The season of singing birds has come

There is a bird singing outside – singing as if it cannot stop.

“Look, the winter is past,and the rains are over and gone,
the flowers are springing up,
the season of singing birds has come!
Their songs fill the air,
and the fragrant grapevines are blossoming.
Rise up, my darling!
Come away with me, my fair one!” — song of solomon 2:11-13

Spring.

It’s not quite here. In fact, the forecast calls for 6-8 inches of snow tomorrow. But, I’ll take the singing birds today. I’ll take the hope they give. There is something about bird songs that make my heart remember resurrection. There is something about bird songs that awaken those tired, run-down parts of me and reminds them that they were made to be alive.

There is promise in a bird song. There is a cry of made new!

My soul swells when I think of all things being made new.

 with every breath you take, I am restoring

New life, real life, being manifested in me and everything around me with every breath I take.

“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as he raised Christ from the dead, he will give life to your mortal body by this same Spirit living within you.”— Romans 8:11

The very same power that won over death is living in me – recreating me with every breath.

“Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now, I have put my words in your mouth.See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.— Jeremiah 1:9-10

I am being made new – and in living into the newness Christ brings, I am bringing the Kingdom (that same recreation) to every person I encounter.

Tearing down lies. Destroying bondage. Overthrowing death – undoing death.
Building Kingdom walls. Planting Eden’s seeds.
Because Jesus lives in me. We move as one.

Bird songs promise spring.

Spring, that call to create. Spring, that call to live out the restoring work of the kingdom. Spring, that life. Spring, those fountains of life again finding their source. Spring, creation’s play of Kingdom come.  Spring that fosters life, fosters life.

Spring lives in me – finds home in me. Spring finds home in you. Spring finds home in everyone.

Redemption, restoration, the undoing of death, the re-writing of life, the hope of glory – lives in you, works in you. You carry it wherever you, to every broken place, to every healing place, to every good place, every hard place, every unknown place – it overcomes, every time.

And that is worth a song.

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Lent. Eden. Soil.

“Simplicity takes us back home, to the Garden of Eden. There, in our Eden-like life, everything is quiet, simple, and even. There is a little bit of pleasure, but not too much. There is a little bit of pain, but – again – not too much. We aren’t consumed by the need to have more, and we are able to be thankful for whatever comes our way, even if it’s hard. This quietness in our soul, this freedom from the loudness of fear and the boisterous noise of always watching out for ourselves, gives us a calm contentedness. … Live here. Live in Eden.” – – Winn Collier, Let God: the transforming wisdom of Francois Fenelon

That sounds like the life we were created for, don’t you think? My soul, tired as it is today, rises up in me and shouts that this is the life it was designed to have. I long for it.

And Christ tells me I can have it. Here and now. Not just when he returns to make everything new and right again. He says I’m seated now, in the heavenly realms with him (Ephesians 2:6), so seeking Eden is not in vain. Chasing this hope is not a fool’s race. I am designed for it. right now.

This is what I long for Christ to make manifest in me through Lent, this Eden-life. I am aware, however, that death comes before life. Lent is a season marked with ashes.

And I’ll embrace the ash, with my face set like flint.

“Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness on you.” — (Hosea 10:12 – emphasis added)

It’s hard work, preparing hard, dry dirt for a seed. I’ve tried before – breaking up the hard, dead places with a shovel until sweat poured and my back ached. And the thing died after a week. It’s such a hopeful thing, though, to consider my heart this way. It’s such a hopeful thing to anticipate – after the pain and hard work of preparing the soil – sweet rain. Rain of pure goodness and delight, to sink deep down and make fruitful the hard work of preparation.

I made a list, on Wednesday, of all of the clutter I would remove, so that simplicity could enter. A list of all the hard work I would choose, to force the plow forward. A list to make way for Eden. 

And it will be hard. I know it will. But, I’m trusting it will also be sweet.

I’m sharing it with you so that I can have some sense of accountability, and so that you can pray for me and journey with me. I plan to expound on each piece more as time goes on, but for now, a list is all you get.

Removed:

  • No media outside of what’s absolutely necessary: including, but not limited to Facebook, Spotify, texting, internet, movie and television watching (outside of family time)
  • No spending outside of bills
  • No food that is not whole
  • No food outside of meals (essentially no snacks or desserts)
  • Only one cup of coffee or tea a day

Added:

  • Writing everyday. (prepare yourselves)
  • Exercise three times a week
  • Keep to the daily office (thank you Bloom)

The end. I’m eager to see where this leads, and I’m eager to share the road with you.

