Mo sheasamh ort lá na choise tinne You are the place where I stand on the day when my feet are sore. ~Irish saying translated by poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama
We need strong feet to carry us through the hardest pathways of life, stumbling into holes, treading carefully over sharp rocks, scrambling up steep climbs and through the muddiest mire.
Our feet get sore: blistered and calloused, develop tendonitis and fasciitis, suffer bruised toes and fallen arches. When every step is a reminder of our failures and frailty, we beg for a soft landing with each stride.
But more than comfort, we need a stable place of trust to put our feet, to stand firm when standing feels impossible.
Lord, be our landing place when we hurt. May your gentle road rise to meet our sore feet.
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow; Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued Elations when the forest blooms; gusty Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights; All pleasures and all pains, remembering The bough of summer and the winter branch.
But in contentment I still feel The need of some imperishable bliss. ~Wallace Stevens from “Sunday Morning”
Earthly contentment~ whether a full stomach or adequate bank account or a covering of snow~ these don’t last.
May I not settle into comfort, but seek to fill my continual need with what will never perish, even as the latest snow melts and the late afternoon light fades.
Rest assured, simply knowing there comes imperishable bliss someday, I too am transformed.
So much of our living is preparing for rest and here we are, fighting it every step of the way.
We resist it mightily: the toddler fussing about taking a nap, the youngster devoted to their screen time and unwilling to surrender to darkness, or the parent trying to eke out the last bit of daylight to get the chores done. We are comforted by activity.
We are created in the image of One who remembered to rest. So must we be “evened” by Him.
The evening comes – there is no stopping it – and we are to settle into it, close our eyes and drift on the comfort it brings.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10: 30-37
No parable is as well known in secular circles as that of the good Samaritan – it has become law, under that very name, to protect those who would stop to help someone who is injured or needs assistance, without fear of legal reprisal.
That isn’t exactly why the Good Samaritan story was told: the purpose was not to promote legal protection for the helper, who needed no such protection. It was to point out that the only one to bother to help was someone who was “other” – someone from Samaria of all places. Someone of different ethnicity, from a different culture, having different beliefs, worshipping a God in a way considered “corrupted” – this was the person to show compassion, to give richly of himself: his time, his money, his care, his mercy. He was the neighbor and friend to the man lying beaten and robbed alongside the road, not the ones who might well have lived next door or who worked in the temple, or who looked like and believed as he did.
As Mr. Rogers once wrote: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
Sadly, in this day and age, we have far too many opportunities to recognize the helpers who will assist anyone, no matter who they are, the color of their skin or what they believe.
What a comfort that is!
May my eyes see, my ears hear, my heart understand. He prepares me with parable.
You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you. ~ Frederick Buechner
We have now said good-bye to our children who came together for a time back on the farm this summer and have all returned to their lives elsewhere. It was bliss to raise our voices together in harmony before our meals, as we always have done, and now our table is set for two as we entrust them yet again to God’s care and keeping.
Their wings are strong and sure, carrying them miles away from this place of origin.
I began writing regularly 16 years ago to consider more deeply my time left on this earth and what my family meant to me, here and now, and for eternity. Family is carried inside the words I write without my often writing about them directly. They inspire and challenge me, they love and stretch me, and as our children have now gone out into the world, two returning with beloved wives, and one with their first child, I am assured they are sustained by what they have carried away from this home.
Life is not just about living in the world but what world you carry deep inside, blessed by faith and obedience to God. We can never really be lonely; our hearts will never be empty when our voices are always raised in praise together.
We have each other forever, even miles and miles and lifetimes apart. For you’re always near to me, in my joy and sorrow For you ever care for me, lifting my spirits to the sky (see song below by Libera)
I sustain myself with the love of family. ― Maya Angelou
all family photos by Karen Mullen Photography (thanks once again, Karen!)
Angel take your wings and fly, watching over me See me through my night time and be my leading light Angel you have found the way, never fear to tread You’ll be a friend to me, angel spread your wings and fly.
