Written December 29, 2016

    I am not one of those “reason for the season” folks.  We have known for quite some time Jesus COULD NOT have been born in December.  Shepherds don’t keep watch at night that time of year.  Yet, when I drove past a building people call a church, my heart was warmed to read the word fastened into the ground like a placard: Jesus.  I formed the word into my mind, planning to write on the word.

     It is not just a word to me.  He and I, we are bound together, like the way I tied the humming bird feeder to the tree outside the parlour window.  Double knot, and triple.  We shall not be undone.  What does Jesus mean to you?  I want to tell you what he means to me.

     The expression I just now used, the warmed heart, is more fully formed by John Wesley in his journal.  “My heart was strangely warmed” is so aptly right when it comes to how I view Jesus. Even as I search for him now, I sense his warmth in me!  Other ways of stating this, is the welling up I feel when I sense him.  He fills me up as if with water, jar of clay being poured into, to the very top, sometimes overflowing!  Then there is another, love, joy, acceptance, peaceful calm.

     I can name where I get these ideas from, a confirmation.  They come from him, his word jumping around in me.  The warmth is from a witness who saw Jesus walking: John the baptizer, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭3:11‬ ‭NASB‬‬).  Two others it was who felt the same way.  “They said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?'” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭24:32‬ ‭NASB‬‬).  The water gushing out comes from Jesus himself, as does the joy and those bunches of other ecstasies.  To the woman, and to us Jesus promises:  “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (‭‭John‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭NASB‬‬).  The bundles: “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (‭‭John‬ ‭15:11‬ ‭NASB‬‬).  And: “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love” (John‬ ‭15:9‬ ‭NASB‬‬).  Also peace and well being: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (‭‭John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NASB‬‬).

     These are not just factual statements, unfeeling, beyond experience.  They are meant to be felt deeply, as surely as falling on ice will leave a welt on your knee; just extremely opposite to that sort of pain.  And so is this word from our topic today: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (‭‭John‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭NASB‬‬).  This I am certain, is the most beautiful and greatest word.  It is something that God gifts, and some other thing he involves us in, expecting us to discover how to be found in him, and find all along that he is in us!

     I know I have quoted loads from him this time around.  All right.  My point is that we need to keep the main thing the main topic, and the main is not just what Jesus DID — you know, through his death and resurrection.  We truly live and love by what he SAID.  You know — “teaching them to obey everything I said” kind of thing (thanks here to Steve Hackman, “A Single Sentence,” for this observation).  

     Jesus is looking for people, his most wanted, to do just one thing, one that puts in one sentence what he is after.  Two words only.  ” Follow me.”  It means be his disciple.  Become like him who was and is the image of the invisible God.  I will follow, and I will listen.  This is what Jesus means to me.  We are kind of attached, he and I.


Darkness & Light 

Written December 14, 2016

          Eight hours.  That’s the difference between now and six months forward or back.  We have entered the time of year when the least number of daylight hours have come upon us.  It has something to do with the earth tilting toward the true north, the pole pointing upward on the compass.  In June around this time the total reaches sixteen hours.  These days, only eight.  Where we live the sun barely peeps out, squeaking in a few minutes when it can, reluctant for more.  And even when it shines, the sun remains low, as though hugging the horizon was what it was created for.

      It is called the Winter Solstice.  Darkness deepens this time around.  Winter usually doesn’t usher snow near us, yet now sitting right there in front of us, only a few rows up, some Arctic chill casts a shadow over top of us.  Darkness deepens and so also the snow.  Cold and dark at once.  Sol means “sun” and sistere means “stopped” or “stationary,” thanks to the Latin out from which English rose up and breathed, conquering his father.  Astrologists stared at the sun and counted, observing that in summer sister sun seemed to stand still for a time, hesitant to hit the horizon and go to sleep.  Winter wanted to be the same as summer, so we have solstice common to both.

     Since someone probably knows the church has cherished this time of darkness, observing the theme of darkness and light generously lost then found in the Bible.  In speech God creates light first among the myriad of his other creatures.  Why this is first, undermining the darkness on the face of the deep waters, may very well be because God is Light.  Where he lives is no darkness at all.  Darkness thrives in evil.  Light exalts in good.  Even a speck of light causes the darkness to flee, as if in terror, as if darkness were spooked.  The people who walk in darkness have seen a lot of light and walk toward it, curious to what they might see.

