☀️Cardiography

A Sunday Doxology

Praise God who forms the hearts 
      of all and sees
the ones that beat too fast,
the ones who are broken, 
     wandering, lonely,
calloused, wounded, 
     faltering...
faint, stubborn,  
     despairing, deceived.

Praise God who can bring healing
     to all these hearts 
        so disordered
        so prone to malfunction.
You make us whole and create in us
     wise, faithful, yielded,
     discerning, obedient,
     joyful, undivided,
     steadfast and secure
hearts
that beat to the 
rhythms of 
your own
heart.

☕️ Waffling

A Saturday Caesura

I made waffles the other day. Just saying that makes it sound like a big deal, but the real achievement was in cleaning the cupboard where I discovered the partially used package of buttermilk pancake mix (expiry date: distant past). What made me pause and ponder wasn’t the waffles or even the viability of the pancake mix, but the word waffle itself.

The Dutch origins of waffle are connected to wafer and in certain contexts can refer to a honeycomb-like weave. But from its English roots, to waffle is to be undecided or unsure.

I’ve done my fair share of waffling lately.

Over the years, I’ve also encountered a few Waffle Makers. You’ve no doubt seen them, too. They come with a few standard features: a raised eyebrow and some questions — “Really?” and “Wouldn’t it be better if…?” or “Are you sure?” Suddenly your sure conviction begins to wobble, teeter…and you are all in a waffle.

Sometimes we need Waffle Makers who will step in and stop us in the midst of a decision and make us waffle and wrestle before we move forward. These Waffle Makers genuinely desire to create in us deep wells, full and overflowing with wisdom and discernment.

But there is another kind of Waffle Maker whose questions and raised eyebrows come from judgment, jealousy, or even malice, and what they leave behind are recesses where discouragement and insecurity can pool and stagnate.

And sometimes we get ourselves stuck in waffle-mode and we need to hear the same words Elijah spoke to Israel and 850 wayward prophets: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him.” *

That was rather unambiguous and very unwaffle-like.

*1 Kings 18:22

☕️Anticipation and Delight

A Saturday Caesura

I spent the month of April anticipating spring, watching with delight as snow white gave way to earthy browns, and most recently, to hints of green.  And now spring is here.  The anticipation is over.  Life continues.  And isn’t that how it goes? We look forward to something – graduation, career, marriage, children, travel – and when the waited-for-thing arrives, we celebrate and then pack up the party hats and slip into something more comfortable and ordinary and continue with life, and sometimes in that ordinary continuing we stop finding delight.  

At some point everything we wished for in spring seems humdrum, run-of-the-mill, so what, or whatever. We anticipate the fresh new leaves of spring but complain about raking them in the fall.  We delight in lush green lawns but are annoyed at having to mow them each week. 

Occasionally we’ll do or see something that sparkles with delight – an evening BBQ on the deck, a drive in the countryside, a hike in the mountains – but mostly our days are smeared with the nondescript colours of ordinary.  So we make sparkle our quest but too often lose the ability to discern between what is real and meant for delight and what is illusionary and results in despair.

We live as if wonder and delight cannot be found in the mundane and exist only in the extra-ordinary, the superfluous, the majestic, the miraculous.  But what if wonder and delight are woven into the fabric of creation?  What if we took our eyes off the Big Shiny Things and found delight in something as ordinary as a cloudless sunrise, the gentle touch of a spouse, a moment of laughter with a friend, a muskrat swimming in the ditch. 

We live as if anticipation is not a sustainable emotion, its life-span restricted to that liminal space before the big events, significant changes, momentous moments.  But what if we stopped reserving our anticipation for the Big & Memorable and lived each day as if it is in itself an anticipation, a continual expectation of yet another day and another and another.

What if the reality that life does continue is extraordinary and delightful and wondrous and anything but ordinary.

Trees & Community

A Saturday Caesura

I love trees. I oogle and marvel and stare at them. I draw them and photograph them. Of all the trees I love, two specific ones regularly cause me to pause.

