The Ministry of Presence

 

More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them.

It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems.

My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress.

But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.

~Henri Nouwen from The Practice of the Presence of God

I do find myself too wrapped up in the trappings of the “useful” life – meetings, committees, schedules, strategic priorities – and forget there is so much living usefully that I neglect to do.

There needs to be more potlucks, more “oh, by the way” conversations, more connections “just because”, more loving people as I hope to be loved.

Wish I could invite you all over for breakfast. We’d have a wonderful chin wag.

What Comes Behind the Crocus

snowcrocus2

 

snowycroci

 

This is why I believe that God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on His shoulders. The miracles that have already happened are, of course, as Scripture so often says, the first fruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming on. Christ has risen, and so we shall rise.

…To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: but often in the very early spring it feels like that.  Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale.  A man really ought to say, ‘The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago’  in the same spirit in which he says ‘I saw a crocus yesterday.’

Because we know what is coming behind the crocus.

The spring comes slowly down the way, but the great thing is that the corner has been turned.  There is, of course, this difference that in the natural spring the crocus cannot choose whether it will respond or not.

We can. 

We have the power either of withstanding the spring, and sinking back into the cosmic winter, or of going on…to which He is calling us.

It remains with us whether to follow or not,  to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer.
~C. S. Lewis from “God in the Dock”

 

drizzlecrocus

 

You, who are beyond our understanding,
have made yourself understandable to us in Jesus Christ.
You, who are the uncreated God,
have made yourself a creature for us.
You, who are the untouchable One,
have made yourself touchable to us.
You, who are most high,
make us capable of understanding your amazing love
and the wonderful things you have done for us.
Make us able to understand the mystery of your incarnation,
the mystery of your life, example and doctrine,
the mystery of your cross and passion,
the mystery of your resurrection and ascension.
~Angela of Foligno (1248-1309)– prayer

 

chuckanuts2

 

My husband, with help from our neighbor kids and our son who was visiting for Christmas, has prepared soil beds on our farm and planted hundreds of spring bulbs, including over two hundred crocus.  We are called to this action, especially in the midst of winter – to plan for, to anticipate, to long for the spring that is coming.  We become part of the promise that winter is not forever.

The larger bulbs – the tulip, the daffodils – have no choice but to respond to spring – the expanding light calls to them as the soil begins to warm.  But the crocus are a mystery, sprouting earlier when there is no reason to.  Snow is still on the ground.  Frost still crisps everything at night.  Yet they come forth from the soil even when everything is still weeping winter.

What comes behind the crocus?

We too rise up from the dark to enter the light.
We too are part of the mystery.

wwustudenthealth2

 

E7C12D6C-072C-44F8-B8F4-E23B6AAF82D2

 

 

How Do We Know?

snowcrocus2

 

How do you know, deep underground,
Hid in your bed from sight and sound,
Without a turn in temperature,
With weather life can scarce endure,
That light has won a fraction’s strength,
And day put on some moments’ length,
Whereof in merest rote will come,
Weeks hence, mild airs that do not numb;
     O crocus root, how do you know,
          How do you know?
~Thomas Hardy, from Thomas Hardy: The Complete Poems

 

 

snowscrocus1

 

This is why I believe that God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on His shoulders. The miracles that have already happened are, of course, as Scripture so often says, the first fruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming on. Christ has risen, and so we shall rise.

…To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: but often in the very early spring it feels like that.  Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale.  A man really ought to say, ‘The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago’  in the same spirit in which he says ‘I saw a crocus yesterday.’

Because we know what is coming behind the crocus.

The spring comes slowly down the way, but the great thing is that the corner has been turned.  There is, of course, this difference that in the natural spring the crocus cannot choose whether it will respond or not.

We can. 

We have the power either of withstanding the spring, and sinking back into the cosmic winter, or of going on…to which He is calling us.

It remains with us whether to follow or not, to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer.
~C. S. Lewis from “God in the Dock”

 

 

snowycroci

 

If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
~Seamus Heaney from “The Cure at Troy”

 

sunrise11182

 

We are mere seed lying dormant, plain and simple, with nothing to distinguish us one from the other until the murmurs of spring begin, so soft, so subtle.  The soil shakes loose frosty crust as the thawing warmth begins.   Sunlight makes new life stir and swell, no longer frozen but animate and intimate.

We will soon wake with a “birth-cry” from our quiescence to sprout, bloom and fruit.  We will reach as far as our tethered roots will allow, beyond earthly bounds to touch the light and be touched.

How do we know when the time has come?

We are ready and waiting to unfurl, in response to the fire in the sky:
called by the voice and breath of God.

 

bakerhat

 

 

Turn Aside and Look: The Corner Has Been Turned

rainycroci

rainycroci6

 

To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: but often in the very early spring it feels like that. Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale. A man really ought to say, ‘The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago’ in the same spirit in which he says, ‘I saw a crocus yesterday.’

Because we know what is coming behind the crocus.

The spring comes slowly down this way; but the great thing is that the corner has been turned. There is, of course, this difference, that in the natural spring the crocus cannot choose whether it will respond or not.

We can.

We have the power either of withstanding the spring, and sinking back into the cosmic winter, or of going on into those ‘high mid-summer pomps’ in which our Leader, the Son of man, already dwells, and to which He is calling us.

It remains with us to follow or not, to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer.
~C.S. Lewis, “The Grand Miracle” God in the Dock

 

rainycroci5

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

rainycroci4

God is not asleep like the crocus.  We need only look up, and turn the corner to find Him.

