Archive | November 2012

Pious Squirrel



The little squirrel on my deck has certainly struck a quiet pose of piety—hands meekly folded, head bowed, eyes cast downward.  Perhaps he’s expressing gratitude for a glorious autumn day?  Perhaps praying for his next meal?  Or perhaps—more  sinisterly—perhaps he’s simply trying to look like a humble, pious, innocent creature who couldn’t possibly be the same squirrel who’s been hanging from our roof and helping himself to huge chunks of the birds’ suet!

Unfortunately, endearing as he appears in this pious pose, I suspect the latter, and this little squirrel reminds me all too much of the pious poses we all strike at times to try to impress people—or to try to impress God!  I know I’m guilty of that at times, and I was certainly a master of the pious pose when I was a teen-ager in my parents’ very pious home.  My parents had a deep faith which expressed itself in many ways.  They always attended every church service, and at home, we prayed together before each meal, they spoke often of their faith, and Dad, with sober face, would lead us in family devotions each day after breakfast or lunch.

All well and good, and I’m grateful, very grateful, for the faith of my mother and father and grateful for their sincerity in wanting their three daughters to share that faith.  Unfortunately, however, much of what I practiced as a “pious teenager” was a form of piety rather than real piety or real faith.  I learned all too quickly that appearing to be pious was pretty effective at getting my parents’ attention and praise.  So I would pray long, lovely prayers, and I would also give glowing reports of what God was doing in my young life, even if what I said didn’t really resonate with what I experienced in my daily living.  It certainly elicited praise from my devout parents and maybe even gave me the car keys more often than I would have been allowed them if I hadn’t been quite so openly pious!  Like my little squirrel, I was all too capable of posing as a deeply spiritual person, even if I hadn’t really experienced all that I claimed.  I was a genuine pious fraud!

Thankfully most people aren’t as easily taken in as my parents were!  Pious frauds are usually easily spotted, and most people are not impressed by any of our pious poses put on simply to embellish our status.  Certainly God isn’t the least bit impressed, because God knows our squirrelly thoughts and intentions all too well!

I do believe that God longs for a deep relationship of loving joy and trust with each of us, but I believe, as well, that such a relationship is only possible if we come to God “just as we are.”  Take off our pious facades, and come with our doubts.  With our longings.  With our often fragile faith.  With our sins.  With our fears.  Come in simple honesty to rest in the warm embrace of God’s welcoming love.

I can’t say I offer much of a warm embrace of welcoming love to that little squirrel on my deck.  In fact, I’m really quite annoyed by his thieving ways and then his pious posing as if grabbing chunks of suet was the farthest thing from his mind.  But maybe I should be grateful for his reminder of my own pious posing, past and present?   Hmmm.  Certainly something to think about!

SANDY–Before and After


First Blush of Autumn

Sun-dappled red, tucked in a

green and purple alcove on this

mid-autumnal day, fills me with a

wonder at its almost-hidden loveliness;

soul bends the knee, takes off its shoes,

and breathes a thanks for this and all the

brightness still to burst across our yard in

yellow, orange and brilliant scarlet

joy, as colors leap from tree to tree,

each day a new amazement splayed

beneath the still bright sun of fall.

Radiance shimmers in the air around;

I stand knee-deep in holiness, and

hunger for the taste of sacred in the

breath of each fresh day.


A Neighbor’s Tree

Sodden gray now shrouds that blush of hope that so short a time ago had leaves and spirits dancing in brisk autumn winds.  Shadows lurk in the still-standing trees, fearful yet of Sandy’s powerful bluster that twisted through our neighborhood, viciously tearing green and golden leaves alike, and shattering a neighbor’s aged Eastern White Pine.  The old tree cracked in two and fell with a resounding thud shortly after Sandy had pulled down wires and left the neighborhood in darkness.  And we were the fortunate ones.  Others lost their homes, their cars, and some, their loved ones who never knew what hit them when Sandy slammed a tree against their house or car.

So where the sense of holiness now?  Where the shimmering joy of colors splashed across our lives?  That all seems buried today beneath the piles of soggy leaves and branches, and our hopes seem dashed to mounds of soaking rubble.

But maybe there is holiness and hope even in the midst of all this chaos and ruin?  Maybe God is in the wreckage of the storm as well as in the first blush of autumn’s bright array?  Whatever lies behind the havoc of a frankenstorm like Sandy, (and I don’t think our finite minds can ever find the “just right” explanation we would like to find), I do believe, yes I do believe:

1) that Holy Love embraces all the pain and sadness left in Sandy’s frazzled wake;

2) that Holy Love weeps with Sandy’s devastation and with every other distortion of the dream God dreamed in the long-ago calling of our world into being; weeps with that great Eastern White Pine, weeps with my neighbor’s years-long fight with cancer, weeps with the limitations of my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, weeps with every sadness, every woe, weeps, as St. Paul says, with sighs too deep for words;

3) that Holy Love not only aches and weeps with us in every woe, but that in every aching, every tear, Love is also at all times re-weaving the shreds and tangles of all earth’s brokenness until God’s woven song of someday joy will be complete.

To be sure, the holiness we breathe in the solemn silence left by Sandy’s brutal visitation is a more somber holiness, a quieter sense of sacred Presence than we knew in that first blush of autumn’s wild joy.  But if we listen closely to the wind now blowing gently through the lifeless needles drooped across the ground, I do believe we just might hear a hallowed sigh and feel the groaning ache of a God who yearns to make all things new.