“Amazing Grace!”

To you, it is an ordinary Rubix Cube. To me, it is spiritually and emotionally heart-warming. When your enterprising sister and father set about to transform the visual concept into a tactile one, the results are spectacular. You’ll note, my beloved reader, that the designers of the Rubix Cube forbid altering the pattern for commercial purposes–but I wouldn’t sell this treasure for all the world. Not with crosses affixed to one side, three buttons representing the Trinity decorating each block of another side, and red glass hearts representing the love of Jesus adorning a third. Not with durable, steadfast leather on a fourth side, mosaic tiles on a fifth, and round orange pieces on the final side–with each round piece feeling remarkably like a gentle rain if you place it against your cheek. No, I’m not soon selling this masterpiece. Not when I can spend hours beholding crosses, enjoying a gentle rain, and contemplating steadfast love and grace.

The old tape player we own may not have an automatic shut-off, and the recording quality may be scratchy when compared with my digital voice recorder, but the cassette inside is one of those treasures that merits being absorbed during those late-night devotional sessions between yourself and the Lord. First, there’s a rendering of the Red Letters in the Gospel of Mark. That’s read by Naomi, my precious sister in Christ and a beloved friend, prayer warrior, and Bible-study partner. Then, she and Jedediah intertwine their voices and individual reading styles on a collaborative effort involving the entire book of Romans. All the while, there are those comforting home noises in the background–the humming of appliances, the sound of a kitchen chair on the tile floor, all the pleasant murmurings of our well-run Bethesda (Aramaic–“House of Mercy”) that I will look back on with such fondness come 2023. Yes, I will save the recording that long–if the tape player breaks, I will have Audacity and iTunes to fall back on, for this recording is too precious not to be placed on my iPod. Album: “Free from the Law”. Playlists: “Spiritual Nourishment” and “Scripture Recordings”. Composer: “Family”.

To you, an iTunes card is a mere slinky in the scope of life–a slinky for those over the age of eight, but a fun plaything nevertheless. With it, you will probably buy a best-selling book for your new iPad, a movie, and a little popular music. Ah, but to me– The possibilities are endless! Not until 2010 did I realize that Integrity Hosanna!, Maranatha!, and Vineyard Music had released most of their albums from 1970-1997 for sale on iTunes. Then, of course, there are the independently-produced British, Dutch, German, Spanish, Afrikaans, Korean, Swahili, French, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, and Portuguese albums–all filled with the same anointing inherent in Don Moen’s music, only edifying in so many more ways because they represent the unity of the Body of Christ. And, from time to time, there are the children’s recordings that tend to slip under the Dignity RADAR, for how can one possibly resist a devoted chorus of seven-year-olds singing “His Name Is Jesus”? Then, of course, there’s always the instrumental music to be considered, the Messianic music to be thought over, the obscure pieces by some little church of two hundred–but how glorious is the music they produce! No movies, no books–audio, electronic, or otherwise–just note after dancing, kneeling, or praying note on harp, lyre, flute, and voice.

Frankly, I have never been terribly fond of dramatized audio books, or those set to music. Music, you see, provides narrative interpretation and is not as intellectually-challenging for the listener. “Here comes an exciting part!!!!!!!!!!!” it proclaims in crashing disharmony. “Get excited!!!!!!!!!” See how irritating that can be? No self-respecting exclamation mark should be placed next to another, but that’s what somehow manages to happen with most dramatized or musically-accompanied audiobooks. Including the Bible–but that’s another rant. The shining exception to this standard is Gloria Gaither’s memoir, SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL. Very, very few people can do what she does with any degree of success–certainly not splendour. In print, the book provides lyrics and stories behind seventy-four of Bill and Gloria Gaither’s best-loved songs including “Because He Lives” and “Family of God”. The seven-CD audio rendering, narrated by the author, takes this to even greater heights. Each song-writing account is sandwiched between recordings of the song’s chorus, and sometimes a verse as well. Piano interludes dot the landscape as Gloria reads, and in a few touching episodes I can hear tears in her voice, a little gentle interference as some part of her book or perhaps a finger travels too close to the recording equipment, the rustling of paper as she turns a page… Keep your professionalism and polish–this is absolutely one of the best recordings I have ever encountered. Move over, Oasis Audio!

The inward symbol and the outward symbol–you really can’t have one without the other. The outward symbol is a necklace with a cross inside a dove. The message is clear: Spirit-filled Christian! The cross I had worn for eight years has now been relegated to my jewelry box, there to wait until I can find an appropriate recipient. That’s the outward symbol. The inward symbol is a large glass bottle of Intuition perfume. Perhaps you know of it–a container with a teardrop engraved on it, representing the awe at being in God’s presence. The floral fragrance inside, reminiscent of both lightsome joy and intensive peace. Or is this just me? All I know is that, on 17 August 2002, Naomi and Hannah went shopping and returned with this perfume, ostensibly for Naomi. While they were gone, I was immersed in worship music and prayer. This was the day, the very hour, when I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Every one of my loved-ones–and, for that matter, anyone else who will listen!–is acquainted with this association. So, when Naomi bestowed this perfume on me, she was making a crystal-clear statement about my life in the Lord and my love for the Holy Spirit especially. Yes, the inward and outward symbols are inextricably linked.

