Monday, 29 December 2008

Going north

In Toronto I feel overdressed. My small Sorel boots and practical winter jacket seem out of place and out of fashion. It is Christmas Day, and we are on our way early in the morning to fly up to the NWT.  I have never flown on Christmas Day before, but apart from a ticket agent with flashing holiday earrings, not much is different. 

The first sign that we are in the north is the stewardess on the Calgary-Yellowknife flight. Before landing she puts on a full length parka so she won’t freeze when she opens the door. It is -31 C when we arrive. She wishes us all a Merry Christmas and we step out onto the tarmac. It is 2:15 and the sun is only a handbreadth above the horizon, but it makes the runway sparkle so much I have to squint. An attendant stands near the plane, directing us to the terminal. She is elegant in a long parka, her dark hair framed by fur. We walk with crunchy steps, and I can tell it is cold, colder than I’ve felt in a long time.  After about 10 seconds I can feel my jeans getting stiff and the end of my nose tingling. My long johns are still packed in a suitcase. I feel underdressed. 

Dwayne picks us up at the airport, and we head out to the van. Dwayne is a mechanic, and his van is one of those mechanic type vans. The only doors that open are the front passenger door and the sliding side door, which means he has to climb in first, and then we follow. The heater also is not working at maximum capacity, and we pull out our real Sorels and full snow suits. The only place open in Yellowknife is the gas station, so we go in to hunt up some food, returning victorious with microwaveable Chunky soup, Lunchables and beef jerky, which isn’t as good as homemade dry meat, but does the trick in a pinch. 

The sun is setting as we drove out of town, and I can feel the north seeping back into my bones, or at least the cold is. I’m wearing Dwayne’s warmest hunting snowpants and an assortment of woolen accessories, sitting in the back with one leg up on each armrest in the front, mitts over my feet trying to keep my toes warm close to the front vents (the only ones that spit out any heat), chewing on a piece of jerky and listening to the latest northern news update from Dwayne.  

I see the ravens again out the window, massive black and glossy. We pass a few buffalo on the road and in the ditches, frosty white coats and steaming nostrils stamping through the snow. The trees are covered in snow and hoar frost. It isn’t the kind of covering that looks like it could be shaken off in a breeze. There is a permanence to it, as if the trees had accepted their winter fate and decided to dress the part. The dusky light stays with us for a while, reflecting off the snow that surrounds us with a dreamy glow. 

We pass one or two vehicles on the road out of town, and soon the sky is black. The windshield is only half defrosted, but I can see the stars popping out above the trees. Orion is a giant this far north, and it is like meeting an old friend you only see in pictures. I think about Orion and the way the snow looks like crushed diamonds on the road, and I start to doze off. 

I wake up just before the ferry crossing over the Mackenzie River. Even though it has been very cold the last few weeks, the channel is still open, kept free of ice by the 24-7 winter schedule of the Merv Hardie. The ice isn’t thick enough yet for the ice road, and so the ferry will keep running till it is. We were the only car going across that run. Micah stood outside the whole time, walking stiffly from side to side in his snowsuit. The channel is narrow, and the ferry does a series of slow donuts, bouncing off encroaching ice floes to break a path and keep it clear. Now I’m sitting in the front seat, where I have discovered the van’s source of heat, and I’ve got my feet right over the vents. I don’t let Micah back in the front seat! The windshield is about two-thirds defrosted by now.

We still have another 4 hours to go. We plan to get gas in Enterprise, about an hour down the road. Just as I’m looking forward to a pee break, we find out the gas station is closed in Enterprise. That means we’ll have to go in to Hay River, which is a little bit out of our way. The Shell station should be open there at The Rooster. I decide I can hold my pee a little longer. Micah is bundled up in the back seat, where I’m sure the temperature is at least a few degrees colder. Water bottles are freezing on the floor, and we have to thaw the juice cans out on the dashboard every so often so they don’t explode. 

