Hello all. The embers are being stoked, so pull your scarves on and let me play the role of storyteller tonight. I have a fable to tell.
Once upon a time, as all good stories start, there was a crinkled Old Woman with a crinkled old scarf. She lived in a wheat field on the outer edge of a village that resided on the fringes of the sea. Her home was built into the base of a windmill that never moved nor spun, for the village did not know Wind. Some said the wind used to blow so fiercely in the village…pressures coming from the sky above the sea…but so many decades had passed since the wind had blown that the youngest of the village didn’t believe in the Wind at all.
The Old Woman kept her windmill home tidy, and she kept her own livestock and grew her own garden and walked her own land and housed foreign guests on various occasions. She was rarely seen in the marketplace, but when she was, she always had her scarf wrapped around her so that she looked like nothing but a bundle of fabric dotting across the land. She was wise, wise, wise, but the villagers by the sea thought her strange, strange, strange.
The older children of the village would trade their prettiest shells and other found treasures with the younger children for the price of sneaking up to the Old Woman’s house to catch a glimpse past her window sill. Sometimes they thought they heard another Voice, like many waters, talking to her. Sometimes they thought they saw swirling galaxies in her kitchen. Others rumored that they’d seen her dance as if she were much younger. More often than not though, they saw little to excite: usually just the hunched figure of the Old Woman sewing, sewing, sewing into her scarf and singing, singing, singing her curious songs in a language that wasn’t their own.
But today there was no need for dares and gallant spying adventures, because today was Wishing Day, and they would for certain see the Old Woman. Wishing Day came only once a year and was easily the most anticipated holiday. It was the day that all the villagers by the sea would come to the center of the town to where the water well stood and take turns holding their smooth pebble over the mouth of the well and loudly announce their wish for the year, before letting the stone go. Each would take his turn, one at a time, making Wishing Day go from dawn to dusk.
Long, long ago, when the land was but dust and dirt, their forefathers marked this place as home and dug a well so deep and so narrow that a bucket had to be specially made just to fit its tiny mouth. They were interested only in the water cold as the Arctic, pure as fresh snow, and sweet as your mothers’ kisses. The well was the water source for the whole village and kept their wind-free city supernaturally alive and thriving. Wishing Day, a new, modern name, was the day they were to remember the founding of the well and to give thanks to the Wind-Maker, Spirit-Giver, and God of Heaven. But the tales got twisted over time and now the well was a place of man-wishes and ritual. For when the wind left, so did their faith, or perhaps it was when the faith left, the wind did also.
The Old Woman was notorious for her actions on Wishing Day. She never kept to the law and ritual of how it was to be done. The Old Woman did more than share her one line of a proclaimed wish. Instead, she would wait until everyone would have their turn and then would scuffle her way to the mouth of the well and face the people. She would read a new prayer from her scarf every year and then admonish the people to believe in the Wind and the God of the Living Water. Then, she would always yell out the very same wish, “The stones will not cry out my requests for me! I do not wish, but I pray! Oh God, that this village may see the wind today!” Then, instead of tossing her stone in the well, she’d place it on its edge and say, “A memorial stone to Yahweh’s faithfulness.” Year after the year it was the same. In fact, many of the villagers had her speech memorized and would pull their faces and put on jesting voices as they mocked her proclamation. Others would sneer as she walked back to her home, scarf pulled around her head, “There’s no such thing as the wind!” and “Wind cannot be seen!” and “Who are you to command the wind!?” The woman would never retaliate but would go back to her home where she would sing, sing, sing, and sew, sew, sew.
The first arms of the suns dawn were reaching out over the village, and groggy-eyed and hoarse-voiced, the villagers by the sea started making their way down to the well. They held their wish stones in hand as they got in line to do as they’d always done. One by one they wished, “I wish to be powerful without price!” “I wish to have crops without need for sowing!” “I wish for fame and applause!” “I wish for the best house!” “I wish for comfort!” “I wish for endless supplies of fish!” “I wish for toys!” “I wish for pleasure!” “I wish for wealth!” One by one they stated their wishes and let them go over the long, narrow well. Then, they all would stand aside to wait, with picnic baskets and drink, until the Old Woman would finally make her way, as the very last wisher with long shadows of dusk all around. The people would eat, eat, eat and laugh, laugh, laugh at the Old Woman.
Pulling her scarf from her head she read, “I’ve sewn here stories of generations past and generations to come. May we remember the day our forefathers dug inch by inch to bring us this well of fresh-flowing water. We thank You, God of the Wind. May we remember the Lord who was faithful to lay upon us revelation upon revelation and glory upon glory. May we be thankful for His constant faithfulness..” on and on she prayed and the people munched and laughed together over the free entertainment. When her prayer finished, she pulled out her stone from her pocket and the children got ready to recite with her the prayer she always prayed,”The stones will not cry out my requests for me! I do not wish, but I pray! Oh God, that…” they all bellowed out with her in jeering voices.
Their voices faltered. This was not the same prayer for ‘all the village to see the wind.’ In silence, they watched as she put her stone on the edge of the well as she did year after year, “A memorial stone to Yahweh’s faithfulness.” The silence was punctured by laughter once again as the Old Woman began her walk home, scarf pulled back on to her head. It seemed the whole village by the sea was rolling on top of one another in hysterical ridicule, “Wind-chimes!? For a heart!” Tears streamed down their faces because their laughter was so deep, and they yelled, “She’s finally lost her mind in full! The Old Woman is mad, mad, mad!”
