Friday, July 18, 2014

The Circle of God's Presence

Watchword for the week of July 20, 2014

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:  I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Isaiah 44:6

Do you know the cooperative playground game “Catch the Dragon’s Tail?” Players arrange themselves Conga line-style, each one placing her or his hands on the forward person’s shoulders. The goal is for the player at the front of the line (the dragon’s head) to maneuver the entire chain of players (the dragon’s body) in order to reach and tag the player at the back of the line (the dragon’s tail). Of course, the player at the back of the line tries to evade being caught. Lots of running and whip-cracking motions ensue, the line bending and responding, the participants laughing like crazy. But when the front does catch up with the back, the group is no longer a line. It is a circle. For a moment, there is no first or last. There is just an unbroken flow of exuberant life.

When the Old Testament prophet Isaiah quotes God as saying, “I am the first, I am the last,” in my mind and in my heart, I link those definitive points together, coming up with an image of God that is infinite and encircling and imbued with energy. A glowing neon tube bent around a youngster’s wrist at a carnival on a summer evening. A life-giving bracelet of presence.

Over the course of the last few weeks, some compassionate friends have given me gifts as visible means of support through trying times. Interestingly, these gifts have come in the form of bracelets. One brassy circle bears a charm—a dove—reminding me that God’s Spirit is always at hand. The other is rather like a wearable collage of metallic tiles bearing meaningful symbols (cross, heart, fish) and essential words (faith, love, hope). Together, the bands have served as talismans, as armor. I am both empowered and protected by the firstness and lastness and everything in betweeness of my everywhere and always God. (Thank you Jill and Bob & Laura Ann!)

God is constant. Always has been, always will be. I will bear that and wear that assuredly.

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