He names us and calls us forth from the dust from which He made us.

And He knows all about us:
our days, our deeds, our hopes, our fears,
our deepest joys, our silent tears.

rainycroci7

 

1. The lone, wild bird in lofty flight
is still with you, nor leaves your sight.
And I am yours! I rest in you,
Great Spirit, come, rest in me, too.

2. The ends of earth are in your hand,
the sea’s dark deep and far off land.
And I am yours! I rest in you,
Great Spirit, come, rest in me, too.

3. Each secret thought is known to you,
the path I walk my whole life through;
my days, my deeds, my hopes, my fears,
my deepest joys, my silent tears.
~The Lone Wild Bird by Hery Richard McFayden

 

 

They Were First

drizzlecrocus

wlccroci

Though a tremor of the winter
Did shivering through them run;
Yet they lifted up their foreheads
To greet the vernal sun.

And the sunbeams gave them welcome.
As did the morning air
And scattered o’er their simple robes
Rich tints of beauty rare.

Soon a host of lovely flowers
From vales and woodland burst;
But in all that fair procession
The crocuses were first.
~Frances Ellen Watkins Harper from “The Crocuses”

snowcrocus2

croci13

To be sure, it feels wintry enough still:
but often in the very early spring it feels like that.
Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale.
A man really ought to say, “The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago”
in the same spirit in which he says, “I saw a crocus yesterday.”
Because we know what is coming behind the crocus.
The spring comes slowly down this way;
but the great thing is that the corner has been turned.
There is, of course, this difference that in the natural spring
the crocus cannot choose whether it will respond or not.
We can…
It remains with us to follow or not, to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer.
~C.S. Lewis from “The Grand Miracle”

fallcrocus

As if pulled by invisible threads from heaven, the crocus shoots have come through frozen ground to herald spring.  There is nothing apparent that would lure them up into the light — it is still cold, the days still dark, it is still deep winter on the calendar.

Yet they emerge, blind to all that depressing reality, to show their cheerful faces, as if all is grace and more joy is to come. The corner is turned as we trudge slowly down the slope of winter into spring.

These were first, but won’t be last.  We know what comes behind the crocus.

drizzlecroci


 

Preparing the Heart: What is Coming Behind the Crocus

chuckanuts2

snowcrocus2

This is why I believe that God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on His shoulders. The miracles that have already happened are, of course, as Scripture so often says, the first fruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming on. Christ has risen, and so we shall rise.

…To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: but often in the very early spring it feels like that.  Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale.  A man really ought to say, ‘The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago’  in the same spirit in which he says ‘I saw a crocus yesterday.’

Because we know what is coming behind the crocus.

The spring comes slowly down the way, but the great thing is that the corner has been turned.  There is, of course, this difference that in the natural spring the crocus cannot choose whether it will respond or not.

We can. 

We have the power either of withstanding the spring, and sinking back into the cosmic winter, or of going on…to which He is calling us.

It remains with us whether to follow or not,  to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer.
~C. S. Lewis from “God in the Dock”

snow222144

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

chuckanuts

You, who are beyond our understanding,
have made yourself understandable to us in Jesus Christ.
You, who are the uncreated God,
have made yourself a creature for us.
You, who are the untouchable One,
have made yourself touchable to us.
You, who are most high,
make us capable of understanding your amazing love
and the wonderful things you have done for us.
Make us able to understand the mystery of your incarnation,
the mystery of your life, example and doctrine,
the mystery of your cross and passion,
the mystery of your resurrection and ascension.
~Angela of Foligno (1248-1309)– prayer

snowyyew2

christmasmorning

Between Midnight and Dawn: No Flower Can Wither

 skagitwillow

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For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  For,

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.
1 Peter 1:23-25

 conwaychurch1

How fresh, oh Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! even as the flowers in spring;
         To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring.
                      Grief melts away
                      Like snow in May,

         As if there were no such cold thing.

         Who would have thought my shriveled heart
Could have recovered greenness? It was gone
         Quite underground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown,
                      Where they together
                      All the hard weather,
         Dead to the world, keep house unknown.
         These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickening, bringing down to hell
         And up to heaven in an hour;

Making a chiming of a passing-bell.

                      We say amiss
                      This or that is:
         Thy word is all, if we could spell.
         Oh that I once past changing were,
Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
         Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Offering at heaven, growing and groaning thither;

         And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
         I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing. Oh, my only light,
                      It cannot be
                      That I am he
         On whom thy tempests fell all night.
         These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide;
         Which when we once can find and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us where to bide;
                      Who would be more,
                      Swelling through store,
         Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.
~George Herbert “The Flower”

 

drizzlecrocus
primula2

As they are meant to do,
the crocuses creep skyward,
snowdrops flourish,
the orchard tree buds swell
daffodil bulbs awaken bright from their autumn burial.

Bird song is plentiful again in the gray and frozen mornings
and frogs’ chorus rejoices again in the evenings.

There will be spring again in only a few short weeks,
despite how dark things feel now.
Exhaustion will be replaced by renewal
and fresh air filled with the sweetness of cherry and apple blossoms.

Our fields will grow lush and soft
with the sun warm on our horses’ withers.

It isn’t enough to celebrate the defeat of winter
by blooming where we are planted;
may we be forever past changing
by never withering again.

skagitflats516
During this Lenten season, I will be drawing inspiration from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn