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Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

My brother and I were talking tonight, about a painting I saw, called “The Peacemaker”.  Peacemaking seems to me to be an art that is rare, one that I am unfamiliar with, and that when my friends and I pursue it, we’re begging God to lead us in, because we’re clueless.  We’re making these things up as we go, having few examples to follow.

I want to learn about peacemaking. I want to help heal breaches, but also, I think, God wants me to wield peace against lies and hatred and despair and loneliness – to make peace strong and alive. There is this picture in my head from the stories I’ve been reading, of grape vines invading things with life, and winding around them, and binding them together, and making them strong as a defense against that which would break us.

Tonight I’m working at these words, but they aren’t capturing how excited this idea is burning me, how even trying to ponder the words to use is deepening the picture, and grabbing at parts of me I wasn’t sure were connected.  But they are.  They remind me of a time this past year when my identity and calling seemed to be clarifying:

“I like people, a lot, and I love to find out who they are.  I want to help them to know what God is doing in their lives, and also to help them walk in those things by faith.  I’m especially interested in helping them to persevere in hope and faith; to love others and pursue unity; and to live church as a sort of radical, God-empowered inter-dependent family.”

Because I don’t believe that, when God saves us, He turns us only into evangelism machines.  He gives us back the abundant life that was His idea with humans in the first place.  We become the light set in the lampstand that won’t be hidden.  Our lives have fruitful, governing purpose in this world, and, God help me, I want to live it wildly well.

Our world needs this.  The weapons of division, of hatred, of bitterness, of classifying people as hopeless and other, are damaging nations, families, God’s church.

The darkness, though, it has a lot of work to do, to hack at a many-corded strand that is already plaited.  It has a lot to do to dim the glory of the good works God has ordained for His people.  It fights weakly against the strength of truth and love, chosen and held up and uncompromised.  Evil gives up ground to the fruitfulness of a people zealous for good works, abiding in the Christ whose we are.  It bows in the face of self-sacrifice purchasing reconciliation through forgiveness.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Today I was thinking about heroes.  So often our favorite super heroes can save everyone.  Doc Ock tosses six different people six different directions, and destroys the brakes on a speeding train.  Spider-Man shoots his webs to save the stragglers, uses his super strength to stop the train, and saves the day.

In that same movie, Spider-Man decides to come out of retirement to save a little kid from a fire, and is disheartened to hear afterwards that some “poor soul” on a higher floor didn’t make it out.  But this isn’t shown as an inevitable edge to the protagonist’s reach; I get the impression that we’re supposed to believe that if only Spidey hadn’t been taking some time for himself, both victims would have made it out alive.

Sometimes the crisis of the plot is the hero deciding whether to save one dear friend or to save a larger group of people (and somehow, predictably now, the dear friend  heroically sacrificed is saved in the nick of time anyway).  Other times, the super hero makes a glance at the crushing weight of collateral damage: fighting evil is a destructive war.

How often do the heroes in our tales face the fact that their powers are, however impressive, limited, and they cannot save everyone?  What if we saw heroes not only facing this, grieving this, but standing slowly – like a weight-lifter, only the weight is borne in the heart, bending shoulders –  standing, straightening, squaring those shoulders, and going out with all the zeal they had yesterday, to save the ones they can, to face defeat again and again, to still care about every one they can’t save the same as they care about the ones they can, and still to try?

Today I was driving to an abortion clinic, to stand outside among such heroes, who spend day after day watching most of the moms they encounter go right on ahead and end most of the lives the sidewalk counselors are trying to save.  This is a heavy burden.

It is not all discouraging failure.  Yesterday, a couple changed their mind, and rejected the violence they had intended.  Would Spider-Man bear up against those odds: one rescued for dozens lost?  These people do.  By the grace of God, they are real heroes.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I guess God wants me to be thinking about these things.  On Saturday I was at a prayer meeting for a friend headed off to Africa on a three month mission trip.  Another prayer warrior present told me afterwards that one of his pastors has been in Nigeria for a few days, where the gospel was preached.  The report is that 150,000 people came forward to be saved by the blood of Jesus.  Numbers like that blow my mind.  I’ll admit, however hopeful I am, I’m skeptical.  But what if God really is moving in places like India and Africa?  What if the people in closed Muslim nations really are dreaming dreams about Jesus and running across Bibles and meeting people who will quietly preach the truth to them?

The man told me something else about Nigeria.  He said that in eight days, they witnessed two people raised from the dead.  The first was being carried, four days, by his father, to the evangelists.  By the time the child reached them, he was dead.  But the team of preachers prayed anyway, and the child came back to life.  Hearing that, another person attending the revival went and got his son from the morgue.  He’d died of a bullet wound in his chest.  They prayed for him, and he is alive now, too.

What would have happened if there had been no hope in those evangelists for the impossible?  What if, believing death to be God’s final answer, everyone had behaved rationally and ignored the impossible?  How often do I fail to even consider asking God for a miracle?

