Fragrance of the Promises

O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow

The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart

O troubled dust concealing
An undivided love
The heart beneath is teaching
To the broken heart above

Let the heavens falter
Let the earth proclaim
Come healing of the altar
Come healing of the name

O longing of the branches
To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries
To purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb
~Leonard Cohen “Come healing”

We are all in need of healing, none more so than those who have been affected by the pandemic, either dealing themselves with the illness and its long-lasting effects, or grieving the untimely loss of family and friends.

There is need for healing in relationships, either because of too much proximity or not nearly enough due to quarantine.

There is need for a sense of purpose without a schedule of regular employment or schooling to occupy our days.

There is need for healing for the wrongs we do, intentionally or unintentionally.

Our hardships are meager compared to the plagues of the past but they are nevertheless real and undeserved, so we pray for relief, we pray for grace and mercy, we pray for healing of mind, body and spirit.

Even a tiny blue forget-me-not blossom reminds us: we need to seek the fragrance of promises made and harvest the fruit of promises kept.

God does not make promises to please us, like a politician in an election year. He keeps promises because He knows we need to believe they will happen according to His plan— He forgets-us-not because we are the troubled dust upon which He has blown sweet and fragrant breath.

Unimaginable Promises

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.

Best of Barnstorming Photos Summer/Fall 2018

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I walked

on New Year’s Day

beside the trees

my father now gone planted

evenly following

the road

Each

            spoke

~Lorine Niedecker (1967)

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With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

~W.S. Merwin “To the New Year”

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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
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No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference.
It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left.
It is the nativity of our common Adam.

~Charles Lamb 

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We come to this new year
naked as dormant branches
in the freezing night.

Mere potential barely budded,
nothing covered up,
no hiding in shame.

A shared and common birthday of renewal,
a still life nativity in a winter garden,
a roaring fire refining what is no longer of use,
another chance to make it right.

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Grant, O Lord,
that as the years change,
I may find rest in Your eternal changelessness.

May I meet this new year bravely,
secure in the faith that,
while we come and go,
and life changes around us,

You are always the same,
guiding us with Your wisdom,
and protecting us with Your love.
Amen.

~William Temple (1881–1944)

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An Advent Paradox: Waiting For What We Cannot See

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I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
 My soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Psalm 130: 5-6 from a Song of Ascents

 

 

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Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps.
— Henri Nouwen from Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

 

 

 

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To wait is hard when we know the value of the gift that awaits us. We know exactly what is in the package since we have watched it being carefully chosen, wrapped and presented to us to open.

Not yet though, not quite yet.  So we wait.

Even more so, we wait and hope for what we do not see but know is coming, like a groaning in the labor of childbirth.

The waiting is never easy; it is painful to be patient, staying alert to possibility and hope when we are exhausted, barely able to function.  Others won’t understand why we wait,  nor do they comprehend what we could possibly be waiting for when it remains unseen.

Yet we persevere together, with patience, watching and hoping, like Mary and Joseph, like Elizabeth and Zechariah, like the shepherds, like the Magi of the east, like Simeon and Anna in the temple.

This is the meaning of Advent:
we are a community groaning together in sweet anticipation and expectation of the gift of Morning to come.

 

 

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For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Romans 8:24-25

 

 

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We are waiting, we are trusting
We are longing for Your blessings,
Lord And our faith is firmly anchored
On Your never-changing Word

Spirit fall down, fill our souls now 


Lord, we gather in Your name
Your power
All Your promises we claim
Together bind us with grace
The body of Christ
All for Your presence we wait

We are waiting we are trusting
We are longing,
Lord descend
Let a flame of love be kindled
While before Your throne we bend
Spirit fall down, fill our souls now

Lord, we gather in Your name Your power
All Your promises we claim
Together bind us with grace
The body of Christ
All for Your presence we wait

We are waiting, we are trusting
We are longing,
Lord revive
Death is fading, hope is rising
In Your Spirit we’re alive

Lord, we gather in Your name Your power
All Your promises we claim
Together bind us with grace
The body of Christ
All for Your presence we wait

Lord, we gather in Your name Your power
All Your promises we claim
Together bind us with grace
The body of Christ

All for Your presence we wait
All for Your presence we wait
All for Your presence we wait
~All Sons & Daughters

 

Thirty Seven Years Ago Today

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Before God and this gathering, I vow from my heart and spirit that I will be your wife/husband for as long as we both shall live.

I will love you with faithfulness, knowing its importance in sustaining us through good times and bad.

I will love you with respect, serving your greatest good and supporting your continued growth.

I will love you with compassion, knowing the strength and power of forgiveness.

I will love you with hope, remembering our shared belief in the grace of God and His guidance of our marriage.

“And at home, by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be–and whenever I look up, there will be you.”

(our wedding vows for our September 19, 1981 wedding at First Seattle Christian Reformed Church — the last line adapted from Thomas Hardy’s  “Far From the Madding Crowd”)

 

 

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I want to remember us this way—
late September sun streaming through
the window, bread loaves and golden
bunches of grapes on the table,
spoonfuls of hot soup rising
to our lips, filling us
with what endures.
~Peter Pereira from “A Pot of Red Lentils”

 

 

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I cherish the moments that are most basic, plain, and simple and have the best chance of happening again.  I’m not talking about exotic travels, nor the extravagant meal out, nor the once in a lifetime experience. My most cherished moments are everyday, and I store them up to fill the decades full.

Most cherished of all is “that look” that says “I want to look into your eyes forever and get lost there.”

