Between Midnight and Dawn: Breaking Through

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To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
~Luke 18:9-14

 

Walking in February
A warm day after a long freeze
On an old logging road
Below Sumas Mountain
Cut a walking stick of alder,
Looked down through clouds
On wet fields of the Nooksack—
And stepped on the ice
Of a frozen pool across the road.
It creaked
The white air under
Sprang away, long cracks
Shot out in the black,
My cleated mountain boots
Slipped on the hard slick
—like thin ice—the sudden
Feel of an old phrase made real—
Instant of frozen leaf,
Icewater, and staff in hand.
“Like walking on thin ice—”
I yelled back to a friend,
It broke and I dropped
Eight inches in
~Gary Snyder “Thin Ice”

 

This presidential election season has been an exhausting exercise in self-aggrandizement — candidates turning up the heat by exalting themselves over their competition, all while standing on the deep frozen lake of voter emotions.

The trouble with such overheating in the middle of winter is that we all end up walking on too-thin ice: both those who are far too overconfident in expressing their own righteous views and opinions about how much better they are than others, and those of us who listen and believe the blowhards.

We’ll all end up breaking through the ice, thoroughly doused by the chilly waters below.

Lord, have mercy on us,
help us recognize the cracks forming beneath our feet,
by putting us on our knees before you
and you alone.

 

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During this Lenten season, I will be drawing inspiration from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn

Between Midnight and Dawn: Our Forgetfulness

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I weep over the sorrows and disgraces of our Lord,
and what causes me the greatest sorrow
is that men, for whom He suffered so much,
live in forgetfulness of Him.
~St. Francis of Assisi

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.
~from Psalm 51

It doesn’t take committing infidelity or murder,
like King David with blood on his hands,
to feel estranged from God.

It can be as simple as
living each day within
a delusion of self-sufficiency.

But I am never sufficient.

Unable to fix my own heart,
I seek relief from the mud of
remorse and regret.
I bring my broken heart to Him.
May my tears no longer just be wept
in guilt for my wrongdoing,
but that I weep for our
God forgotten.

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During this Lenten season, I will be drawing inspiration from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn

Between Midnight and Dawn: Before the Morning Watch

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Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn people back to dust,
    saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
    they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered.
from Psalm 90

 

Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
When time stops and time is never ending;
And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning,
Clangs
The bell.
~T.S. Eliot from “The Dry Salvages”

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Today we confront mortality~
our eventual return to dust
on a timeline not our own.
With each headline about tragic accidents,
dire diseases, senseless shootings,
we know this death, this life swept away
could be ours:
is ours.
We do not walk this darkened path alone.
Each death is His as well.

During this Lenten season, I will be drawing from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn

 

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photo by Joel DeWaard

Finding the Sacred in Anything

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…anything can be written about. Not because nothing is sacred, but because everything is.
~Billy Coffey

Too much on the internet is “anything goes” because nothing is considered too sacred to be dissected, illustrated, exploited and promoted in as public a way as possible.   Most of it is so cringe-worthy that it feels very risky to click on any unfamiliar link as it may take the viewer into such a dark corner of the web that it feels impossible to escape.  Once an image is seen, it is difficult to erase from the mind’s eye, even this picture of slugs “canoodling” (sorry, but I’ve tried to figure out for over a year how to use this photo on my blog).

My little corner of the web is meant to be a path into the light, instead of a portal into the dark.

Over the years I’ve written about many things that are personal, whether it is mistakes I’ve made, overblown worries, my childhood family’s struggles, my parents’ dissolving marriage, my obsession with garden gnomes, health care controversies, forgiveness, and surprisingly, the page that for years gathered the most visits on my blog: my horse’s bodily functions.

Even horse poop can be seen as sacred…I guess.  At least someone must think so.

Still, some things remain too sacred to be written down, and because I hold them close in my heart, they will stay that way.

 

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The Cape Beale Heroine

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Minnie Paterson rocked slowly in her rocking chair, nursing her infant son. She sat near the south window of the lighthouse living quarters, and studied the rain streaming down in rivulets.Wind gusts rattled the window. A lighthouse keeper’s home was constantly buffeted by wind, but this early winter storm picked up urgency throughout the night.Now with first light, Minnie looked out at driving rain blowing sideways, barely able to make out the rugged rocks below.The Pacific Ocean was anything but; the mist hung gray, melding horizon into sea, with flashes of white foam in crashing waves against the rocky cliffs of Cape Beale.

Whenever storms came, it seemed the Paterson family lived at the edge of civilization. Yet these storms were the reason she and Tom and their five children lived on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, in isolation at the southern edge of Barkley Sound. Tom’s job was to keep the foghorn blaring and the light glowing above the treacherous rocks, to guide sea vessels away from certain peril. The storms sometimes were too powerful even with the lighthouse as a beacon of warning. In January 1906, the ship Valencia had wrecked off the coast and only a few survivors had managed to make their way to shore, staggering up the rocky trail to the lighthouse where she warmed them by the stove and fed them until rescuers could come.

Eleven months later, Minnie was setting about getting breakfast ready when her husband came down the stairs in a rush from the upper room where he tended the light.

