Tuesday, January 26, 2010

so calm the swelling billows

Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead's deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.

-C.H. Spurgeon

Sunday, January 10, 2010


"Like Snow"

Suppose we did our work
like the snow, quietly, quietly,
leaving nothing out.

-Wendell Berry

Recently, a few of my dearest friends gave me the hardback of Berry's newest poetry collection, Leavings. It was upon my own leaving from Memphis to Nashville. His poetry has the kind of force that crawls into your heart and sits for a while. There is a sense of recognition and familiarity--just as there is with those dear friends.

Appropriately enough, snow did fall this past week. Its prediction was anything but quiet as it tends to go in the South with a flurry of school cancellations, mass chaos on the side streets marked with ice, and the kind of panic that leaves a family camped indoors with hot tea and reruns of The Cosby Show as the only fuel for survival. Mind you, this is only after an inch or two of snowfall.

There was a moment just yesterday, however, when the house was quiet and I looked out the window to watch the flakes fall slowly, deliberately, needing no approval from the ground below. It was beautiful, and I thought that this was the kind of moment Berry needed from his Kentucky farm to write such a poem.

As I said before, I moved to Nashville just this past week after four years of a base in Memphis. Granted, much of those four years was spent traveling, but nonetheless, I left a home to return to another. It is in the first few weeks of any move or transition that you try to gain or regain composure. And so I'm trying to live with purpose in a simultaneous bold and quiet manner which is generally opposed to my personality. Speak less, listen more. Simple instruction as old as communication and relationships. Observe...check. Pray...working on it. Write...stop nagging me.

Last night, I left the patient glimpse from within a heated house to the bitter outdoors where my shoes left prints in the crunched flakes that had so beautifully fallen earlier. I was with a friend who is an outreach worker with the homeless community of Nashville. We had a trunk filled with blankets, gloves, coats, and a few empty seats to commute those who desired to an alternative shelter. I watched and listened as my friend spouted out name after name and the exact location of where they typically squatted or had a camp. With an eagerness that reflects the light of the gospel, she made quick stops, u-turns, one-way darts throughout downtown. I joined her under bridges down train tracks and behind abandoned buildings, to make sure those that were sleeping outside knew they had options tonight. $6 gave Thomas, Blackey and their cat Bobby enough gas to run their truck's heater for maybe an hour. It was a joy to see that most of the usual sleeping spots were already vacant, and we laughed as Nathan the Naturalist jokingly advised that body heat was the best way to stay warm. He's right, just not with us.

Do I trust that God is good while Phil and I zip three blankets into a new coat that he balances on his bicycle handles while sticking three tampons from Lindsey's purse into his side pocket for his girlfriend ("We only got toilet paper" he says)? When Yolanda is arrested regularly for being mentally disturbed, homeless, and sleeping on 'restricted' streets? When ex-sex offenders are banned from the one free shelter in Nashville? I do trust him--tonight anyhow. I trust that he cares for Phil and his girlfriend, that God delights in Yolanda's smile as we all listen to Sigur Ros driving down 65 South, that he remembers those most forgotten by society...ironically, God's concern is the very thing that provokes my questions.

I trust that he will bend my heart toward his, that he will direct me in the right path of education for the good of my character, that there will be a man that I will love for who he is and likewise, that I will one day hold a 2 month old that I will help raise to be a 12 year old--through the bratty and stupid cute years alike. And perhaps, if my trust proves to not look like this picture, then his concern for my life is still what will draw me to the hows and whys. He is good. I believe he takes great delight in watching us realize our stories as they grow longer and more complicated--leaving nothing out.