In His Image


in the image of God

“And God said, Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27). 

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“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalm 8:4)

Not quite angels, King David described humanity in a prayer, saying that we have been created “a little lower than the angels.” In the same breath, however, he notes that mankind has been crowned “with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:5).

What is that glory? That honor? In some ways greater than we will ever know, it is that we have been created in the image of God.

I attended a writer’s conference on the theme of “Write His Answer.” An unexpected theme arose during the keynote, as one speaker after another told stories of broken self-image and their continuing journeys toward recreating their identity.

Their stories made me cry. As though they were reaching to something inside me or a part of me that I could not recognize or remember. It was a response I did not expect, and set me on a sort of journey of my own, towards understanding broken or fragile parts of my identity and self-image.

The message in the keynote speeches all led to a single core, the idea of having been created in the image of God. And not only that, but the idea that the losses and the breakings and the hurt all work together toward a single purpose: that of transforming us into the image of Christ.

Made in His image at the beginning . . . and slowly, continually, often painstakingly, being transformed into the image of Christ.

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” the Psalmist asks. Lower than angels. Yet honored with the indescribable gift of a unique identity. An identity hard to grasp and even harder to accept in the midst of the brokenness and cruelty of the world.

But it is our true self. Our deepest self. And understanding that, accepting it, letting that beauty become the reality shaping who we are and who we believe we can become.

Hope … He Will Come at Last


Frederick Buechner on Hope

I think it is hope that lies at our hearts and hope that finally brings us all here. Hope that in spite of all the devastating evidence to the contrary, the ground we stand on is holy ground because Christ walked here and walks here still. Hope that we are known, each one of us, by name, and that out of the burning moments of our lives he will call us by our names to the lives he would have us live and the selves he would have us become. Hope that into the secret grief and pain and bewilderment of each of us and of our world he will come at last to heal and to save. – Frederick Buechner

He will come, yes, and He has come. and that is why that ground on which we stand is holy. Why the people to whom we speak and with whom we interact every day are sacred. For all are made in His image, in the image of the one who did not give up on a fallen creation. In the image of the one who sacrificed the purest and sweetest and most wondrous thing — Himself — to redeem all things to Himself once more. To bring new life and joy by His love and promise to make all things new.

We are called on by hope. Not a nebulous, vague, and random hope. Not a hope that is mere wishful thinking. But hope that fires the imagination and fires the purpose. Hope that rests in the truth of a perfect Love that descended into the dark forests of this world to seek and save. To bring us Home again.

The Wondrous Gift of Writing


Writer’s Conference Series, Part 5

Books were taunting me. They’d never taunted me before. Fascinated me, yes. I loved books. Even as a child, I loved the hush of a library. I would look around in wonder and ask myself, “Will I ever be able to read ALL these books?”

But the books on my bookshelves, the books on my side tables … they were taunting me. “We’ve been finished. Completed. Published.”

And I couldn’t even open my own manuscript. Or at least, I didn’t want to.

Over a week had passed since the writer’s conference. I had been both blessed and inundated by information and material, and was ready to complete the final draft of my manuscript and send it off to a few prospective agents. I had heard from a friend whose feedback on my book was just what I knew it needed to make it absolutely perfect.

All I had to do was write.

And I couldn’t do it. I tried opening the document on my computer a couple times, but my mind would fog over. I would close the document, feeling incapable and overwhelmed. I tried praying. Tried reading to fill my heart and soul with great writing in hopes that it would overflow onto my own manuscript.

But mostly, I sat in one corner of the couch and told myself, “I’ll never get this done.” And from that location, books taunted me in their finished perfection.

My husband found me there one afternoon. I tried to tell him how I felt. All I managed was, “I feel stuck,” and then the tears poured out. “I can’t do this. I’ll never get it done. I can’t finish this book. Even if I do, no one will want to publish it or take it on as an agent.”

Every hopeless comment I could possibly make about my book came out. And I wasn’t looking for compliments, hoping for my husband to reassure me with just the opposite of what I said. I was stuck. Completely stuck. I could not write a word. Any revisions I tried to add only made things worse.

“Don’t write,” he told me. “Just leave it. You’ll know when you’re ready. The words will come. Don’t push yourself.”

I nodded. I took a deep breath. The fog seemed to lift. Just knowing that someone was there to support me, someone who wasn’t pushing me, or laughing at me, but encouraging me … made all the difference.

The next day, I opened the document again. And I began to write. Within two weeks, I had completed the fifth draft.

Writers, and other artists, struggle with self-doubt. A lot. And there’s never a perfect and complete cure for that condition. But there are friends. Family. A spouse. There are encouraging words and thoughts. There are prayers. There’s sitting beside someone in tears on a couch and saying, “It’ll be okay.”

Because it will.

God says so. In His Word, and in that voice deep within the heart that whispers to us not to give up.

That assures us the best is yet to come.

That reminds us of the wondrous gift writing is.

