Posted in Christianity, Faith

Illuminations

I was privileged to see some actual illuminated prayer book pages from the 1450s in person recently, the only thing between me and the fragile texts a thin pane of glass. I have seen pictures of these types of things in history books and on television, of course. I’ve read about the meticulous care that went into their production, about the years of toil a scribe put into producing page after painstakingly-created page of the Holy Word, working on fine details only by daylight or dim candlelight.

But nothing prepares you for seeing these pages in person. The details are so fine, the colors so vibrant, even after hundreds of years, that you know you are viewing the work of a true artist. Besides the steady, consistent typeface that some unknown scribe was able to achieve, using a quill trimmed by his own hand and ink produced from fruits and other natural elements, the illuminations were equally beautiful.

Coming from an age of technology where many of us have such atrocious penmanship that we often cannot read notes we have written to ourselves, I was especially struck by the dedication and love that went into producing the pages in front of me. Not only would the words bring me closer to God, I thought, the beauty these pages reflect could not help but do the same.

This experience made me wonder at just how much time I take to really soak in and appreciate the pages of my own, mass-produced Bible pages. Being human, and even a human who loves words in and of themselves, I am still moved even beyond words when multiple senses are involved in any experience. Music can make a moment something more; ask any filmmaker. A page illuminated by a loving hand appeals to the eyes in addition to the words penetrating our brains.

How often do I read a passage in the Word while something else is going on in the back of my brain, like what I need to do that day or whatever the latest thing is that I am worrying about? How is it that I don’t appreciate the tender work that happened for centuries by anonymous believers to ensure that the word of God was not lost or forgotten?

So, I am determined to figure out a way to read God’s word as if it is one of those illuminated pages from centuries past, whether that be creating pictures in my own mind that reflect what the words on the page are saying to me or playing inspirational music as I study. I will seek Him in the quiet places as I have been instructed to do. I will do my best to be still and know that He is God.

I’m sure that this last was the place inside where the anonymous scribe dwelled in order to lovingly create the beauty on the illuminated page that so wonderfully reflects the awesomeness of God.

Posted in Christian Living, Faith, Love

Just Listening

20120608-210710.jpgIt’s funny how things in life seem to happen in bunches. Thomas Pynchon wrote about this phenomenon in The Crying of Lot 49, the way that, once your mind is drawn to the attention of a certain idea or symbol, you suddenly seem to run into that very thing all the time. Pynchon’s point is that the idea or thing was really around you all along. You just didn’t bring it into your perception of reality until you actually acknowledged it.

When I seek to learn about and better understand God, this very same phenomenon seems to happen for me. Truths that were always right in front of me but never really seen by me suddenly become glaringly visible. Some people like to claim God is speaking with them when this type of thing happens, and who am I to disagree? However, since God is there for us all the time, I like to think it is more a factor of my finally listening.

Case in point:

Sunday service this last week focused on the uncomfortable subject of materialism. The pastor used as part of his text the parable from the twelfth chapter of Luke in which a man with abundance makes plans to build larger storehouses for his stuff, not realizing that he would die that very night. Jesus concludes in verse 21: “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Now, just a few days before that sermon, I had gotten a compulsion to gather up some like-new stuffed animals from around my house and give them to a friend of mine who volunteers with an organization that, among many other things, puts together kits for hospitals to hand out to sexual assault victims, who have to leave all their personal effects with the police as evidence. My stuffed toys were for the growing number of children the hospitals are seeing as victims of assault.

In the class following the sermon, the subject of materialism remained the topic. I was able to share the need for these kits as part of the natural discussion of the class, for which I was glad. Until my friend had told me about this program, I had never thought about that as a need before. And I was pretty sure several of the people in the room hadn’t thought of this need before I mentioned it either.

On Monday, as I sat doing my daily Bible reading, which just happens to have me in the book of Psalms at the moment, I happened upon this verse–

Psalm 49:20–a man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

I sat up straighter in my chair. Luke 12:21 loomed in the back of my brain–“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” The “understanding” of the Psalms surely means the same as being “rich toward God.” My ears were being called upon to listen.

What was I going to do about it?

One of the first things I did was to keep listening and reflecting as I continued in the Psalms. These were the other truths I heard:

Psalm 51:5-6–Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. / Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Psalm 51:10-12–Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.

Psalm 51:17– The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Living in the most materialistic country in the world, in a world where just having clean water, a roof over my head, and some money in the bank makes me rich compared to the majority of the planet’s population, it is a daily struggle to make sure God comes before everything else. Too many times I fail. But, if I listen, I know that God will provide me with the steadfast spirit and contrite heart that will bring me closer to Him and make it so much easier to give, storing up my true treasures in heaven, the only home we’ll ever have forever.