Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Fourth Watch of the Night

"And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea."

It's almost tempting to leave this without comment. The simple beauty of this verse strikes me deeply, and I think would move me even without knowing the context. But knowing that Jesus went out to meet his disciples, who had been struggling against the wind to get across the lake, who were weary and probably feeling like they'd never make it across, by simply walking out upon the sea to meet them, leaves me utterly speechless.

Isn't it just like him, to show up when hope is on the verge of being lost?

Isn't it like him, to wait until we're spent, we've expended all our efforts against the wind and waves, our arms like rubber from pulling the oars and we feel like we've made it no farther to the shore? Isn't it just like him to show up then, and to show up effortlessly, sauntering toward us on top of the water, making light of the thing we're striving against?

For him it is nothing. For us, it's an insurmountable task. So he waits, till the fourth watch of the night, till we've spent ourselves on the task that's too much for us to begin with, till we're ready to see him coming towards us on the waves.

And from there, well, he calls us to leave the boat, and walk with him.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016



Light doesn't imprison, and yet
That moment
When the animal freezes, it believes itself
By the photons, the waves, the rays
As surely as if it were

And so
It cannot flee
Its impending

But the light does not bind;
It frees - 
It illuminates the danger, which, 
Were the light not present,
Would strike unannounced,
Destroying without warning.

The light calls.
The light declares the danger, clarions the calamity.

It is up to the animal
To decide what to do:
Will it freeze, unbelieving
That such catastrophe
Should befall it?

Or will it heed the clarion call
And flee
The coming darkness?

Monday, May 23, 2016


It takes a practiced eye to see the small moments, to read into them the eternal significance they contain.

It's not the heady, life-transforming speeches, or even the tragedies, the short series of words you never want to hear: "He passed away this morning." "She isn't coming home." "I can't do this anymore." "I've found someone else." 

While those do alter one's course forever, the mundane moments do, too, sometimes even as much as the others. It's just that, without the ability to see, sometimes we don't realize that these small moments have altered us. 

Something changed in me a few weeks ago, and it was a line from a story that did it. A single line, and a wall that had been built up for years began to topple. 

I am an extremely protective and private person, reluctant to open up to others or to pursue relationships with others. I would, left to my own devices, be content as a hermit, surrounded by solitude and only letting those in with whom I felt most safe. And while there's a myriad of reasons for me to be this way, I have not been happy being this way. I know I've been called by God to leave this kind of safety and seek out others, but I've been paraalyzed by my own fear and by no framework for how to do this. 

And then I read this parable, of a boy who, because of a disfiguring scar on his face, never entered completely into any task he undertook, because he always had to keep one hand on his face. He could only ever do anything with the free hand that didn't cover the scar. 

I saw myself. 

The boy was sent on a quest: to face his worst enemy in mortal combat. And he discovered that his worst enemy was himself. He was crippling himself by refusing to use both hands.
     "Uh, lad, said the Woodcutter "you'll need two hands to do this work; two strong hands. The rhythm goes like this: You pull and ease your grip. I pull and ease my grip. You pull and ease your grip. Got it?"
     Hero nodded his head yes. He put both hands on his handle of the long saw. He felt naked, exposed now that his scar was uncovered.
     But the Woodcutter just smiled. He didn't seem surprised or dismayed. "That's a lad. Gotta use two strong hands."
I heard the message clearly: I am going through life only using one hand. I am hiding what I believe to be blemishes I don't want others to see, but in doing so I can only work with one hand. 

And it was as if chains fell off. I felt myself mentally peeling off the hand that had nearly grown into my face, and now I'm stretching muscles I've forgotten how to use, strengthening and conditioning my ability to use both hands again (if I ever knew how in the first place). 

I find myself now, when faced with a choice of whether to enter into an interaction with someone or to avoid, to say the mantra, "Two hands," and the choice becomes easier, clearer. The muscles grow. The habits form. 

We never know when eternity will break through. For Zaccheus, it was that moment when, himself in a tree, Jesus stopped underneath him and invited himself over for dinner. Nothing was the same for him after that. For Peter, James, and John, it was when a stranger told them to throw their net over the other side of their boat. They obeyed, and life changed forever.

The moments He chooses to use can be simple. We don't all have Road-to-Damascus experiences; we don't all get the opportunity to "turn aside and see this great sight." We often need only the eyes to see and ears to hear the wonders of God all around us. We need His vision to hear the messages He sends, and to let those things change us.

So I encourage you to ask for eyes open to seeing what He sees, and ears open to hearing from Him. His Spirit is breaking through - look and listen for what He is saying to you today.