☕️ Looking Up

A Saturday Caesura

I needed to stop and just look up today. My gaze has been pulled in many directions this week, sometimes dragging my heart with it, sometimes my feet, and most often, my already weary brain.

I try to avoid claiming that I am busy because I don’t like how it suggests that I am more important or useful or productive than someone “less busy.” But I will admit that there are times when I feel the need to stop and collect bits and pieces of myself scattered here and there across the days and weeks.

Reclaiming wholeness requires me to turn my gaze upward — not just to fully attend to the latest iteration of prairie sky, but to see beyond the distractions and demands of life to the steadfast Oneness of God.


The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Duet. 6:4-5


God does not exist in bits and pieces. He is not scattered, but fully and wholly and eternally present.

He doesn’t want my love and obedience in bits and pieces either. Give it all, he says, give it wholly. That’s where true wholeness is found.

☀️ For Such a Time as This

A Sunday Doxology

Mordecai to Esther:

Who knows but that you have come

to your royal position

for such a time as this.

Esther to Mordecai:

I will pray and I will go and if I perish,

I perish.

But you, God Most High,

chose to leave your royal position

for such a time as this — this moment

that has been this moment

over and over and over again

because you came for all times

and all moments and all peoples.

You did perish.

But neither death nor time constrains you.

So when I am prone towards despair,

I return again to remember that you

are still present

for such a time as this.

☕️ When Words are More Than Just Words

A Saturday Caesura

What if words were more than sounds strung together, more than marks neatly divided into varying units on a page, more than a means to an end.

What if they became fully animate, took on substance and form like miniature people who could rally their synonyms and join hands and encircle you in a gentle embrace.

What if they invited all their like-minded relatives and pieced together a quilt of protection and comfort for just that moment when you most needed it.

Perhaps a few wise, discerning words would forge themselves in a sword capable of cutting through thickly matted lies, of slicing cords of fear and hacking away shackles of shame. They wouldn’t be fickle words, these defenders of truth, but words tried and tested, refined and strong.

Some words would be playful, like clowns, and dance and tickle and entertain. Gentle, warm words could soothe like a cup of hot tea on a cold day.

No doubt there would be those words bent towards dissention and malevolence. Rough, shabby and too arrogant to notice or care, they scold and scald — or snap, bite, slash and stab. Gaping wounds, deep scars, and wearied hearts are evidence that they’ve either passed by or still lurk, hungry, in the shadows.

Thankfully, more words come marching along, grim-faced and determined. They assemble a triage team and set to work bandaging, repairing, relieving, healing. Their work never ends and they never stop. They are faithful words.

Words are actions. They are causes with real effects. They carry weight far greater than nanograms of ink or graphite on a page. They may seem devoid of mass when they leave a person’s mouth, but they can slam into a life and completely destroy it, or they can huddle shoulder-to-shoulder and somehow form a solid foundation on which to stand when the ground is sinking sand. Words have strengh and power.

So when I think about words, as I have this week, I marvel that God chose to identify himself as the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” writes the apostle John. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The incarnate Word is the epitomy of action.

Since we are created in the image of God, it seems to me that our ability to use words is embedded in that image. To speak and write words as if there is not a greater Word is to be but a sounding gong or clanging symbol — noise without meaning or purpose. If God can animate his Word in flesh and blood to show the depth of his love and commitment to the creation he spoke into existence, then my words, in his hands, can be an extension of the incarnation.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, (which often end up as words on a page), be pleasing in your sight (and in your ears), Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer, the Word of Life.

☀️ You may have noticed

A Sunday Doxology / Psalm

Lord,

how we do what we want when

we should do as you do

and want what you want.

How we act as if you are not present

when you are,

and feel as if we are all alone

when we’re not.

How we seek what should not be sought,

love the wrong things or

the right things in the wrong order.

How we run when we should

stand firm or

sit in comfort when we should

flee.

How we chose our own way

when you are The Way,

proclaim our truths when

you alone are The Truth.

Yes, I know you have noticed

all this and more

because there is nowhere we can go

where you are not,

no knowledge or wisdom we may gain

that you do not inhabit.

We are a mess.

You are holy.

Why on earth are you mindful of us?

Never mind.

I know the answer.

And it brings me to my knees.

☕️ When Darkness is not Dark

A Saturday Caesura

The wind walloped us this week — not a politics and pandemic sort of walloping, but chaotic and destructive nonetheless. It tore tossed toppled tangled with a ferocity unusual even for our wind-prone prairies. Pictures of roofs stripped naked and semi-trucks flopped sideways populated our community social media pages. The power company’s online map lit up with outage symbols. Our community sat right under one of those symbols. Estimated time of repair stretched from one hour to three hours and stuck there as time moved on. We have an alternate heat source and use candles every day, so the only real inconvenience was not being able to complete some work for school because the internet was down. I probably welcomed the excuse more than I should have.

It took the repair crew five hours to restore power; until then it sure was dark outside. No streetlights. No blinding yard lights from our neighbours across the street. No squares of window-light. No horizon glow of a whole community living and doing all the things that light helps us do. I thought, this must be what a bird feels like when a blanket is put over its cage. Or what it feels like to be in a cocoon. Or a womb.

The darkness was palpable, but not in an eerie, foreboding way. It was a stillness even though the wind was still terrorizing the air outside. It was a turning off of the world and its demands and perplexities and absurdities. It was permission to pause. It was a nothingness in the midst of everythingness. It was oddly comforting. Calming.

