Borne Our Loads

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

And then, that evening
Late in the summer the strange horses came.

In the first moment we had never a thought
That they were creatures to be owned and used.

Since then they have pulled our plows and borne our loads,
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.
Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.

~Edwin Muir from “The Horses”

There is nothing that truly compels a horse to wear a saddle, pull a heavy burden, chew a cold bit until it foams warm, no fear of whip or spur or harsh word.  They, so much more powerful than we are, choose the work, to do what is needed, to serve freely, to be there because they were asked.

How much more we learn from the lather of their sweaty grace —  how to choose the labor that changes lives, how to offer up love in gratitude for the reward of a nose buried in sweet clover.

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

A Light From Within

window2People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.
~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

In my work I tend to meet people in their dark times.   It is rare for a patient to come to clinic because all is well.  They come because they are struggling to keep going, are running out of fuel, too blown about by the storms of life.

It is my responsibility to search out the light hidden dim within, to assist my patient to fight back the darkness from their inner resources and offer what little I have to stoke and feed the light from the outside.

I offer a sanctuary from the storm; in return I am bathed in their glow.


A Heart Bared

421152_10150518298024422_958316185_nThrough the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.
~ Debra Ginsberg

The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.
~Dorothy Parker

I would expect to be used to this by now; saying goodbye to adult children who come home for a visit, and then return to do what they have been called upon to do, living far away from us.

I may be used to it, but it gets no easier.  Each parting serves as a reminder of how deep and wide is the love for family yet how necessary is the letting go.

My tear ducts are due for a good washing out any way.  I consider it necessary maintenance along with checking to make sure the tires are well inflated.

Our three in the middle,  leading outdoor church worship last night, photo by Brian Vander Haak

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
~John Fawcett, last verse, Blest Be The Tie That Binds

Stewards of Creation

sunset7272Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.
~Wendell Berry

farmkids2When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
~Masanobu Fukuoka 

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

I should understand the land, not as a commodity, an inert fact to be taken for granted, but as an ultimate value, enduring and alive, useful and beautiful and mysterious and formidable and comforting, beneficent and terribly demanding, worthy of the best of man’s attention and care… [My father] insisted that I learn to do the hand labor that the land required, knowing–and saying again and again–that the ability to do such work is the source of a confidence and an independence of character that can come no other way, not by money, not by education.
~Wendell Berry

The Path Between the Thorns

on the WWU campus yesterday

I love the way the doe knows how to go
through the tall brambles: She ambles
her hips first to one side,
then another; tosses her nose high
to sniff the trails of air; and
proffers only a passing glance to
the chickadee on his slanted
branch. She knows the way;
she knows the turn of a hoof print
here, to the right of the wild rose brier;
there, past the tip of the raspberry twig;
she knows the sun even before
his fine arced dome appears
on the eastern horizon, and
she goes that way,
into the still of the dew
into the hills of the morning
in through that path between the thorns
that is so hard for us to see.
~Pat Campbell Carlson “Deer Wisdom”

The deer on our university campus stroll about like students themselves; they taste this, nibble that, try things out to see how they like it.   It is rare for a cougar to stray down from the hills to campus so the deer find themselves unchallenged as long as they stay off the asphalt competing with four wheeled predators.  The campus is a refuge from the world, an idyllic place to hang out, to see and be seen, just like students.

On our farm, they are not so unconcerned.  Life is very uncertain;  one never knows who can be trusted.  Thorns define the pathways and to be safe, a deer must be willingly swallowed by the thorns.  When I approach, she dives into an indiscernible opening in the brushy undergrowth and disappears, leaving no trace she was ever there.  Yet I know she is, peering out from her camouflaged sanctuary, waiting for her moment, undisturbed, in the sun.




Be Well, Be Glad

at twenty
at 18 on Prankster for one last evening ride before I went to college and he went to a new home

At dusk, everything blurs and softens…

The horse bears me along, like grace,
making me better than what I am,
and what I think or say or see
is whole in these moments, is neither
small nor broken.  Who then
is better made to say be well, be glad,

or who to long that we, as one,
might course over the entire valley,
over all valleys, as a bird in a great embrace
of flight, who presses against her breast,
in grief and tenderness,
the whole weeping body of the world?
~Linda McCarriston from “Riding Out At Evening”

Remembering nearly three score of younger birthdays on my 59th~~

What I think or say or see is whole
in these tender moments
of my lengthening life
in this weeping world:

I am so glad to be so well.

as a yearling
as a yearling
at age two with Nancy holding baby Steve along with the Schmitz cousins
at age two with the Schmitz cousins, my baby brother in my sister’s lap
age 6 with the kindergarten car pool crowd
age 6 with the kindergarten car pool crowd
age 8
age 8
age nine
age nine
age 16
age 16 (surprise party by my next door neighbor and best friend)
age 25
age 25

A Fragile Citadel

nest2…And I think
They know my strength,
Can gauge
The danger of their work:
One blow could crush them
And their nest; and I am not their friend.

And yet they seem
Too deeply and too fiercely occupied
To bother to attend.
Perhaps they sense
I’ll never deal the blow,
For, though I am not in nor of them,
Still I think I know
What it is like to live
In an alien and gigantic universe, a stranger,
Building the fragile citadels of love
On the edge of danger.
~James Rosenberg from “The Wasps’ Nest”

It hangs undisturbed from the eastern eave of the old milk shed, away from view from the house but its busy citizens visit our picnics, greedily buzz our compost bin, shoot bullet-like out of the garbage can when I lift the lid.  This nest is their nighttime respite for a few more months before a freeze renders the them to slow motion.   Winter hibernation will be a tenuous business for this paper home, as it faces battering from northeasters, likely to be soaked, torn and shredded in the harsh winds.

Yet for now, their fierce hold to security will remain undisturbed.  Let the winter deal the blow.

As I am not in or of them, I cannot cast the first stone.
Still I think I know what it is like to be hanging there waiting. hornetnest1

Anger is as a stone cast into a wasp’s nest.
~Pope Paul VI

The Permanence of Light

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

….a lesson about the permanence of light, finding its path when every course would seem blocked, and when even its source has long faded… 

An older woman comes upon a child looking at the stars. She tells him that it’s taken eons for the light to come this far. The boy asks if you can tell which stars are dead and which are living.

“No,” she answers, “it’s impossible. Still, what a beautiful mystery that is.”
~A. J. Harmon from “Good Letters” on

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

The stars come up spinning
every night, bewildered in love.
They’d grow tired
with that revolving, if they weren’t.
They’d say,

“How long do we have to do this?”


The Heart’s Throne

1069375_10151757689246119_1606886087_nTrue worship can only take place when we agree to God sitting not only on His throne in the center of the universe, but on the throne that stands in the center of our heart.
~Robert Colman

Last night we had the joy of worship on the hill on our farm for a summer evening of Wiser Lake Chapel‘s outdoor church.   Together we came from far and wide: from Japan and Myanmar to South Dakota and Colorado– sixty five people ranging from a 5 week old premie baby making her church debut to a 93 years young woman who treasures each and every chance to worship with her church family.

Our hearts cannot be empty and longing when God sits at the center of Who we are. 

Before the throne of God above;  before the throne of God within.  Our hearts are full indeed.

Human beings by their very nature are worshipers. Worship is not something we do; it defines who we are. You cannot divide human beings into those who worship and those who don’t. Everybody worships; it’s just a matter of what, or whom, we serve.
~Paul Tripp