Wednesday, December 22, 2004

L' Enchante' -- The Enchanted One

The story of L' Enchante' is beautifully told by Brennan Manning in the devotional, "Watch for the Light, Readings for Advent and Christmas (Plough, Farmington, PA 800-521-8011). The tale comes from the forests of Provence in the south of France. This is my telling:

L' Enchante'

We sat beneath the canopy of stars, the air brisk with Autumn, dense with stars. We believe L'Enchante heard the singing first, he grew quiet, holding his knees and rocking 'til an angel appeared.

Light like a star come down.
Voice like a fire inside of you.
Looking like a man,
proclaiming the amazing:

"Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you are to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."

Then, we too, heard the praise singing.
We saw the heavenly host descend.

"Glory to God in the heavenly heights
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him."

We said amen, and watched the host ascend in prisms of light.
Amen, we cried again, the Savior is born.

L'Enchante' said nothing at all.

We talked and knew that we must go and see Him, grateful that lowly shepherds could have the chance. We rushed to the city of David, sharing laughter-- a tangle of boisterous amazement, running the hills, leaving the sheep in God's hands.

We did not go empty.

We brought our eggs, our bread and cheese, and wine. We would offer our meager feast, believing somehow we would nourish the family of God.

L' Enchante brought nothing at all.

We went to Him, we gave Him of our substance. We looked in wonder upon Wonder full. Before we left, we spent time with His father and mother. We prayed with them, and wished them well.

But where was L' Enchante'? We could not see him anywhere.

Until we were quiet,
and followed his soft song.

"Jesu, Jesu, Jesu--Jesus, Jesus, Jesus," he crooned.

His voice soared skyward as such, that we lifted our eyes to see if he too, had ascended.
He had not. He simply knelt by the crib, his hand touching the blanket of the child.
L' Enchante'-- the enchanted one,
Rocking,
Crying,
Singing,

"Jesu, Jesu, Jesu,
Jesus."

Holding Him tenderly in his heart,
whispering praises to the babe,
knowing the beauty of the child.

Gently, like you would cradle a child,
gently, in adoration.

Merry Christmas.

Scripture references from The Message, Luke 2:8-18.






Sunday, December 19, 2004

Incarnation

You came to see the baby.

You didn't? You thought I was going to say something beautiful, or deep, or profound. That's really nice of you, but listen, I'll tell you a little something about me, and it's really all you need to know, my bio, so to speak. Personally, I don't really have anything for you. I didn't come with anything, and when I go, I ain't taking nothing with me. I don't even think I'd be here at all if this wasn't free and easy to use. I'm only here to show you the Baby, and whether or not you know it, that is the only reason why you're here.

I know. It ain't what you expectected. It's kinda chilly, and that's a hell of a draft. Makes you worry about Him. Is He going to be okay out here. Look, don't worry about Him. He didn't come all this way to catch His death of pneumonia. It's you you need to be concerned about.

Yeah, you're right. It smells like shit out here. And animals. This ain't the Ritz Carleton. It is what it is, but this is what God chose. I think He's making a statement. It's messy, too. This wasn't no hippie, home birth, candles glowing situation. It wasn't no sanitized, sterile, hospital. And it ain't the Inn. It is what it is. It's what God chose; dark, but starry night, hay, dirt, manger, animals, shit, cold breeze, blood, placenta, embryotic fluid. That stuff can get funky. It ain't what you expected, is it?

Come on in, and kneel down. The hay is scratchy, but it is what it is. Look at Jesus. See how tiny He is. You forget how small a newborn is until you see one. It don't make sense, do it? God coming here in the night, outside, where there ain't nothing but animals and shepherds. It's a trip. I don't understand it, but like you, God just wants me to sit here and see Him. This Baby. This God. It's a mystery.

You can touch him. Don't worry about washing your hands. Your germs aren't going to make God sick. I know He don't look like God. I know. It's crazy, but it's what God chose. Put your hand in there. His little fist will grab your finger. Amazing ain't it? Just do that for a minute, don't rush. Where you got to go so fast?

