Christmas, Poetry & Words

Why Celebrations & Beauty Still Matter in a Broken World

During Advent, lighthearted festivities can conflict with the dark reality of the world. But we shouldn’t give up Christmas. You can’t fight the darkness without light.

Why Celebrations & Beauty Still Matter in a Broken WorldSometimes, people wonder how I can get behind something so trite as Christmas decorations, when I also talk about death and darkness and clinging to a thread of hope when grief colors everything. How can I talk about pretty things when there’s all this brokenness everywhere we turn? Isn’t that incongruent? Doesn’t that make me a hypocrite? Don’t I know the world is dying?

I do know. And because I know, I refuse to give in to the darkness.  I refuse to let the darkness chase us away from all the beauty.

Our God, the same God who demands justice and calls us to love mercy [1], also created beauty. The same God who calls us to defend the fatherless [2], also paints the billowing clouds with fiery indigo, told His ancient people to weave golden threads into gilded curtains and dot the tabernacle with precious stones [3], and turns snowy mountain peaks copper with every rising dawn.  If we have the eyes to notice, our heart is lifted at a solitary bloom alive in a dry and cracked sidewalk, and something in our spirit leaps at the sight of a single lit tree in the darkness, glistening in snow-covered bursts of colored light. Our deep longing for aesthetic beauty echoes the whole, complete beauty that existed in God himself before the Fall of Man. Glimmers of it shine earthside still. Every single thing of beauty on this earth hints at the beauty that waits just beyond the veil [4].

And something else await beyond the veil, too — a celebration [5].

Somewhere along the way in our journey through the monotonous tasks of living, we’ve heard whispers that to be holy is to reject the nonsense of tinsel and lights, and to be an effective servant of God we have to squelch in ourselves our deep-seated craving for beauty.  We’ve heard that to have a heart that really loves mercy, to have a heart that really broken over injustice, we should probably think twice about merrymaking. But beauty and joy and celebrations are not at all antithesis to our identity as Christians. Rather the opposite; celebrations are at the very heart of our Father God. All throughout the Bible we see, over and over and over again, this idea of gathering together in the mutual enjoyment of this wild and beautiful life. And we crave it. We crave beauty, we crave togetherness, and we crave wholeness.

Maybe it doesn’t make sense to live this way. Maybe it’s all more complicated than this. But I think my God is big enough that I don’t have to choose between beauty and truth. I think my God is big enough that I don’t have to reject the beautiful things He’s created in order to love mercy. So instead of understanding it all, I just want to embrace this mystery. The mystery of God, the mystery of this life, the mystery of serving the One who lets all these disparate things — beauty, injustice, death, love — coexist, and even, somehow, weaves them all together with redemption in a tapestry altogether glorious.

So let yourself be freed from legalism this Christmas. Let yourself be free to savor the deep, beautiful goodness of God, and drink in the wonder of His Advent, even if everyone around you is cramming in commercialism until the season nearly bursts with misunderstanding, and even as the news broadcasts keep rolling, and even as there is still work to be done.

“Here is the world”, said Frederick Buechner. “Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.” [6]

Uncategorized

POETRY & WORDS :: Don’t Let Darkness Cause You to Hide From Beauty

Don't Let the Darkness Make You Shink From Beauty

There was a lot less rambling here, this summer. Because there was a lot more of this, and this, there and there and there and everywhere.

And so I wrote less.

Because it’s so heavy to know, and yet not know what to do.

Because it’s so heavy to hear all about the death and the disease and the abandonment and the starvation and the cries, and be so heart-wrenchingly aware that you still just stand here with the ability to just turn it off and stop listening.

And so I wrote less and showed up here less often, and shared fewer pretty things, and stopped saying, please, just would you look at the sunrise? And would you just look at the person next to you, and realize how alive they are? And I stopped coming here to nudge you to see the beauty in the clouds and in the rain, and in your cold coffee and in your traffic jams and in your sleeplessness.

But that’s not right.

