Inauguration Day

Yesterday, according to our local weathermen, the sun came out for the first time since December 26. When Jeff got home from work, we went for a walk. I’ve been having some trouble with my back, so I couldn’t make it very far without discomfort.  When I’d had enough, Jeff went on without me and I made my way back home alone.  The sky was a fair companion and the wind shifted daubs of cumulus clouds about, rearranging the geography of heaven as I walked. Patches of azure opened and closed here and there, like pupil-less irises in the cloud sclera of sky.

I passed a row of white pines and absentmindedly plucked some needles from a bough. I lifted them to my nose and breathed in their faint scent. It was diminished by the season—tired, old. I pressed the flimsy greens between my teeth and bit down: earthy, grassy, dry.

I walked on, mouthing the needles, wondering at the day. Further along I came across an evergreen I did not recognize. It looked out of place amidst all those white pines and I was pleased to meet it.

“Hello,” I said, to be polite. “How did you end up here?” I felt a kinship with this lonely traveler on this day of days. She was a testament to my heart, a splash of truth in all the pretense.

I bent and buried my nose in a cluster of her needles. Sweet and citrusy, she offered herself to me. Her needles were long, about four inches, and in clusters—like a pine—sprayed out abundantly from the twiggy branch. The cone was open, about three inches. I plucked a cluster of needles from her upstretched arm. No sooner were they in my grasp when my fingers were sticky with the scent of orange. I bit down on acidic brightness—a fruit basket in two small stalks of green. I chewed on the resiny goodness all the way home.

This morning, in my quiet time, I read part of Luke 4. The reading took me through the temptation of Jesus (1-13), to the beginning of his ministry in Galilee (14-15), to his rejection in his home town of Nazareth (16-30). I’m reading through an old lectionary commentary, and the writer had this to say about these passages:

Today marks the midpoint of the Epiphany season, a season in which we celebrate the revelation, the manifestation (epiphania)—of God. Primarily, we celebrate how Jesus is made known—revealed to us as God’s Messiah. But something else is also revealed in this season. In this text, we, too, are made known. And we, like the congregation in Nazareth, are revealed to be a people who like to draw lines in the sand—a people with a persistent ‘we-they’ mind-set. … We can easily turn all of life into a competition—who is better than whom. …
Sometimes we would like to peg God with a certain nationality, a political party, an income level. Yet in the second half of Luke’s work, we read especially about the impartiality of God. When Peter preached about the inclusion of both Jews and Gentiles through Christ, he proclaimed, ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality’ (Acts 10:34). Literally, this reads: ‘God makes no distinction between faces.’ God does not differentiate between peoples.
No, God is not interested in faces; God is interested in hearts. Not beautiful hearts, not pure hearts, nor perfect hearts, but hearts that know their need of God …”

This morning, the sun is still shining. And I’m trying to remember to stand like my new friend—beautiful in her distinctiveness, full of grace. The freshness of such a friend can make one almost forget the pain from a tired old back, and remind to look upon this tired world with eyes of love.

Playdates with God: The Sweetness of Things

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Today we go back to the normal. Normal has been interrupted by Winter Storm Jonas these past couple days. We’ve been digging out from under 16-17 inches of snow, bit by little bit. But today I return to work, Jeff resumes his teaching schedule, and though school is closed for Jeffrey, he won’t be snowed in the way he was this weekend. Temperatures still sleep below the freezing mark, but yesterday the sparrows sung the sun high and we warmed under her gaze. Still, all this white is going nowhere—save for one shovel full at a time.

There is something so sweet when normal is interrupted. We huddle together and light the fire in the fireplace and hearts are soft to one another. We walk together through snow drifts, slipping on ice patches here and there, giggling and holding on to each other like we haven’t for years. We catch snowflakes on our tongues. And our eyelashes. And shoulders and the tops of our heads. Both of my boys had birthdays this past week and though we celebrated with Teddy before taking him back to school, I kept finding myself near tears as his day came to a close and I did not get to see his face.

“I miss you today,” I texted him. “First time you’ve not been home on your birthday.”

“It’s the way it has to be, mom,” he replied, always the practical one. The new semester has only just begun and he is busy learning his new schedule, getting the lay of the land on the new classes.

“I know,” I replied. “It’s how it’s supposed to be and it is good. I’m glad you are having some fun.”

I watched the birds hop atop the frozen crust of snow under the feeder. A Cardinal pair, a handful of snowbirds, some house finches. The day before, an Eastern Towhee stopped by, his cinnamon breast and side a sharp contrast to the pearly world he haunted. But after all that snow, today the sky gleams brilliant blue and the glistening trees carve their shapes into its void. In all this alabaster I struggle to feel what is greening inside me.

Belden Lane quotes Jonathan Edwards as saying, “The works of God are … a kind of voice or language of God to instruct intelligent beings in things pertaining to Himself.” When I watch the birds I am listening to the voice of God. It’s a kind of synesthesia—every sense engaged in this knowing.

I watch the male Cardinal tap a sunflower seed against the mottled trunk of the Maple tree. His insistent tapping sends an avalanche of snow from the slender branches and the air is filled with flashing shafts of powdered light. My throat catches at the sheer abundance of nature. I remember the question Augustine asked of God,

What do I love when I love you? Not light nor the fragrance of flowers, not the taste of honey, nor the gentle touch of the human body. None of these and yet all of them! I do love a kind of light, a certain fragrance, a food and an embrace when I love my God … I said to all those things which stand about the gate to my senses: ‘Tell me about my God … ..’ And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘He made us.’ My question was in my contemplation of them, and their answer was in their beauty.”

