Friday Good

Today I rolled out of bed, climbed from the loft and hurried to get ready in twenty minutes. I burnt an egg, forgot my Bible, and brushed my teeth while texting E apologies that I was running late, even though it was my appointment to which I was late. I hardly remembered as I slid my macbook into the bright timbuktu bag, I hardly realized it was a day other than Friday. I only thought once, in a momentary glance at my Bible, splayed out on the coffee table to pages in Isaiah, I barely remembered in that instant that this Friday was more than just the last day of Spring Break and the day that Ethan’s parents would be in town.

Twenty minutes isn’t time to contemplate Good Friday.

We drove through construction, always Colorado spends the time between winter snows under construction. Like some bizarre metaphor for life: that we’re always under process, except when ice and frozen earth bring us to grinding halt. But even then, with the water in the grooves of the road, melting and freezing with each day’s cycle, even then there is process and change; even if we don’t see it until the cracks have spread to wide gaping holes.

I lay on the table at the chiropractor, wincing beneath the hands of massage and adjustment. My knee stretches out and back in, and when he’s pushing on a certain point in the muscle I can feel the pain radiate to both ends of my leg, and he’s shaking his head that I want to go rock climbing today. My body is broken, and I want to do what? But he sighs and gives me permission, says it won’t help but it probably won’t make things worse.

An old friend, one who has helped immeasurably with Ethan’s business start, texted E this morning while we were waiting through that construction zone. Something about writing a reference and at the end of his cheery morning message, left a little wish: Good Friday to you. But there was hardly time to think of that when we were driving me to work, and shuttling E off to his own last day at a lingering worksite that seems to push back with everything he does.

I came in to work and found an email where I was graciously dragged over hot coals. Sometimes, when they’re being polite, the anger is almost more severe, the disappointment more stinging. And apparently the office is closing early today, though no one told me and my hours are all over the place for this month’s paycheck, this month’s survival. Why are we closing early?

Good Friday.

Because today is the day that Jesus died. The day that he — God come down among us — let himself be stripped, broken, crushed and crucified. Last week he was riding in, prophetic statements abounding and triumph seeming close at hand. Tonight, at Tenebrae, he’ll not make a noise as he goes to the slaughter, like the sheep they killed each Passover: quiet, calm, resolute and sure. In darkness and shadows we’ll remember the one who took on fallen humanity, took on my broken body, my harried pace, my unkempt sin and put it to death with the piercing of his hands, and torn back, crushed side and bloodied head. And in his death he took on the curse: the bold rebellion of sin within humanity and the bruised earth suffering beneath, fighting back at you and me, even as we fight amongst ourselves.

Because Jesus came, came to do this act of love. Came to take me on, broken and angry. Came to walk at Ethan’s side, tired and frustrated. Came to walk among us, know us, reveal the One to us, and then in the most unexpected act in history: came to fling out his arms, take on all our mess and ruined humanity, and in his great, bloody embrace, came to take it all away.

Thus says your Lord, the LORD, even your God Who contends for His people, “Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of reeling, The chalice of My anger; You will never drink it again.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.

By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living,
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

My brokenness, forever under repair, my fallen nature evidenced in a body that so easily falls apart, the sin that makes me rush instead of wait, wait on the Lord, those things for which I am due much, much more than strained knees and abrasive emails, for that he took on flesh and carried away the cup of wrath: from me, from the nations, from the earth.

All this on a Friday we so desperately and hopefully call Good.

 

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Thankful

It’s the obligatory thanksgiving post.

I’m sitting beside Ethan on the couch while he reads Killer Angels and the sweet potatoes are boiling in the kitchen. I was supposed to do a Turkey Trot this morning but it didn’t work out so I’m delighted to sit in the quiet of my living room with Ethan beside me as a symphony plays the Christmas Song on Pandora.

