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The Living Rooms

…wherein we capture moments of authentic living.

Charlie, Cinderella, and the Meager Realm of Possibility

Recall to mind, for a moment, a time when you were presented with a possibility. One that you dared long for, but one that you weren’t good enough for and one that you certainly didn’t deserve. But for the sake of the fact that the thing was possible, it never would have entered your imagination.  

 

What of Cinderella’s possibility in that cherished Fairy Tale? That she, a dirty, orphaned slave might be presentable enough to gain entrance to the ball? And Charlie’s possibility in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? That a poor, wretch of a boy might find a golden ticket in a bar of candy he couldn’t afford thereby gaining him a day at the factory? Both of these possibilities were beyond our protagonists place and station in life as well as, I believe, beyond their imaginations. But tell me this: What lasting good would one night at the ball have done for Cinderella who was a slave? And what lasting good would a day long tour of the chocolate factory have done for Charlie who was starving? Really, tell me, what enduring good? It verges on mockery.

 

The possibility is a vain thing most keenly felt to be so when it is won.  And herein we see the weakness of our wildest dreams, our desperate wishes, which seem so petty when compared to, well, the rest of the story. 

 

Cinderella does go to the ball; was it a miracle? No, it was possible. But what impossibility happens next? The Prince casts his eyes on her, falls in love and vows to keep her for his own. Charlie does find the last ticket. Miracle? No. Possible. But in the impossible ending Mr. Willy Wonka sets his favor on Charlie and generously bestows on him the entire factory. 

 

Cinderella and Charlie’s wildest dreams, as it turns out, were not close to wild enough. They were both presented with a possibility that was beyond them, that they didn’t deserve. But what they were actually given was Grace, impossible Grace. She pined to go to a ball for a night. What she was given was a Prince and a Kingdom. Charlie yearned to tour a factory for a day, but what he was given was an outrageous inheritance. It becomes overwhelmingly apparent that in the fulfillment of their deep needs, rather than in the fulfillment their dreams, they are provided with exceedingly above all they could ask or imagine. 

 

This is the impossible taking place; this is the Kingdom of Grace. And herein is where we live both now and forevermore. Grace is so much more than an advantageous fulfillment of the possible. It is the audacious accomplishment of the impossible. It is unfathomably prodigious favor. It is fearsome power that silences adversary and accusation.

 

How come we to linger in the realm of possibility with these limited imaginations when our reality, due to the nature and gift of our God, is the Kingdom of the supernatural, the impossible?  Are you as weary as I of the natural, of only dreaming in the meager realm of possibility? May we dare petition our God to join Him in the impossible, where He alone is glorified and where our deepest needs fulfilled far surpass our wildest dreams imagined.

Thoughts on Singing and Small Audiences

My husband and I went on a date Friday night to the Chapel, a beautiful building not one hundred yards from our home and filled these days with hundreds of children having fun learning about Jesus. But Friday night it was empty.  We hauled two guitars, our Marshall amp that I bought at a garage sale, and our music.  The stage was already set with mic stands and cords.  And so we sang our amateur songs into that empty room.

“It was done almost bashfully, as if they feared that the silence might not welcome their music…” -Wendell Berry, author Jayber Crow.

Something moved in and between us during those moments. It allowed my husband to suddenly feel free to create harmony.  His voice grew strong and confidant.  I closed my eyes and heard it and was encouraged.  He cracked jokes which is somewhat rare, the weight of the world on him.   He said to me “If I start laughing, it is not at you or something you did. I’m not that stupid.”  He’s right, though, to make sure I knew he wouldn’t laugh at something I was doing.  This creating business is scary. We’re all exposed and vulnerable. But he was safe to be around and he was brilliant.  We were loving the songs we’d created and giving them space to be sung, if only to each other in an empty room.

“In order to find one who can receive your words you must have the courage to first send those words on the journey out of your self into a world that may not receive them.”-Jennifer Trafton, author Henry and the Chalk Dragon

The world  I’m sending my songs into is quite small.  And though mine is a heart bent on influencing scores of folks, I am called to regularly influence six.

“How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone?”- G.K. Chesterton

Is it any less of a creative work though heard by only a few?  Isn’t communion with my husband/family and my Creator a worthy goal and how success could be defined, no matter what the world may say? I know these questions sound rhetorical but I ask myself because I MUST preach myself the answer, YES. The Lord has not given me another domain in which to share my art, and He may never will.  I am successful, creative and honoring when I sing and play from a heart thankful, from a heart sacrificial, from a heart glorifying her Creator, even if I’m only performing at dusk in the quiet of my babies’ room to lull them to sleep with dreams of the Kingdom.