The gas station on the road into Hay River is closed, so we head in to the Shell. It’s dark. A quick drive around town confirms our fears. Absolutely nothing is open in Hay River, not the gas stations, not the hotels, not even the cop shop. Sure, it is Christmas Day, but nothing?! Nothing between Yellowknife and Fort Smith? We don’t have enough gas to make it to Smith, another 3 hours down the road. At least The Rooster has a working payphone outside, and we make a collect call home. Dwayne paces and stamps back and forth in his fur hat waiting for the phone connection. It is bitterly cold and windy. Dad will try and get a hold of some friends in Hay River who might be able to help us out. Dwayne pees behind the gas station, and I’m jealous, still not desperate enough to drop everything. 

We are rescued by a Christmas angel, otherwise known as Glen Wallington, an old friend of our parents that I haven’t seen in at least ten years. He drives us to the card lock where we can fill up. We need oil too, so he invites us back to their place where he’s got some. I ask if I can use their washroom, and he invites us all in to warm up, glory to God. Marsha puts on a pot of coffee and we pull up to the table. It’s a small world wherever you go, and I see one of my sister’s classmates that I knew in grade 6 in Saskatchewan, and Dwayne finds out that he used to play with the Wallington boys back in BC when he was a little kid! Here we are, Christmas evening, drinking coffee in our snowpants in a stranger’s house, and it makes me smile. Christmas found its way through the cold and rescued us. 

We are thawed and fortified with caffeine, ready for the last stretch of highway. Micah burrows under a pile of parkas in the back seat, and he looks like the abominable snowman taking a nap. I talk with Dwayne for awhile before succumbing to my sleep deprivation. I am half aware of passing the 70 km road sign, of the pavement beginning again after gravel, and of Salt Mountain. I don’t really wake up till I see the street light at Bell Rock, and then I know it’s only 10 minutes till we’re there. When we get to the bend in McDougal Road the familiarity of the town greets me, and I get excited. All is calm and bright, and it’s about 20 after midnight. We almost made it home on Christmas Day, but this is close enough. We stumble into the house with our coats and suitcases, where my parents are happy to finally greet us and give us big hugs. 

I rush down to the basement where the woodstove is, getting as close as I can without touching it. There’s nothing like a roaring woodstove. The house is all decorated for Christmas, and the little spruce tree is twinkling with pride in the corner. I’m too dopey to do much other than eat a bowl of cereal, brush my teeth and find my bed. I drop into bed, exhausted and content. The Hudson’s Bay blanket on the bed reminds me one last time that I’m truly in the north, and then there is only sleep. 


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Saturday, December 27

A song for the journey:

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary; and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wond’ring love.
O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently the wondrous Gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming; but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell,
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.

(O Little Town of Bethlehem – Phillip Brooks and Lewis H. Redner)


Friday, December 26

What began as a few tentative steps has led you to Bethlehem and beyond. You have received the promise of Love, the experience of Emmanuel. Your journey is far from over, but you are not alone. You have many things to ponder as you leave the stable.

Take a rest on your journey to read this passage and ponder this question:
Luke 1:19-20

What treasure will you now carry with you as a result of your journey to Bethlehem?


Thursday, December 25

The identity of this child is almost incomprehensible. He is a descendent of Abraham, yet He gave Abraham life. It is the wonder of the incarnation, a divine-human mystery that enfolds you in the warmth of infinite Love. It welcomes you not only into the family of Abraham but into the family of God. You are no longer a stranger. You are His child.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Matthew 1:1-17
John 8:56-58
John 1:1-14

How has the coming of Christ fulfilled God’s promises to Abraham and to you?

Take a few moments to come and worship the newborn King.

Merry Christmas to all!


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Wednesday, December 24

He doesn’t just offer a promise; He offers his very self. Who would have thought that all your searching would lead you to this tiny stable? This is not where you would have expected to find Him. But here He is on this holy night. This is Love incarnated, embodied in the manger. Love has a face. Love has a name – Jesus.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Isaiah 9:6-7
Luke 2:1-7
1 John 4:9-10

How have you experienced God’s love in unexpected ways?


Tuesday, December 23

When you have laid down your very heart you discover that He will indeed provide. The provision comes unexpectedly, overwhelming you with grace. But this redemption comes at a price. These newborn hands are the same ones that will sacrifice themselves in death for your salvation.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Genesis 22:9-19
Hebrews 10:19-25
Luke 2:36-37
Luke 1:67-79

How do you need to experience God’s redemption this season?


