Travelling Light

Why is light given to one who cannot see the way, whom God has fenced in? (Job 3:23)

 

Night brings the light from stars already dead and day is but old light too.

And between the dead and the living, a dark expanse which only light can travel.

 

There is a storm outside my window and it has been there for days.

When you live next to a body of water, you can expect months of white and low grey skies. Roads closed in every direction and eventually you start to feel like there’s no way out. Like the earth has conspired to hedge you in.

This isn’t somewhere to be when there’s already a storm inside you too. When there’s churning and cold and you have to squint to see anything at all. It’s dark for days, sometimes weeks. Or longer.

 

No wonder you start to crave light and people are overjoyed when they begin to notice that come mid-afternoon it’s not dark yet. There’s still some light.

I find myself craving it about now. A light eternal, unlike stars or sun. A light without fire that consumes and turns all things to dust but rather encourages new growth. A light you can walk in, even if you only ever see the next step in front of you and not the end of the road.

There is meaning in the Light and I know this and turn toward it.

 

The storm breaks, just briefly, and a light streams in through clear window panes.

I open my palm to it, the cold in my bones dissipates. This Light, which cannot be held yet holds us all, reminds me that the dark is not all there is so long as there is Light to travel with in darkness.

 

 

Advertisements

Open

What makes a heart open? What light begs its delicate petals to unfurl?

Lately, when I think of my husband, I think of the peony bush by the back door. One day there were small, tightly closed buds and then it was in bloom. It all felt so sudden though I know it didn’t really happen over night -I just didn’t notice until all that beauty was right before me.

So when he said he would like to read that book, the one about God’s relentless love for us, I was shocked. I wanted to ask why and why now but really, it doesn’t matter. Still, I began to reflect on how he’s changed: it’s like there’s more of him give these days. Not just time and money, but himself. That goodness and generosity was always there but like the peony, it seemed smaller, a bit more closed than now.

The book -we’re reading it together. Him, for the first time. Me, for the first time with him. And the conversations are slow, some days we say nothing about the pages read. We talk, instead, about our days and lives together. But this is a start.

 

It was New Year’s Day and we and a friend were out driving. He prompts me suddenly to tell the man sitting behind me about the book and the author and the message of his words, the Word itself. I did not expect to find myself evangelizing but there I was and there we were. Talking about God on the first day of the new year.

Like before, the conversation came in fits. There was utter shock in the voice behind me but also disagreement. Me, a cradle Catholic, now somewhere in the middle. Him, born and raised conservatively, evangelically, and thoroughly Protestant. So it drifted from one thing to another. The book. Scripture. Jesus. And both our pasts and present circumstances affected how we came to it all.

It wasn’t the kind of dialogue you’d hear in a stadium full of people or even on a street corner. But that conversation, like the one before it, was a place to start out from.

 

Sure, you can ask others if they’ve heard or where they’re going after that last breath, the last beat of their fragile hearts. And I can worry that I should be out there, in dusty lands, digging wells and helping the Living Water to flow. But to what end?

I find it almost as unexpectedly, a passage underlined the week before and I remember marking it, not really knowing why.

There, in Mark 7, is a deaf man. “Be opened,” says Jesus and so he was. Ears to hear and a tongue to speak with, plainly. And it didn’t happen in front of a multitude. No stage or lights. No microphone to project. Rather, he took him aside in private, away from the crowd.

This has me considering other ways, quiet ways.
Listening as well as speaking.
Words and silences alike.

Maybe it’s not always about what we say. The conversation in the car was as much about God as when my husband and I discuss our day. Because God’s story is our story. What we talk about when we talk about God is really the story of us wrapped up in Him.

The conversation in the car wasn’t a success any more than our daily conversations are a failure because God isn’t explicitly mentioned.

And all those seemingly mundane things in our lives are important, too. Indeed, our lives may be the greatest testament we ever give.

 

So this is what I’m meditating on and praying over.

That we are opened to God not only through burning bushes and thunderous voices but quiet breezes and wings on air.

That this opening is both private and public because our lives need both witnesses and lonely places in which to grow.

