Crystalline Delight

The poem “Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe goes from the light silver bells we associate with love and life to the heavy iron bells of a church tower announcing death. I used to tell my students that I would begin with the iron and move toward the silver so the reader would be left with a sense of hope and love. God reminded me this morning that love begins with those sweet silver bells and leads to the mellow, golden wedding bells. From there, alarms bells go off and death inevitably comes at some point. The way to love as God desires is to make the trip back from death.

I know it’s a strange image, but it’s one God knew I needed this morning. I understood perfectly and could relate completely to those bells. Love changes everything, and love itself changes on this journey. I came to a place of letting go yesterday, and God showed me that death isn’t the end when it comes to love. It is the beginning. Those iron bells weigh heavily upon my heart, but they lead to the brass bells that sound the alarm when flames arise.

The golden bells of marriage take on a new meaning when applied to God’s way of loving. He’s the patient groom who waits for me to accept  His proposal and unite in a way that allows my heart to be one with His. I’m afraid I’ve left Him waiting at the altar far too long. When I do show up occasionally, I give Him a warm embrace, tell Him how very much I love Him, and quickly get back to my busy agenda. He is left waiting, and that is a terribly lonely place for the heart to be. It hurts deeply to be left waiting, but it hurts even worse to realize I’ve made God wait.

The silver bells that come after the wedding bells remind me that loving God puts me in the Spirit. Christmas bells bring my heart back to a time of innocent love that has hope and is filled with a lightness that only pure love can bring. The love God has in mind doesn’t weight down my heart or scream about a four-alarm fire in my body. It makes my heart tinkle with a “crystalline delight.” Keeping love pure and in the Spirit isn’t easy, but I’m thinking the image of those bells tolling, clanging, swelling, and tinkling will help me keep my heart out of the graveyard and on the sleigh!. Those little silver bells make a heavenly sound when they join with other silver bells.

I
Hear the sledges with the bells-
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

II

Hear the mellow wedding bells,
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And an in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

III

Hear the loud alarum bells-
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor,
Now- now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows:
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells-
Of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

IV

Hear the tolling of the bells-
Iron Bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people- ah, the people-
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All Alone
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone-
They are neither man nor woman-
They are neither brute nor human-
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
Rolls
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells-
Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells-
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells:
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells-
Bells, bells, bells-
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Silver-Bells

Working Out of the Old Me

I started interval training last week and love the way I feel. I’ve always  loved hanging out at the gym because of the close connection that comes when I sweat with others. There’s a realness to the gym, especially when I’m pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. The vulnerability that comes from exposing weaknesses brings a new strength and resilience as others cheer me on and sweat with me.  I’m encouraged by my sweat and theirs.

My instructors are amazing; they make me believe I can do the impossible and help me when I get off track. That’s important because I begin to see myself as they do. Knowing that God believes in me is what makes me continue along the path He sets before me. He always stretches me beyond my own limits in a loving way, and that changes the way I see myself.

Working out isn’t about getting a new body; it’s about getting rid of the old me. The me that believes I can’t, I’m too old, I’ll never be able to…. Love enables me to beat the old me and see myself in a new light. It’s what transformation is all about. Recognizing and getting past the old me’s negative notions are the keys to moving on to the new and improved me. When I saw the photo Sussy posted this afternoon, I smiled and thought about what working out means to me. It means working my way out of those negative notions and into a whole new me.

I know I can’t get to where God wants me to go until I work my way out of the cocoon that keeps me from getting out into His world in a way that allows me to be who God knows I can be. Working out is never easy, but it is much easier with a guide and others in the same boat beside me. The same is true when it comes to living and loving as God desires.

Bonnie Pfiester
Bonnie Pfiester

Heaven Without Love?

In his book, God is the Gospel, John Piper asks, “If you could have heaven with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven if Christ was not there?”

I thought about that question for a moment and quickly decided absolutely not. Without Christ, there would be no love, and there are not enough wonderful things in this world to take the place of one moment of love. I’d rather have the mess here with Christ’s love than an eternity of what I want.

The absence of love is hell, God is love, and His presence is heaven. If Christ isn’t in heaven, then it isn’t heaven. I had this discussion with a dear friend this week, and we decided that heaven without God would be a field full of happy California cows chewing cud and looking at the beautiful scenery. It may be bovine bliss, but humans are created to love. Without love, having everything I wanted would leave me empty and searching. Cows are contented when fed, and so are humans who have given up on love.

Happy Cows?

Without love, life is lifeless, and heaven is heavenless. Love is what makes the difference in life. I cannot make others love me, but I can love them with the help of the Holy Spirit. God could make me love Him, but He knows love doesn’t work that way. He could easily give me everything I want and make all things perfect, but how would I learn about love? My heart’s been broken, but I still believe in love. Loving and being loved is what makes life worth living. Love reigns supreme in heaven, and that’s because it’s God’s home. I get a sweet taste of the heaven to come every time I spend time with someone I love. It whets my appetite and makes me want more. As long as I’m in this world, love will be a challenge. I plan to keep on loving and being myself because God loves me just as I am and so do all who understand true love. God knows better than anyone that I’d be miserable if I got everything I wanted. The most miserable people in the world are the ones who get what they want because love gets lost in their selfishness. I’m learning to ask for what God wants, and that’s changing everything.

