☕️ 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…

⛈ Rainfall Warning

A Sunday Reflection

Water pours from flat grey skies.

Although the land is parched and

oh so thirsty,

we grumble at the inconvenience

of wet upon wet upon wet.

I read in Isaiah’s book:

“You heavens above,

rain down my righteousness;

let the clouds shower it down,

let salvation spring up,

let righteousness flourish with it;

I, the LORD, have created it.”

Yet we grumble against any

inconvenient truths springing

from God’s righteousness

because our declarations of rightness

water our wishes just fine,

thank you very much.

For all our watering,

we remain soul-dry parched.

We thirst in the midst of

abundant, righteous rain.

Pebbles in Pockets

I find them near rivers and streams and on mountain tops. They come in all sizes and shapes and colours and textures. Rocks are beautiful and they fascinate me. I’ve gotten better at not slipping so many of them into my pocket or backpack to bring home. I tell myself that I can pick up as many as I want, but I have to choose the best one, the most unique one, and leave the others behind. Mostly I obey this self-imposed rule.

At home, I have pebbles in jars and picture frames, trays and boxes. I treat them as the works of art that they are even though I know that their presence in the world is not purely aesthetic. Rocks can be quite problematic says the chipped windshield and the stony, unproductive field. A pebble in a shoe is an irritant; grief is a boulder lodged in a heart.

I decided some time ago that this month’s issue of Jots & Doodles would be on rocks, or stones, or pebbles – whatever word seems most appropriate. Now that the month is almost over, I finally have it ready. In metaphorical terms, it has been a rocky month and its been hard to find the time to work on the ‘doodles’ in particular.

The first written piece is a true story. I still have the rock in my classroom where it reminds me to keep myself grounded in truth — to live it, speak it, seek it always.

The second piece about rebuilding is a reflection on how I have to rebuild a small decorative wall I constructed years ago to hide the empty space under our front deck. I collected the flattest river rocks I could find, but they really aren’t very flat. Every year part of it gets knocked down. Every year, I rebuild it. As I rebuild, trying to find new ways to fit all the pieces together into a coherent whole, I think of the ways we have to work to maintain communities and families and relationships when our bumps and bulges don’t fit together like a manufactured brick or Lego wall would. We falter and fail, crumble and stumble because we are people and fitting together will always require a commitment to rebuild — to apologize, to forgive, to love.

The final piece comes from thinking about rocks and stones in the Bible. Just for the record, the Bible has much to say about rocks, both literally and figuratively. My brief poem mentions some literal ones, but the real focus is the image of Jesus as the Cornerstone, the one stone that ensures that all else is secure, stable, squared – a sure foundation upon which our faith is built.

You can find this issue of Jots & Doodles here.

Living In a Discordent World

The world seems so noisy lately.

So much anger, fear, mistrust, accusation, heartbreak, sorrow. So many words swirling madly in all directions, unanchored, unhinged. So many voices drowning out the steady quiet rhythms of our own hearts. 

Speaking definitively in support of OneThing can lead to a shaming attack for being anti-TheOtherThing. Supporting AllTheThings only increases the pandemonium with contradiction and a crippling erosion of integrity. 

Stick to objective facts, they say. Don’t respond based on emotion and personal belief, they say. But then objective facts somehow morph into alternative facts…and we keep spiralling into post-truth cacophony.  

So. Much. Noise.

Today, I am “aweary of this great world” and its deafening bedlam. 

In exploring the confusions of his own life, Augustine speaks of an unquiet heart seeking rest in its Creator. I feel the unquiet of my own heart and am drawn to this rest, to the Creator whose words still speak life, and who, as the Word, “became flesh and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth.”

Grace and truth. Yes, these words of quiet resilience and unwavering purpose speak a kind of stillness in the midst of the chaotic roar of -isms and schisms, memes and mantras, facts and phobias.  And in this stillness, I can know the God whose purposes are profoundly undaunted by all of the world’s noise throughout all of history. 

__________________
The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare)
Confessions (Augustine)
John 1:14; Psalm 46:10