Friday, May 23, 2008

Rosetta Stones

In 1799 Napoleon’s army made an incredible discovery. They uncovered a 1,000 pound plus black stone. This stone was engraved with three languages including the enigmatic Egyptian hieroglyphs.

For years and years many tried to translate this ancient Egyptian language—pictures without meaning. A mystery, unknown and closed. Then in 1822 Jean-Francois Champollion deciphered the key to the translation of the stone. What was unknown became known.

I have always been enthralled with this great black rock—intrigued by its mystery and the diligence and tenacity Champollion employed as he worked on the translation. I can only imagine the moment when the ancient script began to unfold to Jean-Francois. I can vaguely resonate with the anticipation when the key clicked the lock over and the text became readable—alive.

God is good.

There has to be a better word, a greater concept to convey him. There is not. I cannot articulate him in the confines and finiteness of my own language, even if someone could watch and the language became animated. No, I am limited: every analogy, every metaphor, every description falls short. Each one can only be stretched so far.

Yet, I am incredibly aware that Jesus is our Rosetta Stone. He came to translate God to his people--to us. He came to help us comprehend what seemed to be a complete and closed mystery. He became flesh and dwelled among us so he might translate. He was the translation. When he was finished he sent his Spirit to continue the task.

For a brief time we are on this stage of history, and we are to become smaller Rosetta Stones. And like Champollion, Annie Sullivan and Louis Braille—we are to shed a brief and narrow light on a text that sometimes seems unreadable and enigmatic.

I want my whole life to become a living translation—about you and for you. Let who I am become a metaphor to reveal a little more of you to others. May your Spirit expand, increase, and enable me not only to translate the words and the text, but to help interpret the very nuances of this language. Help me to somehow make the unknown--known.

Enable me to not only speak, but also to think in this language—

I want to be fluent.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Afternoon Prayer

Heavenly Father, renew a right spirit in me—make me as white as snow.

Expand me. Stretch me. Increase my small capacity to hold more of you. I am narrow and confined, but I long to be wide and deep.

How long, O God, has it been since I have seen you in your sanctuary? How long has it been since I have seen your train in the temple and trembled in awe because I am in your presence?

We do not shrivel in your presence, O God. We are not diminished—we are expanded and made to see our own value because of the enormity of yours. The enemy seeks to demand our cowardice and shriven natures to surface. He condemns us. He demeans and undercuts us. He makes us feel unwelcome and despised in your presence.

No! There is no condemnation for those who are attempting to abide in Jesus. Only conviction. You do not demean or devalue us. You lift us up into your arms, brush off the dirt and grime—and your fatherly spit cleans our dirty, urchin faces.

And that is what I have been—an urchin. Dirty. Grimy. Filthy. Searching for sustenance. God, gather this urchin (and all the others like me) into your arms and whisper your realities in our ears.


Friday, May 9, 2008

My Rosary

I went to sleep last night to the rhythm of the rain. And sleep came quickly. My Zoe-dog was curled in the crook of my legs (she was hoping my daughter would forget to escort her to her crate for the night). I woke early this morning—before dawn. Rested, but restless.

This is the month of May. A month that marks significant milestones in my life. Boundary stones placed by choice and by default. Many of my firsts and lasts have occurred in this month. Needless to say this is the month of contemplation and reflection.

Like worn rosary beads I am clicking these stones through my fingers—rolling, rubbing, and turning each one. These stone beads evoke a myriad of emotion: melancholy, delight, sadness, doubt, joy, frustration, eagerness, hunger, and confusion. Several beads have been added in the last year and still have rough and sharp edges. I have been on this earth for forty-two years and there have been some years I have added only one bead and others I have had to add ten. My string got a lot heavier and a lot longer this year.

I keep rubbing and rolling.

Some of the stone beads are still completely unfamiliar and foreign. Eventually time and friction will make them relatively smooth and utterly familiar. But right now they seem to be too large for the string—out of place and out of sync. My natural inclination is to try and rearrange the beads, to unstring them and resort—according to size. (This is how I organize my books, not alphabetically or thematically, but by size.) I just want to untie the string and start all over again. Impossible. Between each bead is a knot—securing the position and order of the beads. I can’t untie the knots—the string would break.

Instead I just keep praying. Isn’t that what a rosary is for? Prayer.

Sometimes it is just rote prayer…prayed out of a lifetime of habit. And yet, that is the very purpose of these strings. To help us remember. Slide a bead, say a prayer. Often they enable us to remain in the habit of prayer. Prayer without ceasing.

Lately I have been looking at my rosary closely. I have done this before—too many times to count, but my purpose was to examine to find fault or flaw. I would look at each bead individually. (Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?) Scrutinizing the size, the color, the weight, the shape. The result of this examination would often be dissatisfaction, guilt, pride, self-condemnation, self-flattery, depression, elation. Often just a warped and biased perspective.

This year has changed that perspective. One of my daughters told me she had an epiphany this week. Epiphanies sneak up on you. They catch you unaware. And I have had one of my own.

Every one of my beads is significant. The range of color is astounding—matte black, dull gray, dirty white to deep red, shadowed purple, vivid orange. But it is the combination of these stone beads that creates the interesting and unconventional beauty.

If I follow my natural inclination and see only one bead at a time—all I see are the cracks, flaws, discrepancies, and fault lines. They just seem to be a random jumble. My idea of symmetry and balance is very narrow. But when I look at the whole string, then I see the pattern.

The epiphany?

I can’t unstring this rosary of mine. I can’t change the order of the beads. I can’t even change the color or the texture of them. But I can learn to recognize the value and beauty of the string. I can use it to look at myself soberly—and to allow God to change my warped and biased perspective. I can use it to pray. And as I am rolling and rubbing, I can ask God for grace to accept and embrace the order and the symmetry of the stone beads.

I have discovered an incredible truth.

My rosary is a functional, purposeful, and beautiful piece of art.

Maybe you should take another look at your rosary...

Yes, it is beautiful.

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