What’s incomplete in me seeks refuge in blackberry bramble and beech trees, where creatures live without dogma and water moves in patterns more ancient than philosophy. I stand still, child eavesdropping on her elders. I don’t speak the language but my body translates best it can, wakening skin and gut, summoning the long kinship we share with everything. ~Laura Grace Weldon, “Common Ground” from Blackbird
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 great 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”
Nearly thirty months of pandemic separation and I long to share our farm with our far-flung grandchildren who live across the ocean, to watch them discover the joys and sorrows of this place we inhabit. I will tell them there is light beyond this darkness, there is refuge amid the brambles, there is kinship with what surrounds us, there is peace amid the chaos, there is a smile behind the tears, there is stillness within the noisiness, there is rescue when all seems hopeless, there is grace as the old gives way to new.
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And who has seen the moon, who has not seen Her rise from out the chamber of the deep, Flushed and grand and naked, as from the chamber Of finished bridegroom, seen her rise and throw Confession of delight upon the wave, Littering the waves with her own superscription Of bliss, till all her lambent beauty shakes towards us Spread out and known at last, and we are sure That beauty is a thing beyond the grave, That perfect, bright experience never falls To nothingness, and time will dim the moon Sooner than our full consummation here In this odd life will tarnish or pass away. ~D.H. Lawrence “Moonrise”
I could not sleep last night, tossing in turmoil while wrestling with my worries, concerned I’ve dropped the ball.
As a beacon of calm, the moon shone bright onto our bed covers before sunrise.
This glowing ball is never dropped, this holy sphere of the night remains aloft, sailing the skies, to rise again and again to light our darkest nights.
Its lambent reflection of His Love and Peace is balm; I am covered in its beauty.
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Body is something you need in order to stay on this planet and you only get one. And no matter which one you get, it will not be satisfactory. It will not be beautiful enough, it will not be fast enough, it will not keep on for days at a time, but will pull you down into a sleepy swamp and demand apples and coffee and chocolate cake.
Body is a thing you have to carry from one day into the next. Always the same eyebrows over the same eyes in the same skin when you look in the mirror, and the same creaky knee when you get up from the floor and the same wrist under the watchband. The changes you can make are small and costly—better to leave it as it is.
Body is a thing that you have to leave eventually. You know that because you have seen others do it, others who were once like you, living inside their pile of bones and flesh, smiling at you, loving you, leaning in the doorway, talking to you for hours and then one day they are gone. No forwarding address. ~Joyce Sutphen, “Living in the Body” from Coming Back to the Body.
All bodies are fragile vessels, right from the beginning. I know this because I live inside an aging one and experience its limitations daily. Yet it is the only one I’ll ever have, though an imperfect reflection of my Creator – like it or not. Frankly, I greatly respect it having kept me going for 68 years so far and hoping for a few more.
I grieve for the young and strong who are often dissatisfied with the body they are given, spending immense time and resources to change what they can and agonizing over what is unchangeable.
What is unchangeable is that we’ll leave this empty husk behind at some point when we move on, leaving no forwarding address other than @heavenabove. We have watched it happen to those we love who have died too young because of system failure from an impossible-to-survive insult, and it happens to those who simply ran out of breaths after multiple decades of functioning heart and lungs.
My imperfect body doesn’t define me as it didn’t define those who have left before me. It isn’t who I was when I came to be, and it isn’t who I will be after I depart. But it deserves my ongoing admiration, awe and honor, along with my commitment to keep it in running order as long as I am able.
And I’ll try to confirm a forwarding address before I go.
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Find a quiet rain. Then a green spruce tree. You will notice that nearly every needle has been decorated with a tiny raindrop ornament. Look closely inside the drop and there you are. In color. Upside down. Raindrops have been collecting snapshots since objects and people were placed, to their surprise, here and there on earth.
…even if we are only on display for a moment in a water drop as it clings to a pine needle, it is expected that we be on our best behavior, hair combed, jacket buttoned, no vulgar language. Smiling is not necessary, but a pleasant attitude is helpful, and would be, I think, appreciated. ~Tom Hennen from “Outdoor Photos”from Darkness Sticks to Everything
… We are, as we have always been, dangerous creatures, the enemies of our own happiness. But the only help we have ever found for this, the only melioration, is in mutual reverence.