One was once a solitary landmark on a hill, a magnet for photographers. I loved that tree and its defiant hilltop stance. Now the aging tree stoops, the trunk splintered and bent, the few remaining branches locked in an awkward tangled bow towards the ground. Once an icon of prairie fortitude, the tree now stands berefit of dignity and strength.

If you didn’t know the old tree in its youthful years, you wouldn’t know where to find it now. Even I have to look carefully to see its misshapen form, hidden as it is in the copse of young trees surrounding it. An expansive community of roots holds them fast through the storms that continue to assault the hilltop. I often imagine that these spry saplings are shielding their broken ancestor from exposure and ridicule, protecting its dignity, promising to carry forward its legacy of holding ground, of standing firm.

The second tree is a more recent discovery, but it is also bent, never to stand tall and straight again. Some accident or force of nature caused its trunk to nearly break, toppling the rest of the tree to the left where neighbouring trees caught it before it could crash land. In spite of its awkward right-angled jog, the trunk is thick and strong. Prolific branches still birth leaves in spring and bid them adieu in the fall.

I imagine this tree spending a few years apologizing to the friends who faithfully keep holding it up. I imagine the friends reassuring it: We’ve got you. No worries. We aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. We’ll just grow through this together. And no, you aren’t a burden. I imagine the tree finally stops apologizing and accepts this grace and lives its gratitude with each new leaf, season after season.

We can learn a lot from trees, I think.

On Telephone Poles

A Saturday Caesura

Old telephone poles parallel the railway that tracks along the northern edge of our little community. The poles are weathered by years of exposure to wind and sun and rain and snow, by years of stalwartly carrying generations of conversations. A few poles topple eastward, arms askew, having succumbed to westerly winds. Some are half-tangled in trees whose roots permitted them to grow tall while the poles, anchored but rootless, stand lifeless, and now — purposeless.

Thick black lines draped over their extended arms still link them to each other, but no longer provide a link between communities, between people. No words shiver, shimmy, and slide from pole to pole. In some places, lines dangle in severed, broken silence .

I wonder about things old and seemingly useless.

How many words of desperation and love and buisness and flirting and gossiping and fear and courage and news and warning and reassurance coursed through those lines held so carefully on extended arms from pole to pole to pole for miles and miles for years and years? Did we pay attention to those poles and lines when we needed their presence, when we depended on them to stand strong and true through every storm? Or were they…just there — taken for granted in the landscapes of our lives.

Like the aging poles, we are still linked as communities and as individuals, but the links are rarely as visible: underground cables are safely tucked out of sight and weather, wireless waves miraculously deliver conversations to our purses and pockets. Pole-less technology may seem more efficient, but I wonder… I wonder if the connections between us are as strong as those old thick black cables held so carefully by pole after pole.

I wonder about things old and seemingly useless: the stories they tell about where we came from, but also the stories they reveal about who we are now.

I wonder.

Living Small

“Wow, you are really short!”

The offhand comment from a six-foot-something student was not particularly revelatory to me. I’ve been quite aware that I am often the shortest stick in the pile. Fearful that he had caused offence, the student quickly mummered an embarrassed apology. I put his mind at ease and soon several of us were comparing foot and hand sizes, all of which confirmed my smallness next to the man-children that frequent my classroom.

In truth, I am very average in size (I think) and I don’t feel particularly short or small even when surrounded by a group of football players or farm boys.

But I frequently feel my smallness in the world at large.

I have a small scope of travel and been-there-done-that experiences. I don’t keep up with the latest movies or TV/Netflix shows, popular music or cultural icons, sports teams or celebrities. My knowledge about the things that fuel so many conversations around me is small indeed.

I enjoy learning about the world and feel that it is important to be aware and informed, but sometimes I get lost in the relentlessness of spectacle and disaster and worry-about-this and care-about-this-too and shame-on-you-if-you-don’t. The sliver of knowledge I have seems too miniscule to really grasp the full picture of anything. In trying to understand everything, I wonder if I understand anything. My attempts at care and love and grace seem so small and inadequate in the face of it all.

