Glimpses of God

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sunrise82414

bingcherry2

…writing was one way to let something of lasting value emerge
from the pains and fears of my little, quickly passing life.
Each time life required me to take a new step into unknown spiritual territory,
I felt a deep, inner urge to tell my story to others–
Perhaps as a need for companionship but maybe, too,
out of an awareness that my deepest vocation
is to be a witness to the glimpses of God I have been allowed to catch.

~Henri Nouwen

burdock

dogwoodpetal

“Last forever!” Who hasn’t prayed that prayer? You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

johnflowers

sunrise824143

wwupurpled

For too much of my life I have focused on the future, bypassing the present in my headlong rush to what lies ahead.  There is always a goal to achieve,  a conclusion becoming commencement of the next phase, a sunset turning right around in a few hours to become sunrise.

Yet the most precious times occur when the present is so overwhelming, so riveting, so tenderly full of life that I see a brief glimpse of God.  I must grab hold with all my strength to try and secret it away and keep it forever.  Of course the present still slips away from me, elusive and evasive, torn to bits by the unrelenting movement of time.

Even if I was able to take a photo to lock it to a page or screen, it is not enough.  No matter how I choose to preserve the canvas of the present, it is passed, ebbing away never to return.

I must wonder at the present by focusing less on the foreshortening future.

So I write to harvest those times to make them last a little bit longer.  Maybe not forever; they will inevitably be lost downstream into the ether of unread words.

Even if unread, I am learning that words, which had power in the Beginning to create life,  bring tenderness and meaning back to my life.   How blessed to live the gift twice: not just in the moment itself but in writing words that preserve and treasure it all up, if only for a moment.

elderberries3

dill8916

sunrise824142

Hardly a Waste

northcounty2

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur
of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.”
– John Lubbock

pinknight1

 

As a child I liked to go out far into our hay field and find the tallest patch of grass.  There, like a dog turning circles before a nap,  I’d trample down the tall waving stems that stretched up almost to my eyes, and create a grass nest, just cozy enough for me.  I’d sit or lie down in this green fortress, gazing up at the blue sky, and watch the clouds drift lazily by.  I’d suck on a hollow stem or two, to savor the bitter grass juice.  Scattered around my grassy cage, looking out of place attached to the broad grass stems, would be innumerable clumps of white foam.  I’d tease out the hidden green spit bugs with their little black eyes from their white frothy bubble encasement.   I hoped to watch them spit, to actually see them in action, but they would leap away.

The grassy nest was a time of retreat from the world by being buried within the world.  I felt protected, surrounded, encompassed and free –at least until I heard my mother calling for me from the house, or a rain shower started, driving me to run for cover, or my dog found me by following my green path.

It has been years since I hid in a grass fort or tried to defoam spit bugs.   I am overdue, I’m sure. It is hardly a waste to rest encased in the bubble wrap of the world.

grassmay15

northcounty4

pinkbaker4

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grassmay16

The World Made Whole

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raspberry

To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing—the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.

…every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness not having meant to keep us waiting long.
~Marilynne Robinson from Housekeeping

thimbleberry5

To wait for the “not yet” is a hard sweet tension in the Christian life.

It is hard not yet having what we know is to come.
But it is sweet to have certainty
because of what we have already been given
as foreshadowing of what will be everlasting.

Like the labor of childbirth,
we groan knowing what it will take to get there,
and we are full to brimming already.

The waiting won’t be easy;
it will often be painful to be patient,
staying alert to possibility and hope when we are exhausted,
and barely able to function.
Others won’t understand why we wait in hope,
nor do they comprehend what we could possibly be waiting for.

Yet we persevere and wander this life together — craving for what we don’t yet have, longing for what we’ve lost.  We groan together in expectation of what is to come in the morning.

dandy81216

 

Where the Land Leaves Off

kingston3

kingstondock

Then I came to an edge of very calm
But couldn’t stay there. It was the washed greenblue mapmakers use to indicate
Inlets and coves, softbroken contours where the land leaves off
And water lies plainly, as if lamped by its own justice. I hardly know how to say how it was
Though it spoke to me most kindly,
Unlike a hard afterwards or the motions of forestalling.

