Brief Moments of Clarity

The windows in my kitchen face due east. I wish I could tell you that Poppy got up early enough every day to enjoy the sunrise with a leisurely cup of coffee and a well-balanced breakfast … but I don’t. I’m doing good to grab a quick mug of coffee for the morning commute. The afternoons are a different story. This is when Poppy engages in his cooking therapy. Putting on some good music, enjoying an adult beverage, creating a meal for people I love … this is when I unwind. Though my windows face east, I can always tell when the sun is setting. It’s never dramatic, a slight shift in coloration, a change in the quality of light, a feeling that has no description or definition. Sometimes I verify my instincts by walking to the front of the house, stepping out on the porch, scanning the western horizon. Yes, the sun is setting … sometimes accompanied by dramatic hues and glowing clouds, often the event is rendered in a more subdued pallette. I walk back to the kitchen, once again looking east, its vistas offering an understated beauty and a brief moment of clarity.

When you walk past the open door of a club or bar in any entertainment district and hear the sounds of music flow out into the street, without going in, you instinctively know whether that melody is live or recorded. It’s a matter of faint audible clues that no one can explain. It’s the difference  between the pure and the duplicated. A brief moment of clarity.

To say that life is complicated would be the ultimate understatement. No matter our station in life, rich or poor, black or white, young or old, we travel a road that is always uncharted. Each morning we step out on that journey, never knowing where it will take us. The history of humanity tells us that we will have good times and bad times, sometimes within the same day, sometimes stretching over weeks, months and even years. This I know to be true. But I believe along the way, God gifts us enough little moments of grace to get us through.

These moments of clarity can bring life into focus, offering an “Aha” event, reminding us that there may actually be a plan. There are little gems of faith and grace hidden in the messiness of life and they can take many forms. Sometimes it is in the form of a sunset or piece of music. Occasionally it’s a scripture, hymn or poem that comes to mind and carries us through the day. But it can also be an overheard loving exchange between a parent and child at the grocery store, an unexpected spontaneous smile from a stranger, or the unrestrained giggles of a child. Sometimes an encouraging text from an old friend will bring the day into focus.

These micro-events will not fill the full 24 hours of your day. They will be rare, precious, brief and fleeting. Train yourself to recognize them in the most unlikely places. Learn to drop your defenses, learn to make yourself vulnerable enough to receive these tiny gifts from God, because they will not announce themselves with the fanfare of trumpets or a loud voice over a public address system, but rather in the most subtle of ways … like a gentle whisper.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out … (1 Kings 19)


On a Path Unknown

Mimsy and I  are pretty boring. There is not a lot of variety to our walks. We reach the end of our driveway and go left or right, maybe throw in the occasional side-street, but we stick to the familiar routes … and that’s okay. There is a comfort in traveling known paths. Mimsy knows the telephone poles and tree trunks that yield the best scents, which dogs have come and gone along this way. I think about my neighbors as we pass their houses. I know where to watch for uneven slabs of sidewalk and fallen sweet-gum balls. Everything does not have to be an adventure. For that we have life.

You don’t have to walk this planet very long before you understand that (in spite of our best intentions and plans) life just rolls our in front of you. It’s as if you have stepped on a moving sidewalk that has lost all its safety mechanisms. We wonder whose hand is on the control as the path speeds past vacations and slows to a crawl during difficult times.

We don’t move down the path as ballet dancers or figure skaters. We bumble. We stumble. We fall on our asses … a lot. But we pick ourselves up and keep going. We rinse and repeat and if we are paying attention, we learn something along the way. We learn that we have no control over the events that sweep by us, we only have control on how we respond to those events. We learn that we fail in that regard too. We learn that we are not saints, asking for forgiveness and resolving to do better the next time. Life rolls out in front of us.

It is a very messy pilgrimage.

We look at other travelers and try to gauge their journey … is it smoother than ours, is it rougher? We see people win the lottery, and others get cancer. We see bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people and vice-versa.

Our inclination is to channel our inner five-year-old, cross our arms, stamp our feet, and yell as loudly as we can, “IT’S NOT FAIR!”

Life is not fair. If you are a parent, chances are you have used that phrase with your children. Chances are, they looked at you having no perspective of what you were taking about. Give them a few years.

Life is not fair, and that’s okay.

Fairness implies justice. Justice is harsh, absolute and unforgiving. I know myself too well, I don’t want justice.

I much prefer grace and mercy.