There are some things I read or hear said that for some inexplicable reason, certainly not by design, stick in my head. Not only that, when I think of one, I seem naturally to think of the other. Or here’s a different scenario: during the course of a day or a week, I randomly encounter different texts by totally dissimilar authors and yet their ideas fall along the same lines and “fit” together in a startling way. Such unsought moments are blissful pools of mystery to a bookworm like me.
I want to start my journey here, while the tide is in, where
the sun’s light glances off the crest of little waves
so that a thousand little lights sparkle
like stars just off the surface where the winds swirl
and I wonder as I gasp at the beauty given to me, Why am I?
Why are you? Why do we breathe in and out in these shells
of our being looking out through blue, green, brown, black,
grey eyes to find stars afloat on spindling breezes
and babies in our arms and lovers to melt into?
Was it for this moment? Or that: when flesh tore or the heart
burst like an open wound and no one knew but you
where the blood was spilt and how it continues to run?
Why this consciousness of jumbling desires and conflicting needs
treading time past, present, and future like a traveller
with a destination, a place to get to from God-knows-where?
“Where are you going, and where do you come from?”
The womb. The grave. The zygote and the worm. Understand?
Now ask me the real question that burns at the root and spit
of me: Why am I? This me that recognizes me like a stranger
in a mirror. Was I really a twinkle in a deity’s eye that fell out
by the force of gravity in a mother’s bed-time tale?
But when I look at the stars on the lake and in the night sky,
I don’t think of meiosis and compost, just eternity
as if I were born with it like a note left on a child
swaddled on the doorstep of life here and now, but a note all the same,
written by an infinite Being who alone had the power to birth my being,
to delight or grieve over me, to find and save me, to give me life,
to know Him through sparkling stars and bursting hearts
and love that never ends.
Remember Christ’s parable of the lost coin in Luke 15?
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk. 15: 8-10)
I love the happy ending, but I never quite connected with the bit about calling the friends and neighbors in to celebrate over a lost coin. After all, a silver coin was a drachma, “comparatively but of small value” as Matthew Henry puts it in his Commentary; it wasn’t even a day’s wages like, say, a denarius of the time.
But if the silver coin had a sentimental value far outweighing its monetary worth, this would surely explain the rejoicing that followed its discovery.
H. V. Morton’s “In the Steps of the Master” (1932) puts the story in the context of a tradition that dates back to Biblical times and continued up until the middle 20th century if it doesn’t still continue to this day. In Bethlehem, five miles south of Jerusalem, he tells of meeting a poor field-worker’s family whose daughter showed him her wedding dress, a heavily embroidered garment worn with a high headdress and its flowing white veil. The headdress is like something out of a medieval picture book or a fairy tale except that “the little tower from which [the veil] hangs is a small red fez held upright on the head by two cords which tie beneath the chin. All around this little fez are sewn row upon row of coins. The znekb [chain] hangs from the headdress and contains ten coins with a central pendant.”
All the coins would compose the bride’s dowry but the znekb with its pendant would be cherished by the bride all her life as a gold wedding necklace or ring would be today. For her, the ten coins on her wedding chain would be worth more than money. And the loss of even one of the coins would be disastrous. If I lost my wedding ring today, I would turn the house over, searching into the night until I found it, and my friends and family would know how distraught I was. They would also be the first to “rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.”
Every woman in the crowd hearing these words of Jesus would have known exactly what he meant. What would have surprised them is that Jesus was portraying God’s pursuit of every lost sinner and His overflowing joy over every sinner’s repentance and salvation as a uniquely personal love and joy.
This parable follows that of the lost sheep and is the second of three in Luke 15. You won’t be surprised that the next parable is that of the prodigal son. We who are Christians have this inexpressible comfort, that we belong to Christ Jesus who when we were dead in sin gave us new life. As He has said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10: 28-30)
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
*image credit: unknown
It’s not unusual for a tree to give off an aura of permanence, but impermanence? This one practically stepped out in front of me asking that I register it in the codex of my own mortality as if it were a fleeting shade rather than a young oak standing in the cloudless heat of a summer day.
There’s an angular disturbance in your cheek
In a certain orientation
Of my mind
Blowing – nothing trivial word-discounting –
A gear-shifting magnitude
Tenable image of God in you
While you in your Frankenstein suit
Communication is the thief of time
When colors scream
Down Mondrian walls
And listening ears
Tear paper thin hearts
On tips of tongues
Forked by overuse
Continue reading “A Passerby Reflects”
He had married her on a dark winter’s morning when hope burned low
And his prospects were dim. Yet her piety to him like the gold of Araby
Shone in a heart ablaze with fire by which to warm cold thoughts
As in the grey light of day the months rolled past, then years,
And the bottom line translated meager rewards
And more mouths to feed though she sang what light was given her
Into a wondrous fount from which he drank greedily,
Shunning all but his own despairing gaze.