Four motifs take up residence in my writing space–two sets of chimes, whose music dances through my heart and always manages to put me in mind of Acts, somehow; the vaporizer, which serves both to warm this chilly room and to provide the same comfort found in a cup of peppermint tea; the silence itself, which blots out all vestiges of television, computer games, and other facets of family life; and the quiet ticking of a brand-new clock. A ticking clock has always been lovely, but this one is especially so. No ordinary timepiece plays “Amazing Grace” at the top of each hour. The instrument, which surely does not exist outside of this clock, combines the clarity of so many church bells with an ornate piano. If placed in a large environment–a long living room, for example–the hymn is quiet and soothing; if taken to a small bedroom or a crowded space, the hymn echoes and bounces off the furniture, resounding as a loud and celebratory anthem. The clock has its fragilities–a stand too small to support it properly, springs that don’t hold the batteries with the firmness expected of flawless manufacturing–but then again, so do I. The clock’s delicacy does not prevent its primary purpose in life, which is more to play that one magnificent hymn than even to keep time. Neither should my oft-fragile state prohibit me from singing–“Amazing Grace”, “Arise, My Soul, Arise”, “Nearer, My God, to Thee”, or “Sunshine in My Soul”. For, you see, my primary purpose is also in hymnody–or, more directly, in all forms of worship. The clock and I share another similarity–both of us can only be used for our intended purposes when exposed to light. The clock actually has a light sensor to prohibit the singing of songs to a sleepy heart–or a heavy body, or both! (See Proverbs 25:20 for the extent of the literary, but fully reverent, flair.) I, too, unless exposed to the Light of the World (see John 8:12), will not, cannot, sing or write or do anything else to serve my King. Yes, I must walk in the light, as He is in the light, and continually abide in Him. So much to read into a clock–but so very appropriate!

From January, 2012-June, 2012, I kept a sort of scattered Braille journal. While sitting in waiting rooms or getting ready to doze off for the evening, I often took out a slate and stylus (portable devices for producing Braille) and jotted down the day’s spiritual joys on index cards. At the end of the month, I would return to the cards and review the fruit that the Lord was gradually producing on this, His tree. For a variety of complex reasons, I ceased this practice following my sojourn at guide-dog school. Now, though, I am strong enough spiritually to begin again. But where to put the cards? What to do with the stacks of cards, wrapped with rubber bands and ordered chronologically? The solution lies in a metal box with an intricate little latch on the front. There’s something special about that box–it bespeaks glory rather than business, majesty far more than cooking or filing or any other concern. Really, it’s not that elaborate, but it still seems suited to only one purpose. At the moment, it waits on the bureau, filled with promise and potentiality–ready to be filled with all His promises, all His blessings and all those reminders of His provision, restoration, and healing. Naomi knew this, too. Just as Intuition perfume was an unspoken discussion of the Holy Spirit, Naomi’s unvoiced words to me upon presenting me with this box were, “Praise the Lord for restoring you–rest in His promises.” My silent reply: “Yes and amen.”

In a previous post, I remarked that the fragrance of new furniture in general and of my new velvet chair-and-a-half in particular was reminiscent of the worship chorus, “Father, I Adore You”. Well, now I have pillows whose fragrance matches precisely. They’re large, over-stuffed, suede-covered entities that effectively reduce my chair-and-a-half to three-fourths of a chair–the better to envelop the occupant. So, I guess the chair sings the first verse of “Father, I Adore You”, and the two pillows recall to mind the two remaining verses! The one on the right is the second verse, and the one on the left is the third verse.

Complementing the chair and the pillows is an exquisite blanket. Actually, the blanket is the successor to two others, both of which were designated Purity Blankets for their white, inexpressibly-soft appearance. This one is different–larger, and thus able to wrap around more efficiently, and a rich brown rather than a pure white. It is deep and unconventional–never before had I known that such short fibres could produce such unalloyed softness. For the information of every reader who passes this way, they can! This is not the Purity Blanket, but is no less special for needing a new designation. Its comforting features, depth of shade and fabric construction, etc., render it too complex to name at the moment, but–trust me!–it will happen.

The hot beverage mug that I hate to designate only for coffee is smooth, wonderful glass–the best quality I have ever encountered. It looks like a delicious cup for all hot beverages, and it is. Some mugs aren’t, you know–the wrong type of glass, clay, or glaze. Best of all, this is the sort of cup designed to keep your drink hot. It is wrapped in a cozy of sorts, made of deep blue yarn. The cup was purchased at a local coffee shop, but the cozy appears hand-made. Everything from the yarn pattern to the button fastener is symbolic; Naomi and I have our hearts wrapped around anything to do with yarn for reasons too lengthy and too personal to ever relate on this blog. It’s a matter of philostorge, but even more deeply, of agape. Again, a wordless conversation.

Combined, all of these things had the fragrance of John 1:47 honesty, of truth and righteousness and victory in the Lord Jesus, of triumph and restoration–but especially of that John 1:47 honesty. And somehow, the objects above described–to include the Gaither audiobook–were an orchestra of healing. The fabric of comfort, the flavour of peace, the image of joy. This was Christmas, 2013. Not the materials themselves–CDs and gift cards and plush blankets cannot produce that level of joy–but when so allegorically associated, the result is truth and righteousness. Absolutely beautiful!

And now, to answer your questions. Does not Acts 20:35 state emphatically that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”? Why, then, am I describing everything lavished upon me? Because to discuss what I gave would be unrighteous. I can boast of, or honor, others all I want, though! And, why the extensive gift-giving in the first place? It wasn’t just me… Everyone’s under-the-tree experience was like that this year–probably because the Lord has brought us through so much throughout 2013 and we wanted to display to one another tangibly as well as emotionally that we were thankful for the fruit we were seeing in each other’s lives. Besides, it was a joyful thing to do. So, there you have it–the juncture between life on earth and life lived in the Lord, between fabric and media and comfort and worship.

Will I now wrap it all up, so to speak, and say, “And that was our Christmas”? Never! I haven’t yet had the pleasure of relating the best part of all–our church service and the profound impact it had on each of us. Saved for a future post, if the Lord wills.

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