Tell me about your Lenten journeys – the hopes you have, the plans you have. I want to hear about them! I want to journey with you! I want to pray with you and for you! (comment, e-mail, etc.)

… home. to the Garden of Eden.

Untitled Poem the Fifth

My heart stirred,
As if from the call of a lover,
As I watched rain
Fling itself from the sky,
Plummet with excited purpose
Until it hit the earth
And then splashed,
As if trying to reach the clouds again.

My pulse raced,
As if from the thrill of flying,
As clouds ran
Across the grass,
Like fairies
Skipping through the morning dew
Tinkling merrily
And they were gone.

Thunder laughed
Lightening smirked
Fog encroached,
So the end of the world
Was the end of the tree-line.
The sky split in two
Floods rose
The earth sang –
And then it was gone,
Just like it came –

And even as the rain
dwindled to nothing,
A bird stood confident
In the pear tree outside
And trilled an easy song.

Gone with the Wind and an Australian Boy

I promised myself that I wouldn’t write until I finished my school work. Making promises to myself is generally a pretty pointless idea. I sometimes literally cannot wait to write. This is one of those sometimes.

I’m sitting in an outside room. Why, Maggie, it’s 36 measly degrees outside, aren’t you completely frozen? Yes. I am. Surely you’re wearing a coat and hat and gloves, that must help. Dear parents (and any other sane human being), please don’t be alarmed when you read this, but I’m not wearing a coat, or a hat, or gloves. I am wearing flannel pajamas and slippers and my writing sweater. You’re an idiot. I know. I am, however, an idiot wrapped up in a down comforter – I took it from the closet with a slightly mischievous smile on my face because I knew as I wrapped it haphazardly around myself that were my Grammy, to whom it belongs, to see that I was a) sitting in the outside room without a coat and b) using her nice down comforter as a substitute, she would make sure I didn’t have hypothermia and then have my hide. But, since she’s not here to be worried about me getting hypothermia and since I won’t get hypothermia and since when she gets home, the comforter will be safely in the its place in the closet, no worse for the short outing, I can sit, wrapped in the blanket, not getting hypothermia, in the outside room – just because. And it really is just because. It’s just so that I can say I spent the morning deliciously cold and warm all at once in an outside room listening to, and occasionally watching, birds. I know. I know I could’ve watched birds from inside the warm house, but this somehow feels more cozy and adventurous. Warm is exponentially warmer when your face and hands are fully aware of cold. And it feels like a lake-side cottage or cabin-in-the-woods a million miles away in this outside room – enveloped by cold and submerged in the monotone world of birds and wooden fences and empty trees. And I can’t hear the bird songs from inside. A woodpecker is drumming  a hollow rhythm for my fingers to follow as I type. Were I inside, that rhythm would fall to the ground unheard. So, I’m outside, captivated by simplicity and by the stunning red of a cardinal against that lovely winter dreary, wishing desperately to be able to fly or jump from the highest branch of a tree and be unafraid of the fall.

I’m reading Gone with the Wind and I very much like it. I knew I’d like it because I can’t stand the movie. Illogical, yes. I watched it for the first time last night and the entire time my mind was consumed with my dislike of Scarlett, a wondering at why this is a classic, and the deep longing to re-make it with good actors and scripting so that the beautiful story that’s buried somewhere between the bustles and the overdramatic acting and overemphasized music can be seen in its true glory. I couldn’t stand the movie because I could see that it wasn’t even remotely doing the story justice – I hadn’t picked up the book until after it was over, but I knew, I knew there was a deep beauty and pain that was lost amid the movie style of the late 1930’s. I found myself as I watched wanting to cry, not for the vile that is war or the misfortune that it Scarlett, but for the fact that I could not feel either of these things the way I knew I should. I could almost feel Margaret Mitchell’s sorrow at her complex Scarlett turned into the simple, breathy, nearly bipolar thing of the movie. I longed for that deeper thing from which this movie had come – I longed for the original beauty, the original intent.

I found it. I found it in the book. And it was all I had longed and more.

We know. We know when there is more – when there is a deeper beauty, a deeper pain, a more complex story, a richer color, a more resonate note, it’s written on our souls. Even when it’s not a blatant “ah-ha!” moment, or even a cock-your-head-to-the-side-and-furrow-your-brow-at-what-you-just-felt-or-missed moment – we know. Something in us stops in its tracks and remembers.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. – ecclesiastes 3:11

Eternity is written on our hearts. So, when we’re watching Gone with the Wind, we know there’s a book somewhere infinitely more alluring – that it’s okay that the movie exists because the book is waiting on the shelf to be plunged into so that its beauty can be seen for what it is. Eternity is written on our hearts so that when we sit in an outside room on a ridiculously cold day just to hear the birds sing, we’re captured by their song, not worried about the fact that our hands are turning odd colors and not functioning quite as well as they did ten minutes ago. Eternity is written on our hearts because God is watching us live through the movie, waiting for the day to shove us headlong into the book where everything is its infinite self, and he wanted us to know his excitement.