Now in evening light the far-off ridge carries marks of burning.
The hills turn thundercolored, and my thoughts move toward them, rough skins
Without their bodies. What is the part of us that feels it isn’t named, that doesn’t know
How to respond to any name? That scarcely or not at all can lift its head
Into the blue and so unfold there?
~Laurie Sheck “And Water Lies Plainly”

kitsapsunset

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!
~William Wordsworth from Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 1802

kingston

We feel restless about the tail end of summer when it is too hot for anything to grow or thrive without water.  There is a longing to settle in, like going down for a nap–to drift off in comfort instead of sweating, to sink deep and untroubled tucked under blankets that instead are folded away, unused.

Our long uninterrupted sleep waits so we must take our rest at intervals.  There is some daylight left.

We take our calm as it comes, as a serene moment of reflection, looking out from the edge where the land leaves off and wonder at the still waters to come, to ponder what is waiting on the other side.

ferry1

Floodlit

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dandylight2

It is not physical beauty,
nor temporal glory,
nor the brightness of light so dear to earthly eyes,
nor the sweet melodies of all kinds of songs,
nor the gentle odor of flowers or ointments or perfumes,
nor manna, nor honey,
nor limbs welcoming the embraces of the flesh.
It is not these things I love when I love my God.

Yet there is a light I love,
and a food,
and a kind of embrace when I love my God.
A light, voice, odor, food,
embrace of my innerness,
where my soul is floodlit by light which space cannot contain,
where there is sound that time cannot seize,
where there is perfume which no breeze disperses,
where there is a taste for food no amount of eating can satisfy,
where there is a bond of union that no satiety can part.
That is what I love, when I love my God.
~Augustine of Hippo

summertable

zinniacenter

God designed His creation as a reflection of His Being. We and everything around us are the image bearers — even in our heart of darkness we are floodlit by a goodness overflowing our soul’s capacity.

We are in His spotlight; we are floodlit.

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moonrisebaker

The Twinges of this World

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sunflower

butterflygarden5

Under a canopy of leaves,
the irises, bountiful,
the calico butterfly flashing

and this one golden head
of a dazzling sunflower grasping
its cowled neck,

outweighing its stalk

in order to turn,
full bonneted,
to the absolute light.

What wonders these are:
things struggling
filament by filament,

birds twittering in a laughter
that could be weeping,
barely feeling the twinges of this world,

where the weak get stronger
or snailish with cracks

a day at a time.
~Judith Harris “Recovery”

webleash

sunflower816

“Be patient and without bitterness, and realize that the least we can do is to make coming into existence no more difficult for Him than the earth does for spring when it wants to come.”
Rainier Marie Rilke

We feel the twinges of struggling to live broken in difficult times; indeed all our days are difficult times. We won’t get out of this predicament alive.

Whether we care or not about what happens next does not alter the fact Christ dwells with us; our heavy heads bow, turning to the absolute light. The coming of spring will not be stopped by a slumbering disinterested earth.

Like Mary, we must say:  “Let it be”, not “no, not me, not now.”

We are transformed, simply by accepting He has come on our behalf:
an oh so difficult faith that connects us like a filament to heaven,
like a shoot breaking through the crust of frozen earth to reach the sun in order to bloom,
like the butterfly emerging from its cracked chrysalis to try its wings,
like the snail shell abandoned because we will no longer fit inside its broken walls.

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broken

 

Piecing Together the Scraps

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quilt163

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quilt167
“I make them warm to keep my family from freezing;
I make them beautiful to keep my heart from breaking.”
–From the journal of a prairie woman, 1870
To keep a husband and five children warm,
she quilts them covers thick as drifts against
the door. Through every fleshy square white threads
needle their almost invisible tracks; her hours
count each small suture that holds together
the raw-cut, uncolored edges of her life.
She pieces each one beautiful, and summer bright
to thaw her frozen soul. Under her fingers
the scraps grow to green birds and purple
improbable leaves; deeper than calico, her mid-winter
mind bursts into flowers. She watches them unfold
between the double stars, the wedding rings.
~Luci Shaw “Quiltmaker”
quilt161
quilt164
quilt166
quilt16114
It could be the world was made this way:
piecemeal, the parts fitting together
as if made for one another~
disparate and separate
coming together in harmony.
The point of its creation
to be forever functional,
a blanket of warmth and security
but its result is so much more:
beauty arising from scraps,
the broken stitched to broken
to become holy and whole.
(all quilts here are on display this week at the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden)
quilt1610
quilt168
quilt165
quilt1611
quilt1613