Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Good Words I Didn't Write

My intention for this blog is to remind myself and its readers of the wonder of God, and the issues that might determine our awareness of God's will in our lives and the lives of others. Therefore, many of the things I write, I hope, are understood to be the musings of a man who is turning truth over and over in his hands, inspecting it, pondering it, trying to get a better feel for it. If some of my posts persuade, I hope that they do so with all gentleness.

Yet it is not my intention to persuade you so much with this post, but rather to remind you of the importance of a spiritual awareness, and how this can affect our present lives as well as the country in which we live. You may have your mind made up on who to vote for in the upcoming presidential elections, and it is not my desire to debate the merit of your choice. Mine is merely a desire to challenge - to remember, if you are a person of faith, what is important in such a time as this. After much personal consideration, below is both the candidate I am currently resolved to vote for, as well as the speech that persuaded me. I encourage you to watch it, not that you might be drawn into a specific political camp, but rather to be reminded of the role of faith and religion in this country. It is about 40 minutes long, but I do hope you will view it, even if you have to return to it a couple of times to hear it all. Even if you are already not interested in this candidate, please know that there is no mention of the current campaign, but only the issue of faith and politics. Whoever you choose to vote for, this speech is definitely worth hearing.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Maker of Dust

In celebration of Ash Wednesday...

In the quiet dark of the chapel, he reaches to unfold the kneeler and his tired legs bend, weary bones popping. His elbows find the back of the pew. His worn, wrinkled hands clasp. His crumpled frame genuflects in prayer. Were he able to pick himself up from such a position, he would have chosen to prostrate himself, right there in the aisle - to melt away into the thin, dusty carpet, become nothing more than that. And this is what he prays as he kneels. That he is dust, and to dust he shall return.

His hands hold a tremor, and his shoulders shiver from the awkward position while his parched lips speak in silence, confessions of sins long forgotten by all but him and the One to which he prays. Pleading in penitence. Vowing repentance, then stilling his soundless words when he remembers not to be hasty before God with a vow. So, slowly, in few words, he changes his vow to a desperate hope. This, after all, is the nature of his prayers.

There is a depth to the little room that he has not noticed before. A spaciousness in it that the quiet has brought out. He feels small. There in the chapel, he feels he is shrinking. Eroding. Dissipating dust. Let me retain only that which is essential, he prays. Only that which is pure and vital ... and if there is nothing, let me cease to be. Let me disintegrate to dust, and let me be captured up in you.

Not even dust escapes through Your fingers.
He is comforted by this thought, and a thin smile, hardly noticeable behind the penitent grimace, curves his mouth. He looks down at his clasped hands, sees the dirt and grime of the world upon them, the blood and the death. He sees these things there behind the skin, where soap and water does not reach. He sees them there, corruption soaked into dust, and squeezing his eyes tighter, he prays all the more.

He hears the minister speak, but does not move. The voice echoes in the room that has grown so large. Still, he wonders if it is large enough to hold his sins. Yet even as the quiet wraps around him, shrinking him into nothing, the words find his hungry ears. "In returning and rest you shall be saved. In quietness and confidence shall be your strength."

And it happens that he realizes the cavern-like chapel, gaping larger than he has ever known it, is not to serve as a storehouse for sin, but a palace of peace. The yawning space around him is not empty, but has stretched and grown to accommodate something much grander. He opens his eyes again to view his hands, and there, perched before him, elbows on the pew, they suddenly appear clean, even beneath the skin.

He understands now that he is not shrinking, not dissipating away, but changing, becoming something new, something still composed of dust, but possessing a wind-like strength that comforts his weary knees and stills his trembling hands. He now feels a spaciousness within, filled with a billowing, peaceful whisper, words he cannot fully recognize, but residing inside, repeating encouragement he will carry with him like a blanket. And the largeness of the room, like a gaping mouth, is most certainly filled with something like a breath, gentle and sweet, capturing him, the minister, and all other mendicants up in a rest that floods over them like true love in the heart.

Again, he prays that he is dust, and to dust he shall return. Yet he takes joy in this, for within the quiet about him, and the whisper within, he feels the presence of the Maker of dust.