The trees outside have lost their foliage, they’ve stood, brave and barren for several days now, skeletal figures of who they once were. That is how the last year has been for me. I’ve been stripped down to the bare reality of my humanity and I’m slowly being scrubbed clean. He’s done this marvelous work of laying to rest the lies I’ve lived under and the ridiculous titles I bore that were not about Him and, in the end, not really true of me either. The days are short but sunny and the cold has not yet settled into our lives. It will come, of course, it will be dry and bitter, full of chaffing winds and lonely winter nights. But seasons pass and the cold will too. The trees outside my window will bud, ever so gingerly at first, and then, one day, they will burst into bloom with newfound life and hope.

But right now, on this very great holiday, it’s still fall. It’s the inbetween holiday: remembering the past and looking forward to future hopes. That’s where life is at too.

I’m so thankful for this journey, so thankful for Ethan walking alongside me. Grateful for provision, for school and for community. We’ve found a delightful church and my words can say what a blessing they have been. We have so many friends, we’ll have two thanksgiving’s and plenty of left overs. In the midst of being pruned and cleaned, my God is very good.

Enter his courts with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Afternoons

E is sleeping on my futon. He rolled over twenty minutes ago, gave me a little grin as he tucked a pillow between the crook of his plaid covered a rim and his shaggy dark hair. He smiled teasingly and then closed his eyes. A moment later, he was asleep. I wish I could fall asleep like that.

I can smell chicken in the crockpot, and I’m counting down the minutes before I stick it in the oven and roast it so the skin turns brown and crisp. We have Mormon missionaries coming for dinner and I cook so rarely for others that I want things to be perfect. I look around at my apartment as I type that and sigh. This wreck is not going to be perfect.I had chest pains a few minutes ago. Nothing severe. But sharp enough that it forced me to break from my paper which is due tomorrow morning in my first class. I looked at the leaves outside, the orange, red, limey yellow and hunter green that stand defiant of waning daylight and cold night winds. I thought, what if the chest pains meant something? Something more than anxiety? I glanced at E, still sleeping on the futon, despite the sound of lumbering trucks on our busy street and the folks that take a four-thirty smoking venture every day below my window.

I thought, there are more important things than papers and grades and fear. We’re hoping for the future, him and I. We talk about the UK, about NT Wright and Michael Bird. We use acronyms like PhD, MATh and MB. But there are still more important things than dreams and futures and hopes I’m never quite sure will come to pass.

There is here.

And there is now.

And that is what’s most important.

24

I turned twenty four this week. It wasn’t a thrilling day. I watched someone back into my car twice as they tried (and failed) to parallel park in front of me. I went out for drinks with friends and ate gluten which left me bloated and unhappy the day after (but it was good on the going down!). In sum: I worked a shorter day than planned and had a delicious dinner and got to see friends and it wasn’t an extraordinary day but it was still lovely.

I’ve been thinking about where I was this time last year. I was dating N and we went downtown for my birthday (me in a cutesy dress) with just a couple friends. It was fun but it felt…off. I think I knew that while N was a better choice than previous suitors, he still wasn’t right. I was coming out of a rather dark period in life and to be honest, I was failing in nearly every aspect of my small reality.

This year, I still struggle with a lot of the same things. I still speed and drive rather aggressively. I’m insecure. My skin continues to break out (what’s up adult acne! how you livin’?). I’m prideful and selfish. I’m envious and ill content. And, in case you didn’t know, I really do know everything and I wish you people would just stop acting like I don’t!

But this year I have experienced a great movement of the Holy Spirit in my life. I have forgiven some people who hurt me–even those grudges I had been holding onto for years. I have gone back to school and I have found a purpose, a chance at doing something real and important. I have been challenged, I have been convicted and I have been so well loved by a great number of people that I have been given a real chance to grow.

Sometimes, I feel like I harp on this subject. But then, I think if there’s any subject worth repeating over and over, it’s this one:

My God is so good.
He redeemed me.
He cleaned me.
He clothed my nakedness.
He turned my sorrow to dancing…

…my ashes to joy.