Monday, 22 December 2008

Monday, December 22

Following the path to the Son is not always easy; it is often strewn with stones that prick your feet and pierce your heart. It requires the complete submission of your will. You may be asked to sacrifice the very thing you hold closest to you heart, in order that God may possess your heart completely.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Genesis 22:1-8
Hebrews 11:17-19
Luke 2:34-35
2 Corinthians 5:7

Are you willing to trust God even when it seems His promises have disappeared?

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Fourth Sunday of Advent - Sacrifice

The light is fading like the final notes of a symphony, but still the song lingers in the air. It is something that will forever resound in your being. You take a deep breath, your heart pounding furiously in your chest. The shepherds have regained their feet and are now talking excitedly, flailing their arms and dancing from foot to foot, exclaiming over the wonderful news that has been announced to them.

You turn to find your friend standing with face turned toward the last shimmer of perfect light. His staff is on the ground, but it appears he has no need of it. He is standing tall, like a mighty tree with roots digging deep through time, and branches being drawn upward toward an inexpressible and glorious hope. In his face shines all the wisdom of a king and all the delight of a child.

“It is as I had hoped,” he whispers to you, “and still beyond all my imagining.”

“It's Him, isn't it?” you reply with eagerness. Now you hear the shepherds preparing to go into town, to search every stable to find earth's newest son. “Shall we go to Him?” you ask the old man, eying the shepherds pointing the way to Bethlehem and not wanting to be left out of the search.

At first he makes no sound, and you wonder if he has heard you. Then he turns toward you. “Hand me my staff will you,” he says with purpose in his eyes. You bend to obey his wish, placing the wood in his hands. His wrinkled face looks down at you. “Permit an old man a bit of a slower pace. I'm not as young as I once was.” The shepherds have already begun to run, down the path and past the sheep, coats streaming behind them. The last one calls out a word of beckoning to you both, and you can hardly restrain the burst of speed threatening to carry you with them.

“Don't worry,” your friend responds. “I think I know the way, and I have a feeling we'll get there in plenty of time.” Though slightly disappointed, you start out at the patriarch's pace.

“Isn't it wonderful?” you say breathlessly. “I just know I'll find what I'm looking for. He's here, and everything I dreamed of will come true! But you must know what that's like. A son was the answer to your promise too.”

Your companion looks thoughtful. “Yes, he was. Though his birth wasn't the end of the story.” He pauses, and something like sadness softens his features. “Promises from heaven do not always follow the easy road. I had to lead mine up a mountain, to an altar. . .” The old man stops and leans heavily on his staff. You offer your arm in support. “I had to give him up. You see, it wasn't just about the promise. I wasn't living for the promise anymore. I was living for Him.”

You are surprised at these words. “Did your son die?” you ask hesitantly.

“No. But something in me died that day. Something that had to die in order for me to go on, in order for the promise to live.”

“That seems cruel.” you reply, and for an instant you are not sure you want to meet Him after all.

“It was the only way.” The ancient traveler lays his bony hand on yours. “And when it was over, He gave me my son back.” The creases of his mouth form a smile and he straightens up, looking down the path. “And I've anticipated this day ever since.”

“What do you hope to find now?”

“One of my descendants.”

“Do you have a grandson now?” you ask.

He laughs. “I am far older than you think. And though He is a baby, He is older than us all.”

Truly these are strange happenings this night. You wonder about this new son. You hope he lives, because somehow you know all your hopes will be fulfilled in Him. The path turns and you almost stumble over a lamb, left alone in the confusion of the night. It is caught in some branches and bleating pitifully. “What about the sheep?” you gasp, realizing suddenly that the whole flock has been abandoned by their keepers.

Your friend stoops to untangle the animal with experienced hands. Then with tenderness he speaks. “He will provide, even for them.” You take the lamb and heave it up over your shoulders. In the distance, the lights of the little town hold out a cheering welcome. You grasp your fellow traveler's arm and look at him with new regard.

“Come on old father, let's go and meet Him.”


