Thursday, August 26, 2010

An Enigmatic Life

While at the cabin . . .

I spent hours last night and today in the Scripture sifting through its pages and passages and mulling over the tragic and triumphant - confounding and confusing - comforting and conflicting - pitiful and precious - gritty and glorious life of David. Were his life a palette it would be a collage of contradictions . . .

Great heights to which a good man can ascend - yet great depths to which a good man can descend.

David was God's man - yet he was a fallen man.

His passions made him - yet his passions broke him.

He was a fountain of poetry and praise - yet often a sea of poison and pride.

He was a man after God's own heart - Yet he broke God's heart.

He lived close to God - Yet often estranged from God.

Men adored and died for him - Yet men loathed him to death.

He could be righteously crafty - Yet he could be ruthlessly shifty.

He was brilliant - Yet he was stupid.

David's Psalms were paradoxical - Raging against God and resting in God.

As was the father, so was the son - Solomon penned the wisdom of the Proverbs and the vanity of Ecclesiastes

David's story gives me hope - Yet his story frightens me.

I want to be like him - Yet I fear I am too much like him.

When all was said and done the New Testament Scriptures had the last word on David and chiseled his epitaph into the foundations of eternity . . . David served God in his generation - then he died.

In my journey . . .

Is it the beginning or middle - the highs or lows - the kudos or curses - the seen or unseen - that is most important in the continuum of life ? No. Most important will be God's summary of my life.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Outward Face of Cynicism

I have never scoffed at sentiment. Cynicism is ever the outward face of emptiness. What, after all is romance? It is the music of those who make the world turn. The people who make things happen. Romance is the story of dreams that could come true and so often do . . . Why do men ride the range? Go to sea? Explore the icecaps . . . It is because of romance, because of the stories they have read and the stories they dreamed. ~ Louis L'Amour

Shocking how a succession of deep wounds and disappointments - both physical and spiritual - compressed into a brief time span can hammer away at the bedrock of one's soul and slyly replace each ding and chip with emptiness. Reading L'Amour's words distilled the inquiry that had been trying to organize in the depth of my heart for several hours . . .

Have I lost the heart of the romantic . . . the heart so willing to risk, explore, adventure, and dream big?


Seams and stratum that make up the ledges in me have been slowly degrading and becoming brittle and porous like limestone. Music in my spirit as of late is often discordant and in the melancholy of minor keys. I speak of life in the context of Faith . . .

Scoffing at sentimentality . . . my own

Despising and disowning my love of the romantic - rather than setting my jaw like flint and embracing the fact that I don't want to live safe and secure - exposed my disenchanted, disillusioned, and fatigued soul.

Introspection at such a gut level began shortly after arriving at the cabin. Canvas chair and journal under one arm, I stood perusing the bookshelves for a potential muse. There were the green spines of the Harvard Classics with the philosophy and poetry of history's most prolific authors bound between their covers. Grouped together on another shelf were eclectic volumes covering a wide array of disciplines. Hardbound and paperback books on outdoor survival, astronomy, field guides to North American wild life, compass reading, hiking the Appalachian trail, and stacks of the National Geographic. Novels on yet another.

A muse I had been seeking - muses I found. Authors as diverse as John Steinbeck, John Eldridge, John Meir, John Dunn, Jack London, G.K. Chesterton, Cormack McCarthy, C.S. Lewis, Least-Heat Moon, Annie Dillard, Dostoyevsky, Brennan Manning, and the Holy Spirit (Bible) were evoking memories of evenings spent reading by flashlight and firelight . . . or anticipating lecturing in China . . . of romanticising a hundred adventures yet to be lived.

Cynicism the outward face of emptiness . . . would not be mine.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Incense

Crowned with a golden brown tassel sweet grass grows lush, tall, and green along the riverbank. For hundreds of years the nimble fingers of indigenous peoples weaved it into baskets and cords for everyday use. This morning I shuffled down over the steep bank and harvested some into sheaves, separated it into strands, and braided it from its golden crown to the bottom of the stem. As it is twisted and bruised it releases an aromatic scent. I had been planning to do this before I left Columbia, so I brought with me hemp (not the hallucinogenic kind) and bamboo cord to tie off the ends. My purpose in doing so was because sweet grass, once dried, can be lit and it consumes with a slow-burn releasing a sweet, soft scent. Even now, since plying it with my fingers, I can cup my hands around my face and and breathe in the sweet fragrance that clings to my hands.

Edging Out The Edginess

I have unpacked my spartan luggage. A year has come and gone since I last sat in my red canvas chair at the top of the riverbank. I am at the cabin. In my spirit a sense of contentment is edging out the edginess that resides in me. Slouched in my seat I sleep a bit, scratch a few words in my journal, doze a little more, and then tune into nature's communication - that always speaks on God's behalf if you know how to listen. The soft breezes sift through the leafy branches speaking to my anxieties like a mother to a troubled child - shhh . . . shhh . . . shhh.

I am not sure this is a correct meteorological term but windstorms sometimes take an unexpected turn toward violence and form into micro-bursts. Like mini-tornadoes they can twist the tops off trees and leave a tangled swath resembling pick-up-sticks. Evidences of just such a rampage are to my left. One such outburst felled the aged white birch that used to lean over the river. The same birch that eagles have perched upon for decades eyeing the world below in search of their next meal. No longer gracefully bent it is now prostrated - its emerald wreath being stripped away by the currents of the Penobscot.

Just a while ago the sun that was behind me, then over me, is now sinking away from me. As it does every airborne insect is back-lit and can be seen flitting and dancing on a liquid stage. A red squirrel that's had the run of the place in my long absence nervously scampers up and down a big pine tree sassing this trespasser.

In a few more hours darkness will surround me. Kindling formed into a pyramid is in the fire pit. A match will be struck. A blaze will leap and crackle beneath my feet. A billion stars will flicker above my head.