And tonight, as I watched the sun set over the Rocky Mountains I thought that there is no greater birthday gift than the love of a Galilean who somehow found me–even in the muck and mire–more beautiful than the streaks of gold and rosy orange through which the sun sank to its nightly rest–more beautiful than the snow capped peaks and the clear green blue of mountain rivers–more worthwhile and hopeful than the late spring warmth that broke over the pine trees on my morning commute to Colorado Springs–my God found me more beautiful, hopeful and worthy than all of that. Or perhaps that is not the best way to say it. He did not redeem me for what I am or what I’ve done; but for his glory he somehow chose this wretched child and brought her  home to live, deep in his love, safe in his arms, always to delight in him.

my redemption came just months before my birthday in the season I love the least.
and there is such great irony in that. such mystical, haunting beauty to be reborn in such a time.

Man’s chief end is to know God and enjoy him forever.

God is most glorified in us, when we most delight in him.

I think that is the best gift a girl could ever ask for as she enters her mid twenties in the post modern west that has left Christendom behind and strains on for what it has always longed for–the very thing that she has been given.

Thank you. Very much.

Palm Sunday

It’s Holy Week.

Doesn’t look like it in Colorado. After hot days all weekend long and an obscenely dry March, today is cloudy and the grey. The mountains looked like ghosts when I arrived in Littleton, they are barley visible, even from this distance. In Aurora, when I entered the highway rush hour, you couldn’t see the mountains at all. It’s dark and windy, the chill is back and my there is a weight in the air that you can feel, even within the confines of the library that shouldn’t be using electric lights so late in the morning.

Yesterday was brilliant, hot with blazing life across the front range. I wore shorts yesterday, shaved my legs and pulled on a pink tshirt that once belonged to my parents’ ill-wed neighbour. It was warm enough to take children outside to play in the waning light at the evening sunday school I run. We laughed and screamed on slides and monkey bars with toddlers still learning to speak.

Yesterday fell like a proper Palm Sunday though I did not attend a church service.

It was warm and the sun was throwing life towards the earth with careless joy. Trees have started to glow with buds of every colour and the grass has turned green almost overnight. It’s springtime. In Israel, in ancient Palestine, this is the time for lambs, for calves and new life all around. It’s the time when shepherds keep watch over their flocks at night and once heard angels sing of a king born in stubby little Bethlehem.

But we didn’t celebrate Bethlehem yesterday.

Yesterday, my Saviour rode triumphant into the glorious city that had once been Israel’s jewel. Yesterday, the crowds clapped and sang for him, they threw down cloaks and palm branches because a horse bearing such majesty ought to walk on cleaner ground than dusty old Jerusalem’s stones. They whooped and hollered, beads of sweat on wearied faces that yesterday held only smiles as they forgot, momentarily, the travails of life under Roman occupation. And he came in, on that donkey, and the disciples walked alongside him…were they proud to be at his side? Did they think fame and glory would soon follow such an entrance to the city where David and Solomon once ruled?

I’ve been thinking about what it was like, that day in Palestine. What were the Romans thinking? Another grungy zealot, leading people to their deaths in hopeless rebellion against the greatest empire the world had yet seen. Did they think him a madman and laugh? Perhaps, but it was a laughter tinged with anxiety: what might this madmen do? The Zealots were always attacking, ever since Judas Maccabeaus, attacking like ghosts, then melting into the countryside without a trace until the next assault. Would the troublesome Jews rebel? The country was full of madmen, claiming only one God and refusing to light incense of Caesar. Lunatics.

But even lunatics are dangerous.

