Weeds in a Vacant Lot

 

So the other day I posted this picture on Facebook: chickweed

Asking whether it was a weed or a real-on-purpose plant.

And the comments took were not as cut and dry as I was expecting.  There was some debate.  Was this Creeping Jenny, or Chickweed?  Is this plant something desirable, or an invasive pest?

(Spoiler alert: chickweed- although the discussion has now convinced me to pull up the free plant that appeared in my yard and replace it with it’s near twin that I will purchase at the store.  Sometimes gardening- and America- makes no sense…)

But over the past 24 hours, something that was just a passing query has now taken root (pardon the pun) in my mind.

How do we determine the value of something?

Is it beauty?  Usefulness?  Rarity?  Convention?

What makes chickweed a weed and Creeping Jenny a desirable plant for your garden?  (I know that there is probably an extensive, fact based answer to this particular question, but please, for the sake of discourse, let’s let the metaphor stand…)

When is something mundane, and when is it an invitation to marvel?  What is the thing that separates the ordinary from the remarkable, the humdrum from the holy?  Is it something inherent to the object, or is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder?

If you look in the Bible, God uses ordinary objects over and over again to break into our reality.  A bush.  A donkey.  A star.  A stable.  Bread.  Wine.  Things that have ordinary uses, and yet, when viewed with kingdom eyes, shimmer with transcendence.

Children are so good at recognizing this duality.  Daily I am handed a wilting dandelion or a particularly remarkable stick?  Why?  Because, in my little people’s eyes, these are treasures.  Little boy’s pockets are always filled with rubber bands and acorns and fragments of paper, because they need an arsenal of miracles within their reach at anytime.  Poking a dead bee with a stick becomes an hour long activity.  A pile of dog poop next to the sidewalk becomes the inspiration for a 15 minute fantasy tale of the doggy that left it (don’t scoff- this happened to me this past Sunday afternoon).  To a child’s eye, the world is chock full of magic and imagination.  An adventure just waiting to happen.  To an adult, these same things simply hold face value.  Where did the whimsy go?

A few months ago, I read a poem, and then immediately took a paint pen and wrote the poem on the wall in the bathroom.  Why?  Because I only have about 7 minutes a day of uninterrupted time to shower think.  And I wanted these words to surround me during that time…

Praying by Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try

to make them elaborate, this isn’t

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

Just pay attention.  For me, this concept is summed up in the word Selah.  As I have noted earlier on this page, Selah is a word used in the Old Testament.  Although  the definition isn’t precisely known, scholars tend to agree it means something along the lines of “Stop, and think on this.”  When used in the Psalms, it is thought that this word could signal a musical interlude in the song.

Either way, it is an invitation, even a command, to stop.  It is a doorway into silence.  A moment that grabs your attention, that reminds you that there is more to this life than the next thing on your calendar.

When is the last time you paused?  Even just for a few breaths?  When is the last time you gave yourself permission to stop, and think on something?  To simply be grateful? Do you live an interruptible life?

I seldom do.  And yet, I am constantly seeking small rituals that can serve as reminders to pause.  To breathe.  To be aware that I am not what matters in this life.  To marvel and to give thanks to a good God who is with me all the time.  In the blue iris and in the handful of small pebbles my preschooler just handed me.

Selah.  

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prayer: a poem

all day long the mumbled missives are sent:
postcard length portraits of this human experience.

our cherished hopes,
concerns for our loved ones,
whispered pleas for green lights,
passing thoughts for strangers,

prayers fill in our still moments, forming
the punctuation of our days.

the world as we wish it to be,

all placed carefully in the palm of our creator.

who do you love?
What is it you hope for?
Who are you
truly?

the contents of our prayers tell the true story, revealed only to
a God who sees us.

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Create

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

IMG_6680 Our God is infinitely creative.  Every person, every fingerprint, every leaf and snowflake is unique.  A new creation.  Rocks, buried in the ground, formed in every color of the rainbow, so striking and beautiful that we dig them up and hang them around our necks.  The blood hidden in our veins, red.  The sky, a soaring canvas of blue.  The leaves, an engrossing progression of green, and then, all of a sudden, golden.  Why?  If efficiency were God’s key value, then we would probably live in a mosaic of beige.

Then there is food.  the brightness of a tomato, the richness of 2014-11-14 11.52.19chocolate, the liquid velvet of wine.  Things didn’t need to taste good, God created them to.  And sound.  The whisper of wind through the treetops, the chatter of the birds, the wrenching beauty of music.  Our God wasn’t interested in being functional when he created this place we inhabit.  His goal was beauty.

I’m tired of living a utilitarian life.  I want to be surrounded by beauty.  I want to make a discipline of finding it wherever I am, and then choosing to marvel.  At home, I want to create a space inhabited by beauty.  Not necessarily by buying expensive things, but instead, arranging the things I have purposefully, so that there are glimpses of beauty all around.

Another thing to note.  God made me as a person intensely creative.  I am just now beginning to recognize that not 2014-11-03 16.31.14everyone is built this way.  I have a burning need to create.  To think new thoughts.  To do new things.  To create art, to write out words, to sing songs and to… make stuff.  I am not trying to brag at all, by the way.  There is just a lot of stuff inside me that needs out.  And when I go to long without indulging my need to create, I get antsy.  Itchy.  Another word that rhymes with itchy.

The easiest way to ease the pressure?  Make stuff.  Crochet a hat.  Plan a youth event.  Write a poem.  Paint a picture. This year, I want to make a weekly (daily?) discipline of exercising my creativity.

Here is another truth.2014-12-31 21.12.55  When I make stuff, I can give stuff to people.  Why not use my need to create as a way to bless others?  For me, it is not so much about the end result as it is about the process.  Case in point: this blog isn’t so much about you reading it as it is about me writing it.  If I create a painting- give it to someone who needs to know they are loved.  If I make a scarf, let it be a hug for someone who needs it.  Why not?  God creates, and we are the beneficiaries of it.  When you think about it that way, it seems like giving is inextricably linked to making…

Opportunity (has) Cost

Two roads in a yellow wood
But only one pair of legs.
Each decision a yes
But in the same breath, no.

A wishbone snaps.
One side victory, the other, splintered.
Each side broken, in different ways.

When we choose
do we hold the duality in our minds?
In each destiny there dwells a shadow side,
A legacy not engaged.

This is the balance of life, the yin and the yang.
And that is how it should be,
For we are made of flesh and not of feathers.

How do we lay ourselves before the throne of God,
Our lives, our collection of yesses and nos.

What story do these declinations tell?
Is it one of faith?
Or of fear?

How do I listen Lord, standing in a yellow wood?
Which path is mine to take?

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journey

Oh my dear. The challenge I have set before you
is lofty indeed.
For the reward for your heroic feats of faith
is ill-defined at best.
There is no immediate applause, no kudos, no instant reward.
There is only a string of tomorrows, the same objective set before you again.
and again.
The reward for clinging to your faith,
for a job well done
is just that.
A job well done.
And if you should fall, or simply stop climbing, the only exterior result would be
indifference.
To the world you live in, there is no complement to the faithful,
and no consequence for the unfaithful.
So the monumental battle of good and evil is
fought internally, each day.
With only you and I as witnesses.