But there was one child, a young boy, on the rim of the crowd, that was struck silent as the Old Woman passed him on her way home. He heard dim tinkling as if emanating from her body. It didn’t have any rhyme or rhythm of the usual music, but rather was a quiet trickle of sound, like…like metal pipes hitting up against one another. The boy slipped from the crowd and followed the woman’s footprints to her windmill home in the middle of the wheat field, and when it got too dark to see her anymore, he just followed the sound of wind-chimes to her doorstep.
As if knowing he was there, the Old Woman had left the door wide open. Taking a deep breath and pushing away the voices in his mind saying that this place was strange, strange, strange, he stepped inside. The Old Woman was stoking the flames in her fireplace back to life. “Take a seat by the stew, “ she said without turning to him. The boy looked around and saw a bowl of hot soup sitting on a side table with a lamp and a giant basket of thread spools and wool next to it. The boy did as he was told as he stared around at her simple windmill home. The Old Woman took her seat and her own bowl of stew across from the boy, her wind-chime heart tinkling as she sat. They sat in silence and slurps for a while before the boy got the courage to speak, wide-eyed,
“Why did you not pray for the wind? Why for a wind-chime heart?”
The crinkled Old Woman with her crinkled old scarf crinkled her brow, and replied, “It is a new era. For many years I prayed for the wind to come, for that sweet Spirit of God to return to the village by the sea. But now I know a better way. It is I who needed the Wind more than the Wind needed me. There is only One Thing necessary, one prayer of hunger, and that is not for the wind to be seen, but for all to have wind-chimes for hearts….starting with myself.”
The boy swallowed her words with his last bite of soup before asking another question, “What does a wind-chime heart do?”
The woman smiled, “It allows you to hear what’s been there all along. I just want to go with the Wind wherever He blows. I want to know when He comes and what direction He’s heading. I want to make melody of His presence whenever He is here. I want a heart that caters only to the Wind, not the needs of the people. I want to be Home to the Spirit of God.”
The boy bowed his head solemnly, “I have heard the sound of a heart played on by the Breath of God. I have heard the melody of one who believes in Wind and Spirit, and now I can see the Wind, too. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t wasted my wish! I wish I had prayed for a wind-chime heart, too!”
“What was your wish?” She asked, though he had the feeling she already knew.
“I wished for new oars, the best oars, so I could take my boat to sea. I want to go far, far, far away from this place to where the people are kind, kind, kind and the rituals few, few, few”
The woman gave another crinkled smile and pulled off her scarf, “I’ve named my scarf legacy, “ she laughed. She brought her story of wool and thread to the boy, “Look here,” she whispered. She pointed to the edge of her scarf, the last bit of what she’d sewn. The boy pulled the picture close, squinting at the design. He saw a boy in a boat with many pieces of fabric held high above the vessel, full of some invisible force.
“Why, the boat has a giant scarf above it! What’s it for?” For the boy had never seen Wind and never knew a boat to be anything more than wood and oars.
“It’s a sail. When the Wind blows it becomes full and pushes the boat along—with no need for oars and striving! No need for your direction—just the direction of the Wind!”
Flabbergasted the boy gaped at the drawing, “Oh, how I wish for wind! That I could go where it blows and discover the lands of the free, free, free!”
The Old Woman became teary-eyed as she pulled the scarf onto the boy’s neck, “This scarf holds stories of generations long past and generations yet to come. May my wind-chime heart give way to wind-filled sails. And may your wind-filled sails take you to a land of the free, free, free where the Wind is so strong that Windmill homes like mine begin to fill, fill, fill the lands all over again.” The boy kissed the Old Woman’s cheek and began his process to be off to the Sea, where he would turn her scarf into a sail. He believed in the Wind and believed in the Spirit and sailed far, far, far to the land of the free, free, free.
Many years later, when the Old Woman had become too Old, she lay on her bed and closed her eyes. Her spirit rose upward towards the sound of the most beautiful chimes she’d ever heard. The chimes within her played in tune with the Chimes above her. And as her Spirit went up above her house—looking down she saw her windmill home begin to spin, and she smiled her last human smile. And with a sigh of contentment, she blew up and away on the Wind, Wind, Wind.
“For the Spirit-Wind blows as it chooses. You can hear its sound, but you don’t know where it came from or where it’s going. So it is within the hearts of those who are Spirit-born!” John 3:8
Father of Living Water and of the Sweet Winds of the Spirit, I pray that you would give us wind-chime hearts. May we be so sensitive to Your Spirit, that when Your breath blows, we move with You. May we live lives dedicated to that Onething alone: ministering to Your Heart above the needs of the people. I pray that the way we live will leave an inheritance for the generations to come—that they will not know the ways of ritual, religion, and law that so many of our generation have known of church, but that they would know what it means to live by grace alone—a grace that causes them to sail to new grounds of Your Kingdom. I declare that we will be a people that aren’t moved by the jeers of the Pharisees or the laughter of the culture, but that our fountains would remain fresh and pure. May we pray prayers of faith and not wishful prayers void of expectation. May we honor the past generations, not by doing what they have always done, but by expanding upon the Kingdom ground they founded in the Spirit–standing on their ‘giant shoulders.’ May “windmill homes” begin to burst up all over the nation—communities of people who will live in lockstep with the Spirits’ will over their own will. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
P.S. If you want to indulge more than just one sense, I suggest listening to On Giants Shoulders by Future of Forestry. Words can only say so much, but words + an image + music can say more.
P.P.S. This post is dedicated to Johan Salinas, who thinks I’m way cooler than I actually am, and who has his mother read my blog out loud to him before bed. I thought you deserved a real bedtime story.