“Yesterday I wrote a song for my infant daughter to quiet her as I gave her a bath…Now I realize that this song will never be recorded or sung or sold, but it brought such beauty and tranquility to that fleeting moment of her childhood for us both. And I have no doubt that the Master Creator was pleased.” -Sandra McCracken, It Was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God

But I love the stage. I loved the hearth of my grandparent’s fireplace, my first stage. I’d plead with the family to come and hear me sing. I still plead with my husband, “Come hear what I made!” And he, though a trained musician of sorts, is humble enough to listen to my unrestrained passion seep through my untrained attempts, and dives into the process of further creating along with me.  I think in places like Nashville it is easier to find kindred spirits to create music with, or at least the Rabbit Room is nurturing that vision. But here in my corner of Nebraska it’s not. But I found one such spirit or one was found for me.  And we went on a date last Friday to the Chapel where we made music and ministered to each other.  I am thankful and nothing less.
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Between us we shared words and sounds

And we are rich, though not with crowds

There is a fullness in singing our days

To the company in which our life is found.

 

Oh my soul, don’t steal from me

The sweetness of this company

By holding out for wishful things

A time and dominion not mine to sing.

 

But let it be pure passion still

Offered up to God’s good will

Thankful all the while I may

Tell joy and sorrow in the songs I play.

The Naughty Gardener and Consequently, the Disgruntled Rabbit

It wasn’t a good place for a garden; the morning sun blocked by the lodge and a crab apple tree and the afternoon rays shut out by our house.  By expert standards there was barely enough light to justify its’ location.  But we had no other option. The rest of the land covered a layer of gravel exactly one foot deep.  But this former city girl wanted a garden. I had no idea what I was doing.

I quite literally put my hand to the plow and forced myself to not turn back. I was terrified. This wasn’t our land, to begin with, It was a Christian campground where we lived as Hosts and Managers.  My garden would be seen by oh so many.  Which is why my husband built a sturdy fence around our 20×20 plot what would outlast Armageddon.  So I had to plant the thing.

I imagined baskets overflowing with colorful veggeterribles, sun hats, and rich black soil between my fingers and toes. Not to mention the bounty of food on our table and stocked in our pantry, all grown just outside my bedroom window. I was jolted from this magazine spread to a plot of weeds, infestations of squash bugs, fungus laden corn, and no-show basil.

The spring my fourth and fifth child were born, I looked on the unprepared, unplanted garden and noticed that a quite large, disgruntled rabbit had finally found a way inside. “Oh poor rabbit,” I said, “this is the wrong year to break in; I am growing twins… and weeds.”

But I do know a seasoned gardener; she has dug up her entire front yard for that purpose.  I listen to her speak of her veggies and flowers as she would her dear friends.  One day she happened by my garden in the peak of its’ season and commented, not unkindly, “Well that’s one way of doing it.”  Yes it is.

In an issue of “Where Women Cook” Ann Marie of Na-Da Farm quotes her grandfather’s  instructive words, “The way you garden is the way you live your life.” I am continually haunted by his words.  They echo in my ears when I plant my early vegeterribles knowing the ground is too wet and like clay to handle.  I hear those words when I see my tomato plants falling over from their weight because I bought the indeterminate variety and didn’t buy proper support.  I hear it when I refuse to fight the losing battle against the squash bugs that make my skin crawl.

So this is how you live your life.

Yes, it is. But I am refusing to be condemned by those words.

If I worked my fingers to the bone to be a well-planned, diligent gardener (which, in my case, may require the neglect of husband, children, education, home, and ministry) my garden would look differently. Its’ rows would be straight, vines trellised, tomatoes upright, and not a squash bug in sight.  It would be lovely.  But, I would still be employing the same ritual that, in reality, I do.

Both kinds of gardeners take seed in hand, bend knees to the earth, surrender the seed to the dug furrow and cover it with soil. And both are utterly dependent on the miracle.  The miracle of a necessary burial that isn’t the end, of course.  Life springs forth.  And I am struck every year.  All my hope is in this miracle being true. Because really, I bring nothing.  I am convinced and grateful to tears that it is not by my skill that this garden bears fruit. 

