Saturday, August 24, 2013

Storm Rider

The Psalms have long been some of my favorite pieces of Scripture to meditate on.  The poetic verse, the prayers of long-suffering hearts, and the joy of the undismayed, call to my heart's depth as deep reaches out to deep.  Yet the other day I struck a chapter that I had evidently missed, or had since forgotten.  And considering the monstrosity and wrath of the hailstorm that recently swept through the Mountains, I was drawn, body and soul, into the Psalmist's description.
"The waters saw you and writhed; The very depths were convulsed.  The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; Your arrows flashed back and forth.  Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, Your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked.  Your path led through the sea, Your way through the mighty waters, though Your footprints were not seen." (Psalm 77:16-19)
More often than not, my earthly eyes miss the glory and raw power of the I AM in day to day life.  As a familiar hymn states, "Oh tell of God's might; Oh sing of His grace.  Whose robe is the light; Whose canopy, space.  His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form.  And dark is God's path on the wings of the storm."  I AM is is the creator and sustainer of all things, both in heaven above and the earth below.  He rides the four winds, wild and ancient creatures which cannot be mastered save by His hand alone.  He sends the rolling thunder and the mounting storm-clouds, colored purple for the majesty and authority of their maker, pulsing with shafts and branches of molten white, which light up the world.
As God challenged Job, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations?...Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn it's place?"(Job 38:4,12).  And yet, in spite of it all, this is not the only face of the Father we see.  
Previously in Psalm 77, the speaker makes an urgent plea, laying it before the throne of his Lord.  
"I remembered my songs in the night.  My heart mused and my spirit inquired: Will the Lord reject forever?...Has God forgotten to be merciful?  Has He in anger withheld compassion?  Then I thought, to this I will appeal:  I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will meditate on all your works and consider your mighty deeds.  Your ways, O God, are holy.  What god is so great as our God?  You are the God who performs miracles." (Psalm 77:6-13)
I wonder if the Psalmist was considering not only the mighty justice of God, but His mercies, which are new every morning.  I think of Hagar, wandering the wilderness, alone and afraid.  Yet when the Lord showed tender compassion to her, she called Him El Roi, the God who sees me.  The Lord is not simply Master and Rider of the storm, for even in His greatness, He knelt to comfort broken ones.  He lifted up the dust and dirt of the earth, and called men friends.  Another verse describes God as a "hiding place," a refuge.  Because the heart of the Mightiest had been torn to reconcile his children to Himself, and because Christ offered healing balm to hearts and souls with palms that bled, we know that He is also a God of aching love, and passionate tenderness. 
As disciples of the King, we may be confident in this.  "Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and mountains fall into the heart of the sea" (Psalm 46:2).  If the storms of this life have cruelly shattered you, beaten and broken you upon the rocks, take heart in this at least:  that I AM is near, and that the merest breath of his mouth could cause the very roots of the world to shudder.  He has chosen to stand behind you, to guard your hindside.  He walks beside you, to bear you and encourage you.  He goes before you, as a shield and light with which to vanquish any evil you might face and set your path.
This we may know, our God is good, and though amidst the driving rain, the stinging hail, and the cracks of thunder, it may be difficult to see it, know that you walk with the Storm Rider.  And when the rain-veil fades, you will breathe the pure, wholesome, and the lulling sweetness in the air.  As the sun always rises to send the darkness fleeing, so shall the quiet and the green scented spell of earth be the place where God offers refuge and protection in His mighty yet gentle arms.
Do you walk with the Storm Rider in your suffering?  Do you know both the infinity of His power and the depth of His peace?                    

