Sunday, 31 March 2013

This is Love

My Jesus.

Stepping from
 eternal throne
He humbly chose
a woven crown 
of 
thorns and hatred
intertwined
made to pierce
and mock
by hands He had created.

THIS IS LOVE.

Should it surprise?
when hanging from
the splintered
bloody beams
by hands and feet
nailed firm
that all creation
trembled
splitting time
in two
with humble 
love-soaked cry
"Father, forgive them
for they know not what
they do."

THIS IS LOVE.

And though we nailed him there
blind in our hate
lost in ourselves
He chose then
this posture 
for us
of open arms 
stretched wide - embracing
and He still does

THIS IS LOVE.

As surely as He chose to die
He rose alive. ALIVE!
and though he
conquered death 
and always will
he still 
chooses
to make us free - 
free not to believe
and leave him
on the tree.

THIS IS LOVE.


words and images © copyright Melody Armstrong 2013





Friday, 22 March 2013

what do you see?

SLOW DOWN.  TAKE TIME TO REALLY LOOK AROUND YOU.  WHAT DO YOU SEE?


I SEE BEAUTY 
IN THE SCRAPS.
I SEE STIFF COLD HANDS 
STRAINED OPEN
RECEIVING
I SEE SOFT HEARTS 
POURED OPEN 
GIVING.
I SEE HOPE IN
EXPECTANT BLUE EYES
OTHERWISE LOST 
WITHOUT 
COMPASSION.
I SEE CAST OFF TREASURES
SPOTTED BY OPEN EYES
 BROUGHT BACK
INTO LIGHT
WELCOMED 
LOVED.



text and images © Melody Armstrong 2013




Monday, 18 March 2013

do you need permission?

It was something my friend said last night that got me thinking....
"Give yourself permission to not be good at everything."

I wrote it in my journal. 
I wrote it on my hand.  


The thought of it was so freeing and refreshing and ludicrous all at the same time. After all, do I really believe I have to be good at everything, or even most things? (and is it that obvious?.....yuck!)   Is that why I can be so hard on myself.......cuz really, AS IF!! 

I just wanted to hug her and do a little dance right there in her kitchen.  It was such a simple but powerful observation.  How come I hadn't thought of it before?  She has a beautiful way of calling things like they are, just plain and simple.  It's what caring friends do.  She knows I'm not good at everything (who's kidding who - she doesn't even pretend about it) and, most importantly, she doesn't expect me to be.  


I feel so much lighter after digesting her words.  They were like some kind of crazy instant diet.  I dropped weight in just one day.  

Magic.  
Friendship.
Permission.




 words and images copyright © Melody Armstrong 2013

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

known intimately and found beautiful

...thoughts from a walk I took this time last year.


It is a profound thing to be known - deeply known.  It can also be incredibly risky.  For to be known, we must be vulnerable.  We must risk being misunderstood or mistreated.  We must be willing to take a chance that our openness and honesty may not be reciprocated. 

Being known by God might feel just as risky to some of us.  And whether or not we are comfortable with the idea, we ARE intimately known by Him

David marvelled at God's intimate knowledge of him in Psalms 129:13-16 
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,  your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 

When Jeremiah was a young boy, God told him: 
“Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: a prophet to the nations -- that’s what I had in mind for you.”  [Jeremiah 1:5 The Message Bible]
God says the same to us.  He sees us, regards us, and treasures us. He knows our name -- not just the name we answer to -- but our truest identity. If only we could know ourselves as he does.  What a gift it would be to see ourselves through his gracious eyes and realize the beauty of his design in us. 


Yesterday, a warm sun began thawing the heavy cloak of snow that has covered everything for weeks. I grabbed my camera and headed out for a walk.  I am always amazed at  the vast beauty of a winter landscape, but today I had eyes for something else.  I was watching the path at my feet instead, searching for hidden beauty.  And guess what?  I found it everywhere I really looked.  Many times it meant getting down in the snow, getting low - the humble places where beauty is often missed-  focusing my lens on intricate details that only reveal themselves beneath an intentional gaze.  

I continued on to the edge of a nearby river and found an aged piece of gnarled wood laying half frozen under the ice.  It wasn't very attractive the way driftwood often is until I took a closer look.


I laid right down in the wind-crusted snow shooting images of that driftwood from every possible angle.  By the time I stood, my jeans were soaked and I was beaming. I had found the beauty I was searching for.

I had found an original masterpiece.  The patterns and designs in that lone piece of wood were mesmerizing.  I whispered my “thank you,” overwhelmed by God’s lavish creativity, how he can afford to hide such beauty in places that most of us never see.


