Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Washing Out

Tonight I'm feeling the sadness of grieving friends and loved ones. This song formed in my head as I was driving home in the rain. 

Washing Out

I didn’t know what it would feel like
To say your name after we said goodbye
And for the first time the sun forgot to rise
I look up to heaven trying to catch your eye

And the rain falls steady on the trampled ground
And my heart is heavy cause you’re not around
And the river’s rising but the water’s brown
Cause the road we travelled on
Is washing out

I couldn’t know what it would feel like
To walk down to the riverside
I wanna reach you but these wings can’t fly
I’m on my knees and the tide is high

And the rain falls steady on the trampled ground
And my heart is heavy cause you’re not around
And the river’s rising but the water’s brown
Cause the road we travelled on
Is washing out

I wanna know what it will feel like 
When the earth smells sweet after the storm blows by 
When the rain that’s falling doesn’t make me cry
And the grass grows green by the riverside


Thursday, 11 August 2016

These summer days

How can so much living be stuffed into the days of summer? I am a suitcase bursting at the seams, a well overflowing, a garden escaping the chicken wire bounds. 

I have sat on the front porch with nineteen family members (so far), and walked the red beaches and rocked in the blue harbour. I have said my ethereal farewells to the cat that never made it home, and deloused 1.4 pounds of a fresh barn kitten. I have seen the glorious sunset spilling from the heavens over the north shore cliffs and lighting my daughter’s eyes with its secrets. We’ve danced to fiddles in the rain, and filled the house with music, and feasted on the fruits of our little land. We’ve dedicated a baby to God, and sung loudly of His faithfulness, and delighted in her perfect smiles. I have seen the fishing boats go out to meet the sun at its earliest rising and rowed under the village bridge with homemade oars. I have listened to the tales that only grandparents can tell, and embraced four generations of familial love, and received the prayer of my father’s father over my children and household. I have slept in a tent and under the thunder-drummed roof and next to a baby’s snores, and some days have woken to tired bones and headaches, but the eastern light makes shadows of the leaves on the bedroom wall and I remember to be grateful. 

This morning I hear the wind chimes singing the song of the rain to come. It’s a morning for cuddles and another cup of coffee and feeling a bit sad at the emptiness of the house. But here is still fullness of grace. Blessing upon blessing, that’s what these summer days are. 


Saturday, 16 July 2016

Summer and the Givenness of Grace

It’s been internet ages (aka almost three weeks) since I’ve posted anything! What ever happened to the end of June? What happened to my month of prayer? 

Well, summer happened, that’s what! We’ve been camping, beaching, gardening, and partying. We’ve had a couple rounds of family visiting from away. We’re going to Fiddle Fest! Summer has its own rhythm. Some days it feels like swinging between crazy-busy and hazy-lazy. It’s not a bad thing at all, just different. 

The prayer journey is ongoing. I’ve been reading several books that have been expanding my ideas of prayer in indirect ways. I’ve been mulling. Meditating. Morning prayer really is the one practice that gets the day going on the right track. Some of my other prayer time “anchors” have become unmoored with our different routine. But I’m trying not to “get my shorts in a knot” (as my mother used to say!) about it. I know that when summer is over, we’ll all settle back into more predictable days. 

In the meantime, God is still there. And we’re still talking. It’s not about becoming a slave to particular prayer practices. Those practices are tools. Those practices are tracks to my desired destination, but they are no substitute for the welcome upon arrival. 

This thought by Sarah Mackenzie has been keeping my company the last week or so. It’s from her great little book Teaching From Rest. In it, she talks about the seeming impossibility of our task as mothers. To a certain extent, our inadequacy is a given. Our own resources are never enough. She writes,

“I don’t really have any idea how I’m supposed to tackle everything ahead of me in this day, this year, this decade when that’s all I’ve got. It’s just a couple of loaves of bread and a few fish.

Apparently, that’s all He needs.

We are weary because we forget about grace. We act as though God’s showing up is the miracle. But guess what? God’s showing up is the given. Grace is a fact.” (pg. 15, emphasis mine)

Ah. I’ve been letting that sink in a bit. It might be easy to think that all my good habits and discipline are getting me closer to God. And it may be true, in part. Those are all ways that I respond to His call to “draw near.” They are for my benefit. But beneath and above and around it all is the reality - He is there. I don’t have to conjure Him up. His presence is the given. “Grace is a fact.” 