Did the disciples yet understand what awaited them at the Passover feast? Or did they think like the Romans that this could end with war? I don’t think they expected him to die. He was Messiah, after all! Anointed one! Didn’t the Prophets of old anoint the ones who led them in to battle agains their enemies? What of Saul! Or David! David, of course, to whom God gave peace on all sides. And what of them, the twelve? They would be given places of honour when government was wrenched away from the puppet kings who were not born of the Davidic line. As they walked at the side of the donkey, how odd, a donkey! Not a triumphal creature, but lowly and foolish. As they walked beside the beast that carried their teacher, their master, did they expect a more triumphal entry than this one today? With the palm branches and the cloaks flung down for them to walk on; could there be greater things coming next?

But glory is not always what we expect.

But what, I wonder, did the common folk think? Here was a man front he outlying prospects of Nazareth, a Jew who lived in Gentile Galilee. A carpenter turned Rabbi. His face wasn’t handsome but the hands that held the reigns were strong and firm. His gaze looked sorrowful, despite the fervor around him and the cheering onslaught of the crowd come out to greet him. Do you think they wondered why? To look at the soldiers in their burnished armor, swords at their sides in easy reach, with helmets reflecting the bright springtime sun, to see those marks of domination, oppression and suffering and despite their fear, to cheer boldly for the man on his donkey. This morning, this afternoon, this was a day to mark down in history they must have thought. This was the rescue, so long awaited. See the gates opening to him, see the crowds press in with anxious hope. Feel the temperatures soar with the heat of bodies crushing against each other, hoping for a glance, just one, to see the Messiah who would break all fear and renew all hopes. Look at him! They cried to each other. This ride into Jerusalem it is the marked entrance of a king! This is the way they rode in when they conquered us! The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Seleucids, the Greeks, the Romans! But now comes one of our own, and he will call them to account as Moses did in Egypt. He will establish peace and justice as David did, as Solomon kept. But he will do it better than even they! We will have food to way and clothes to wear. We will have dreams to hope for and no longer regret the world into which we bear our children. This man is hope, this man is justice, he will establish Torah and we will live under the Shadow of Glory as when we made the covenant at Sinai. We are being rescued, they thought, they hoped. And so they shouted, hosanna because no other words could describe the burning in their hearts.

But rescue comes in many ways.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Bright and warm, with hope for springtime and new beginnings.

Today is grey and cold.

When did the hope die? When did the people run in fear? When did they turn and betray him? How could their hearts so quickly falter? How could they have stopped believing so soon, so easily? Today, with hidden mountains, I can feel the anxiety, and the weighty sorrow of ended dreams. Lent is coming to an end, I thought of this today when I longed so desperately for a warm soy chai after a morning of traffic and errands before work, before school. Last week was Spring Break and for a few fleeting days I felt free, excited for summer, energized and thrilled by creation, beauty and all that is life. But then today came, and the triumph is gone.

Jesus has entered Jerusalem. Passover comes now.

With unsteady hands and tensed shoulders, with furrowed brows and wearied feet, we wait. Will it be the Passover of Moses in a new place, freeing from new oppression? Or will this be another failed Messiah, another judgement against us, another refusal to rescue as we’ve long been waiting for?

Yesterday was triumph.
Today is suspense.

shafts of light

There’s a section of the library, over the research and librarians’ desk where the ceiling is lower, sloped beneath the main window that sports a cross enmeshed in the panes of brilliant glass. The light is coming in that way, this time of the day, and it casts a shadow over the sloped ceiling and down onto the floor, where the light is cut into clean rectangles  by the bars of the cross.

The sun outside is clean and warm and the mountains have begun to give up their winter blanket. The foothills are brown, with only patches of white amid their trees. Campus, sadly, is still barren and the ground remains that tan shade of green from rotted death–but she will soon give way to rich life and brilliant shades of green and yellow and flowers whose beauty can hardly be named. Trees will flourish again and shade the grass where students will lie out and momentarily forget the studies that the came here for.

It’s beautiful this time of year, you can smell it in the scents that waft in my window in the early morning hours. You can feel it in the look of people as they pass you on the street. There is new life coming! There is hope and joy awaiting us!

But where do they wait?