This interruption of the normal has been a gift of space for contemplation. For a short while, life slowed to a stop, warmed under a blanket of snow, baffled in white, breathed beauty in every language.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Playdates with God: The Dance

 

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I am collecting the small moments, savoring each as it arises. Look, the voice inside says to me, Listen, … Touch. My eyes are opened as if for the first time and all the world is new.

Yesterday, a cold front blew in, bending the trees beneath her hands and strumming the cords of the meadow grasses with the tips of her fingers. The resident squirrel wasn’t deterred from robbing my feeders during the winds, dangling upside down on the tube feeder and swaying back and forth like a flag. Cardinals flitted to and fro in front of my window, braving the tempest with fluffed feathers. The hornet’s nest lost its clutch high in the maple tree and I watched its papery form blow about the back yard. I wondered about the sleeping larvae, I wondered if anyone was home. I could see the honeycombed inside of the thing—broken open and bared to my eyes. I wanted to go out and rescue it from further tumblings, poke it with a stick, peer deep into its inner workings. But I was safe inside and warm, so I just watched its papery edges lift with each frosty gust.

It began to snow, thin gossamer flakes stirred by an unseen hand. Winter has been coquettish this year, teasing us with quick glimpses and then withdrawing. I knew I must say hello. So I bundled up, leashed Bon, and let the wind carry me down the street, twirling with my sister snow. My blood has grown thin from the mild temperatures and my eyes dim with warmth, but when the wind bit my nose and kissed my cheeks, my spirit felt the frolic. Bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked we went, companions to blowing leaves and circling flakes of snow.

I have been a valley of dry bones, but this breath of the Spirit breathed new life into me. Small, I whispered, and let the wind carry the word up into the sky. And the world blew all around me, catching me up in her arms for the dance.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Theosis

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This morning when I take Bonnie out I see the fog has misted over the hills that edge up against our little valley. I listen to the song of a robin. I watch a titmouse flit away before our stepping. I have a box of stale cheerios in my hands and I thread them one-by-one over the maple’s branchy fingers, as one would bestow a wedding band.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” I whisper to the naked bones of my beloved.

Beldon Lane, in his beautiful book Ravished by Beauty: The Surprising Legacy of Reformed Spirituality, makes a strong case for the inclusion of trees in the Communio Sanctorum, the communion of the faithful.

The article of the creed pertaining to the Communio Sanctorum traditionally speaks of a fellowship (or koinonia) among God’s people—the ones who intercede for one another in prayer and deed. It includes those in heaven (the church triumphant) and those on earth (the church militant), and refers to a ‘communion in holy things.’ It focuses on the community of peoples gathered at table with the risen Lord. Theologians since Vatican II have asked how this communion extends beyond the church into the kingdom as a whole. The cosmic Christ of Colossians 1:15 summons all creation to a deeper unity. With leaves in his hair and seedlings in hand, he gathers great blue whales and whooping cranes, passenger pigeons and maidenhair ferns to join with human beings in a common song of praise to God.”

He says, “If Deuteronomy expresses concern that fruit trees not be harmed in the siege of a city (20:19), if the Psalmist speaks repeatedly of a tree ‘planted in the very house of the Lord’ (Ps. 52:10; 92:14), if we’re told that a tree grows in the heart of the New Jerusalem, its leaves meant for the healing of nations (Rev. 22:2), then why not recognize trees as participating in the company of the saints?”

I watch light arrive and touch the branches of my maple. She is warmed, lit from tip to bole. I think about her language, how she speaks as we do—as Lane says, “through a process of wind passing over cords or membranes like leaves.” I listen for her song and something in my spirit is at home. The trees have long been our friends—oxygen makers, shade-givers, root teachers … ah, these with the limbs always reaching for God. Beauty learns from her simple grace.

I stand beneath her, a child-bride, in braids and a white dress—born into this world dancing. Her nakedness makes me long to crawl into my Father’s lap, bury my face in warm skin.

Standing still in this way, I can almost feel the earth move under my feet; the very cells of my body tuned to the song of the cosmos. This is the gift of the small. I have no word to name my new year. I only know this will be the year of small, a year of noticing the seemingly insignificant. For God is changing me. What has worked before no longer quickens the heart. And so I turn my face toward this beautiful and terrible wind. If I am small enough, it will carry me far. Like the tree, I will not try to be anything other than that which I am.

Let this be the year, the lifetime, the month, the week, the day … let this be the moment of becoming what I already am.

Small Wonders

 

 

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In the morning, when the air is still heavy with moisture, I walk Bonnie around the house. The sun is barely peeking, light sifting down, revealing the secrets of dawn. The wind has carried petals from my neighbor’s tulips into my yard, a whisper of red sparks a memory. I stop to see and I smell my lilacs, riding the dew. We walk around back and I snip a few stems for the kitchen table.

The day begins in perfume, the house is a celebration.

Look, what do you see? In what joy do you begin the morning today? Breathe slowly, see deeper, love where you are.

There are gifts all around you.

 

a spring poem

“It is snowing,”
they laugh
as petals come down
and I
a bride
underneath
this
fragrant confetti.