When I wake up earlier than you and you are turned to face me, face on the pillow and hair spread around, I take a chance and stare at you, amazed in love and afraid that you might open your eyes and have the daylights scared out of you. But maybe with the daylights gone you’d see how much my chest and head implode for you, their voices trapped inside like unborn children fearing they will never see the light of day. The opening in the wall now dimly glows its rainy blue and gray. I tie my shoes and go downstairs to put the coffee on. ~Ron Padgett, “Glow” from Collected Poems.
It is my morning routine to wake early and I take a moment to look at you still asleep, your slow even breaths and peaceful face- I’m thankful for every day I get to spend with you.
I know you know this~ we remind each other each day in many ways, to never forget.
What blessing comes from a love openly expressed and never hidden~ thriving in the dark of night, yet never shining brighter than in the delights and daylights of each new morning together.
…Christmas will come once again. The great transformation will once again happen. God would have it so. Out of the waiting, hoping, longing world, a world will come in which the promise is given. All crying will be stilled. No tears shall flow. No lonely sorrow shall afflict us anymore, or threaten. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a sermon to a church in Havana, Cuba December 21, 1930
when this blessing comes, take its hand. Get up. Set out on the road you cannot see.
This is the night when you can trust that any direction you go, you will be walking toward the dawn. — Jan Richardson (author of Circle of Grace)
“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?” ~J.R.R. Tolkien from The Lord of the Rings when Samwise Gamgee wakes to find his friends all around him
“The answer is yes. And the answer of the Bible is yes. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue.” ~Pastor Tim Keller’s response in a sermon given in an ecumenical prayer service memorial in Lower Manhattan on the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11.
In our minds, we want to rewind and replay the events of a tragedy in a way that would prevent it from happening in the first place. We want to bring the dead and injured back to health again. The pandemic virus fizzles out on its own, the devastating earthquake becomes a mere tremor, the flooding tsunami is only one foot, not thirty feet tall, the terrorist hijackers are prevented from ever boarding a plane, the shooter changes his mind at the last minute, lays down his arms, disables his booby trap bombs and calls someone for help with his distress and anger.
We want so badly for it all to be untrue, especially the events of this year. The bitter reality of horrendous suffering and sadness daily all over the earth is too much for us to absorb. We plead for relief, beg for a better day.
Our minds may play mental tricks like this, but God does not play tricks. He knows and feels what we do. He too wants to see it rewound and replayed differently. He has known grief and sadness, He has wept, He has suffered, He too died. And because of this, because of a God who came to dwell with us, was broken, died and then rose again whole and holy, we are assured, in His time, everything sad is going to come untrue.
Our tears will be dried, our grief turned to joy, our pain nonexistent, not even a memory. It will be a new day, a better day–as it is written, trustworthy and true.
May it come.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. Revelation 21: 4-5
We were familiar with the night. We knew its favourite colours, its sullen silence and its small, disturbing sounds, its unprovoked rages, its savage dreams.
We slept by turns, attentive to the flock. We said little. Night after night, there was little to say. But sometimes one of us, skilled in that way, would pipe a tune of how things were for us.
They say that once, almost before time, the stars with shining voices serenaded the new born world. The night could not contain their boundless praise.
We thought that just a poem — until the night a song of solar glory, unutterable, unearthly, eclipsed the luminaries of the night, as though the world were exorcised of dark and, coming to itself, began again.
Later we returned to the flock. The night was ominously black. The stars were silent as the sheep. Nights pass, year on year. We clutch our meagre cloaks against the cold. Our aging piper’s fumbling fingers play, night after night, an earthly echo of the song that banished dark. It has stayed with us. ~Richard Bauckham “Song of the Shepherds”
There is no specific “song of the shepherds” recorded in scripture. They were unlikely people to be inspired to use flowery words and memorable turns of phrase. Scripture says simply they looked at each other and agreed to get to Bethlehem as fast as possible and see for themselves what they had been told by God. There was no time to waste singing out praises and thanksgiving; they “went with haste.”
Witnessing an appearance of the heavenly host followed by seeing for themselves the incarnation of the living God in a manger must have been overwhelming to those who otherwise spent much time alone and in silence. They must have been simply bubbling over with everything they had heard and been shown. At least scripture does tell us the effect the shepherds’ witnessing words had on others: “and all who heard it wondered…”
I don’t think people wondered if the shepherds were embroidering the story, or had a group hallucination, or were flat out fabricating for reasons of their own. I suspect Mary and Joseph and the townspeople who heard what the shepherds had to say were flabbergasted at the passion and excitement being shared about what had just taken place. Seeing became believing and all could see how completely the shepherds believed by how enthusiastically they shared everything they knew.