Lent hasn’t ended. My body longs for it to end–literally in my physicality and spiritually in my soul. I want Lent to end because I want a latte, with soy foamed to tufts of silky white edged in carmel brown as it seeps into the espresso. But more than that, I want Lent to end because I’m tired of waiting.

The earth, this time of year, she throws off her dusty coat and declares that she too is finished with the longing, the craving, the groaning for newness. She knows that things will end again, and in only a few months she will return to deep inside herself to rest and sleep and wait. But now, in these months she bursts with hopeful expectation. Come quick! she cries to the waiting life. Come quick! she cries to the coming hope. Come quick! she whispers in resignation. Come quick. she sighs and dreams of the day when spring will not be only spring.

But spring will be new life.

{when Aslan shakes his mane
we shall have spring again}

cramped emptiness

As I drove to school recently I ended up sitting in traffic. It’s not such a bad thing, having a slow commute. It forces me to be mindful of time and how things are always outside of my control. And traffic is just a beautiful thing itself. On the hill coming down 225 just after the Parker exit there is a beautiful view of the six lanes becoming four and the mountains that are ever close and ever out of reach. I usually push my engine into neutral and coast down to the waiting brake lights as I watch the inhabitants of Aurora weave through one another’s exhaust. On cold mornings in traffic, the dance of shifting drivers is sluggish as engines and individuals still long for quiet solitude and thick blankets amid the chill that does not easily lift. On days like this one, however, when the sun is high in the clear sky despite the early hour and the frost had melted before my engine rolled over and I added windshield wiper fluid to the ever demanding hyundai, on days like this one which promise warmth and cheer the dance of traffic is fluid and swift. In music we would say it is allegretto or allegro. In the weaving and dodging of cars that still wear the drab winter dust, there is a bit of beauty.

But then the traffic comes to a halt when drivers like me have come to the end of the exit only lane and force a tight merge. In these moments I turn down the iPod that plays without end in the stereo system; less music makes it easier to concentrate and watch for open spas or the possibility of being swiped by an SUV who has moved here from Texas where bigger is better and he thinks he owns the world. It was in one of these quieter moments that I looked to my right and noticed the driver of a Chevy Impala, silver, with those round taillights that blink so obtrusively when signaling for a turn. She had hair the color of burnt orange, dyed, with the roots showing from at least two months growth and dark brown making the contrast one of painful poverty and mistaken identity. She held in her left hand, a cigarette, close to the edge of the window that was opened just a sliver to the crisp morning air. It perched precariously between the tips of her knuckles, wedged lightly between fake french nails just a bit too long for the pudgy edges of her digits. The hair as pulled back, away from the worn and soft fleshed face, the tired curve of her frown framed by the light streaming in the car. She didn’t glance my way, I can’t be sure of the eyes, but I imagine they were watery with the years of many long nights, close arguments and burnt out tears.

The night before I had driven home after work, exhausted and drained after a perfectly wonderful day. Highways opened to me, overpasses lit by glowing orange hues from lamps whose energy my neglected taxes pay for. The great pillars of cement stand on hardened earth, grappling and digging their claws deep into the soil that no longer gives life as they uphold the highway above my head. Like columns from ancient temples, columns of great remorse– but of necessity demanded by progress–misused strength supports the roads that I traverse, so wearied and burdened by the exhilarating knowledge of divine mystery and human telos. There were few cars on the road, the world felt eerily silent and empty as I gained mile after mile towards my distant home where the life never stops. After an evening in a roaring mountain town, Denver seemed, in all her cramped city life vast and empty. There are sprawling subdivisions, for Westerners like their space; the sky scrapers stretch and groan their way towards skyline fame and our roads lead ever onward to somewhere newer, and better. There is movement, life, but it is ragged and the hopes of the people have been bruised and broken by the very city they wanted to enliven.

