Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Learning From L'Engle


"The beginning of our happiness," Madeleine L'Engle once wrote, "lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living. What we lack is not a will to believe but a will to wonder."


I first encountered Madeleine L'Engle when I checked out copy of A Wrinkle in Time from my elementary school library. Intrigued first by the book's title when I noticed it on the shelf, so I took it down, looked at the cover with its image of children riding on the back of a centaur in the sky and, having just finished C. S. Lewis' Narnia chronicles, was ready to jump into another fantasy series. That's what I love about libraries: how we can unknowingly and for the most peculiar of reasons, come across a book that will forever change our lives. And no books do that like the ones we read in our childhood because we invest so much of ourselves into them. 

L'Engle starts off this novel with the sentence that every writing class one ever takes tells you not to begin with . . .


Yet I was drawn in by this storm and by the protagonist, Meg Murry. Like myself, she struggles to fit in. Meg is awkward and bookish. Unlike her mother, she's not pretty but is an "oddball" (her description of herself), stubborn, smart but does not apply herself in school, impatient and, at times, angry. All of the things she dislikes about herself will become assets later. The character was very much based on L'Engle herself who was tall and awkward, bullied by classmates, was considered stupid by many of her teachers because she underperformed in her subjects, and was terribly lonely. I could relate, being a shy, introverted, short and terribly skinny boy who was bookish. Both of us retreated to our books and our created worlds. Certainly we were drawn to fairy tales, including those by George MacDonald (He was a Scottish poet, author, and pastor whose works influenced both L'Engle, C. S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, G. K. Chesterton, and Oswald Chambers). 


Of MacDonald's work, Mrs. L'Engle wrote, "George MacDonald gives me renewed strength during times of trouble - times when I have seen people tempted to deny God - when he says, 'The Son of God suffered unto death, not that men might suffer, but that their suffering might be like his."

It was his fantasy novels as well as the works of L. M. Montgomery, particularly her Emily of New Moon, that influenced Madeleine to want to become a writer in the first place. Yet it would not be until she was forty and on a ten-week , cross-country trip with her family that she came up with the idea for Wrinkle. As she writes, "As we drove through a world of deserts and buttes and leafless mountains, wholly new and alien to me. And suddenly into my mind came the names, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which." Yet it was her interest in Albert Einstein, particle physics and quantum mechanics that gave birth to the "wrinkle" or "tesseracts." Because of its scientific nature, L'Engle would struggle for years to get the work published (she received over twenty-six rejections) because publishers complained it was "too difficult." 

The rejections were especially painful because she had written A Wrinkle in Time as a way of  rediscovering her spiritual life because she had not "been able to find spiritual meaning in anything else she had experienced of read until that time." It would be writing this novel that led L'Engle to returning to the Church. Through Wrinkle, she used science and the tesseracts as a way to show connectedness between worlds (as she believes that the sacred and the secular are not disconnected or separate). Like C. S. Lewis, L'Engle writes her fiction as a way of spiritual wrestling. Though the mystical characters of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which help her to travel through time, Meg is baffled why they cannot solve her problems but send her, Charles Wallace (her younger brother) and her friend Calvin O'Keefe down to a darkness-infested planet Camaztoz to battle with the disembodied brain IT (intellect disconnected from the heart and spirit). The title of that chapter is "The Foolish and the Weak" after Paul's letter to the Corinthians about how God uses the foolish and weak of this world. All of Meg's weaknesses will become her strengths, especially sacrificial love. 

I was around Meg's age, twelve, when I first read this book and I remember the line, "Believing takes practice." It was a profound statement for a child to read just as everything in this amazing book was. A Wrinkle in Time was like nothing I had ever encountered before. Somehow it made the world seem larger (and not in the fantasy way that Narnia did) but in a more real, tangible way of science and the universe. The concepts she presented in this children's book were such that it caused me to see how much bigger and more mysterious this God I had heard about in church really was. It planted the seed for the theological concept of kairos (real time, God's time) and chronos (our time). That there was more than one was thrilling. Wrinkle , like Lewis' works, were embedded in theology, but, unlike Lewis, they were also rooted in science. She helped to connect the two for me just as the tessarect connected two different worlds for Meg. And it made me devour the other three books in L'Engle's Time Quintet (A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters and An Acceptable Time). 