We know what the shepherds had to say, minimalist conversationalists that they are. So we too should respond with wonder at what they have told us all.
We stood on the hills, Lady, Our day’s work done, Watching the frosted meadows That winter had won.
The evening was calm, Lady, The air so still, Silence more lovely than music Folded the hill.
There was a star, Lady, Shone in the night, Larger than Venus it was And bright, so bright.
Oh, a voice from the sky, Lady, It seemed to us then Telling of God being born In the world of men.
And so we have come, Lady, Our day’s work done, Our love, our hopes, ourselves, We give to your son. ~Bob Chillcott “The Shepherd’s Carol”
how you can never reach it, no matter how hard you try, walking as fast as you can, but getting nowhere, arms and legs pumping, sweat drizzling in rivulets; each year, a little slower, more creaks and aches, less breath. Ah, but these soft nights, air like a warm bath, the dusky wings of bats careening crazily overhead, and you’d think the road goes on forever. Apollinaire wrote, “What isn’t given to love is so much wasted,” and I wonder what I haven’t given yet. A thin comma moon rises orange, a skinny slice of melon, so delicious I could drown in its sweetness. Or eat the whole thing, down to the rind. Always, this hunger for more. ~Barbara Crooker “How the Trees on Summer Nights Turn into a Dark River,” from More
I don’t move as quickly as I used to (which is good as I’m watching more closely where I step).
I need more sleep than I used to (which is good because I’m not running “on the rim” as much as I have in the past).
I am not as driven and ignited with impulses as I used to be (which is good as I take more time to savor what I have rather than crave what I think I need).
This doesn’t mean I lack appetite for this continuing journey on the endless road of summer that seems to go on forever. I’m still hungry for more and don’t want to waste a single moment.
It is getting noticeably darker earlier now and I too want to pluck any lingering light out of the sky and swallow it down whole, hoping – just hoping – it might keep me glowing on the road home.
The children have gone to bed. We are so tired we could fold ourselves neatly behind our eyes and sleep mid-word, sleep standing warm among the creatures in the barn, lean together and sleep, forgetting each other completely in the velvet, the forgiveness of that sleep.
Then the one small cry: one strike of the match-head of sound: one child’s voice: and the hundred names of love are lit as we rise and walk down the hall.
One hundred nights we wake like this, wake out of our nowhere to kneel by small beds in darkness. One hundred flowers open in our hands, a name for love written in each one. ~Annie Lighthart “The Hundred Names of Love”
Each of many nights comforting a child resisting sleep, each of many moments rocking them in the dark, lulling them into the trusting soft velvet of dreams~ I feel the budding of blossomed love that our God must feel for each of us, unfurling until there is no inner spiral left, and each petal of me, one by one, opens wide, grateful.
This year’s Lenten theme for Barnstorming:
God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, and accepts us as we are. But by His grace, He does not leave us where we are. ~Tim Keller
Sure on this shining night Of star made shadows round, Kindness must watch for me This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north. All is healed, all is health. High summer holds the earth. Hearts all whole. Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone Of shadows on the stars.
Let us represent the cherubim in mystic harmony, mystic harmony, praise the Father, Son and Spirit, raise our three-fold song, raise our three-fold song, praise the Trinity, praise the Trinity, Praise our three-fold song to the Trinity, Let us now cast aside, cast aside, let us cast aside all this earthly life, cast aside, cast aside, cast aside, all this earthly life. Amen. King of all, we may receive God the King, we may receive Him! He who in glory enters in with mighty hosts of angels, with mighty hosts of angels. Alleluia!
Whatever harm I may have done In all my life in all your wide creation If I cannot repair it I beg you to repair it,
And then there are all the wounded The poor the deaf the lonely and the old Whom I have roughly dismissed As if I were not one of them. Where I have wronged them by it And cannot make amends I ask you To comfort them to overflowing,
And where there are lives I may have withered around me, Or lives of strangers far or near That I’ve destroyed in blind complicity, And if I cannot find them Or have no way to serve them,
Remember them. I beg you to remember them
When winter is over And all your unimaginable promises Burst into song on death’s bare branches. ~Anne Porter “A Short Testament” from Living Things.
