machinations

ancient gears in a machineI am on a catwalk that rings what looks like an operating theater – tall windows to my right, dark shadows to my left. I turn and place my hands upon the rail beneath the windows and look down onto a room that is inhabited by a great machine, all levers and valves and gears and boxes that hide deeper mechanisms, chugging away together, burping steam and dripping oil.

As I look I see myself. I am connected to this machine on what looks like an exercise bike. My hands are tied to the handles, my feet are tied to the pedals and strapped to my head is a device that holds a small screen in front of my eyes. On that screen plays a message that tells me what I must do, how I must perform, what is true and important and worthy.

I have been there for so long that I nearly believe it all. I am caught in a daze of duty and effort and urgency. Peddling away – sometimes out of my own energy and sometimes just because the bike still moves and my feet are tied to the pedals. On and on I go, blindly thinking I can see. Repeating in my heart the mantras of the screen.

The me at the window seems a mere shadow compared to the me at the machine. And we are separated by this glass and soundless space. I am sad, this me at the window, soul-sad and alone. Nearly empty. Nearly a vapor with an almost hand upon the rail and an almost prayer in my heart.

Then someone appears beside me – a friend whose eyes speak kindness. She quietly reaches over and places her warm hand upon the wisp of mine and looks down into the room and whispers to me, “There is more.” My heart almost hears her. “There is more. There is more.” Her hand hugs mine. She continues to stand quietly beside me.

And the me on the machine blinks.

I blink. For a moment the screen in front of my eyes flickers. I blink and begin to breathe. I blink and begin, softly, to cry and to feel the ache in my limbs. I blink and even the me on the bike hears the whisper, “There is more.”

I try to look around, but since the screen is strapped to my head, it does not change what I can see.   Still . . . that blink . . . it has made a difference.

A deep difference.

Amen.

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[grayscale of a photo by arbyreed per cc 2.0]

Expecting Something Good

smiley face on a window

Sometimes – ok, often – grace appears to me in a conversation with a friend.

It happened again a few months ago, when a friend told me of her daily disciplines – nine specific intentions she uses to frame and shape her day.

The wonder of the conversation is that, as she walked me through each one, I recognized each discipline as part of her fingerprint upon my life. I have been the happy recipient of her faithful habits, of her intentional cultivation of grace within herself.

So, I thought I might try them on, myself.

Knowing how many times I’ve made resolutions and knowing how few of them I’ve kept, I decided to practice my way in, keeping one until it becomes familiar, before I add another. The first of her nine is to start each day with the expectation that something good will happen – and then to actively look for it.

So, this morning started off right, hands in the dirt of the garden, and looking up to see a fresh stalk of asparagus, pushing up to greet the sun. It tasted really sweet.

[photo is my own]