You (and I, and we all) take God’s breath away

Photo: CKirgiss"I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart."
Photo: CKirgiss
“I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”

It’s a very big day. For shoppers, at least.

Black Friday. Sales. Deals. Drastic cuts. A shopping day to make one’s heart race.

All is well. (Indeed.)

Meanwhile, there is this:

Good Friday. The crucifixion. The substitution. The redemption. The superlative act of gracious, undeserved, breathtaking love.

These words I have spoken to thousands of people regarding the Creator’s love: You take God’s breath away.

You. Take. God’s. Breath. Away.

The Creator of the universe – who set the stars in place, who suspended the planets in the spheres, who ordered the species, who painted the landscape with unimaginable life – that God, that Creator, that infinite source of power, majesty, and grace – – – well, He finds us each (and oh, how can this possibly be?) breathtaking.

Indeed He does.

Utterly. Thoroughly. Completely.

What manner of love is this that He should love such as I?

And yet He does.

So then it should come as no surprise (but oh, it does – comes as a surprise that I cannot fathom or comprehend or grasp in my tiny hands) that on this day, more than 2000 years ago, He would demonstrate this endless, boundless, ceaseless love on the cross.

But He did.

Willing death.

Voluntary suffering.

Immeasurable sacrifice.

For those He finds breathtaking.

For me. For you. For us all.

We take God’s breath away. Once and for all at the cross. Each and every day in his love.

“At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice:
           Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachtham?
Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (from Mark’s gospel)

You take God’s breath away. That is how He loves – on that day, on this day, and on every other day that will ever be.

All is well. Indeed.

Photo: CKirgiss
“He breathed his last…”

[All content copyright Crystal Kirgiss.]

Winter in Spring (or: This, Then, is March 2013) (or: When Narnia comes to Indiana)

So, March 20 was the first day of spring in this, the year 2013.

Ergo, yesterday – March 24 – was the fifth day of spring. As in the season the follows winter.

But there must have been some confusion because last night – the fifth evening of spring – looked like this:

Photo: CKirgiss
Photo: CKirgiss

Note, if you please, the white-covered branches. I half expected a faun to the step out from among the trees into the light of the lamp-post, holding an umbrella in one arm and carrying several brown-paper parcels in the other.

Admittedly, it was quite magical for any number of reasons. The still silence. The storybook setting. The anticipation of curling up in a warm bed under a pile of toasty blankets.

Best of all, I did not have to sneak silently back to a distant wardrobe, trusting neither tree nor bird, but rather could joyfully re-light my Christmas tree that is still standing because, well, it’s made of books and so it still is. (I find it quite impossible to contemplate a home where it is not, but of course one must prepare oneself for the possibility.)

Photo: CKirgiss
Photo: CKirgiss

Thankfully I do not live in a land where it is always winter and never Christmas. Where there is no sight of spring. Where grace and hope and love are hidden away in small and secret places.

I live in a land where winter – even if it lasts for ever so long – is always filled with the joy of Christmas and always followed by the miracle of Easter. Where grace and hope and love are free for the taking.

That is: the sun always shines, no matter how dark the wintry clouds may be. And just when it is needed most, it pierces through the air and sky and soul to shatter our little world and save our desperate hearts.

The spell, you see, is broken. The patches of green are growing bigger. The patches of snow are growing smaller. The mist has turned from white to gold. And overhead, there is blue sky between the tree tops.

Photo: CKirgiss
Photo: CKirgiss

Rest assured: underneath the deep, deep snow, springtime and new life are bursting from the ground.

All is very, very well.

(Select descriptions of both winter and spring borrowed respectfully from Narnia.)

Psalm XXVI (for a Monday Morning)

Photo: CKirgiss
Photo: CKirgiss

Sometime or other, I picked up a small Book of Psalms for tens of tens of pennies. Maybe at a library sale. Maybe at a thrift store. Maybe at an estate sale. (Since then I’ve learned that it’s important – for my own sake – to document each and every book purchase on the inside front cover. “Bought in May 2006 for $1.00 at a tiny, crowded, musty fusty bookshop in southern Michigan when I was passing through.” That kind of thing.)

I picked up this particular Book of Psalms because

  1. it is leatherbound
  2. it has quirky (some might say elegant) gold-gilt type on the cover
  3. it is of a size and shape and weight that feels just right in my hands
  4. it has an intact binding
  5. it has a personalized fly-leaf noting that Aunt Lil gave it to her nephew Arthur on December 17, 1916
  6. it has a quirky (some might say historical) book stamp on the title page noting that it was once the property of Arlington Street Church, Boston
  7. it boasts 1882 as a publication date (and 1882 books are, as a general rule, good for the soul)
  8. it numbers the individual songs Romanically (which apparently is not a word, but whatever).

