When I feel my faith wavering and doubts begin to overwhelm, it takes determination to keep those wild animals at bay; they leap and snarl and roar with hungry expectation and entitlement, yet I seek only prayerful calm and quiet.
Rather than throw myself recklessly to the lions and tigers, feeding their relentless appetites, I step back, take a deep breath, and watch them purr as they nap.
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Hope has holes in its pockets. It leaves little crumb trails so that we, when anxious, can follow it. Hope’s secret: it doesn’t know the destination— it knows only that all roads begin with one foot in front of the other. ~ Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, “Hope” from Hush
Stripped and stark — if winter were the ending of all things, there would be no hope. There would be no sun shining on the hills far beyond me to reflect the path before me: what is, what will be and what has been.
When I am down to the bare and broken essentials — bleak and muddy and the too-early dark — I must put one foot in front of the other, continuing to push forward. I know this resting pause is not the end. Never has been. Never will be.
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Autumn Was certainly not winter, scholars say, When holy habitation broke the chill Of hearth-felt separation, icy still, The love of life in man that Christmas day. Was autumn, rather, if seasons speak true; When green retreats from sight’s still ling’ring gaze, And creeping cold numbs sense in sundry ways, While settling silence speaks of solitude. Hope happens when conditions are as these; Comes finally lock-armed with death and sin, When deep’ning dark demands its full display. Then fallen nature driven to her knees Flames russet, auburn, orange fierce from within, And brush burns brighter for the growing grey. ~David Baird “Autumn”
We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Watch for the Light
The shepherds were sore afraid. So why aren’t we?
The scholars say Christ was most likely born in the autumn of the year ~ so fitting, as our reds and oranges fade fast to grey as we descend into this wintering world crying out for resuscitation.
Murderous frosts and falling snow have wilted down all that was flush with life and we become desperate for hope for renewal in the midst of the dying.
And so this babe has come like a refiner’s fire to lay claim to us and we who have gotten too comfortable will feel the heat of His embrace – in the middle of the chill, in the middle of our dying – no matter what time of year.
On the stiff twig up there Hunches a wet black rook Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain. I do not expect a miracle Or an accident
To set the sight on fire In my eye, nor seek Any more in the desultory weather some design, But let spotted leaves fall as they fall, Without ceremony, or portent.
Although, I admit, I desire, Occasionally, some backtalk From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain: A certain minor light may still Lean incandescent
Out of kitchen table or chair As if a celestial burning took Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then — Thus hallowing an interval Otherwise inconsequent
By bestowing largesse, honor, One might say love. At any rate, I now walk Wary (for it could happen Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); skeptical, Yet politic; ignorant
Of whatever angel may choose to flare Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook Ordering its black feathers can so shine As to seize my senses, haul My eyelids up, and grant
A brief respite from fear Of total neutrality. With luck, Trekking stubborn through this season Of fatigue, I shall Patch together a content
Of sorts. Miracles occur, If you care to call those spasmodic Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait’s begun again, The long wait for the angel, For that rare, random descent. ~Sylvia Plath “Black Rook in Rainy Weather”
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? Luke 1:18
“How will this be?” Mary asked the angel… Luke 1:34
Zechariah asks: How can I be sure of what I’m told? How can I trust this is true even when it doesn’t make sense in my every day world? How can the mundane be made divine? How can I trust God to accomplish this?
These are not the questions to be asked – this lack of trust for God’s sovereignty – so he was struck mute, speechless until immersed in the miracle of impossibility and only then assured by the Lord and released from silence, he sang loudly with praise for God’s tender mercy.
Instead, we should ask, like Mary: How can this be? How am I worthy? How am I to be calm comprehending this ineffable mystery? How will I be different than I was before?
It is when we are most naked, in our most vulnerable and emptiest circumstance – then we are clothed and filled with God’s glorious assurance. We do not need to know the details to accept the moment of radiance He has brought upon us. We just need willingness to be… changed.
Enter autumn as you would a closing door. Quickly, cautiously. Look for something inside that promises color, but be wary of its cast — a desolate reflection, an indelible tint. ~Pamela Steed Hill “September Pitch”
Summer begins to have the look Peruser of enchanting Book Reluctantly but sure perceives– A gain upon the backward leaves
Autumn begins to be inferred By millinery of the cloud Or deeper color in the shawl That wraps the everlasting hill.
The eye begins its avarice A meditation chastens speech Some Dyer of a distant tree Resumes his gaudy industry.
