I (Dan) realize it has been a while since we have written – we apologize and thank you for your patience. I have spent some time reflecting the past few days and wanted to share my journal entry from tonight with you. Thanks for joining in the journey with us.
” Nine weeks ago we arrived. Nine weeks ago (2 months ago yesterday – the 28th) the Red Sox won the World Series – seems a lifetime ago…
I just finished The Longing for Home by Buechner. I will definitely have to return to more than a few of those chapters in the future – deep wells of wisdom. Lord, thank you that you answer prayer. Thank you.
I jotted a brief note to Britt yesterday. In it I mentioned that while I could not describe or explain it, after reading Buechner (and Lewis) these past few days my feet feel a bit lighter. Lord, Thank you.
… Buechner encourages preachers to preach out of their own stories. This does not mean to make the sermon about themselves, rather to speak of love, grace, faith, and hope in ways that reveal a tangible encounter with those things – an encounter beyond a book or an idea. Sometimes we (I) tend to speak of God as if God was and did, and we (I) forget to speak of how God is – today! Maybe that’s why Puritans placed so much emphasis on personal testimony and witnessing time. We must link our stories with those of the past in order to become a part of the tapestry of faith. Yet, how can we add our names to the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ listed in Hebrews? By Grace! We are able to add our names to the list of Abraham & Sarah, Moses, David and others not because of our perfection or stellar stories yet because God has acted in our lives and wants for us to join in with the Story somehow and someway.
So, Buechner’s implied questions to me in chapters 12-14 are these: How have I experienced Grace? Why do I have “faith”? How do I have hope? How have I experienced God’s grace, love, joy and peace?
When people ask, “How do you know that God loves you?” I answer that often I don’t know what God’s love feels like – and that is true to the extent that I can’t capture it, quantify it, and explain it. Yet neither can I do that with Courtney’s love for me. However, I catch glimpses of it in a smile or a wink or feel it in a hug or when she offers me a warm cup of tea. Likewise, in a sunset or snowflake, mountain expanse or sea of clouds or provision for rent… Some people will chalk these things up to coincidence or to karma (however I don’t know how well I would fare if someone would place my thoughts, words, and deeds on a scale…) or to other peoples’ kind hearted, generous natures. Yet for me, I name these instances as God’s love.
Writing that makes me think of the sunset I saw from the plane heading back to Israel from Russia four years ago on Christmas Eve while I sat next to a woman named Anna. And that, in and of itself, represented a moment – a glimpse – of God’s love through me, rather than towards me specifically, yet serving as a vessel left a ‘residue’ (for lack of a better word) of God’s love in me.
How alert the eyes of my heart and spirit seemed in Afghanistan and Kosovo in 2002 and in Israel in 2003 & 2004, and how, in comparison, dull and dim – of wit, sight, and heart – I have felt since then. At times, I seem to spend so much time clamoring about how I wish I could ‘see’ now like I did then, that I forget two things: First, I forget to look around and notice now. Second, I forget that I had discouraging and depressing times in those places as well – and at times I would feel that couldn’t see clearly. However, as I look back and view those moments within a larger perspective I notice God’s fingerprints covering all the snapshots of those times. I think of the e-mail I sent from Mazar-ī-Sharif to DuFault in Seattle when I was burned out and fed up, and I remember the grace I received in that moment.
And those memories bring me to now. Recently, Courtney and I had a boiling over, not with each other, yet with our time here in Latvia. In each other we found, and through each other we experienced, God’s grace and peace – in a shared meal and then in kneeling by ourselves in the church at the altar and just ‘being’ in that space. I think of the sunset the other day – well, what I could see of it – the colored sky glimpsed between the buildings on cross streets. Beauty and Hope.
While the true joie de vivre (joy of life) that Buechner refers to remains regardless of circumstances because its source is the very Creator of both Joy and Life themselves, there remain moments when our steps bounce with a spring because we have experienced a glimpse of something beyond ourselves. And so, for those times when I have the eyes to see more keenly, Lord, I thank you. And for those times when I struggle to see beyond the end of my own nose, Lord, I thank you, for you remain present, persistent, and help to refocus my vision. Lord, thank you.