That calls us to let the heart be filled with dreams, and to tell those dreams

as stories

as words

as poems

as beatings of the heart of a writer.

A Prayer for Comfort


I attended a funeral last weekend. I wanted to go, but I also didn’t. I was afraid. Afraid of not knowing what to say. How to comfort the hurting family members. As if, somehow, I could.

Maybe I try too hard to fix things. To work things out. To know exactly what to do and how to do it. To read life carefully. Too carefully.

But some things can’t be fixed. Not here. Not now. Sometimes tears must be cried before the comfort comes. Sometimes many tears.

My dad told me yesterday, sometimes just your presence, and your prayers, are the best thing you can offer to a hurting heart. Yesterday I offered my presence. My timid, unsure presence. Such a small thing in the face of death and the pain it causes.

Today I offer a prayer. Also such a small thing. But somehow, perhaps, calling on the Giver of Life, of Comfort, of Hope, will do more than anything my presence, my words, could ever do.

I hope so. I pray so.

 

Lord, I woke up with the verse running through my mind, entrenched deeply as though it was something I dreamed, but I can’t remember. “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

I don’t remember any dreams, but I know it was the verse that the Father spoke of yesterday at the funeral of a young man who left this life too soon. They were the words You spoke at the grave of Your friend, who left this life too soon. You raised him from the dead.

Father, Your power is not limited. You can do the same today. You have, time and again, worked miracles in this age. So when You don’t, when death’s finality resounds and the curtain is drawn, it conveys a painful message that is hard to understand.

You have a purpose. And though we cannot see or know, that purpose will be accomplished.

But it seems so harsh to say or conclude that You have a purpose in death. Perhaps, if nothing else, it is the effects of a fallen world. A world of sorrow and the harsh reality that Satan is prince of the world, of its pursuits and the way it has minimized those things that truly matter, and glorified those thing that have no meaning. No wonder we grow so weary, so confused, in the midst of this.

God, bring hope to those who are hurting. Bring strength to those who are weak. Your strength. Bring comfort to the weary and let them rest their heads on Your shoulder. Lord, You promised to glorify Your name. Glorify Your name now, even in the midst of sorrow and death. May Your name, oh Lord, be glorified, and let it bring hope and Light and Life to those who are lost, hurting, and broken.

You are the resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in You, though dead, shall live. We were all dead in sin until Your light broke through the darkness of our souls and brought life. So that we who cross the great divide might step from life to Life.

Thank You for that life. Thank You for that hope.

Bring Light to those who wake in darkness.

Bring Hope to those who have none.

Bring Life. Oh Lord, bring Life.

Writing through the Search


forest pathSo many times we write of a door that was closed … only once it is opened. We only write of the seeking … once we have found. Of the searching once we know what it is we’re looking for. But it’s hard to write while in the midst of a search, in the midst of the silence.

Is it because I don’t know if I will find it? Is it because I’m afraid of looking like I don’t know what I’m looking for? Or even what I have found? Perhaps it is the fear of appearing unsure, that I don’t have it all together.

For so long my life had such a strong sense of purpose. And it does still, but at times, I can’t help but feeling as though I’m missing something. Not missing out on something, but actually missing something.

Is it an end in the road? Is it a curve? Is it a completely different road I’m meant to take? Or am I simply meant to continue on this path?

Somehow I feel this is what I am meant to do, so I continue walking. But there is no brilliant burst of sun in the grey sky. No moments of perfect clarity, with birds taking flight before of my eyes, or seeing the last leaf fall from a tree in a magical manner.

No songs or symphonic crescendo. Just a gentle near silence. Nearly, but not quite. This defines, in part, my journey these past months. Not silent, but no words or message clear enough to hear.

The Bible says something to the effect of, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” That’s the verse that came to mind when I began my walk, wondering why at times he seems so distant.

Perhaps I have not really searched, not with all my heart. Or perhaps my eyes have not been opened. Am I waiting for something? For God? Is He waiting on me? Is it a little bit of both? Neither?

All I can say for sure is that it is part of the journey, and as long as the path continues to stretch before me, it is my destiny, my part, to walk forward. I am sure moments of brilliant clarity will burst through the gray. I am also sure that for the most part, I will gaze at life – past and present – through murky glass, not even considering future.

But I also know that I am not alone. And the One who walks beside me has a plan. A purpose. And as long as I trust in this, I can know it is not about the destination, the finding, the end of the search. So much is about the journey, and the One who walks with me each step of the way.

