A few days ago, the television was on, much to my inward dismay. Somehow, my intellectual sensibilities have never found any use for the television–and not just because I happen to be a card-carrying, guide-dog-owning Braille reader. Most of the shows that producers see fit to broadcast are simply too loud or too unrealistic for my tastes. Anyway, the show in question was playing some obnoxious music that other people would classify as suspenseful. Beneath the sound of the music, footsteps were heard–frantic running. What do you suppose was my response to this moment? Empathy? Curiosity? Never! I merely remarked, “It sounds as though that man is running across a field of music notes.” Unyielding, clattering, metal music notes, to be exact.
You, my beloved reader, would refer to that line of thinking as unconventional. I shall refer to it as artistic. And–don’t you know?–everything in my life is like this, filled with colorful swirls of detail that make life interesting. Everything in life–be it shepherd’s pie or a down-filled quilt, a vanilla-and-lavender candle or a three-cornered shelf, an old tape player or a treadmill safety key, a button or a common toothbrush, onion rings or a refrigerator magnet, a Bible case or the worship song “In Your Presence, O God”, electronics with tangible buttons or sentences ending in single-syllable adverbs, ceramic items or 3 February of each year, a drawer handle or a recently-purchased coffee table, the texture of fine linen or a hot water bottle–everything in life is attended with profound, often spiritual, associations. Everything! What appears as a common drawer handle to you instantly puts me in mind of the day on which I opened that drawer–the same day I read Revelation and learned anew of His powerful redemption. A straightforward hot water bottle may bring into vivid detail the day on which I sat in bed propped against a reading pillow, Communion wafer in one hand and cup of grape juice in the other. The onion rings that either put a temporary smile on your face or cause you to decry American eating habits invariably remind me of the first day I was truly called upon to forgive someone, seven months after I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The three-cornered shelf that you picked up at a yard sale somewhere and that might go nicely with your decor will never be remembered for me without a mental image of the Nativity Scene I placed there one Christmas.
Hence, Words Sketches. Well am I aware that very, very few people see the world as I do–so I’d like to bring some of this beauty to you. The subject for the moment is the snuggler chair I bought two months ago and that was delivered on 22 November. For over three years, I had been sharing my apartment with a wood-framed velvet sofa whose padding had been affixed mainly to the back. Translation: No soft seat for the seat! It had gotten so bad that I refused to sit there anymore. Although I was grateful for the sofa while it lasted, it carried few associations because I tried to avoid actually using that furniture. A sad day when I, of all people, can’t link a piece of furniture with thousands of precious memories…
Enter the Snuggler, a reclining chair-and-a-half from a local furniture store. Recollection I: Pouring over three-ring books of fabric swatches in search of the perfect covering. Only the plushest velvet would do. In fact, if I didn’t find what I was looking for, I had resolved that I would forever resign myself to the lumpy love-seat waiting at home. But–delight of delights!–I did find appropriate material. My recliner would be upholstered in fine velvet. Have you ever noticed that furniture fabrics tell a story about their owners and about what is expected from members of a given household? Leather says, “Let’s keep it strictly business in here.” Highly-textured fabrics that fail to demonstrate any softness state, “We are a practical family, and we cut costs.” Fabric with a floral or otherwise decorative pattern sings, “I have personality.” Velvet fabric says, “Let us use this place for comfort and joy and peace, for cups of hot cocoa and beautiful worship ballads.” I told you I was whimsical…
Recollection II: Getting that recliner into my apartment, propping the footrest up and down and leaning all the way back in that memory-foam luxury. The experience was so special that I found myself recording it. You film memorable moments; I record them. Audio scrapbooking, and a very efficient way to utilize space on the ole’ iPod Classic.