I am lucky enough to know what that feels like.  I get that butterfly in the stomach feeling anytime it happens.  My husband held my eyes with his from across a room early in our relationship, and thirtyseven years later, he still holds them when he looks at me, even over bowls of soup at the kitchen table.

And I look at him just that way as well.  The eyes say what words cannot.  The eyes don’t lie.  The eyes never change even though the years bring gray hair and crow’s feet.

It is what endures. I want to look at you forever, just like this, just as you are, wherever you are because of who you are.

 

View More: http://karenmullen.pass.us/gibson-order

Seized of Quiet

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Leaves wait as the reversal of wind
comes to a stop. The stopped woods
are seized of quiet; waiting for rain
bird & bug conversations stutter to a
stop.

…the rain begins to fall. Rain-strands,
thin slips of vertical rivers, roll
the shredded waters out of the cloud
and dump them puddling to the ground.
Like sticks half-drowned the trees
lean so my eyes snap some into
lightning shapes, bent & bent.

Whatever crosses over
through the wall of rain
changes; old leaves are
now gold. The wall is
continuous, doorless. True,
to get past this wall
there’s no need for a door
since it closes around me
as I go through.
~Marie Ponsot from “End of October”

There’s no turning around now
that the clock has fallen back.
We commit our stumbling feet to the path
that trudges toward winter,
silenced and seized
by a relentless momentum of doorless darkness.
There is no escape hatch:
we choose to live in gladness,
knowing that promises of a lighter day
are always kept.

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Being Past Our Sight

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It would be best to travel light
Between the darkness and the light,
From light of sun to blaze of star
Wherever many mansions are
Or are not, being past our sight
Between the darkness and the light.
~Vassar Miller from “Traveling Light”

I strain to see what I cannot.
I want to see like an eagle, great distances in precise and exacting detail,
or like a microscope scrolling close down to the infinity
within the universe of the cell.

I want to see where I now stand
between the darkness and the light,
how much shadow falls
on me and from me.

I hope to see where I will be,
beyond the limits of sight,
where promises prepare
the darkness to yield to everlasting light.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
John 14:2

Blown Away

photo by Nate Gibson

“Flung is too harsh a word for the rush of the world. Blown is more like it, but blown by a generous, unending breath.”
Annie Dillard

It isn’t possible.  The five year old me who had a sudden terrifying revelation that I would some day cease to be has become the almost fifty eight year old me who is more terrified at the head long rush of life than of its end.  The world hurtles through space and time at a pace that leaves me breathless.  Throughout my fifty-plus years, I have felt flung all too frequently,  bruised and weary from the hurry and hubbub.

Good thing there is someone else breathing each breath for me or I would have never made it another minute.  I’d be down and gone in a heartbeat.

Now comes a few days of breathing space, taking a respite from routine.  I’m lifted lighter, drifting where I’m blown, less weighted with the next thing to do and the next place to be.

Instead I just be and always will be.  Be blown away unending.  Blown by breath that loves, fills and nurtures, its generous promise hopeful and fulfilled.

The old me simply ceases to be.  Blown away.

If only the five year old me could have known.

“Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.”
— Mary Oliver

photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Nate Gibson

Shedding Some Light

I’m a bit confused here.

While more states, including my own, grant the legal right to marry to same sex couples, more and more heterosexual couples are rejecting official marriage that includes a signed “piece of paper”, preferring to bear their children out of wedlock. What one minority segment of U.S. society has fought hard for over several decades, now granted through society’s expanding acceptance and tolerance of diverse lifestyles, the heterosexual majority increasingly deems marriage worthless and to be avoided.

Can someone shed some light on what is going on here?

I’m all for celebrating legal sanctioning of personal commitment. I have seen what happens when there is no commitment to commitment. Without steadfast loyalty, dependability, predictability, and honoring of promises made, relationships flounder and fizzle, descending into selfish silos of an “every person for themselves” approach to life. I watched it happen late in my parents’ marriage as their focus became less on the inherent value of the union of two people who made vows before God to stay together through thick and thin, and more on what’s best for the individual when needs go unmet. Any divorce is heartbreaking and painful, but the implosion of a 35 year marriage is truly tragic and unnecessary. Ironically, their original commitment reignited ten years later as they married again for the last few years of my father’s life.

There are now too many scarred and scared young people unwilling to take the step of marriage, having grown up inside the back and forth visitation homes of divorce or in a home offering no significant modeling of long term emotional commitment. Even monogamous devotion to a new sexual partner is seen as unnecessarily restrictive, while an unplanned new life conceived within that relationship becomes too easily postponed until it is “convenient” for the unprepared parents. We have forgotten what promises mean, what stability represents to a relationship and children, how trusting obedience to the longevity of the union should trump short term individual desires.

My clinic day increasingly is filled with the detritus of failed and failing relationships. Too many of my young adult patients who describe symptoms of depression and anxiety struggle with whether they want to continue to live at all, sometimes expressing their misery in escalating self harming behaviors or anesthetizing with alcohol or recreational drugs. They describe the chaos of parents living sequentially with multiple partners, of no certain “home” outside their school dorm or apartment, unsolvable complications with half- and step- sibling relationships, and all too frequently financial uncertainty. Many grew up supervised by TV and computer games rather than being held accountable to (mostly absent) parental expectations. They are more comfortable with on-line communication than risk being truthful about who they really are with flesh and blood people they see every day. They fear failure as they have seldom been allowed to make mistakes and subsequently experience forgiveness and grace from those who love them. They are emotional orphans.

In short, they know little about how love manifests through self-sacrifice and faithfulness.

Keeping commitment becomes the light that illuminates our lives, as reliable as the fact the sun rises every morning.

At least on that we can depend.