Flashes of Wonder

If I wrote like my wife talks, I’d write narrative like a kid writing home from summer camp, “I had oatmeal for breakfast and we played softball and I outran all the boys in a foot race and we had hamburgers for dinner…” But, I write like a Red Bull-drinking cat on a hot tin roof, leaping from topic to topic not waiting to interrupt myself if new sentences emerge from side streets like kids chasing the siren song of the ice cream truck. Karen and I had such a good weekend that writing of it demands a linear narrative, so I’m writing as Karen might speak, with details and in order.

“What am I to do with all this good stuff?”, I asked Karen yesterday after a weekend of good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. Friday we attended a seminar on Christian Evidences with a keynote by Josh McDowell and were amazed that the very principle he taught, the power of a nurturing father, emerged from his life despite paternal abuse and from that refining smelter of struggle has come the heart of a man who enables healing and cleansing through the power of God.

We dined at the Painted Horse Friday evening and spoke with the proprietor, Mark Spencer about his two-week old restaurant venture and about our daughters, Jenna and Hannah, and we chatted with Jason and Shelby Riggs and saw other old friends.

Saturday morning I shared a spinach omelette with Karen as we visited with Dad and my brother Greg, then we browsed at the Dewey Church of Christ buying bread pudding, crock pots and blankets with funds going to Kibo for water wells in Uganda. We saw the power of young people and how they sometimes teach us older folks. Makenzie Hyde and her sister, Larissa, along with Charli Martz, because they care about kids in Africa having clean water to drink and bathe, have pushed and inspired and helped the adults raise $6,000 for Kibo Group.
Family Makenzie Larissa

Saturday night we attended a Tulsa Symphony Orchestra production at the Lorton Performing Arts Center with guest singer Natalie Merchant, the lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs who once instilled a love of dance and music in my son at the age of three. He enjoyed putting on his sisters tutu and whirling about the living room in a frenetic choreography while Natalie sang These Are Days. And so I bought an extra ticket if he wanted to go with us, but alas, he couldn’t.

I presented the extra ticket to the woman behind the glass and I heard a voice from behind me, a young man, exclaim, “Is that ticket available?” I said sure and gave the ticket to the young man who commenced thanking me repeatedly. His wife plays violin and he had come at the last-minute to see her. We talked at intermission and it turns out he’s a professional golfer and his wife a business consultant who plays violin with the Tulsa Symphony. I told him that a generation earlier, as a younger man with a wife and baby daughter, I had walked in his golf shoes and we spoke of the challenge of playing golf at high levels, of tour school pressure and life on the road.

Sunday, we heard a sermon about being noble vessels and were reminded that we are God’s poetry, that the beauty and power of God is manifest through our personhood, our containers of humanity, and in the evening we shared food and fellowship and talked about our lives and families and what we are doing in our work and passions, and we drove home with a greater investment in the lives of those who sit in the adjacent pew.

Sunday afternoon, I strolled along the fairways of the little golf course in my backyard and marveled at the warmth and sweetness of a brilliant, breezy autumn day, and recalled the words of G.K. Chesterton who remarked, “Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me. Tomorrow begins another day. Why am I allowed two?”
This weekend we experienced life in many forms…spiritual, relational, charitable, artistic, ethereal, physical, sensual…this reminded me of sitting outside a café in West Yellowstone, Montana enjoying a cup of coffee with Karen and basking in the sun gleaming through crystal mountain air. We had one of those formative moments, what do we do with this goodness, this beauty, a loveliness so pure it hurts to look away?

Most Americans equate a life well-lived with success. Abraham Joshua Heschel said this about success, “I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder.” I once peered up at the soaring cliffs of Tracy Arm Fjord, stunned by naked beauty…pure spectacular wonder.

Nothing to touch, nothing to say, no smell, no sound…just uncontaminated vision. The Holy hand of the immaculate artist reaching down to share light and shading and texture and color and immense scale with me…a small, profane, inarticulate witness to majesty and wordless wonder. I found myself looking at other people, catching an eye, a glance. I said this to total strangers…”Can you believe this?”

Maybe our best response is not very sophisticated, but rather primitive and ancient and sounds like the percussion of our life drumming to an ancient rhythm born of our inner spirit and conducted by the greatest of conductors. If you see something beautiful do you name it?

I wrote a letter to my son about daily wonder and the hikes we have experienced together. “Keep looking up, keep walking strong, keep exploring passionately…and remember to till the soil of wonder deep inside your soul. It’s our connection from this temporal earthly place to the cosmic eternal where all is wonder. The best part for me has always been wondering what’s just around the next boulder or switch back. Just ahead on the trail is a stream, the next mile is unknown, just beyond that a bluff, thunder and lightning, a bear smells us, then we see the bear, an ancient wall telling us tales…keep walking. There’s plenty of time to rest at the end of the trail.”

What do I do with all this goodness? Here’s to slowing down to soak in the wonder of weekends that too often go by in a whirlwind of busy noise. Just as Elijah pulled his cloak to his face and listened as a whisper brought him to the mouth of a cave, I’m listening to the whisper of my friends gentle voices, and music that makes my feet skip and my soul weep, I’m hunkering down over coffee and eggs and bacon and pumpkin pancakes savoring each bite, and walking through a swirl of brilliant dancing leaves, listening to children preach and teach and nudge us to do what we should of our own volition, heaven touching earth in quiet unbidden moments, flashes of wonder intersecting our sodded wanderings.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TZ-v5BW-pQ Wonder isn’t always packaged in ways we understand. If you have a couple minutes, listen to Natalie Merchant sing one of my favorite songs and tell the backstory of the songs genesis. It’s called Wonder.

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