Created for Community

autumn leaves

Early one morning I brave the remnants of a wild windstorm to walk the Millboro Road. The winds are still strong, but they have blown the cloud cover away, and the sun sparkles just above the horizon. It’s uphill at first, and into the wind. I have to turn my face sideways just to breathe when the gusts come whooshing down the wind tunnel of a road.

I am alone, save for a crow in the bright blue above a cropped field. I cannot tell whether his flight pattern is one of frustrated aim, or whether he is leisurely giving himself to the dive and bluster overhead.

I know if I just keep my head down and my legs moving, I can make it to the top of the hill, and the way back will be smooth sailing. I needed to be out here this morning. I know there is a glory here for the taking, the wild glory of blue and eastern light.

My hands are getting cold. I put gloves on before I left, but they are not enough. My singular fingers cannot sustain their warmth in this wind. I should have worn mitts.

I think of this small thing – that fingers stay warmed when they are together – and the words of my morning reading come to mind:

“Expressed in the act of creation is a will for community.”
(Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love)

Yes, even the cold of a November storm shows this to be true.

Creation is not only beauty to be enjoyed in solitary walks, or raw material employed for individual gain. Creation can scare us to death when it rips the the shingles from our roofs and topples the landmark trees.

Rare is the man or woman on this spinning globe who survives alone.

The wildness of weather, the danger of mountain and ocean, the fear of what prowls in the night, the epic struggle of man vs. nature – all this drives us to community. For shelter, for safety, for survival.

God created a world that would not suffer singularity gladly.

The same glory that calls and draws us up the golden hillside sends us running for mutual cover. Creation necessitates community. A handful of people may gather, gather and thrive.

By the handful we are warmed. By the handful we must learn to love.

This is the Creator’s desire; He who created out of an overflow of interpersonal love wills us to know His way of being. And so His masterpiece is crafted naked and lonely, surprisingly fragile in its image bearing.

This fragility, these howling fiends . . . Not a sign of neglect or nefarious dealing. No, this need was woven in from the “in the beginning.” This need nudges (hurtles!) us in the direction of community, where need that is spoken and shared and jointly borne opens a space for love.

Together we see our Creator’s grandest design. Together we learn what this power of love is, who God Himself is. We learn who we were meant to be.

I see it, here on the harvested hillside. I feel it, in my chilly fingers, in the wind now at my back, pushing me down into the valley. There the smoke from our chimney is caught and lifted to the northeast. Within that humble outpost against the elements are the other four members that make up my own pocketful of family. Just one hand, needing another, and another, needing to join in the circle around the fire.

The fire dances and warms, lighting our faces with divine recognition, linking hearts with one another and the powerful mystery that brought us all into being – the Creator’s will for love.

 

~lg

S.D.G.

When all the world seems brown

As the earth turns toward winter, there is a hushed darkness in the early morning hours. Come November, I stop resisting the retreat of the sun. In this perfectly timed universe, the wisdom of God ordains the season. 

In the natural world, there is a shift – the sky is a panorama of scrolling geese – and a slowing. The bright colours of autumn lay down their glory, a final bow as October’s curtain closes. The woods pull up a blanket of brown. 

Brown. As a child, I hated those weeks between the disappearance of the leaves and the coming of the snow. Brown was barren. Brown was sad. Brown was nothingness, an empty world waiting for the white whirl of festive fun. 

Growing up in the north, with its early fall, October was the dreariest of all months for me as a child. Here on the east coast, the branches don’t empty quite as early, and November is the ugly in-between month. Even as an adult, I just want it to be over. I don’t want to wait it out. 

Just about now, it’s easy to get sucked into retail time, an artificial invention designed for maximum economic benefit. All the flyers and catalogues are so sparkly this first week of November! Let’s just fast forward to Christmas, shall we?

But the clock of economy can do us a grave disservice, if it disconnects us from the natural rhythms of life. On retail time, there’s no such thing as waiting, no such thing as slow, no such thing as bare. No such thing as brown. 

Brown doesn’t sell. 

But while the powers that be hurl us from Halloweenland to Christmasville in the twinkling of a night, there is an “other” world outside that keeps its own pace. Evening and morning. A little darker each day. A little browner. 

Before the day is out, I throw my boots on and step outside, sneaking away for just a few minutes of fresh air. It’s a typical day – cloudy, a little damp, not too windy. Ordinary. Our Manitoba Maple is naked after the last bout of high winds. The garden remains lie limp, save for a few gangly weeds poking straight up that have gone to seed. The lawn is still mercifully green, but not much else is. 

I look down the old lane toward the woods and give a little sigh. Ah, November. 

Taken as a whole, the picture is dull. Layers of grey and brown, with no contrast. No focal point, no eye catcher. 

Is there beauty here? 

The camera isn’t satisfied, and neither am I. But the more I look, the more I begin to see. 

“Come closer,” the woods seem to whisper. 

