Clearing the Fog

 

 

 

Tired and hungry, late in the day, impelled
to leave the house and search for what
might lift me back to what I had fallen away from,
I stood by the shore waiting.
I had walked in the silent woods:
the trees withdrew into their secrets.
Dusk was smoothing breadths of silk
over the lake, watery amethyst fading to gray.
Ducks were clustered in sleeping companies
afloat on their element as I was not
on mine.

I turned homeward, unsatisfied.
But after a few steps, I paused, impelled again
to linger, to look North before nightfall-the expanse
of calm, of calming water, last wafts
of rose in the few high clouds.

And was rewarded:
the heron, unseen for weeks, came flying
widewinged toward me, settled
just offshore on his post,
took up his vigil.
                               If you ask
why this cleared a fog from my spirit,
I have no answer.
~Denise Levertov “A Reward” from Evening Train.

 

 

 

~Lustravit lampade terras~
(He has illumined the world with a lamp)
The weather and my mood have little connection.
I have my foggy and my fine days within me;
my prosperity or misfortune has little to do with the matter.
– Blaise Pascal from “Miscellaneous Writings”

And so you have a life that you are living only now,
now and now and now,
gone before you can speak of it,
and you must be thankful for living day by day,
moment by moment …
a life in the breath and pulse and living light of the present…

~Wendell Berry from Hannah Coulter

Worry and sorrow and angst are more contagious than the flu.
I mask up and wash my hands of it throughout the day.
There should be a vaccination against unnamed fears.

I want to say to my patients and to myself:
Stop now, this moment in time.
Stop and stop and stop.

Stop needing to be numb to all discomfort.
Stop resenting the gift of each breath.
Just stop.
Instead, simply be.

I want to say:
this moment, foggy or fine, is yours alone,
this moment of weeping and sharing
and breath and pulse and light.

Shout for joy in it.
Celebrate it.

Be thankful for tears that can flow over grateful lips
just as rain can clear the fog.
Stop holding them back.

Just be–
be blessed in both the fine and the foggy days–
in the now and now and now.




Indeed I Tremble For My Country

rushmore

 

The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time:
the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.

–Thomas Jefferson, in “A Summary View of the Rights of British America”

 

hollyhockwwured

 

redrose

 

tulip20174

 

Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?

Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just:
that his justice can not sleep forever…
― Thomas Jefferson, in Notes on the State of Virginia on the need for abolition of slavery

 

begoniawhite3

 

olhydrandra

 

tennant201714

 

Would Thomas Jefferson, architect of our Declaration of Independence celebrated on July 4, tremble for his country today?

I believe he would, even considering how his views were radical in his day, his religious convictions unconventional. He wrote that foundational document even as his own home and property was managed by slaves of African descent.  He personally understood the moral quicksand on which he stood so tenuously – a conflict he felt as close as his own bedroom:  story telling may romanticize the relationship, but what liberty was there for the slave who bore their six mixed race children?

Jefferson personally recognized and mourned our abuse of our liberties secured and maintained through the blood shed by our forefathers, our brothers, sisters and descendants, no matter what color their skin.

Today we are sinking deeply in that same moral quicksand, having done no better than Jefferson at forging a personal and ethical foundation on which to firmly stand.  We need only to look at who we place in the White House and who we see in the mirror.

We have squandered our autonomy with selfishness rather than selflessness borne out of gratitude for the gift of freedom.  We strive to secure and protect what is ours before we worry in humility if others have what they need first.   We trample daily on others’ rights in the name of self-determination and freedom of choice, especially discarding the defenseless for their imperfect genetics, undesired gender or simply being ill-timed and inconvenient.

Just whose life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is at stake here?

History as recorded in the Word and elsewhere shows when everyone does as they see fit, there is no immunity from judgment and wrath:

In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
Judges 17:6

And how well is that working out for us?

It took a true servant King who sacrificed Himself to save us from destroying ourselves and each other.

He is still waiting for our response. Still waiting…

Let us remember with conviction today the only true source of our life and liberty —  His justice does not sleep.

bluepoppy

 

wwublueblossom

 

blueblooms

 

What else does this craving, and this helplessness,
proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness,
of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?
This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him,
seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are,
though none can help,
since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object;
in other words by God himself.
~Blaise Pascal

 

 

AmericanFlag

 

His Truth is marching on…

 

sunsetflag

Our Hearts Thirst

20120726-212655

pnp7164

All thy waves and billows
Have gone over me.
~Psalm 42:7

…Into the deep where ocean spray
Is recollected in the great
   Salt, billow-making womb.

Effortless elegance!
   Holy wildness!

We walked nine miles of ocean beach
   Yesterday and let the ocean
Rhythms–pulse-setting waves and tide-making
   Moon–get inside us. Slowed
By this ancient pacemaker
   Our hearts thirsted. We drank God.
~Eugene Peterson from “Assateague Island”

Wavecrash2
photo by Nate Gibson

…when he looked at the ocean,
he caught a glimpse of the One he was praying to.

Maybe what made him weep was
how vast and overwhelming it was

and yet at the same time as near
as the breath of it in his nostrils,
as salty as his own tears.

~Frederick Buechner writing about Paul Tillich in Beyond Words

pnpsunset714

The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.
~Blaise Pascal

fidalgobeach

Most days I’m rocked by the most minute ripples and tiniest pebbles.  The building waves created by forces beyond my control feel tsunami-like though they started out infinitesimally small.  I can do nothing but let them flow over, around and beneath me, riding them up and down, trying not to get submerged for long and not get sea-sick.

Lately it feels like a barrage: instead of letting up, the billows roll larger and mightier, at times relentlessly powerful, changing everything in their path, including me.