     So the church remembers that Jesus, who in his thirties called himself Light, was born.  This we remember in December, even though Jesus certainly was not born then.  It’s reason to celebrate, even rejoice in, delight.  Look at a face that is glad, and you will find someone for whom the light has come on, de-light (har, har).  

     There is also good in darkness remember.   Every morning I let the chickens out of their coop.  I find four, maybe five, sometimes six eggs waiting to be picked up.  Inside those eggs, it is definitely dark.  Crack ’em open, and into a heated cast iron frying pan and delicious seeps out.  Under the snow, under the soil it is dreadfully dark.  Melt the snow, raise the sun higher and away from the horizon, and the seeds bust out from the ground.  Even stinging nettle can provide a nutrition far beyond anything a super food can, arising out from darkness.  Even though we may walk through a valley shrouded in darkness, and grief, when a little or a lot of darkness is spotted, hope springs up.  So it is coming through darkness we get stronger, as we look for the light.

     Darkness and light.  It is another piece on the path to being human.

A Herd of Elk

Written October 2, 2016

     It was in my imagination. I was driving past the fenced garden, to the lane way, onto the street. I arrive at the stoplight just meters away, and it was not red. I had a green light. I’m thinking, “Here is a sign of blessing. My way has no trees to swerve around.” And then, “What if my way had been blocked by a herd of elk; or even just one elk (have you seen how large they stand)? Then how would I be? Would I be feeling euphoria then? Is getting the green truly an indication every thing is right ?” I did not think so.

     This was what I was thinking one morning as I prepared for the day of work. I have had it that while moving toward a destination every light was red. It’s a gouge in the eye to get one red. But a whole row sometimes results in a release of air from the lungs. Sometimes words escape like a spewing eruption, as if the health news was worse than first thought.   

     How are we when that light is an outstanding sheen of green? How are we when our way doesn’t go the way we expect? What happens when we don’t get our way? How are we then? How are we when there are others surrounding us, the ones we don’t know very well? How are we when we don’t get what we want, and the dearest and best we’ve been given are right in front of us? How are we when we are alone, and the stuff we were hoping for gets stomped on like some giant foot blocking the way?
     And why are we different, the way we are, depending on the present company?

     Others have observed it. We live in a resume culture (David Brooks, The Road to Chacter).  The greater the achievements, the higher the scores, the more we can wow: people will be impressed. Mostly it is like Houdini, however, since what you see is not quite what you think you see. It fails to ask how we we are when we achieve. I have read biographies of successful business people. They had made it in life. A lot of green lights got their way, because most often they forced the lights to be that way. Talk to people who worked closely with them, and admiration fades like a white greyish cloud blocking the sun.  The real concern, observes Brooks, is what people will tell of you as a eulogy.

     It surely is wonderful stuff to get green lights all the way along. In my experience we become better when those elk crowd in. How we are tells totally different stories, especially when we struggle through, like a person hiking up a steep hill who have not done so for a time. I have found a yearning of late when such blocked passageways come, to not want to be right, when I am wrong. I want a rightness that is not mine, a received right that is beyond my reach, yet so very available. This gives freedom to be wrong, and admit when I am; when I really am.

     So, how are you when those lights are red?

Lead & Led

Written September 25, 2016

     I heard the news. The headline was hunting down some story about driverless vehicles. There was no reason right to me that thought this was a grand giant to get awed about, but that didn’t stop the story. On my way back the day previous, I planned to go to the cardlock fuel place not to obtain fuel, but to check and see there was enough oil in the truck I steered. What actually happened is another story waiting to be told; so, I will tell it.

     There was something missing that morning, hidden from my view. I arose from bed, fumbling a little through the dark, careful to go wide around the deacons bench on the right at the foot of the bed, and the orange upholstered chair to the left. In the kitchen, I reached to turn the left front burner to three, where the small cast iron frying pan heated slow; and, after filling it, the red kettle to the highest high, bringing the water to a boil on the right rear burner. I did not notice the hidden item absent as I prepared fried potatoes, mushrooms, and eggs added to top it (a mini Hobbit first break fast); packed my lunch into the brown and torn backpack; and, in between somewhere, followed my bathroom route through that smallest of rooms.

