Tag Archive | summer

My Summer Travels with Thoreau

          “I have traveled a good deal in Concord,” Henry David Thoreau once famously said of his frequent walks through his home town.   Usually when we think of “travel,” we think of visiting places away from home, places remote maybe, or ancient; places filled with history, with art; places to awaken our imaginations, relax our often over-busy lives.

          But for Thoreau, who never ventured far from his native Concord and his Walden Pond, travel simply meant a careful observation of all that lay immediately around him.  Travel meant having eyes to see what can be so easily overlooked in all the familiar places of our lives.

          These days, living as I do with CFS/ME, I no longer travel much beyond the street on which we live.  But I am learning to travel with Thoreau, learning better to see and appreciate the immensity that lies right here on our little street.  Here’s a bit of what I’ve seen in my spring and summer “travels.”

not the Arc de Triomphe

just a simple arch celebrating

life ever-renewing

inviting us to walk beneath its bower

to mini triumphs of our own

***

lantana basking in the summer sun

reaching beyond its confines

to dance and frolic

in its tiny corner of the world

***

nature’s votive candles

tucked in a niche of the Cathedral of the Wind,

lit, perhaps, in memory of earlier

leaves and flowers that have come and gone,

sanctity of all of life

***

tiny green beetle

bulging black eyes

legs stippled and striped,

antennae extending into the unknown;

mystery of life

***

 

delicate lace tatted perhaps

by Belgian fairies working late

beneath the sliver of a silvered moon,

each tiny stitch a miracle of love

***

a piece of bark shredded from a tree,

limp, but yet alive

with ancient memories,

nature’s sculpted art displayed

on shelf of bright green grass 

***

a lone pine cone

seeds of new life expectant held

in soft green sheltering arms

beneath an endless sky

beckoning to new horizons

here and after here

***

Yes!  I have traveled a good deal on my little street and am thankful for each marvel that has brightened my summer days.

  

Growing Season

Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk so that by it you may

grow into salvation I Peter 2:2

          Summertime.  Growing season. 

          I’m remembering a summer day long ago now.  The memory is still so vivid.  I stood behind my desk at the Williston Park Reformed Church on Long Island, and I felt so small.  I had arrived the day before, fresh from a beautiful ordination service in Michigan, and I felt so blessed to be starting down this new road of pastoring.  But I remember calling a friend on the phone and saying, “I feel as though I’m wearing a dress that’s two sizes too big for me.”

          I thought of that time recently as I read St. Peter’s encouragement to the recipients of his first letter to “grow into” their salvation, to “grow into” their faith.  “Grow into.”  In that little phrase, Peter reminds us that faith is not a stagnant commodity.  Not something we either “have” or “don’t have.”  Faith is more like a dress or a suit that we put on—one that is two or three sizes too big.  Faith is something that requires our constant “growing into.” 

          I think I grew a bit into that two-sizes-too-big-for-me dress during the years I served as a pastor, but I know I never fully grew into it.  I think, too, that I’ve grown into my dress of faith over the years, but I know I never have and never will fully grow into it.  There’s always so much more of God to learn about.   So much more of God’s creation to learn about.  So much more of Scripture to learn about.  So much more of myself to learn about.   (And please forgive all those sentences ending with a preposition!) 

          It’s always been interesting to me to note how eager most people are to grow in so many different areas of their lives.  Eager to learn new skills.  To hone old skills.  To develop new interests.  To read more.  To listen more.  To travel and/or explore more.  But all too often I’ve also noticed that many people remain “stuck” in a faith they learned in their childhood but have not really explored and developed in their adulthood.  For so many, as J.B. Phillips reminds us, their God is simply “too small.”  And the problem is that a “too small” God often disappoints us.  Such a God “will often prove inadequate in the tests of real life.”* The problem also is that a “too small” God does not challenge us to be all that God intends for us to be.

           “Growing into salvation.”  Growing into faith.  Not just a summertime task, but really the task of a lifetime.  A task that requires honesty, diligence, commitment.  A task that calls for patience  and humility.  A difficult task.  At times a heavy task, because of all the questions and doubts we must confront.  But nevertheless, a most rewarding task.  For it’s a task that calls us into an ever deepening relationship with ourselves.  Into an ever deepening relationship with others.  And most especially, into an ever deepening relationship with the immensity of the God of our faith, a God who is always so near, yet always just beyond our grasp.