A Wrinkle in Time would go on to be published in 1962. It would be translated into 15 different languages and it would become a classic of children's literature, winning the Newberry Medal, Sequoyah Book Award and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award


Unlike many children's authors, Madeleine L'Engle, like C. S. Lewis, was not a writer I outgrew but, as I grew up, so, too, did their works and their influence not only on my imagination, but my theology. During my college years, I came across new writers, ideas and philosophies. I found myself questioning a lot of what I thought I believed. Certainly the allure of Paris and existentialism with its image of cafes and discussions of the deeper questions. Writers like Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir were romantic images of the artistic life I had hoped to have. Drink coffee while sitting in the Cafe de Flore debating and creating great art. It didn't hurt that Camus looked like a movie star.


During this time I was working at Waldenbooks & More. I think I spent more than I made because it allowed me access to not only the books on the shelves, but to the computers to search other works and to customers who suggested different authors and titles to me. It was while I worked there that I was once again drawn to the title of a Madeleine L'Engle book called Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. I was interested in becoming a great writer, not a Christian one so I can only assume that I even flipped through this book on my lunch break because I still associated L'Engle with one of my favorite childhood works. At a time when I was questioning my own beliefs, I came across this sentence, "If my religion is true, it will stand up to all my questioning; there is no need to fear."  She hooked me with that one sentence and, once more, I was amazed at how God can so often speak through the writings of others at the times we most need it.


Instead of a godless, cold universe where we bring meaning to the hopelessness of our existence, L'Engle was once again reminding me that great art was there to not only darkness, but, ultimately, hope. As she writes, "We don't want to feel less when we have finished a book; we want to feel that new possibilities of being have opened to us. We don't want to close a book with a sense that life is totally unfair and that there is no light in the darkness; we want to feel that we have been given illumination." 

For her, art is "incarnational," that God invites artists to become co-creators with Him. She opened up creation and the arts for me as something greater and grander than ourselves. It was not a way to get the answers, but to create better questions.  "We live by revelation," she writes, "as Christians, as artists, which means we must be careful never to get set into rigid molds. The minute we begin to think we know all the answers, we forget the questions, and we become smug like the Pharisee who listed all of his considerable virtues, and thanked God that he was not like other men."

She was teaching me that it was okay to question, to have doubts, but to, ultimately, to have hope. With Walking on Water, I began to see that one could embrace one's spirituality with one's creativity. By reading Walking on Water,I was beginning to understand not only the gift God had given me, but also why He had given it to me and, most importantly, that His grace could show up on the shelves of a bookstore in Charlotte, North Carolina.



While in graduate school in Virginia Beach, I began to work for Barnes & Noble, which, at that time, had taken on the role of the big, bad chain bookstore putting small independents out of business (the subject of Norah Ephron's romantic comedy You've Got Mail). At the time I was attending an ultra-conservative Christian graduate school and I had begun to tire of their narrow views of God and the attitude that we could truly know the God who created universes. How can the finite truly comprehend the Infinite? I was finding myself a burned-out Baptist. Once more, God spoke though the works of Madeleine L'Engle. One of the young women I worked with had recommended the author Kathleen Norris and her book Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. It was unlike anything I had read and it ushered me into a more contemplative and meditative form of writing. Spiritual autobiography gave me a sense of not only Norris' life but the landscape (spiritually and geographically) like none I'd ever read before. 



Wanting more, I went to the Christian section but, alas, she had not written any other books at that time. I did, however, see the first in the Crosswicks Journals series A Circle of Quiet. Once more, I opened the book to read, "It is . . . through the world of the imagination which takes us beyond the restrictions of provable fact, that we touch the hem of truth." What a marvelous statement. We live in a world that loves facts, we are overwhelmed with information, but very little wisdom and wonder. Through imagination we can begin to approach the hem of truth just as the woman with an issue of blood dared approach and touch the hem of the Truth. Only then are we healed. 

It was tiresome hearing pastors who had all the right answers or would trot out that trite and empty platitude, "Jesus is the answer," to which I always (secretly and silently) replied, "You don't even know my questions." Yet, once again, there was L'Engle to remind me that it was all okay. My questions were part of the path. "The minute we think we have all the answers," she wrote, "we forget all the questions." And why are the questions so important? "Because nothing important is completely explicable."