When a mountain top is ravaged by wildfire, and the stones crumble and the trees turn to powder and ash and the blackness covers everything, when in that trembling heap a small green stem unfurls and pushes through and raises his brave head to show us his brightly colored petals, wet with dew — when that happens, we don’t turn away because there is ash all around. No, we lock eyes with the flower. We see the sun shining on it, we see the contrast between death and life, and we embrace that little jewel of life with all the strength our weak arms can grasp.

We’re not afraid that loving the flower means we don’t grasp the seriousness of the ravages of disaster.  We don’t ever worry that our voice, tiny in this world, calling out “Look! There is beauty! See it burst through!” makes the burnt mountain worse — we just love every precious delicate petal and call out and cry out and cling to the light and the beauty and the hope of it all.

So maybe that’s why some of us are put here on this earth. We see the fear and the disaster and the starvation and the longing for Hope, and we also see the flower pushing through the rubble of it all. And maybe some of us are put here to be voices calling others to look to the Light. Look to the Hope.

There is Beauty still.

Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: Five Months Ago, She Slipped Away

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Five months ago, she was met with the loudest hallelujahs.

I didn’t hear any of them.

Five months ago, she slipped free from this realm.

I’m still earthbound.

These five months have been the longest, and the shortest.  It feels like I should be able to walk backwards, at any time, and fall right back into where I was when we were all a decade younger and a decade louder and only a decade away from the day when she’d fly home, right there, in front of all of us.

Oh, if we would have known then that those Friday nights were once-in-a-lifetime, if we would have known then that’s all we were given on this side of the sky. But we didn’t know, of course; we never knew and we still don’t know. Today we might very well be sitting inside the same kind of golden moment that will we’ll look back on from the next decade, the same golden moment that we will look back on through the fading edges of time. We’ll want to grab it; but we won’t be able to.

But we can hold on to this moment we’re sitting inside of now.

We can hold onto it now, and hold on to our people, and hold onto it all while we can, hold onto it with open arms and wild abandon and the kind of joy that’s poured out of heaven’s lap itself — we can hold onto it all until it’s time to let go. And then we’ll hold onto our God, and he’ll hold onto us, and he’ll hold us there in the storm so we won’t fold over when the winds grows fierce and the winds rip up the roots and the winds change it all.

And in the quietness and in the roar, through the tears and the laughter and the journeys that make up everyday living, I can sing —

— it is well

it is well

it is well with my soul.

 

Life in Photos, Little Style, Poetry & Words

LIFE IN PHOTOS :: June is always full of hope

Tropical Blooms, Sidewalks of June Tropical Blooms, Sidewalks of JuneTropical Blooms, Sidewalks of June Tropical Blooms, Sidewalks of June Tropical Blooms, Sidewalks of JuneTropical Blooms, Sidewalks of June Tropical Blooms, Sidewalks of June

More so than January, June always seems poetic, young, full of promise. Even in the tropics, where there is no line of demarcation between winter and spring, between brown and green, between cold and warm — even here, June is full of hope. I turn the calendar page, and I hear it sing.

“Did it grow flowers yet? Did it grow flowers?” she asks of crumbling earth and tiny seeds and an old clay pot.

“No”, I tell her. “Not yet.”

But maybe this will be the year.

Life in Photos, Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: After the Deluge

30 April 2014- Daydreaming Afternoon Rain

Monday’s post about choosing joy in the rain was barely posted when I had the opportunity to live it. That’s the way it works, isn’t it? It’s like telling God you’d like to be a more patient person — and then ::wham!:: many opportunities to practice patience appear before your eyes.

April went out with a monsoon, inside and outside. Outside, a diluvial sheet of water bent and twisted and contorted, darkening the sky, punctuated with electric bursts of thunder. Inside, an email quietly said no to something we all had hoped for.

Inside, outside, inside, outside.

It wasn’t until after the Flood that hope arrived. It wasn’t until everything drowned and the rains stopped and the earth heaved under the weight of the water that the rainbow appeared. It wasn’t until then that the olive branch soared across the horizon and into view.

“Now let the music keep
our spirits high
And let the buildings keep
our children dry
Let creation reveal its secrets
by and by, by and by
When the light that’s lost within us
reaches the sky

…And when the sand was gone
and the time arrived…
And in attempts to understand a thing
so simple and so huge
believed that they were meant to live
after the deluge.
” -Jackson Browne

Poetry & Words

She’s outside of time. We’re in it.