Smell him. It's not quite Johnson's baby lotion is it, but it's nice. It's the smell of a real baby, still moist from the waters of the womb. You gotta love how real that is. It's a coppery, acrid smell. Kinda like the smell of fresh blood, but this ain't the spilled blood that will kill Him. It ain't time for that yet. This is birth blood. It's different, and similar, at the same time.

You can kiss Him. Go ahead. He loves it. Look at how He responds to you. He loves to be kissed and cuddled. You ever hear that old wedding vow, with my body, I thee worship? They don't use that any more. Probably scares people. But you can worship with your body. Kiss Him some more. He's a baby. Love on him. Take your time. It's the most natural thing in the world.

Pick him up. It's okay, He ain't as delicate as He looks. Hold him. Don't worry about him spitting up on you. Whatever He gives you it's all good. Believe me, you can do a lot worse than have the Son of Man projectile vomit on you. Hold him well, though. He's resilient, but you can still drop Him, and that would be worse for you than it'd be for Him.

Adore Him. Take your time. Sit here all night if you have to. Sit here until you're different. Stare at Him. Breath Him in. He's a wondrous, amazing Grace. Immanuel. God with us. God for us, looking like us, drinking milk from His mama's breast, tiny and vulnerable, showing us that He's down with us. He's out here in the dark and cold, and He's needy like all babies are. What is God doing here? What is this nativity? Maybe if we sit here long enough, adoring Him, we'll figure it out. We'll understand what God is doing.

Take Him with you. I'm for real. He's yours. You can keep Him. Maybe if we take Him with us, we can get over all this crazyness about December 25. That's just a day, but this here, this baby is Christ. If we take Him with us, maybe we'll figure out that we're supposed to have a relationship with Him. We're supposed to keep adoring Him. He really belongs to us, in the same way we belong to Him.

Sounds like a lot of responsibility doesn't it? Nah. You're gonna be alright. Thy kingdom come is in your arms.

You got everything you need.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Somehow We Become (For all my writer girlfriends)

"As Jesus left the house, he was followed by two blind men crying out, "Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us!" When Jesus got home, the blind men went in with him. Jesus said to them, "Do you really believe I can do this? They said, "Why yes, Master."

"He touched their eyes and said, "Become what you believe." It happened. They saw." (Matthew 9:27-31, The Message)

Somehow we find each other in the dark. You are blind, and so am I. It's funny how these things happen. We don't attend a support group or braile class together. I simply hear you screaming and make my way to you. You simply hear me begging and make your way to me. I love you for that.

Somehow we stumble toward Jesus, tripping and falling, and bloodying our raggedy knees. It's not like we get much help. We're often misunderstood, you and me--a couple of blind chicks, trying to see Jesus, trying to write for him no matter that we're blind as bats. Two broads, you and me, big enough to dream that He can use us, inspite of our infirmities.

Somehow we understand each other. We are laughter pouring like fresh lemonade in the summer, down dry and thristy throats. We are wind, blowing through dreadlocks and straight hair, a little bit freeing, a little bit wild. You pray for me, and I pray for you. I offer you my meager substance, and in return, you feed me from your hand.

Somehow we find Him as he's leaving a house. We mourn what the dwellers there have lost. When Jesus moves, we want to move with Him. He doesn't mind it that we're blind. He loves like that. He loves like He's blind, too, only better.

Somehow we find ourselves before him. We've followed him, straining to hear his voice and footsteps. We've moved beyond the teachers who have said, "He's over there," as if we could see the direction they were pointing. At His feet we lift our anxious, dirt-stained faces upward to the Father, smelling the the scents that linger where Jesus lives. I am glad that you are here with me. It is fitting that we are together when we cry in one voice, "Have mercy on us."

"Do you really believe that I can do this?" Jesus asks, and we answer what we have known our entire lives. If we hadn't known, we would not have looked for Him.

"Yes, Master."

Jesus touches our dead eyes, and suddenly we are blinded by the colors swirling about us. Images startle and surprise, and we weep. We hold each other, because it's hard to understand all there is to see. Hang on to me, sister. Don't let me go. I need you.

