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Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

The weekend before Christmas I attended a holiday concert.  The band leader introduced one song, sung in another language, saying it was so sad he didn’t want to tell us what it was about.  My spirit breathed in the still moment, lullaby melody haunting the sanctuary.  It felt so right, that amid the songs of joy and hope and triumph there would be a few that take time to sense the sadness. 

 

A little girl looks at the wise men figurines from the nativity set, and tells me part of the Christmas story.  She says that the mean king wanted the kings from the East to tell him if they found the star-heralded infant they sought.  He didn’t want to worship the Boy, like he said; he wanted to assassinate Him.  And my little friend and I keep talking about the story, part we usually leave out of advent calendars and candlelight services: that though God’s plan went forward in the family exiled to Egypt, many little boys were slaughtered by Herod.  As prophesied in Jeremiah, Rachel wept for her children, and would not be comforted. 

 

There is hope.  And hope is terribly needed.  The world is dark.  Kings kill.  Babies die.  Sin persists.  Faith wanes.  The sadness is real.  And hope belongs there.  It doesn’t erase the pain; it sits with it in the dust, and then raises it up. 

 

Jesus weeps outside his friend’s tomb, before He calls him forth. 

 

I spend hours searching for Christmas laments.  I am intentional about seizing the wonder and beauty and joy arising from this Light come into the world.  But I relate to the burdening grief in this fallen place, sympathize with a bereft woman keening beneath the Christmas stars in Bethlehem.  Dear friends suffer also, personal events in their own stories not so far away as the homeland of David.  In Christmas there is a place for them, a place even for their aching.  I want to look at it.  I want to seek the whole truth unshrinking, though on my weary knees – and see the God who belongs there, too. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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There’s this thing I do on Facebook pretty often.  I call it “Practicing gratitude,” where I list a whole bunch of recent things I’m thankful for.  Last Saturday this was my list: the stubborn way that human beings will choose not to wear socks for a while even when it’s chilly; feeling empowered by just wrapping my hands around a warm mug or teacup; cups with straight lips; what Gene Edward Veith said and Ann Voskamp quoted: “Motherhood is a rebuke to everything gnostic, the heresy that says only ‘spiritual’ things are worthwhile… Motherhood is the perfect illustration of vocation. God has empowered a woman to be a mother, and God works with a mother to sustain that fragile life.”; meeting Christmas music softly playing in the living room when I came upstairs this morning; half a dozen warm sweaters to choose from; plans to make scones tomorrow and to talk about the miracle and labor of birth; God who takes His workmanship, His poems, seriously; God who does crazy things sometimes and made us in His image – I suspect – even in that craziness.

Yes, empowered by a cup. 

A huge room full of women

talking and it’s a little dark and I know faces but I realize I don’t know people – and sometimes it’s the reverse: I realize I do know people that I’d not spoken to in years, that I’d remembered and felt the impact of, but not related to…

 

And I’m at a table and I’m supposed to converse, but I’m not sure why I came or why God wanted me to come or what my friends expect of me…

 

And then there is tea in my cup and it is something to tinker with, to swirl the tea bag and sip to taste for sweetness or flavor, to meditate on which herbs are releasing their gifts to the water at this time and which will wait for later…

 

And it’s kind of a shield that I hold between myself and people,

and kind of a revelation at the same time: this is me, holding tea, and this is how I treat it and what I think of it and you’re holding a cup, too, and the common thing bridges us into each other’s thoughts and lives and maybe even spirits.

 

So I don’t feel small and uncertain anymore the rest of the night.  I pray while the man up front sings about Christmas.  I pray about the way the songs penetrate my friends, too.  I pray far away, about the things that always sit on my heart, and

I thank God that He is here, Jesus come to be present.

 

And when the “program” is complete there is a swirl of women: finding serving bowls and putting on coats and using the ladies’ room and crossing paths in hallways and marveling at snow out tall windows. 

I find it easy to smile; to open doors; to help and to not;

to look for my dish patiently; to hug a young girl I scarcely know but who seems to want to know me and I don’t know why because I’m clumsy and silly and she’s lovely and capable and assured;

to be thinking of others and not just about them, but of them – if that makes any sense. 