The questions are not those of the skeptic who is looking to disprove, but those born of wondering and curiosity, of a desire to not grow further from God, but closer. Questions that do not make God smaller, but bigger and greater than anything we can even begin to understand or comprehend. The God she was showing me was a vast God, but a loving one. Like the Desert Fathers and Mothers, L'Engle was a bit of mystic. By mystic, I am using her definition as "one who sees the facts as inadequate." Once it again, she stresses Truth over facts because it is Truth and not fact that sets one free, both in one's faith and imagination.


The Crosswicks Journals (comprised of A Circle of Quiet, The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, The Irrational Season and Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage) are rich, wonderful reflections on her life and faith all taken from her own journals. They give a warm and deeply moving portrait of the writer and her family. This series became a great comfort to me during a time when I struggled with watching my mother die from cancer. L'Engle reminded me, "I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. WE do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly."

She allowed me to be angry and upset with God, but to know that He could not only take it but that He was still a loving, caring Heavenly Father who is most present during the time of my loss and sorrow and pain. 


Many times over the years and, I'm sure over many, many more, I have and will continue to return to her work because they remind me that there is hope, there is light and that it's okay to question. Her writing is vulnerable and honest, questioning and trusting, full of love and joy. Throughout my life, Madeleine L'Engle's writing has drawn me back to a faith I foolishly thought I'd outgrown. She reminded me, as Jesus said, that the kingdom will be inherited by children or the child-like in faith. That is the faith of wonder. 

I am grateful for the light that Madeleine L'Engle has been in my life. 


Here's a link to her official site:

Here are some clips from an interview with Madeleine L'Engle on faith, infinite questions, as well as pain and suffering.








Friday, September 23, 2016

Count It All Joy In A Wal-Mart


The mornings are a hectic time of getting everyone up and ready and off to school and work. It can be frustrating, irritating and exhausting. The word I would seldom use for this hurried part of our day is joy. No, nor would I use that term to describe the commute to work. Maybe it would apply when I taste that first cup of coffee (for which I have a sense of deep gratitude for those beloved beans that are far more magical than Jack's that grew a beanstalk).

Yet joy is not an external reaction but an internal attitude of being. It is not predicated on what is happening in your life but what is transforming your soul. Joy in Greek is chara which means delight, and gladness. It is connected to the Greek word xara (a word that is translated to mean extend favor, lean towards, be favorably disposed) and xairo (meaning rejoice because of grace). This may be what lies at the heart of James 1:2-3, "Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind . . ." Joy is not connected to our circumstances but to our communion in Christ.

Going about my day, how often do I forget this? Do I fail to grasp the Divine Mystery that created me and all things and keeps everything that exists together? To realize that miracles aren't always burning bushes, parting seas, walking on water, or encountering an angel? Miracles can be the hug of my child or his laugh. A dog trustingly asleep in my lap. Watching the reflection of sky and trees in the still waters. Or waiting in line at Wal-Mart.  Most, including myself many times, would not consider that either a miracle or a source of joy.

Today, as I was about to get in line to check out, an older woman accidentally cut in front of me. It was obvious that she was caught up in her own thoughts and did not notice me, but when she did, she apologized and told me to go ahead. I smiled, told her it was no problem, I wasn't in a hurry and for her to go ahead. She thanked me before putting her items on the conveyor belt.

As the cashier began to ring up the woman's items, the older woman began to talk and it was clear that she needed somebody to listen. The young cashier was too busy scanning each item, so I did. Through the course of our short conversation, the older woman (dressed in a sweater and had American flag earrings) began to tell me how she was exhausted from having all of her family at her house. "I can imagine," I replied and she then revealed that they were there because her twin sister had just died. I could see her eyes behind her glasses were welling up, "I'm having a really hard time with it," she admitted. After offering her my sympathy and telling her how my wife's aunt, who was a twin, died recently, I asked, "What's your name?" She seemed a bit taken aback, so I explained, "I would like to pray for you."

"Really?"