That last one is important. There is something mighty and majestic about “Psalm XXVI” as a title that “Psalm 26” lacks. Perhaps that’s why we say “Twenty-Second Winter Olympics,” but we write “XXII Winter Olympics.”

No matter. Whether XXVI or 26, this morning’s Psalm – as is so often the case – is best considered as a series of questions and challenges before starting yet another week of full, rich, real life.

Have I acted with integrity and trusted the Lord without wavering?
Have I invited the Lord to truly test the motives of my heart?
Am I always aware of His unfailing love?
Have I lived according to His truth?
Do I resist going along with hypocrites?
Do I refuse to join in with the wicked?
Do I enter the glorious presence of God, singing with thanksgiving and telling of His wonders?
Have I fully embraced God’s redemption and mercy so that I can (undeservedly) stand on solid ground?
Do I publicly and joyfully praise the Lord?

Of course not. At least not to the extent that I could or should, and certainly not to the extent that He deserves.

But (oh glory!) “of course not” is not a static state of being. Rather, it is the reality from which we launch ourselves anew each and every morning straight into the loving arms of our Creator and Savior, there to be embraced just as we are. For it is only in those arms – the source of all love, forgiveness, strength, and grace – that we have any hope to live a life that can answer “yes” to the questions of Psalm XXVI. After all, it is not just “A Psalm of David” but rather “A Psalm of Us All.”


Of A Tiny Letter “C” (And also Jesus)

Photo: CKirgiss
Photo: CKirgiss

Every now and then, someone gives the perfect gift. Something meaningful. Something delightful. Something unexpected.

Something so perfectly suited to the receiver that it’s near impossible to put its awesomeness into words.

I got one of those gifts this Christmas. Something meaningful. Something delightful. Something unexpected.

Something so perfectly suited to me that it was near impossible to put its awesomeness into words.

So instead, I put it on. Wore it constantly. Fingered it lovingly. Glanced down at it joyfully. Slid it back and forth contentedly along its bumpy metallic chain. Enjoyed deeply its personalized kitschy awesomeness.

For three days.

Until I lost it.

Either in the Denver International Airport or somewhere near seat 27C on Flight 773.

Lost. It. Absolutely. Thoroughly. Indubitably. Tragically.

Kerthunk-went-my-heart. Over and over and over again.

That kerthunk is an achy thing indeed. Takes over your insides. Sends you into a frantic state of frenzy. Messes with your breathing. Undercuts your contented self.

So at 2:30 a.m. a few days post Christmas – after glancing in the airport restroom mirror while washing my hands and seeing a bare, broken chain slowly swinging back and forth, back and forth from where it dangled around my neck – I plunged into panic-frenzy-frantic mode and started walk-searching the entire A concourse. Up and down, up and down. Over and over and over again. Back and forth, back and forth. Every corner. Every tile. Every carpeted aisle. Every moving walkway. Every stair. Everywhere.

I begged the crew to reboard the plane of Flight 773 and search seat 27C (and also mayhap all the other seats, and the aisles, and the underseats, and the restrooms, and the galleys, and maybe even the cockpit) in search of a Scrabble-tile-sized pendant encasing a teeny-tiny “C” within its soldered glass.

Which they did.


While I kept walking.

Without ever finding.

Which was really just too sad for words.

The search to replace that little “C” expended more emotional energy (and actual time) over the new few weeks than was perhaps warranted.

But I loved it. And missed it. And wanted it to be hanging from around my neck where it belonged.

So today when a long-awaited replacement – made by the original artisan – arrived in a teeny-tiny package from way down South, well, it was a very happy day indeed.

Because what was lost is now found. Remade actually. Into a new thing altogether. Straight from its creator’s hands.

And where was once an empty chain, there is now a new letter “C.”

Safely home at last.

I – who have so keenly felt the kerthunked-heart sorrow of a lost little pendant that I did not make and that had been mine for only a few short days – will never doubt the Almighty’s kerthunked-heart sorrow for lost little me. Or His infinite love. Or his unceasing search. Or his miraculous remaking into a new thing altogether. Straight from my Creator’s hands.

And where was once an empty soul, there is now a new forgiven me.

Safely home at last.

[This moment of breathtaking (and undeserved love) brought to you by the little letter “C.”]