Fire

I tried for ’round about an hour. Used up all the newspaper and cardboard I could find but it wouldn’t take. Dry wood, open flue, a burn lit and it’d peter out over and over. I’d look back at the stove from my blanket on the sofa, hoping, and just see a dark nothing.

This was a long overdue Sabbath. No one else home but my pup and I. Outside was a litter of white drifting down and covering everything. Just needed a fire to make it all perfect.

But it wouldn’t take.

I lay back down on the couch and said “Fine. Lord if you want there to be a fire, you’ll have to make it (no disrespect intended).”

Next time I looked around, flames!

Seems sometimes that all my efforts and the using up all that fuel is a waste of time. As soon as I gave it to the Lord, there was a sweet burn that lasted all evening.

Rest and ask. Wait and receive, from the hand of the giver of all things.

Start a fire in me Lord, I sing a song I wrote. Start a fire and do your work in all the things I fret about.

Rest and ask. Wait and receive.

Not my work but His.

Amen.

What if Nativity

Suppose we peel back all the layers.

Glistening lights

Garlands and gifts

Gingerbread and jolly old men.

*

Imagine all the purchasing and pressure disappear (poof)

And we’re left standing under a black night sky

Vast, velvet, inky darkness above pierced with bright points

And us on the hard earth, fields surrounding, with only the occasional

Bleat.

*

!!!GLORY!!!

Not a silent night but an ear ringing, eye peeling, heart hammering

Beckoning!

*

A newborn cry issues forth

Echoing across the hills

A gusty wail announcing

A Birth

*

Shepherds kneel (and what is kneeling except an expression of great something – worship, wonder, service, amongst other things)

*

What if the plain story pulses with life, still.

Horton like.

“He is here! He is here!”

And when the twinkling, gifting day is over and packed away in boxes,

He is here, still.

And all of the God breathed stars in the expanse above shimmer His-story

Over and over

*

As darkness layers itself, permeates the earth

Across our lands

The announcement still rings.

The invitation echoes on

“…Behold (Look!), I bring you tidings of great joy, which will be to all (yep, that includes you and me) people. For there is born to you today in the city of David (important as prophecy foretold the Messiah would come from the line of David), a Saviour who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger…. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” Luke 2:10-14 NKJV

Join me in listening to this man explain why the Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger was so important, and why the Shepherds would understand what this meant.

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 NKJV

How do I decorate my home

Bright lights

Nativity

Sparkling things

When my heart is littered with residue

Clean out the basement of my soul Lord

As I dig for things stuffed away under the stairs

Open boxes of Christmas memories

Joseph sheltering Mary and the Babe under his protecting arm

Tucked away in special paper

Tuck me away in You

Light my steps with your kind and gracious ways

Rest me from the resentment I carry

My error bleakened heart

Forgive my dismissal of those you’ve given me to love

Fill me afresh with your compassion

Your long, steadfastness

May I receive the Love gift afresh this season

With the sheer astonishment of what this truly is

WHO

This truly is

Asking to take up residence in me yet again and still

May I gladly hold out the gift with unfettered heart

And eyes to see how You do

You, the Light stepping into the midst of the ordinary

Inviting us to see

To see You

Forgiving, saving

Offering Your Life

For us, to us.

Furnace of Affliction

Is it possible that when the veritable fire burns, the result is more than, better than, purer than if you had not felt the flames of affliction in the first place?

Is there a choice or is the narrative already written?

Was Judas condemned to his end before he was born? Wicked, selfish betrayer.

Was Joseph, on the other hand graced with optimism such that no matter what circumstances landed on him, he knew how to ride out the storm again and again until he landed at the top of the heap? Faithful visionary.

Is there an agonizing dialogue with affliction, a stepping into the happenstances and reconciling oneself with the opportunities presented? Dark though the opposition may be, is there a moment of death where we acquiesce to the pain and vulnerability, shake off the hinderances and nod a firm yes to the invitation to blaze with the uncommon glory we were handed?