***

*Robert Corin Morris, Wrestling with Grace

 

 

 

Of Windows and Walls–a Photo Essay

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There are days when my walls feel thick. Oppressively thick. Thick and dark, as though they’re pushing in on me and taunting my CFS/ME persistent need for rest. Days when I simply want to be outside these walls. Out and “doing,” rather than simply “being,” forever sitting on the maroon and cream colored roses that pattern my sofa. It’s not that I’m never able to be out and about.  I am able at times to take short walks, enjoy an occasional visit with a friend, even attend worship now and again.  I am grateful for each of these, but I so wish they were not so infrequent.  

I’m grateful, too, for my sturdy walls and their protection from the bitter cold of January. From the heat of August. From rains and snows and winds. Grateful for these walls, oh yes. But there are days of weakness when I want to break them down and simply be done with all this resting. Exchange my sofa roses for the lilies and the iris that grow outside the confines of my barricades. I do not always like my walls.

But I have windows too. Bright openings in my walls. Openings that calm and reassure. That pull me out of torpor. That open up my walls, push back their taunts, and call me to a place of mindful, humble praise.

One of my windows, the window that watches while I sleep, looks to the west, through branches of an aging dogwood tree. One dogwood branch in particular has become a special friend. Constant in presence. Constant in attentiveness to mercies and beauty new every morning.

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Her white blossoms greet me each spring.

 

 

 

 

 

winter lace

 

 

 

In winter, she sometimes tats a delicate lace of snow…

 

 

 

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…or tosses soft balls of cotton clouds into the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

In the evenings, I often see her through the window, waiting beneath a darkening sky that evokes in me a sometime shudder. Recently, however, there was a different night. I went to close the blinds but opened them instead, transfixed by bursts of light breaking through the menace of the black. Bursts of the Beyond, bursts of Light that shines, of Light no darkness will ever overcome.

 

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Other evenings, not many, but a few, a grand cacophony of soundless color arches through the vastness of the sky. It’s then I almost hear my branch friend’s silent laughter chortling to defy the taunts of my thick walls.

 

sunset

*****

Another window opens up directly across from the sofa roses of my rest. In spring, the vista through this opening is soft and promising, singing gentle songs of busy growth, renewal; sheer joy in all that is alive.

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In the heat of summer, these same branches splash right through my window, bringing with them a sea-green coolness—so welcome and refreshing.

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Then in the fall, the brilliance of the branches once again lights up my indoor space. Beautiful, but a bit foreboding as well. Drawing me into reveries of dyings I have known, more dyings that will come—for friends, for loved ones, one day for me. “Let them be,” I softly pray, “let them be endings both as bright and as unassuming as the falling of these radiant leaves.”

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Through this window, too, in every season, my sea-toned wind chimes sparkle, some days with a stillness that quiets every fear that threatens me. Other days they skip and dance, almost bringing the wind inside to ruffle my hair and lift my sagging spirits.

chimes

Windows. They make me rich with wonders manifold. These wonders don’t exactly make my walls come Jericho-a-tumbling down. But windows have a way of pushing out the walls. A way of letting in the light. A way of lifting me, opening me, connecting me with what’s beyond. And I am grateful.  

Grateful and aware. Aware that there are many in our world confined behind walls far thicker than mine. Walls of painful, crippling illness. Walls of oppression. Walls of punishment. Walls of prejudice and hate. Walls often with only tiny windows or with no windows at all. Walls that shrink minds and souls. Walls that leave spirits damp and dead.

So as I lay my window thanks upon my altar of gratitude, I lay as well a prayer for windows everywhere. A prayer for windows that will enrich, encourage, and embolden all who live behind life’s walls. A prayer for hastening of that day when walls—all walls—will be no more.

Summer Leaves

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Luscious leaves splash through my

window, soaking thirsty bones in

layered depths of sea-green calm;

I sip the leafy cool, savor on my

tongue a strange and earthy tang,

taste of wisdom hidden in those

jade green veins; wisdom learned,

perhaps, from tiny wrens that

shelter in their shade, from fairies,

maybe, or from ladybugs and bees that

mince across their face to tap out

secrets from their lives; wisdom

sipped from beads of rain and dewy

fingers of the night, from buried

roots that hymn the mysteries of

brevity and loss, but also murmur

courage that can laugh at scowls of noonday

sun, can dance in raging storms, can ever

sing a song of strength beyond, beneath,

above, the fragile rhythms of each day.