The woman in the Chevy Impala, what is her name? Perhaps it is one of beauty, or one of mendacious parents who called her a name of ancestral origins for lack of creativity or for the honor of those who came before. She smokes, from a broken heart, from overburdened finances with tired frightened hands that can no longer haul the burden of her past. She dyes her hair to an unnatural color, as an artist, as expression of inner dissent from who she was born to be, or as an escape to the life she thought she’d have by now–the only means to have control over at least something. But she hasn’t the money to maintain the farce.

Who were you, as a child? Did you know that things would come to this? Or was it a mystery when plans were failed and dreams ruined? My sweet woman, do you know who you are and what you were meant for? Or do you only hurt and suffer the woes of fragmented humanity and lost identity? In this vast and empty city so crowded for living and jobs and misplaced peoples, how long have you held the trembling cigarette to your lips and wished the world would disappear with the embers of the flame?

Go to the mountains, woman! I thought to cry across the plexiglass and three feet that separated my car from hers. Go to the mountains and dream in the open spaces, beneath the starry nights and whispering winds that push the pines to dance. Or go to the basilica and feel your breath escape in tepid reverence as the hallowed walls soar to new heights and you are reminded of your humanity. You are broken, sure, but when you are humbled and frightened by your triviality then you will come to know the maker and feel His graceful presence begin to heal the long ravaged chasms of your heart.

Only do not sit in your car, amid the dancing traffic, on your way to work, at the job that cannot satisfy surrounded by broken dreams and fallen hopes and no hope for escape. Do not go back to the places that have always failed and always will. Go, my love, to the places of healing and to the hope of new life within this splintered world and the dream of wild places full of sunlight and glory beyond this marginal existence.

Life Lately

I have so little to write about lately. Perhaps it’s all the writing I’m doing for school and the obscene amounts of reading I’m also committed to each week.  This semester has brought a slew of new friends, and strengthened a number of relationships from the fall. It has also brought a host of new challenges and learning curves. This is fabulous for me. Learning has never been so difficult and never so engaging.

Yet… I have been feeling left dry. While I haven’t gone back an read any old posts, I can recall some from memory. The one about the homeless woman, with her gaping smile or about the writing that I did in church when I still attended church in the movie theatre. I think of posts like that with a bit of longing. I wish I wrote like that still, full of emotion and cadence. I’m learning to write academically now; I hope it makes my diction better, tightens my grammar and strengthens the breadth of topics I’m able and willing to cover. I am also painfully aware of the chance that it undermines my creativity, distorts my voice and cripples my expression.

I want to excel in both realms of my life: academia and creativity.

Somedays though, it feels as though I will learn one at the expense of the other.

musings on coloradan beauty

this was written over the period of several classes so…hopefully it’s coherent. On Monday I went for a brief hike to have some alone time and to just be outside as I’ve been cooped up with far too much schoolwork lately. I have recently been struck by the beauty of the place where I live and attempted to put words to that. This is what came out in Doctrine 1 and NewTestament 503…

I went hiking today. I went alone. I wanted the silence, though I did not know it at the time. There is a part of me that is called to the wild places of Colorado, the sweep heights so shorn by bitter winds and summer sun. I love the lands I’ve been to, I still long for the places where I’ve lived in past years. But deep in my soul is a piece that longs for the majesty of those mountain faces, and the brilliancy of snowy hillsides dotted with scraggly pines scattered amid stones and deep red earth.

The snow had been stripped down on the rocks, blown across by daily wind till it was carved to fine edges and smooth glittering surfaces. The snow looked like worn sandstone whose years are beyond measure, cut away in curves on the edges of the ridge like smoothed shale that sparkled like diamonds in the ever present sunlight. The ice crunching beneath my feet, broken by the borrowed boots was the only sound heard above the howling wind.

I sat on a ledge, over looking the narrow valley before the hogback, watching the sun rise over a city that never truly sleeps. The red boulder beneath me was scattered seeds of the pine tree at my back, shaking in the wind that tumbled over the mountains. THe seed will never take root. The pine will still shake off its bounty though it will come to naught. The wind plummeted o’er the heights and pushed forward a storm that would not take root until Thursday. But the wind knew the coming blessing and hurried on her way out to the Eastern plains.

