In the Arriving

I rested my hand on his shoulder.  Confident and firm, but the trust was still brittle.  We accelerated through cyclists and peddlers and ornately decorated rickshaws and buses with flailing young boys hanging out of the sides, careening the streets to enroll passengers.  Aggressive taxis and the occasional meandering cow muddled the traveling stream as well.  Bending with the silhouette of the lake, we rumbled further into rice paddies through muddy gingerline colored earth stitching the patchwork of fields.

His smile would mirror back your worth. Spectacular aesthetically, still, the poise of his eyes possessed a focus that believed in the value of the fixated object.  Typically scattered in motion, yet soft in presence when they finally landed.  The stable base to the sharpness of his eyes, was his ever present, perfectly aligned teeth in a capaciously framed mouth.  The smile, almost as constant a companion to him as the beloved Royal Enfield humming between our legs.

We were heading to a stupa outside of the city of Pokhara.  A whitewashed stone, sacred site meticulously built and humbly inarticulate, the grandeur muted by its longevity, on top of a ridge above the streams and trickles of eclectically gathered scurriers and drifters and journeyers.  Gurung was a waiter for a coffee shop I frequented.  The balcony strapped to the outside of the small venue kept the AnnaPurna still and subtle before my eyes, a deeply moving scene to write and journal before in the mornings, ahead of daily excursions.  Enthusiastic by the delivery of warmth and sincerity in our gestures and questioning of one another, we celebrated a quickly sound friendship.  Though we had a mere few hours of interaction, we took off on an adventure to a sight neither of us had seen.

The peak dangled closer.  Nearing the stupa, we taxingly climbed the crudely cut ivory steps teething out of the hilltop.  I love man’s desire to institute a site as sacred and set apart.  Our arrogant authority in our ability to only title and name.

Gurung, more than I,  drew honestly and mightily from his pseudo-healthy state, a blessing of youth rather than manicured care or effort.  Also, I think he smoked, which I have no evidence for jealously inferring.  Oh well, I thought, I’ll get to the stout, stubby Buddha quicker.  At the top, we removed our shoes and reverently walked around the rim, randomly pantomiming out to scenes that caught our attention across the verdant landscape.  Metal plates of scripted words circled the enshrinement.  I wish I knew all the great religions mantras and scripted prayers.  I think more so, I just wish I had some ruminating in my heart.  Like my thoughts and mind musings were just strewn out on the back side of a page embossed with braille, so maybe they’d have some direction, falling into the rivets and dents of prayers as they move along the surface of my soul.  That’s how I like to think of prayers and chants and meditations on holy texts.  Something that gets at you.  It creates cavities and gaps and textures on the exterior of your soul, so when traffic embraces you, as you mount the on-ramp to the freeway or you burn the blueberry lemon scones or a freak hail takes out your sunflowers in your garden, or planners and schedules and agendas become a thing, splashing and sloping against you, they can spill out of the channels and depressions carved by spiritual formation.

And maybe, just maybe, they’re deep enough to hold the weight and flow of our great sufferings through life, a shattered dream or life altering illness, or maybe even the loss of a loved one.

I looked back at young Buddha.  A statue of a handsome man before he let himself go.  We tried not to talk as we rounded the precipice.   When we felt satisfied and holy enough, we gathered our shoes, and with delight, started the far less demanding descent.  Extending meekly into the path was the limb of a cherry blossom tree.  I reached for an opened bud, holding it loosely.  Motioning to the flower, Gurung speaks, “Do you love, or do you like?”  I was really proud of his English proficiency, though I’m not sure polishing the brokenness in his speech could still resonate with the same intensity of his non-verbals in this moment.  Really, most of the time.  I said, pausing extensively, as I often do, “I love it.”  Which was true!  After trying to internally tare various levels of admiration and worth alongside their adversative counterparts, I remembered Elie Wiesel’s quote:  “The opposite of Love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

He replied, “Then you’ll let it be.”  I smiled back in agreement.  I don’t think beauty needs our ownership either, but our amazement.

We continued at a slow, appreciative pace.  Reaching the bottom, we hummed away.


