I drove past my house in search of a similar scene. Cornfields have of late been calling my name – beckoning me to study them under different conditions though I’m not sure of the reason why. Just past my neighborhood an elderly field of stalks remains standing, backs bent, waiting to be cut and rolled into winter feed. The harvesters work in neighboring fields and honey wheels dot the landscape. Ahh, closure, happy ending, for what grew only to wither under brutal summer sun now will nourish and give life to another. This I waited to see.
Before going to bed, I responded to the commotion on my front porch, parting the wood blinds and gazing up at the mud nest, home to two baby birds. One sat perched precariously on the porch light a few feet away, fluttering untrained wings to keep from falling. The other, as if to encourage his brother, chirped anxiously from the edge of the nest. Below, my cat Mitty yawned and lazily licked her lips. This had become her favorite resting place for obvious reasons. She knew something of the benefits of patience. Day after day, she settled in the shade of the porch waiting for manna to fall. I opened the front door and chased her off the porch, hoping to give the tiny bird a chance at life. About that time the daring bird took flight and came to rest like a plane without landing gear on a nearby shrub. Before I knew it a terrible scene ensued. The virtually helpless bird tumbled through the leaves and just as I reached to rescue, a stray that often hides in this flowerbed leaped and barely averted a collision with my forehead. He caught the bird between his two greedy paws and quickly scampered off with it in tightly clutched jaws.
With that, I went to bed hoping the other bird had better sense and a future! My son, on seeing light escape from under my bedroom door, came in to report hours later that the birds had flown the nest and one now fluttered and hopped as though in a frying pan on the driveway. Did this bird not realize the territory he had ventured into was fraught with danger? My son moved the bird into the grass. Unable to just let nature take its course, I went out for a look, knowing full well my temptation would be to intervene likely without obtaining positive results. I walked past my favorite cat, Garfield, in search of the struggling bird. We spied it about the same time and Garfield promptly did what all cats instinctively do on sighting easy prey. I scolded him and held him by the scruff of the neck, telling him to let go. Obediently he released the poor tormented bird. I scooped it up into a small plastic box and brought it into the air conditioning until I could come up with a plan. Then I left for lifegroup.
I could spend several pages on lifegroup, but for the sake of continuity, I’ll return to the rest of the story concerning the baby bird. My son decided when night fell to put the plastic box out on our mailbox in hopes the bird’s family might swoop in and instruct the foolhardy bird or take it by the wings and teach it to fly under cover of darkness. Knowing my cats have no problem jumping atop the mailbox, I moved the box to the backyard where cats dare not to venture. I placed it securely in the branches of the largest tree in the yard and thought about the Lord being aware of even the tiniest sparrow falling to the ground. I prayed hopeful and went to bed after a good read.
Like a child on Christmas morn I looked out the window early and noticed the box askew in the tree. While, I didn’t cross my fingers, I hoped like a naïve child that the bird somehow flew from this “magical” perch to safety, rocking and leaving the plastic box behind forever. In search of truth, reluctantly I scanned the grass beneath the tree. There in a little hollow lay the bird motionless. A colony of ants had come for breakfast which fell from the sky like a blessing to them.
Perhaps around fifty one begins to take notice of death, to study it, to prepare for it, to see the “good” God causes to arise from it. As I watched the corn sprout this past spring and delighted over acres of green, I gave little thought to the seeds that split beneath the earth to produce stalks tall and strong waving youthful in the wind. And then as the rains refused to provide drink, I observed somewhat desperate the hardy stalks bearing immature ears fading colorless, lifeless. What a waste, I thought, on driving by field after field of dead corn. However, the Lord made certain to inform me this year that these fields at the proper time would be harvested, and then stored away until barren winter months when hungry livestock would feed on the store. God wastes nothing!! And He is good, good when fields are flourishing green and good when fields are pale and bent low in death.
On my last round of days off, God drew me to the cornfield near my house. Somehow I knew He wanted to be with me there, so I went, taking my camera, paper and pen, and most importantly my hunger to be with Him in that crunchy graveyard from which life would spring anew. I parked and entered the field, the sun low in the sky just beginning to paint my surroundings with rich evening colors. I felt like Ruth, a widow gleaning on the field perimeter all the Lord had for me there. I wrote my impressions, what I felt, saw, and heard from Him. I’ve wanted to return to my notes and eat of what He gave me in the field – to ruminate and meditate on truths nesting inside the images and feelings. What a blessing to be given that opportunity today!!
On parking my car, I opened the door and heard sleet falling as the breeze stirred the corn to greet me. God directed the wind like a conductor to play upon brittle stalks, and I then heard rainfall on a tin roof which calmed and became a gentle snowfall. I closed my eyes for the concert and thrilled at the crackling of Spirit fire that accompanied His approach. At times I heard the swishing of antebellum dresses as though angels danced all around, their hems swirling on cracked gray earth. Submissive stalks bowed with the wind as happens in the presence of Kings. They moved together with the angels in a well choreographed dance. Brown silk tassels fell to the floor in celebration, a ticker tape parade in His honor. The moon hid her face at the sight of His glory!! The field’s music intensified with the cool breeze and then fell hushed and steamy warm. “I jumped up to open the door for my love, and my hands dripped with perfume. My fingers dripped with lovely myrrh as I pulled back the bolt.” Oh to be near Him, to let Him in, there is nothing like it in all the world!!! The sky turned crimson and silvery clouds came late. Husks cradled life, and cobs nearly cleaned littered the ground spilling jeweled kernels like confetti. It dawned on me that this dance occurs night after night in the fields. They dance for Him in the breeze until finally they fall to the ground in reverence and return to dust or are harvested. I think about all the seeds of life tucked in to sleep in crisp graveyard linens until time comes to produce new life. I hear the wonderful sound of brokenness pealing sweet in the fields.
