Thank you for visiting my blog! On these pages I share my occasional personal reflections, musings, and comments on the Christian faith journey. I am especially interested in learning how God is at work in our lives and our world. I hope you will comment and join in conversation!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

On the Cusp of March

As I write, we in Iowa are on the heels of a February ice storm that has left streets, sidewalks, trees, and yards coated with ice.  Our snow removal contractor called to tell me that the crew was giving up on the ice removal for the day since the temperatures keep dropping and they couldn’t get ahead of the freezing water. Typical of late February, it can feel like the winter will never end.  I find myself yearning to wear cutoffs and a t-shirt in 75-degree sunny weather, to hear the birds back from their fall migration, to see jonquils and smell hyacinths around the neighborhood.  The sensory inputs of Spring are engraved in our memories.  These stored sights and smells and sounds and sensations make our longings almost tangible when we languish in a season grown tiresome.

We couldn’t long for something we have never experienced.  Longings are important because they can help us notice the deeper currents in our hearts.  We wouldn’t long for Spring unless we had first experienced it.  Our yearnings can point out to us what we might be missing, something we might need to pay attention to or reconnect with.  When we experience personal winters—and no one is exempt—our thoughts often turn to God and we pray for God’s intervention.  Sometimes we feel lonely for God, so we might read a scripture, or a devotional, or breathe a prayer.  When we miss our congregation or wonder if God is still present with us, we are experiencing a longing for God.  We couldn’t feel this way without a relationship with God in the first place.  Our yearnings are often God’s voice, drawing us back to God, or leading us to notice something we need to attend to.  We can be confident that God is always at work; sometimes we just don’t pay close enough attention.

Longings can also be signs of hope.  God wouldn’t give us a deep desire that God did not want to fulfill.  It is hopeful to see signs of God’s presence in our daily lives.  Even nature gives us signs that Spring will always come, whether the sign is the lengthening daylight, the sight of the first Robins, or the encouragement that comes with the start of Daylight Savings Time.  We can be sure that with God, our yearnings are never without hope.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Love's Vulnerability

That nasty lash, without
who ever knows the provocation?
Beauty marred, intimacy shredded
oblivious to how that acid
tongue wounds.

The tongue the revealer
of the heart
so the Book says.

This member shows what is
really there while
the heart refuses to see
and the mind rationalizes
what it cannot bear to name.

The tongue betrays the well
while hope and love
believe all things in the face of
intimidating odds.

Love is either a sucker or full
of faith, the difference
Perhaps both are inseparable parts
of the whole.

Can genuine love exist without the
both faith and lack of guile require?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hidden Longing

Within sight perpetually
beyond reach shining
drawing rarely
completely out of mind

A standard assaying the
of others falling

A mental respite both
blessing and
taunting curse

presence the assurance
that the
indeed exists

A seed in the
heart that brings
forth its
treasure in due time

That place the most
of incubators

Monday, October 6, 2014

Seasonal Wisdom

The first sight of songbirds swelling autumnal tree tops affirms the season's return to productive routines, adding a haunting reminder of what lies ahead.  Their communication is a cacophony to human ears as they prepare for migration, while others are a synchronized mid-air soup, turning, dipping, ascending, and reversing course, calling to something deep within their peers that compels them to journey.  As the earth's tilt awakens their inner calibrations, they see a reality that we often miss—an inescapable threshold beyond which everything changes.  As creatures of instinct their minds do not filter out what the open heart intuits.

Sometimes the heart perceives choices that are the same shade of gray.  So which wisdom is greater?  The readiness to relocate, to journey with no guarantees in order to survive, even thrive in the unknown, or the resolve to savor the season's bounty in spite of winter's inexorable advance.

Perhaps the heart knows the choice long before the mind’s incessant rationalizing kicks in.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Leaving Home

In order to go home we first have to leave home.  Not an original insight,  but a consistent theme of spiritual writers across generations and perspectives.

Seems we can't discover who we really are without a journey of some type, where we leave the secure and familiar to wrestle with the unknown, and there find our true selves through the struggle.  Even the wounds suffered on the way critically shape us.  These become markers on our journey, signposts of grace where, looking back, we see from this side where Providence brought us through and never left us in the process.

We never appreciate home until we leave it, nor understand grace until we experience it.  Unfamiliar places move us to recognize our need for both home and grace, and to reach for their Source.  That probably wouldn't happen without the journey.

Monday, September 1, 2014

September 1

You wouldn’t grasp the season’s shift by the Midwest humidity and the greenery of the trees, though many plants have long faded and the sunflowers are just coming into their full beauty.  While the autumnal equinox is still three weeks away, we have crossed a more potent psychological line.

September and hopeful transitions seem forever linked in our minds.  New school years with their fresh starts inspire possibilities.  Different classes spark exciting crushes.  Fall programming kicks off in many organizations.  The football and symphony seasons return after a much too long hiatus.  The season’s hope for new beginnings is as life sustaining as our circadian rhythms.

Yet hope can lift us above our natural cycles, and connect us to the Transcendent One, who is always beyond our own experience.  We need Someone who is beyond ourselves; we are all too aware of our own limitations.  This One is revealed as the God of hope (Rom. 15:13), who desires to fill us with all joy and peace in believing.

Sometimes it takes a change to see that.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

At The Edge of a Limen

“Kati Kati.” “Swahili for ‘between,’” reads the display for a new Starbucks coffee.  “This is where Kenya and Ethiopia meet – a blend of two remarkable coffees.”  Meant to be served cold, one review invites us to enjoy this with “A bowl of fresh citrus fruit and your favorite sunny spot.”   Who knew that a coffee break could morph into such a sensory experience?  Certainly, the two coffees existed before this, but someone thought to see how together these might create something fresh, and uncertainty yielded to innovation.
New things can emerge in our own “in-between” places, where we have moved from the stability of the known, while the new has not yet emerged.  Many writers on the Christian spiritual journey refer to these as “liminal spaces,” where we are situated at a “limen,” a threshold.  Here we wrestle with uncertainty.
Liminal spaces in life can be disorienting.  We are in new territory, looking for the comfort of the familiar, but without a roadmap.  Perhaps a relationship has crashed, or we are anxious at starting a new school program.  Retirement may leave us wondering who we are apart from the job.  Even graduation can feel traumatic as we leave nurturing routines and begin marketing ourselves and finding our place.
In liminal spaces we search deeply, and begin to sift the important from the irrelevant.  We are disoriented because we can’t know that we are at a threshold, where the possibility that God is leading us into something new requires that we first let something go.  These spaces are never easy.
Perhaps the “unknowing” is really our friend, however disoriented we feel.  If we knew where God is leading us, we might run from this new work.  We could draw back because we are not yet in a place to grasp how God is working in ways we can’t understand ourselves, let alone explain to others.
The challenge is that we can’t know all the things that must fall into place in order for this new work to be revealed.  God’s work is usually hidden.  Yet one day we realize that we have turned a corner, or that things have shifted, and we find ourselves where we never could have hoped.  We suddenly realize how things have fallen together, and it finally makes sense.  Perhaps the biggest change necessary was within ourselves, since our own hearts often need the most preparation for God’s new work.
Gracious God, may our eyes of faith see the divine threshold in what feels like disorienting space.  You are utterly faithful.  For this, we give you thanks.