’t happen.
The reason I know it to be true, in spite of my obvious recoiling against it, is through the stories I hear from others and the remembrance of the painful parts of my journey when I crashed under the weight of carrying all of the responsibility for my personal and for other’s fulfillment. One of life’s most satisfying joys occurs when we hear the stories of how God worked mysteriously in someone’s life–at times through joy, often through pain. In listening closely to their stories and in paying close attention to my own, the wisdom of Irenaeus’ words emerges. God’s Spirit shapes us through the circumstances of life. We can’t force God’s hand or timing. We simply open ourselves to it. Then, only then, do we look back and notice the imprint of God’s fingers on our lives.
It’s Monday. God is always working in your life through the circumstances of living. Take a moment today, look back, and be grateful for God’s imprint on your life. Peace. Kai
Maybe you have been placed here for “a time such as this.” I’m conflicted each time I hear these words from Esther 4. My first response is to be overwhelmed. What does God want me to do? How will I know for sure? There are so many enormous problems in the world, how can I begin to make headway? What can I, one person, do anyway? The expansive opportunity dwarfs my internal energy, and I shrink. If only I would have made “this” decision when I was younger. If only I prepared myself in “that” way for the task ahead. Then….
It’s an endless cycle of introspection, isn’t it? Then I pull back and say, “Whatever decisions I made in the past, good or bad, here is where I am today.” So what does “this time” look like?
Today, I’ll get my kids off to school and hopefully remember to offer a word of encouragement for the day. I’ll meet with staff people to plan for the week ahead, review the worship experience yesterday, and look forward to another week. I don’t know exactly what will be needed in those times, but I have been placed there for “a time such as this.” This evening, our leadership team will meet to talk about the nature of the church, the forces that work against us, the common hopes we have as we move forward. In other words, who will we be in “times such as this?”
All that to say, I don’t know what your time looks like today. But, in order for “our times” to be changed in any way, what we (you and I) do with our ordinary interactions, our consistent meetings, our everyday choices, will determine what this time looks and feels like, and will open the door to the possibilities of tomorrow.
It’s Monday. You have been placed right where you are today for “a time such as this.” Live into it! Peace. Kai