☕️ How to be a Listener

A Saturday Caesura

Make space for stillness.

Attune your ear, yes, but especially your mind and heart and hands.

Eschew all enticements to wander off beyond focus.

Steel against conclusions prone to back-flip over beginnings.

Resist fixes and platitudes which run rough-shod over love and grace.

Offer a whole presence though it may feel too easy and too hard and never enough.

Choose a heart posture that allows stories to breathe vent weep groan gush stumble spill sigh trickle scream…

Catch them. Hold them. Just hold them even if they leak between your fingers and feel sticky or heavy or slippery or awkward.

A Listener carries stories that aren’t meant to be carried

alone.

☀️ Togetherness

A Sunday Doxology

How do I express gratitude enough

to You, the Joiner of two-into-one,

for the gift of a life-companion who

loves You,

loves Your word,

loves Your world,

and graciously loves me, too.

Thank you for shared laughter

and tears,

for iron-sharpening-iron

and peace-finding, problem-solving

commitment and forgiveness

and days and years

and months and minutes

of companionship,

of fellowship so precious.

Grace upon grace.

☕️ And Who is My Neighbour?

A Saturday Caesura

I call these weekly reflections caesuras because I want to pay attention to the things that force me to pause, to ponder and examine my lived experience in the world. I want learn, to grow, to wonder. Many times these pauses are connected to something that ultimately brings comfort or encouragement. But not this time.

I’m still processing a conversation with a neighbour that happened earlier in the week — a neighbour with whom I have never had an actual conversation. Ever. And he and his wife have been our neighbours for several years. These facts alone make me pause…and squirm, and then start listing my justifications for being a neighbour-by-proximity-only. At the top of my list of justifications? They are aloof and don’t seem interested in anything more than a casual acknowledging wave across the fence. Even if this is an accurate observation, it was the neighbour who initiated and invited me into the conversation when I could just as easily have done the same.

We chatted about birds and golf and COVID — comfortable and relevant enough topics, but he made one comment that stuck in me and won’t let go. “I feel like maybe you don’t think very highly of me,” he said. My response at the time was something about not really knowing him, so it wouldn’t be fair to have an opinion one way or the other. He accepted that response (or appeared to), but the truth is that I have had an opinion, or at least a perception of our neighbours based on what little I see of them. And obviously, his perception of me somehow included an attitude of disapproval or superiority.

But how and why could he possibly come to such a conclusion?

He may simply have been looking for a form of acceptance. He knows that we are Christians and that my husband has been a pastor. He is a self-professed alcoholic and a “little rough” (his words, not mine). Does he assume disapproval from us based on our different lifestyles? By the same token, over the years have I attributed an aloofness to them that actually had its origins in me?

My husband and I think and talk a lot about the importance of ‘second commandment living’ — that practical working out of Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt. 22:39). But if my actual next door neighbour doesn’t sense that love, it should make me pause and evaluate. And squirm. I should not be comfortable with this.

Months of a pandemic crisis and the recent weeks in a long and painful history of racism have exposed our collective willingness to truly love others as Jesus commanded (and exemplified) or to ensconce ourselves behind rights and justifications and self-protections. In this vortex of global and national issues that do indeed call me to a greater love, it was one particular comment from a particular neighbour that ultimately challenged and exposed me.

We need to do better. I need to do better. Here. In my neighbourhood. With real people with real needs who live across the fence, across the street, down the road.

If I can’t live love in the particularities of this place, can I honestly claim to be living out Jesus’ love in the broader context of the world?

🌿 Resting in Peace

~for Justin

When peace like a river attendeth my way

Oh what joyful delight flowed the day you were born

When sorrows like sea billows roll

And then. That day flooded with deep, deepest despair.

Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say,

And today. Your birthday. With waves of emotion leaving me worn,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

but oh so grateful for all the days we could share.

#JDC#33

#30daysofpoetry #day11

*”It Is Well With My Soul” lyrics by Horatio Spafford.

11. Memory Day

Today I extract the memories with care
Perhaps this year they’ll be easier to share

Memories

vivid and valued
fragile and fading
precious and painful

But once they lay on the table before me
adequate words to express them simply flee

So I enfold each one in love anew
and tuck it gently away from view

There is a place deep inside
where these treasures will always reside

A place where grief and grace meet
the rhythm of this mother’s heart beat.

What the Snow Reveals…

It’s a new year and I’m thinking about snow. And not because it is actually snowing (intermittently) after several days of cold too brittle for freshly formed flakes. No, I’m thinking about snow because I like the way it covers and hides the Uglies: roadside litter, dead leaves, brown grass, brown everything. It creates a pristine white blanket that sparkles fresh and clean. A new year often carries that same sense of clean promise; I’m not fond of looking at last year’s Uglies.

It’s a new year and I’m thinking about snow because it not only hides and cleans, it reveals. The Uglies may not be currently visible, but my backyard is hardly a glistening untouched rendition of white Christmas dreamscapes. No, my backyard and beyond are riddled with evidence of lives lived. Thoroughfares, interchanges, exit ramps, fence-crossings, and assorted detours carved out by pointy-hoofed deer and moose would befuddle even the most skilled cartographer. A private frontage road runs along a section of the marsh berm, thumped out by some rabbit road crew. Teeny-tiny paths imprinted by a gazillion teeny-tiny mini-rodent toes form scurrying connections between shrubs and bulrushes. A meandering single track across the frozen marsh signals that a lone fox is on a hunger-prowl.

I’m ever so grateful that I do occasionally see some of the critters that inhabit my backyard and beyond, but the snow reveals how little I actually know about the nature of their presence, their comings and goings, their patterns of movement and hunting or foraging. Snow even reveals where they burrow for shelter or crater their beds.

I’m thinking about snow as a new year begins because I wonder what my last year would look like if it was etched out like the intersecting freeways that have pockmarked and crumpled the pristine covering of snow around my home. What would be my most worn pathways – worry? grief? love? Where did I burrow most often – in work? in front of a screen? in prayer? If someone was observing my ‘tracks’, what would be revealed about my priorities, my faith, my fears, my weaknesses, my integrity?

As we step into the pristine newness of this year and each day it contains, may we give careful thought to the paths for our feet. May we pause at this crossroad of time to look and ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and choose to walk in it. *

May I live in such a way that my comings and goings reveal a life surrendered to the Giver of life, Creator of snow, Sustainer of the millions of sunrises that we group into days and months and years.

* from Pr. 4:26 & Jer. 6:16