The Edge of the Wind


The air moves

In ways strange

It doesn’t explain

The winds change

From gentle to gale

From rushing to ripple

And I feel the urge

To clean out my house

Or my heart

Or even to disappear

Into the wind

And let it carry me

Far

A mountaintop perhaps

Or even a star

I can’t track the movement

Of the wind

Its cycles and cold fronts

Colliding with heat

Piling cumulus over nimbus

And stratus beneath cirrus

All I know is the rain

And the magic scent

Of sky before it falls

A smell like the sound of skittering leaves

Whispering the approach of a storm

This wind change

Will it be a storm

A calm

Perhaps a little bit of both

Settling and stirring me

At the same time

I don’t know

And at times

All I can do is close my eyes

To better feel the change

Skirting the edge of the wind

A Fleeting Glimpse of Gold (A Poetry Analysis)


A Comparison of “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost and “Storm Warnings” by Adrienne Rich

In “Storm Warnings” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” nature is an overarching theme. In both works, the poets write of nature as a powerful force that mankind cannot control; each writer uses different aspects of nature to bring out their theme in unique and poignant ways. Nature is portrayed as ephemeral, fleeting and unpredictable, yet also showing strains of predictability in its repeated cycles and seasons; the reader can infer the implications of nature bearing similarities to mankind as a whole as well as to the individual. Both Robert Frost and Adrienne Rich seem to respect the power and magnificence of nature at the same time that they recognize in its deeper elements certain parallels with humanity. True to the general personality of poetry, “Storm Warnings” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay” can be taken at face value or delved into more deeply to unearth symbolic truths of a figurative nature.

“Storm Warnings” by Adrienne Rich weaves together a message that nature cannot be controlled by writing of two related concepts – the weather of the heart and weather in nature at large. Neither form of weather is completely predictable, nor are they controllable. Weather in nature, the poem points out, has been charted and can be predicted by the dropping of the “glass” – the barometer – but it still cannot be controlled: “Between foreseeing and averting change / Lies all the mastery of elements” (ll. 15-16). Breaking the barometer cannot destroy the oncoming storm, just as destroying a clock cannot stop time, as Rich points out in the following lines: “Time in the hand is not control of time / Nor shattered fragments of an instrument / A proof against the wind; the wind will rise” (ll. 18-20). The poem seems to speak of the inability to have power over elements of nature, no matter how much humanity might make such attempts.

The narrator of the poem appears well aware of the weather that can sweep the land, and is wise to the knowledge that her only defense against the onslaught of nature is closing the doors and remaining protected or barricaded inside with the lines, “We can only close the shutters / … / This is our sole defense against the season” (ll. 21, 26). Even then, increment elements seep through the keyhole, an ominous portrayal that mankind cannot completely control any part of nature – neither weather nor time. Adrienne Rich writes of man’s learning to cope with the weather as a way to almost “settle” with mankind’s inability to control the elements of nature.

“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost also speaks of the uncontainable authority of nature, yet brings out a different idea than Adrienne Rich’s poem. Frost’s work speaks of the ephemeral elements of life by using parallels in nature – its “gold” that is the blossom of spring and the perfect dawn of a day: “Nature’s first green is gold, / Her hardest hue to hold. / Her early leaf’s a flower; / But only so an hour” (ll. 1-4). The poem rings of the poignant character of all things earthly, which seem to fade almost before their time. The implication is not only those transient elements in nature, but also within the fleeting lives of humanity, which come and go so quickly.

The poem by Frost also brings in religious undertones when referring to the Garden of Eden and its perfection at the dawn of humanity; yet its’ eventual sinking to grief, bespeaking the fate of nature itself, with the lines, “Then leaf subsides to leaf. / So Eden sank to grief” (ll. 5-6). Nothing man can do would have the power to change this; the unspoken message of Frost’s poem seems to be that it would be useless to try to wrest nature to serve one’s own purposes, for “nothing gold can stay” (ll. 8). The poem seems almost sad in its portrayal that nothing gold within nature is lasting or eternal.

Both “Storm Warnings” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay” utilize similar themes of the power of nature and its pervasive influence upon humanity in spite of mankind’s manifold abilities and progressing technologies. The idea or message at first glance almost cheerless, yet an underlying significance can be wrought from both poems. This more hopeful undertone whispers of the ability of both nature and man to be recreated in a way that is also uncontrollable and almost beyond understanding. Nothing gold can stay, yet each new day another dawn rises; each new season welcomes the “gold” of blossoms and spring’s unique beauty. In “Storm Warnings,” although people who live in such “troubled regions” (ll. 28) batten down the hatches and hole up in protection against oncoming storms – of nature or of the heart – the unspoken truth is that the storm will pass. The sun will be seen once again … or hope will rise once more.

Although both poems convey the power of nature to destroy or be destroyed, to fail and fade with the passing of time, both can also be taken with the hope that nature always cycles around to rebirth and renewal. However, when the storms loom low and fierce, and when dawn gives way to a day that scorches the sky, it is difficult for anyone – poet and pessimist alike – to see beyond the harsh and inclement parts of nature. At such times, as Rich writes, one can only “Draw the curtains as the sky goes black / And set a match to candles sheathed in glass” (ll. 22-23). Her words give credence to the idea that – whether someone is facing the storms of nature or of the heart – there is always something to do to welcome a little bit of light, a fleeting glimpse of gold, into one’s life as protection against complete despair.