One week and three days. That’s how long it’s been since Holly left this earth. Thirty years she lived on this side of eternal life.

“We are not alone / We are more than flesh and bone / What is seen will pass away / What is not is going home…” –Andrew Peterson

Donations to Ethopian school  Ziway Adami Tulu in memory of Holly Lutterman[Donate in Holly’s memory to the The Ziway + Adami Tulu Project]

And now, she’s home.

She’s dancing in the pure Light, healed. 

She’s outside of time. We’re in it. She’s free, and we’re trapped, feeling deeply the ebb and flow of new grief, constantly aware of life’s frailty.

The thing about death, you know, is that the living keep on living.

“The living can’t quit living,” Wendell Berry writes. “They can’t because they don’t. The light that shines into darkness and never goes out calls them on into life. It calls them back again into the great room. It calls them into their bodies and into the world, into whatever the world will require. It calls them into work and pleasure, goodness and beauty, and the company of other loved ones.”

And so we can’t quit. We don’t. We keep on, changed. Our perspectives shift, our priorities shift, our vision is altered. But we don’t quit.

We mourn, but not without hope. We grieve, but not without hope.

Hope is the anchor.

Hope points me to the “holy shores of uncreated light“, and the One who lights the way.

“‘Praise, Praise!’ I croak. Praise God for all that’s holy, cold, and dark. Praise him for all we lose, for all the river of the years bears off. Praise him for stillness in the wake of pain. Praise him for emptiness. And as you race to spill into the sea, praise him yourself, old Wear. Praise him for dying and the peace of death.

…Now that I can hardly walk, I crawl to meet him there. He takes me in his chilly lap to wash me of my sins. Or I kneel down beside him till within his depths I see a star.

Sometimes this star is still. Sometimes she dances. She is [Holly]’s star. Within that little pool of Wear she winks at me. I wink at her. The secret that we share I cannot tell in full. But this much I will tell. What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.” -Frederick Buechner

Poetry & Words

GABRIEL 1997-2004 :: On Grief and the Golden Thread

Oaxacaborn - Gabriel B. - On Grief and the Golden Thread
Gabriel B. - On Grief and the Golden Thread
Oaxacaborn blog - Gabriel B. - On Grief and the Golden Thread

God, who are we
to moan and weep
when it is not he
but we
who sleep?

GABRIEL B., NOVEMBER 12, 1997 – JULY 10, 2004

I remember where I was sitting when I heard it was coming, and how I got up out of my chair and ran down the hallway, blind from hot tears, not knowing where I was going, and I remember how the sun burned down when I stood there on the porch, and I looked up, and knew in an instant he was gone. It felt wrong for the sun to be so bright, it felt wrong to be breathing; and later, it felt wrong for berries to be so vividly blue, it felt wrong to taste their broken sweetness, twisted as they were into the batter of the pancakes we ate out back, under the deep-rooted oak.

But color doesn’t fade when grief comes; it is only blurred for a moment because our vision trembles. But it doesn’t fade; it doesn’t rust and it doesn’t crumble, because “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed”.* It shines, and it is brilliant in color, and it is love, and “Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery.”**

My vision trembles from time to time, again, even now over the years; I see the blur in a memory, in notes of a song, or in the way sun shoots down through the woolen clouds even when it’s most dark. I see the blur, and I know it is well with my soul.

Today is different than that day because I’ve learned it’s not wrong for the sun to be so bright, it’s not wrong to revel in the taste of the blueberry or the way the daffodil splits the earth in the spring.

“The living can’t quit living…They can’t because they don’t. The light that shines into darkness and never goes out calls them on into life. It calls them back again into the great room. It calls them into their bodies and into the world, into whatever the world will require. It calls them into work and pleasure, goodness and beauty, and the company of other loved ones.”**

*Hebrews 10:39
**Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter

Life in Photos

LIFE IN PHOTOS :: A Deeper Country

3d cardboard letters spelling out HOPE, roses in glass bottles, and t-rex print from Yellow Heart Art
September 2013 - Florida rainstorm

“It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different – deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more.” -C.S. Lewis