Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fish Fudge and the Quality of Silence (#SmallWonder Link-up)



My husband loves seafood - shrimp, scallops, crabs - you name it, he loves it.  But he absolutely adores Salmon.  He calls it "Fish Fudge."  

I don't love seafood.  At best, I tolerate it.  The idea of Fish Fudge, just the very idea, makes me want to vomit a little bit in my mouth.  But he says it's smooth and rich like fudge and since he likes fudge and fish, the image works for him.  

I visited the Still Waters this week in anticipation of a writing retreat Shawn Smucker and I will be leading there on October 15.  Still Waters is a privately owned retreat house located outside of Carlisle, PA along the Conodoguinet creek.  

Although I've attended numerous day events there and overnighted once, it had been more than a year since I was last there.  The moment I walked in, I thought, "Ah, it's been too long."  

There's a quality of silence at Still Waters that's absolutely stunning.  It's as though the silence has meat to it, a fullness of body, something like Silence Fudge maybe.  I'm very grateful to the owners, the late Sanford Alwine and his wife Lois, who left me a lovely note of greeting, for envisioning and sharing this space with the local community.  

Monday afternoon I made a hot cup of tea, sat for awhile, prayed and worked on some editing.  Mostly, though, I enjoyed the velvety silence of the air around me and gave thanks for the opportunity to be there.  I took some pictures of the beautiful space to share with you too.  Enjoy!    

























*   *   *

Author, Shawn Smucker and I are offering a one-day retreat this coming October 15 in Carlisle, PA.  Titled, Writing As Witness, we will explore the ways writing can position us to witness the presence of God in our own lives and in the world.  Visit link to learn more.  
*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

To Know Your Own Heart #SmallWonder LinkUp


My church’s interim pastor, Jay McDermond, spoke on the life of Peter last Sunday, spending much of his time focusing on Peter’s less admirable qualities. (I believe the words “bone head” may have been employed.)  By human standards, Peter probably wasn’t the best candidate for Jesus to build his church on, but Jesus called him anyway.  
  
After highlighting Peter’s commitment and betrayal, our pastor focused on the conversation between Jesus and Peter found in John 21.  Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?”  Peter responds each time, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”  According to Pastor Jay, the nuance of the conversation is a bit clearer in the Greek where two different words for ‘love’ are used. 

Jesus: Peter, do you ‘agape me?’
Peter: Yes Lord, ‘phileo se.’

Jesus is talking about one kind of love, Peter is talking about another.  Jesus uses the Greek word “agape” referring to divine love.  “Peter,” Jesus is asking, “do you love me like God loves you?” 

Peter responds with ‘phileo se,’ “I love you like a brother, Jesus.” 

This exact exchange is then repeated with Jesus again asking whether Peter loves him with divine love and Peter responding, “I love you like a brother.”  The third time, though, Jesus changes his wording to match Peter’s ability.

“Peter,” he finally says in verse 17, “do you love me like a brother?” 

“Yes,” Peter says again, “I love you like a brother.” 

Jesus responds to Peter’s humanity by lowering the bar.  It’s as though Jesus sees Peter’s true condition and decides, “Yeah, I can work with that.”  This is good news – the same grace extended to Peter extends to all of us.    

It’s also important to note a change in Peter.  By the time we get to this final conversation near the end of the book of John, Peter, for once, doesn’t try to pretend he’s capable of more than he knows to be true.  Maybe he learned that lesson during the long, dark night of his betrayal.  When Peter heard Jesus’ prediction of suffering and death, Peter promised to be faithful to the bitter end.  Jesus, never the fool, told him, “Before the rooster crows three times, Peter, you will betray me.”  In other words, Jesus says, “Peter, you don’t even know your own heart.”

For Peter, the realization of his own capacity for betrayal (ie. his capacity for sin) was devastating.  When the rooster crowed for the third time, Peter ran out and “wept bitterly.”  That night in the courtyard and later through the still, silent night of fishing without success, Peter came face to face with his own humanity.  It’s not that he lost his tendency to bluster and bluff, but that he became painfully aware of it.  By the time he talks with Jesus again, Peter is certain of who he is – fully human, flawed, and yet willing to love the best he can. 

If I were Peter standing on the shoreline held in place by Jesus’ direct line of questioning, I can’t help but think I would’ve been tempted to claim I’m capable of more than I am.  This seems to be the sin I’m most prone to commit over and over again.

But Peter discovered a bedrock truth about himself, about his limitations and abilities and that discovery gives him solid footing in the face of Jesus’ questioning.  The good news is that Jesus doesn’t reject Peter for his limitations, in fact, I wonder if it wasn’t Peter’s certainty about his own limits that helped Jesus decide he was the right person for the job. 

