☕️ Going in Circles

Reflection. Best of lists. Highlights. Anticipation. Resets and resolutions. So many rituals connected to the ordering our lives on the foundation of time. We live into chronology like we traverse airports on moving walkways, the past recedes as we are perpetually propelled forward. Life becomes a timeline, the significant moments labeled and dated, new years noted as harbingers of progress.

This metaphor works because it is not wholly inaccurate, but it falls short of explaining the full-orbed experience of life. Life, like time, is also cyclical. The hands on the clock circle round and round measuring minutes and hours. The earth rotates as it circles the sun, measuring days and months, seasons and years. My own life is better understood through recognizing its cycles than by resolutely marching down the number-line of accumulated age and years.

Progress occurs through returning again and again to perspectives that continually shift and grow or shrink as more learning and living inform my understanding and my choices. Growth is less linear, and more a circling back to build on what was before. Sometimes to scrap and start anew. Sometimes simply to try again. Sometimes to repeat what didn’t work last time only to experience despair or self-recrimination…again. Cycles can create ruts, and dangers lurk there to be sure.

And maybe this is why we often use the metaphor of “going in circles” to describe lack of progress, lostness, “stuckness.” We can certainly experience all of these at any given time, but what if going in circles could also mean building layers of learning, like the rings of a tree. Or patterns of beauty like the concentric circles of a chrysanthemum. Or habits of faith like the woven materials of a sturdy bird’s nest. What if going in circles means recognizing repeating seasons and being more intentional about how we cycle through them. Or, especially in our relationships with God and others, what if it means rotating on the axis of a deepening love, commitment, and understanding. What if going in circles is about growth rather than stagnation. What if.

As we spiral our way through the days and year ahead, may our circles be as wide and wondering or as narrow and tight and focused as needed to let our hearts be tilled, planted, and watered by God’s good work in us. May we return again and again to what is good and true and right, and turn away always from what is not. May our wounds gain another layer of healing. May our cycles of grief be buoyed by hope and comfort. May our ruts be filled in with the core layers of repentance, grace, humility, forgiveness, and belonging. May we collect treasures of joy and goodness in each loop and lap and curve. May we know above all, that the God who first ordered time into morning and evening, days and years makes “everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.”

I’ll spend the next years of my life circling back to ponder the implications of that last sentence. Which is exactly what was intended, I think.

Here’s to going in circles…

☕️ 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.

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

A New Year

The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose, new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.” G K Chesterton

Indeed, it is not a new year that is needed, but a new way of living the small moments that collect, collide, and coalesce into the larger collage of time we designate as a year.

I need:

New eyes – to see the wonder of the ordinary, to understand the significance of the mundane, to know the profoundness of simplicity…

New ears – to perceive truth when lies seem more credible, to attune to quietness when the noise of living deafens, to discern wisdom when uncertainty mires me in the crossroads…

New feet – to walk softly alongside the broken, to tread expectantly upon the ancient paths, to run and not be weary…

New hands – to release rather than clench, to cradle rather than crush, to reach out rather than withdraw…

A new heart – to pulse life in spite of the gaping holes left by death, to stay in sync with God’s heart instead of sliding into discouragement’s arrhythmia, to remain tender and malleable rather than retreating into the stony protection offered by a myriad of hurts…

And all of these things:

Eucharisteo. With gratitude.
Coram Deo. Before the face of God, the Audience of One.
Sola gratia. By grace alone.