We Keep Showing Up

“(God) has set eternity in the hearts of men.”  That’s what King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:11.  And he went on to say, “yet he cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

We don’t have to know the whole story to have a glimpse of its veracity.  There are some things we just know.  Sometimes consciously, sometimes not.  There is more to this life than meets the eye.

This morning I was drawn outside for prayer, summoned by a ray of sun breaking through what looked like the beginnings of a grey day.  I eschewed both prayer chair and gym for a combination of walking and praying.  I was curious where God would meet me, what I would see and learn of him, and how I would be drawn to pray for myself and for others as I followed my iPod and my feet around the neighborhood.

The morning’s headlines gloat over the death of Osama bin Laden, and people wonder what will be next. And that’s amidst the already churning realities of Libya, Yemen, Tuscaloosa, last year’s still developing Gulf spill, weird weather, the deficit growing, the impact of recession, political jostling and the daily angst (both global and internal) on a planet that’s gone far afield from God’s blueprint (though not without His knowledge).  Every few hours someone mentions how crazy things are right now and how many people they know that are suffering.  It’s all true.

On Sunday my priest preached on the reality of the Easter season (40 days) and how often we feel simply relief when Easter comes after the long lenten death march (40 days) up to it.  And then instead of celebrating a season of Easter, we simply move on, marking Pentecost and — beyond it — ordinary time, milestones on the liturgical calendar.  Where instead, we should bathe in Easter’s reality for — at least — those 40 days.

So as I wandered this morning (“All who wander are not lost,” they say), I saw sign after sign of the hope of resurrection beyond death.  For what are our daily machinations and routines if not stirrings of hope, glimmers of the possibility of eternity in our hearts?

Here are a few scenes

  • At a ramshackle house, a man was watering plants that, to be honest, weren’t exactly flourishing.  He tenderly poured water over them.
  • At a school, children were entering skipping, dressed as favorite historical characters, with cycles of learning and dreaming (“I’ll be the first woman _________”) continuing generation after generation.
  • That same school advertised “Grandparents and Special Friends” day, the description of which touched me with the poignancy of people showing up for each other, for those in other families, so that all can participate.
  • A father was delivering four young boys to school; they were stair-step versions of himself.  He persevered in believing that, perhaps today, he’d get the cowlick of number three son to stay down with just a touch of spittle.
  • A beautiful bungalow sported four Adirondack chairs, placed just so in anticipation of a gathering of friends, straight out of the Frontgate catalog.
  • Wind chimes were hung, a sure sign that breezy days are hoped-for gifts in balmy DC.
  • One home had built a display of stained glass and metal characters, frolicking with pulleys and cantilevers that moved them up and down the fixed structures out front.  And a sign was there saying, “Stop and play a while.”  I did.
  • Riotous displays of flowers abound, the product of last year’s dreaming and digging.  Bleeding heart, peonies, azaleas, colors that scream “Pay attention” in spaces that weren’t so noteworthy several weeks ago when winter was still in charge.
  • A father and daughter walked the mangiest dog I have ever seen, rib-skinny and mottled.  Rescuing that particular dog was an act of purest optimism.
  • A driver passed me with cargo of sleeping coworkers (perhaps moving between two jobs), doing what it takes to support families in this city and economy.

And finally, as I neared the end of my circuitous route and was musing about all I had seen, I saw my own personal sign of hope, a cardinal.  Several years ago in a particularly dark time, when I’d asked God for a sign of hope, a cardinal darn near dive-bombed me.  And since then I’ve appreciated seeing them and chuckled over how obvious God made his answer back then.

So today, I saw a cardinal.  And that’s not all that unusual.  But this one was stubbornly standing on the doormat of a pretty yellow house.  Hopping around.  As if he’d rung the doorbell and was waiting to be asked in. Which perhaps he was.  Because hope does knock, persistently, even in the disastrous times, especially in the disastrous times.

As I smiled at that persistent red wonder, I glanced at the next house on my route.  And — I kid you not — a female cardinal was not just standing as if she had knocked but was flinging her body against the glass storm door, begging to come in.  And when — naturally — no one answered her plaintive request, she went to two separate windows and did the same thing.  I watched a while.

God was answering some of what I was asking today: “Can we keep hoping even when things around us look, well, not so hopeful?”   “Yes, hope endures.  Don’t lock the door against it.”

So if you are my neighbor and you saw me staring at your house today, I wasn’t casing it out; I was laughing in wonder at how God shows up, bidden or unbidden as Carl Jung said… but especially when bidden, for then we have our eyes open and expect to see Him.

Every time we put one foot in front of another and march off to work, we are hoping for a future.

When we dare to acknowledge our dreams, we are participating in creation with God, taking steps towards doing what He wants done on earth (since He’s the ultimate dream-provider).

When we feed someone, we are saying that we want them to continue to thrive.

When we water plants or tend gardens or nurture children or teach science, we are investing in the future.

When we try again and again to nurture relationships, we are living into the longing for community that God has set within us.

And when we wander and pray, we see wonders, for they are there.

May this sign never apply to us:

~ by Cary on May 3, 2011.

9 Responses to “We Keep Showing Up”

  1. […] everywhere, or so you tell me.   After writing on Tuesday about cardinals as a sign of hope (and my bizarre encounter with a couple of them), I heard from several readers that you too had had […]

  2. I’m on the lookout now for the cardinals.

  3. […] I requested “cardinal stories” from readers, since several told me (in response to a post on hope on Tuesday) that they’d had cardinal encounters recently (what’s going on?)  So for the next […]

  4. Hey, this is Kait, friend of Lucas Nichols. I saw the link to your site on Gchat…

    I love that cardinals mean hope to you. About a year ago, I was fasting about a particularly difficult issue in my life. Near the end of it, I was really crying out for an answer, and as I stared out my bedroom window, lo and behold a cardinal landed directly in front of me. It was such a symbol of hope that brought peace.

    Thanks for sharing! Maybe they are a universal sign of hope…hope that He hears us, sees us, knows us…

    • Welcome to my site; glad you’re here. Tell me about you.

      I love your story. I had a similar time, when one appeared as I felt much despair.

      How else does God speak to you?

  5. love it. love you. I am looking for rainbows here in Afg.

    • Laura… you first made me aware of the cardinals’ significance, you know? Or got me thinking that they’d show up more than once!

  6. […] via We Keep Showing Up | Holy Vernacular. […]

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