God’s grace comes to us unmerited, the theologians say. But the grace we could extend to one another we consider it best to withhold in very many cases, presumptively, or in the absence of what we consider true or sufficient merit (we being more particular than God), or because few gracious acts, if they really deserve the name, would stand up to a cost-benefit analysis. This is not the consequence of a new atheism, or a systemic materialism that afflicts our age more than others. It is good old human meanness, which finds its terms and pretexts in every age. The best argument against human grandeur is the meagerness of our response to it, paradoxically enough.
And yet, the beautiful persists, and so do eloquence and depth of thought, and they belong to all of us because they are the most pregnant evidence we can have of what is possible in us. ~ Marilynne Robinson from “What Are We Doing Here?”
These past two months I’ve been trudging along feeling overheated, dry and cranky from the lack of rain — each step an effort, each thought a burden, taking every opportunity to grump about myself, the weather, the pandemic, and my fellow man.
Now that we finally have had a good rain over the last 12 hours, I am reminded I am now preserved in the camera eye of the raindrops I pass, if only for an instant – each snapping an instagram selfie photo of my attitude.
It wouldn’t hurt me to stop rolling my eyes and cringing at the world. I might even try on a smile in a spirit of grace and forgiveness, even if the events of the day may not call for it. At least those smiles, reflected in the lens of each raindrop, will soak the soil when it is let go to fall earthward.
Planting smiles drop by drop: this overnight rain is a gift of grace to heal my grumbles – pregnant evidence of the beauty possible within me.
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There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream, The earth, and every common sight, To me did seem Apparell’d in celestial light, The glory of a dream.
The rainbow comes and goes, And lovely is the rose; The moon doth with delight Look round her when the heavens are bare; Waters on a starry night Are beautiful and fair; The sunshine is a glorious birth; But yet I know, where’er I go, That there hath pass’d away a glory from the earth.
Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind. ~William Wordsworth from Intimations of Immortality
I woke immersed in sadness; it doesn’t happen often. Whether a dream surrounded me in sorrow, or perhaps the weight of grayness of the morning, I couldn’t tell.
I felt burdened and weepy, wondering where hope had fled just overnight.
Even though I know true glory lies beyond this soil, I still look for it here, seeking encouragement in midst of trouble. I set out to find light which clothes the ordinary, becoming resplendent and shimmering from celestial illumination.
Though I may sometimes grieve for what is lost, there is enough, there is always enough each morning to remind me God’s gift of grace and strength transforms this day and every day.
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Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead.
For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.
It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. ~G.K. Chesterton from Orthodoxy
To an infant, nothing is monotonous — it is all so new. The routine of the day is very simple and reassuring: sleep, wake, cry, nurse, clean up, gaze out at the world, turn on the smiles –repeat.
The routine becomes more complex as we age until it no longer resembles a routine, if we can help it. We don’t bother getting up to watch the sun rise yet again and don’t notice the sun set once more. We truly flounder in the wilderness of our own making.
Weary as we may be with routine, our continual search for the next new thing costs us in time and energy. We age every time we sigh with boredom or turn away from the mundane and everyday, becoming less and less like our younger purer selves.
Who among us exults in monotony and celebrates predictability and enjoys repetition, whether it is sunrise or sunset or an infinite number of daisies?
God does. He sees our short attention spans. He alone remains consistent, persistent and insistent because we need someone to lead us out of our wilderness.
Do it again, God. Please — please do it again.
My life flows on in endless song above earth’s lamentation. I hear the real, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation. No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock, I’m clinging
Since love prevails in heaven and earth, How can I keep from singing? While though the tempest round me roars, I know the truth, it liveth. And though the darkness round me close, songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock, I’m clinging Since love prevails in heaven and earth, How can I keep from singing? I Lift my eyes. The cloud grows thin; I see the blue above it. And day by day, this pathway smooths, since first I learned to love it.
No storm can shake my inmost calm, I hear the music ringing. It sounds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing? How Can I Keep from singing? Keep Singing.
Will you come and follow me If I but call your name? Will you go where you don’t know And never be the same? Will you let my love be shown, Will you let me name be known, Will you let my life be grown In you and you in me?
