Monday, August 24, 2009


“I hear this most gentle whisper from one I never guessed would speak to me.”
—Psalm 81:5, The Message

There are a thousand ways the world does violence to us every single day—from the harshness of unkind words to the subtle reminders of time passing and decay. We are dying. And whenever we stop long enough to notice that in any of its forms, the grief brings a sort of violence to our hearts.

Over and against the reality of that violence, there is the gentleness of God. Sometimes that gentleness comes as sweet relief, as the remedy of breathing space in a world that constricts us. Other times it is almost unwelcome; to hold that gentleness means we are unable to give ourselves over to defensive anger protecting us against a life that is hard. God is here; we cannot give in to despair.

Thomas á Kempis, medieval mystic and author of The Imitation of Christ, had this to say:
Banish discouragement from your heart as best you can, and if trouble comes, never let it depress or hinder you for long.... The violence of your feelings will soon subside, and grace return to heal your inner pain.
Whatever violence we feel, there is one who stands ready to help and comfort, one who speaks with gentle whispers where we do not expect to hear anything at all. Receiving that gentleness can itself cause pain when it comes as such sharp contrast to the suffering within us, but it is perhaps one of the best and most hopeful signs of our humanity that we remain willing to feel it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Both of my kids love to make things. My daughter’s room is filled with scraps of paper, bits of plastic, and a giant vat of markers, colored pencils, and crayons—all of which she keeps “just in case” she needs to make something. Because really, at any moment, you could be called on to make something and you have to be ready.

My son tends toward the recycle box when it comes to crafts. Lately he was making a very long racer car from a plastic box that used to house a set of blinds. He was stuck for wheels and the other night he pushed me to help him find some. I was impatient, thinking of the boxes of Lego in the basement wondering if I could dig out at least two sets of plastic wheels. I discouraged him at first, “No, we don’t have any wheels; maybe wait till Dad gets home and he can help.” But my son’s persistence paid off and I finally gave in with a half-hearted, “Well, at least let’s Google it.”

We found a website with directions to make wheels out of tealight candles. Thanks to the fine folks at IKEA, I had a large bag of over 100 little candles that I never seemed to use. My son was joyous with excitement as we put the wheels together. “They even look like REAL wheels!” he said on seeing the finished result wrapped with electrical tape. He then proceeded to invent three new games using said wheels that did not involve putting them on the car, but rolling them back and forth on the table using bamboo skewers like a pinball machine to repel your opponent’s wheels.

There is something holy in that moment when what you want becomes what you have, when you look around and are willing, even eager, to make something new out of the scrap heap of your life. There is something holy about creation, to be ready at any moment to put your hands to the familiar and find joy in the transformation.
Creator Spirit, by whose aid

The world’s foundations first were laid,

Come, visit every pious mind;

Come, pour Thy joys on human kind;
From sin, and sorrow set us free;

And make Thy temples worthy Thee.
In the quiet following the joy of creation, I took a candle, lit it, and watched it burn the rest of the night.