I could beat myself up over the fact that I didn’t have a regular devotional time at all this past week. Or I could be thankful about that book I read on the way to the beach that caused me to wonder about God in a different way. I could recognize the love of God in the faces of family members we don’t get to see very often. I could marvel at how one passage of Philippians that I read two weeks ago is still giving me something to chew over. 

There’s so much grace all around me. So much God. He is never far, even on the days I forget to pray. I can relax a little, knowing that my inadequacy is a given. But so is grace, and because of that, I can rejoice a whole lot. 


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

When You Need to Push Pause on Life

There are days I seem to be living life in fast forward. It can wear me out and chew me up. Voices garble, movement is jerky, and in the frenzied passing of scene after scene, I may have lost the plot.

I need a pause button.

I need a way to stop the madness, be still. I need a way to refocus. I need some quiet. I need to breathe. 

I need to pray.

Prayer is the pause button for all the crazy.
Prayer changes the channel. 
Prayer connects me to a source that gives, rather than drains. 

This pause puts the day in perspective. God gives me His eyes to see the details that matter. His voice is made clear over the constant chatter, and it is music to my ears. He reminds me of my place in the story. He gives me peace. 

And when I push play again, the pace somehow evens out. Life is not flashing before my eyes, and I am no longer the helpless spectator. 

Prayer is the pause that invites God to enter the scene. It is the space for Him to jump back in, so we can walk together, work together, play together. 


Thursday, 23 June 2016

The beauty of the earth

Ivy Joy. 

You are the thrush that sings in the morning, sweet with joy from the crown of the tree.
You are the laurel about my head, victory green and new. 
You are the sun, faithful to smile the day into being. 
You are the brook as it laughs around the corner, kissing the rocks till they sparkle.
You are the wild rose, pink and smooth against my cheek, delicate fragrance in my breath.

You are the beauty of the earth,
the dew of youth from the womb of the morning,
the hymn I raise to kiss in praise.

*photo credit: Denise Bowman


Saturday, 18 June 2016

Movements of Morning Prayer

It’s morning, and time for prayer. I uncurl, adjusting to the light. I lay flat, not really ready. I try to form thoughts, but they are slow and drowsy. My brain can’t focus. And so I pray with my body.

I stretch. Awake.

Awake me to Your presence. Wake me to the shining light of Your smile. Awake me to Your truth, goodness, and beauty. Wake me to Your voice. Wake me to wonder, wake me to you.

As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness;
I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake. 
(Psalm 17:15)

He awakens me morning by morning,
He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple.
(Isaiah 50:4)

The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23)

I stretch upward. Offer. 

I offer all that I am for all that You are. Weary arms, feeble knees, wandering feet. Day breaks and I pour out this offering once more. As I raise my offering, raise me to life. 

Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, 
which is your spiritual service of worship. 
(Romans 12:1)

And you shall love the LORD Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, 
and with all your mind, and with all your strength. 
(Mark 12:30)

I stretch outward. Align.

Align me with Your plans and purposes for this day, and these people. Align my energies with yours so that I will not grow weary in doing good. Align me with Your heart. 

Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven. 
(Matthew 6:10)

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, 
which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. 
(Ephesians 2:10)

For it is God who is at work in you, 
both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:13)

I stretch. In You I live and move and have my being. In all that I do, let me move toward You. Ready for this day. 

Awake ~ Offer ~ Align


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Monday, 13 June 2016

Day 13: Pinholes of Prayer

Some days my own small-mindedness and selfishness forms a crust over my spirit. I’m stewing on the inside, hardening on the outside. I lose the ability to be flexible, to be gracious, and the smallest prick can set off an explosion. 

But when I puncture my day with prayer, here a little, there a little, I become permeable. I am soft to the Spirit, and slower to anger. God breathes through these pinholes of prayer and my soul expands in His presence. The light dances in and I can see beyond myself. 


