Hard shell. Soft shell. Molded plastic. Plastic-coated cardboard.
Their telltale shape declares what magic they contain. The gentle feminine curves revealing the carrier to be musically inclined.
I’ve seen them in cars, restaurants, airplanes. In all varieties of travel. I have seen them being held by the handle, cross shoulder by the strap, worn as a backpack.
As a child I remember my mom’s clearly. The small hinges intriguing to my small fingers, I would unclasp the buckles, one at a time. Sometimes I would forget the one on the bottom curve. Why won’t you open? Then my little mind would grasp my omission and I would unbuckle the last causing the case to open.
What was inside?
First, a big, wooden curved instrument. Pleasing prospect, the case matches its occupant. Delicate strings adorning its face. Gut or metal both able to resonate the notes needed. Plink! goes the string as I pinch one. I strum across the face, a nice tone emits.
Removing the instrument reveals a small hidden door. I lift it. Inside lurks extra strings. Aw, more treasure, some picks. Little plastic novelties. I choose one based on size and color. I run it across the strings, another soft strum occurs.
So much promise contained within a guitar case.
Jacob the Man
Jacob, the man, has turned 21
When help is needed to you he runs.
Not away, but towards the fire,
To fear no captive he.
His prayers ascend from his lips,
his movements match his love.
Present and aware,
He fully enters in.
And when all is safe,
he’ll sit satisfied and true,
Crack some silly jokes
With smile beaming broad.
And all because a man from Galilee
reigns in his heart.
Off plane, we catch a taxi, diesel fumes assault my nose,
Twitching and inhaling as if awakened from a doze.
The mind alert and smiling, enjoying each new sense
We have left Oklahoma and I’m five in Great Britain.
She walks me over London to parks some with water, some just green.
She takes us to the changing of the Guard, I make a scene.
“Forward march!” they do yell, “Forward fart!” I echo well.
Her hand clamps upon my arm, the Brits are thinking, Bloody hell!
She must be American, but look she’s just a tot.
Angry stares subside, we decamp from the spot.
After tea, after nap, after yawning in the bed,
Adventures await us to see treasures of which we’ve read.
The vibrant colors of the jewels, the ghostly figures at Tussauds,
A dollhouse made for royalty I love the best of them all.
Small, stuffed tennis teddy bears, another in lace gown,
my tomboy nature takes a nap as I gaze around.
And all I know in the angry, tear-streaked years that followed,
was I wish I could have stayed in that flat in London.
I look at a brass rubbing my grandmother made over 40 years ago. She was living in England at the time. Immortalized in a photo, she smiles at the camera. While she was still living she and I had found it buried in a box with a bunch of others. She had me tape it to the back of her largest framed piece. ( the one above)
She, wearing her knitted cap to keep her hair out of her eyes, looked and felt smart. She was fifty-something, tall and pretty. Later she would tell me this was her favorite age.
On this day she and her friend, Cecilia, take a train to a nearby village. Cecilia was a wonderful photographer, always armed with camera and film. They walk a short way to the church. She finds a monumental brass of a long dead knight, his likeness now immortalized in stone, marking his grave.
She brushes the brass clean, places the white butcher paper over the figure, and tapes the corners. She draws out a vibrant blue from her waxes and begins rubbing the paper. Over and over the surface she rubs and rubs. Blue wax transfers the etching to her paper, capturing the image.
Over forty years have passed, she would be in her 90’s now.
And I pause.
She and my grandfather etched upon their own son’s life: Some of it good, some of it not.
He and my mother have etched upon mine: Some of it good, some of it not.
I am just shy of having lived to the age she was in this photo. I am realizing that the rubbings they have left are just that, waxy residues of their dreams, hopes and failures. And I am slow to judge realizing I have left my own waxy residues upon my children’s lives.
With fresh eyes, I tape the corners securely to the Stone of my choosing. His monument the one my heart longs to copy, the impressions He left on this world by His life and teachings the most beautiful:
Mercy triumphs over judgement.
He is not willing that any should perish.
Love never fails.
Taking wax in hand, I rub with renewed strength and focus, breathing petitions of help for a work that will reflect His grace.