And that we find peace in however, wherever it happens.

 

 

The Conversation

I was almost out the door when I read the message: the illness was back, her already weakened immune was being attacked once again. No, this isn’t the end. But it’s tricky. My prayers are full with her lately and I worry. I worry that the life of the woman who gave me life will somehow be cut short by all this.

My throat tightens.

A few moments later, another message. The car had spun out but somehow he regained control and arrived safely at work.What would I do had it happened otherwise? How lost I would be without him, I thought. Still, there is someone, somewhere, who will face this news today and how lost they will be.

In the near empty church, I took a seat and with everything that had happened I sunk deep into prayer.

I sat quietly and gave thanks and soon found myself in silence. There was nothing left which could be said with words. Sometimes, we speak through our actions and other times we speak through our silences. And as time passes, the more I am aware of how God uses both to engage us.

 

It was, as I have come to expect, a disappointing homily that morning. But he had my full attention when he said God had nothing more to say to us, He had said it all through Christ. The final word had been spoken.

How sad it must be to live with the belief that God no longer speaks to us, the conversation having ended nearly two thousand years ago. Since then it has been radio silence, or so he thinks.

I suddenly imagined we were voices in an empty room.

 

He meant well but he was wrong: God is always speaking to us. God, the one who is “Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:6) is speaking to us, through us.

YHWH, His name, all aspirated consonants. A name that can only be truly spoken with our breath. We speak His name constantly. But who takes note of their breathing? Only when it is ragged and labored do we pay it any mind. Only when we are gasping do we seem to notice it. We wait until we are breathless.

Through this unconscious process that keeps us alive, we engage with God, always.

 

The irony is that this conversation, which is so often little more than an ongoing whisper, can sometimes be deafening. It rings and echoes in every aspect of my life, my whole being vibrating with the sound, precisely because He is Life itself. He speaks through us and in us and nothing in our lives is outside the bounds of this sacred conversation.

Perhaps if we did away with our expectations we’d realize that God has never stopped speaking. It is only us, through our arbitrarily imposed limits, who has brought the conversation to a halt.

 

 

 

 

Jacobs

When he said humans were co-creators with God, it felt like coming alive, like live wires sparking. And I looked out the window and thought of all we had made and would make. The world we could shape.

But it isn’t only about what we assemble. Our identity is also a creation and the process is one in which we are intimately engaged with God. This creation -it’s our vocation. It’s the work of our soul and it is only with God and through God that we are ever able to shed the layers and lay bare on the altar.

This is how we engage with the Mystery and this is where I find myself now.

 

For ten years I was absent.

Not once did I attend mass or a service of any kind. Not even for the “big holidays.”

And yet already this week I have gone twice. When it is still dark and the air is sharp, I make my way to the church on the top of hill. It looms over the city and for the years I have lived here, it has loomed over me too.

Opening its doors felt both familiar and strange. The creak of wooden pews, the rustling of pages. The quiet anticipation.

More than once I found myself overwhelmed and in tears. Sure, there was joy and adoration and forgiveness. And the church itself -well, it’s more a cathedral. Who could sit there and not help but feel small? My mind drifted to those peasants, the first to enter the cathedrals of Europe, and I thought myself at that moment a peasant too. The walls, the windows, the light all spoke of God’s grace and magnificence.

I looked down at the dirt on my shoes.

 

As I walked out, that old injury aching in my knee, I felt confused.

Here is the Church I grew up in, the Church that has housed us for generations.

All of the questions and struggles of these past few years and for what? To have come full circle, back to where it all started?

So far I have avoided labeling myself but here I am caught somewhere between Catholic and Protestant. Not really wanting to give up one for the other, unable to reconcile the present with the past.

I felt alone. Lost.

Someone followed me out and I heard their steps behind as I descended the stairs. Me, limping. Him, more spry. And I thought to myself this isn’t unique to you. You aren’t alone in this. Haven’t we all wrestled with God and now walk with holy, clumsy limps? Aren’t we all Jacobs?

 

Our vocation, it’s work. We were never promised it would be easy or that it would come easily to us. Most of the time we aren’t even sure what exactly we’re grappling with. But we wrestle with it all the same because what else can we do? 