I nodded and she told me who she was. Right there, in the checkout line of Wal-Mart, I began to pray for her. I prayed for her to have peace and comfort during this time of sorrow and loss. As I'm praying, I can hear her crying. When I finished, she hugged me and said, "Thank you. You have no idea how much I needed that." She smiled and wiped her eyes with a Kleenex from her purse. She thanked me again before paying and then walking off to head home.

Looking at the young cashier, I could tell that she was shocked by what just happened at her register. Still, as she rang up my items, I struck up a conversation with her. She told me how she would be working this weekend but that it was okay because she'd just had four days off of vacation. She and her husband went to the beach for part of it and it rained, "But it was just nice to see the ocean and not be here." Then she picked up my 30 pack of CapriSun juice boxes. "That's a lot of juice," she commented. I explained that it was our week to buy drinks and snacks for my son's soccer team. "I hope that when my son is old he enough he can play soccer," she said and then explained how her son was born with special needs. "The doctors told me to have an abortion. They said that when my son would be born, he would suffer a few hours before dying. I told them, 'If that happened, it would be God and not her who decided whether or not he lived." She proudly beamed as she added, "He just turned three."

"That's a wonderful miracle," I smiled. "Can I pray for him, too?"

What was I saying? This is not my modus operandi. Being a shy introvert, I don't just immediately start asking strangers in a Wal-Mart if I could pray for them, but here I was doing it again in just a matter of minutes from doing the same. She stopped ringing up my items and said, "Would you please?"

Once she told me her son's name, I closed my eyes,bowed my head and prayed. I thanked God for the miracle this little boy already was. I prayed for him to continue to grow in strength and health. I prayed for her and her husband. It was a short prayer but when I looked up, this young woman had tears streaming down her cheeks. "Thank you," she smiled and wiped her cheeks with her hand before scanning my carton of eggs.

I could only imagine what the woman in line behind me thought and I desperately wanted to put on my best Pentecostal preacher's voice and declare, "We're gonna' have chuurrrch up in here today!" but I refrained.

Once I paid and started to leave, the cashier repeated her thanks and wished me a great weekend. As I pushed my cart away, I could not help but feel that such simple acts of grace could help to heal this broken world. It was both amazing and humbling that God had orchestrated all that.

It was only as I was driving home that I thought about how, if I'd gotten indignant or upset with that older woman for cutting me off in line or if I had let her go ahead but then pulled out my cell phone, none of that would have ever happened. Or the fact that the Holy Spirit spoke up through me and I allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to ask her, "Can I pray for you?" and not in an abstract way of "I'll pray for you later" but literally praying for her right then and there. In those moments I was connected to people who had, prior to that, been complete strangers to me. Now I know their names and something about each of them.

Being open and present, I allowed myself to experience true joy. The joy of being there in the hurting of another human being who so desperately needed someone, anyone, to just hear how her heart hurt for the sister she lost. Or the young woman who loved her child enough to give him life. God being tender enough to care about both of them so much that he would use a vessel such as me to show them in that moment is overwhelming. It wasn't me. That wasn't my nature or my instincts. Nor did it carry over to the car ride home, where I found myself irritated with other drivers.

I cannot help but wonder how different the world would be if I, and others, allowed ourselves to reach out to another human being like that on a daily basis.

In this I pray, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" according to Romans 15:13.

Why?

Because when we are indeed filled with hope and joy and peace, we want to share that with others. We want to offer them the same gifts that God has granted us. This joy leads to compassion rooted in helping, loving and revealing the mercy of God to others.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hurts, Hymns & Healing: Lamenting The City I Love


For the last few days my heart has been heavy with sorrow for the city that I have grown up in and loved all of  my life. Like many around the country, I hoped that such a thing would not happen in my city, that somehow we would not be touched by the racism and violence that has broken out around our nation. This was naive optimism - and unrealistic. So when the news broke of the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, my heart sank. It first came on the local news two nights ago. I saw it right before I went to bed and I prayed for the city I loved and for what was surely to come. In circumstances such as these, as Christians, we should lament. 

This morning, I knew I was going to one of my stores that was near where the protests and rioting happened last night. There were those who asked me, "Are you really going to go there?" My answer was a resounding "Yes," not only because it's my job but, more importantly, I believed God wanted me to go there. There are people in that store I deeply care about and pray for. It is a predominately Hispanic and African American, so I prayed during my morning commute on how I could best be Christ-like in the midst of the hurt and anger our city is struggling with in terms of racism. I prayed that God would give me the right words to speak and, more importantly, the ears to listen.