Doing a Little Gardening

When I find silence in a tumult, solitude in a crowd, or simplicity in a complicated life, I know I have come to a place of sweet intimacy with God. The peace that passes understanding in Philippians 4:5-7 becomes real in my heart, and I’m able to go forward knowing I am loved and capable of loving others.

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” NASB

I’ve also looked at the parable of the soils in Luke 8:4-15 this week and realized I am anxious far too much of the time.

When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear,let him hear.”His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” (NASB)

The thorns of doubt, fear, and worry choke my peace and hide me from God’s love. It’s safe in the thorn patch. The weeds and thorns keep me out of the open where God wants me to be. The fruit of the Holy Spirit only thrives in the open field, so I pray for the perseverance to bear love in my life and in this world. Love brings joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I need all in my life and know love will flourish as I ask the Holy Spirit to do a little weeding.

Doubts, fears, and worry are uprooted when I remember Who God is and who I am. I am loved, and I am not alone. That clears out those thorns and lets Christ’s light shine on my heart in a way that makes me want the intimacy and peace that only comes from loving God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. Then I am able to love others as myself. Wonderful growth cycle that is much better than going around in circles or hiding behind the thorns.

Photography by the New Diplomat's Wife
Photography by the New Diplomat’s Wife

 

The Nature of Love

God is love, so loving Him is what Christianity is all about.  God created me to love Him and others. It was, is, and will always be the message Christ relays. His life is a life of love, and the world crucified Him for loving in ways they could not understand. The world doesn’t want someone telling them to love everyone. People wanted, want, and will always want someone to tell them what they want to hear. God allowed, allows, and always will allow earthly things to take the place of His love in the lives of His children even though it breaks His heart. God never has and never will coerce or cajole because that isn’t love.

Love is something you fall into. It might happen at first sight and feel like jumping, or it might take a while and be more like a gentle slide. The fall depends upon the individual, but falling in love changes everything. Just as all human relationships are different, so is the love between God and each of us. I am sick to death of theological arguments, denominational disputes, cajoling, coercing, how-to books, and hierarchies when it comes to Christ’s body. None of those work with love. God is love. We are His creation. He loves us and wants us to love Him back. Humans got, get, and will always get that wrong and make a mess of God’s simple truth.

John 17:18-22 beautifully describes Christ’s desire for me.

As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;  that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

The nature of love is oneness, so why doesn’t the world look more whole and less like a pile of broken glass. No one is perfect. God knows that, and He loves us anyway. Jesus knew that, and He came any way. The Holy Spirit knows that, and that’s why He’s here to stay and encourage us not to give up. I cannot love as God desires or find the oneness Christ offers without the help of the Holy Spirit. On my own, I’m just a piece of broken glass being crushed by the weight of the world’s desire to be right. With God, I become something more than I can be without Him. It’s what love does.

Oneness isn’t about forming a club or creating a new church or denomination so I can find those who are like me or criticize those who aren’t. Oneness is seeing God in everyone and everything. It’s loving those who do not or cannot love me back. It’s living in the mess knowing that that I am part of something wonderful. I’m part of God. I am love too!

I did an exercise this week that humbled, but helped me see the importance of keeping my focus upon love.  I took 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and put my name in front of the descriptions of love. I’m sorry to say I didn’t do as well as I thought I would when I took an honest look at how I compared to the nature of love. Try it yourself to see where you need some help and ask the Holy Spirit to help you where you need help so you can get you closer to God and others.

Here’s the verse with the blanks where love should be:

___________ is patient, ______________ is kind ________ is not jealous; _____________ does not brag and is not arrogant, _________does not act unbecomingly; ______________ does not seek her own, ____________is not provoked, ___________does not take into account a wrong suffered, ___________does not rejoice in unrighteousness, _________ rejoices with the truth; ________bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I hope you did better than I did, but don’t worry if you didn’t; love is patient 🙂 Thanks be to God!!

The Nature of Love

 

His Journey

During the past four years, I’ve focused upon writing my story so I could share it with Lillyann and Mylah when they are older. Lillyann saw a printed copy on my desk one day and asked me what it was. I told her I was writing it for her and Mylah to read. She said, “That’s a big book Gigi!! When I’m your age, I’m gonna read it.” I laughed and told her I hoped she would.

Writing has opened my heart in a way I never expected. God knew that hearing and sharing my own story was an important part of my journey. As I wrote, I remembered. As I remembered, I wrote. It was very like cleaning out and going through my storage unit last month. Leaving memories hidden away is the easy thing to do, but like those boxes in my storage unit, they have to be dusted off and sorted at some point. Otherwise, treasures get mixed in with trash and end up lost.

