I appear at the kitchen door, spiritual equivalent of a wet dog from a storm, tail tucked, trembling. You open your lives, this life, provide prayerful provision, a vigorous toweling down, a large bowl of kibbles. I curl up and sleep safe on the rug by your heart, the chapel that warms His, and so, restored, return to the weary world rejoicing, perhaps to provide a bracing swig from the fiery word, perhaps to lead a lost one home. ~Bonnie Thurston “Strays” from O Taste and See
How many times have I shown up muddy, cold, hungry and you invited me in, dried me off, offered me your supper, let me sleep warmed and safe?
How many times did I go back out into the world with every good intention of doing the same for other strays and yet get lost again myself?
You call me back, whistle me in, open the door to let me know no matter how much of a mess I’m in your hearth, your heart await my return.
Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
….It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble.
We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day. ~E.B. White in a letter
We can’t claw our way out of
the mess we’ve made of things;
it takes Someone
to dig us out of the hole,
wash us off,
clean us up,
and breathe fresh breath into our nostrils.
We can only hope
hope will be contagious.
We can only hope
and grab hold as His hand reaches down
to lift us up, carry us out of the dirt,
and hold us tight.
It is not only prayer that gives God glory,
Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam,
whitewashing a wall, driving horses,
everything gives God some glory
if being in his grace you do it as your duty. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give Him glory, too. God is so great that all things give Him glory if you mean that they should. ~Gerard Manley Hopkins
Thanks in large part to how messy we humans are, this world is a grimy place. As an act of worship, we keep cleaning up after ourselves. The hands that clean the toilets, scrub the floors, carry the bedpans, pick up the garbage might as well be clasped in prayer–it is in such mundane tasks God is glorified.
I spend an hour every day carrying dirty buckets and wielding a pitchfork because it is my way of restoring order to the disorder inherent in human life. It is with gratitude that I’m able to pick up one little corner of my world, making stall beds tidier for our farm animals by mucking up their messes and in so doing, I’m cleaning up a piece of me at the same time.
I never want to forget the mess I’m in and the mess I am. I never want to forget to clean up after myself. I never want to feel it is a mere and mundane chore to worship with dungfork and slop pail in hand.
It is my privilege to work. It is His gift to me.
It is Grace who has come alongside me, pitching the muck and carrying the slop when I am too weary, and most amazing of all, cleans me up as well.
The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year.
It is that we should have a new soul. – G.K. Chesterton
We have had considerable winter already in the northwest with a white Christmas that soon melted away and then snowfall again on New Year’s Eve. It has been beautiful – a welcome change from our typical winter rain and mud-fest. It is natural to desire an overnight transformation of the old and dirty to something new and beautiful: an all clean pristine white cottony sheet covering thrown over everything making it look completely different than before.
Similarly, at the tick of the clock past midnight on New Years’ Eve, we hope for just such an inner transformation as well, a fresh start, a leaving behind of the not-so-good from the past and moving ahead to the surely-it’ll-be-better in the future.
But it usually doesn’t stick, despite a flurry of good intentions and a skiff of newness plopped down here and there. Even if we find ourselves in the midst of blizzard conditions, unable to see six inches ahead and immobilized by the furious storms of life, that accumulation eventually will melt, leaving behind even more mud and raw mess.
It isn’t how flawless, how clean, or how new this year will be, but rather how to ensure our soul transformation stays whole and pure, unmelting from within, even when the heat is turned up and the sweat drips. This is not about a covering thrown over the old and dirty but a full blown overhaul in order to never to be the same mess again.
I lift my eyes to the hills where the snow stays year round: sometimes more, with a few hundred new inches over several weeks, or sometimes less, on the hottest days of summer. Our new souls this new year must be built of that same resiliency, withstanding what each day may bring, cold or hot.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…transformation that sticks within my soul.
Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow. Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
~James Nicholson (hymn chorus)
When the barn doors are opened
on a bright frosted Christmas morning,
the inner darkness penetrated by a beam of sunlight,
exposing an equine escapee.
His stall door stands ajar, the door unlatched,
he meanders the black of the unlit barn aisle lined with hay bales
munching his breakfast, lunch, and dinner
all of which lies strewn and ruined at his feet.
Not only did he somehow escape his locked door
but he has chosen to leave poop piles
on every other horses’ breakfast, lunch, and dinner
as futilely they watch from behind their stall doors.
He has had the run of the place all night~
obvious from his ubiquitous hoof tracks amid
the overturned buckets, trampled halters, tangled baling twine,
twisted hoses, toppled hay bales and general chaos.
At least he didn’t climb up and start the tractor
or eat the cat food or pry open the grain barrel
or chew a saddle or two, or rip horse blankets apart,
but from the looks of things I think he tried.
His head goes up as the sunlight highlights his nocturnal escapade,
catching him red-hoofed and boldly nonchalant, proclaiming innocence.
Like a child asking for milk to go with a stolen cookie
he approaches me, begging for a carrot after his all night repast.
I grab a fist full of mane, put him back, double lock him in.
Surveying the mess, I want to turn around, shut the barn doors
and banish it back to the cover of darkness,
hide his sins now illuminated in the light of day.
I remember all the messes I’ve made in my life.
I clean his up, give him a hug,
and forgive as I’m forgiven.