I need you.

And it happens. We are what God has designed us to be. Pick up your scroll, your pen, your laptop. Write the vision. Make it plain. Be his voice. Be the sound of wind, and the sweet nectar of the rain.

We leave His house, but not His home. We clutch each other's hands, smiling our secret smiles, but keeping our secret...

even though we tell it to everyone we meet.

In love and courage,
Rags



Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Wintering

Sometimes I feel just like an ice sculpture. I can be beautiful and transparent, and at the same time, cold and immovable. It's hard to remember when you are frozen solid that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. That the same potter who fashions the clay, is the Ice Scuplter who works through the cold to make you into something lovely.

Another midwestern winter. Michigan is frigid and gray, and my soul dies a little bit more each time I meet the season. I'm glad I'm getting older. That means there won't be as many Decembers in front of me as there are behind me, and I take comfort in that, although it frightens me at the same time.

I guess I'm wintering. My body is numb with sleep, grasping at fleeting dreams of bright yellow dandelions and grass green enough to take one's breath away. I dream of awakening, having endured the sweet torture of the Ice Sculpters instruments, chipping away at blocks of useless me to reveal the wonder of who who and what I am beneath solid water.

How Jesus loves us, even in the winter when the days are short and the sky too dark. How He hurts with us, His tears falling to the desolate, aching earth, touching cold, turning into soft, white snow, swirling about this rigid, see-through soul.

I love you, Jesus. In spite of myself.

Come quickly, Lord, Sun of my soul,
and bring the blinding light of Spring with You,
swallowing the dark,
melting the icy me,
water giving way to earth,
nourishing it,
then straining back to Sun,
like petals
color wonderful
fragrant
and Your delight.

I'm awaiting your touch, Tender God of sun and snow
Your ragamuffin freeza

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Sometimes the Best Teaching...

It was a long time ago. My baby girl was six or seven. Now she has breasts and her own opinions. It was the season to be jolly--that serene and peaceful time of joy and retail sucess that we call the holidays--somewhere between Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Years Day (and probably seven or eight more that I either I can't think of or spell). We were watching the same classic programs on television that I loved when I was her age. That particular night: Frosty the Snowman.

This was in the mid-nineties, after the devastation of crack cocaine to small, urban communties like ours. There was a wonderful program in the schools. Police officers taught kids about the dangers of drugs. Project D.A.R.E. I have no idea what those letters stand for now. Something about drugs and resistance and education, I guess. It's a wonderful, needful thing in these dark times, and I was glad it was available for her.

So we're watching Frosty, and I'm watching Abeje, loving the joy and innocence I see shining in her little brown eyes, when suddenly her expression changed. Her eyes grew wide with horror. I searched the television screen to see what was causing her reaction, when she started pointing wildly to the television.

"MAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!"

"What is it, Abby?"

"Frosty the Snowman is on drugs!!!!!!!!"

"What???"

I stared at the screen wondering what on earth was making my child think Frosty was a crackhead.

It was that corncob pipe.

Oh no! Project D.A.R.E. taught my child that all tobacco use was drug use. Cigarettes, corncob pipes--maybe especially corncob pipes. It was all dope. And could ruin you. Indeed, destroy you and your community.

What was in that corncob pipe, anyway? I wondered if there was more than magic in that old silk hat they found. Where did they find it? Is magic another name for some new and dangerous street pharmacuetical. Like Ecstasy? Or God help us, Angel Dust?

Lord have mercy!

I never saw Frosty the Dopeman--uh, I mean Snowman, in the same way again, and I was never able to convince my daughter that the beloved character didn't need a 12 step program.

That just goes to show you. Sometimes, the best teaching can be terribly misinterpreted.

So take heart.

"It's true that moral guidance and counsel need to be given, but the way you say it, and to whom you say it are as important as what you say." (I Tim. 1:8 The Message)

and finally,

"Be cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove." (Matt. 10:16 The Message)

In love and fear of what made those misfit toys misfits,
God's raga