*   *   *

Author, Shawn Smucker and I are offering a one-day retreat this coming October 15 in Carlisle, PA.  Titled, Writing As Witness, we will explore the ways writing can position us to witness the presence of God in our own lives and in the world.  Visit link to learn more.  
*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  


What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  


That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

They're Off (to Kindergarten) #SmallWonder

Oh my word, these two used to stand in the windows at our old house eating apples and watching the cars drive by on Franklin St.  

I hear, again, the patter of little feet upstairs.  It’s 7:30 pm, a good half hour since the song and a prayer and good nights.  But there he is in the half-dark hallway, a taunt wire of worried little boy.  I reach out my arms and pick up his long, strong body because that’s what Mamas do. 

“Are you worried?” I ask.

He gives me a wide-eyed exasperated look.  “Mom!  Do you think I wouldn’t be worried about my first day of school ever?” he says.

It’s true, he has every right to be worried.  “It’s ok,” I say, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
 
He looks away and Daddy arrives at the top of the stairs to take the hand-off and I return to helping the older two wash off the last remains of summer.  I joke that we may not recognize them when the scrubbing’s all said and done. 

Later, when the older two are sprawled on couches and I’m reading aloud, I hear a thump of feet hitting the floor above my head and a pitter-patter in the hallway.  Looking up I see him squatting there at the railing. 

“Remember that poem we were supposed to read the night before school to help us sleep better?” he asks.  “We forgot to read it.”
 
I remembered the poems after they were in bed and thought we’d let it go until morning.  But now that he remembers, there’ll be no letting anything go.  Up the stairs Daddy goes again, this time with the yellow school folder and poem in hand.  They open the folded yellow paper revealing a little bag of “magic confetti” inside.  The confetti, the poem explained, is to be sprinkled under one’s pillow to ensure a good night’s sleep. 

Levi scurries to his bed, shaking the little bag with vigor, making sure to get every last piece of confetti, talking the entire time.  It works and he sleeps through the night.  In the morning, though, picking out a new shirt to wear, he yawns and looks at me with baggy, red eyes.  “I’m tired,” he says.    

//

In the early morning chaos of fixing breakfast, packing lunches and sorting new shoes and shirts, Isaiah walks up to me with wide eyes. “I’m scared,” he says, “because when we get there, you won’t be with us.”  At the word “you” he pokes me in the chest for emphasis. 

“I know,” I say, squeezing him in a hug.  

Then the whirl of morning preparations pulls us in separate directions until I pause, putting bread in the toaster.  He approaches again, staring up at me with questions brimming in his brown eyes.  “Will there be bullies?” he asks.

“No,” I say, “there won’t be any bullies, honey.” 

//

Everyone’s ready a good half hour early and when it’s finally time to go outside for the buses, Isaiah is unable to smile for a picture.  He doesn’t cry, but his face is a grimace of worry. 

Mercifully, the bus is on time and they’re up the stairs before I can cling to them for one last hug and a kiss.  The bus driver tells them to head to seat four, but I call out from the foot of the tall, black stairs, “They don’t know the number four.”  

I will myself not to climb those stairs and help them to their seats, not to call them back for one last hug and kiss.  My husband, seeing their confusion, points to the window by seat number four and in a blink, two happy faces peak out smiling, waving, and then they’re off. 


Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day (A Picture Post)

It's Labor Day here in the United States.  My husband is off from work, my father-in-law is visiting, and this is ALL FOUR kids' last day of summer vacation.  It's been a hot, dry summer in our neck of the woods and somewhere half-way through we re-discovered the Yellow Breeches creek just a few minutes from our house.  Even on the hottest of days the creek's cool and shady, filled with wonders.

Yesterday I picked up a book my soon-to-be fifth grader recommended, Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, a lovely book about the power of story and the lengths we must go to to protect it.  The book begins with this quote, which I'll leave you with, as well as some pictures from our time at the creek. Tomorrow's a new bend in the road for us and I'll see you on the other side. #SmallWonder link-up will be back next week. 

The most priceless posession of the human race is the wonder of the world.  Yet, latterly, the utmost endeavours of mankind have been directed towards the dissipation of that wonder . . . Nobody, any longer, may hope to entertain an angel unawares, or to meet sir Lancelot in shining armour on a moonlit road.  But what is the use of living in a world devoid of wonderment? - Kenneth Grahame
















This summer's Zinnias are almost spent and I'm looking forward to adding more variety to next year's crop. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Healing at the Pool of Bethesda



John 5:1-9

How long must you wait
by the water’s edge
for the angel to dip
her fickle toe and
stir the surface
of the world?

And what if
even after
days, months
of waiting,
watching,
you sense
the air’s movement,
see the water shimmer
with circle after concentric
circle and yet,
are unable
to enter in?

To be near
the miracle is not
enough.  Second
place will earn you
no reward. 

What then?

Nothing can move
you save for the one
question most difficult,
“What do you want?”

The answer 
to that question
turns you away 
from waiting
and the still, 
smooth surface
of the water.  

The answer
to that question 
bids you,
“Pick up your mat 
and walk.”