Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Proximity is Personal

When the bottom was dropping out for David, there's this little phrase that shows up where we discover that he 'strengthened himself in the Lord'. What does that mean? How does that happen? I suppose there are many ways, but what's most important is that we find a way to do it because God knows that the bottom drops out for all of us from time to time.

Last night seemed to be a marker, the end of some sort of very intense period for my wife and I, where the convergence zone of my mom's declining health, material things falling apart, the writing cabin freezing, and much more, all came together so that the margins of life haven't been spent skiing, or writing, or lingering over good books and food, or doing much of anything other than plowing through the mound of responsibilities that come with living. If you've read o2, you'll know what I mean when I say it's as if we've been exhaling steadily for several months, which isn't perfectly true, but true enough.

After finishing one of 'margin obligations' last night, it was clear enough that things are settled, at least for a season. Battling a tiny virus and needing some rest, I traveled north to the writing cabin for a time preparation because I'm teaching at a conference back east soon. In case the studies go well, and the virus is defeated, I threw my skis in the car - just in case.

I wake this morning and I sit by the window staring out into a world paralyzed with ice, stunning in it's silence and solitude. A single tiny bird is crawling up the trunk of a fir tree catches my eye and I watch, the only sign of life in view. What does it eat? Where does it sleep? What's it looking for? Where is it's family? Is it young and dependent, or a provider? My gaze is fixed upon this small yet vibrant life when suddenly it takes off, flying directly at my with the speed Nadal serve (for those who aren't tennis fans, that's a simile for 'fast').

BOOM! The bird hits the window and crashes into the window box, which is filled with fir branches and pine cones in the winter. He lands in such a way that he's staring up at me (and suddenly, though I still don't know the gender, the proximity has no longer allowed me to think of him as an it - proximity is personal). We look at each other through the glass. He's breathing rapidly which, in my ignorance, I presume to be a sign of injury. After all, the velocity with which he struck the glass? Well, the sheer physics of it means he should be dead doesn't it? Yet he lives, and stares, and blinks, and I look at his plumage, humble yet stunning. His gaze is fixed on me now. I look away but when I turn back, he's still staring at me, almost pleading, I think. We're connected, bird and I. No longer an object, I want him to live.

What I can I do? Maybe he needs strength. Thank the Lord, someone left a loaf of bread on my porch yesterday. I don't do many bread things these days, so wouldn't have had any with me, save for the kindness of someone at my church. But I do have bread, and so I crush some to crumbs and set it carefully near the bird. I go back inside and he takes a few crumbs in before closing his eyes. If he's breathing, it's imperceptible; the feathers are still.

Have I killed him? He's motionless. I wait a minute, two, maybe three. Nothing changes for bird, so I go outside to pick up the body. When I touch the feathers though, they flutter, and when I touch them again, he's in the air; haltingly at first, but ultimately in flight, landing high in a nearby tree. I feel the relief in my body. My friend will live another day.

Yes, but it there a point to this silly story? Oh yes there's a point. I'm reminded this morning, as I sat by the window to 'refresh myself in the Lord' that proximity is personal. Get close to someone, anyone, and you'll be changed - for better or worse, you'll be changed. What does that mean for me?

1. I'm amazed at God's capacity for proximity with all of humanity - even this bird is in proximity.
2. I need to pursue proximity to God. Sure, I understand that God is always there, like air is always there, but I'm talking about the pursuit of conscious awareness of God's presence and character, for the Bible tells us that we're made whole by gazing at the glory of God, whether in the word, or a spouse, or a neighbor, or a sunrise, or a storm, or a bird.
3. I need to pursue proximity to people, but not in some posturing way, always trying to come out on top of things. Paul spoke of seeing people how God see's them, and when I approach this posture, I find a sense of delight, beauty, compassion in my relationships, rather than vain posturing. But this requires intentionally, seeking to really see people, and I don't do this often enough.

"Showing up" is how I've said it in the past, and that makes sense to me. But this morning I've been reminded, not just of the value of showing up, but that proximity is personal. I'll leave this writing cabin tonight (and not before, as the virus is winning) praying that I'll be intentional about getting close and really looking - because this looking is where the best lessons are learned.

Find a moment today and really look... refresh yourself in the Lord.


At 3/2/09 19:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this. I will bookmark this site and come back to read all that you have written. Keep writing. Remeber that you only need to reach one if it is the right one. Only God knows the impact that you will have on the kingdom this way. Many blessings,

At 4/2/09 07:37, Blogger Kristi said...

This is lovely, Dad. Thanks for sharing.

At 4/2/09 10:05, Blogger Joanie said...

Yes. Yes. Yes!

I am thankful for the eloquence of your words and envy you that God has blessed you in this way (if only I could share as you do...)

Proximity! Yes. God has been speaking it to me and just this weekend I've really begun to understand. I'm reading an amazing book (perhaps you've read it) and it's speaking the same thing. Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven! It's turned my life upside down and inside out and my faith journey has been touched significantly by what is shared like nothing else (except God's Word itself). Oh ~ to be even a small measure of what Rich was ~ his relationship to Him... And yet, I want more. A little will not suffice. And so I begin my journey toward proximity ~ opening my life to Him and the people around.

Thank you for sharing. Blessings and be well, my friend.

At 5/2/09 11:11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the Bible tells us that we're made whole by gazing at the glory of God, whether in the word, or a spouse, or a neighbor, or a sunrise, or a storm, or a bird." Life giving words which I will chew for days, weeks, months and years.

At 9/2/09 08:44, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pastor Dahlstrom,
Thank you for coming to the Northeast to speak at the HIM Marriage Conference! The Lord spoke to my heart thru your teachings about how much He loves me and that He doesn't hold my past against me!
I have a little gift for you coming to the church to sat "thanks" mentioned on your info on the church's site that you like smoked I am sending an assortment of smoked oysters from a farm in Oregon. Thank you again for being a vessel for God to speak thru...
Julie Macrae :)


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