And then I thought about how he stops and notices me. And you. He sees the intricate designs that he took pleasure in creating.  He notices and smiles at our unique beauty.  God sees those parts of us that look gnarled and weathered and he doesn't cringe or turn his face.  Instead, he seeks out those places in us, knowing he has created - and is still creating - something beautiful. We may feel stuck on the edge of things, cast aside and half-buried, but he takes special notice.

I see that old piece of wood as a symbol of our lives, but with an important distinction.  We need not be dead.  In God, we have the opportunity to be fully alive, “abiding in the vine,” grafted into the main branch that is Christ, the life-giver. In Him, we are never just dead wood, cast aside.  Although there are places in all of our lives that seem pointless, purposeless, and maybe even dead, God knows better. We may feel like there are parts of us where beauty seems completely absent, but God looks at us differently. The maker of all things beautiful sees our truest selves, and through his creative artistry finds a way to take even the worn out, broken places of our lives and make them beautiful once again.  




Unless otherwise cited, words and images copyright © melody armstrong 2013


Monday, 11 March 2013

riding upstream



Living life against the current
answering His sacred call
pursuing things eternal
walking lightly on this earth
laying down my life, not fighting for it
forgiving because I am forgiven
choosing to see the best in others
 trusting when the way is hard and uncertain
pouring from my emptiness in order to be filled
letting my weakness be my strength
walking in Christ's footsteps-
even when they lead to a cross...
and though I lose my footing
falling hard and often
and find myself in the river
currents wild, rushing against me
cold soaked right through
I shout out what I know:
 God's faithfulness
-the grace gifts that 
flow harder and deeper still.
And right there
in that moment with my soul laid bare
I find courage and strength
in His tender, ever-present voice
in the compassionate grasp of His hands
where, alongside the scars,
my name is engraved. 


words and images copyright © melody armstrong 2013

Friday, 8 March 2013

winter white forgiveness

What if, right in the winter of our souls, we saw it......the beauty and purity of the dazzling forgiveness that Christ offers to wash us in?  


 And what if, right in the middle of that icy frozen state of our own unforgiveness, we experienced a melt?
...and the frozen hurts, preserved over the long soul-winter,  started falling away...one drop at a time, till just our tender hearts were left?

What if, in our own process of being forgiven and forgiving others, we found freedom to flow, a fresh water stream, clear right down to the bottom of us? 


AND WHAT IF...in the words of the lovely hippy urban girl:
"...she remembers that beauty rises up from the ice shards of life"?

May your winter soul, and mine, be warmed by the pure beauty of forgiveness - both given and received.

With love,
Melody

photos and text copyright©Melody Armstrong 2013


Monday, 4 March 2013

ways of seeing

I sit with my daughter at her orthodontic appointment.  There is nothing inherently special about this day. I'm just glad that we're together, even if it's for something as mundane as dental appliances.

From this vantage point, sitting and leaning against the window, I see the winter wind blowing cold, taunting and bending bare branches low.  Inside, I see kids and wires and wide open mouths...assistants with masks and pliers and brackets....and other waiting moms putting in time texting or flipping through out-dated magazines until whisking their metal-mouthed child off to the next committment.

And then I spot the art...a spark of beauty in the ordinary.  I pull out my camera and take some shots. I'm suddenly having fun. While other moms read articles on fitness and diet, I take pictures of a coffee cup and smile to myself, delighted at the irony of it all.  It's a boring old coffee cup with an orthodontic logo on the side, yet it reflects beauty.  It gives me a new way of seeing the world outside that isn't nearly as dreary or cold.  

I can't help but think that this ordinary life is laced with beauty and mystery that is so easy to miss.  I love the words crafted by Sue Monk Kidd in her novel The Secret Life of Bees:  
“I realized it for the first time in my life: there is nothing but mystery in the world, how it hides behind the fabric of our poor, browbeat days, shining brightly, and we don't even know it."

And I smile because it also gives me hope -- hope that even in the mundane circumstances of my life, when I'm used up and empty, and certainly in need of cleansing, that I can reflect beauty too.  I admit I don't always do this well.  There are times, two particular instances from this weekend alone, that I can reflect the downright ugly---- those tender, insecure places in me that can ooze ugly.  The hope comes in knowing that this is where God's tender mercy, healing, and forgiveness comes in.  He takes those places in me and transforms them with his lovingkindness, from ashes to beauty.   Eugene Peterson, in  Run with the Horses, insists that "no true spiritual life can be distilled from or abstracted out of this world of chemicals and molecules, paying your bills and taking out the garbage."  I'm being transformed and renewed right in the middle of my messy life.

If I am to shine, to reflect beauty in any way at all, I want it to be NOW --right here in this unremarkable moment.  What a shame it would be to keep waiting for some time way off in the future when I might finally have my stuff together and be rid of insecurity once and for all.  If I wait that long, I will never shine at all.  



Words and images (unless otherwise cited) Copyright © 2013 Melody Armstrong