So, each year I garden again. I must. So many people looking. And that fence.  I believe the miracle for another season. I wouldn’t do it otherwise. This is how I live my life. Garden Bounty

Seasonal Mood Disorder: A Lament

 

One thing of fall and winter I
Have not the mind to reconcile
It happens more so than does not
And finds me lost in dreary thought

’Tis when a fog of width and height
Shrouds the heavens from my sight
An endless blanket, thick and grey
Filters every brilliant ray

I could bear it and would not mourn
If these clouds had shape or form
To give some daily bread for eyes
And make a canvas of the skies

Even the winds of season’s change
Oft fail to blow these clouds away
And though the rain from them does fall
From course, they do not stray at all

But if above the mist I rise
Would see the blue and sun-lit skies
I know they’re shining there for me
I thus believe though cannot see

Under this hovering depth of grey
It is my lot and I will stay
But this I know, ’twill soon give way
to Light of everlasting day

by Kara Chase

Home Beautiful, Hearts Full

Your day off. No one is coming over. You are not going anywhere.  What does your living room look like?

Scary question?

Or comforting reality?

A friend of mine recently captured her family’s authentic living and gave me permission to share it here.

Can you see the evidence of their living all over the place?

I will tell you this.  That picture will never grace the cover of house beautiful.

But it will create a memory that will be etched in her children’s hearts permanently.

And that, dear ones, is called legacy.

It is why my heart is home.  So the hearts of my loved ones will be filled to overflowing.

Thanks, Aly, for your inspiring courage to resist being pressed into the mold.

The Owl

Behold the wise, old solemn owl

He keeps his own counsel and he keeps it well

Silently he waits through the watches of the night

Winding round his neck keeping prey in sight

His eyes wide open have seen a thing or two

You surely must beware though, if they are watching you!

The Flower Song

I grew tall in an open space

With daffodils and Queen Anne’s lace

Felt the sun upon my face

And in the moonlight bathed

 

This was home to me

My roots grew down deep

 

Clouds blew over one sultry day

And with them brought a drenching rain

But firmly in the ground I stayed

Till I saw the light of day

 

This was home to me

My roots grew down deep

 

I heard tales of winter time

When all earth froze in cold sunlight

And everything lay still and white

I feared it I won’t lie

Just to think it makes me cry

 

This was home to me

My roots grew down deep

 

I wasn’t prepared when You reached down

Grasped me tight and pulled me out

Was carried away without a sound

 

This was home to me

This was home to me

This was home to me

 

Put me in a crystal vase

Drown my roots display my face

For all eyes in the room to gaze

 

Neither season nor shower

But picking of flower

This was my hour

to go

 

I will not survive

This kind of life

But I’m precious

to behold

Home is a Person…

Home is a person…preparing a place…with you in mind.

I had always thought of Home simply as a place until I read Frederick Buechner’s The Longing for Home, in which he vividly describes his grandmother:

“For all its other glories, the house on Woodland Road could never have become home without the extraordinary delight to me of her presence in it and the profound sense of serenity and well-being that her presence generated, which leads me to believe that if, as I started by saying, the first thing the word home brings to mind is a place, then the next and perhaps most crucial thing is people and maybe ultimately a single person.”

When Buechner thinks of home he thinks of a place…at first.

I think the same. The comfort of consistency and the unearned love that enveloped me in the home of my maternal Grandparents made it distinct from all the other houses in which I lived. I consider it home in the greatest and most endearing sense of the word.  I return to it still, though many changes have rendered parts of it unfamiliar. I remember its nooks and crannies and how I fit into each one; I find myself trying to fit back into those places that opened places in me.

Buechner says “…the next and perhaps most crucial thing that comes to mind is people and maybe ultimately a single person.” Most crucial indeed. Had it not been for the love of my Grandparents and their presence, their own selves filling up that space with comfort and care and belonging, it wouldn’t be dear. I have a hunch that the defining element of home and what may very well be the soul center of home, are the souls themselves. It is exactly a person’s presence in it that makes a home a home: The presence of the one making it so and the presence of the ones living in it. A home asks one to beautifully, uniquely prepare that loved place for loved ones. Without this heartbeat, this pulse, a dwelling is reduced to merely a shell, hollow and cold, four walls.  So, what I should think of first when I consider home and perhaps what my soul perceives first, though my mind is slow to catch on, is a person.

And that is why I’ve come to believe, through years of searching, that Home is my legacy. This awareness came, in part, through the wisdom and genius of author Wendell Berry as spoken through his character Hannah Coulter.

