Go ahead, find some shoes and go out the door. You don't have to be gone long, just go. Ten minutes out, ten minutes back if that's all you can "afford" to invest today. But when you're out there, be all there! Be mindful of what you see and hear in your world.. Start listening with your eyes. You never know what you might discover. And if you won't take my word for it, here's a quote to get you motivated!
Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher." William Wordsworth
What are you waiting for? The weekend is whispering your name..."Come. Pause. Listen." Yes. You. Out.the.door.
A wise man recently told me – you need to learn to hear with your eyes (oh, Moshe Kempinski, the conversations I’ve been having with you in my head) so I decide to do that today. I wonder what will I see, what I will hear? I am choosing to be intentional about looking...
but I don’t really know what I am looking for...(and life is a lot like that, most days.)
I am walking in the most ordinary of places today, unlike my recent adventures in the intense and varied land of Israel. Oh, such a place, such a place. I’ll never forget the wonder of exploring Hippos...was that just three weeks ago?
To stand atop that mountain, with a bit of breeze lifting my hair, taking in a splendid view, wandering with friends or alone on a cardo (Main Street) that was centuries...no, millennia old?
Seeing where the columns fell in a row, here, here, here, when an earthquake shook the city... It is like a dream...thinking about it right now, I feel wistful, full of longing to walk there again. (Hippos was in my top two “wow” moments in Israel, along with Gethsemane.)
But I am not in Hippos anymore, I am back here in my rather drab spring-isn’t-quite-here-yet world, where I’ve walked hundreds of times. What can there possibly be to see, I wonder?
I don’t know what I’m looking for, I’m just looking, eyes wide open, ears too.
How many shades of brown can there be? Yes, bits of green are emerging, but overall, the landscape is underwhelming.
I notice the barbed wire fence needs repair near the creek...which means I have no trouble at all scrambling through to the interesting side. (Last time, the fence looked much better, and I looked much worse after I snagged my pants and ripped a red angry scratch in my leg.)
It’s the season of mud, just now, wedged here between winter that will not give up and spring that can’t find it’s mettle. The water along the creek is finally receding after recent rain and heavy snow raised the banks to overflowing.
I’m listening with my eyes, and I can hear the busy-ness scramble of life along the creek banks when I'm not here. Lots of small creatures, coming and going, stretching to reach the creek for a drink, creating little tracks through the grass, highways and byways leading to hidden burrows and holes beneath giant gnarled tree roots. Groundhog, squirrel, chipmunk, a skunk, right here, a few weeks ago, creeping across the frozen span.
Around the far side of an enormous stump, a startled muskrat hustles herself straight into the water and disappears. As I pause, birds flit from brush pile to the thorny hedge that is the perfect cover for song sparrows and nest building cardinals. Overhead, two red-wing blackbirds seem to be gossiping about me, pink hooded intruder; robin fuss tells everyone I’m here.
A flash of white grabs my attention...pure white feather resting in the mud.
I’m pleased with myself for noticing...but when I bend down, a bit of movement surprises me:
a honey bee, stopping for some water.
The creek is too fast for her tiny form, so she’s grateful for mud...me, not so much.
I take a few more steps, and the story of the white feather unfolds before my eyes. I'm hearing the scream of the hawk, the muffled piping of the lovely pigeon who became dinner. Now as the wind scatters feathers, I know the tree swallows will gather whiteness to soften their nests in a few weeks.
I climb up the bank and wander along the edge of the cemetery. I wonder about this enormous rock which I have never noticed before.
It’s probably eight feet by six feet, and I’m sure it’s always been here, but I wasn’t listening for its story until today. Why is it uncovered, all weathered and worn, right here in the middle of a grassy area just south of the grave stones.
And who etched this cross along the side?
I clamber through another broken down fence, and stooping, I spot the tiny blue brightness of corn speedwell.
Yes, it’s a weed, but it’s hard to argue with this kind of blueness.
A tree stump
with a half dozen gnarled roots reaching into the stream
is the perfect spot to pause
and let my soul finally
catch up to the rest of me.
I sit for a long time.
I realize I have missed this ordinary place in the weeks I’ve been “seeing the world,”
missed the opportunity to ramble at my own (slow) pace,
missed these familiar sounds -
and horses clip-clopping along the road
and wind whispering, "Welcome home..."
I whisper back, "It’s good to be home."
It's time to get back to the house now; neighbors rumble by in their carriage, waving. I pause once more, looking up through the branches of my favorite meadow tree. I don’t see it from this angle very often.