These reports are third or fourth or even fifth hand.  But I think it’s hard to confuse whether someone was dead and is now alive.  And why would you lie about things like that?  Still, my American rationalism, my lack of experience with supernatural things, pushes hard against reports about miracles.  Should I believe it?  What does it mean for me anyway?

My story isn’t over…  A few hours after that Saturday meeting (probably early on Sunday), a good friend was encouraging me that the Spirit of God is moving – an admonition to keep crying out to see Him move here, in the world around me.  My friend said that there are a group of church-planting pastors in India who prayed for someone and saw them brought back from the dead as well.  I hadn’t shared what I’d just heard from someone else.  So.

Two sources.

Two countries.

Three resurrections I heard about,

in one day.

And the time is coming, in less than a week now, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  We remember that He has all authority, and has given power to us, through His Holy Spirit.  We have hope that even death that lasts for decades is not forever for those who believe.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Flax flowers, tall and green crowned with sky-blue petals bend beneath the water falling on them, stooped double, dripping and dreary under a summer sky shrouded in grey.  Am I made for such a world where the beauty bows to necessity, where death is such a threat that the glorious sun must be cloaked, life furled?

I wish I had made these observations while on a walk, but I was driving.  My car was pulling out of my driveway to carry me to the paces just outside of where babies die.  The heart of me resisted, catching its hands on trees and fence-posts, loathe to leave them behind.  A few yards down is a rose garden, and in my mind I shrank…
Paradise.  Shadows and breezes, still and soft and just enough to shed the perfume of the roses across the little green between.  It is like an elven meadow, the little people running about their blissful business – the tallest thing they can see is the living tower of blossoms rimming their country.  No eyes can pass the borders to see the sorrow of our world, the world of mortals.  No tiny heart is troubled like mine, knowing of the suffering and wickedness and death I am about to witness.
Are elves diminutive or tall?  Those legendary immortals, acquainted with nature and delight, cut off from our world by size, by magic, or by choice?  Tolkien wrote about elves, despising the modern conception of them as petal-sized fairies, who evade human capture and notice by their slightness.  The author’s idea was of a people maybe even taller than men, living in the depths of the forests or across the leagues of the sea.  They were powerful and wise, joyful – and sorrowful.  For Tolkien’s elves could see over the roses.  They witnessed mortality and evil and the changing world, and it was a grief to them.
Mankind was in a different sort of captivity: not hemmed by fragrant visions of living loveliness.  Their world was the broken, mortal one, saturated with sorrow.  Battlements built high: temptation, pain, guilt, fear – guarded their even seeing something else.  And then they saw the stars.  Ever beautiful and untouched, glittering points in the sky spoke of a joy and purpose beyond the grueling existence through which men plodded.  Faramir tells that men burdened by mortality built high towers and communed with the stars.
They may have been wrong, seeking something forbidden, discontent with their created lot.  In the Shire lived a different sort of mortal.  They knew fear and death, so they celebrated peace and long life (and birthdays).  Life was too short to simply hoard; they gave away.  In the rural country of the Hobbits there was danger of becoming fat and complacent, gradually surrendering more and more of the fullness of life granted to mortals.  But most didn’t.  They enjoyed things: friends and family, stories, food and drink, walking, gardening.
Outside the Shire, the Hobbits proved that it was they who had built their country, and not that the simple life of relative ease had birthed their contentment.  Hobbits don’t have courage in tight spots because it is hiding deep inside them; their courage is something exercised every day.  It takes enormous strength to feast when you know the world is dark, to hope when it has been so long since anything happened to encourage you.  Complacency is not hope.  And Samwise Gamgee was not complacent.
He carried with him the willingness to seize good times.  His eyes grow large with wonder at the hidden elvish cities he visits. They’re in a gardenous land filled with herbs and wild game just his size, so he stews some rabbit. And when his quest seems hopeless, he sits on the top stair of an enemy tower and sings about the stars: those beacons of hope anchoring him to a reality he belongs to.  He can’t access it now, but it is no less sure or beautiful because it is far away.

Above all shadows rides the Sun



And Stars for ever dwell:



I will not say the Day is done,

Nor bid the Stars farewell.

So in the hobbits we have the same spirit as the elves seeing over their flower-hedge, but in reverse.  The elves looked out and what they saw brought grief in – something they would not shrink from, but took and blended with their joy.  And the hobbits looked out and what they saw brought hope, but they took it and blended it with their weariness.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Sudden

Winter was dragging on.  More out of defiance than comfort, I’d been outside without my coat.  The nights still dipped well below freezing.  Dreary clouds came from the east, shading the still-brown grass and smooth-branched trees.

Overnight and into the morning snow fell.  Big flakes layered across the ground, mounting to over half a foot – for the third time in ten days.  I pulled on my clunky shearling boots and plodded out into my day, bereft of sunshine, pining for summer.

When I got off work the snow was only asserting its memory in patches of well-shaded remnants and dirty piles on parking lot edges.  The sunset gleamed on the wet runoff skimming the pavement on my weary drive home.

