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Gary's Faith Walk

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Going to Siberia Going to Siberia

Pushing Edges

I’ve been reading a little poetry this summer, a literary form I haven’t spent a lot of time with in my adult life.  In “At the Solstice,” Celtic poet Kenneth White shares lines which have gripped my imagination.

the hills are still the same remember

and the rivers and the winds

give yourself room for a real beginning

the man who works in a narrow space

builds no more than prison or grave

In the rhythm of my life, I sometimes think that I am working in a “narrow space.” Likely you recognize the pattern: work, meals, conversations with familiar family and friends, sleep, and all repeated again and again. No, “prison or grave” is far too harsh a description, but surely the space has edges. So in recent weeks two completely different experiences allowed me to push the edges of my “narrow space” and continue the journey that is my faith walk.

In early June I traveled again to Siberia to meet with new Christians emerging from cultures of shamanism. Morning worship was highlighted by the newly written “throat singing” hymns of Andee Krumanov, a man from the Altai Republic, a part of Russia bordering Mongolia and Kazakhstan. To experience the harmonic overtones of the human voice in ways I did not think possible pushed hard against the edges of my “narrow space.” First, the very sounds were like nothing I had ever heard before. Second, the hymns demonstrated the power of “letting the gospel run free!” Rather than the musical styles of Europe or North America imposed on other cultures, I was experiencing prayer through song flowing naturally from the instruments and styles of this Siberian region.

Now, I’ve been home a few days, have recovered from the shift of 16 time zones, and have joyfully walked our nearby forest paths. A June rain gently showered moisture onto fields of purple lupine. As the sun broke through I witnessed a phenomenon I’d never seen before. Think of lupine’s green leaves as an upside down umbrella. On that special day, raindrops on each plant rolled down to collect at the base of the tiny umbrella. Morning sun burst through, and each plant radiated with the brilliance of a single diamond at its center as light glistened in the bead of collected water. Looking up, there were diamonds shimmering everywhere—all sparkling from the centers of these beautiful flowers!

As I move further into the second half of life, it seems I can grow too comfortable inside my “narrow space.” So, I delight when circumstances let me push edges to experience new things across God’s creation. Psalm 100 reminds us to “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth (NRSV).” Surely many would hear the “throat singing” of Central Asia and think only of noise, but for me this amazing sound moved me another step in my journey as a child of God. And, indeed, remembering Psalm 104 keeps my eyes fresh for new ways to experience nature. From the Message Bible, “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.”

A “prison or grave? Certainly not, but if I am to keep my “narrow space” from closing in, I’m obliged to take every opportunity to push the space wider.

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Gary Payton Gary Payton is on a Faith Walk that takes him to Russia, Eastern Europe and Sandpoint, Idaho

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