Saturday, 11 June 2016

Day 11: Prayer in the Onion Patch

It's been a quiet week. I'm slowly feeling my way back into things.

I find it easier to pray when I'm moving or working. I was thinking that today, while planting onions. Planting onions, washing dishes, watering flowers, pacing with the baby, digging weeds, walking by the river. Maybe it's like kids playing with lego while they're listening to a book being read aloud. With their hands busy, their minds can focus better.

I pray better in the morning if my body has had a chance to wake up, to move around, to get the blood flowing. My physicality can bolster this ethereal task of prayer.

I also find it helpful to engage more of my body in prayer. To lift my hands in a prayer of surrender. To kneel in petition. To dance in praise. To reach, to move toward something. To somehow mirror with my body what is happening in my spirit.

I wonder if we can be too immaterial when it comes to prayer sometimes. We are physical beings as well as spiritual. I think God wants to engage us as whole persons. His Spirit is capable of that. From the beginning we had bodies in which to walk and talk with Him. And in the end, we will know the glory of resurrected bodies. And we will see Him who even now has an actual body, for the Incarnation was no temporary experiment. Our bodies matter.

And so I find myself, spirit, mind and body, reaching toward encounter with Christ. Oftentimes, the more of me that prays, the richer the connection. In some ways, prayer is movement. The movement of spirit to Spirit, but also, in a very real way, of body to Body. (And of course, the movement flows both ways.)

My fingers in the soil, they are touching earth that has been hallowed by His footsteps. My knees in the dirt, they bow in faith to the seed that will be raised incorruptible. Dig, plant, pat, repeat. Water, watch, hope. Pray.


Monday, 6 June 2016

Day 6: Morning Clarity

This morning, instead of going online first thing, I went to the Psalms. I was still groggy, still a little unfocused. But this is what happened.

When my six year old daughter padded into our room a few minutes later, my mind wasn't filled with Facebook images and updates, news and forecasts, things to catch up on, or the opinions and concerns of other people.

The room was quiet, and my head was quiet.

So when I looked up from the printed poetry, I saw her face in all of its subtle, sleepy beauty. I set the book aside and pulled her in next to me and the dozy baby. I didn't feel interrupted. My connection with God moved naturally into a connection with my daughter. No screen between us, no web obscuring things. The room echoed with sacred words, and I found my own words calmer, and deeper.

God's presence made me more present.

It's bedtime right now, and I honestly can't remember what I read this morning. But I remember my daughter's face and her Snoopy pyjamas and the clarity between us. The words became flesh, and that was a moment worth dwelling in.


Saturday, 4 June 2016

Day 4: A Robin Sings

It's 4 AM. Dawn has begun its slow stretch toward the sun. Out the window, there is not yet colour, only the lifting of shadow.

I think of You through the watches of the night.

A robin is singing. The horizon is not even perceptible, but this light is enough to waken her song. Her chimes are a gentle call to prayer. She doesn't need full daylight. Just the promise of what's to come.

When I awake, I am still with you.

She sings, and I know I am not alone. I know there is beauty in the dim hours of morning. A quiet love rustles the trees and steals through the screen, breathing freshness over the bed.

I lie still, and know that You are God.


Friday, 3 June 2016

Confession: Fear and Weakness


Do you see me as a failure? Does your disappointment rise with the stacks of dirty dishes? Do you get fed up with my meltdowns?

I fear your retreat more than anything else.

Try harder, work smarter, let the baby scream, and git 'er done. Is this your voice? Where are you when I need you?

I don't know what happened, but I hit a wall. I'm gasping for breath and the tears squeeze out on my pillow at night, and maybe tomorrow will be better and I'll see you smile, but maybe it won't, and I dread your silent disapproval.

Tiptoe through the mess, scramble over the mistakes, there's no rug to sweep this under. Put on a brave face, and above all, don't show weakness.

Do you understand. Can you understand? Do you want to? Or do I need my act together first?

The only thing worse than feeling weak is trying not to feel it.

I have heard you say, "My strength is made perfect in weakness." I have heard you say, "Love is patient, love is kind. Love keeps no record of wrongs."

Oh, give me ears to hear once more, and faith to believe.

