Saturday, September 20, 2008

By the Light of the Stained Glass

... As I step through the doorway, I am awed again. I reach for the light switch, then think better of it. It is as I remember: the coolness of the slate beneath my bare feet, the old wooden pews, and the mustiness that hangs in the air.

I pull out my camera. The detail of the stone catches my eye, as does the beauty of the stained glass. More and more pictures. With flash, without flash, wide shots, zoomed close ups. The sun shines through the large set of windows that is behind the altar. The polished stone on the top of the altar reflects the colors. Their tones are muted on the matte slate floor.

I walk from the rear of the church toward the altar. The first song comes forth. "Great is Thy faithfulness, oh God, my Father...." Of course. I love how my voice carries and sounds full within the confinement of the stone walls. Half way up the aisle, the words are choked out as the tears fill my eyes. Now, I can only hum. I pick up the camera and gaze through it.

The piano and the pulpit are there, but their locations have been reversed in the past decade. I take a closer look at the piano; the keys are still without ivory finishes. The sun fades, and thus the colors do the same.

As they return, I place my feet into the blues, reds, yellows and greens that dance on the floor. I am still focused through the camera lens, I realize. I turn and walk to the rear of the building. Hanging the camera over the last pew on the right, I turn and start down the aisle again.

Then, the hands start. The signs come out. "Father, God, You have called me here, in this place to be with You. Why am I here, Lord. What do I do?" is the translation. "Why am I here, in Your presence, with You now?" The tears are streaming as I make my last few steps toward the front.

I kneel down before the altar, resting my head on the slate floor. The tears have hit the stone. I can see their dampness. I kneel upright again and sign, "My heart, heal it. Completely heal it." and then a sign that I love so much because it encompasses so much more than its English translation: "connect" or "relationship". Thumb and first finger looped, interconnected, moving back and forth between my heart and God. That's what I want. I dry my eyes, turn and sit up against the half stone wall.

It is a small church, seats seventy-five at most. As I sit with my back against the half wall that divides the congregation from the pastor, I think of the engraving I passed coming in. "The Birthplace Shrine. February 4, 1810." I wonder how many weddings and baptisms and funerals have occurred here. I look out over the pews, at the stained glass and to the pulpit.

Laying there is a bible. King James. I stand and walk over. On the left-hand page is Hebrews chapter 10, on the right, chapter 11. That catches my eye. Verse 1 starts by defining "faith". I smile, and skim down to verse 17. "By faith, Abraham, when he was tried offered up Isaac..." I turn to the altar; it's dancing again with color. I lay my chest on it briefly, wishing I could see the pattern of color I know is now on my back. Thank you, thank you, thank you, God.

There I lay the remains of what I have held onto through the years. There it remains as I stand and walk to the very last pew on the right, where my camera is hanging.

Another view through the lens. Proof that it lies there in the colors of the altar. I put the ear bud into my left ear, and press play on my ipod. It's still just me and God. Song after song, I sing. Then one makes me pause.

"Beauty for Ashes. A garment of praise, for my heaviness," it starts. "Beauty for Ashes. Take this heart of stone and make it Yours..." There's no more singing for me now. I just listen as it continues. ".... trading all that I've had for all that is better". I still see the signs I've done before - images in my mind's eye: "All-of-me. Surrender. Grace pour-down-on-me". What a language! The song ends, I press 'repeat'. Over and over and over again. As it has been in my life: Beauty for Ashes, again, and again and again.

When there are no more tears. I stand, gather my belongings, and walk out into the sunshine. The breeze greets me as if to wipe the tears away for good.


kristin said...

I don't know what to say...except while I want to know/learn more...I feel as though I've stumbled upon a private conversation, or that I'm illicitly reading a private journal...

It's very moving and very intimate.

Sometimes, when I read your blog, it almost feels like (a) prayer, and is often emotional, for me, the reader.

It's beautiful.

And I feel a litle guolty for being curious.

Linda said...

Please do not feel guilty for being curious.

One thing I have come to love about this blog is that it has given me a way to become somewhat "transparent" and "bold" in my faith. If I have painted a picture of the richness and sweetness of "heart-knowledge" and relationship in the presence of God, then I have succeeded.

The transition from "head-knowledge" to "heart-knowledge" has been one of the most difficult and the most rewarding in my Faith Journey. (and it continues to be a daily exercise!)

I hope to bear witness to His ever-presence, His grace and His unfailing love. He has been with me through it all - whether I was aware or not.

This day was especially healing for me - in the midst of my praise, crying out and hiding behind the camera lens. He was there.

I also hope to encourage those who may be afraid to "go there" with God. I was very reluctant at first (and still hesitate from time to time!), but with the encouragement and love of others I have walked through many of those fears, and experienced some truly grace filled moments.

The journey is not over... but no matter where He leads, I will never be alone.

If you have questions, please ask. If I can answer, I'd be glad to!