This is a tree whose stories I would love to hear. I’m certain this ancient oak predates all the European settlers who traveled to this area in the mid-1700’s. The first church in the valley stood right here in the meadow, and this tree probably stood in or near the church yard, hearing the preaching and the visiting and the laughter of children and the singing. Today it only heard the wind. And humming.
And what did I hear today, with my eyes?
I read the music,
and I heard the song of home.
This sweet and lonesome melody,
with interludes of long silence, stanzas of joy and lament -
it is my song.
And so, I sing.
HumminB (is home!)
Sunday was supposed to be April Fool’s day, but yesterday I woke up to a world in white, snow upon snow upon snow, maybe 6 inches! In the early light, I was watching birds outside my kitchen window...and before coffee, I’m never quite sure I can trust what I see.
I looked again.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one confused by the piles of whiteness. A disoriented Wilson’s snipe was sharing space with a robin on the driveway! (No foolin'!!)
I was tempted to complain...snow in April? But I knew it couldn’t last long, and truly it was beautiful out there, a winter wonderland. I'd be a fool to complain. In another season of life, I would have looked out into that beauty, longing for the chance to see the sights, camera in hand. So, why not do it?
I pulled on my purple coat and a warm ivory scarf, found my ready-for-storage snow boots and my favorite mittens, and opened the door into “pause.”
Somehow, snow muffles the ordinary noises of country life – leaf rattle was silenced, and traffic buzz from beyond the hill had been muted.
I was left to wander in snow hush and bird song.
A determined song sparrow warbled from the walnut tree, and everywhere, robins fussed and squabbled, trying to find perches on fence posts with six-inch snow caps. (Oh God, let me be the song sparrow...)
I made meandering paths with frequent footprints like this,
stopping “in my tracks!”
to look up,
So much to see,
in sparkle and shine mode.
I was wrapped in stillness and wonder. I discovered I was smiling and couldn’t stop. (But I didn’t really try.) I had not asked for this enchanting gift, but I was grateful to open my arms, my heart wide to receive it from God’s hand.
Job 37:5,6 God does great things that we cannot comprehend –
for to the snow He says, “fall on the earth...” (even in April.)
Soon enough, it’s time to return to the house. (and the coffee.)
That snipe has moved on (he wasn’t frozen in place as I had feared.)
Already, snow is falling in muffled thumps from branches and wires. By day’s end, the whiteness will be a slushy memory along the roadside, and maybe my gratitude will have melted away too. (I’ll work on that...)
But for these moments, I’ll choose joy, I’ll choose gratitude, I’ll chose praise.
Praise the Lord from the earth-
Fire and hail, snow and mist...
If the snow can praise Him, so can I.
Even in April. For snow.
I find no mention of any one of the core group of 11 disciples between the crucifixion and the resurrection.
At the end of the longest day of their lives, it seems they went home knee deep in grief and dropped into the oblivion of exhausted sleep. When they awoke, it dawned on them afresh that all the horror was not a nightmare but the truth. He was dead.
And now, what was truth?
The paradigm of their hopes and dreams-the wave of wonder they had ridden into the city days before, to the rhythm of "Hosanna" - had shifted and shattered, and now the fragments of all those broken dreams pierced their hearts.
If they heard, "It is finished," they didn't grasp the meaning dripping from that marred mouth. They only knew their own terrible loss.
It was finished. He was gone.
Life as they had hoped it would be faded to black.
Only one sentence in Luke 23:56 describes the day after the crucifixion: "On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment..." and this verse seems to be describing the women who were waiting for their chance to live their love for Him one last time by spice and ointment lovingly applied.
The silence regarding the other followers, eleven now, is deafening. Perhaps it was for them a day even darker than the one before, if that were possible. In utter darkness of spirit, they sat in the deep shadow His death had cast across their lives.
The reality of Friday's darkness settled over them like a shroud.
Memories crowded in, and they saw Him there on the cross, dying, over and over again.
They knew it was The End, and they trembled, wondering what was to become of each one of them, the men and women marked as The Followers. They were facing the end of life as they had known it, as they had dared to dream it would be with their King and his Kingdom.
Life had become one dark day, followed by a darker one.
As you walk through this Saturday, between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, walk a little slower.
Dare to inhale the fear and pain and abandonment of that terrible day.
Even though you know Sunday is coming, give yourself to this interlude of grief and deep loss.
Be fully present in the horror of what life without Jesus looks like.
Linger in the darkness...and remember.
I discovered this nest today, hanging over the creek in the much-maligned bean tree. I couldn’t touch it, but from my vantage point it appears to be mostly intact and tidy which is no small feat. We had a winter of wildest winds and nor’easters.
I marvel at its survival,
its staying power.