If you really mean it, would you find your way over the mountain of my inadequacy, would you put your strong right arm around me and help me stand?

Do not despise my confession, or I will crumble. Will you love me in my weakness?


Thursday, 2 June 2016

Day 2: Prayer Fail!

Today was a bust. I was going to pray. I was going to write about it. It was going to be (modestly) inspirational. It didn't happen.

Nope, not at all.

In the morning I was tired. I thought about praying, but decided to wait till I was more awake, and then I got busy.

In the middle of the morning, I was rushing around getting us all ready for a morning outing. We didn't sit down for a snack, so we forgot all about it.

At noon we were all hungry and cranky and the baby was crying.

Mid-afternoon the baby was crying.

My husband said grace at supper. Win!

The baby cried this evening too.

So here I am, past my bedtime, and I still haven't really prayed. I thought about it, but didn't actually do it. Does that count for anything? I suppose it's something that the spirit is willing. (The flesh, on the other hand, needs exercise. These darn habits can be so hard to get going!)

I'm trying to think of some fitting Bible verse to meditate on as I drift to sleep, but I think I left my Bible downstairs and I'm cozy in bed. I'm even too tired to google it. The only thing I can think of is this:

Into Your hands I commit my spirit. 

I'm not trying to be melodramatic, I'm just worn out, and I believe for tonight He will take me just as I am. Sleep is a gift and I will embrace it with thanksgiving and try again in the morning.


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Off-Kilter: Praying My Way to Life Management

Time has an odd quality to it these days. My newborn is now two months old, and though it seems she's been here forever, I can hardly believe how April and May have disappeared. With many things being new, and other things being busy, we haven't really settled into a routine yet, and I am feeling slightly off kilter. There doesn't seem to be enough time in the day for what needs to get done.

Many aspects of life need balancing, and I'm not sure how to go about time management. Then again, it's not just time management, it's physical bodies and actual spaces and a thousand tactile things, not to mention my own brain. I need life management!

Maybe there's a blog or a book or a planner or a magic schedule that could figure this all out for me, but the trouble is, those things aren't personally invested in my life. Helpful as they may be, they don't know the needs of our family, won't step in and finish the dishes, or soothe the baby, or read to my kids, or dry my tears of weary frustration.

So it's June 1st, and I would really like to feel less dizzy this month, but how?

I had an idea late last night. Now, it could be the smooshy wishful thinking of baby brain. Or it might just be a lightning bolt from heaven. We'll have to see. But this is what I thought as the baby finally settled into the bassinet:

Maybe I can pray my way through this. 

Yes, there is always the "Help me God!" cry that I know never goes unheard. But I've written before about a habit of prayer, the kind of prayer that punctuates and permeates the whole day. Habit has the power to change things. And even more, God has the power to change life.

Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, many of my prayer habits have fallen by the wayside lately. I need to pick them back up. I'm not sure exactly how this will work with the flexibility that a young baby requires. But I'm going to put this thing to the test. Is a habit of daily prayer possible at this stage? And does it have the potential to bring order to my whole messy life?

What gives me hope is that I won't be entrusting my days to some nebulous idea of "time management." I'll be entrusting them to God himself. And I know he is definitely invested in my life. Ok, maybe he's not going to scrub the pots for me, but at least I can talk to him while I do it.

What if I counted my day by prayers instead of hours? What if I could find a greater rest beneath the busy moments? What if I could see the to-do list through His eyes? What if I prayed my way to life management?

I'm willing to try. And I'm hoping to write a bit about how it all goes here. We've all heard that prayer changes things, but maybe you're a mom with a new baby and scattered thoughts and laundry that is literally never done, and you're not sure. Or maybe you lead some other kind of busy or fragmented or stuffed-at-the-seams life, and you're not sure. Can it actually change the everyday? Can it bring order to chaos and meaning to mundane and space to breathe?

Let's try it.


To read more about my journey of prayer, click here


Saturday, 21 May 2016

Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Spring"

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –          
   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;          
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush          
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring          
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing; 
   The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush          
   The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush          
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.          

What is all this juice and all this joy?          
   A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning 
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,          
   Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,          
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,          
   Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.       

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