A certain kind of Eden holds us thrall. Even the one vine that tendrils out alone in time turns on its own impulse, twisting back down its upward course a strong and then a stronger rope, the greenest saddest strongest kind of hope. ~Kay Ryan from “A Certain Kind of Eden”from Flamingo Watching
This is the season for entwining enchantment.
Simply walking out in the garden in the morning, the tendrils are reaching out and grabbing onto my shirt and my jeans. If I stood still for an hour, they would be wrapping up my legs and clinging to my arms. There I would be, held hostage by these insistent vines for the duration of the season.
There are worse fates: a verdant Garden is exactly where we were placed to begin with.
The vines that don’t find a grab-hold, end up bending back onto themselves, curling back down the ladder they just created, sometimes knotting themselves into a nest. They wind up and down in nothingness and sadly cannot hold fast enough to be fruitful except creeping along the ground itself.
May there always be Someone Solid to cling to, to wrap around, to hold fast. May we once again know the glories of His Garden.
“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”
“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this. ~A.A. Milne
It is the final week of a very long academic year and tension is running high.
Among those students to whom I provide care, there are many who dwell deeply in “what if?” mode, immobilized in their anticipation of impending disaster.
I understand this line of thinking, particularly in this day and age of “in the moment” tragedy played out real-time in the palm of our hand and we can’t help but watch as it unfolds.
Those who know me well know I can fret and worry better than most. Medical training only makes it worse. It teaches one to think catastrophically. That is what I do for a living, to always be ready for the worse case scenario.
When I rise, sleepless, to face a day of uncertainty as we all must do at times~ after careful thought, I reach for the certainty I am promised over the uncertainty I can only imagine:
What is my only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong —body and soul, in life and in death— to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
“Supposing it didn’t” — He says (and thus we are comforted)
If grace is so wonderful, why do we have such difficulty recognizing and accepting it?
Maybe it’s because grace is not gentle or made-to-order.
It often comes disguised as loss, or failure, or unwelcome change. For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn’t know we needed and take us places where we didn’t know we didn’t want to go. ~Kathleen Norris from Acedia and Me
I’ve been salvaged when I didn’t even know I needed saving. I’ve been given what I didn’t think I needed so never had asked. I’ve been taken places I never planned to be when I was sure things were fine right where I was.
Grace is not about giving me what I think I want; it is not a reward for good behavior.
It is giving me exactly what I need when I deserve nothing.
It is the thorny landing that catches me when I fall. It is the tiny drop that spares me in drought. It is scars formed as proof that healing happens to the deepest wounds. It is being scattered when I planned to remain whole.
I am grateful, so very grateful, for what I didn’t know. I am grateful, so very grateful, for grace disguised.
Try as we might to find common ground with those so unlike ourselves, it is the differences we focus on despite our efforts to understand and befriend. Whether it is cranky politicians sparring in the headlines, or the perpetual struggle between weak and strong, we miss seeing Creation’s intended balance all around us.
We can dwell compatibly, lion and lamb, without one becoming a meal for the other. Indeed, prey transforms the predator.
Even the barbed and bloody thistle releases its seeds in the cushion of thistledown, drifting gently where the wind will take it next, at once forgiven for the scars it inflicted.
May I strive to be comforting rather than prickly, healing rather than inflicting, wherever I may land.
In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls. This is the great reward of service. To live, far out and on, in the life of others; this is the mystery of the Christ, –to give life’s best for such high sake that it shall be found again unto life eternal. ~Major-General Joshua Chamberlain at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 1889
For Memorial Day 2019~
~standing in gratitude and reverence for the few who have suffered great loneliness and loss to secure the future and well-being of many, including unknown generations to come…
I hear the mountain birds The sound of rivers singing A song I’ve often heard It flows through me now So clear and so loud I stand where I am And forever I’m dreaming of home I feel so alone, I’m dreaming of home
It’s carried in the air The breeze of early morning I see the land so fair My heart opens wide There’s sadness inside I stand where I am And forever I’m dreaming of home I feel so alone, I’m dreaming of home
This is no foreign sky I see no foreign light But far away am I From some peaceful land I’m longing to stand A hand in my hand …forever I’m dreaming of home I feel so alone, I’m dreaming of home ~Lori Barth and Philippe Rombi “I’m Dreaming of Home”
Wither me to within me: Welt me to weal me common again: Withdraw to wear me weary: Over me to hover and lover again:
Before me to form and perform me: Round me to rill me liquid incisions: Behind me to hunt and haunt me: Down me to drown indecision:
Bury me to seed me: bloom me In loam me: grind me to meal me Knead me to rise: raise me to your mouth
Rive me to river me: End me to unmend me: Rend me to render me: ~Philip Metres “Prayer”
The truth is: though we prefer to gaze on fresh beauty, to ponder smooth youthful perfection rather than the pocked and wrinkled, the used-up and weary, our prayer desires His everlasting love even when we fall in frailty. We wither from the first day, readying for fruit to burst forth as we, torn and buried, are sown to rise again.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in instructing catechumens, wrote: “The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.” No matter what form the dragon may take, it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell, and this being the case, it requires considerable courage at any time, in any country, not to turn away from the storyteller. ~Flannery O’Connor from “Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose”
But a dragon lies in ambush for the traveler; take care he does not bite you and inject you his poison of unbelief. Seeing this numerous company winning salvation, he selects and stalks his prey. In your journey to the Father of souls, your way lies past that dragon. How shall you pass him? You must have “your feet stoutly with the gospel of peace,” so that, even if he does bite you, he may not hurt you. ~St. Cyril of Jerusalem
…withyour feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6:15
<Here there be dragons> was any place on the ancient maps that was unknown and unexplored- a place to avoid at all costs~ or for the daring and carefree, pointing to exactly the place to explore.
Here there be dragons marks the remainder of our days that dwell at the edge of life’s roadmap ~ unknown and unexplored ~ and often full of peril.
So many dragons to pass ready to swallow us whole if we make a wrong turn, or singe our britches if we stray beyond the known borders of the map.
So many dark valleys to pass through so many mysteries remain unsolved, so many stories of fateful journeys told.
We pull on our stoutest shoes, ready to trek where ever we are sent, not straying from the well-worn path of the faithful who have stayed out of the jaws of the dragons to tell the story.