(My version, Oct. 25th, 2014)
For want of a prayer the father was lost.
For want of a father the mother was lost.
For want of a mother the child was lost.
For want of a child the dream was lost.
For want of a dream the hope was lost.
For want of hope the battle was lost.
For want of the battle the family’s kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a father’s prayer.
Our only son has been in a foreign country working on a ranch with two families. It has been their life’s work. He, some young blood to get some physical jobs done.
He comes home Friday and if it is in the Lord’s plan, if he arrives safely and on time, I will get to see his face, hug that man child, and probably cry buckets of tears.
During the six months he has been gone I was led to fast….from sugar, Facebook, t.v. and movies. Whenever these desires came upon me instead I would pray for him, for them, for other young men and women who the Lord has placed in my life.
I have lost over 20 pounds during this time. This result I am thankful for. It is one of the tangible effects of these last six months fast. Something I can feel, I can see, I am joyful about.
But what about the things unseen?
Do my decisions have effects that I am not even aware of? I am sure of it, even though I don’t see it.
Another friend entered the sugar aspect of this fast with me, together we have prayed. We have felt burdens on the same days without knowing each other were experiencing the same things. There has been a mutual spiritual war we have entered into. Against our own fleshly desires foremost. With an awareness of a battle on the periphery of our spiritual vision but still very real.
Another aspect of growth has been the growing awareness of sinful thoughts and attitudes within myself when I have become annoyed at family, friends, situations. And the Lord has been quick to show me my error. My own surrenders have been accomplished faster, with the tangible offshoots from those being immediate. The lasting fruit has been better communication, humility and abiding peace within the relationships or within myself.
Now I would like to clarify here that I confess my salvation was purchased by Jesus Christ alone, by grace alone…no work on my part imparted this beautiful gift to me. My understanding is that sanctification is the ongoing, spiritual struggle that occurs between my flesh and my new God imparted God honoring desires. Paul speaks about this in Chapter 7 of the book of Romans found in the New Testament of the Holy Bible.
There have also been relationships that have seemed to explode before my eyes…shrapnel flying…pieces lodging within my own heart as I was caught in the cross fire. I have had to stand sentinel and pray. I hope and wait for forgiveness between the parties, for healing, for true and lasting restoration. These are all outside of my ability to create. They are a work of God. They are the convicting work of His Holy Spirit. He is real, concrete and only He can set captives free.
He longs to.
And yesterday as I was grieving the passing of Robin Williams, the fractured relationships in the lives of those around me, hurting people….I mused that sometimes our perspective becomes inverted.
That when I sin, why do I shake my hands at God as if He were to blame for all my actions? He is Good. I am most definitely not.
Nor do I know any good people. I know broken, hurting, forgiven, bitter, angry, joyful, restored, surrendered people. But no good people.
And I was thinking how human nature, in its bentness as C. S. Lewis would say, climbs the summit of insolence with sinful act after sinful act, with proud decision after proud decision to finally reach the mountaintop to only rail at Him for all our sins. Shaking fist at the heavens. Isolated and alone atop that freezing, barren pinnacle. Frozen in hatred and unforgiveness.
He, the good One. He, the Holy One. Me, the created one. Me, the selfish. Me, the needy one.
What audacity is it to blame my brokenness on Him? To blame our worlds brokenness on Him?
That further illuminates to me how broken we truly, intrinsically are.
Does He leave us on those mountaintops, frozen and alone? Proud and aloof?
No, He stooped down and laid down His life that He might impart it to those very ones that railed and nailed and scorned and rejected. His life in us, the only hope of glory…in this life and in the one to come.
Revelation Chapter 5
And I weep with sorrow at the hurt, at the loss, at our pride. The seeds sown, the weeds grown, the tangled mass of thorns, this present hell, here and now, choking out life.
And I weep with joy for His love, His mercy, His grace that He longs to pour out on humanity. When His seed received, His fruit grown in us, the weeds dry up and blow away on the wind.
He has become my Vanquisher. His name is Jesus Christ and I am thankful to call Him my Lord and Savior.