As it’s February, the word heart came to mind when I prepared to write for Spiritual Journey Thursday (the first Thursday of each month).
No doubt Valentine’s Day conjured the word. Still feels a bit early for that, although I saw grocery shelves being stocked for it back before Christmas.
I began thinking more along the lines of taking heart. As in courage, which derives from Latin cor, meaning heart, and encourage, from Old French encoragier, to make strong, or to hearten.
One of my favorite images of courage and being encouraged is a scene from the Chronicles of Narnia. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, young Prince Caspian’s ship has sailed into a mysterious, enchanted darkness where nightmares come true. Lucy prays to Aslan, the Narnian lion-god: “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us, send us help now.” The darkness doesn’t change but Lucy senses an inner change. She sees a speck of white materializing above. It comes closer and closer. An albatross, which whispers in her ear as it sweeps past: “Courage, Dear Heart.” And it leads the vessel through the infernal, terrifying darkness to the light just ahead.
We are nearing the year mark of nightmarish things come true. The COVID-19 pandemic rages on. Numbers are still high. New and more virulent strains are developing before vaccines can be obtained. Schools closed last spring and are still in various stages of reopening. There’s been turbulence in the streets, at the Capitol, a heavy toll taken on people’s lives, livelihoods, psyches, and souls…a long, long darkness.
Yet there is faith. And prayer.
Even when it seems eternal Night cannot last forever. Courage, dear hearts One guides you onward Until the morning comes. Remember you are never Alone. God Himself walks alongside you Every step of the way.
While the darkness may not have lifted, we can always sense the light.
There are, after all, the children.
They are unique encouragers. At the end of some of my remote learning sessions, students have signed off by holding up “heart hands.” My own heart lightens as I give heart hands back. While our church was closed, kids mailed handmade cards covered with crayoned hearts to my husband and me: “Pastor Bill and Miss Fran, we miss you!” Years ago, long before I entered the education profession, my oldest son, around the age of five, spent his own money to buy me a little piece of artwork bearing this quote on encouragement: A teacher in wisdom and kindness helps children learn to do exactly what they thought could not be done.
That is true. For it is exactly what the Teacher did for His students, otherwise known as the disciples, just before the the darkest days they’d ever experience. They could hardly have imagined the light ahead. Nor, I imagine, can we. But the heart, it senses. And clings to that hope.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. —John 16:33
The following is an invented form of poetry called “Spirit’s Vessel” (see shadowpoetry.com). It’s three stanzas of six lines, each line containing six syllables. Rhyming is “a plus.” It’s also an acrostic designed to convey faith: VESSEL OF YOUR… with a final six-letter word chosen by the poet. My final word: SPIRIT. I have entitled this piece “Alight with Expectancy” for two reasons: the title is a nod to “Awe” (another acrostic).If you know about the One Little Word tradition, you know about choosing a guiding word for the new year. After the year that was 2020, I hadn’t planned on choosing a word for 2021…more on that later. Just know that “awe” chose me as soon as the calendar turned. Who doesn’t need awe?Reason #2 for the title : This photo. It sparked my desire to try the Spirit’s Vessel for the first time. Those candles, at a church Christmas Eve service, in the time of COVID… thank you to photographer Ann Sutton and to Margaret Simon for sharing it on “This Photo Wants to Be a Poem” at Reflections on the Teche.
Thanks also to the Poetry Friday gathering and to Ruth in Haiti for hosting the Round Up.
My first post of 2021: Alight with Expectancy
Votives cast haloed light Eclipsing dark of night Shadows flicker and play Stained-glass luminants pray Expectant, glistening Lord, we are listening
Offering petition From hearts of contrition Yourconduits, help us be Of Your all-healing sea Undulating with grace Rippling out from this place
Salvation receiving Penumbral believing Illumination starts Restoration of hearts In holy candleglow Touched by the Spirit—know
While we couldn’t attend church yesterday, it doesn’t mean a presence wasn’t there.
A friend went to photograph the dawn and heard a song coming from the steeple.
The building, empty like the tomb, had its own winged messenger at the first light of Easter.
If you do not know: A cardinal bird can be considered a sign of the divine—I’ve written of it before (Divine appointment). The vivid red birds also represent life and blood. In Christianity, specifically, the blood of the living Christ. Thecardinalexperience.com states: “Traditionally, the cardinal is symbolic of life, hope, and restoration. These symbols connect cardinal birds to living faith, and so they come to remind us that though circumstances might look bleak, dark, and despairing, there is always hope.”
Cardinals were named for the red-robed bishops (although this one’s sitting on a Baptist church). Name associations include heart and possibly the Old Norse word for cross.
Which is, of course, atop the steeple where our visitor perched to offer his doxology.
First light of Easter morn Found the church silent, forlorn Empty of its life, its music, its people And a winged messenger on the steeple As if proclaiming the old, old story Singing, full-voiced, Glory, glory, glory.