The sky overhead was gray and melancholy, as if it reflected not only my spirit, but the spirit of this city right now. Driving up I-85, when I first saw Charlotte in the distance, I truly felt moved with compassion for this ornately beautiful city that so often gleams in the sunlight, but was now dimmer with the cloudy sky. Then Audrey Assad's gently voice came on and she began to sing the hymn "Be Thou My Vision." 

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart 
Naught else to save me, save that Thou art
Thou my best thought, by day or by night
Walking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

There is such healing in those words. I love hymns for the power and depth and richness they contain. As I listened to this one, I couldn't help but think, "What if we truly saw the world through the eyes of Christ, how much differently would it look to us?" If we could see each other with his compassion, mercy, tenderness, and grace then how much would we and those around us be transformed by it?  If we did, there would be no "other," no "us" and "them." There is no love in otherness, only judgment. We cannot love in an "us' and "them" scenario. And we are called to love, to love as Christ loved: unconditionally. In the kingdom of heaven there is no "other," so is it any wonder we are then called to pray and strive for "on earth as it is in heaven?"

When I arrived at the store, sure enough, I was approached by people of another ethnicity who knew me and wanted to know what I thought about the situation. I spoke of my sorrow for both sides and how I hoped that, in the midst of this brokenness, we can find true healing and wholeness, that I hoped and prayed that this would lead to real understanding and reconciliation. Certainly I long, as the prophet Amos did, for "justice to roll down like a streaming river." But then I listened. I listened to what they had to say. 

How much would our society changed if we stopped reacting and started listening?  To hear another person, to know their story, to be present with them in their time of hurt or sorrow or anger. To hold that and to shed tears with them or an embrace is to be as Christ. He did not build bigger walls but a bigger table for all to come to. How then can I not do likewise if I claim to follow him?

It's not easy. It's not always comfortable. But it is compassionate. It is our calling.

I grew up in this "Christ-haunted South" and I have seen the racism that runs deep in it. I understood the protests taking place at Trade and Tryon in downtown where there were once slave auctions. I know the racism of the South I have grown up in. But I also recognize that it is also deep down inside of fallen me. And I must face that. Our country must face this. Because there can be no repentance and no healing for that which we do not recognize and admit is there. 

For my city and my country, I pray daily for peace, justice and reconciliation. But that is not enough. I must also work towards it. And to teach me sons to do likewise. To see people as people with real stories and dreams and aspirations and sorrows and joys and brokenness. Christ has called us to love our neighbor - all of them. We cannot love what we fear. Yet what we fear is merely a projection of what we fear and do not like in ourselves. Thankfully, perfect love casts out all fear. 

This week marked the anniversary of two men who I have never met but who have deeply impacted and shaped my faith: Rich Mullins and Henri Nouwen. Both men were highly successful in their fields (music and theology). Rich was a hugely successful Christian recording artist yet he gave away most of his millions and lived on only what the salary was for the average American. He also chose not to live in a mansion but left Nashville for New Mexico to work with impoverished kids on the Navajo reservation.


Something he once said that has stayed with me over the years was this:

Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche
in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and 
your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where
you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. 
Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and
Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.

And Henri Nouwen was the same way.

He was a well-known and well-respected Dutch priest, theologian, author and speaker. In the course of his career, he taught at the University of Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard but he left all of that to work with the physically and mentally handicapped people of the L'Arche Daybreak Community. This was started by Jean Vanier in 1964 and they work with those who have special needs, many of them severely challenged.  Many did not understand what would cause Nouwen to do such a thing.  While he wrote about how hard this work could be, he also showed how he had never been closer to Christ than when he was taking care of someone who couldn't even clean or bathe themselves.


Nouwen once wrote:

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into
the places of pain,t o share in brokenness, fear, confusion
and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with
those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely,
to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be
weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable,
and powerless with the powerless. Compassion
means full immersion in the condition of being human,

When I think of the legacy of both of these men, it is not one of selfishness and ambition, but of love and compassion and mercy and tenderness for the forgotten, the hurting, the broken, the lonely, and those who society pushes to the fringes, who we so often do not see because to see their hurts or their disabilities or their pains would be to recognize our own and we don't like doing that. 