I pause to think about what I am seeing:
This is a tiny home...built by a small creature who would fit in my cupped hand and whose brain is the size of a shriveled pea. Or smaller. How did she build this little dwelling for her delicate eggs, this safe and secure abode for her tiny, naked brood?
She had no You-tube video to watch, no “Fixer-Upper” episode to survey, no (Bird) Home Depot to run to when she needed more supplies or tools. She had no help.
Oh, and she assembled it without written instructions using her beak.
I want to remember this tough little nest-builder next time I think the task before me is too hard,
next time I don’t think I can do “this” alone, whatever "this" may be,
next time I make excuses because I’m worried that I don’t have enough resources or tools to do a good job.
This little nest reminds me to persevere,
to rely on the Creator’s help to do the work He has given me to do,
to trust that I will have what I need,
to use what is before me and around and within me,
to believe that my work will outlast the storms.
Here's what I was thinking about today, a quote from my daily "Simplicity" calendar, "inspiration for a simpler life:"
Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods.
You will be certain to find something you have never seen before...
Alexander Graham Bell
I didn't dive into the woods, but I did wander a bit. I wasn't sure what I was looking for - but here's what I found! (Thanks for the challenge, Mr. Bell!)
What were you looking for today? What did you find?
Time for a wonder-full walk. Want to come along? With temperatures soaring to the 70’s - 30 or 40 degrees warmer than normal!!- we won’t even need our sweatshirts! (As you can tell, our walk happened a few days ago, since today is a rainy "high of 47 degrees" day!! I guess this makes our wonder-full walk even more of a treasure!)
Let’s wander along Hickory Lane and Cemetery Road; the sky is a canvas of cloud splendor, and it might take us forever to walk a mile...I keep stopping to look up, to turn fully around and look again, gaping at the shifting magic overhead. The scene changes, reframes, comes into focus, fades, and changes again. I can't seem to find any words but Wow! And thanks!
In the flooded meadow, the puddles are full of clouds, it’s Longfellow’s “Infinite meadows of heaven” reflected in slop, and I think, “This is my life.” (Yours too?) Still, it’s puddle-wonderful. (Thanks, e e cummings.)
My heart is so full I can barely breathe. For three days, that one new worship song has filled my mind, my heart; now it overflows, and I’m singing truth loud and scaring the birds.
Your deep, deep love
Washes over me
Your deep, deep love
Fills my every need
How I long to hear Your voice call out my name
It draws me to Your deep, deep love...
(You can learn it and sing along right here!)
I adapt it and sing it again -
"How I love to hear Your voice call out my name,
it draws me to Your deep deep love..."
The creek sings too, its own water music, lavishly splashing the full greenness of spring across a dead log.
Willows wave promises, and I wave back.
Overhead, a robin prances in the tree tops...(but won't perch for a clear photo!)
Bluebird call notes make my heart race; a cardinal sings in the underbrush.
And look! In the thorn thicket, a perky Carolina wren announces himself.
Not all the sounds are music. Near the still-frozen pond, geese are loudly out-of-sorts. Probably, they wanted to take a float; their complaints rasp the air like rusty gate racket. But I still love them. They make me smile.
And over everything, sky wonder. More extravagant than you would ever imagine seeing in this long valley in the drab of February. The skyscape is full of glory, clouds of all sorts gather and disband, little windows of azure open and close, and I wonder what’s coming next...Jesus? A cold front? Both?
This vision of sky beauty and the smell of wet earth and the robin song of hope swell up inside of me and I’m sure if I don’t sing I’ll break wide open...
Were the whole realm of nature mine. (Wait...isn’t it all mine for the seeing and hearing and feeling touching and even tasting, because it’s all His and so am I, and it’s all gift?)
That were an offering... (a present, this present moment, my heart clear full, my vision fully clear for this glimpse of enough and glory, mud and clouds)
Far too small – (and yet it’s all I have to offer, my small presence, my small gifts, my small full soul, broken, mended, filling, spilling joy.)
Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all. It’s small, but it’s my all...
and I fling it heavenward like a handful of feathers and of course it comes back all over me,
joyful thanks pouring grace back over me.
I’m walking on a cloud of His enoughness, and it carries me.
Maybe tonight in my dreams, I’ll be flying.
For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it.
A half dozen gratitudes for the commonplace bits of beauty my eye has seen on a mild winter day...
1. Sunrise glowing like this, just for a few minutes...
2. Bluebirds calling and singing, as if they didn't notice the snow.
3. Soft spring-promise green shining on the meadow willow.
4. Late winter afternoon sun sparkling on a chattering creek...
5. Momentary parhelion shimmering along the mountain just before sunset...
from the guest room window.
And I almost missed it.