Will you leave yourself behind If I but call your name? Will you care for cruel and kind And never be the same? Will you risk the hostile stare Should your life attract or scare. Will you let me answer prayer In you and you in me?
Will you let the blinded see If I but call your name? Will you set the prisoners free And never be the same? Will you kiss the leper clean, And do this as such unseen, And admit to what I mean In you and you in me?
Will you love the “you” you hide If I but call your name? Will you quell the fear inside And never be the same? Will you use the faith you’ve found To reshape the world around, Through my sight and touch and sound In you and you in me?
Lord, your summons echoes true When you but call my name. Let me turn and follow you And never be the same. In your company I’ll go Where your love and footsteps show. Thus I’ll move and live and grow In you and you in me.
Romantic love is blind to everything except what is lovable and lovely, but Christ’s love sees us with terrible clarity and sees us whole. Christ’s love so wishes our joy that it is ruthless against everything in us that diminishes our joy. The worst sentence Love can passis that we behold the suffering which Love has endured for our sake, and that is also our acquittal. The justice and mercy of the judge are ultimately one. ~Frederick Buechner
As we prepare for the season of Lent to begin this week:
We see with terrible clarity the Love and forgiveness shown to the guilty, the Love given freely to the undeserving, the Love paying our ransom in full, the Love that endures suffering to release us from our bondage.
This Judge convicts by meting out justice upon His own head, then serves the whole sentence Himself: He sets us free to feel and know and see and share with one another the Love we are shown.
We have inherited “a season under stress” shaped by darkness and light, dread and hope, judgment and grace, second and first comings, terror and promise, end and beginning. ~J. Neil Alexander “A Sacred Time in Tension”based on writings by Professor Richard Hoefler
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4: 6
The love that descended to Bethlehem is not the easy sympathy of an avuncular God, but a burning fire whose light chases away every shadow, floods every corner, and turns midnight into noon. This love reveals sin and overcomes it. It conquers darkness with such forcefulness and intensity that it scatters the proud, humbles the mighty, feeds the hungry, and sends the rich away empty-handed (Luke 1:51-53). ~from the editors’ introduction in Watch for the Light
Claiming this day as the start of the Christian Advent observance is not really accurate. According to theologian Karl Barth: “what other time or season can or will the Church ever have but that of Advent?.”
We as Christians must continually wait, watch and prepare for Who is to come. That does not end with the birth of our Jesus Christ on Christmas day; it is merely the beginning of His rescue mission for humanity.
As a result, we live in the “already” – Christ has come to earth to redeem His people in a time of fear and brokenness – and here we dwell “in between.” There remains the “not yet” of the future day He returns in glory.
This is a stressful tension and no more so than this year when nothing feels quite regular or routine.
We have always been an impatient people. We don’t like waiting, particularly when we are in the middle of a mess of our own making. What we tend to forget is how much this wait is worth as we already know our salvation is in His hands. We must live out our life in that tension.
So we prepare for this God who became man: this incarnate God of endless might and everlasting Light.
A tender shoot has started up from a root of grace, as ancient seers imparted from Jesse’s holy race: It blooms without a blight, blooms in the cold bleak winter, turning our darkness into light.
This shoot Isaiah taught us, from Jesse’s root should spring; The Virgin Mary brought us the branch of which we sing; Our God of endless might gave her this child to save us, Thus turning darkness into light.
Every time I turn to peer at my reflection in the mirror,
a cruel bargain comes in play: the glass takes off another day
from my expected living span. It’s vanity’s fair payment plan.
Each time I look I pay, alas. I see already how the glass
has laced its silver in my hair, my youth was stolen unaware.
The real me just fades away, glance by glance, day by day,
until too late I’ll turn to see the mirror has stolen off with me! ~John Thornberg “Stolen Glances”
Reflections sometimes are blurred and not altogether an accurate representation of the real thing.
When I look at how I’ve changed over the years, as I pass by, just catching a glance in the mirror, I marvel at how the same brain and heart can exist in such a changing shell. I am still me, but the mirror seems to be stealing away the girl and young woman that I was.
And it is as it must be: no fountain of youth on this soil.