Lost Spry

I remember scrambling over the train, throwing my bike across my shoulder and climbing  stilled boxcars. Sopping wet, singing at the top of my lungs, and setting my sites on upcoming puddles promising the biggest splashes as I remounted from the other side.  In the spring and summer of 2014, the seams of  heaven loosened to historic levels of inclement rains on our semi-arid desert region; intoxicating balcony sessions filled my evenings with a slung hammock, interminable coffee allotments, and soul-wrecking books.

In the mornings, I had a circuit of figure eights I’d imprint around the trees:  praying and laughing, touching blooms and blossoms, whispering to the clouds, listening to serenity’s secrets as the morning bustle awoke, imposing her departure.  ‘Seducive’ has always been the tone of morning’s approach to my awake.  A tanilizing solemnity that enratpures and stimulates with the sensitivity and arousal of an old lover’s touch and presence, forever favored by time and its phlegmatic inducing; who is seemingly a closet, hopeless romantic.

There are trees I remember.  Scripted into creation for my discovery.  Their dendritic patterns lacing the sky as I lay on my back counting leaves, those heroic holdouts left self-commissioned under a moral obligation to grant us with color until winters reprise.  I guess it’s spots.    There are colors that have arisen behind my eyelids in meditation, eternally present.   The cool touch of rocks, whose embrace I still feel touching my skin as the seat to a masterpiece before my eyes.   Those places where divinity speaks without words and serenades without song.  Those moments of poetic glimmers, attuned to and surrendered in.  Symphonic interabiding of colors, breath, wishes, and bliss.  I have rocks and spots and trees held sacred to me. I’ve felt moments lapped in wonder.

I need to remember to be youthful. Remember to play. Remember to sing. Remember the euphoric moments ever present and waiting.


Wonder Invites

We get to scandalously participate in a life that softly invites us to see splendor and impressiveness in ordinary, recognizing more to be seen than the eye allows. The whole world is articulated with a clarity and vibrancy through a lens attentive to the divine.

God is everything.  Practicing His presence every moment of the day, living a posture benignly held by in place by the dynamic play of grace and pursuit of awe.  We get to scandalously participate in a life that softly invites us to see splendor and impressiveness in ordinary, recognizing more to be seen than the eye allows.  The whole world is articulated with a clarity and vibrancy through a lens attentive to the divine.  A way of Being that would seem unfulfilled in anything less than a total, reckless dance of devotion.  

Animated by worship, we’re drawn to make choices counter-cultural to accomplishment, forward progress, or achievements.  Then how we spend time looks differently; the presence of others, career goals and sense of place change.  The thrill of experience, efficiency, and binding economic, utilitarian value to everyone and everything, loose relevance and meaning.  Faith, walked out in a reality that transforms, isn’t interested in crossing finish lines and sees the model of tallying up successes as archaic and sterile.  

And that’s where it begins.

“Wonder is the state of our being asked” (Heschel).  We now enter into this place where “endless wonder is endless tension,”  where we are forever weighed by this “load of marvel, wishing to exchange it for the simplicity of knowing what to live for, a load which we can never lay down nor continue to carry not knowing where” (Heschel).  This is where I’ve found myself.  I crave to move from the hints of the ethereal to constant communion with a way of living.  How do I live in the deepest connection with Him?  I don’t have the ability to return to speculation or acquisitiveness in knowing Him, understanding theoretically or intellectually can’t satisfy a life of worship of mystery and marvel.  A way of being.  It seems to be the returning theme of life; to look out at life from a place of conscious union with God.  Constant questioning remains though.

What is asked of me now?  How do I give you the most glory?  How do I walk in a “transcendence of living,” bringing the most redemption and restoration to humanity and creation?   How can I bring heaven here in all I do?  

I want a life lived out scandalously.  I want to turn down job promotions or opportunities, driven by what’s best for the incarnational faith community I dwell in and what’s best for family.  I want to practice true biblical freedom, referenced by a Russian theologian as “restriction of self for others”.  I want to give radically in resources and monetary value to supporting the brethren, knowing if I take care of our brothers and sisters, God will take care of me.  To live communally in a fellowship, loving and serving one another in a way “on earth as it is in heaven.”  I want to crawl across the threshold of heaven with callouses and bruises, having lived and labored for creation care, hospitality, and justice in my midst; battered internally by a heart beaten from loving out of vulnerability and no expectation.  I desire to love.
I’ve been asked.  Now how do I reply, God?