Ever Were or Ever Will Be

Sunrise is an event that calls forth solemn music in the very depths of our nature, as if one’s whole being had to attune itself to the cosmos and praise God for the new day, praise him in the name of all the creatures that ever were or ever will be.

I look at the rising sun and feel that now upon me falls the responsibility of seeing what all my ancestors have seen, in the Stone Age and even before it, praising God before me. Whether or not they praised him then, for themselves, they must praise him now in me. When the sun rises each one of us is summoned by the living and the dead to praise God.
~Thomas Merton from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

I’m well aware not everyone greets the morning with praise; dawn signals the start of a new day of painful relationships, back-breaking work, and unending discouragement. I know people who keep themselves up until 3 AM just so they can sleep through the sunrise and somehow find a way to start their day at noon after all hint of morning has passed.

Instead I’m one of those barely tolerable “morning” persons, waking up without an alarm, ready to rise, a song in my heart and a smile on my lips. The gift of a new day and another try at life is a source of great joy and inspiration to me.

God keeps bringing the sun back to us, day in and day out. We, His creatures, are given yet another chance.

May His Name be praised evermore.

A Soul Set Free

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We know when we are following our vocation
when our soul is set free from preoccupation with itself
and is able to seek God and even to find Him,
even though it may not appear to find Him.

Gratitude and confidence and freedom from ourselves:
these are signs that we have found our vocation
and are living up to it
even though everything else
may seem to have gone wrong. 

They give us peace in any suffering.
They teach us to laugh at despair.
And we may have to.

— Thomas Merton from No Man is an Island

 

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For three decades I have worked in a public setting,
my faith checked at the threshold as I walk in the door.

Preoccupied with the needs of the day,
my prayers for patients and co-workers
stay silent but not unheard
as God knows how to find His way in
through the cracks, under the door.

Even where He is deemed unnecessary
He is present, incognito.

I’ll turn a corner and find Him there,
in streaming rays through the window
illuminating a polished tile floor.
He’s streaming down the face of a patient,
or behind the smile of a co-worker.

He will not be turned away
even when we bar the door to keep Him out.

Knowing this helps me laugh
when I need it most.
Knowing this sets my soul free
from worries;
Knowing this, I shall look to find Him
wherever He may be,
even where He is unwelcome.

 

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When the Sun Rises

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Sunrise is an event that calls forth solemn music in the very depths of our nature,
as if one’s whole being had to attune itself to the cosmos
and praise God for the new day,
praise him in the name of all the creatures that ever were or ever will be.

I look at the rising sun and feel that now upon me
falls the responsibility of seeing what all my ancestors have seen,
in the Stone Age and even before it, praising God before me.

Whether or not they praised him then, for themselves, they must praise him now in me.

When the sun rises each one of us is summoned by the living and the dead to praise God.
~Thomas Merton from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

 

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The first hints of an orange sherbet sunrise this morning began around 5:15 AM, and rapidly stretched across the eastern horizon north and south, with the colors deepening and spreading across the cloud cover. Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters started as dark silhouettes against this palette of rich color, then began to show crags and glaciers as the sun illuminated the clouds above them. The entire farm was cast in an orange glow for a few brief seconds as the color crept higher and higher up the cloud banks overhead. Then it ended as quickly as it began.

All at once, everything returned to gray and ordinary, with no hint of the spectacular show that had just taken place. It could be dismissed so easily but must not be forgotten in our return to the routine of every breath, every step of our daily lives.

A sunrise is His smile and encouragement when we are barraged daily with discouragement. Here, free for the taking, is startling, wondrous magnificence beyond imagination — grace that brings us to our knees, especially when we are mired in gray troubled ordinariness and plainness.

Drink deeply of this.

Hold it, savor it and know:
to witness any sunrise is a chance to praise God to His smiling face.

 

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Between Midnight and Dawn: A Hidden Wholeness

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My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart…
Psalm 51:17a

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there is in all things …. a hidden wholeness.
~Thomas Merton

 

sometimes
I touch solitude on the shoulder
and surrender to a great tranquility.
I understand I need courage
and sometimes, mysteriously,
I feel whole.
~Luis Omar Salinas from “Sometimes Mysteriously

 

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When we are at our most tender and vulnerable,
hurting, alone and barely able to breathe–
that is when we gift ourselves to God,
and He welcomes us with open arms,
knowing the sacrifice we make.

He was once just like us, alone and hurting.

No longer burnt offerings, nor money,
but He asks for a sacrifice of us,
broken and yielding,
ready for healing,
begging for wholeness.

He becomes our glue to shore up our shattered pieces.

 

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

Between Midnight and Dawn: Pouring Out Ourselves

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I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.
~Philippians 4:12-14

The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.
~Thomas Merton

We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others.
Elisabeth Elliot

 

Much of my professional work as a physician involves helping people avoid suffering. Either I strive to prevent illness, or address symptoms early, or once someone is very sick or injured, try to mitigate the discomfort and misery. Sometimes I am able to help. Too often they are futile efforts. At that point all I can give is myself, caring for my patient as best I can. There is no medication, no physical manipulation or surgery, no magic touch that makes the difference that love can.

In a flawed and broken world, there will be suffering that cannot be prevented. We can run, but we can’t hide. It is avoidance that hurts us most. For some, it is the temporary anesthesia of alcohol or other recreational substances, a burrowing into numbness that prevents feeling anything at all. For others, it is the never-ending quest for fulfillment in pleasure, which is transient and hollow, or accumulating material goods, which eventually bore, become obsolete and pile up in landfills.

He poured Himself into us as He suffered. In turn, thus filled, we have ourselves to give.

Nothing else lasts. Nothing else matters.

I’m not sure God wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to love, and be loved. But we are like children, thinking our toys will make us happy and the whole world is our nursery. Something must drive us out of that nursery and into the lives of others, and that something is suffering.
~C. S. Lewis

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

We are His Tears

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Remember the goodness of God in the frost of adversity.
~Charles Spurgeon

There is in all visible things – a hidden wholeness.
~Thomas Merton

Hard times leave us frozen solid,
completely immobilized
and too cold to touch,
yet hope and healing is found
within the wholeness and goodness of God.

Even when life’s chill leaves us aching,
longing for relief,
the coming thaw is real
because God is good.

Even when we’re flattened,
stepped on, broken into fragments —
the pieces left are the beginning
of who we will become,
made whole again
because God is good.

The frost lasts not forever.
The sun makes us glisten and glitter
as ice melts down to droplets.
We are the hidden wholeness of God,
His eyes and ears,
heart and soul,
hands and feet.
Even more so,
we are His tears.

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Listening to Rain

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forests, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the bridges, and the talk of the water courses everywhere in the hollows! Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.
~ Thomas Merton

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten