advent, Christianity, poetry

weight and age

my house has been creaking and groaning lately

joints stiffened, spine misaligned

old wounds throbbing with the shift in the weather

for the first time i noticed a silver thread

among the cowlick hair shocked upright

by the scar that arcs down my head

it joins the company of others earlier earned

i am still so very young, but, when winter comes

i feel the weight of mortality in my bones.

You were my age, once upon a time

a man with wood-roughened hands

and an appearance not amounting to much

since isaiah told the story true —

yet in You eternal joy and the weight

of earthly woe were entwined

a wedding of ancient and ephemeral

fully in-personed in our frail flesh

six years away from a body broken.

so Who were you then,

Son of God and son of a table-maker?

even there i suppose You knew the words i’d write today

fumbling my way toward a greater glimpse of glory

You who of all were sinless still were subject

to a creation cursed by adam’s fall

You the Light had eyesight limited by darkness

You the Healer experienced exhaustion

every fibre of our feebleness You identified with intimately

sleeping, waking, walking, eating … aging

every moment of my life You’ve experienced

sinless at each of the steps i stumbled down

man was made in the image of God

but God made Himself into a Man

and played the same rules He’d written for us

so You, young as You were

once also felt the weight of the world in Your bones

and You, ageless as You are

still carry it for me

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advent, Christianity, poetry

strange sunrise

i looked out the window

at the perfect moment one morning

to see the sky washed

in raspberry-colored clouds

as the sun conquered the horizon

when i looked back a few minutes later

the blaze had faded

and the naked trees were stark

against a background of gray

brilliance swallowed by gloom

– — –

so it was centuries ago

when a Sunrise scripted

before the dawn of time

was delivered in darkness

immutable Light immured

within confines of flesh

infinite energy and finite frailty

yoked in the body of a baby

fully God, but fully human

intimately acquainted

with every aspect

of earthly existence

a strange savior

this helpless infant

the Word incarnate wordless

’til He learned to talk

a warrior Lord

who could not walk

but lay helpless

kicking His legs until

stronger arms could

carry Him

and such a One

was sent to save?

why birth a child

into a grave

in sin-scarred night?

so the humble King

could wake us up again

in Son-kissed light

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advent, Christianity, poetry

cold, comfort and joy

i walked down the chilly sidewalk

past the rusty frozen oak leaves

and the bird-pecked pines

slowly oozing sap like candle wax

the wind turned my bare hands blue

when i was unwise enough

to pull them from my pockets

we few inhabitants of the park

were silent on our solitary strolls

under that close and clouded sky

in winter the world shows its age

i passed a pair of dying trees

nearly shed of bark

their gleaming trunks exposed like bone

and i remembered all the seeds

planted in the soil this year

old bodies buried beneath the ground

until the day they’ll sprout

and go dancing through the dawn

around a bend in the path

i saw a row of baby saplings

their roots warmed by mufflers of mulch

i eyed their slender trunks

their crisped, curly leaves

and wondered how many

would survive the snows ’til spring

yet what lies beneath is hidden

to my eyes, and deep down

the dormant life awaits awakening

nearing home i left the path

and walked across the field

of drooping grass and leaves

rain-wet lichens shown brilliantly

from the apple tree’s bare branches

and on its neighbor lilac i noticed

new buds forming green and fresh

next to summer’s withered blooms

i scaled the steps and with stiffened fingers

turned the key in the lock, walking into

the welcoming smells of home

in the living room the Christmas lights

twinkled from the tree

and though my face was red

and white with cold

my heart, bright with rebirth

sang joy, joy, joy

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Christianity, photography

assigned and called

DSC_5837

i have a confession to make. i have glamour envy.

(“what’s glamour envy?”)

i talked a little bit about it here. you might have noticed that post is from two and a half years ago. i’m slow at learning this lesson.

what i mean by “glamour envy” is that, some days, i look at my life — what i’m doing right then or what i’m doing in general — then look at, or mentally compare it to, someone else’s life, and think, “man, what am i doing?” or “why is her life so glamorous and gorgeous and mine is so … mundane?” or “why does she get to have all the amazing adventures?”

even a little bit of envy is an ugly thing. the new testament letter writers don’t mince words about envy:

“they were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. they are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness …” — romans 1:29

“for we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” — titus 3:3

“so put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” — 1 peter 2:1

buuuuuuuuuuuuut — i start to think.

no.

but –

no. there’s no “little bit of harmless envy.” it all must go. (notice how envy and malice are coupled or near each other in all three of those examples.)

but … okay. that can sound kind of negative, which isn’t necessarily an impetus to change our (my) behavior and treat the root of this problem. merely telling yourself not to be dissatisfied with your life will not solve the problem of your dissatisfaction (hear that, self?).

i’m reading through the new testament again and one verse that i am always comforted by, every time i re-read it, is 1 corinthians 7:17:

“only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. this is my rule in all the churches.”

the greater context here is that of being a bondservant or slave versus a free person, being married versus being single, or being circumcised or uncircumcised. paul is saying, to my understanding, “don’t fret about your circumstances, and don’t compare them or yourselves to others. God called you, and He called you in this particular state of being or point in life, so don’t think you can’t serve God or be fully alive because your circumstances or person don’t match your (or someone else’s) ideal.” i like the way eugene peterson paraphrases it in the message:

“and don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. where you are right now is God’s place for you. live and obey and love and believe right there. …”

the fact that God assigned me a particular life and called me to it for His own glorious reasons is no end of encouraging, if i take the time to humbly remember the fact. it reminds me of what Jesus says to peter after He’s called him to take care of His church.

and after saying this He said to him, “follow Me.”

peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against Him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray You?” when peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “if it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? you follow Me!” — john 21:19b-22

so, what about that man and his heroic life? what about that woman and the way that seemingly everything she does oozes glamour? be who you are, where you are, with all you have. (and, as jim elliot said, “wherever you are, be all there.” that’s important to remember, too.)

of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with glamour, and there’s nothing wrong with being heroic. the problem comes when we idolize the qualities themselves or the people we think exhibit them.

they are people, just like you and me — yes, despite all appearances to the contrary. sometimes they have halitosis or stinky feet or pimples; sometimes they don’t go anywhere interesting (or anywhere at all) on friday nights; sometimes they eat too many cookies; sometimes they get scared or lonely or frustrated or bored or blue or headachey or just plain hoppin’ mad.

also, along with the unique lives God gives each of us, He gives us unique perspectives and unique ways of delighting in Him and His creation. i’ve lived in the kansas city suburbs all my life, for instance, but because of who my family is and where they live (or have lived), i’m steeped in prairie sunsets and can find beauty in the muted golds and silvers and bronzes of the cold-kissed grasses and dying wildflowers in my grandparents’ “back 40.”

and at the same time, maybe our (my) perspective on what is and what isn’t “glamorous” is warped.

is glamour all red lipstick and pearls (both of which i’m wearing in the photo that tops this post, as i try to look both heroic and glamorous in the dying november light)? or is it glamorous to crawl around the foyer on your hands and knees picking up stray twigs and pine needles because, oh my goodness, you have an entire tree in your house?! is it glamorous to play duck, duck, snow tiger with a gaggle of little girls and be adopted as the new best friend of the little girl sitting on your lap, who is wearing a pink sparkly kitty hat? is it glamorous to tell your nephew bedtime stories about submarines and aircraft carriers that make you realize how little you know of the navy and hope to goodness you haven’t told him anything that isn’t true? is it glamorous to find yourself wedged behind a door wearing an easter bonnet made for a two-year-old and trying to balance a “tea tray” in one hand at your “airplane seat” while your niece cheerfully empties the contents of her bookshelf into your other arm so you’ll have plenty to read during your “flight”?

yes, i think maybe it is.

this is my reminder to rejoice in the life i’ve been given and expand my definition of concepts like glamour, adventure and beauty.

and it’s a reminder for you, too, friend, wherever God has you.

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art, photography

the spy who stayed out in the cold

“hey, would you like to be part of a wes anderson-inspired photoshoot?” i texted the gogglette a few weeks ago.

“um, YES.” she replied. i’m glad i have friends like that.

i didn’t have much concrete inspiration at that point other than my knowledge of anderson’s the fantastic mr. fox, moonrise kingdom, the grand budapest hotel, and the fact that i was wearing pumpkin-coloured corduroy pants that were about two inches too short.

during the next week or two i conducted fact-finding missions, leafed through the wes anderson collection, contacted other potential participants, had other potential participants volunteer, wished i looked as good in bright yellow as natalie portman does in hotel chevalier, shivered through the first of november’s cold blasts, and watched my participants dwindle in the face of kansas (okay, technically missouri) weather. a possibility of seven inches of snow, by some accounts, was predicted for the day scheduled for the shoot. but the gogglette was game, despite threats of impending doom … er, snow.

“what are your thoughts about photos today?” she texted me. as in, “what’s your inspiration?” good question. “because i’ve convinced myself i’m a dead-faced ingrid [insert something i’ve forgotten that had to do with eastern europe] … but i could convince myself otherwise.” aha! eastern europe. that sounded promising, because, at that point, i didn’t really have any sort of coherent vision, since the cast situation had been in flux. i scurried around the house picking up anything that looked remotely eastern european (and a few things i just thought were interesting), shoved them in the case i keep my stationery in, and sped away in my black rabbit to meet the gogglette at the nelson-atkins museum of art in kansas city.

in the end, much of our/(my) inspiration came from the grand budapest hotel, lenin’s tomb, agatha christie’s destination unknown, the shop around the corner, the spy who came in from the cold, and soviet propaganda.

the following photos illustrate the story of ingrid … but what precisely that story is remains for you to discover. is it a heist? is it a swap of top-secret documents? what do all those rendezvous with russian literature mean … and why does she slip behind the iron curtain? innocence abroad and the gogglette bring you … the spy who stayed out in the cold.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10b

11

12

13

14

15

16b

17

18b

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31_correct

32b

33

34

35

36b

37

38

39b

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family, photography

blackwatch hallowe’en

what do you dress your dog up as for hallowe’en?
1e
well, if he’s a wee woolly scotsbeast, you dress him in a proper kilt.
2e
and then, though you’re not at all scottish yourself, as far as bloodlines go … you make sure you have a dress to match his kilt so people will know you belong together.
3e
4e
5e
after all, you’re both curious …
6e
have sometimes unmanageable hair …
7e
but like to look stylish, all the same.
8e
9e
there’s just nothing quite like a good dog.
10a
or a good friend.
11a
or robbie lewis, my dear fuzzy, fiesty little scallywag of a scottie.
12a
happy hallowe’en, from our house to yours!
13a

 

photos by blaine freidline.

 

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