Healing in Charlotte does not start with those protesting, or with the police, or with the local government. It starts with me. Social justice, as I have seen so often in the Old Testament with the prophets, begins with the individual admitting their own sinfulness and then moves out to recognizing the sins of the city and the nation. 

I pray. Constantly. For my own heart to heal. To see my own hidden racism. To see my own complicity with the broken and fallen world. I confess my sinfulness and cry out to God in lament for myself, my city and my nation. I pray that God removes that fear. I pray that I can truly see through the loving eyes of Christ. I pray that all of this is the first step toward my city's and my nation's healing when it comes to that sin or racism that has soaked this nation's soil from the backs of slaves to today. 

I pray that the grace and mercy God has extended to me will be the same that I desire to extend to others. I pray that others can see that I am a follower of Christ by my love, that it mirrors his love. If I don't, how else will the world begin to change? I cannot change the world, I can only change myself through Christ. I pray that that change begins today and to those I have hurt, I offer this, "I'm sorry."





Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Leaving Familiar, Embracing Mystery


While rereading the prophet Jeremiah, I was struck by these words:

Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is,
and you will find your soul. (6:16)

That passage resonated deeply within me and I found myself meditating on them day after day after day. What did they mean to my life at this moment in time? What was the Spirit attempting to guide me in by drawing my attention to that verse?

Shortly after reading that verse in Jeremiah, I began to read The Cloud of Unknowing written by an anonymous English monk during the late fourteenth century. There, in the prelude of the book, was this:

My spiritual friend in God: I pray
and beseech you to pay very close
attention to the progress of you vocation
and the way in which you have been called . . .

To what had I been called?

As I prayed and sought guidance, I felt led to read books that were foundational for the faith. To go back and either read or reread works that formed the early Church to now. After much research, I began to compile a list of books by authors that ranged from Saint Augustine to Teresa of Avila to Charles Spurgeon to C.S. Lewis to G.K. Chesterton to Henri Nouwen to Dallas Willard to Walter Brueggemann. Everything from apologetics to theology to essays to philosophy to poetry (as I will also be reading poets like John Donne, Gerard Manly Hopkins, William Blake, Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot) to novels (such as The Brothers Karamazov). 

But to what point?  

My goal is not to amass information or esoteric knowledge. Nor am I looking for answers so much as better questions. I am not searching for verification but expansion. I want to explore the ancient and ecumenical breadth and width and depth of the Christian faith from writers that come out of many different branches of Christianity (Catholic, Quaker,  Anglican, Protestant) and even those rooted in Judaism (Abraham Heschel, Martin Buber).  

This is not an intellectual exercise. It is not of the mind, but of the heart. To embrace the mystery, paradox, contradictions, and the unresolved. As I said, this is not a quest for answers but to spark curiosity, awe and wonder at the largeness of God and our faith.  I want to have a heart heavy with wonder. I want to be uprooted from all false assumptions and misconceptions to become more deeply rooted in Truth. 

In his book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Eugene Peterson wrote, "We don't like being in the dark, not knowing what to do. And so we attempt to domesticate the mystery, explain it, probe it, name it and use is." That is not my goal. There is no destination because this is all about the journey. I want to inhabit mystery and to cultivate an attention and awareness of it. This means letting go of my convenient cliches and approaching God with an awe and reverence. "I am who I am," is how God defines Himself. How can anyone claim to know the Infinite fully when we are so limited and finite? 

That's why I pray as the Psalmist did, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me" (51:10). Breathe new life in me, Lord. Breath, spirit and wind are all the same word pneuma in Greek. All are connected: life and eternal life. God's breath gave us life and spirit and we are to be like that spirit, to be wind that is coming and going by holy direction. 

As a child, I loved the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. In Rinkatink in Oz, Baum wrote these words that have stayed with me many, many years, "Never question the truth of what you fail to understand, for the world is filled with wonders." Now, at forty-eight, those words reverberate within my soul.  

So I will take the path of the wanderer and wonderer, the pilgrim and the sojourner. I do not know where God will lead me in this, but I will trust Him.