I  watched the earth sit solidly amid the chaos that raged beneath the heavens, and for a long while I just rested amidst it all. It was  loud but it was silent, for I was deaf to all beyond me, to all the bustle of the thing we mistakenly call life.

The majesty overwhelmed me. The idea that a hand had carved the great monoliths and paint thee hillsides that dwarfed my insignificant sent. Who am I that you should take note of me? I can hardly climb to these great places, and he could have but breathed and it would come to be. And there I sat, small against the world. School work far from mind, bills and rent seemed to not exist and I could think of nothing but the beauty of the wild places and the glorious One who made it all.

Via Negativa

I wrote a paper recently for my four day excursion into Eastern Orthodoxy.

It was a rather academic experience, this paper.

The last paper I wrote on Orthodoxy was more like art. I spoke of the scent in the room, the spice of incense and the watering of my eyes in the smoke as the Father blessed the image of God in all the parishioners. I wrote of the chanting, the calls back and forth and the sweet sound of confessions being whispered nearby. I spun stories of the children that kissed icons as they mimicked venerable grandparents, the toddler who had her hand kissed by a grandmother and pressed against the face of a saint that wavered in flickering candlelight. I sang praises for the liturgy, the long hours that we stood, the moments that flew past while we thought we stood in company with all the saints who have gone before. It was ancient to stand in that church. It was holy.

The paper this time, was not so beautiful.

But in its own way it was beautiful. I wrote about theology and I wrote what could  be one of my best academic papers thus far. For the Orthodox, there is a huge emphasis on the diversity within God. While most Protestants and Catholics focus on the unity, the single-ness of the Godhead, the Orthodox take a different approach as they find incredibly deep meaning in the community of the Trinity.

To me, this is beautiful. The idea of God as the pure essence of community is a great invitation to be joined to that community. The mystics were drawn to this. Their lives were caught up in the pursuit of being one with this God who is Love and Truth and Beauty. Protestants always say that as we grow to know more about God, we realize how much we don’t know about God. It’s true. But the mystics had a different way of explaining this.

Most begin believing that we can know of God through everything. All the world speaks of God’s glory, his majesty, his love, his creativity, his entire being is expressed in the world around us. The mystics knew God in this way. Everything spoke to them and revealed God to them.

Yet, as they progressed in their visions, their experiences, their dark nights within the depths of their souls and the brilliant glory of illumination, as they moved through the spiral of mysticism towards greater experiences with God, almost every single mystic would end with the belief that nothing could speak to them of God. He was too great, too immense to be known and described by such a thing as the finite created world which will soon be passing away. So they came to what we call apophatic knowledge or the via negativa. God could only be known by what he was not. He is only infinite because he is not finite. He is just because he cannot be unjust, etc.

This intrigues me, this idea that we can know and experience God primarily by knowing what he isn’t. How does that play into the concept that we can experience the divine nature and participate in the divine community? How can you participate and know something or someone that you can’t really know?

The mystery of the Eastern Orthodox confuses me but it enthralls me. I love the way the church so earnestly desires to be one with God, to know him and participate in the divine nature. Everything speaks to us of God, even the architecture in the church is designed to point us heavenward to contemplation of the divine. And yet, the Orthodox give God space to be infinite, transcendent and beyond our total comprehension. This is what I wrote of in the 12 and 1/2 pages that came together slowly but surely last week. The chance to know God as an immanent lover, while keeping him respectfully at arms length to enjoy his otherness. The scent of the incense, the encircling of the Triadic community, the sound of the chants, they were all there; simply buried deep in lines full of multisyllabic words and a cumbersome thesis. It was beautiful, even if the words themselves did not evoke the image of the liturgy but rather described the beautiful thoughts behind it.

somedays, I think I was born for Academia.