Before I know it, this backyard walk has turned into a treasure hunt of tiny surprises. Textures, shapes, and subtleties of colour, all these come into focus as I bend toward the earth. 

The beauty comes with the beholding. Brown does not blush upon first glances, but opens her heart to those with searching gaze. If fear is the beginning of wisdom, then wonder is the beginning of love. 

Can I learn to love this season, not for what it promises beyond, but for what it is right now?

Drawn deeper into the forest, time seems to change. I am neither waiting nor rushing, only being, only discovering, only receiving. 

Brown might not sell. But it has something to offer the willing eye, the patient soul. There is both wisdom and love here. This too, is ordained.

And here is the secret of all Novembers . . . 

Brown isn’t all there is. 

These signs emerge like flashes of joy, like some inside joke I’ve finally been let in on. The deadfall isn’t the whole picture. Gifts abound. This too, is a season of grace..

~lg

S.D.G.

A quiet season

A quiet season by Lindsey GallantIt’s been a quiet season. I haven’t been writing much at all. There’s no lack of thought, of wrestling with ideas, or experimenting with words. But nothing seems to come out right. I can’t count how many drafts I’ve abandoned midway. Perhaps whatever is going on inside is just not ready to be visible to the rest of the world yet.

It’s hard not to feel the pressure to keep posting, to keep whatever small audience there may be here “engaged.” Social media reminds me continually how many days have passed since my last post.

But I don’t want to write just to keep an algorithm happy, or even an audience happy.

So I wait. Until I feel like I have something to say again.

It’s been a different season. Even God has seemed quiet. Not absent by any means, but rather strangely silent. And so I have been learning to walk with Him without our usual conversation. I have stopped trying to figure out why this may be. I trust He is leading me, and that one day I shall look back and say, “Ah, now I see.”

There is something taking shape, but its form has yet to be revealed. One day, I hope to put words to it.

For now, God has spoken just enough for my daily bread. He assures me of His presence. He says, “Be still and know that I am God.” It is enough.

 

~lg

S.D.G.

Psalm 1: Riverside Prayer

Praying the Psalms

After a lengthy hiatus, I am drawn back into the Book of Psalms, to mediate and to pray my way through this rich heritage. I am especially pulled by the psalms which speak of streams and rivers. This imagery is something I would like to explore this summer. How fitting to begin with Psalm 1. 

“Blessed is the man [whose] delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.”

Psalm 1:2-3

O Lord,

Your law is life, a living stream which feeds the roots of my spirit. It is no dusty rulebook, but the sap of my soul.

Let not my wandering feet stray to the path of the wicked, but plant me in the way of righteousness.

Show me the difference between merely sitting and living rooted. I do not want to be chaff when the wind arises. I want to be firm, my foundation stretching into the fertile soil of your riverside. On the banks of the living word, I will rise and yield my fruit.

Amen.

~lg

S.D.G.

The lad with the paper bag lunch

I am the lad with the paper bag lunch. Five barley loaves and two small fishes. The food of the poor. Coarse, dark bread, that kind that gets shared with animals. Dried fish, just a little something to spread on the bread and stave off the gnawing in my stomach. 

Perhaps I did open the bag in a surge of generosity, inspired by the great and mysterious rabbi. Perhaps I wanted him to notice me. Perhaps I truly wanted to help. Or perhaps I came along hoping to make a profit, to sell to the all the suckers who came unprepared, disciples included. Perhaps I’m just looking for my next meal. You never know. 

But that’s the point. Does it matter whether I’m some boy-hero, ever to be lauded for my humble offering, or whether I’m Galilee’s own Oliver Twist, scraping by on the pennies of the religious multitudes? 

Does it matter how I got here? Or only that, at the end of the day, what I counted as mine is now in the master’s hands? 

Who can say what hopes and hoarded manna we carry around in brown paper bags. All I know is, it’s not enough. It’s never enough.

I thought I knew what poverty was. The five against the five thousand. How’s that for odds. But it wasn’t until he held the loaves that I saw it clearly. All I had, crumbling between those fingers. The five against the One. Completely outnumbered. 

And yet, he gave thanks. For my sack of crumbs. Others could have brought more, and better. He could even have created the feast from nothing. Some days nothing seems more appealing than what I’ve got. 

But he thanked me. And he thanked God. As if we were in cahoots somehow. And he uttered one of those upside-down blessings than turns the poor into kings and the beggars into sons. With his own flesh he broke the bread and began to feed the whole wide world, right there on the grass. Barley loaves have never tasted so good.

Please sir, I want some more. I can’t even look him in the eye, and my bony knees are trembling. The paper bag is crumpled in my hands. “Have as much as you want,” he says. And I let go of the bag. 

I am the lad with the paper bag lunch. Does it matter how I got here? Or only that, at the end of the day, what he counted as his is now in my hands.

 

~lg

S.D.G.