Pushing Back the Darkness

Andrew Peterson – musician, author, artist, and general extraordinaire – has this Christmas concert. It’s a culmination of a great many things of wonderment and beauty and it comes annually to a mediumish church in Milford, Ohio (amongst many other places.) The Christmas season officially begins when, and only when, we have attended said concert in Milford, Ohio and taken part in the wonderment and beauty. I hold Andrew Peterson in a slightly exalted place where he resides with a soft halo around his head, music ever playing around him and pen ever moving gracefully across the Moleskin I personally and hypothetically placed in his hands. And yes, I realize that’s slightly unhealthy – he’s simply the kind of person you really just want to be. So, when, two years ago my family and I loitered in the building until he came out from “backstage” (which, being in a church, was probably just some small room behind the “stage” – an elevated area with mics and a piano) to talk with us, his emphatic, ever-so-slightly-worshipping fans, I had a small conniption fit of glee and jumped on the chance to speak with him, half-dragging my family along behind me. We had a lovely conversation, he and my family and I , about writing – because that’s something, much to my pleasure, we all have in common. I informed him that’s had written him a letter, which he said he remembered reading and would respond to as soon as he found time, this brought on a slightly more contained conniption fit of glee. He also suggested two books for our benefit and pleasure, etc.

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
Bird by Bird – Anne Lammot

My mom, being the wonderful woman she is, bought the books for my dad for Christmas, breaking “don’t buy the spouse anything” rule that is in place for no apparent reason other than to be broken. She justified this rule breaking by signing the tag “Andrew Peterson,” claiming that the gift was essentially from him. We relished those books – still relish those books. They were like some strange connection to the story-telling, music-making man – he had read those words, been impacted by them, and they were in my house. They are brilliance.

Admittedly, I’ve never read either of the books. My mom and dad have both read The War of Art and at least half of Bird by Bird and I have done no more than peer lovingly at the covers of either of them. My mom has, however, passed on to me two invaluable concepts from these two books. One is a charming anecdote about Anne Lammot’s three year old and some toy keys and some choice words. I will leave you to ponder at that or read the book for yourself (or buy the book and let it sit in your house and hope that it will seep into your brain while you sleep like I so often do – that’s why there is a constant stack of books beside my bed – it has yet to prove itself as an actual method of learning things.) The second is from The War of Art and it finds its way into most of what I do most of the time. It is more a concept than a said quote or story – it may sound familiar due to the fact that I reference it from time to time on here, or it may sound familiar due to the fact that it’s a desire and a truth placed deep down inside all of us.
Pushing back the darkness.

It even sounds hopeful and brave and inviting. The idea is this: Steven Pressfield has identified this “force” in the universe. He refers to it throughout his book (of which I have now read a few pages in order to find the quote I’m looking for and be sure that I actually know what I’m talking about before I proclaim it to you, my rather smallish blogging audience who deserves the truth in spite of your unimpressive size) as The Resistance. He says this about it

Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease… To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and we’re born to be. If you believe in God (and I do) you must declares Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed us with our own unique genius.

I really would like to insert the entirety of the book above because after reading several pages past what I actually needed, I came to the realization that I should’ve read this book long ago. Though, please know before you buy it and gather up all of your children or friends or family around your feet and read to them “this fantastic book this random, rather goodish blogger suggested,” that it is not exactly G, or even really PG rated as to language and such… It may actually be close to R – but it’s a great book nonetheless. That aside. The point is that we are created to fight against this Resistance. We are created to be brilliant and glorious and to, by our words and our actions and our dancing and singing and music writing and instrument playing and whatever else, “push back the darkness” – fight against the Resistance by being what we are. It creates this beautiful image of warfare with what we love, with finding and creating beauty in the everyday places, with realizing we hold powerful, powerful weapons in our hands and realizing that God is bigger and deeper than only revivals and church meetings and giving statements and mission trips and youth groups. He is in paintings and poems and movies and songs and books, even books with questionable wording – he is not to be boxed in and he is calling us to let him infiltrate all of ourselves, and through that to join him in the war against The Resistance – that thing that keeps us from being who we are. It’s beautiful. Truly beautiful.

Yes, this is a reoccurring theme. It’s kind of my passion – get over it. Redundancy is not at all bad.