land of rest

Land of Rest is a blog of Peter Jenks. Poems, quotes and photos are by Peter Jenks (unless otherwise noted or I miss noting an older post's photo) and are copyrighted, you are free to use these if you acknowledge their source.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Monuments and Moments of Time

Thirty years ago it was 1984, and I remember clearly thinking, while in school after reading the book 1984 by George Orwell about, what that year would be like. On January 1st that year, I listened to WBAI in New York, as various people read Orwell’s book straight through. Because of his novel, the year became a marking place of the future; he chose that year because it was the reverse of 48, the year he wrote it. And in 1984, I was aware, for awhile, that I had made it to the future. And then again when the year 2000 - a year I had always wondered what would be like - arrived; I noted that I had made it there.  I had always thought what it would be like to live in the next century. Even 2001, was a moment of note because of the movie by that name. But in each case life seemed to go on and the momentary marking was simply a passing remembrance and life continued along in a most ordinary and ever speeding way. 
I remember visiting historic sites when I was a child with my parents and my siblings, we even have movies and pictures to remind us. But what is of more interest and lasting effect upon me is not the site, but how young we were, how time has passed and styles changed, memories formed, and the relationships expressed and understood with these dear family members. 
We look toward the monuments of time and place to mark our path, our way.  When Jesus said he was “the way” he pointed not to the monuments nor the markers we make, but to the presence of God in the present moment with us. More life changing epiphanies are encountered in the quiet times alone, when we slowly reflect and allow our minds to be still, than with the crowds gathered to note the changing year, passing celebrity or honored site. The experience of God is always present waiting for us, the blessings of God are always available, and we return in worship regularly to remind ourselves of this reality that is so easy to overlook or let get lost from in much more trivial things.
The various and important ideas, accomplishments and goals we seek and look towards can easily engulf our thoughts and focus. Good intentions, and plans that make sense, are nice to act upon and keep us busy. But the call of God, the simple acts that might not seem the most important, the places we might pass by, the people we might not notice, the plans that might not make sense— somehow and through prayer become known to us as where God is present. Our own plans can be like trees scattered upon a landscape where we often hide. The peace of God waits to land and rest within our hearts but there needs to be a clearing, a place set apart for it to rest. The Summer months are a good time to reflect and prepare places and times to be still, and receive grace again. And when we can find and stay focused upon this present experience and understanding of God, then we ourselves become the monuments of time, the landmarks that we have so often sought.         

Living With Stone

The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,"

Living in Maine means living with stones. One way or another they push up through the roads, grow in the gardens, cover our coast and prop up or hold down just about everything all around us. There is a pile of stones at the house I am selling, and invariably I have been asked by a number of people, “what are you going to do with these stones?”  It is a good question.  It is not the most beautiful site, many are old foundation stones of value, many are just plain rocks dug up and moved out of the way. They will need to be  given  away, sold, or moved, or left behind. All of them, though, have been a part of my story. Some were part of a garden wall I built and later diassembled.  Some were rolled there with great effort on my part. Some of the stones I have parked near carefully watching, so as not to dent my car door. All of these stones have been used, have been a part of the stage of our life here. Some may be more useful now and others later and some we may never even know their use. But even under the soil they serve to support and direct the roots and drainage.  
            The image of Jesus being the cornerstone, the stone that was rejected is one that is used repeatedly in scripture. It is a reminder that there are things that we overlook in order to accomplish the tasks we feel most important. There are people we do not notice in efforts to connect with people we are more interested in knowing. There are things said, expressed and of note that are missed because we are too busy or assume we already know what was meant. This image of Jesus, and how God uses that which we reject to build that which is ultimately most important is a counterbalance to our sense of self importance and need. We live in a society based on consumption and yet will probably be best known as a society of waste through all that we dispose of in such vast quantities. In books it is so often the little details scattered throughout the story that seem unrelated and unnecessary that end up tying all the pieces together. In relationships, so often, it is the little things that at first seem so small and insignificant and things that we can overlook that end up growing into major problems that if not addressed can sever the very cords that tie things together.
            But living in Maine has taught me that all rocks are a part of the landscape, seen and unseen. All stones used by our environment by the very nature of their existence. We might not like a stone in one place but it must be put somewhere else, or shattered and made into even smaller stone, but still put into a new home. The expression of God through the experience of Christ is that all in our lives needs a place, all that we do, seek and avoid. It is all a piece of our story. Our efforts to control, along with everyone else’s efforts to control and define, only serve to focus our attention on our needs and desires at a particular time. God’s perspective is of all time and all angles and has an uncanny ability and sense of humor in picking up the pieces of our lives and using them to refashion our future based on the forgiveness found in these discarded remnants. The brokenness of the shell releases the seed, the discovery of old items in the attic teach us of our ancestors, notes in a discarded book speak of the engagement of others in the writing. Old foundation stones make for good wall stones and then pathway stones and then perhaps a foundation again. Science has shown us that we have limited resources on this planet and all elements reused again and again. Scripture reminds us that this process of life with such limitations is a sacred path, much longer and exotic than the simple ordinariness that appears around us.
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