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Saturday, December 20

A song for the journey:

Break forth, O beauteous heav'nly light,
And usher in the morning;
Ye shepherds, shrink not with affright,
But hear the angel's warning.
This child, now weak in infancy,
Our confidence and joy shall be,
The power of Satan breaking,
Our peace eternal making.

(Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light – J. Rist, J. Schop & J. S. Bach)


Thursday, 18 December 2008

Friday, December 19

Seeds of glory have been planted within you. His Word is taking root and something new is taking form. This divine work develops a unique shape in your life.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Isaiah 55:10-13
2 Corinthians 3:18
Philippians 1:6

What divine work is being birthed in you this season?


Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Thursday, December 18

His glory has come, streaming in gold and lighting up the hills. It is like nothing you have ever seen. And what is most mysterious is that for the first time, the fullness of God’s glory shines out of the face of an infant.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Isaiah 40:1-5; 60:1-3
John 1:14-18
Hebrews 1:1-3a
2 Corinthians 4:6

How have you beheld His glory?


Wednesday, December 17

Highly favoured. This greeting meets all those who embrace God’s presence in the depths of their being. The Lord is with you. This is the promise, the purpose of Christmas. This is reason for song.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Genesis 21:6-8
Luke 1:28-30, 46-55
Luke 2:15-20
Matthew 2:10-11

What is your response to the news that you are a recipient of God's favour?


Monday, 15 December 2008

Tuesday, December 16

These tidings do more than ring in your ears. They sink deep into the empty spaces of your heart and begin a transformation. Life begins where there was once only desolation and death. It is a miracle.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Genesis 21:1-5
Luke 1:5-25, 39-45
Isaiah 54:1

How has God filled areas of barrenness in your life?


Monday, December 15

Advent celebrates the coming of light. After such a long trek and so many days of darkness, joy often arrives unexpectedly. There you stand, blinking in the light, and you cannot help but laugh at this wonderful turn in the road. Such joy seems impossible, but there it is to greet and strengthen you.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Genesis 18:1-15
Hebrews 11:11-12
Isaiah 9:1-5
Luke 2:8-14

In what ways has joy taken you by surprise?


Saturday, 13 December 2008

Third Sunday of Advent - Songs for a Son

The night is ablaze, and for an instant every dark hollow is illuminated. Now a steady warmth proceeds from the sky, blanketing the sleeping sheep and eager herdsmen in silver light. You have never felt more alive. Your heart seems to have exploded within you. Could it be? Could this be the very thing pointing you toward that which you seek?

You are startled by a touch on your arm. You look over to see one of your companion's hands gripping your coat sleeve, and the other pointing toward the light. His countenance is that of wonder. “It is His star.”

At once your heart beats assent to this statement. “Whose star?” you ask, your mind still unsure of what this could mean.

“Why the One who called me – and I suspect, the One who called you. The One who made a covenant with me. He is fulfilling His Word – no, more than that – I sense His Word is drawing near, becoming . . . becoming . . . well I don't know what it's becoming. In my case it became a son. A living being, flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone.”

“This son, who is he? How did he fulfill the promise?” you inquire, hoping to hear the fellow traveler's story at last.

The man laughs, a chuckle at first. Then he laughs hard, slapping his bony knees and shaking his woolly beard at length.

You are rather taken aback at this response. “Tell me, what's so funny?”

“My son,” he says with a smile. “We named him after his mother's laugh. A laugh that began in disbelief and ended in joy. I thought my days of fatherhood were long past. I even told the angel so. And here they were just beginning. Through him, I would have many sons and daughters. Through him, a blessing was birthed and would flow to every corner of the earth. And I was to be the father of it all. I can hardly conceive of His favour to me. When that boy was born, He loosed all the stars of heaven and let blessings fly – to me. I forgot even the idea of barrenness. My little prince, so peaceful in my arms, content with a lullaby. How great my joy. I still laugh to think of it.”

The merriment on the patriarch's face gives him the appearance of an earlier age. For the first time this night, you smile, and feel warmed by more than the watchmen's fire. It does seem peaceful here. The old man's words turn over in your head. A blessing to every corner . . . even yours? And through a son you have never seen? How is this possible?