Recollection III: Praying and dedicating that chair to the use of the Lord. In all seriousness, fellow Christians, this is very important. We don’t think about it very often, but it is extremely important to pray about any purchase–especially a large purchase–that will have any lasting impact on the way you live your life. This includes furniture, electronic equipment, dishware, etc. Why? For the same reason that people in Biblical times dedicated their houses, and the land, to the service of God. Also, it’s good to give everything to the Lord, and to ask Him to use even temporal goods for His purposes. Certainly, not everyone does this–and they don’t have to. But I enjoy doing it as something special between myself and the Lord.
Recollection IV: Finding that this chair is actually somewhat imperfect. The way that these chairs are constructed, the back reclines to reveal a half-inch wooden board. True, the board is covered with velvet, but it does tend to stab one in the back when the chair is extended. No amount of foam-scrunching or finding compensatory pillows is really effective. This, not to mention the larger-than-average gap that appears when the chair is reclined. Not enough cushionage–plain and simple.
Recollection V: Entering my apartment to the smell of brand-new wood and padding and luxurious cloth. The smell of new furniture is and always been reminiscent of the worship chorus, “Father, I Adore You”. I have no idea why. Perhaps my family and I attended a conference when I was a child, whose facilities were furnished with new sofas and chairs, and I listened to “Father, I Adore You” immediately prior to or following the proceedings–but all of that is dim, vague hearsay. So, I enter my apartment and am immediately filled with the beauty of “Father, I Adore You”. And, because songs from Don Moen’s album HEALING have been floating through my consciousness since 13 November, my beautiful new chair is now going to bear mental audio clips of “Jehovah Jireh”, “I Am the God That Healeth Thee”, “You Are My Hiding Place”, and “Jesus, Your Presence Makes Me Whole”. All, of course, accompanied by Integrity Music’s anointed flute player.
With a greater sense of fulfillment than I have known in over a month, I advance toward that chair, turn on the heating pad that bespeaks evenings beneath the covers with the book of Psalms, and recline the chair until it is just so–not lying flat, but not bolt upright. Then, it is time to worship. By this, I do not mean that it is time to listen to worship music, but that it is high time I participated in my own private time of glorifying my Lord. This evening, He has given me an allegory. This is the second one He has given me over the eleven years since I received the baptism, but it is the first one I have ever had the courage to write. Will I be able to do it?
And then, the most glorious blessing takes place. One moment, I am struggling along, attempting to convey the Lord’s grace in the life of every Christian. The next, He is filling me with a sense of His holiness–a joy and peace so all-encompassing that I cannot help but write. It is wonderful, magnificent, unspeakable–and it obliterates all the discouragement I had experienced over the past month.
And so, I write and sing. Later, much later, in the 2:00 and 3:00 hours of the night, I unearth a plastic Communion cup and a tiny piece of bread. I resolve that I must listen to that heart-filling song, “Will Your Anchor Hold You in the Flood”. And from there, to simply bask in the Light of the World, the glory of His presence, the beauty of His holiness.
Why is this so great a blessing? Because, really, my living room had for some time been associated with things that were less-than-spiritual. There I worked, entertained, and slumped on a lumpy sofa while I contemplated life’s woes. Elsewhere–in bed late at night or on the porch swing–I worshiped the Lord and thanked Him for His goodness. The whole messy concept is too deep, intricate, and personal to explain here–but know that there was more to it than business vs. pleasure. More like sorrow vs. joy. But now, He has restored even my experience of a room that had become so business-focused. Now, this room that I had once known simply as the living room is an extension of the other places I use as sanctuaries–and He, ever and always, is my hiding place. Lovely are His dwellingplaces…
Associations for this piece of furniture: Every layer of foam, from the generously-cushioned arms to the padding flanking either side of the back to the pillow-shaped piece at the top of the chair–every creak and crack, every gap and board, every unnecessary piece of wood and everything in-between, will now carry memories of this holy moment. Even that back-jabbing piece of wood is now polished to brilliant gladness. Surface memories: of a time of fasting, of allegories in general, of congregational worship, of red letters, of Communion… The completed memory: holiness, glory, grace and mercy… Agape and Hesed.