And then the next morning I woke up.  I got out of bed and went upstairs.  Blew my nose, suffering the symptoms of my annual spring virus.  Washed my hands at the kitchen sink, ignoring the running water while I watched the back yard.  It needed watching.

When I hadn’t been watching, even while I slept, the world had transformed.  Green struggled through the old year’s lawn growth.  Tiny buds swelled on twigs of bushes and trees.  Birds were singing!

All sudden and without warning.  When a snowstorm had driven back expectation of spring anytime soon, beating me down with the power of winter to persevere past decent dates.  Last time I looked, no sign of renewed life.  Now, everywhere.

(more…)

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She used to love to catch fireflies, chasing around the yard on a summer evening.  Those were the best days, the sun up so long, and even after dark you could stay outside because it was warm, buzzing with humidity.  And she would laugh to be alive, regular brown hair bobbing as she ran, transformed by the dusk into elven innocent beauty.  What could be more fetching than a girl cupping living light between her hands? 
 
But she moved away and started growing up.  She didn’t play in the mud anymore, or hold summer bugs in her palms.  Butterflies were safe to land on a nearby flower and she would only watch.  Dandelions were enemies to uproot, not fairies to set flying on the wind.  Sitting behind a desk with a computer and a cell phone now, weeks and months went by without remembering those days of childhood glory. 
 
A few quirks remained, nothing to hint to a judging world that anything of her elven self truly remained.  As the clock displayed numbers corresponding to the month and day of her birth, she celebrated.  Her clothes demonstrated an independent taste: dark earth tones punctuated every so often by a royal blue or coral.  She always had something to say for a dessert that layered chocolate.  And mythical monsters like Bigfoot and Nessie never lost their interest. 
 
Then it happened.  Enough of her stable, grown-up life fell away; just as she was ready to take a leap into a real responsibility the freedom of childhood reentered her life.  She fled to the country, to the remnants of summer twilights under the stars.  Seeds, formerly inserted in precisely dug holes round a circumscribed flower bed, flew from her hands into the fallow ground.  Rain fell and she learned to dance, not shivering from the night breeze, but turning her face towards it. 
Had she grown out of the child she had been, or had her world trapped her in a box of expectations and limited possibilities, a prison from which she had finally escaped? 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Chirp

My brother told me a story about his life the last month.  Several times he has walked somewhere, or stopped at a stoplight, gone to unlock the door to his condo, and heard a single chirp from a cricket.  Just once, that familiar echo of nature, but only once, cut short by the move to the next thing, next time, next place.

Outside my living room window is the sunset of the hottest day of the summer in Denver this year.  My gray long-hair kitty is sitting at my shoulder, and I am on my couch at an odd angle that has my back tucked into the corner.  This morning for church I put on my navy blue linen dress that is so cute, and a white crochet jacket with three-quarter sleeves.  Sunday school was out on the grass, half in the shade, and I kicked off my little white sandal-heels to cross my legs beneath me.  Clouds have gathered and opened back up today, taunting me with the prospect of a storm I know won’t come.  All afternoon my eyes have wanted to close on themselves, but between this and that phone call or vacuuming or chopping ice in the kitchen, real sleep has been beyond me. 

My grandpa is in the hospital again, and facing once again the possibility of moving away from his home, the most peaceful little retreat I’ve ever known, in a small Kansas town dominated by wind and the hum of grain elevators just a block from the old city park.  Mourning doves coo at dawn there, and cicadas chant the dusk on its way to night.  My grandparents have a clock that chimes the quarter hour, and so you know that time is passing even as you know just as surely that it doesn’t matter, because that place outside of everywhere is eternal.  Except I know that someday it won’t be there, not for me.  Not the old house with the dull tile and the bugs and endless shelves of pack-rat treasures or the bright garden now boasting a mere crop of weeds.  I can visit the park, and walk the streets, even drop in to the post office, but someday, closer every hospital visit, the summer spot, the holiday feasting hall of my grandparents’ stained-glass and curio decorated living room will be locked, sold, inhabited by others.  History really lives there, in Bird City, Kansas, in a way that it cannot in the suburbs that have been my lifelong residence. 

And a friend’s aunt died, losing her battle with cancer.  It’s a passing day, nothing happening in it but the slow observation of the changes you dared not believe would come.  Maybe it’s a hoping day, for as the birds fly across the rays of sun outside my window, the scarce breeze ensuring each glance is just a touch different than the last, I know that all these old things under the sun are endlessly changing.  Some other August day I will sit again and wonder at the life that laps about me, tides ebbing and flowing, forever eroding the shoreline into shapes that have never been. 

My daddy, who had gone to be with his dad and mom, is back now, the deliberate slide of our van up the slope of the driveway into the garage, with the elegant steadiness of practice and weary routine.  He meows at the cat, now stalking in the kitchen, retrieving suitcase.  Soon he’ll pick up the television remote.  I know, because somethings are the same. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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