An Infinite Capacity

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us to love.
~Saint Augustine

When I am only one,
there can be nothing special
to attract attention
or affection

When I blend into the background
among a multitude of others,
indistinct and plain,
as common as grains of sand

There is nothing to hold me up
as rare, unique,
or exceptional.

Yet it is not about my worth,
my work, my words,
none worthy enough to deserve His love;

it is about His infinite capacity
to love whoever He has formed

by the touch of His vast hand,
by the contraction of His immense heart,
by the boundlessness of His breath
reaching me
as if
as if
as if
I were the only one.

Waiting in Wilderness: A Man Wondering

Nate Gibson at Sendai, Japan
Nate while visiting home on the farm

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.
~St. Augustine of Hippo

Our firstborn son turns thirty five years old today. Nate was born on a day very much like this: sunny, frosty, a not-yet-spring kind of early morning. He was so welcome and cherished after years of our struggling to have children. Nate seemed to come with a sense of wonder and enthusiasm for whatever life had in store for him.

First-time parents don’t think much about where their child’s path will lead in a mere twenty years – it seems so far off. We knew he was a home-body. Nate wanted to write and teach and settle into the small town life that he loved and understood.

But God had other plans. God asked him to wonder at himself in relation to the world beyond his small town. So Nate was called to teach in Japan within days of graduating with his teaching degree in 2008. He has remained there ever since, reaching the hearts and minds of well over a thousand individual students in his classroom during those years, while falling in love with his soulmate Tomomi and becoming father to their two beautiful children.

Nate has discovered the irony of moving from a town where the majority of his classmates were blonde to thriving where he is the only redhead among thousands in a train station throng. He has learned a new culture, a new language and a new way of thinking about what “home” in God’s kingdom really means.

When we visit Nate now, only virtually since the pandemic, we see a man who has traveled far, in miles and spiritually. He continues to wonder where God may call him, along with Tomomi and their family, next. We cherish them all, from so far away, no matter where their home may be, as they embody servant love wherever they are needed most.

Happy Birthday, Nate!
Sending our love across the many miles of ocean that separates us but our shared hearts remain close.

The towering tree spreads his greening canopy —
A veil between the soil and sky—
Not in selfish vanity,
But the gentle thrush to shade and shelter.
So it is with love.
For when we love,
Simply love,
Even as we are loved,
Our weary world can be transformed.
The busy thrush builds her nest below —
A fortnight’s work to weave and set—
Not for herself alone,
But her tender brood to shield and cherish.
And so it is with love.
For when we love,
Simply love,
Even as we are loved,
Our weary world can be transformed Into the Kingdom of God!
~Charles Silvestri

How Late I Came

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How late I came to love you,
O Beauty so ancient and so fresh,
how late I came to love you.

You were within me,
yet I had gone outside to seek you.

Unlovely myself,
I rushed toward all those lovely things you had made.
And always you were with me.
I was not with you.

All those beauties kept me far from you –
although they would not have existed at all
unless they had their being in you.

You called,
you cried,
you shattered my deafness.

You sparkled,
you blazed,
you drove away my blindness.

You shed your Fragrance,
and I drew in my breath and I pant for you,
I tasted and now I hunger and thirst.
You touched me, and now I burn with longing.

~St. Augustine 

 

 

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God spoke
but I didn’t listen.
God fed me
but I chose junk food.
God showed me beauty
but I couldn’t see Him.
God smelled like the finest rose
but I turned away.
God touched me
but I was numb.

So He sent His Son
as Word and food,
beauty and fragrance,
reaching out broken hands
so I would know
my hunger and thirst
is only and always
for Him alone.

 

 

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The Voice of the Earth

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In the darkness something was happening at last.

A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and…. hard to decide from what direction it was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself.

There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it.

The earth was of many colors: they were fresh, hot, and vivid.  They made you feel excited; until you saw the Singer himself, and then you forgot everything else.
~C.S. Lewis from The Magician’s Nephew

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And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
~Raymond Carver “Late Fragment”

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Beautiful things and varied shapes appeal to [the eyes],
vivid and well-matched colors attract;
but let not these captivate my soul.
Rather let God ravish it;
he made these things exceedingly good, to be sure,
but he is my good, not they.
~St. Augustine

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All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.
~Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

 

Every time I open my eyes
and listen for the voice of the morning,
I am reminded how precious is this moment,
how intense is each breath and each heartbeat.

We are created for this.
We are, everyone of us, beloved.
We are meant to wonder breathless at this,
without ceasing.

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What Does Love Look Like?

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What does love look like?
It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.
~St. Augustine

So many sighs and sorrows and tears today
for the martyring of Your people in South Carolina
for the color of their skin,
for their faith in You.

When will the hatred end?
When will we all be one people,
united in Your arms?

Only when our love looks like Your Love,
Love that sacrifices Himself for the good of others,
rather than sacrificing others for no good at all.

Lord, come quickly.

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When I Love

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But what do I love, when I love You? 
not physical bodies,
nor temporal glory,
nor the brightness of the light,
dear to earthly eyes,
nor sweet melodies of varied songs,
nor the fragrant smell of flowers,
and ointments, and spices,
nor manna and honey,
nor limbs welcoming the embracing of flesh.

None of these I love,
when I love my God;
and yet I love a kind of light,
and melody, and fragrance, and food,
and a kind of embrace
when I love my God,
–the light, melody, fragrance, food,
embrace of my inner man:
where my soul is floodlit by light
which space cannot contain,
and there is sound that time cannot seize,
and there is fragrance which no breeze disperses,
and there is a taste for food no amount of eating can lessen,
and there is a bond of union that no satiety can part.
This is it what I love when I love my God.
~Augustine in Confessions

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Listening to Lent — Searching Restlessly

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O Beauty ancient, O Beauty so new
Late have I loved Thee and feebly yet do.
Though you were with me, I was not with You.
Then You shone Your face and I was blind no more

Chorus:
My heart searches restlessly and finds no rest ‘till it rests in Thee.
O Seeker You sought for me, Your love has found me;
I am taken by thee.

I sought this world and chased its finer things,
Yet were these not in You, they would not have been.
My ceaseless longing hid the deeper truth,
In all my desirings, I was desiring You.

Lord, in my deafness You cried out to me.
I drew my breath and now Your fragrance I breathe
O Fount of Life, You are forever the same;
O Fire of Love, come set me aflame.
~Daniel Purkapile, “Prayer of St. Augustine”

To see when blind
to hear when deaf
to breathe when dying
to love and be loved when undeserving~

it is all possible,
it is all present,
it is ever constant,
always in Him.

 

He is My Good

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Beautiful things and varied shapes appeal to [the eyes],
vivid and well-matched colors attract;
but let not these captivate my soul.
Rather let God ravish it;
he made these things exceedingly good, to be sure,
but he is my good, not they.
~St. Augustine

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A Narrow Dwelling

doorway at Stirling Castle, Scotland

O Lord,
The house of my soul is narrow;
enlarge it that you may enter in.
~Augustine of Hippo

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…the miracle of God comes not only from above;
it also comes through us;
it is also dwelling in us. 
It has been given to every person,
and it lies in every soul as something divine,
and it waits.
Calling,
it waits for the hour when the soul shall open itself,

having found its God and its home. 
When this is so,
the soul will not keep its wealth to itself,
but will let it flow out into the world.
~Eberhard Arnold