“Sometimes, a haunted old woman, I wander about in this house that Nathan and I renewed, that is now aged and worn by our life in it. How many steps, wearing the thresholds? I look at it all again. Sometimes it fills to the brim with sorrow, which signifies the joy that has been here, and the love. It is entirely a gift…Sometimes I sit still in my chair late into the night, telling over this story to myself.”

So that one day, towards the end of my days, I might have a sweet story to tell myself, I wrote, years ago, the words of the song “Make You A Home”, “If I could make a place of peace, A refuge for you to come/ If you would give your life to me, I would give mine to make you a home.”

And that is perhaps why Andrew Peterson,  in his song “My One Safe Place” doesn’t sing “…So I run away home… to The Warren.” No, he sings “…So I run away home to you.”

And, after all, wasn’t it the Israelites who, in the wilderness following the Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night, lived with the very Presence of God?  His Presence was their home. And when He moved, they moved with Him. Not to be in a place, but to be with Him.

“…home, finally, is the manger in Bethlehem, the place where at midnight even the oxen kneel…Home is where Christ is…” Buechner says.

Furthermore, Christ assures us, “I go to prepare a place for you…and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may also be.” A Person…preparing a place…with you in mind.

And at the much groaned after, future redemption we read, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people and He shall be their God.”

Home has become, at long last, Him. No further need for Him to be housed among us and no further need for us to be housed. Created to be in intimate relationship, we find, as it just so happens, our “fullness of joy”, as King David says, in the very Presence of our Creator, Redeemer God. How could we ever consider our true and enduring Home to be anything less than the very best He has to offer, namely Himself?

This is perhaps why I am more than a little uncomfortable when a Gospel proclamation urges its’ listeners that they may get to go to Heaven when they die. Perhaps it’s more telling and to the point when we share that, as believers, we receive the impossible reward and inheritance of living with our God for eternity in heaven; thus placing the emphasis and the prize and the Glory on the One to whom it belongs in the first place.

I don’t mean to assert that a person’s idea of Home can’t possibly be a place. I do mean to provoke some thinking and perhaps feeling of what or who Home truly is at its’ center, at its’ very essence. As the fairy-faced Stella ponders in Elizabeth Goudge’s Gentian Hill,

“Home! It showed you its face when you sat quiet within it at that moment when day was passing to night, but it could only reveal its spirit, its eternal meaning, when you stood at a little distance, just turning to leave it or just returning to it, seeing it at that transition moment when a larger world was claiming or releasing you.”

From that larger world to which we’ve gone, let’s return Home in our mind and in our spirit to who it was that made a home for us; all for the sake of beautifully, intentionally preparing our own place for those we have in mind; the children at our feet, the grandchildren coming and going, or the dear friends who may have yet to feel at home anywhere.  So that when the sweet sound of our voice is heard speaking the gospel, telling of the future and hope God has prepared, the sound will indeed be sweet to hear. For the precious souls under our own roofs, even through our broken and feeble efforts, will have something unfathomably deep awakened within. And they will hunger to have, and to keep, and to hold onto the only enduring and eternal One who gathers His own to Himself where we at last and endlessly come home.

“Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

                       -A Prayer of Moses the man of God” Psalm 90:1

Shelter for Storms

 

We greeted in the merry month December

Courted as the days grew warm and long

Married in the fever days of summer

And we did all our threshing in the Fall

 

The cycle of the seasons maps the story of our love

Our hearts so closely bound to the sky that stood above

Each season had its’ glory and each one had its’ storm

But in the shelter of our union this love goes on and on

 

We carried on a legacy in Springtime

When all the earth was growing green and new

Buds and blossoms coming out to greet us

We were giving birth to new life, too

 

We quarreled like unruly winds of summer

When anger like a thunderclap was heard

But when the dark clouds parted for the sunlight

Our was a stronger shelter that stood

 

We harvested our labor every Autumn

When what was sown most certainly was reaped

For all that we had gathered we were grateful

Be it bountiful or be it lean

 

We kept our hearth ablaze as snow descended

For all within to stay the winter storm

And when the fire faded down to embers

The blessing of our closeness kept us warm

 

The cycle of the seasons maps the story of our love

Our hearts so closely bound to the sky that stood above

Each season had its’ glory and each one had its’ storm

But in the shelter of our union this love goes on and on

 

©Kara Chase

 

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