As the Sky Broke Open

The clouds had made a crimson crown
Above the mountains high.
The stormy sun was going down
In a stormy sky.
Why did you let your eyes so rest on me,
And hold your breath between?
In all the ages this can never be
As if it had not been.
~Mary Elizabeth Coleridge “A Moment”

Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,
Great, hollow, bell-like flowers,
Rumbling in the wind,
Stretching clappers to strike our ears . . .

Full-lipped flowers
Bitten by the sun
Bleeding rain
Dripping rain like golden honey—
And the sweet earth flying from the thunder.

~Jean Toomer “Storm Ending”

A thunderstorm swirled above us last night as we finished our farm chores, dropping noisy raindrops and then passing until the next cloud rolled over and dumped some more. I climbed to the top of our hill and looked out at a busted-up sky trying to mend itself. It was trying to zip itself together again but once fractured, it was broken forever, pouring gold rays of sunbeams like honey onto the landscape.

In that moment of broken sky, I was doused in a Light that breathed golden breath on me, reminding me not to forget:
He is here.

God does not leave us comfortless in the storms of our lives so be not afraid. He is still here in the morning.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t   
be afraid. God does not leave us   
comfortless, so let evening come.
~Jane Kenyon “Let Evening Come”


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Waiting in Wilderness: Something Understood

Prayer the church’s banquet, angel’s age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth
Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tow’r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood.
~George Herbert “Prayer”

portrait of Dan’s mom, Emma Gibson, praying, by granddaughter Sara Larsen

Prayer is my refuge – a renewal, refreshment, reconciliation, reassurance.
My time to weep.
My time for awe.
My time to praise.
My time for gratitude:

A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary

How else can I know I have the ear of God
who puts heaven within my reach of
my voice and my words–
I am understood
by the Creator of the Universe,
no less than He.

May you see God’s light on the path ahead
when the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear even in your hour of sorrow
the gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness
never turn your heart to stone.
May you always remember when the shadows fall–
You do not walk alone.
~Traditional Irish Blessing

Our Chance to Choose

We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God.
The world is crowded with Him.
He walks everywhere incognito.
And the incognito is not always easy to penetrate.
The real labor is to remember to attend.

In fact to come awake.
Still more to remain awake.
~C.S. Lewis from “Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer”

God is going to invade, all right:
but what is the good of saying you are on his side then,
when you see the whole natural universe
melting away like a dream and something else –
something it never entered your head to conceive –
comes crashing in;
something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others
that none of us will have any choice left?

For this time it will be God without disguise;
something so overwhelming that it will strike
either irresistible love
or irresistible horror
into every creature.
It will be too late then to choose your side.

There is no use saying you choose to lie down
when it has become impossible to stand up.
That will not be the time for choosing:
it will be the time when we discover
which side we really have chosen,
whether we realized it before or not.
Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side.
~C.S. Lewis from
Mere Christianity

The older I get, the more I recognize the need to be alert and awake to the presence of God in the crowded world around me. It doesn’t come naturally. We humans have an attention deficit, choosing to focus inwardly on self and ignoring the rest. If it isn’t for me, or like me, or about me, it somehow is not worthy of my consideration.

We wear blinders, asleep, unaware we must choose an incognito God;
we think His invisible immensity must be obvious, like a lightning flash.

And so – He has come and walked among us in plain sight.
No longer incognito.
The time to choose has come.

photo of lightning over Anacortes, Washington from

Like Thunder Follows Lightening




Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth.
Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo.
Gratitude follows grace as thunder follows lightening.
~Karl Barth












Nothing separates our thankfulness
from the gifts we’ve been granted.
We have been given life, certainly.
But that is not all,
though more than plenty.

Beyond imagining,
we are given forgiveness.
Offered a new life,
An opportunity to
make things right again
by His forgiving
the unforgivable.

It is possible to be grateful every day
without knowing grace.
Many voices raised today
speak of thankfulness.

But to know the gift of grace–
experience its resounding clarifying brightness,
its gentle, compassionate merciful touch
every day, every hour, every moment
every breath,

we must respond, thundering
our gratitude at the lightening spark of God,
echoing unending thanks
in our every breath.





Awash with Angels


Today, in Bellingham, even the sidewalks gleam.
Small change glints from the creases
in the lady’s mantle and the hostas after
the rain that falls, like grace, unmerited.
My pockets are full, spilling over.
~Luci Shaw from “Small Change”

There were thunder storms and torrential rains to the north of us, to the east and to the south, but we had only a gentle constant showering during the night — a calm center.  This morning such undeserved grace is gleaming as if a spill over of twilight’s gloaming.

Today we are awash, cleansed,  with bright wings.


And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
~ Gerard Manly Hopkins from “God’s Grandeur”


Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.
~Richard Wilbur

Breathe Normally

Thunderhead from above over western Washington

There’ll be turbulence. You’ll drop
your book to hold your
water bottle steady. Your
mind, mind has mountains, cliffs of fall
may who ne’er hung there let him
watch the movie. The plane’s
supposed to shudder, shoulder on
like this. It’s built to do that. You’re
designed to tremble too. Else break
Higher you climb, trouble in mind
lungs labor, heights hurl vistas
Oxygen hangs ready
overhead. In the event put on
the child’s mask first. Breathe normally
~Adrienne Rich -from Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, 2011 National Book Award Finalist

We just got off a very turbulent flight from Chicago to Seattle due to thunderstorms much of the way, particularly in the northwest. The brief times when there wasn’t shuddering and bouncing and metal trembling were gifts. I could breathe normally for awhile, not gripping the chair arm, gritting my teeth and silently praying.

I’ve become less and less brave about flying. I know all the statistics about safety but they don’t reassure me in the clinch when hanging at 35,000 feet as if on a thin bungee cord.