 

It all starts with wrapping hands around a cup and not putting it down between sips, which isn’t very formal, and maybe that’s what does it – that this tiny gesture is rejecting formality in the interests of sincerity and love and me choosing to be present with Jesus and with these women He has brought… wondering why He has brought…

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Impossible that it’s ten o’clock.  April is poetry month, so I’m told.  Happily I already celebrated unknowingly by spending time with some friends passing Longfellow back and forth.  Our favorite was either “Maidenhood” or “The Village Blacksmith.”  When I was in school my mom/teacher made me write poems.  On demand.  Come on!  Inspiration does not come at my beckoning.  And how often do I feel inspired without any words to express the perfectly poetic sentiment of my day?  I think that’s what I mean by “romanticism.”  Anyway, I did so want to write a poem for my sentiments, and it is poetry month, so I gave myself the assignment and resorted to the means I used to complete my high school English assignments: list what strikes you as poetic about your thoughts today, and form them into some sort of verse.  Except they used to rhyme.  So ignore my ridiculous form.  And forgive the fact that the strongest point of my poetry is using words with precision, but not so much creativity or parallel. 
 
Friday afternoon, mind swimming with Synonyms
For diligence and self control, perseverance and temperance
I’d rather think of poetry, of rain and wind and crashing seas
Scottish shores and Celtic tunes, flutes and violins wailing. 
 
Sitting to think and compose and to focus,
I lie back against the pillow on my bed,
Fully awake, I let my eyes close
Mysteriously, just being, with a hand above my head. 
 
Missing my friends, strange loneliness dull
As the soft throb of my heart behind
High, keen thrills of longing and wishing
Ready for a change and afraid of what it might be
 
Needing one to excite me, to share
The passion of a poem, a truth, or a care
Tears are more fitting for the sorrow of life
And days still come with love and laughter
 
Sisters eating cookies together, not looking at each other
Barely talking, but just being
Existing, Individuals not stories
Being personal and together
 
Books are exciting, words speak for themselves
Metaphors alternately dry or compelling
History the truest voice into my need
Casually combines love, war, and theology. 
 
 
That’s it.  Are you a real poet?  What do you have to share? 
 
Oh, by the way – I found this real sonnet by an authentic poet, and I bookmarked it on del.icio.us today.  
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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In case you’re new, or you’ve forgotten, or you just needed an excuse to visit one more web page, Lisa of Longbourn posts her creative writing snippets at When the Pen Flows – and invites you to share the creativity by submitting your own stories or poems for publication, by commenting, and by telling your friends. Get inspired. Practice your writing skills. Give me an excuse to practice mine.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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One can read over the brim of one’s cup, just as Treebeard the Ent studied Merry and Pippin in his mountain home over his entdraught in Middle Earth long ago.  Such was I doing when I stopped thinking about the words and became more attentive to the taste in my cup.  I was drinking a vanilla chai tea latte, hot, and slightly watered down due to my lack of tablespoon at work.  The flavor is one of the new things introduced to my life in a year that is rapidly flowing to its end.  I like it. 

 

But I miss hot chocolate.  Not that I never drink chocolate anymore.  That I drink chai tea when I would have been sipping cocoa is undeniable.  Life has changed.  My tastes have dutifully broadened as an expected part of growing up.  If they are broadened, they are also dispersed.  Now the intensity of my appreciation for chocolate is tempered by my acceptance of vanilla chai tea. 

 

Would my life be better if I had refused to taste chai tea?  If through loyalty I remained zealous for chocolate alone, could I still be a grown up and still be happy?  Would I be happier? 

 

Life is a choice whether to try new things.  Once surrendered to a new pet topic, to the diminution of my former sole passion, my experience says there is no possibility of returning to a single-passion life.  A new opportunity arises, and if I am consistent, is tried.  Causes ebb and flow, wax and wane now, each replacing the last for its moment in the spotlight. 

 

I haven’t really written anything in a while.  Inspiration departed.  Whenever that happens I get borderline depressed, because life seems to have lost its flavor, and my passion for each moment has waned.  I don’t like drifting, shallow waves of life lapping around an unresponsive me.  Leaving the metaphor, though, I keep on doing things: going to work, talking to people, checking email.  Even genuine smiles come to my face. 

 

Now, slowly, I think I’m coming out of my doldrums.  A week ago Saturday night, I completely spontaneously saw a movie, August Rush.  There were so few people in the theater, and I was so tired.  Reclined in my seat, I tilted my head against the back of the cushion, and absorbed a beautiful movie.  The soundtrack was uniquely expressive, imposing its presence and importance.  Music spoke in the movie.  It communicated identity, feelings, direction, summons, friendship, longings, and fulfillment. 

 

Afterward I escaped the scent of popcorn into a fresh midnight wind.  The air was too cold to linger, but I breathed it deeply, and memorized its touch on my face.  I felt the cold and the current.  My brother and I talked of how we love things and moments with feeling, and flavor.  They say something, and mean something. 