An outraged cry would be expected. Our dreams don’t often materialize the way we expect them to, but are birthed from difficulty, contracting us into repeating patterns of disappointment and dying, inviting us into the yes of a sweeter revelation of our calling or if we refuse, the devastating deconstruction of our possibilities.

Do we have a choice?

I say yes.

Did Judas?

Jesus said it would have been better for him not to have been born. Yet there was a moment when 30 pieces of silver were cast onto the floor at the feet of the satisfied collaborators of Death. Grief! Regret! Horror!

Was there a choice? A blink moment?

I have to believe there was that.

Was Joseph just a pollyanna? Eternal optimist no matter what?

Or did he grip the hand of the One who allowed his catastrophic journey for a greater, future better yes? Did this sustain him through the pit, a violent separation from the father who loved him, through false accusation, prison, years of unexplainable unfairness, until the moment when it all came together, a rushing of time through a vortex to the moment of comprehension?

I have to believe it’s true.

And that we each have that reckoning, every moment.

Darkness or light.

Live or die.

Hate or love.

Create or destroy.

###

I was blessed to hear this brilliant and beautiful violinist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra last month.

( We heard him play the Sibelius Violin Concerto, but this is my favourite so far.)

Note: References above to Judas and Joseph are regarding the Biblical narrative about Judas’s betrayal of Jesus Christ and subsequent suicide, versus Joseph (son of Jacob) of the infamous coat of many colours story. See Matthew 27:1-5 and Genesis 37, 39-47 NKJV.

Hope?

How’s yours doing?

I just came in on this flurrying evening to my warm home. I was thinking as I drove home from work, from supporting people with special needs, intellectual disabilities, how precarious life is right now, for them especially and other vulnerable members of our population.

Some doctors in Quebec, Canada are advocating for permission to euthanize infants up to one year of age if they are enduring “extreme suffering that cannot be soothed.”

https://nationalpost.com/news/quebec-college-of-physicians-slammed-for-suggesting-maid-for-severely-ill-newborns

I have never been the parent of an infant who endured that kind of suffering, however I am the parent of a one time toddler who grew into a young adult who endured extreme suffering that could not be soothed. Had this option been available back then I must wonder if it would have been suggested or prescribed to my loved son.

I understand a bit. The aching, unending weep as you cannot do the one thing you want to do as a parent, protect your child from suffering, especially at such a tender age.

I’m concerned about the words chosen. “Extreme suffering that cannot be soothed.” At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I’ve had friends with collicky babies. Babies that could not be soothed, for hours, every day. Crying, screaming infants, sometimes writhing in pain, the parents also writhing in their own exhaustion, at their whit’s end, trying to figure out the right formula to help this very unhappy wee one get through another stretch of agonizing hours.

I know it’s a stretch, but everything is these days. MAID was ‘intended’ for those with terminal illness, facing imminent death and experiencing significant, unbearable suffering. All the opponents said, “Be Careful! This is a SLIPPERY SLOPE.” Well here we are careening down that hill. If you’re mentally ill you just have to wait a few more months before you can access a death doctor to finish you off. It’s right there on the Government of Canada website. It’s the new healthcare. Another option for treatment. Saves a lot of money I’m sure.

So I spend time at a group home and at head office today. I haven’t been there in a while and as I’m leaving a crowd of people come in the door. Some staff, some supported people, a parent and at the front desk, a wonderful lady we support fielding questions with dignity and ability. I’m so happy in this fray of people living out the messiness of life together.

How did we get to the place where we feel we have the authority to decide who gets to live or die.

Oh right, we kicked out the source of all hope and climbed on the throne ourselves.

Someone has to be god. It’s just the way everything’s wired. So if you choose not to listen to the one who claims to be that, then you have to put yourself in the uncomfortable position of taking on that role. Is anyone getting tired of how that’s going yet? It’s a pretty awful mess.

So I started out asking how you’re doing. How’s your hope?

(Reply in the comments?)

Sometimes I’m drowning. Everything is overwhelming.