Conclusion is the course of All Almost to be perennial And then elude stability Recalls to immortality. ~Emily Dickinson, Poem 65
This hot summer now wanes, wistful; it has the look of packing up, and moving on without bidding adieu or looking back over its shoulder.
I wave goodbye without regret; it leaves behind a hot mess of burned landscape and drought.
Blustery winds have carried in darkening clouds spread green leaves, chestnuts and walnuts everywhere, loosened before their time. Long overdue rain gave us a good drenching worth celebrating.
Overhead skies are heavily burdened with clues of what more is coming: earlier dusk, the cool feel of moisture, the deepening graying purplish hues, the briskness of breezes.
There is no negotiation possible. I steel myself and get ready, wrapping myself in my perennial soft shawl of inevitability.
So autumn advances forth with its clouds, taking up residence as summer moves out, bringing its own unique plans for redecorating using an array of hues and textures.
The truth is we’ve seen nothing yet.
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I remember the first day, how I looked down, hoping you wouldn’t see me, and when I glanced up, I saw your smile shining like a soft light from deep inside you.
“I’m listening,” you encourage us. “Come on! Join our conversation, let us hear your neon certainties, thorny doubts, tangled angers,” but for weeks I hid inside.
I read and reread your notes praising my writing, and you whispered, “We need you and your stories and questions that like a fresh path will take us to new vistas.”
Slowly, your faith grew into my courage and for you— instead of handing you a note or apple or flowers— I raised my hand.
I carry your smile and faith inside like I carry my dog’s face, my sister’s laugh, creamy melodies, the softness of sunrise, steady blessings of stars, autumn smell of gingerbread, the security of a sweater on a chilly day. ~Pat Mora, “Ode To Teachers” from Dizzy in Your Eyes.
School is back in session for some and will be soon for others. We cross our fingers it can remain in person, masked face-to-masked face, rather than via screens.
Students and teachers will find their way back to one another – learning each other’s stories and how to transform one another through sharing those stories.
Two of our children are school teachers – one at elementary level and the other in high school, while the third spent two years teaching high school math on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. They were transformed by their own teachers, inspired to do what had made such a difference in their own lives. They have become the teachers who I wish would teach me.
Some of my own teachers helped transform me in those early years, encouraging me in my shyness to raise my hand despite my thorny doubts, tell my story despite my tangled angers, share something of myself when I felt I had nothing of value to give.
I think of you and thank you – Mrs. Neil, Mr. Duffy, Mrs. MacMurray – for helping me break out of my broken shell in my grade school years. You taught me to wholly trust to this day those who love enough to push me to become a better me.
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The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched. ~Henry David Thoreau from Walden
I don’t know about you, but there are some days I wake up just longing for my life to be all puppies and rainbows.
I hope to find sparkling magic around every corner, little wiggly fur balls surrounding me, happy tails a-wagging with a promise of glee and glitter. I’m eager to feel pure joy untainted by the realities of every day.
Perhaps I’m clutching at a kind of cartoon version of life without considering the wicked witches and monsters present in the ever-present dark forbidding woods of our human existence. Life just isn’t all puppies and rainbows. I know this…
Of course, puppies grow up. Rainbows fade and become just a memory. And I am growing older with all the aches and pains and uncertainties of aging. Even so, I still tend to clutch a “puppies and rainbows” state of mind when I open my eyes in the morning and when I close my eyes for sleep – hoping for a bit of stardust to hold.
I believe in promises. I believe in the God who made those promises. He is who I can hold onto and know with certainty, He won’t ever let go of me.
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When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the green heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. ~Wendell Berry “The Peace of Wild Things” fromThe Selected Poems of Wendell Berry
When our grandchildren visit our farm, I watch them rediscover what I know are the joys and sorrows of this world. I am reminded there is light beyond the darkness I fear, there is peace amid the chaos, there is a smile behind the tears, there is stillness within the noisiness there is rest despite my restlessness, there is grace as old gives way to new.
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Thank you to Harry Rodenberger for the hummingbird nest videos!
We have been a disconsolate people, uneasy and restless, particularly during the past year of being told to stay at home is best. Safety and protection became the priority despite our longing for freedom of movement.
Now with pandemic restrictions lifting, many of us are impatient to fly and travel, even when the hawks in our lives remain in close pursuit. Though baffled, beaten and blown by the ever-buffeting winds of doubt and threat, we want our liberty.
It is easy to forget: this earthly home isn’t our “safe” place and true freedom isn’t going where we please when we please.
This life is merely vapor and our ultimate longing is for something far more eternal than we will find here.
We’re almost home – together on this journey through the darkness to forever.
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