Saturday, July 29, 2006

My Latest Cool Construction Project

I'm slowly remodelling a 70's Tudor style house for a family in Phoenix. Great clients and I'm resisting being a name'd recognize the family pedigree if I did. They took the kiddo's on vacation for a month while I took out the two inch oak spindle style bannister on the upstairs landing (where the kids live) and this is what we put in. I forgot my camera the first few days of demolition and setting the bottom rail and posts, but here it is "in process".

This is Thomas, my helper, on the ladder. He's afraid of heights too, but I'm the boss and he doesn't get paid if I fall off.

One of the issues was anchoring the system together with a 50 foot span. We ran the rails to the walls then anchored them and "buried" the rail in a newell post we built around it for structural integrity.

This is Thomas on the ladder.... again and again let us pray to the Lord!

This is the newell post drywalled.

...and finished.
And a view from below. We remodeled the entryway with this type of railing about 3 years ago. They decided the upstairs thin rails looked goofy, so we did this. I might post some pictures of the entry remodel in another post.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Consuming Fire

"And the glory you have given me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as we are one; I in them, and you in me, that have made you known to them, that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them." Jesus

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me." St. Paul

"Many waters cannot quench love, it is the very fire of the Lord." Song of Songs

Love is a consuming fire. This I know as certainly as I know my own name. When the flame of reckless passion is kindled I will give all I have, I will throw all that I am into the heart and hands of my beloved to keep our joyful bonfires burning furiously and brightly. I am lost in her; I no longer live except in her only, and she in me. In a mystery our hearts have been ravaged by some eternal and magnificent power that has moved the boundaries of our very souls and we are now a singularity, embodied one in another, they may be perfected in union, that the world may know that you sent me and loved them, even as you have loved me .... and I somehow we are one another; without her I know am nothing, I cannot exist apart from her. It is only in falling headlong into the mysterious abyss of love that we know the absolute peace of union with another and absolute fear of abandonment. It is only in love that we know the acute joy of completion and the torment of the hopelessness of fulfilling this true and complete union of spirits and hearts in this flesh. It is easy to find the Spirit in the bright joys of love yet it is in the torments of love when we are lost in its darkness that we find the true inextinguishable light that breaks from some unknown and joyful place in the deep waters of the abyss. That light is the fire of Love, the presence of God, that the many dark and deep waters of our sorrows could not quench. It is here finally, when we are truly lost in love that the dawn begins to break on the dark night of the soul and we find ourselves.

The lost and found of love is in passion and romance. Passion has been called untrue, unreal. Romance is called a short-lived fiction, infatuation a temporary insanity. It has been named pathological to feel so intertwined, to lose the boundaries of self and the ego so completely that we feel our very selves in one another, that we truly live and die in the heart and soul of one another. Yet it is this very pathology that poets extol, it is this insanity that the human heart longs for in the dark nights spent grieving the absence of the beloved. It is this loss that is gladly sought and embraced for the sake of gaining the sense of lostness in another that somehow fills and completes who I am. It seems this psychopathology is the best and truest of theologies because this is what Jesus and the apostle tell us the Christ is about. God is love. He is this fierce and consuming passion, and we are created in His image. To be one with our beloved, to find our soul's true companion, to lose all we possess and are for the sake of one moment of union that breaks into eternity within our hearts: This is the holy place within us all where God still dwells and calls us to Himself.

As it is with all holy places, it is a great risk to enter it and stand in the presence of the one who inhabits it. There, if we risk entering, we might be killed or we might be blessed beyond comprehension. It is most certainly a greater risk to enter the innermost court of love than to hazard mere physical death. To love is itself The Absolute Risk. Love is never a rehearsed trapeze act, a calculated stunt; there is no circus bravado, there is no net. The risk of the utter destruction of our hearts and perhaps our lives because of love is the most fearful of all things human and divine. It is fearful because love is the giving our very selves, the entrusting of all we are to another, laying ourselves open, naked, unguarded, without apology, without our peculiar armors, and trusting our beloved will welcome us in, that we will be one, that we will not be rejected. It is the most terrible and reckless risk both God and human beings can take, it was the very risk the Immanuel took. Behold the Incarnation of Love. "He came to His own and His own rejected him," Saint John says. The Eternal Lover himself is not exempt from the reckless foolishness of a Quixotic love affair and the risk of the devastation of His heart because of His passionate pursuit of His beloved who spurned His romancing, wWhich is the oldest and best romance ever told, the story that God himself has deemed holy: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl and….