You turn to the old man – you realize you don't even know his name – and begin to form the question, when all at once your eyes are blinded by a great flash and you find yourself thrown to the cold ground. You reach to help the old man who lies beside you, but his grip finds you first, and it is strong. If the shepherds' fire had expanded a hundredfold it would not compare to the intense yet beauteous light now surrounding the entire gathering. The eyes of the herdsmen on the ground around you are filled with fear. You can hear the sheep bleating and stamping about in confusion. If it were not for the steadying hand of your companion, you would surely tremble into the earth, though its rich fragrance reassures you of the reality of this moment. From the center of the light a large figure appears. You can only stare dumbstruck at him, but the old man raises his head in recognition.

“Fear not!” Though his voice is as thick as thunder, it is soft and brings a calm over the crowd of humans and animals. “I come not to frighten you, but to announce a great joy!” You are amazed at this shining man, and his words seem to be directed to you. You open your arms in embrace of them. “A son, the Saviour of promise has been born to you. He is the Chosen One of God... You will find Him in a manger.” Suddenly, a song bursts forth from every direction, accompanied by countless figures of light. Every particle of heaven and nature is singing.

Within your very soul, hopes and fears dance and swirl about, converging upon this heavenly Word. You feel it, at last, the birth of joy. You want to run, and you are sure glory will meet you on the way. Yes, this is the way, this is the way to Him.


Friday, 12 December 2008

Saturday, December 13

A song for the journey:

As with gladness men of old did the guiding star behold;
As with joy they hailed its light, leading onward, beaming bright,
So, most gracious Lord, may we evermore be led to Thee.

As with joyful steps they sped to that lowly manger bed,
There to bend the knee before Him whom heav'n and earth adore,
So, may we with willing feet ever seek the mercy seat.

As they offered gifts most rare at that manger rude and bare,
So may we with holy joy, pure and free from sin's alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring, Christ, to Thee our heav'nly King.

Holy Jesus, ev'ry day keep us in the narrow way;
And when earthly things are past, bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide, where no clouds Thy glory hide.

(As With Gladness Men of Old – W. C. Dix)


Thursday, 11 December 2008

Friday, December 12

The change is becoming greater now. Through many dangers, toils and snares you have already come; they have altered you. His promise has altered you as well, as has your living by it. You notice the difference not only in your circumstances, but in your very identity. You are learning your new name, one that you did not choose, but which was given to you.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Genesis 17:1-5, 15-16
Isaiah 43:1
Luke 1:13, 20-22, 59-64
Revelation 2:17

In what ways has your journey changed who you are?


Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Thursday, December 11

Perhaps it was impatience, mistrust or even despair. Whatever the reason, you thought you had a better way. His way may seem higher, harder and completely unsafe, but it is always ultimately good.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Genesis 16; 17:18-21
Proverbs 3:5-8
Isaiah 55:6-9
Matthew 1:18-25

In what ways have you attempted to take God's promise into your own hands, and how has His grace been shown despite your lack of faith?


Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Wednesday, December 10

You wouldn't be here still if you had not some moment of thrill or even terrible awe to hold on to. You hold it with a fierce and holy joy, for you are you certain. You cannot comprehend it fully, but you are certain... He was there.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Genesis 15:6-21
Exodus 3:1-6
Matthew 2:1-10
Luke 2:25-33

How has God shown Himself tangibly to you?


Monday, 8 December 2008

Tuesday, December 9

Your payment in exchange for a divine promise may not be what you expected. What did the father of many nations give? What did the mother of the nations' Saviour present? All who desire to enter this family must bring an offering in kind.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Genesis 15:6
Luke 1:38
Romans 4:16-24
Galatians 3:6-9, 29

What is the role and response of faith in pursuing God's promise?


Mary, Mary, ordinary

Mary, Mary, ordinary
How does your baby grow?
Your virgin womb is now in bloom
But how can this be so?