Now safely on the ground, I wonder about the next flight, and the next. Like the stomach sinking drops that life can inflict unexpectedly, I know there is nothing to be done but endure what is uncertain. I can’t pedal fast enough to keep a plane in the air so I depend on others who build and maintain and fly planes to do that for me. I can’t prevent bad things from happening in life, but I can depend on the truth that goodness will prevail. I must trust solely in grace given as a gift and never earned.

I must put my oxygen mask on first and breathe normally. Then and only then can I help save others.

Mt. Baker from above. Usually we admire it from the ground from our Whatcom County back yard


Wafting Him Out of It

photo of dappled-with-damson west courtesy R.V. Schoder Loyola University Archives

I kiss my hand
To the stars, lovely-asunder
Starlight, wafting him out of it; and
Glow, glory in thunder;
Kiss my hand to the dappled-with-damson west;
Since, though he is under the world’s splendor and wonder,
His mystery must be instressed, stressed;
For I greet him the days I meet him, and bless when I understand.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins

I greet Him when I meet Him
as the color of the evening sky
spills as tipped paint
far fleeting across the horizon,
cleaned up and gone before grasped,
I kiss my hand
to the drama played out before sun set.

I greet Him when I meet Him
as starlight speckles
the overhead ceiling,
each touching infinity
where it begins
and never ends.

I greet Him when I meet Him
in glowing cloud mountains
sparking lightning
and clapping thunder,
applause for His
resplendent magnificence.

I greet Him when
He is hidden
and unknowable,
waiting for the blessing
of understanding
wafting from Him
in color, in speckle,
in glow, in spark,
in appreciative applause
for His splendor
wrapped in wonder.

photo by Josh Scholten of the damson-without-dappled west
thunderheads in South Dakota

photo by Josh Scholten

Mountains of the Sky

It’s wonderful to climb the liquid mountains of the sky. Behind me and before me is God and I have no fears. ~Helen Keller

They don’t make clouds like this in the northwest. These are thunderheads over Sioux Falls, South Dakota tonight, complete with constant lightning flashes sparking the center of the shimmering liquid mountains in the sky.

God behind, before, overhead. I am not ashamed to admit awesome fear of His mighty power.


Amazing Blaze

photo of lightning over Anacortes, Washington 7/13/12 from

Now and then there comes a crash of thunder in a storm, and we look up with amazement when he sets the heavens on a blaze with his lightning.
~C.H. Spurgeon

Subtlety is usually sufficient;
safe sky gravitates to gray.
A little shower here, brief sun break there,
scented soft sea breezes
inspiring few complaints
but rarely awe.

Tonight a sudden bright arcing light
splinters out of nowhere,
abruptly demands all attention.
It stops time and severs space,
leaving spots before eyes.
fresh air in nostrils.

Nothing can remain the same
once illuminated ablaze.

Ignited retinas-count the seconds-
then assaulted tympanic membranes.
Crash following flash;
left smoldering and shaken,
earth diminished by grander

It is soon over,
fully doused
in cleansing deluge,
baptized by the relenting
downpour of heaven’s
shattering mercy.

Feel the Now

photo by Nate Gibson

“On the planet the winds are blowing: the polar easterlies, the westerlies, the northeast and southeast trades…Lick a finger, feel the now.”
Annie Dillard

We fell asleep last night content in the knowledge that the weather forecast on three different websites confirmed no rain.  This is particularly important when there are about 750 bales worth of cut hay lying in our fields curing, getting ready for raking and baling the next day.  Rain is the farmer’s best friend most of the time, but definitely not when there is cut hay on the ground.  Wet hay becomes moldy hay, or worse–combustible–if not allowed to thoroughly dry, and it gradually loses nutrient value the longer it dries.

As opposed to drought conditions in much of the nation, in the northwest a stretch of at least four days of warmer weather had been long awaited.  It was a relief to get the hay finally cut, several weeks later than typical with a promise of at least three more clear days to ted, rake, bale and get it in the barn without being rained on.  The air felt sticky and still when we went to bed.  I woke about two hours later to a cool breeze coming through the open window–it felt a little too cool.  I could hear rumbling in the distance–too low pitched for airplane or truck sounds.  Somewhere nearby it was thundering.  Thunder meant heavy moisture-filled clouds.  Heavy clouds meant showers.  Showers meant wet hay.  Wet hay meant…well, you get my drift.

The rumbling moved closer and closer, with accompanying flashes of lightning,  finally cracking right above us.  The wind picked up.  I got out of bed to go outside to feel the direction of the wind and see if the rain– licking a finger and holding it up.  The wind was southerly but not consistent–the air was changing so quickly that all I could do was acknowledge and anticipate the change, knowing a storm was coming and there was no stopping it.   It was the inevitability of feeling the “now” of which Dillard writes.

The breeze was moisture-laden: wet without raindrops.  Then they began to fall,  gentle at first but finally earnest showering–not a downpour.  It lasted less than an hour, just long enough to dampen but not soak.  The hay would not be a complete ruin.  It could be salvaged.  The storm had passed, leaving little damage in its wake, just plenty of noisy drama and jangled nerves.

The experience of a thunder storm overhead is unlike any other.  It commands our attention, wakes us from sound sleep, turns night into day in a flash, drowns humid heat in a downpour.   As some pray for the relief of such a storm, others fear its effects, whether igniting forest fires from lightning strikes, frightening animals or molding cut hay.

I’m content to just be a witness, in wonder at the storm’s strength and command.   All I can do is lick a finger and hold it up in awe, knowing I’m here and it’s now.

photo by James Clark Photography of lightening strike over Mt. Rainier 7/8/12