Thursday, August 30, 2007

Big Jesus

On a road trip down I-75 this summer,
I saw Big Jesus.

I stared, gape-mouthed, out the window of our SUV at the immense and oddly proportioned statue of Jesus on the side of the highway. This Big Jesus had thick arms raised to heaven, and behind him was the church that built him.

I wondered if the statue turned out the way they thought it would.

I wondered, because for one thing, the statue is terrible. And I wondered because I have often made big plans and then watched them grow and grow and grow into something much bigger and much worse than the grand idea I had in the first place.

I thought about those church people in the conference room of the church, planning something new. I thought about the first person who suggested it, and the others who excitedly joined in, and the pastor who endorsed it. I thought of all the reasons these good people had for building a big Jesus in front of their church. Most likely honorable reasons. Most likely for the glory of God! But I think that God's glory is a bit out of our control as humans.

We tend to think of God's glory, when we're working in the church, as a little bit of a public relations opportunity. So we write a song that will help everybody really capture the idea of his greatness. We construct a building that will mirror his immensity by its size. And we create a church service that is all fashioned around drawing people in to feel his welcoming arms, and his love.

What's wrong with that? Nothing except when we start thinking that maybe he actually needs a little help with his glory. Because God's got the glory already, you know.

We're just the ones wandering around trying to think up the best ways that we can to tell the world about it, that's all.

And as long as we're human, we'll be writing cheesy songs about Jesus, and we'll be awkwardly Welcoming people to Jesus, and building expensively huge churches for Jesus. And it'll be all wrong, and clumsy, and out of proportion and off-key, as long as we're human.

I think Big Jesus can handle that.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Becoming Night

Today I have been by myself, except for the dog. The husband took the children away and will stay away all night, and all day tomorrow. He does this for me when it is time for me to be alone.

So I have been quiet today, not moving too much, not thinking too much. I looked out the window for a long time. I took the dog for a walk. I baked a cookie when I was hungry. I made tea.

And tonight, as the sky began to darken, I decided to let the night come. Instead of turning on lights, I have just let the darkness fall inside and out. I have a candle beside me, the computer monitor glows...but everything else has become dark. Shade by shade.

I like the idea of living that way every day. Opening my eyes when the morning comes, closing them when the sun goes down. And in between, when the heat makes the air thick and wet -- slowing and stopping, until the evening breeze blows it away.

I wonder how long it would take for my body to adjust. Most likely quicker than my mind. Even now I am writing because of an artificial assistant. Could I live with the quiet instead of trying to mute it with noise...and accept the gift of darkness instead of hiding it with light?

I wonder if I lived this way, how different I would be.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Send It Down The River

Tonight the boy twin pulled me to his room to talk. This one is always speaking, and needs listeners all day long it seems. I was tired at 9:30, and just wanted him asleep.

I said, "Maybe this is a time for listening and not talking." I said, "You have so many secrets inside of you, but if you are never quiet, you will never hear what they are." He had a thousand questions about secrets. Who tells them? What kind of secrets? How will I know it is a secret?

I hushed him and told him to close his eyes while I held his hand. I whispered that each night he should sit by the river and watch the boats come by. And see what is in the boats. And take the things out and look at them, and then send them down the river. And when all the things in his mind are sent away, maybe another boat will come, and he will find a secret.

He was very quiet for a long time. Then he said, "There is a boat coming."
"What is in it?" I asked.
"It's filled with boxes," he answered.
"Pick one. Pick the one that seems right to you. Send the rest down the river."

"I have it," he said, "but it's nailed shut."
"That's okay. Maybe it is just a difficult one to open.
Or maybe, it should be set aside and opened later on.
You're the only one who knows."

"I think I should open it. And I have a hammer."
I smiled. There was another long pause.

"Okay, it's open."
"What is inside?" I was dying of suspense.
Another long pause.
"Don't put anything into that box.
Don't put what you want me to see, and
don't put something silly in there to make me laugh.
Just look and tell me what you see."

"It's empty." He sounded sad.

"Oh! But that's wonderful!
That could mean anything!
Maybe it means that it doesn't really matter what you found,
it was all about just opening the box.
Or maybe it is a gift, of emptiness and space,
just for you."

"Or maybe," he said, "it means that
you don't always find what you're looking for."

Bedtime with a mystic.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


The amount of junk in my house is reaching an all time high. I'm feeling thwarted in my attempts to clear out. It's the stuff coming in...getting tucked into corners, under beds, in piles here and there...that is never-ending.

I think there is some sort of psychological pull about bringing things home that is really difficult to acknowledge. Whenever we go out, it seems, we have a need to get something and bring it back. Maybe it's something to distract us from our worries, or a temporary lift to our spirits to have something new.

We go to the library, and we bring home books. And we return less books than we check out (I know this because I have a copy of our library fine record). We go to the mall, and we look around for what we might need. Now think about that. Sometimes, yes, we make a list of the things that we need, but even after checking off the items on that list, still we look.

What are we looking for?

This morning, before church, I thought about the things that the children would be bringing home with them. I thought about the magnetic frame that someone would make in Sunday School. I thought about the plastic sliding puzzle, or the bookmark that might make its way onto the kitchen counter, and into someone's treasure pile where it would sit and gather dust for weeks and weeks.

So I brought the children together before church, and I asked each of them to take something out with them, and not to bring it back. They were a little confused, but it was an interesting idea. My oldest brought a CD to give to our drumming friend in the band. The next one brought a fleece shirt that had been in my basement since give back to its owner. The twins found a stuffed kitten no longer played with, and a book off the bookshelf.

None of these things came back home with us, and when I walked back into the house, I felt a bit lighter. It's only four things, but I have this idea, that...well, we leave the house quite a bit. We will be giving tiny gifts to cousins and grandparents. We will be returning books to the library. We will be watching for mothers with toddlers in their shopping carts at the grocery store. And when the mother turns to pick something off of the shelf, she will turn back and wonder at the new little toy that her child is grasping. Four things by four things, we will eventually rid this house of pounds upon pounds of stuff.

That's my idea anyway.