 

In contrast, the chocolate cake I had just before the movie was bland.  The color boasted bursting flavor, when in actuality the taste was dull and muted.  Not like fudge, or cinnamon, or grape juice.  Those things are so bursting with flavor that they assert their identities. 

 

Then a few days later was a day full of feeling, and a sense of doing things important, though everyday.  I cried near the end, for a few friends came home.  Tears break the walls of the world without passion.  That’s the metaphor of George MacDonald’s Princess Lightness. 

 

Yet when the walls are down, and I care about what happens around me, when I’m advancing my might on causes and people, there’s the probability that I’ll see the world in reality, and see myself as I am.  Couple this to just turning 23, to holidays and old friends, and I am sad now – not depressed, but sad in a sentimental way, in a fightable way. 

 

Sunday I went to Red Robin alone.  They offered me a free burger for my birthday in exchange for receiving their emails, so I went to redeem my coupon.  The staff was nice.  I brought a book about grace.  And in between sips of a chocolate shake and bites of luscious burger, I observed.  The walls caught my attention, bearing an eclectic collection of posters, prints, and photographs.  One fantastic picture showed downtown Chicago along the Chicago River in 1929.  Already the concentration of sky-piercing towers was a marvel.  Chicago is my favorite city.  I can’t lay my finger on the reason, only that when I am there I feel alive.  Every place is a story; every sound has a flavor; and every person has a style. 

 

I love Christmas for the same reason.  Each song is a tale, each note a rush of emotion.  Every light twinkles mystery into my soul.  Altered from its original intent or not, in December the whole country is united in focus.  No one asks why the stores all play music about snow, bells, peace, and Jesus.  It is understood when you wear red that you’re being festive.  Even those who have dropped out of church make it back for the memories of candlelight at Christmas Eve services. 

 

So today, especially at Christmas, I want to challenge you to seize the day.  Breathe the moment.  Live to the hilt.  Pursue life.  Feed on truth.  Praise beauty.  Remember.  Cry.  Hope.  Laugh.  Sing.  Love. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Is there hope? 

In case you hadn’t noticed, I am independent and strong-willed.  This whole essay is like insider information. 

 

When I was six years old, I knew the facts: 1. I am a sinner.  2.  My sin needs punished.  3.  Jesus died for my sins on the cross.  4.  Believing in Jesus means I am forgiven.   Without invitation or companionship, I grabbed a stuffed animal, sat in my little rocking chair, and prayed that Jesus would forgive my sins.  I meant it, and Jesus saved me that day.  By His grace my strong will was surrendered to Him. 

 

I understand rebellion.  There were many times even before I was ten when I weighed my options.  If I had wanted to do something wrong, I could endure whatever the punishment would be.  To be honest, the punishment was no threat.  But I did not do a lot of premeditated disobedience.  Why?  By God’s grace, I loved people, and didn’t want to disobey my parents or my God. 

 

Strong-willed people do not give up.  He perseveres, and continues to be a friend to someone no matter what.  Circumstances do not deter him or change his mind.  That persistence can be an inspiration to other people.  Think of the Poseidon Adventure. 

 

Doesn’t independence lead to wandering away from God?  No.  The will of a Christian human being can be aligned with God’s.  Jesus was not weak-willed.  He made himself a living sacrifice (living to die), praying “not My will, but Yours be done.”  We can imitate that.  Jesus had a will to be denied.  This was not mere rhetoric. 

 What about marriage?  Can a strong-willed person enter into the relationship of mutual submission?  There are few greater gifts that a person can give than to willingly submit his preferences and will.  The Anglican church’s marriage ceremony includes the vow: ‘With my body, I thee worship.’  I don’t mind that idea.  It’s the idea of self-sacrifice.  And worship isn’t something the worshipers are forced into doing.  Their strength enables them to lay down self at the feet of someone else’s will. 

This question is particularly relevant in the case of a strong-willed woman, who is called to be a helper to her husband, to submit to him as the head of her household.  A strong-willed woman cannot marry a man who will follow her.  She wouldn’t respect a man like that enough to marry him.  What she really needs is a man who will assert his strength without trying to enslave her.  But she might be a follower.  If there were a cause big enough, and a leader great enough, she’d be fulfilled in joining that.  That’s what her faith in God is.  His cause is bigger than her ideas; His strength is greater than hers.  So she follows Him.  And she loves Him.

 

Strong-willed people are like lines.  They shape the world.  If that’s the case, though, the more emotional people color the world.  They make it interesting.  I’m a lines person.  I even eat ice cream inside my mouth (without getting it all over my face).  But I just wish the colorful, less strong-willed people would color in the lines.  When they don’t follow any predictable rules, interaction is very hard.  I’m trying, though. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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