Taking the time to go through each box was not simple or easy. I cried and laughed in equal portions. My heart came out feeling much lighter as I got rid of the stuff that needed to go and cherished that which needed to be kept and passed along. Some things, like Tyler’s Ninja Turtles, immediately came out to play. I’ve enjoyed watching the children play with those old toys. I know the little turtles were ready for some action, and they certainly have gotten it and blessed me for a second time.

Writing about my journey has been very difficult, but it has been instrumental in healing my heart. When Billy died this week, I realized my heart was clear. It was as if it finally caught up with me. When I stopped to remember our time together, I realized that half my life was spent with him. We had good times and bad times throughout the  thirty years we were together, but the bad times increased and became more intense at the end of our marriage. I knew I had to go eleven years ago, but I carried a lot of guilt with me when I walked out the door. I left my marriage the same way I entered it, with a heavy heart. It was good to let go of all that this week.

When I woke this morning, I was shocked to find I had slept eight hours in what seemed to be a split second. It was as if I slipped in and out of a time warp. The girls were at Pepe’s; Gina was still in Florida, and Tyler was already at work. I soaked in the sweet stillness and prayed. I felt God’s presence as powerfully as I’ve ever felt Him. He bid me to tell His story now that my heart had caught up and used Biddy Chambers to help me understand what He meant.

Many people know her husband Oswald, but a lot of those who enjoy his books don’t realize that she is responsible for writing down his messages over the course of his brief ministry. He died at forty-three leaving behind only three books. Biddy took her transcriptions of his messages and came up with over thirty beautiful books and booklets. They have been a blessing to me, and God knows the sweet connection I have with Chambers. His love for God is obvious and enviable. My favorites are The Love of God and If Ye Shall Ask. I’ve transcribed before, and it’s the most tedious and frustrating thing I’ve ever done. That’s with a computer and a recorded message. I cannot imagine doing it by hand without a rewind button!!

Biddy Chambers spent her life making sure that her husband’s love for God was written down. A friend gave me Chambers Complete Works seven years ago today. I had forgotten the date and was taken aback when I noticed it in the volume this afternoon. I love it when God does that! The book marked the beginning of my spiritual journey to draw nearer to God. I remember being amazed when I learned of Biddy’s devotion to God and her willingness to tell His story instead of her own. She could have written a sad, self-serving autobiography about how much she gave up and how tragic her life had been. That seems to be the way writing is heading today.

I heard two commentators discussing why the Nobel Prize for Literature hasn’t been awarded to an American author for two decades. One noted it was because we are a society obsessed with writing about ourselves and our tragic lives. I thought about that for a moment and realized there is a lot of truth in that statement. It’s a me, me, me world anymore. We love to write about our hurt, and others love to read about it. This morning, God bid me to be more like Biddy and let His story be my focus. Don’t misunderstand my heart; it’s vital that I tell my story and hear the stories of those around me. God just reminded me this morning that it would be nice for His story to be told and heard, as well. The inscription in the book from my friend reads, “Truth and light for the eternal path. Companions together on His journey.” That pretty much sums up the message God had for me this morning.

Thanks Biddy for your beautiful example of love.

Biddy Chambers

My Son

From the moment he entered my life, my son Tyler has been a source of joy to me. It was clear early on that he had an unusually sweet spirit, and his father and I thanked God for blessing us with him. Tyler’s father, Billy, died yesterday, and I’ve never been more proud of my son than I have been during the past two months. When Tyler learned his dad was dying, he immediately began making that process more pleasant for him. He took time from work and his family to spend it with his dad. The girls got to get to know their grandfather during a visit a few weeks ago, and their presence blessed Billy so very much.

Billy and I had a difficult marriage, but we were always in agreement when it came to Tyler. We loved him dearly and believed him to be the best thing either of us ever accomplished. Tyler is selfless and loves with his whole heart. There aren’t many folks like that in this world, and I thank God for placing him in my path because he has taught me much more than I ever taught him. My heart has gone out to him as he has had to deal with some very serious matters and emotions. He has persevered in a beautiful way, and I thank God for giving him and his dad a special time together.

Death makes all of us stop and take an accounting of our lives, and I’ve done that over the past two months. I made peace with Billy years ago, and I was glad to be able to spend time at Tyler’s wedding last year talking to him about our sweet son. Dealing with the death of a parent is a difficult part of life, and I watched my son deal with his dad’s death in a way that was surprising even for him. He’s a giver and always has been. As he told me once, the way we love isn’t easy, but it’s the right way.  I’ve seen firsthand lately what that love looks like as I’ve watched it play out in his dealings with Billy.  You’re right Tyler; it is the right way to love. Thank you for reminding me. I love you!!

Tyler