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Holy Endeavor

Anyone who has spent much time around me knows how much I value words.  From a chatter-box child would could not cease her verbage to a moody introspective teenager who once spent four hours day-dreaming, I have long possessed a fierce love for stories and for the beauty of the written word.  You can imagine, then, what a kindred spirit I found in John Keating, a school professor from the movie The Dead Poets Society.
But perhaps this post should be subtitled, "How to Irritate Your College Professor."  For the shock wave that then rocked my world, once I entered my college education, was that of the "cliche." My highly descriptive voice was attacked by red slashes on the paper and amused glances.    
"Too much here.  Too much there.  Cut, simplify, show don't tell.  Not enough profanity, not enough dark and deep adult content."
And while I am free and willing to admit that my overly verbose style can always be improved and tweaked, I was told that my love of old things, of good and beautiful things was wrong.   My desire to weave a rich tapestry of words was obsolete, boring, and far long out of date.  I was written off as one large and glaring cliche with no hopes of reaching a modern world with my writing.  
In Tolkien's essay concerning fairy stories, he explored and defended the nature of the fantastical story, claiming that the best of such tales do not obscure and or hide reality, but instead mirror it.  As G.K. Chesterson once mused, fairytales are important not because they tell us that dragons are real, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.  
  Jesus also, often used parables or stories to bring difficult and deep truths to His children.  By putting His message into the words of a recognizable story, the Kingdom of God was first laid at the World's feet.  To me, then, a pursuit of the lovely amidst a world that constantly attempts to drown out the strikingly beautiful voice of truth with harsh lies of reality, is not simply a hobby or a vain tenacity.  Instead, I choose to see it as a passion, a holy endeavor.  I create only because I was created, my ability only mirroring and imitating the author of true creativity and awesome perfection.
We need fantasy, and we need lovely language.  The King himself did not only create the world to be functional, but it is breathtaking in its seemingly infinite complexity and awe-inspiring glory.  True, the world is fallen.  There is great evil that constantly seeks to enslave the land with a hand of darkness.  But fairytales and fantasy are one of the tools we may use to bring the hope and healing of Christ's light to a broken and battered world.  For the truth of the matter is, we are in the midst of a real story, a battle with a dragon who seeks to devour us.  Society may inundate us with news media, pessimism, scientific truth, "reality checks," and pain pain pain.  But take heart, our Lord is good, He is the Beautiful One, and the greatest story written is no mere story after all.  He lives, and He is on move.
        "Probably every writer making a secondary world, a fantasy, every sub-creator, wishes in some
measure to be a real maker, or hopes that he is drawing on reality: hopes that the peculiar quality 
of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from Reality, or are flowing into it...The peculiar quality of the ”joy” in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is not only a “consolation” for the sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question, “Is it true?”... But in the “eucatastrophe” we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater—it may be a far off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world. The use of this word gives a hint of my epilogue. It is a serious and dangerous matter." (J.R.R Tolkein)
In closing, here are the first few lines of a poem I composed for my dear sister-in-love on her 18th birthday.  It may be "wordy," but if you don't mind wading through "cliches" left and right, then perhaps you might get a glimpse of this beautiful place, which I long to show the World, so that it might, by God's grace, incline hearts to greater and perhaps holy things.  And there, perhaps, they shall meet the Savior.    
The Lay of Eanna
Long ago in [i]Days of Yore, when the world was young and green.
The glimmr’d stars,
In fiery gowns,
Winked silver, bright and clean
Where mountains standing resolute, Regal amethyst strong.
Capped with white,
And stern proud eyes,
Guarded the valleys long.

In [ii]Rùaðhàn there lived a lass, lovely of heart and face.
Her dun-gold hair,
Her smile so fair,
A melody of matchless grace.
And what a gift this maid possessed, a love of song, in part,
And a beautiful voice,
So charmed and choice,
T’would feign to break your heart.
On High Country paths, she wandered far, through fields in flower of June.
Soft roses sweet,
Blue violets meek,
Beneath a milk-glow moon.
A friend she was, to beasts and men.  The birds they loved her best,
To her they’d sing,
Upon branch and wing,
Oh, the harmony of the West!

[i] Borrowed from the first lines of the Old English epic Beowulf, originally written as “in geardagum.”
[ii] Combination of Irish word Ruadhàn, pronounced “ROO-awn” meaning Rowan Tree, and the Old English letter thorn or ð, pronounced “th”.  A fictional place that can be pronounced either ROO-ahd-ahn or ROO-ah-thawn.