Or is it?

Everything in the news is overwhelming.

Everything on my phone is overwhelming.

I step outside. Our backyard is crusted with white. First snow crispness covering all the decaying detritus of fall. So pretty. It’s not so cold. I breathe deep. Juncos swarm the feeder. I call them Smudgeons. They look like white birds dipped in gray. Smudged.

The woodstove banks out heat, yellow flames lurk around layers of crate wood stacked inside. Wood we were blessed with. I’m grateful.

What if I just.keep.living? Just keep doing the stuff of everyday. And through it all reach deep into community, participate, help, be a blessing, receive blessings, count them.

And wherever I’m asked to be a voice. Do it. With love.

Wasn’t it Mother Teresa who said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

Whether you or I are called to great things or small ones, let us do them with great love.

And how I ask is that possible in this world fraught with confusion, division and violence.

I have only one answer.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 ESV

And perhaps in that, there will be a way to offer a flame of hope to someone who’s lost the will to even live. Isn’t that what we need, what people need when they’re lost in a cavern of suffering? Be it physical, mental even spiritual. Just a spark, someone fanning a smouldering wick to light the way back to hope.

Where are you finding yours these days?

Identity

It’s the core of everything.

And when it’s in question, it’s the crumbling of everything.

When you don’t know who you are… all of it implodes.

Start with the beginning of the day.

There’s a mirror.

What happens when you look in it?

I would love to think it’s good but I think many if not most people lean in and look at flaws at some time in the day. Or compare their face, their hair, their body with someone they know and more likely some popular online person who’s likely been altered either online or truly.

That’s impossible to measure up to.

And that’s just the beginning of the day.

We exercise. And best case scenario is we do it because we want to be strong and healthy. That’s good! Often it’s to silence the taunting voice in the mirror. And it doesn’t matter how beautiful your face or hair or body is, you still hear it.

Then, get dressed. More challenges because who knows if what’s hanging in the closet is in style this year and if you’re even comfortable in it. But thanks to the insidious machine of advertising, if you’re not comfortable, you will be in a year or too due to the psychological warfare being waged on your brain, but then it’ll be too late as a different style of dress will have come in. And likely (if you’re a woman especially) it will cover even less of you than it did before.

Are we even hungry after this? And if we are, the plethora of food options is mesmerizing.

How we even get out the door intact is questionable.

Family. Transportation. School. Job(s). Social life.

And now add in pandemics and all the ideologies out there vying for your soul.

And if you don’t support them all you might be cancelled.

Cancelled? Like a date. Like I’m not wanted? Like I’m out?

Now what’s happening to your identity?

Spiral. Spiral. Spiral.

Depression. Medication. Suicide.

Look at this?!

Whoever you are out there, I’m hugging you.

Breathe.

It’s a lie!

There is hope.

You are loved!!!

Just you, without all the bells and whistles. Without you agreeing with everything. With your questions and discomfort and probably rage and sadness.

Like what the hell is going on and why do we get to inherit this mess?

You’re right.

Here are some thoughts in the midst of the deconstruction of everything.

There is a foundation. Something solid to stand on.

There is truth and stability.

There is love and it’s more than what’s being thrown around out there.

If you are desperate for something to rest your tired soul on let’s talk. There are a few pages here to dive into.

Try “What if a Kingdom.”

And just “Welcome” if you haven’t gone there yet and “Contact” if you want to actually chat.

This is not about promoting a blog but knowing sometimes we all just need a stable place to land.

Peace to you. And I love the Hebrew word that means the same, only more.

Shalom

That is my prayer for you today.

I’m tucked in, bundled in these layers; rumpled cotton sheets, off-white with this soft green leafy pattern like I’m swaddled in a spring garden. Comforter, and the fleecy blanket I swiped from my daughter’s room when she left for university, cover me. Everything’s warm in this nestling as I look across the room at the rocking chair, in the dim light, my clothes laid across the high back.

I’m not a morning person.

But this early morning is calling and I’m not sure what I’ll answer.