6. A delicately beautiful sunset streaked with every shade of blue.
For most of these bits of beauty, the space between seeing and not seeing was moments...
a glance, and then a second glance. The briefest pause...and oh!
How many times do I miss the opportunity to see and to give thanks because I'm in too much of a hurry to notice, moving too fast to catch the glimpses of glory?
That's why I need to wander and wonder. Because if Ivan Pavin is right, and "for every beauty there is an eye to see it," I want to be that eye.
Let me be singing when the evening comes...or at least humming. HumminB.
I’m sitting in darkness at my morning spot, listening as rain drums steadily against the metal porch roof. I check my weather app: “Rain continuing for 120 minutes.” I know I won’t be needing my camera this morning. Eventually, light will seep across the valley in the least obvious manner, but nothing picture-worthy will splash across my view- no flung clouds in God-gaudy pink, no eye-pleasing blue backdrop. Blinding golden rays will not reach across my desk, stretching long shadows over my journal pages.
I have no anxiety about whether the light will come.
No doubt, no worry.
I barely give it a thought. I’m sure.
The light will come.
Is this because of my great faith? Am I “naming and claiming” the certainty of sunrise?
Of course, no. It seems silly to even mention the possibility. It’s not about me.
It’s about the utter reliability of the sun.
I can stake my claim with certainty – the light will come – because of the dependability of the sun. It seems so obvious.
How often do I spend time fretting, anxious, full of fears and worries when I’m sitting in the dark of life, waiting for God to show up?
As if this time He blinked and didn’t notice my struggle.
As if He went for a short walk and missed my call.
As if my text message got “lost in cyberspace” en route to His inbox, or the server was down.
When will my trust in God match my faith in the reliability of the sun?
No, He doesn’t always (often!) do just what I want. I find no guarantees for a certain type of sunrise, a color that’s my favorite, or a photo worthy cloud formation.
But is God always at work, morning by morning, in my life?
Will He show up?
Can I count on Him?
Well, I want to trust, but some days...my faith in the sun appears to be stronger than my faith in the One who makes it rise.
If I had a child who was anxious about whether the sun was going to come up today, how could I help her be sure? I think the best thing she can do is study the sun (and the earth...because the sun doesn’t actually rise, we move to meet the sun, but that’s a different topic!) – figure out the nature and habits of the sun, discover what is known about the rotation of the earth, the declination of a location on the globe, etc. Eventually, as the seeker’s knowledge grows – both facts and personal experience with sunrise, - her certainty in the reliability of sunrise grows, and worry fades.
In the same way, I don’t need to “conjure up” more faith when I’m struggling. (What a relief!!!)
What I can do is focus on discovering what God is like as I read His Word and listen to the stories around me. When I pause to think about how I’ve experienced Him, when I hear how others in ancient times and recent days have seen God working, I expand my knowledge of “what God is like.”
I study the Son...figure out the Nature and habits of the One.
As I learn to know Him better, my trust grows, and my faith is deepened, and I spend less time wondering if He will show up, more time watching for Him to act in every corner of my day.
Even in the dark, I can count on Him because He always shows up.
The light will come.
Need another nudge in the direction of “nowhere?” In his TED talk, Cloudy with a chance of joy, Gavin Pretor Pinney suggests that “to tune in to clouds is to slow down, to calm down; it’s like a bit of everyday meditation.” (I highly recommend you take ten minutes and 50 seconds and listen to this!)
Maybe on these bitingly cold mornings (here in central PA) you’re looking forward to that summer vacation, thinking about how you’re really going to take advantage of the chance to do nothing. But don’t forget to look up NOW, in this moment! You never know what you might see...
As Pretor-Pinney puts it,
“You don’t need to rush off away from the familiar,
across the world, to be surprised.
Pay attention to what’s so commonplace, so every day, so mundane
that everybody else misses it.”
"(Clouds) are in fact the most diverse, evocative, poetic aspect of nature." G. Pretor-Pinney
"Cloud-spotting legitimizes doing nothing...and sometimes we need excuses to do nothing...
We need to be reminded that slowing down and being in the present,
not thinking about what you've got to do
and what you should have done,
but just being here,
letting your imagination lift from the everyday concerns down here...
it's good for you,
it's good for the way you feel,
it's good for your ideas. It's good for your creativity.
it's good for your soul."
So, go ahead, pause and look up.
Wherever you are, look at your patch of the sky and marvel at what you see.
Breathe in, slow, deep breaths, and breathe out thankfulness for the infinitely beautiful sky above you, for the creativity revealed in shape and form and color and movement.
Psalm 19:1 The heavens are telling the glory of God.
(Clouds too? Yes, I think so!!)
I'm finding my way beyond the maze of the "middle" years