Night falls silver and dim and I am tempted briefly to fear, to flee, imagining I hear the rattler of a serpent slithering near to harm me in the field. Compelled to turn in all directions to catch sight of those moving around me invisible, snagging their shrouds on the arms of sentries forbidding them to trespass, I take captive my thoughts. I crouch and abide with the sense of Someone near as breath that I cannot see. I kneel small with the humbled grain. From here, I look up the rows and see the celebrating stalks forming a receiving line for their King, and dancing the cornfield CanCan, and I laugh and rejoice with them. I’m struck by all the life in this dead cornfield, by song of insects and evidence of visiting creatures, by what appears to be discarded hairnets on this marble dance floor. I sense many have come and “let their hair down” to dance with the Lord in this place.
Meanwhile, life rushes by unaware on the highway that borders this field. Stalks lean to touch me, to observe my choice, and to remind me to attend to my Groom. Then I hear a great waterfall in their movements and I stand, my dress swirling in the wind about me. I close my eyes again to hear the “real” sounds of life in this dusty graveyard. Playful sounds like the popping of bubble wrap, like clapping and tap dancing. I hear feasting – a party getting underway in the field as night falls. The world’s traffic slows and disappears. Crickets play a happy dirge!! The wind moves in the field toward me and I see Him coming as the stalks animate and in excited waves express their awe and wonder. They dance and dance, and clap crunchy palms. There is constant movement when He walks through the field – He oozes life and animates everything in His path and presence!!
Planes fly overhead lit against the night sky. I hear their props whirl and for a moment I sense I’m standing on a battlefield safely hidden beneath the train of my Lord. This brings me to think about the fact that when I’m attacked or hurt (as was the case the night before), I like the dry husks about me tend to split open before God. Then He works His “magic,” exposing and cracking the jeweled seeds that contain life after death. For life is a series of tiny deaths, of ascending to higher and higher places with Jesus as one learns to let go and follow Him on the path of death to life.
Behind me I notice two stalks embracing in death. They make a great deal of noise in the wind as they hold to each other tightly. I turn and cling to HIM!! I am learning in death to cling to Him and let go of all else, and when the wind blows on the two of us embracing a new song rises to fill the air with a joyful noise.
Deeper shades of night fall on the field and I see like white icecicles slivers of moonlight reflected on raised arms. Fireflies add their light to the glory of the stalks praising their Maker. I realize, sometimes it is in fields of imperfection, tragedy, untimely, cut-short life – fields of death where we meet The Resurrection and the Life face to face and cheek to cheek. And so He calls and woos. “Come, My love, to this seemingly barren crackling place and hear My heart in death as in life.”
I came and I heard. “Perfect on earth is never what it seems. I’ve much to teach you and to show you, My little harvester, My sweet little widow in the corner of the field. Long We’ve been together, and yet We’ve only just begun. It will always be so!!” I hear the barking of dogs in the distance which turns to howls of agreement. “I’ve loved watching you change, grow, become. At every stage, SEE ME – SEE ME PLEASED!! I See you – I notice everything. Nothing escapes My gaze nor deep, infinite knowledge. I move about you in the fields. I watch. I die with you. I touch. I feel you move, brush against me. I clap, I bend low, I surround, I invite you in as does this field. You are Mine and I AM yours, and I’m so thankful.”
I stepped out of the field as from lover’s chamber. I looked back at the quivering stalks and remembered the fields of Uganda with faces of children innumerable smiling up at me from the cornfields. And I remembered His love, making love, pure and simple and fiery hot and thanked Him for all He conceived in me there, and here too that is yet to come to full term.
The Lord and I shared one of Our first dances twenty years ago in a quiet field bordered by a busy highway. Beneath our feet, in cemetery bittersweet, lay my husband’s body. I came hungry and to be held, and there God took me in a marital embrace and nurtured my budding faith convincing me of the undeniable reality of HIM. I recall that first dance like yesterday. I parked and walked toward the small circle of shade under a liveoak beside Chuck’s grave, leaving the van door open so I could hear the praise tape in my cassette player. It was just the “three” of us there, and I began to sing, trading in sorrow for the joy of My King. He then through the song on my tongue spoke concerning my husband, informing me of his new life and granting me peace concerning mine. We both had new lives to live in death’s aftermath. We danced in resurrection celebration and I heard, as in memory of the future to be, my husband cutting a rug on the Crystal Sea and shouting a new song, a hymn of praise and freedom to His God. I continued to sing “Jesus Is Alive,” with Ron Kenoly and choirs of angels, the veil between heaven and earth opened wide.
Twenty years later, God still woos me into fields, figuratively into graveyards, where life sleeps hidden beneath gossamer sheets. Death where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory? For Jesus is alive. He’s alive!! And He will eternally and with great joy never cease to breathe new life – His very own -- into His loved ones as He plants tender kiss after tender kiss on their lips.
Dancing in His Shadow,
For more inspirational reading visit Spiritual Sundays at www.bloggerspirit.blogspot.com
For more inspirational reading visit Spiritual Sundays at www.bloggerspirit.blogspot.com