Instead of being overcome by ripples, I hope some time to become the thrown pebble in a way that can move oceans or mountains or most amazing of all, another soul, just once.  In some tiny way, I hope I can say or do or write something that makes a positive difference in someone’s life, and that person forwards the ripple, spreading the wave a little further, a little broader, a little deeper to affect others.  Traveling far beyond the original thrown pebble, it can never to be pulled back once it is let loose.

I know what it is like for a blog post to go viral, becoming an ocean in churning turmoil, not a mere pebble starting with a least movement.  Instead, I hope to be the most insignificant of change agents, serene and barely there, just moving enough of another heart and soul to start something that will grow and spread by itself, wild and wonderful.

I don’t know what it might be or how I might do it.  Perhaps it is as simple as skipping rocks, choosing the best flattest pebble, rubbing the smooth sides between my fingers, and with a momentary regret at giving it up to the ocean, I’ll haul back and just let it go.  It will skip once, twice, three four five even six times and then disappear below. The surface of the water will never be the same again.

Nor will I.

causeway3

Striking the Balance

hungup

giantcedarsboardwalk

Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride.
Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair.
Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance
because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness.
~Blaise Pascal

dandyglow3

 

We yearn for perfection,
to be flawless and faultless,
unblemished,
aiming for symmetry,
straight and smooth.

Life serves up something
far different
and our eye searches
for what is broken like us:
to find the cracks,
scratches and damage,
whether it is in
a master’s still life portrait
replete with crawling flying insects
and broken blossoms,
or in the not so still life
of those around us.

Somehow Christ bridges
Himself between God and us,
becoming a walkway for the wretched.

In the beginning we were created
unblemished,
image bearers of perfection.
No longer.
We bear witness to brokenness
with our shattered lives,
fragile minds and weakening bodies.
It is our leaks and warts
that stand out now.

To restore
our lost relationship with Him,
Christ strikes the balance;
He hung broken to mend us,
to lift and carry us across the gap,
binding us to Him
forever.

huysum
Still Life With Flowers–Jan Huysum

sunrise826161

Foggy and Fine Days

 

morning18151

frozenpineneedles

webbymoss

The weather and my mood have little connection.
I have my foggy and my fine days within me;
my prosperity or misfortune has little to do with the matter.
– Blaise Pascal

There has been freezing fog the last several mornings when I’ve gone out to do barn chores. This is fog that literally sticks to the world, dripping in tiny icicles from everything, swallowing up all visible landscape, hushing bird song, erasing all color, homogenizing everything.

It also sucks up my horses as I send them out to the field from the barn. They lead slowly out to the gate, sniffing the wet cold air, hesitant to be turned out into the grey sea surrounding them. What is there to eat out here in this murk? Each one, when turned loose, wanders into the soup, disappearing, as if never to be seen again. One by one they move boldly forward to look for their buddies, although seeing nothing, hearing nothing, smelling nothing–lost and alone and bewildered until somehow they meet up in the mist.

I muse at their initial confusion and then their utter conviction there must be “something out there” worth finding. They are dependent on all the usual cues–visual, auditory, olfactory–all useless in the fog. Instead they rely on some inner sonar to find each other and bunch together in a protective knot, drops of fog dew clinging to their manes, their eyelashes and their muzzle whiskers. As day wears on, the fog dissipates, their coats dry under the warming sun, and the colors of the fields and trees and palomino horses emerge from the cocoon of haze.

Too often I feel lost in fog too–disconnected, afloat and circling aimlessly, searching for a touch point of purpose and direction and anything that is not smothering and gray. Perhaps I’ll bump into a fellow fog wanderer and we’ll remain knotted together, relieved in the connection to something solid and familiar. The isolation I sometimes feel may simply be a self-absorbed state of mind, sucking me in deep, separating me from others, distancing me from joy. I’m soaked, dripping and shivering.

If I only had the faith of my horses in the mist, I’d charge into the fog fearlessly, knowing there are others out there ready to band together for company, comfort and support, to await the sun. When that warm rejuvenation arrives, though not always as quickly as I would wish for, it will be enough to dry my whiskers, put color back in my cheeks and refresh my hopes and dreams.

Being lost in the fog is never forever.  The sun is always up there somewhere and all will be fine.

 

morning18152

morningmists

Two Kinds of People

photo by Karen Mullen photography
photo by Karen Mullen photography

There are two kinds of people one can call reasonable,
those who serve God with all their heart
because they know him,

and those who seek him with all their heart
because they do not know him.
~Blaise Pascal

Some of the worshippers at our 2014 Easter Sunrise Service on our farm hilltop

a stream of people walking up the hill this morning for Easter Sunrise Service on our farm

A Heart Inclined

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.
~C. S. Lewis

I’ve been following Kathleen Mulhern’s blog “Dry Bones” where she is currently illuminating Blaise Pascal’s fascinating discussions on faith and belief (i.e. Pascal’s Wager).   I am learning how “seeking is as good as seeing” (Julian of Norwich).

What Pascal determines is that one must “incline the heart” toward belief in God, to “desire” to fill that “God-shaped hole” in our lives:

I tell you that you will gain even in this life, and that at every step you take along this road you will see that your gain is so certain and your risk so negligible that in the end you will realize that you have wagered on something certain and infinite for which you have paid nothing.
~Blaise Pascal

If we do not know spiritual hopelessness, we cannot hope. If we do not know spiritual wretchedness, we cannot find the happiness we long for. If we do not see the abyss at our feet, we cannot believe there is a way across it; if we are not willing to descend into its depths, which lie in our own souls, we will never ascend the heights on the other side.
~Kathleen Mulhern from “Dry Bones”