This Moment

We are a pause.

A resting place.

I stand on this ground, small and still, as they pass overhead; the rushing of their wings a roar.

And though I am bound to this earth, something inside lifts as I watch them soar.

Their passing pilgrimage blocks out the light of the sun momentarily, the sky filled with these mounting black bodies…

Dipping and weaving in and out of the clouds; soaring through heavens.

“My wedding!”

I hear her voice in my mind’s ear—this childhood best friend. Though we are separated by miles and busy-ness now, her voice is crisp and clear as the call of these birds. And she is with me in this holy moment.

To my delight, this body of birds—this mass of intertwining forms has become one—circles wide and one by one, this body loses members. They alight on naked branches, each a breathing still life against the winter white sky.

My breath wisps out in front of me, curling away from these gravity-bound lips.

The beauty of this tree of living baubles quiets me…stills this soul of searching.

And then they are gone, falling back into one…mounting mountains of sky and sailing these wing-ships.

It takes my breath away—this sudden rush of wings. The way the sky looks so empty at their departure.

I watch until they disappear, tiny specks on the horizon.

“My wedding,” I breathe the words up to Him.

This moment reminds me how I wait. How I am still waiting on my Bridegroom.

“I don’t know what it is about leaving and then returning home, but it makes me feel…hopeful.”

“Oh, honey. I’ve planned my life out for the better so many times on drives like these.”

We are driving back from Morgantown, having just watched the West Virginia Mountaineers beat the Auburn Tigers. The trees are glorious in this country, and I have spent the last half hour silent, eyes filled with blushing Maples and beaming Beeches.

This is his favorite—to drive with me beside him; listening to music…just being together.

And I realize it is my favorite too.

That is when I see it.

Amongst the reds and remnants of green, peeping out from behind the browning yellow of the Poplars: a brilliant orange, standing alone.

We are driving too fast to study the tree, but I see enough to recognize its singular beauty—its unique form.

Something about this lone sentinel in this patchwork of brilliant colors touches me. Brings to mind a moment during the game last night.

At one point, I noticed how the gold of the mountaineer fans filled the stadium–a wave of color. Bodies pressing together, moving together; individuals blurring into one body.

So many people.

I am just a drop in the ocean. I begin to feel as if I might drown.

An airplane flies over head and as I look up, I wonder how we look to God looking down.

Is this wave of gold beautiful to Him? Does He think it foolish to gather in such a way? Or does He rejoice to see the folly?

Mostly I imagine Him looking down at that mass of gold and seeing me. Because He always does. I am blaze orange to Him…peeping out from behind the gold. He sees my singular beauty.

Even when I cannot.

This thought, this knowledge—like a law of nature—anchors me and buoys me at the same time. No longer am I drowning.

Sheepishly, I feel the urge to wave at Him. But I restrain myself. My brother and sister-in-law, after all, are nonbelievers, and how would I explain that I am waving to God in the midst of 60,000 people?

So I wink instead. And smile. And for a moment, we have had this amazing intimate retreat, just Him and me.

Everything is worship.

Of Dogs and Dirt

Yesterday morning, I ran my first trail run.

I’ve shared before how special running is in my life. It is one of my quiet times with God; it is one way I assert His power in my life.

He used my experience yesterday to show off to me, and let me tell you: our God is Amazing!

I have always been a road runner, mostly for convenience; but even still, I always choose the roads with the sweetest views. The ones that give me an opportunity to hear the birds, and the wind in the trees. The sounds of nature were the only things I heard this sunny Saturday morning (apart from heavy breathing) as I plunged deep into the Kanawha State Forest as an entrant in the Dirty Dog 15k Trail Run. It was a beautiful course, with moss covered hillsides and every variety of tree this part of the country offers. At one point, when I thought we had reached the highest we could climb (we would proceed to go ever higher, much to my horror), the wind stirred the trees and lifted my soul until I threw my hands up in the air and sort of yelled, “I can feel God here!” My running partner and dear friend, Kim–even though she is used to my oddities, sorta rolled her eyes, perhaps due to the fact she was struggling to breath at the moment. I got a little giddy as we traipsed along, and a couple times just burst out in giggles. I know Kim thinks I have lost my mind, but nothing makes me feel like a little girl more than to be surrounded by a luscious wood!

Yes, the Dirty Dog is nine miles of beautiful forest. But, why, you might ask, is it called the Dirty Dog? Well…apparently, and this is new to me, “dog” is a slang term for feet. And, guess what? Our feet got really dirty, um–a better word would be muddy, on this trail run. We had to traverse springs and streams, and a couple patches of what I call “elephant mud” (that’s the stinky kind).

Here is the end result.

You may not get the full effect, because in the last mile of the run I ran through a little streambed that rinsed most of the elephant mud off my shoes. But suffice it to say, I was carrying a little extra weight on the bottom of my feet that needed liberated.

Here are some other reasons the race is called the Dirty Dog:

Aren’t they gorgeous? Doggies are welcomed on this trail run. As a true blue dog lover, this makes it tops on my list! And the first canine finisher is even awarded the title of “Top Dog”. Made me miss Lucy Mae. She’s built for speed, not endurance, that one.

