Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Small Phrase of Beauty by Marcia Lee Laycock

Marcia Laycock won The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006 for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Her devotionals have been widely published and are distributed to thousands via the internet. Visit her website -

The Canadian Oxford dictionary defines transcendent as “something beyond the grasp of human experience.” My husband once defined it as “a tiny piece of wonder, a small phrase of beauty.”

I’ve had a few of them – those tiny pieces of wonder. Often they have come in the midst of God’s creation – standing on the edge of a cliff looking out at the vastness of Lake Superior, or in the middle of an evergreen forest as big flakes of snow fall into the silence. I once experienced one on the shores of a small Alberta lake, watching a friend be baptized as the sun set, and in the middle of a small prairie town, watching people walk to church.

I have also experienced those small phrases of beauty, sometimes in different versions of scripture than I would normally use. I found this one in The Message – “learning the unforced rhythms of grace.” And this one in the King James Version – “The waters are hid as with a stone and the face of the deep is frozen.” I have found them in quotes on the internet and buried in counseling tomes. I’ve found them in books written by friends and strangers.

I experienced one the other night, but it was a bit unusual.

It was a very ordinary evening for us, as ten or twelve people crowded into our family room to begin a study on the Gospel of John. Snacks were on the coffee table along with a jug of juice and one of water. People chatted as they helped themselves. Then, as everyone settled, my husband asked, “What do you wish, for the place where you are right now? What do you envision for that place?” There was silence for a time, then one young man spoke up. “Something fantastic!” he said, “Something explosive!”

I smiled at his exuberance. Others chimed in, sharing their hopes and dreams. Then we began the study and God’s word unfolded before us. As the evening was coming to a close I had a “tiny piece of wonder.” I looked around at the faces of the people there and saw the shine of faith in their eyes. I saw their passion to know God more, their zeal to do whatever God asked of them, and I realized that this was something fantastic, something explosive, right here in our living room.

And that awareness lifted me above human experience, above the reality that our church is small and doesn’t even have its own building, above the reality that less than ten percent of our community worships God on any given Sunday, let alone through the rest of the week. That moment of transcendence gave me a great deal of hope for this place where we are right now. It thrilled me to feel the presence of God there and to know that He has given us a part in His plan for this place. It filled me with gratitude and humbled me beyond words.

Sometimes God opens our understanding and something ordinary becomes “a small phrase of beauty.” We are lifted beyond our experience and we see with new eyes. I believe this happens because someone prayed, as the Apostle Paul did for the disciples – “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)
That is my prayer for us all.


Gina Holmes said...


Lori Benton said...

You've inspired me to pray Paul's prayer for a specific person this morning.

I love praying through the epistles. I've been reading elsewhere in the Bible lately, but they are calling me back!