Voces angelorum gloria! Dona eis pacem! (O voices of angels (give) glory! Grant them peace!)
For you’re always near to me, in my joy and my sorrow For you ever care for me, lifting my spirits to the sky. Where a million angels sing, in amazing harmony And the words of love they bring To the never ending story A million voices sing To the wonder of the light So I hide beneath your wing You are my guardian, angel of mine.
Cantate caeli chorus angelorum! Venite adoramus in aeternum! Psallite saecula et saeculorum! Laudate Deo in gloria! (Sing, Heaven’s choir of angels! Come, let us evermore adore! Sing forever and ever!
Praise God in glory!)
Can you be my angel now watching over me Comfort and inspire me to see our journey through Can I be your friend indeed, from all cares set free, The clouds would pass away, then I’d be an angel too
Voces angelorum gloria, dona eis pacem! (O voices of angels (give) glory! Grant them peace!)
For you’re always near to me, in my joy and my sorrow For you ever care for me, lifting my spirits to the sky. Where a million angels sing, in amazing harmony And the words of love they bring To the never ending story A million voices sing To the wonder of the light So I hide beneath your wing You are my guardian, angel of mine Angel of mine
Straws like tame lightnings lie about the grass And hang zigzag on hedges. Green as glass The water in the horse-trough shines. Nine ducks go wobbling by in two straight lines.
A hen stares at nothing with one eye, Then picks it up. Out of an empty sky A swallow falls and, flickering through The barn, dives up again into the dizzy blue.
I lie, not thinking, in the cool, soft grass, Afraid of where a thought might take me – as This grasshopper with plated face Unfolds his legs and finds himself in space.
Self under self, a pile of selves I stand Threaded on time, and with metaphysic hand Lift the farm like a lid and see Farm within farm, and in the centre, me.
~Norman MacCaig “Summer Farm”
Most of my life, a barn has stood a few dozen yards from my back door. As a small child, I learned to ride a tricycle on the wooden planks of the chicken coop, sat on the bony back of a Guernsey cow while my father milked by hand, found new litters of kittens in cobweb-filled hideaways, and leaped with abandon into stacks of loose hay in a massive loft.
As a young girl, I preferred to clean stalls rather than my bedroom. The acoustics in the barn were first rate for singing loud and the horses and cows never covered their ears, although the dog would usually howl. A hay loft was the perfect spot for hiding a writing journal and reading books. It was a place for quiet contemplation and sometimes fervent prayer when I was worried: a sanctuary for turbulent adolescence.
Through college and medical training, I managed to live over twelve years in the city without access to a barn or the critters that lived inside. I searched for plenty of surrogate retreats: the library stacks, empty chapels within the hospitals I worked, even a remote mountainous wildlife refuge in central Africa.
It is hard to ignore one’s genetic destiny to struggle as a steward of the land through the challenges of economics and weather. My blood runs with DNA of wheat and lentil growers, loggers, cattle ranchers, dairy farmers, work horse teamsters, and flower and vegetable gardeners. A farm eventually called me to come back home and so I heeded over thirty years ago, along with a husband from a dairy farming background himself, and eventually there followed three children, now grown and flown far from the farm.
Like a once sturdily built barn now sagging and leaning, I too am buffeted by the gales of mid-life. My doors have been flung open wide, my roof/lid lifted and pulled off, at times leaving me reeling. More and more now I need restoration, renewal and reconciliation. And so I set to work to fix up my life with all the skill I can muster: setting things right where they’ve been upended, painting a fresh coat where chipped and dulled, shoring up rotted foundations.
If only I can get it done well enough, with sufficient perseverance, I surely can recover from the latest blow. But my hard work and determination is not enough. It is never enough. I am never finished.
The only true sanctuary isn’t found in a weather-beaten barn of rough-hewn old growth timbers vulnerable to the winds of life.
The barnstorming must happen within me, in the depths of my soul, comforted only by the encompassing and salvaging arms of God.
There I am held, transformed and restored, grateful beyond measure.