Hallowing Fire




…one of man’s purposes is to assist God in the work of “hallowing” the things of Creation.
By a tremendous heave of the spirit,
the devout man frees the divine sparks trapped in the mute things of time;
he uplifts the forms and moments of creation,
bearing them aloft into the rare air
and hallowing fire in which all clays must shatter and burst.

~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


The setting sun,
trapped and swallowed by a seed puff ball last night,
was released aloft this morning to rise unfettered
hallowed and holy.





The Holiest Thing





What God arranges for us to experience at each moment
is the holiest thing that could happen to us.
~Jean-Pierre Caussade

I know there are moments
when there is no holiness in sight,
and even God hides His face;
certainly His Son cried out in anguish too.
So we tread barefoot and bloodied on this holy ground,
whether rocky, muddy, crumbling or cushioned,
and He is there, walking before us,
ready to pick us up if we fall.





The Price of Restoration




We live in an unbelieving age
but one which is markedly and lopsidedly spiritual…
an age that has domesticated despair
and learned to live with it happily.
There is something in us
that demands the redemptive act,
that demands that what falls
at least be offered the chance to be restored.
…what <modern man> has forgotten is the cost of it.
His sense of evil is diluted or lacking altogether,
and so he has forgotten the price of restoration.

This is an unlimited God
and one who has revealed himself specifically.
It is one who became man
and rose from the dead.
It is one who confounds the senses and the sensibilities,
one known early on as a stumbling block.
There is no way to gloss over this specification
or to make it more acceptable to modern thought.
This God is the object of ultimate concern
and he has a name.

~Flannery O’Connor from a 1963 lecture published in Mystery and Manners

He has a name,
this God of specificity,
and asks us to say His name.
It sounds like a breath,
so we say it
with each breath we take
even when we don’t believe.
And He knows our name
and calls out to us
even if we don’t listen.



God’s Play With Creation




Worship grounds me again
in the real world of God’s creation,
dislodging me from whatever world
I have imagined for myself.

I have come to believe
when we despair of praise,
when the wonder of creation and our place in it are lost to us,
it’s often because we’ve lost sight of our true role as creatures

– we have tried to do too much,
pretending to be in such control of things
that we are indispensable.

It’s a hedge against mortality and,
if you’re like me,
you take a kind of comfort in being busy.

The danger is that we will come to feel
too useful,
so full of purpose
and the necessity of fulfilling obligations
that we lose sight
of God’s play with creation,
and with ourselves.

~Kathleen Norris from The Quotidian Mysteries


Too busy to notice,
too busy to care,
losing sight in our real purpose:
we are here as creatures,
not creators.

So we must cease all other pursuits
and pursue worship,
praising God that we are made
in His image,
not He in our image.






The Storm Within



Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions,
beneath our religion or lack of it,
we are all vulnerable both to the storm without
and to the storm within.
~Frederick Buechner – from Telling the Truth

We are so complicit and compliant
in pleasant and peaceful appearance,
sitting in silence allowing
our inner storm to stay well hidden;
if called and compelled to face wrongs boldly,
the tempest can no longer be contained.
Silence in the face of evil
must itself be shattered,
even the rocks will cry out,
as our storm spills forth
speaking the truth.

 Silence in the face of evil is itself evil:
God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer




Swaying to a Fitful Wind


All at once I saw what looked like a Martian spaceship whirling towards me in the air. It flashed borrowed light like a propeller. Its forward motion greatly outran its fall. As I watched, transfixed, it rose, just before it would have touched a thistle, and hovered pirouetting in one spot, then twirled on and finally came to rest. I found it in the grass; it was a maple key, a single winged seed from a pair. Hullo. I threw it into the wind and it flew off again, bristling with animate purpose, not like a thing dropped or windblown, pushed by the witless winds of convection currents hauling round the world’s rondure where they must, but like a creature muscled and vigorous, or a creature spread thin to that other wind, the wind of the spirit which bloweth where it listeth, lighting, and raising up, and easing down. O maple key, I thought, I must confess I thought, o welcome, cheers.

And the bell under my ribs rang a true note, a flourish as of blended horns, clarion, sweet, and making a long dim sense I will try at length to explain. Flung is too harsh a word for the rush of the world. Blown is more like it, but blown by a generous, unending breath. That breath never ceases to kindle, exuberant, abandoned; frayed splinters spatter in every direction and burgeon into flame. And now when I sway to a fitful wind, alone and listing, I will think, maple key. When I see a photograph of earth from space, the planet so startlingly painterly and hung, I will think, maple key. When I shake your hand or meet your eyes I will think, two maple keys. If I am a maple key falling, at least I can twirl.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I think a lot about wings — particularly when I’m sitting belted in a seat looking out at them bouncing in turbulence, marveling at how they keep hundreds of people and an entire aircraft miles above ground.  Wings, no matter what they belong to,  are marvelous structures that combine strength and lift and lightness and expanse and mobility, with the ability to rise up and ease back to earth.

And so ideally I am blown rather than flung along my fitful windy days, rising and falling as those thin veined wings guide me, twirling, swirling as I fall, oh so slowly.





Building the Universe



On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God –
a worthy pastime.

Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside
this way and that way.

How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.

Let us hope
it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

~Mary Oliver “Song of the Builders”


I should watch more than build,
think more about God and how He is building me
than try to change His universe.
Like the sunrise this morning
with its line of demarcation
between what is lit and what is not yet,
I’m a work in progress,
waiting to be fully in the Son.