Moving On

Sometimes there is no explanation.

Only a need to retreat, to quit the lodgings of one world and take up residence in another.

Sometimes the walls close in and the cracks in the foundation are laid bare. And you try renovating, but there’s asbestos all through it. Perhaps you’ve built up too much in the way of stuff here anyway, and it’s hard to choose what to keep and what to toss. So you leave it all behind.

The first few steps are hesitant, as if to test the sanity of it all. Will the house itself reach out and pull you back? Will your heart break for the memories in gilded frames? And then an old song drifts up from your youth, the song of the baptists stepping into the water. No turning back.

And you actually laugh for relief. This is not your address. It never was.

The sun bounds up above the horizon, bright and blinding. Everything makes sense in the morning of the third day. And you begin to run, upstream and to the east, to the headwaters you’ve never yet seen. And a straight and narrow path opens up before you, and if you can just reach the doorstep, you know you’ll be ok.

Weak, fainting, crazy, crying, doesn’t matter how you get there. It’s home. Not of your own making, but His.

Perhaps there’s an explanation after all, foolish and straightforward though it may be.

But I’ll be the King’s fool over any other.

And I’ll be a doorkeeper, or the sparrow in her nest, or even the ashes beneath the altar. I’ll trade my thousand nights and mornings for this one day. Here I’ll die and here I’ll live.




November’s Bones

Back home, it is good to walk slowly on the grass by the river. It is spongy and still green, though the rushes are browning and the cattails are bursting at the seams. It is good to breathe deeply, and feel small under this crisp blue dome. It is good to lay my hands on the trunk of the sugar maple sapling, and know that though its leaves have fallen, it has already gone to work on buds for spring. It does not sleep without hope. Indeed, it rests to be renewed. It doesn’t fight the season God has ordained, but lays its summer foliage on autumn’s altar with a graceful flourish.

November lays us bare. November shows our bones for what they truly are. I could look for ways to hide, for a blanket to cover the awkward brown between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But there is something comforting after all about being seen. Not by crowds of camera wielding tourists, but by the sun and the spruces and the birds that stay behind. There’s no need to dress up, to make up, to put my best foot forward.

It’s enough to walk beside the naked trees, and feel my own frailty, and shed a tear for the October that will never be again. I finger the tightly furled buds and marvel that they dare show even a hint of promise, knowing what storms the winter will bring.

November lays us bare, but there is a kindness in its honesty. Simply be, the willows whisper, in all your barren bones and audacious hope. It is good. It is well.



The Orbit of Love

~ In memory of my uncle, Ian Raymer, and in honour of the family I’ve been blessed with. 

Love is this magic that orbits us all.

When the ground beneath my feet is shaking, I close my eyes and call out for it. It’s right there, and if I lift up my heart and stand on tiptoe, I enter its orbit.

Here, there are no minutes or miles to separate us.

Here, I see your smile and hear your laugh, and my spirit touches yours.

This is the magic of love. It is the atmosphere of the soul, where nothing is ever diseased, nothing ever dies. It is God’s own breath, and in its ever circling flow we meet, and are held, and live again.

This is the magic of love. It is the bridge between earth and heaven. It is God’s own heart, jumping out of His chest, and making a place in the void that divides us. No more darkness, no more fear.

This is the magic of love. It is our Father’s house, and He has room for us all, so squeeze on over. In this orbit, the journey and the destination come together, and though my path continues a few more steps, I see the home lights burning and hear you cheering me on.

When I stand on tiptoe, I can feel the love, like a river overhead. In the stream I feel the heartbeats of all of us that make up this miracle called family. Maybe this river is made of our tears, and God’s too, but there is healing, and peace, and home here together.

If I could jump up and off this speck of dust, maybe I would, but there’s a gravity that keep me here. For love is made here below, with trembling hands and breaking voices, deeds done in sacrifice, gifts offered in weakness, words spoken in forgiveness. In our flesh and bone and lungs and eyes, love takes form. Love was always meant to be embodied, and this is the greatest magic of all.

Love is given, to be shaped into human form, and there seen at its most perfect.

Is is what has been done down here – the crosses borne, and burdens shared, and bread broken – that fills up the river, that makes it sing, that makes it call, that makes us long, and brings God with us, together.

One day, I will see you with new eyes.

One day, you will wrap your big arms around me with the strength of eternity.

Until then, the orbit of love will hold me, hold all of us.

And when I love, as I am loved, the orbit strengthens, and gives a certain lightness to my step.

One day it will carry me away too.

In the meantime, if you see me walking on tiptoe, you’ll know why.



Not a “Real” Gardener: When Sanctification Doesn’t Come Naturally

The other day I was weeding the jungle of a garden and it came to me, why I keep going with the garden even though it does not come naturally, even though my green thumbs have been painted on as an adult, even though I don’t feel like a real gardener.

It’s the life of virtue. 

It’s struggle. It’s sanctification. It’s progress against chaos and entropy.

Like someone once said, I won’t wake up and be a new person overnight. Even if I so desperately want to. It’s not how life works.

I can only keep dying to self and throwing my seeds in the dark earth. I can only keep ripping out the inevitable weeds. I can only keep turning the hose on to soak the thirsty ground. I can only keep learning, and trying, and shooing away cats, and forgetting to thin carrots, and leaving the hoe in the overnight rain.

I can only keep showing up, and bit by bit let the process begin to work a second nature in me.

I will always be a forest child. This is home territory. This is what feels natural to me. The forest is life as gift, God as transcendent Creator, made imminent to me in the wonders that unfold without the slightest pinky of my effort. I need the forest. God speaks and renews in the forest. God embraces in forest. There I find my rest, and the peace of simply being.

But He’s in the garden too, in a different way, in a way I need. He’s here with me, getting my fingers dirty in the toil of post-Eden. This is where I work out my salvation.

I know more now than I did when I started. I’ve been surprised by the grace of what crops up, even with my neglect. I’ve even made friends with a few earthworms. And every time I eat something, juicy and ripe, that grew in this square of reclaimed territory, I taste the joy and I remember, it’s worth it.

And that’s why I keep going.

It would be easier not to, many days. And oh, how I love the path of least resistance. But the path of least resistance is the trampled ground of the scavenging crows, leading only to rocky wastelands.

Here the good soil is made, year by year, blister by blister, death by resurrection.

Here I meet the post-Easter Jesus, who looks an awful lot like a Gardener in the slanted morning light.

Here the fruit of my labour is also the fruit of His labour, and at the end of the day it’s all gift. The Spirit is here in the struggle. Life is here, no matter the colour of my thumbs. Maybe I’ll be a real gardener one day after all.




Still in the Story

When I’m tired, the words don’t flow like they usually do. Inspiration is lost by the sheer effort needed to form cohesive thought.

But all this helps:

Watching the river roll by
Reading poetry
Swinging in the hammock
Picking wildflowers
Giggling over a funny book
Crying over a sad song
Closing all the browser tabs
Opening the King James Version
Listening for the evening robin

It’s enough, for now.

Enough to stop reaching for things and let them come to me instead.
Enough to be content without creating content.
Enough to rest and receive from the larger sweep of the narrative.

Sometimes you’re the narrator, and sometimes you’re just listening in from the edge of the firelight.

It’s ok, I tell myself. You’re still in the story.