If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him…
-Thomas Merton

 

 

 

 

Missing Peace

Maybe it’s the time of year or maybe it’s this season in life.

Lights get strung around roofs and windows, making the nights a little less dark. And the songs all turn to joy and peace in a world that too often seems to have neither.

And me? I feel a restlessness.

While people are looking at the star hovering over the birth, my eyes have been drifting to the cross. At a time meant to be about birth and celebration, I’m leaning hard on the tree he hung from. 

 

This time of year, well, it’s downright hard.

From Thanksgiving right on till Christmas Day, it sometimes feels like there’s so little to be thankful for. Why give thanks at all? Why rejoice when we know that the man on that cross was once that infant at her breast?

My throat tightens and I swallow hard at the mere thought of it.

But I know there is something in missing in all of this. The story is missing a piece.

 

More often than not, it happens like this.

I’m reading one thing which leads to another which leads to my bible being thrown open. And with a pen I begin the search. I track it down the pages until I really get it.

Peace.

Peace, the missing piece.

 

It doesn’t end with the cross but rather begins at the cross. Something was lost and there was pain but only for something even greater to be born. And we carry this in our bodies, his life and death and resurrection. Paul says it in 2 Corinthians and I feel it deep.

“I am always with you,” Jesus said (Mt 28:20). I pause and let that sink in. It was days ago that I wrote that down, quickly, just for myself, but it’s only now that it’s all coming together. The missing piece sliding into place.

 

How can I house such a restless heart when the peace of Christ is in us? How could there be room for anything else?

That restlessness, it tugs and pulls and threatens to undo me completely. But it won’t. Because I’ve redirected myself to the cross. How many people do that this time of year? I don’t know. Still. As the body of Christ our story begins at the cross where true peace was delivered.

“… let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” says Paul, “and be thankful.” (Col 3:15)

Peace is a person and He is always with us. And this is where I will reside and rest and be thankful indeed.

 

 

Call and Response

It is only during the early days of winter moments such as these exist. When clouds hide what’s left of the afternoon light and snow falls like a sheet over a sleeping body.

And the house becomes quiet this time of day, this time of year. All warm and dimly lit with books stacked high and cats curled tight.

So when I read it, everything felt just as it should be. Like the words had been saved for this particular moment:

He will come in His own time, and when you least expect it. Hope in Him more than ever; thank Him with me for the favors He does you, particularly the fortitude and patience which He gives you in your afflictions. It is a plain mark of the care He takes of you. Comfort yourself, then, with Him, and give thanks for all. (Brother Lawrence)

I hovered over the words, read each one slowly, again and again.

Here, I thought, is the greatest blessing we could ever receive and perhaps our biggest challenge too. Because how do you respond to such steadfast love?

But God, I suspect, is more easily satisfied than us, for he knows how we were made, he remembers that we are dust.

 

And a few pages later, there is this:

Let us make way for grace; let us redeem the lost time, for perhaps we have but little left.

 

It comes to me fast and without any fuss and I hesitate at how simple it is:
We respond to grace by making room for grace, here, in the present moment, by giving thanks.
I almost wish I had more to add, an insight of my own but no, this is more than enough.   

 

 

 

 

 

Lifting the Fog

When Jesus said only one thing was necessary, I heard him but not really.

The words trickled in but only a few. It just couldn’t get past what I thought this one-fabric life should look like. And what I thought of as a life made of beautiful mismatched patchwork was something denser and colder. I had trapped myself in by what I thought a life of faith should be.

 

Grace at every meal. Church every Sunday. Scripture, daily.
And I would look at my own life and see little, if any, of this reflected back. So I would dwell  on someday, one day, later – it will all be different and better then.

 

But God isn’t experienced in some distant future or by comparing the now with a vague later.

God is in the present, right here with us, demanding that we be present also.

Being present to the Presence is the necessary thing.

 

Still. Being present is hard for the worriers of the world. The sense of guilt and urgency engulfs us like a thick fog. We cannot see what is before us or even where we stand.

