Friday, October 17, 2014

With a great splash, dive headlong into the mountain lake.

To You I lift up my eyes until You show me mercy.
 I will put my trust in Your mercy; my heart is joyful because of Your saving help.

How precious is Your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever;
I will exult and rejoice in Your steadfast love.

You are my God, and I will thank You; You are my God, and I will exalt You.
Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, His mercy endures forever.

During my planning period yesterday afternoon I was on speed dial. In preparation for a jam-packed weekend full of good and hard things, I was slamming through the to do list with a determined intensity. Two students peered into the classroom window and then bounced through the door. “Mrs. Voelkel, we just love you. You are our favorite teacher ever.” I paused, stopped short, as I pulled myself back into focus. And then I smiled. “Hey, have you ever heard of a 1000 gifts list? Here, look at mine.” And I showed them, how quite a long while back, they had made it onto my list, “527. For Susi and Ravelle and their big bright smiles of encouragement.” And they teared up with happiness, gave me a big hug, and laughed out the door.

And at the end of 1000 Gifts, Ann Voskamp winds up for the grand finale.

With every grace, He sings, ”You are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.”

I was afraid?

Could I just have a few good verses, Lord–something to hang on to? Just a few to calm the jittery nerves, for that, oh, stomach lurching up into throat, that crazed, bloodshot panic that wants to scream, “What in the world was I thinking?”

I was afraid?

I would have let fears that He wasn’t close, wasn’t passionately caring, wasn’t tenderdly tending, keep me from seeing this sunrise bleeding love up over all the world? It’s a new voice, this endless stream of grace, one I never get over. This love song He is singing, it is the antitheisis of life’s theme song, that refrain o frejection I know so well. That mental soundtrack of condemnation and criticism that I’ve let run on continuous replay, lyrics I learned from the grade three boys huddled on the ice, exploding laughter when my skates slide east, west and I fell south, from the trendy city girl moved to the country who snickered at my thrift store shirts, from the critical eye of every evaluator, judge, assessment, grade. That heavy beat of failure, a pounding bass of disappointment, it has pulsed through my days and I’ve mouthed the words, singing it to myself, memorizing the ugly lines by heart.

Giving thanks awakens me to a God giving Himself, the naked, unashamed passion, God giving Himself to me–for me–a surrender of love.

Everywhere I go, I’m accompanied by this Voice whispering to me new words, new love–urging me, Respond, Respond.

Anne knelt in the ancient nave of Notre Dame in Paris and thought about the lives, whole generations, were laid down to build the grand edifice, to find the way in. And the pilgrimage of the ancients thought the steps to the God-consummation were three: purgation, illumination, union.

Purgation is when one prays for divine assistance to purge the soul of self-will. With each gift I had accepted and given thanks for, I let go of my own will and accepted His. But my purgation, this releasing of sin and self, wasn’t an act of will or effort, but the at of Christ and His grace all-sufficient. Overwhelming grace drew me to the Christ full of glory that I might empty of the self.

Illumination, the seeker sees. A realization that belief is, in essence, a way of the eyes. The one thousand presents wake me to the presence of God–but more so, living eucharisteo, living in thanks, had done the far harder work of keeping me awake to Him.

Union, the medieval Christians thought, was the final and culminating step into the hungry pursuit of the full life, the mystical oneness achieved by only the most devout. And while the first moment of repentance, becoming one with Christ in His death burial, and rising from the dead is the first step of the Christ journey, attending to grace upon grace ushers in an every deepening union, one we experience on the skin and in the vein, feel in the deep pit of the being, an ever-fuller realization of the Christ communion.

And when I pulled myself out of Hillenbrand pool this morning, this same bright red sunrise bleeding love over all the world greeted me. With a promise of red-sky-take-warning rain, sometime, in the hot dry land that makes Jincheng lean up against the car window with a weary sigh. It is much easier to remember the mercy drops round us falling when I am outside under His skies.

 Photo by Carlos Arzate this morning, no filter.

Which is why Heather and Grandma Coverdale and Everette went up to Sabino Canyon yesterday, even though somehow Heather didn’t get her heart’s desire of a farm with goats for her little girl, Everette can still plunge fearlessly into the mountain stream, wallowing in His abundant graces. Like Heather before her, tossing rocks at the frogs in the cattle pond behind the ranch house. And me, catching lizards on the rocks poking out of Mill Creek stream in the San Bernardino mountains. The joyous festive fullness of splashing in His provision.

And last night I was reading Nicole’s little book of great women mystics, and the author has to keep reminding the reader that ample documentation verifies the truth of her stories. Of Blessed Martha Baouardy,, for instance. She was beloved for her joy, simplicity, and affectionateness (Is that really a word?) As a Carmelite, she insisted on doing the most menial of chores, but she would be found in the laundry rapt in a trance and singing spiritual songs. What was most delight was the way she would levitate, flying in the air to the top of the trees, balancing on thin branches as if she were a bird. –De Sola Chervin

Ah, perhaps the Martha in me may experience this same joy, festivity…fullness.

He is calling me graft on, become one with the True Vine, the vine the biblical symbol of joy festivity…fullness. He’s calling to come and celebrate being made one, and in Him, by Him, to bear the fruit of the full life round .-Voskamp

 Just as I am, I come, Lord Jesus, I come.

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever;
I will exult and rejoice in Your steadfast love.