Friday, March 28, 2014

Looking For Something: William Stafford

There was a new display at my local library: William Stafford, pacifist.  I was intrigued.  Would I actually find the time to read his works, I took a chance and checked out a couple of books.  For a week they sat, collecting dust.  I expressed wanting something rich and contemplative to read to my husband.  His response, "You'll find something."

The next afternoon I made myself a cup of tea, pulled the chair close to the fire, and opened, Ask Me, 100 essential poems by William Stafford.  It was perfect.  I love the layers that poetry allows.  As I was reading I was reflecting on the Bible and how much of the Bible is written in poetry.  There was a similarity in the works of Stafford: a seeing, reflecting, yearning, and searching...the same that I find when I read the Psalms.

This is what I needed.  Over the course of the week I gave myself rest and read this man's thoughts.

I even shared a couple with my 9-year-old son and he smiled as he read.  We read together, "With Kit, Ag 7, at the Beach."

The stanza that we both liked the best was:

"How far could you swim, Daddy,
in such a storm?"
"As far as was needed," I said,
and as I talked, I swam.

I also loved "Passing Remark"

In scenery I like flat country.
In life I don't like much to happen.

In personalities I like mild colorless people.
And in colors I prefer gray and brown.

My wife, a vivid girl from the mountains,
says, "Then why did you choose me?"

Mildly I lowered my brown eyes-
there are so many things admirable people do not understand.

Other favorites of mine were/are:

"Once in the 40s"
"In the Oregon Country"
"First Grade"
"A Farewell, Age Ten"
"Easter Morning"

I'm always gravitating toward memoirs, biographies, and fictions, but why not a book of poetry from time to time.  Its a different type of indulgence.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Craving Simple, Craving Deep

It has been a progression.  It has taken the last three years, or so.  I opened myself up to the possibility that I perhaps had put God in numerous boxes that made me feel safe and secure, but were in fact not really accurate or true....or they are true, but I need to own them more versus just accepting them because that is what others have told me.   I have allowed God to change me through relationships, creation, circumstances, conversations, listening....and I'm still on this trajectory.  Faith is not a straight ladder to some place of ultimate arrival, but rather a cyclical turning and renewal process.  Sometimes this can be very frustrating and lonely.  I'm attempting to find contentment in the gray spaces and not rush the process so I feel safe.  Sometimes I miss the black and white.

The thing is, I'm more and more overwhelmed by the reality and greatness of God and less and less enamored with church as a place of knowing God.  Now before you throw me into a category of disbelief, hear me out.  Church still plays an importance in our family life.  But, my husband and I feel more like observers than participants, and I think it is because God is very confined in church and not very real, at least in the ways I'm learning to hear and worship him.

My dialogue with God is looking more like poetry and less like prose, and when that happens one needs space, and church isn't about space.  Church is about going, being seen, interacting, being on board with a certain goal or purpose that is being pushed by the church leadership at the time.  Which is fine, but I find myself in conflict often with that goal or purpose.  What if my calling is different than what is being stated from the pulpit?  Do I then have to throw out my calling and get on board with the group?  Or, do I recognize that there is much good for me to hear and listen to, but that the word of Christ might look different in my life and in my circumstances.  Church is less about the hour of song and word, but more about the dialogue on the drive home, the dialogue through the week. the wrestle, the disagree, the agree, and the revelation.

I'm soaking in the enormity of God, which means I'm stopping in the silence and being overwhelmed by the awesomeness of the small.  One day I headed out to the shop to put away the boys' bikes and close up the garage door, which faces west.  I stopped.  I stopped my path and I looked.  The sunset overwhelmed me, and I decided to honor God and recognize the truth of him in that moment.  I breathed, and I felt my belief in God was real.  The love of God was great.  The truth of God was there.

When I'm helping my youngest master bike riding, I stop and notice the dried earth and dirt, the yellow weeds pushing themselves through the cracks in the ground: the beauty, the systems, and laws of nature that work life into order.  This also brings forth my gratefulness and humbles me into something very small.

I read something disturbing the other day. Someone was claiming that we shouldn't like our lives on earth, we should be saddened by them, they should be frustrating and hard because this earth was not our home, but that we should want to spend as much time in church as possible since that mirrors heaven, and we should crave heaven where we finally have peace.  (If this was not us, something was wrong with our spiritual life.)

The thing is, I have peace now, and I love the earth that God created.  I crave more of it, and I don't want it to come to an end any time soon.  I start second-guessing my faith when I read other Christians say statements like the above.  I start wondering what is wrong with me that I don't desire more time in church, that I'd rather go to the beach on a Sunday, that I regret going to church on Easter and think we should go for an Easter hike next year, and that the chaos that is Sunday morning does nothing for my soul. I start getting scared. I start to panic and I start to reconstruct my God-boxes and hug them to my chest like a baby's blanket.

Then I remember those in my past who loved God fiercely, but also loved life and wanted a life as long as possible.  The person I remember is my grandfather.  He lived to be 97 and he wanted more.  He didn't give up on living until minutes before his death.  He was in a bit restless and fighting in the hour leading up to his end.  Family members finally put on sacred music and this seemed to calm him into acceptance.  He loved nature.  He loved Oregon.  I realize now that this introvert found God in these mountain places.  I can still remember my grandma describing a tree and the beauty in its height. They taught each other how to know God.  In his early 90's he was ordering remedies that would lengthen his life.  He was NOT quitting, and I think we are, none of us, supposed to quit.  Life is this crazy, unfathomable, gift and the way I respect it is by living it and soaking in all its corners.  The living of my life is integrated into the understanding and the not understanding God.  The not understanding God is just as important as the comprehending, because admitting you don't understand God is admitting you are completely human and completely small and completely only saved by Grace.  In all this I whisper the name of Jesus.