     I was still blind to it as I made my way to what we emloyees call “the yard,” after the designation by the employer. As I walked to the truck I was granted that day, I reached into the side pocket of my new pants to check the time. It wasn’t there. My cell phone, covering for the clock I carried with me, was absent, missing, not available to my touch. At the first I dismissed the essentials of this. Then, as though dropping into my mind, I saw it clear as the cloudless day we had one day last week.

     I could see. I saw myself sitting in the black truck assigned me. I was at the place we always placed it: at the bottom of the too steep to drive up driveway that led to the work site. I was waiting. My ride up was not coming. I waited. Some more waiting still. He was not arriving.

     I still wasn’t convinced I should go back for it. I was just going to go to the cardlock fuel storage stage, taking the left turn required. I took the turn, smooth, tires swishing on the pavement. I wanted to turn right following, but the truck took another hard left, as though it had transformed into a driverless black truck. After the merge back on to the high way, I looked down and saw my foot suddenly had grown lead in it, and we travelled swifter than usual. Another left, then another, into our drive. I walked with haste into the house, careful to soften my booted steps. When I entered the bedroom I heard it before I saw it.
My cell phone was ringing. When I snatched it from my bedside, I saw that he had called twice. When we finally got to hear each other, he told me some story about the need to get his truck repaired. He wanted to know if I was close to the yard. I needed to get a key for the trailer, so that while he was delayed, I could continue the work.

     I steered the truck back to the yard. Just as I vacated the truck again, another opened up the locked office ahead of me. He knew exactly where the extra trailer keys were. When I left the office, I noticed another fellow standing there and approached him to converse. It was a cool morning as darkness broke away, and he saw, and asked if his jacket was in the back seat of the truck assigned me. Indeed it was, I told him.

     I was led that morning.  It was the story of Abraham’s servant all over again (Genesis 24).   I was driven like a driverless car, my hands firmly placed on the steering wheel, compelled to take that hard left.

    I was in the yard just then because I was shown waiting at the bottom of the steep climb.
I was there, and so was the fellow who opened the office ahead of me.

     I was there, and so was the jacket-less one.

     When I arrived at the work site, I drove up the too steep driveway in the truck that couldn’t make the grade. Amazing what we can see when we’re not blind. Led. Guided by Someone else. I was brought there so I could create a concrete wedge we’d started the late part of the day before, before the delayed one came too. That’s the story. It gets me wondering. How have you been led lately?

Unseen Things

Unseen Things

Written Sunday, September 11, 2016

     Lately I’ve been seeing things. At the corner of my eyes ­­ at the edge ­­ I see something. I turn to look. There is nothing there. What did I see? Why, when I turn aside to look does what I see up and disappear? Where did it go, like the time when you close your eyes for hide and seek, and when you lift up your eyes all your friends are gone?

     Lately I’ve been having dreams, or at least remembering the dreams I get. Last week I dreamed a dream about visiting the wife of my favourite coach in high school. Strange that I was visiting her in there since in real life I hardly ever conversed with her. She was telling how they were leaving town after all that had happened. Somehow I knew that “what happened” was murder; as in someone got killed. Last night I dreamed a dream where I sat listening to someone I know who challenged a few of us to describe what hell is really like, the fire of it. Dreams are like that I guess.

     I think it’s pretty cool that one of the privileges of being human is the ability to dream dreams. Impressive stuff.

     I also believe that when I see something on the edge, and turn aside to look, that I was not seeing things. It was not imagined. There really is something there. I suppose that physicists would talk about another dimension. I believe we humans are meant to see such, and whatever we see is either some type of protector or some sort of threat to us. I believe also that, just as sure that there are realities only viewable through a microscope, so what catches the corner of our eyes is part of the reality we have been gifted with. The unseen things are just as real as what is seen through that microscope.

     Unseen things, seen. What have you seen at that edge, from the corner of your eye?