When the night’s darkness lingers, beginning too early and lasting too late, I dwell within my own persistent winter, knowing I too often fail to do what is needed when it is needed.
How I look inward when I need to focus beyond myself. How I muffle my ears to unhear supplicating voices. How I turn away rather than meet a stranger’s gaze.
The wintry soul is a cold and empty place.
I appeal to God who dwells not only within my darkness, but unimaginably promises His buds of hope and warmth and color and fruit will indeed arise from my bare winter branches. He will bring me out of the night.
The neighbor’s horses idle under the roof of their three-sided shelter, looking out at the rain.
Sometimes one or another will fade into the shadows in the corner, maybe to eat, or drink.
Still, the others stand, blowing out their warm breaths. Rain rattles on the metal roof.
Their hoof prints in the corral open gray eyes to the sky, and wink each time another drop falls in. ~Jennifer Gray
The September rains have returned and will stay awhile. We, especially the horses, sigh with relief, as flies no longer crawl over their faces all day seeking a watery eye to drink from. With no flies around, there are also no longer birds tickling pony backs looking for a meal.
Our Haflingers prefer to graze under open gray skies not bothering to seek cover during the day; their mountain coats provide adequate insulation in a rain squall. Darkness descends earlier and earlier so I go out in the evening to find them standing waiting at the gate, ready for an invitation to come into the barn.
Their eyes are heavy, blinking with sleep; outside their muddy hoofprints fill with rain overnight.
It is a peaceful time for us no-longer-young ponies and farmers. We wink and nod together, ready for rain, ready for the night.
This is how the world is built in the depths we cannot see, but, stopping for a moment, we can feel it, in the solitude of any night.
In the absence of light, on the precipice of dreams we can hear a jot of humming, as the unseen parts of the world spin and gather themselves within us, inside the air that eases down the leaves and sustains, as it moves toward us, the distant calling of an owl. ~Richard Maxson “Dreams and After”
Last night we were awakened by a summer windstorm – from a muggy stillness where no air moves to sudden breezes flowing roughshod over our bed. Our wind chimes outside clanged a cacophony rather than gentle harmonic tones. The window shades became percussion instruments. Anything not fastened down went airborne.
This fortuitous storm pulled me from a bad dream of a recent stress-filled work day I didn’t manage well. As I woke startled to bed sheets blowing, I gulped at the fresh air as it passed by, allowing my dream to exhale right through the window, never to return.
Life’s intertwined moments, good, bad and indifferent, remain carefully braided together, bound and strengthened so the weaker strands are held steadfast by the enveloping twists and turns of those sturdier ones.
What was, is and will be are held together unbroken, bolstered by tougher stuff than we may think possible.
And we, swinging in the breezes, simply must hang on for dear life, if only by a slender thread.
Evening, and all the birds In a chorus of shimmering sound Are easing their hearts of joy For miles around.
The air is blue and sweet, The few first stars are white,– Oh let me like the birds Sing before night. ~Sara Teasdale “Dusk in June”
Sure on this shining night Of star made shadows round, Kindness must watch for me This side the ground. The late year lies down the north. All is healed, all is health. High summer holds the earth. Hearts all whole. Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone Of shadows on the stars. ~James Agee “Sure on this Shining Night”
It is high summer holding the earth now; our hearts whole and healed in a shimmering dusk.
I weep for wonder that we have this time, at this place, singing under these stars.
May we live sure that on another shining night, sometime, we know not when, we know not how, we will all be together again.
How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset. George MacDonald
In our modern world that never seems to rest, a sunrise can feel more daunting than a sunset. We are unprepared for the day to start: the ready-set-go of a sunrise can be overwhelming to a tired soul.
There are mornings when the new light of dawn penetrates right through our closed eyelids, enough to wake the dead, if not the sleeping. It cannot be ignored in its urgency to rouse us to action.
In contrast, the end of the day requires little preparation. Sunsets signal a slowing-down unraveling of tension, a deep cleansing breath, a letting-go of the light for another night. It eases over us, covering us like a comfortable quilt, tucking us in for the night with a kiss and hug and promise of sweet dreams.
The reason we do not fear the sunset is that we know it isn’t all there is. The black nothingness of night would be petrifying if we didn’t understand and trust that the light will return, as startling as it may be in its brightness. It is the rerunning cycle of the light and dark that reassures. It is as it was created to be, over and over.
Let the sunset tuck us in. Let the sunrise ready us for a new day.