“Mother, it’s a ship! I just now see it. It is battered by the waves, its sails in tatters! I can see a man waving a distress signal from the deck. It will surely run aground against the rocks—I must telegraph the village to send out rescuers.”

Minnie went to the window again but could see nothing in the mist. Surely this could not be another Valencia disaster! Tom went to the telegraph in the corner of the room and tapped out the urgent message to the fishing village of Bamfield, five miles away inside Barkley Sound. He sat impatiently waiting for a reply, drumming his fingers on the desk. After ten minutes, he sent the message again with no response.

“The lines are down. I’m certain of it. The fallen trees pull them down in this wind. We’ll be unable to summon the rescuers. This ship is doomed, just like the Valencia. There is no way we can reach them in this weather and they can’t come ashore here in lifeboats. They’ll crash on the rocks…”

Seeing the helplessness Tom felt, Minnie knew immediately what she must do.He could not leave his post—it was a condition of his job.She would have to run the six miles for help, through the forest.She kissed Tom and the children goodbye, donned a cap and sweater, and as her feet did not fit in her boots, she put on her husband’s slippers. She ran down the long stairway down the hill taking their dog as a precaution to help warn her of bears on the trails.

Minnie first had to cross through a tideland inlet with water waist deep. She quickly stripped from the waist down, held her pants and slippers over her head and crossed through the icy water, her dog swimming alongside. Shivering on the other side, she quickly dressed, and started down the narrow winding forest trail, scrambling over large fallen trees blocking the way. She waded through deep mud, and crossed rocky beaches where wild waves drenched her. At times the tide was so high she crawled on her hands and knees through underbrush so as not to be swept away by the storm.

After four hours, she reached a home along the trail and with a friend, launched a rowboat to go on to Bamfield. The two women notified the anchored ship Quadra, which set out immediately for Cape Beale. Within an hour, the Quadra had reached the Coloma which was taking on water fast, and drifting close to the rocks on shore.

Minnie walked the long way back home that night, clothing tattered, muscles cramping, exhausted and chilled. Her breasts overflowing, she gratefully fed her baby, unaware for days that her efforts rescued the crew of the Coloma. Tragically, her health compromised, she died in 1911 of tuberculosis,  forever a heroine to remember.

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Minnie Paterson

Source material: Bruce Scott’s Barkley Sound and Lighthouse Digest

This is a story Dan and I were told while staying in Bamfield on our honeymoon over thirty years ago. On a bright September day we walked the trail to the Cape Beale lighthouse, a most challenging and beautiful part of the world. The trail was so difficult, I was sure I was not going to make it to the lighthouse and back, so how Minnie managed in a December storm, in the dark, is beyond imagining. Her bravery captured me and I honor her sacrifice with this rendering of her story. EPG

In a Dark Place

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Sometimes when you’re in a dark place
you think you’ve been buried,
but actually you’ve been planted.
~Christine Caine

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We don’t understand
while buried in the dark,
that we rest planted in holy ground,
waiting for the wakening
that calls us forth to bloom and fruit.

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How to Almost Kill Your Farm Dog

 

sammySamwise Gamgee still blind the day after almost dying

 

Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?
~L.M. Montgomery

 

I’ve owned dogs and horses and a host of other farm animals during thirty years of farm living.  Animals can be unpredictable in their behavior but they don’t make mistakes — only humans do.  One of my mistakes nearly killed my dog Sam last week.

My Cardigan corgis Sam and Homer are full time outdoor farm dogs who do chores with me morning and night.  They accompany me to the hay barn to fetch bales of hay, they gather up the barn cats for herding practice, they help me clean the horse stalls by picking up (and usually eating) stray manure balls that I fail to pick up fast enough.  These are very important jobs for a corgi whose brain and sense of self worth depends on being needed.

All was ordinary on Sunday morning as we went from stall to stall doing our clean up work, including my quarterly deworming of the horses by syringing wormer paste into their mouths before letting them have their morning meal.

A few hours later on Sunday afternoon I went out to the dog yard to let out Homer and Sam to do barn chores and Sam stood immobilized at the gate, trembling and blind.  His pupils were completely dilated, he couldn’t see a thing and had been vomiting — a lot.  The only possibility was a toxic exposure, most likely licking up a glop of ivermectin paste in the shavings of the stalls we were cleaning after a horse slopped it out of their mouth during the worming process.

We scooped him up and took him to the emergency animal clinic, where the suspected diagnosis was ivermectin poisoning with severe dehydration and acute blindness from the neurotoxicity of the drug in a smaller herding dog with genetic propensity to this kind of reaction.  He was lucky to be alive as the case studies show that sensitive dogs often go into seizures and coma.

In thirty years of worming animals with farm dogs around my feet, this had never even occurred to me to be a risk.  Now I know better, and the dogs will stay out of the barn during worming and for several days afterward as the manure can end up with toxic amounts of wormer drug in it too, and corgis happen to consider horse manure a delicacy.

Sam was vigorously rehydrated with intravenous fluids overnight, had an appetite in the morning but still remained blind as his pupils remained fully dilated for about 24 hours.  He slowly regained his vision over several days, and now is back to his sweet, playful  incorrigible corgi self.

I’m very grateful I didn’t kill my dog, but I sure managed to come close.

At least tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it — yet.

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