Sacrificial Living

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No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it.
Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity.
We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one’s partiality.

~Wendell Berry from The Art of the Commonplace

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I know for a while again,
the health of self-forgetfulness,
looking out at the sky through
a notch in the valley side,
the black woods wintry on
the hills, small clouds at sunset
passing across. And I know
that this is one of the thresholds
between Earth and Heaven,
from which I may even step
forth from myself and be free.
~ Wendell Berry, Sabbaths 2000

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I was told once that I write of sacramental living — touching and tasting the holiness of everyday moments, as if they are the cup and bread of life.  I let that feedback sit warmly beside me, like a welcome companion during the many hours when I struggle with what to share here.

It is now apparent to me it is all too tempting to become the sacrament rather than the sacrifice.  As much as I love the world and the beauty in the moments I find here, my search should be for those “thin places” between heaven and earth, for forgetting self and stepping forth from a holy threshold into something far greater —  where ego, like gravity, can no longer confine and weigh down.

There is freedom in the sacrificial life, a wonderful terrifying illuminating freedom, still far beyond my grasp.  But I’m looking at where and how to reach for it.

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The Threshold Between Heaven and Earth

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“I know for a while again
the health of self-forgetfulness,
looking out at the sky through
a notch in the valleyside,
the black woods wintry on
the hills, small clouds at sunset
passing across. And I know
that this is one of the thresholds
between Earth and Heaven,
from which even I may step
forth and be free.”
– Wendell Berry from “Sabbath Poems”

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A Canticle for Advent: Give Him My Heart

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In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give Him my heart.
~Christina Rossetti 1872

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthinians 9:7-8

In bleak weather, as so many of us are experiencing today, it is a chore to do chores and a chore to be cheerful.  The arctic winds are moaning everywhere around the farm, the earth now hard as iron, all water like stone.
Yet to this misery He chose to come, knowing He was to be hurt, to bleed, to join us in pain.

How can I hold back my heart from One like this?   It is all I have of any value to Him.  It is what He came for, to take back with Him.

The Thin Places

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sunset10232Heaven and earth are only three feet apart,
but in the thin places that distance is even smaller.
A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted
and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God.
~Celtic saying

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Ready to Hatch

photo by Josh Scholten

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird:
it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.
We are like eggs at present.
And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg.
We must be hatched or go bad.
C. S. Lewis

I revel in being the good egg.
Smooth on the surface,
gooey inside,
ordinary and decent,
indistinguishable from others,
blending in,
not making waves.

It’s not a bad existence staying just as I am.
Except I can no longer.

There appeared a dent or two in my outer shell
from bumps along the way,
and a crack up one side
extending.

It is time to change or rot.

Nothing can be the same again:
the fragments of shell
left behind
abandoned
as useless confinement.

Newly hatched:
home becomes
the wind beneath my wings
to soar a horizon stretching
beyond eternity.