Yes, and push back this comfort or sink deeper and yield to another hour of oblivion?

Creativity is calling. I know I’m going to write this while I’m still deep in. I’m going to beat this.

What am I willing to trade for the moments of being weighted down, letting inertia win so my sleepy body can atrophy a bit longer? Which words will not find a page, thoughts succumb to the numbing, so that I and God and others won’t benefit from me being awake.

And I put it in that order on purpose.

I – because I benefit when I put my feet on the floor, grab those clothes and agree that morning is here and being awake is a good thing. Thoughts spark, spirit stretches to the Most High and that’s the next point.

God – not that He benefits from my getting up but I have to believe He’s pleased that I choose rising rather than sinking and has thoughts and plans about this day and all the resources I need in it, so is blessed in some fashion as I reach for Him on this still dawning day, but the blessing is all mine.

Others – because I don’t want the focus to be just on me, but on what God has planned to do through me and that is to bless others in some way, small or big and it’s not about trying but just showing up.

What do we trade all through the day for His glory and our good?

What little decisions press us into our comfort zones, lingering us there in repeating patterns, kaleidoscopes of same habits, stifling the God breathed invitation to wholeness shimmering around our souls daily.

It’s a conundrum as we lay in the beds we’ve made, covered in what’s familiar, safe feeling in some fashion, even if it’s not, yet around us is this sparkling more, this goodness calling us past the self-comfort into a galaxy of provision and we hesitate, I hesitate to step out, crawl out, leap out of the thing that binds me. And sheets, even pretty ones, sure can do that.

So this day…I’m up!

Early and writing. It’s good. Quiet, like no other time. Thoughts flow as I sip this cinnamon tea and anticipate.

And this offering is what the morning brings … so far.

Dog and I at the reservoir.

Crisp air.

Blackbird’s tinselly tune,

and the chickadee -dees dart (note to self: bring sunflower seeds next time).

A riot of burgundies and ochre, paint-splattered across these autumn acres. Flaming sumacs arch into the path.

Then, this tributary and you grey and still against the rushes.

Reflected in shallow stream.

Standing.

Long.

I slip forward, trying not to disturb as your head moves, watching me and I you.

I turn for just a moment (where has dog gone),

And when I look back, you’ve disappeared.

I peer. Are you camouflaged in the reeds?

No.

I press through grass and weeds to my hips, closer,

And along the narrow, weaving corridor of this water, you are there.

Tiptoeing if I can call it that,

One long leg, one web foot after the other.

A graceful exit from my intrusion.

Your neck dips and head turns.

You look and I look as you saunter into the grey,

On this reddest of mornings.

Un-ashamed

You can wear a cloak for a lot of years, unknowingly draping most parts of you in a deep shade of shame.

There are unsettling, unexplainable times in all our lives. Events that drag a child from innocence to knowing. Apple times when the serpent dangles life altering fruit in front of us and we naively reach out, taking a terrible nibble.

I was twelve I think when he came through the door. He met my parents and asked for me to do some babysitting. I was standing in our foyer with Mum and Dad. As he and his wife chatted with us, his eyes wandered to mine. Dark eyes. Hungry eyes. I can still see them. Feel them. Like I was something to eat. The room seemed shaded as if the sun was blocked and I couldn’t catch my breath. And then the air changed. Bright conversation again. Happy to have the request for me to help, my parents smiled at me. His wife was pleased (I think) and they left. I was uncertain but had no words for the dark butterfly trapped in the pit of my stomach.

This one story wound its’ confusing narrative up into my teen years. This heaped on top of other, earlier exploitive chapters. As I look back I wonder if I was marked for this, for the insidious worm kept surfacing at segments of my life, and into adulthood.

What is it that decides this child, this young girl, this teen, this woman is chosen for exploitation? Or who I should say.

Is it the sins of the fathers, the mothers, generations back? Not my father, respectful and kind, or Grandpa. I didn’t have that crippling story added to mine. It was another.