We are created for light — literally, symbolically, spiritually — and I usually revel in its energy, yearn for sunrise each morning, look for glimmers of it in moments of grace and hope, but the stillness of those five hours of darkness brought a different level of healing to my harried heart. Light can, does, exist in darkness.

☀️ Desires

A Sunday Doxology

We sing with expectation of you,

hope of all the earth

dear desire of every nation

joy of every longing heart,

but I wonder —

if we put our hopes, desires, joys

under the microscope of your Word

would we actually find you there?

Or only ourselves with all things

temporal, disordered, misplaced,

marred and scarred,

poor imitations and woeful substitutions

for you.

How tragic that we would choose

such trivialities, trinkets, and travesties

in place of the wonders of your

great, unfailing, eternal love

that reaches to the heavens

and into our hearts.

In repentant praise, we humbly

desire your will.

And yours alone.

☀️ The Silent One

A Sunday Doxology

Praise to you, the Word,

whose words are full of life

and healing, wisdom and

truth.

You speak words that cannot

be destroyed by lies or censorship

or even by time.

How amazing it is then,

that before your accusers,

you chose silence.

Not because you were guilty

with no adequate words of defence,

but because you were simply

exercising restraint,

a silent surrender

to fulfilling words already spoken.

Thank you.

☕️ The Best, the Good… and the Ugly

A Saturday Caesura

Before Christmas, COVID-19 restrictions moved my students from our classroom to their homes for three weeks. We made the transition with resigned acceptance; for too many students extended time alone at home only leads to anxiety or depressive loneliness. To help curb the mental health issues that arose when we had to ‘go remote’ in the spring, I added a “What’s your best thing from today?” to our daily writing exercises. Every day for those three weeks we took time to look for goodness and joy and positive things even when we weren’t necessarily happy about our overall circumstances.

Just this week, our first week back in class, though not back in the classroom yet, a grade 12 student popped back in to our online video session after I had dismissed everyone to work on the day’s assignment. She shared with me that she found the daily focus on “Best Things” so helpful that she decided to extend the practice. She took an empty mason jar, dubbed it her “Best Things Jar” and has been using it to collect more Best Things, each neatly written on slips of paper.

Any guesses what this teacher’s Best Thing for that day was?

My frequent Noticing Walks, a (mostly) weekly writing habit of Saturday Caesuras and Sunday Doxologies, my daily time in prayer and Scripture are all meant to focus my attention, not only on Best Things, small blessings woven into the routines of daily life, but also on the Good Things of God, rich blessings etched with eternity in the human heart.

But noticing the good does not remove the ugliness from the world, or even from my own heart. And sometimes all that ugly looms large and ominous. It consumes.

So I’ve been pondering another aspect of noticing and paying attention: What do I need to overlook or ignore? This question is not meant to ensconce me in blinders, to box me firmly into a position of denial about the world or my heart, but it is a reminder that I do not need to wade into the ugliness or let it weigh me down with anger or swamp me under in despair. Instead, I can respond to the Ugly Things by following Christ’s commands to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind (best way to deal with my heart uglies) and love my neighbour (best way to respond to the world uglies).

If this first week of 2021 has taught me anything, it is that I need to pay attention to what I am giving attention to. I need to focus my noticing, set boundaries on what deserves or requires my attention, celebrate the Best Things, be deeply grateful for the Good Things, respond with love, prayer, and humility to the Ugly Things.

☀️ Beginnings

A Sunday Doxology

In the beginning, God…

It all began with you, didn’t it?

You declare,

I am the Alpha and Omega, the

Beginning and the End,

and yet you have neither

end nor beginning

and ever since you commenced creating

you keep on creating, recreating,

beginning again —

initiating new mornings and new moons

forming new and clean hearts

bestowing new names

establishing a new covenant

ushering in a new way into

new birth and new life

beginning again and again and again.

What glorious hope —

a hope that invites me, not to a

monotony of déjà vu

here-we-go-again restarts,

but to a renewed strength that

enables me to run, to walk,

— even to soar —

without growing weary,

without fainting under the strain of all

that has yet to be

redeemed, restored, made new.

☕️ Thinkski

A Saturday Caesura: New Year’s Edition

Grey snow clouds smudge the horizon. Falling snow blurs the middle-ground and slowly whitens the foreground. I bundle up for a New Year’s Day “Thinkski.” Although I skied these trails yesterday, the new snow muffles my tracks, leaving them at best discernible parallel grooves, at worst, blown into oblivion by the wind or stamped out by snowmobiles. Maintaining my own trails is both an exercise in futility and an act of love for skiing. I reset the tracks more than I ever simply ski them nicely packed and smooth.

As I settle into a rhythmic swish-glide, I think about how this almost daily resetting feels so much like the past year where so many days required a reset of expectations as the world was blown over and apart by pandemic fears, racial violence, political divisiveness, and conspiracy theories. Many days felt like a beginning again, a re-finding of something we used to call Normal even though its exact configuration has always been so elusive that we keep renaming it The New Normal to accommodate all of its mutations. Ski, snow, blow, storm, reset, ski, thaw, snow, reset…

My eyes scan the snow ahead, looking for signs of the trail, but it is my feet that tell me whether I have found it or not. The foundation trail beneath the fallen and blown snow is firm and reassuring. This is the way, it says, ski here.

I think there is a foundational trail through the year ahead as well, just as there was one that brought me through last year and the year before that and the year before that… Choosing each day to orient to that foundation is most certainly an act of loving life and Lord and neighbour. “Stand at the crossroads and look,” said the Lord through Jeremiah, a prophet well acquainted with unrest & lament, “ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

This is the way, God says, walk here. He is firm and reassuring, a faithful refuge, a steadfast guide.