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Love and Abandonment

On my bed night after night I sought him Whom my soul loves; I sought him but did not find him.

I must arise now and go search the city; In the streets and in the squares I must seek him whom my soul loves.

I sought him but did not find him. I opened to my beloved

But my beloved had turned away and gone! My heart went out to him as he spoke. I searched for him but did not find him; I called to him but he did not answer me. Song of Solomon 3:1,2; 5:6

This is love, its bright hope and its dark despair.

Yes, there is a dark side to love, and that darkness is not an evil that will end love, but it is a true witness to the presence of love. There are times that the joy I feel in the arms of my beloved affirms the depths of our love. But there are times that the pit of desperation deep in the night at the absence of my beloved bears greater witness to the strength of the love we share than the joy we feel in one another's presence. Night after night I fall into the darkness within and my heart goes somewhere into the darkness without, hoping I will find my beloved's heart searching me out in some spiritual, some mystical way. My desire is to find we are thinking of each other at the same moment, with the same passion, with the same longings; but my heart comes back empty, I need the living, warm touch of flesh and blood. I call out for my beloved, sometimes in a gentle sigh, sometimes in tears barely held back and sometimes in anger at the blessed closeness and the cursed distance between us. But my beloved does not answer. There is silence. I am alone.

I may be filled with the knowledge I am loved by her, I know in my mind that my beloved, somewhere, longs for me deep in the same night. But when all the promises of everlasting love are remembered, when all the joys of yesterday's embraces and touching are recalled, when hope reminds me there will be tomorrow's meeting, I still find myself staring into the night, broken hearted, wishing the silence would be broken by the sound of my beloved breathing beside me. There is a deep hollow and holy place within me that only the presence of my beloved will fill. And until I am with my beloved nothing will take away that holy longing and desperation.

Who is a lover of God who has not desperately longed for His presence? Who has a heart for God and has not gone out into the black night? Who has not fallen into the darkest of despairs because we are not with Him, because we cannot see His face, feel His touch, hear His voice speak our name. Who has not at some time, night after night curled up in bed, face buried in the pillows, sought Him out in sighs and curses and tears? Who has not opened to God and found that He had turned away? There are times we think we have heard His voice call our names, our hearts go out in joy and gladness but we turn to where we think we might find Him and He is gone, or perhaps was never there. And we wonder what lover's game He is playing with us, or is it a game? Perhaps our Beloved has abandoned us. Perhaps He has gone away and does not desire our presence, He no longer finds us lovely. We callout to Him, we cry out for Him. But He does not answer. There is silence as deep as the stars. We don't know if He will return, we don't know if He hears us calling. We wonder if He cares at all that we are calling.

Sometimes it is not enough to just know intellectually that we are loved by Him. "God loves you" rings hollow to the heart ravaged by despair at the absence of God. All His promises of love deep and eternal, all of the remembrances of His presence with us in times past, all the hopes of being with Him tomorrow, none of these will dull the edge of pain when we callout for God and He does not answer now, this moment. There are times when His promises are assurance enough to hold back the darkness, but there are times when nothing but His very presence will lift us from the pit.

To be ravaged by despair at the absence of God is the greatest witness to love for God. It is not lack of faith that brings this despair but the depths of passion. It is not that we are wanting in faith but that we truly want only Him; He is our beloved and our desire is for Him, fully, completely and eternally yet we know we cannot have Him thus while constrained by this life. Yes, faith is sometimes bold confidence, and sometimes it is hope against hope that He loves us and is there but silent and invisible. Love, unlike the confidence and assurance of faith, is the holy joy at His presence and the consuming darkness when He is silent and answers us not when we call out to Him. “Faith” may be the knowledge He is still out there somewhere when we open to Him and He is not present, but “love” is the pit in our stomach as we stare into the void where we once found Him standing. To love God is to suffer this holy longing for Him.

Only those who love Him desperately know the forsakenness of missing Him. Be comforted in this, all you who face the nights with dread, who seek His face through eyes clouded with tears of loneliness, you are not far from Him. Have faith, He has not forsaken you, He has not abandoned you. And though your own heart breaks with doubt and fears you cannot name at His absence it is because of love that your heart is afire with pain. This is the truest witness to love, the hardest to bear, surely, but to have a great love is to suffer greatly for it. To this all lovers will say "Amen", it is so.