The marks it left robed me, roped me into a thinking that tarnished my whole life.

How do you bounce back when you don’t know what’s tying you in knots.

One evening I sat at a table, in a gathering of wholesome and safe people. But this particular evening someone was absent. The one other women at my table was away. Part way through, as we discussed heart matters and watched the video the church had selected to lead us through, I became aware of panic. A sense of danger and the need to flee. Three men and me. Not safe.

Breathe. Not the same. Breathe. Reason. Don’t cry. Calm. Go to the bathroom. Settle down. Note to self: Make an appointment with counsellor.

Phew! Where did that come from.

And why on earth am I sharing this vulnerable story with you? Why say things that no one has any business knowing. Except that if we don’t tell these things then where will it end…. and….there’s the other side of it.

The gem in this dark soul space. The place of hidden stories.

I sense that when I became a Christian, there was a mere changing of clothes but the heart stuff stayed hidden and festering.

I grew, yes.

I fell in love with Jesus, somewhat.

I worshipped, kind of, the best I knew how.

I was catapulted into the place of being a ‘saved person’, part of the youth group, part of the Christian community that reaches more unsaved people and brings them into the kingdom.

But I was broken.

And I couldn’t express it but always felt something was amiss but assumed it was just being a maladjusted teen.

Don’t mistake what I’m saying. Jesus saved me! I did become part of the Kingdom and knew His voice. But there was this undealt with part of me that just got pushed to the side, the deep inside and caused a limp that wouldn’t heal.

I don’t understand God’s timing, why it’s taken these 40 years to get to the root. But it’s been now and before and will continue I’m sure….

I didn’t understand the depths of his caring, the layers of intensity and purpose in digging into what matters to Him. That He’s present, was there in my history and is here now and ferociously loves me. And is leading me in this healing. And His timing is right.

My heart is soil and He’s turning it

Hauling out shame

Digging deep for the vestiges of these roots.

Planting me a beauty garden

It’s a tenuous walk,

A tentative navigation of unearthed sensations, revealed rawness

Swirling consciousness as comprehension awakens

It’s a rebirthing

A needing to flail and wail

A wanting of being swaddled into safety

A peeling off of masks

A stripping down to the most vulnerable me

I believe it will lead to that garden, in time….

A pure place.

This confidence emerging.

He’s rooting out lies, amending me with love

speaking in His truthful word, gently

as I just lean in and allow this honesty.

Is the story complete? Is the healing done and I’m all better?

No.

Will I ever be fully restored? I hope so but know that this side of Heaven there may always be scars.

For now… just learning to be safe.

Learning to rest in the freedom of letting that young girl not carry the blame.

And that my friend, is good.

My prayer for you is freedom as well. We all have different narratives but the undergirding truth is that Jesus wants to set us free from all that binds us. To help us understand that He is FOR us. So then, honestly, who can be against us?

I hope you let Him into the most tender parts of your story and that you learn He is good and so wants to redeem what you’ve been through.

~In Christ ~

on the anniversary of my salvation (part II)

It’s not all dry

In fact there’s this river winding it’s way through sometimes parched places.

Blood streaming river, grace river, provision river.

And even back then he (Moshe) struck a rock when told and the water gushed out.

He struck a Rock and Water gushed out?!

Water and blood when the Rock was struck, stricken.

I’m stricken that I don’t SEE it all bled out for me. FOR ME!!!

Why stand on the shore, rant about the dry land when there’s this frothing invitation right there.

Cascading

Deep

Filling

Satisfying

Never thirsty again

Stream

I lunge (lunged then and forgot then too when the sun stacked high, soul scorching life and I became an Israelite wandering, murmuring) in.

Immersed

Why not every. single. day?

There’s a river of life flowing out of ….. me.

I choose

this again.

Despite distractions, the vaunted bellowing about the state of things, everywhere.

There’s a river!

Ha ha! There’s a river. What am I doing?

Provision: cleansing, thirst quenching, re-creating, restful, irrigating everything, this river.

Yes. Still and again.

You?

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