I try to read widely, but that, too, exposes my limited knowledge and experience. In the vast vortex of words available for people to read, my words here feel small, and by extension, unimportant. I join an online writing community hoping to improve my craft, but I am small in that space, too, because my words come too slowly to keep up with writing prompts and feedback and forums.

My circle of friends has always been small. By choice I live in a small community and by grace I work in another slightly-less-small community, and between the two I rub shoulders with several people. I recognize faces in the grocery store and wave in passing on the street and sometimes hold small conversations, but I truly know and am known by only a few.

Smallness can make one feel invisible or uninvited. A spectator rather than a participant. An outsider rather than a member. A pilgrim rather than a resident.

So I’m grateful that in God’s economy, smallness is actually a way of living in the world. He not only sees the small things like little sparrows that fall, but also knows the small details like how many hairs are on my head. He praises the small offering of a poor woman, and invites small children into his arms. He reveals truth through small things like a mustard seed and the eye of a needle. He meets real needs through a few small fish and loaves of bread. Smallness is not only not a problem for God, it is the posture through which He is most free to work out His purposes.

I just want to be faithful to Him in my smallness. To see it as a calling, not a curse. To find in it great joy and contentment and purpose because that is what He generously invites me to in this small space of the world where He has placed me.

Eye of the Storm

My weather app declares: Winter Storm Warning

but if winter storms have an eye,

     we must be in it 

          for now

              because

there is a calm gentleness in

     the community of birds sharing the feeder

          the whitening molt of late autumn brown

                the swish of skis slicing the season’s first trails

     the sweep and glide of hawk and owl on patrol

            the steamy warmth of an earl grey latte

                  the deep soul-warmth of friends, once strangers.

Storms may swirl outside my window

       across my country

             around the world

                   in my own heart

But goodness and grace surround and settle me.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankfulness

Thankfulness requires a disciplined heart.

When surrounded by abundance and fulfilled desires along with a scarcity of loss, conflict, and discomfort, it takes discipline to choose thankfulness over self-satisfaction and complacency.

When living in the midst of discouragement, exhaustion, uncertainty, and the weighty presence of grief or loneliness, it takes discipline to choose thankfulness over despair and discontent.

Whatever one’s feelings about the historical roots of Thanksgiving Day 🇨🇦, and however the day has devolved into little more than Turkey Day, we need to be grateful. Simple as that.

We need to choose thankfulness as a daily heart posture.

We need gratitude, not as a way of ignoring pain and the ugliness of the world, but as a way through, as a sight-line towards hope and peace and grace.

On Story Endings

Oh, how I wished longed fought prayed for a different ending to this story.

But today, in quiet reflection on the trauma of this day eight years ago, I’m deeply aware of how, rather than ending, the story line of God’s grace and deep compassionate care extends far beyond the grief of the grave.

It’s the story that has no end. Ever.

🌄Delight

Ever since I was old enough to safely explore beyond the boundaries of the yard, I have delighted in the way vetch vines create micro-jungles along the forest floor, the way flowers bloom and fade in a seasonal procession of colour, the way sunbeams and breezes use tree branches as props in their shadow plays.

The delight has only increased over the years.

I cycle up and down prairie roads and delight in the brilliance of canola in full flower and in the undulating waves of grain. Rich shades of green lie heavy across the landscape, anchoring everything to the soil, to summer.

I hike a mountain trail where rogue rivulets from recent rains and ongoing snow melt flow down-over-around-under rocks and roots. Airy forests give way to dense shrubs, boggy meadows, and, finally, to steep slopes carpeted with lichens and stubby alpine flowers, their impossible presence a hardy welcome in these regions that border barren rock and scree. Snow still clings to the leeward edges of jagged ridges and peaks. The wind is cold. Drizzling rain turns to ice, but it is not enough to pelt away giddy delight in the views that extend in all directions.

Expansive. Majestic. Breath-arresting.

Sometimes being outdoors fills my heart so full of delight it aches.

Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Psalm 111:2