I had a blast, though am a little stiff today. But I’m not as sore as I thought I would be, due to the fact that Kim and I walked most of the uphills (seemed like it was all uphill). It took us two and a half hours! I counted, seven people came in behind us J. And two of them got lost. I feel a little sheepish about twelve minute miles (did I mention it was all uphill?), but, as my dear hubbie said, “Honey, I can’t do anything for two and half hours. ‘Cept maybe sleep.”

I can think of worse ways to spend a Saturday morning. Up with the sun. Good fellowship. Dappled sunlight through trees. God’s voice in the rustle of the breeze. UmmmUmm.

I think I just found a new way to worship.

The Dark Night of the Soul

It has been a beautiful day here in WV, and I have had difficulty settling down into the evening. The night is crisp outside, the moon is a lazy wide smile, and I feel good.

We’ve spent a large portion of the day outside and I am now enjoying that good kind of tired that comes with sunshine and physical activity. We even took our tweens outside for Wed. night church. They played Bible tag and “Christian” football. It was a scream.

When I went for my run this afternoon, this was what the sky looked like. Not a cloud to be seen. Just that gorgeous sky blue sky. The brightness of the atmosphere around me seemed to illuminate my gaze, and I began to see so many things that gave me pause and wonder. I was filled with the goodness of God, so I decided to take him along with me for that little five mile jaunt. I love it when He breathes down my neck that way, demanding attention and pulling me into the reverie that is Him. He is always with me, of course, but some days He just will not be ignored. Today was one of those days.

There is nothing more beautiful to me than a naked tree. And this time of year the earth is filled with them. My eyes hungrily drank them in as the Lord and I traversed my familiar route. He knows my heart and He drew my attention to their bare, outstretched arms. When I look upon the starkness of the branches, I often feel that the gangly limbs tell my story; reaching up, up…seeking that which gives life. This austerity seems magnified to me against the palette of a clear blue sky. Every detail exposed, shamelessly put on display. I can see straight through her into her heart. A tree in this state of undress can hide nothing. No secrets can be hidden in her bosom. She is transparent and unassuming, waiting for her season of finery to arrive. Yet, she is wrapped in a cloak of mystery. In the absence of her trinkets and baubles, she reveals little of who she is, preferring the disguise of anonymity.

But perhaps she is most beautiful to me when silhouetted against the approaching night…colors melting into one giant shadow of branching arms, beckoning me, calling me into the dusky colors of the sunset. She makes my heart ache with the way she stands so sure and proud.

Yes, I often feel so naked and vulnerable as this unadorned masterpiece. I long to stretch my arms up and root myself to the earth, drinking in my nourishment from these tiny tentacles; nursing my dormant splendor, tending it until the time arrives for it to burst forth in glory.

But unlike the tree, my seasons are not so predictable. And I am content to wait. For I know that when the tree appears to lie dormant, beneath the surface the roots are far from quiescent. This is the time of strengthening, the time of preparation. This is the silent labor.

St. John of the Cross calls this “the dark night of the soul”.

This seeming depression is an empty time. We search frantically for some feeling, some sense of connection with our God; but we seek in vain, for such has abandoned us in this season. But we must not despair; we must not give up hope. To remain true to the tree…we must wait.

Richard J. Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline, says this about this root strengthening season: “The dark night is one of the ways God brings us into a hush, a stillness so that he may work an inner transformation upon the soul.” He elaborates further, “When God lovingly draws us into a dark night of the soul, there is often a temptation to seek release from it and to blame everyone and everything for our inner dullness. The preacher is such a bore. The hymn singing is too weak. The worship service is so dull. We may begin to look around for another church or a new experience to give us ‘spiritual goose bumps.’ This is a serious mistake. Recognize the dark night for what it is. Be grateful that God is lovingly drawing you away from every distraction so that you can see him clearly. Rather than chafing and fighting, become still and wait.”

Let your roots be nourished. Wait for the season of glory to burst forth. It may not be the time, but it will come. The blooms will burst forth in feathery grandeur. The dark shadow of night will be overtaken by the fruits of this labor of love. And oh, how beautiful the transformation!

The Call of the Meadowlark

I just got back from a run, during which I heard my first Meadowlark of the season! One of my favorite running routes is along a narrow road that parallels some empty fields. One of my greatest joys was seeing my first Meadowlark in these grassy meadows. But before I saw him, I heard him.

A few years ago I became interested in birding, and began listening to a CD of various bird calls. There were so many birds featured, that I rarely remembered the calls that I listened to. But one day, as I was out running, I heard a beautiful call fill the air. Somehow I recognized this distinctive melody, and was overjoyed to hear it live! However, when I looked around to find the singer, Mr. Meadowlark was nowhere to be found. He spends most of his time down in the brushy grasses, see, hidden from prying eyes. As my eyes roved the fields for his presence, his call filled the air over and over, strong and beautiful, rising from some mysterious place. 

I felt God whisper to me that day.  
Now, whenever I hear that beautiful call, I am reminded that I am not alone.
Psalm 125:2 says, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”
My ears strain to hear His call rise from that deep and mysterious place. He is here. He is here.
If you want to see and hear the lovely call of the Meadowlark, click here: Love Calls