Our saving grace is the knowledge that light burns off the fog. The darkness we shroud ourselves in is nothing compared to to the Light of the World and the Light is always with us because the darkness does not overcome it.

 

If I’m honest, the fog isn’t completely gone. Maybe it never will be.

But the life I am making for myself, I can see now how it’s less about doing and more about being.

The one-fabric life I so long for is not just made of moments and actions woven together; rather it is made with the knowledge that my life is already interlaced with the Holy. And here, in this, there is relief.

There is No Boundary

Yesterday, I tried to put into words what I have been feeling. I thought of it, was utterly distracted by it, and still just couldn’t get it together. Still, there is something happening.

It came together a bit more today as I sat in the empty house, books piled in front of me, pen waiting. There was a sharp flash as I read over the words about grace and faith and the lie we tell ourselves, that we are unloveable. I know this lie well and for so long I have watched it spread, like cracks up a wall, into all areas of my life -into my very being.

Only now can I see that something is very wrong with my foundation, the whole house threatening to shake and collapse.

Today, as I tried to imagine what this love looks like, I realized there’s no need to imagine. That eternal love shows up in gritty everyday living. Our relationships with others may very well be the most accurate reflection of God’s love and grace. But when you feel undeserving of God’s love, you feel undeserving of all love. Even when it is freely given, day after day.

It’s misguided to think that the love of God and the love we experience here, person to person, are somehow different from each other. There is no boundary, all love is sacred.

But fear, that soul threat, too often makes me think there is nothing but boundaries. It tells me this unloveable self will be all that I am left with in the end.

So there it is, the fear that love will someday end.

It’s why when I look at my husband, who seems to live with his heart wide open to me, I turn away.
God lives like that, is that, all the time. Wide open. I close myself off and act as though it were all somehow separate.

And I see now that when I turn away from this earthy, human love I am really turning away from the eternal love of God. We are called to love each other but the lie that love is somehow conditional and will be snatched away from us -us, so undeserving anyway- renders us deaf.

These thoughts, they’re all a part of that larger something that is happening. What matters now is how I respond as I wait. With grace and love, I hope.

To Give Thanks

Here, somewhere just north of the 49th parallel, Thanksgiving approaches. One day set apart from many to give thanks and it seems not quite enough. Shouldn’t thanksgiving be the posture we ought to live in our lives in?

In the letter I read this, “… grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God.” (2 Cor 4:15)

So this is how I will glorify Him.

 

I receive what you give, Lord, and in turn I give thanks.
I give thanks for a God who denies us nothing, for a God who permits all, even our falling and failing.
I give thanks for a God of grace, a God of peace, a God of love.
I give thank for a God who creates bridges so that we are always coming out the other side, always being renewed, bridges that inevitably draw us closer to Him.
I give thanks for a God who fills the empty broken spaces with His whole being.
I give thanks for a God who is always present.
I give thanks for a God who can be experienced through the Christ.

 

If there is but one thing to be thankful for then joy is always possible, or so I’ve heard. And indeed there is much to be thankful for, perennially thankful.

 

A One-Fabric Life

So maybe some lives are like patchwork quilts, a mix of patterns and colours coming together to create something solid and warm and real. The pieces laid down one at a time, edges pinned and sewed into a whole.

Others are woven from myriad threads, so fine and slight as to be nearly imperceptible.

Which life am I making?

 

And wasn’t it Charles de Foucauld who said that our lives should be so closely united God that we cannot but proclaim His life through our actions and thoughts and words?

I turn again to Paul, to the letter I have been reading over all week long. The death of Jesus is reflected in the passing away of our outer nature, “so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” (2 Cor 4:10). But does this come through in our living?

I ask myself this and am brought low.

 

Because the life I long for is a one-fabric life. Each thread, divinely given, waiting to be woven. Or a stack of patches needing to be bound together. The result either way is a single whole.

 

This is where I have been brought and my fingers find the edges of all these mismatched pieces; I worry them to fray.

How to unite all the parts so they reflect the one in whom we live and move and have our being.

 

So it stands like this, with no answer, though I know I want to envelop myself in a life that draws me closer to Him.