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The power of the in-articulated pause

Articulated =

  1. having two or more sections connected by a flexible joint. (hinged, jointed, segmented)
  2. (of an idea or feeling) expressed; put into words. (“the lack of a clearly articulated policy”)

Madeleine L’Engle has called this to my attention in A Circle of Quiet. Our our speech has been infiltrated by articulations in our pauses. Expressions placed where there should be silences. You know, like…

Irritating isn’t it? The comma, colon, semi-colon, period. They’ve been replaced by words without meaning. Filler words. It’s a way of speaking. L’Engle supposes it is because we are afraid of silence. Perhaps. But in today’s communication, I think it has more to do with the…wait, there’s more. It’s not the quiet we’re afraid of, it’s the interruption. Or worse, the re-direction. My ‘you know’ is to be sure you are coming along with me to my next speaking destination.

Otherwise I run the risk of losing the floor. It becomes someone else’s turn. I don’t want to give up my turn. Let’s just make this continuous jabber. One long string of meandering, without destination. Irritating isn’t it?

But some of us need that pause. Not just to catch our breath, but to change direction, re-route, re-position. To transition to the next movement. And that’s what captures me.

I see the conductor standing before the orchestra, baton vigorously gesticulating, first to the violins, then to the percussion, on to the woodwinds and brass. He slows as the rhythm slows and moves as the movement demands. As they strike their final chord, his baton stills.

But wait! It is not the final chord. There is more. His baton is still poised, elbow high, body taut and erect. This pause is intended. It is meant for this moment. To prepare us for the next movement of the piece. “Wait for it,” his baton says.

No one speaks. No one applauds. Everyone draws in breath. It is an articulated pause.

The greatest music of all happens in the pause. In the silence between movements. Oh, what music was written between the Crucifixus and the Resurrexus in Bach’s Mass in B Minor, writes L’Engle. What writing can mankind produce in the pause between?

What is lost when we fill this? with mere words.

Where life gets real, there is always hope

We lost a young man in our church last Tuesday afternoon. He died as the result of a tragic accident. Suddenly. On the day he graduated from 8th grade. He was a good kid but not perfect – an adventurous boy, a reliable friend, a brother you could count on, a loving son. He regularly humbled his father at 1 on 1 basketball and whispered “I love you” in his mother’s ear. So said the preacher who solemnly remembered him to a packed sanctuary yesterday.

Bennett Rill was 14 years old.

He had just been confirmed in the church. That means that he had completed a 4 month study program, been mentored by an adult in our church and been interviewed by one of our pastors about his readiness to answer the question, “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”

He answered yes. That ‘yes’ didn’t prevent the accident which ended his life. That’s a tough one. Lots of questions hover – the why’s, the what if’s, the where were you’s. I suspended those questions as I sat in the sanctuary and listened to the story of Bennett. The kid who lived life all out. The kid who wasn’t afraid to love and to say so. The kid who competed for the complete joy it gave him, not to impress but to give his best when his best was needed.

Real DealThey called him the “real deal.” That is, not just the kid who says the right words but the one who does the right thing. That lives his life and his faith just the same. The one you have no doubt about – he’s telling the truth. You can see it. Not just in church. Not just in school. Not just at home. But on the field of play. And for a 14 year old boy, that’s where life gets real.

A cousin (and pastor) said of him, “He was stoked for joy.” I love that. Stoked. Prepared. Ready to go. Looking for the action. His coach said, “Bennett was ready in season and out. There was no off season.” He was ready. We weren’t ready for this.

Still, as Christians we are meant to be ready. Ready to give the reason for the hope that we have. And so I sit with this tragedy and the reading that comes close to hand. Madeleine L’Engle has written,

“mediate is part of the word immediate, the place of now, where past and future come together.”

The Great Mediator reaches back into our now. Back from the future that he has already defined but where He has promised not to intervene and, I expect through great tears, He sews and mends and heals. Time and space are not linear to Him. They don’t happen in our order. This is what makes the impossible, possible. In that mediate space, chronos (our time) and Kairos (God’s time) converge.

I conclude this because I have seen it before. Some years ago when my brother died suddenly and without warning I asked in my grief, “Where were you, Lord? If you had been there my brother wouldn’t have died.” And He showed me my journal of a few days before where I had written those very words from John 11:21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” I had concluded that we were foolish to suppose He wasn’t there for Martha or for us. Three days before I knew I would need these words, God had provided them.

But now Bennett…and I walk into my neighborhood Starbucks, searching for words to share with this family. Suddenly, coincidentally, God-incidentally, I see three young men standing near a beautiful arrangement of pink flowers. “They are for our friends, the Rills,” they tell me.

I ask about their friend Bennett and they tell me the story of the roof and the friend who fell and the voltage. “We were with him,” they say. “See, look at the marks on my hands.” Sure enough, there are burn marks across the fingers of one of the boys. The Truth is standing before me.

But they echo in my mind in a different voice. They are the words Jesus spoke to his doubting disciple Thomas.

“Put your finger here; see my hands… Stop doubting and believe.” ~ John 20:27

And there Hope was, standing before me, in a rising 9th grader, speaking words thousands of years old that he may never have heard or read.

Even in tragic death there is hope. The decision is less to cling to life than to cling to the Lord of life, who has conquered death and written a much greater story. CS Lewis writes it so beautifully at the end of The Chronicles of Narnia:

“But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

What a glorious image. May it settle upon this family and this community and lead us forward.

We art to listen and perceive

I write, therefore I am. Well, not exactly, but sort of.

“We write… or paint or sculpt or draw or make music or …because we are listening for meaning, feeling for healing.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Yes and yes! Can I have an amen?! This is exactly why I write.

  • To listen to my brain-workings.
  • To heal what’s hurting me.
  • To wonder about what mystifies me. 
  • To bring together what’s scattered about up there.

Madeleine and I – dare I put us together in the same phrase? – we write.

But writing is not the only way we listen and feel. Any art form will do. Any artistic endeavor will suffice. Any creative gesture will open this door.

Yep. We art to listen and perceive. Not, we do art. Not, we perform art. We art.

My mind leaps to…How great Thou art … are, really.

That means present tense ‘are,’ that is the 2nd person conjugation of ‘to be’ as in you are, familiar form of Thou art…oh my. Let’s just stick with The Great I Am.

And I’ll settle for I art, therefore I am.

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