The Improbable Balloon

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We’d been hiking with friends because it was in the high seventies at the end of October, and joyous clouds danced along the horizon but didn’t approach.  The tilt of the light of October; it lends some starkness, it fills up the golden and red leaves and fires them with electricity.  Everywhere I turned the light was playing with the colors.  I had to pay attention.  I left our group and wandered down by the mighty Susquehanna River, taking off my socks and shoes and rolling my jeans up to my knees, and wading out into the edge of the vastness.

I began to pray, perhaps I had been praying already, drinking in the creation afire round about me.  My face to the strong wind, the waves lapping at my legs, and that stillness found within my heart when in the wild, I closed my eyes.  Feeling the wind push me, push me; the river gently tugging, my shirt billowing behind me, I opened my eyes.

There, about 30 feet above the water, way across the wide river, was something shiny and red and moving.  My brain tried hard to understand this thing, and then, ah…a heart-shaped balloon.  Where had it come from?  Who let it loose?  Or did the strong wind pull it from a child’s wrist?  Did a lover spurn a gift, did it escape a trash can?

It was coming fast on the wind, crossing the river.  Improbably, impossibly, it descended, it rushed, and before I could ask why this should be, it was there, right beside me, pinioned on a low branch above the lapping water.  I realize it doesn’t sound like an impressive thing, but…

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…sometimes when the day is barely of earth, when it is stalked by light so enchanting that all things seem full of mystery, when you’ve just been praying…well

You cannot be blamed for feeling that God sent you a red heart balloon; that in loving mischief He wiggled it away from a somewhere, and ushered a wind to take it to astonished you.  Well, it can happen, on a day like that.

The Dishwasher’s Prayer

shortstory3She bent low, being tall

Light touched her face from the window, touched the bubbles

She was careful with the water

Don’t let it flow, don’t let it waste itself unheeded down the drain

She was careful with the soap

Dilution, always, mostly water

Shaken in the worn bottle, coaxing out suds

Your eye can see all this and then

Come, come around to the side and watch

Her lips which betray the words

Her heart is whispering to God

Have you seen eyes like that?

Seeing dishes and Heaven, at once?

Come away now

Here is every goodness at once

And we too must begin.

 

Singularity

Singularity

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It is beyond my ever-obvious limits

Lay it down, here, on the floor

Your heavy expectations- I cannot hold them

I’ve been learning, see, what my arms can hold

And what they cannot.

 

I am not you

There’s delight there, see?  Only one you, only one me

Are you not glad to be singular?

I know, I know you see all my flaws

Who doesn’t?  Yet, some are tied

And knotted, and woven, into the good, the gold.

 

He knew what a busted pot He’d chosen for His kitchen

Madam, aren’t your arms tired?

Hold your goodness; it is yours, perhaps

Discard these stones, mixed in- they are not good for you either.

There.  Good.  We can embrace now, see?

You, being you, me being me.

Memories of His Mercy- A Review

IMG_6133It can be a lonely journey.  For those of us who’ve ventured away from the warm, familiar arms of Western Christianity into the unknown, mysterious, and foreign embrace of Eastern Orthodoxy, it is a profound comfort to walk alongside fellow pilgrims.  We find parts of our story in theirs; we can co-suffer, and ,also, rejoice together as we encounter the ancient faith, it’s healing, depth, and richness.

I never met Fr. Peter Gillquist of blessed memory, but in his memoir Memories of His Mercy, Recollections of the Grace and Providence of God, I came to know this fellow pilgrim and heard his heart for His Savior and for the lost.  When he converted to Eastern Orthodoxy he brought not only himself, not only his family, but his whole church with him!  What began as his passion for understanding the early church grew into the discovery that it had never ceased to exist; that it continued to this day in uninterrupted succession.

His memoir beautifully chronicles the ways in which God met him in the journey.  One poignant example was in how God provided money for a breakfast that he and his wife were hosting for fellow Campus Crusade collegians.  The day before they had no money to purchase the needed groceries, but unexpectedly received a ten dollar bill in the mail, anonymously sent.  Again and again he recalls the big and little ways that God encouraged him and his wife Marilyn over the years as they stepped out in faith.

I resonate with how much he treasures his upbringing, his years serving as an evangelical, his experiences at Wheaton and in Campus Crusade.  Becoming Orthodox wasn’t a cessation of that, but a fulfillment.  His ministry has reached so many, and it’s easy to see that it will continue to do so through his books.  May we be encouraged by this faithful, holy, and devout man and his heart to share the gospel.

 

 

“Moses”

 

You, cast upon this resting water
Held by bowing reeds, attending
Steady nursemaids, heads bowed
They peer at their charge, basket-borne
Searching mouth and fists tightening
The air is emptied of her-smell, touch, voice, and the reeds know no lullabies
You cry–of course you do and
The water stirs and perfumed hands
Find you, reeds parting, nursemaids swaying, watching.

 

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The Cross and the Stag- The Life of a Saint in a Graphic Novel

69641967_10157907034903352_5565236816191160320_oPerhaps I’m not the only mother of a child who struggled to read, nor the only to find that graphic novels, comics, and Big Nate style hybrid books were part of the key to helping such a child to ease into reading, spurred on by visual story to decode the text that would give the key to understanding.

When I met the author of The Cross and the Stag, Gabriel Wilson, at a writer’s conference, I was intrigued by his project with Ancient Faith, the Among the Saints Series.  Graphic novels with beautifully rendered illustrations that tell the stories of our beloved saints?  I immediately thought of my newly-illumined eleven year old son and how much he’d appreciate this way of learning about the saints.

The Cross and the Stag tells the story of the life of St. Eustathius, his wife, and two sons through their conversion to Christianity, their seemingly insurmountable trials and tests of faith, and their martyrdom circa AD 118-126.  I had heard his story before, but somehow seeing it illustrated placed and grounded my imagination into the scene, the horrors he faced as he lost all that he held dear were inescapably before my eyes, indelible as ink.

As a mother raising six children, I am so incredibly grateful for every tool available to teach my kids about the heroes of our faith.  Finishing the book in one sitting, my eleven year old wrote out his thoughts, among them:  “Never give up God, even in the hardest times.  It’s hard for me to find God when I miss a playdate or something, but St. Eustathius lost his cattle, servants, grain, and got his wife taken away from him.  He thought his kids were dead, but he kept praying to God.”  What a powerful example of perseverance for all of us to aspire to!

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