Mary, Mary, ordinary
How does your baby grow?
God Most High has whispered nigh
His favour now I know

Mary, Mary, ordinary
How does your baby grow?
The seed of God in human sod
The Spirit has bestowed

Mary, Mary, ordinary
How does your baby grow?
Emmanuel is pleased to dwell
In flesh, his face to show


We are the heavens

You are Polaris
Steady north in my shifting sky
A bright spark of strength
Drawing me by your invisible thread
To the center of the crisp night

I am the aurora
A swirling banner of colour
Swelling with the quick breaths of magnetism
I dance for a single star
You guide me out of dark spaces

We are the heavens
Declaring light solitary and joyous
The black velvet firmament is ours
A fixed mark and flowing wonder


Monday, December 8

Advent gives reason to reflect on the promises of the One who called you on this quest. They are meant to become a part of you, and to be remembered in every step. Some of His promises are granted in moments, others are stored up for the fullness of time. Yet they remain; that is their nature. That is His nature.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Genesis 12:2-3; 15:2-5
Micah 5:2-5a
Matthew 1:21-23
Luke 1:26-37

What promises has God given to you?


Saturday, 6 December 2008

Second Sunday of Advent - Star Gazers

Away from the lights of the town, the stars shine with more brilliance and depth. The longer you stare at them, the closer they become. Perhaps it's a trick of your eyes, but one star in particular seems to quiver and dance in the black velvet sky. The bleating of a sheep pulls you out of your star gazing and directs your focus back to the earth. The old man beside you is still staring up into the heavens, as if in a daze.

“It never works,” he announces suddenly, and with a twinkle in his eye.

You wonder if the night air is starting to take over his mind. “What never works?”

“Just try and count them,” he replies.

You return your gaze to the stars, if only to humour the poor traveler. One by one you pick the stars out, assigning them a number. Yet the more you count, the more they pop out of the blackness, till there is hardly a pinpoint of velvet left.

“Well?” the old man inquires.

“I lost count,” you admit, and are rewarded with a crooked yet completely sane smile.

“They're too numerous,” he says in triumph. “Yet there is always one you can pick out. You have to start somewhere, and all it takes is one . . . take that bright one just there. One star, one promise, one son.”

You wonder what he means. You also wonder about the star he pointed out, the same one you had noticed earlier. Even the shepherds around the fire are making mention of it. It is most unusual for this time of year, you hear them say. It must be a sign, one of them remarks. And then in a hushed tone, a sign from God.

“What do you think about signs from God?” you ask your companion. “Is there any way to tell if such things exist? How can they be validated?”

Now he is tugging at his beard, as if to bring back events and experiences of the distant past. Finally he speaks. “God gave me a sign in the heavens once. By it He promised the impossible. He wouldn't be God if the impossible were out of His reach, after all. Could I prove it? No. Did I believe it? Yes. I believed it with the same faith I began my search with. Without faith all the signs in the world would do no good.”

“So there is no way to prove it.” you say with disappointment.

“Oh there are many proofs. God likes to validate His word with His presence. He made more than a promise to me. He made a covenant, one that was irrevocable. At times I wonder why He did such a thing. I'm a human with miserable failings, full of fear, and many times I tried to take His promise into my own fumbling hands.”

You look down at his hands, now thick as leather, rubbing over and against each other to generate warmth. You think of your own failings, staring now at your own hands which have a journey's worth of dirt caked into them. “So He kept the agreement? Even when you didn't?”

“Yes.” The air grows silent between you. You are surprised to see a tear moistening the creases in the old man's face. “When He made the covenant, I offered a sacrifice. It was a night much like this. I waited in the darkness, not knowing what was to happen. And then He came. I saw the smoke from a fire I had not lit. And He said He would become like those lifeless animals if ever He broke His promise. There was nothing I could do to change that. It was more than a sign. It changed my life.”

His words stir up unnamable desire in you. There is something about this man that is wildly captivating. You can't help but wonder if your search holds a sign such as this.

“What did He promise?” you ask in anticipation.

Now he leans intently toward you. “A son in my barrenness. And so much more.”

Suddenly a light flashes above. All those around the fire instantly throw their heads back in wonder. The unusual star has exploded into blazing light, and it is not burning up.


Saturday, December 6

A song for the journey:

Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit for me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach

Oh God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

(Sometimes By Step – Rich Mullins)


Friday, 5 December 2008

Friday, December 5

When you seem to lose sight of the goal of your travels, look for the signs that point to your destination. God graciously bestows moments of joy in your pilgrimage, to remind you of the eternal joy that will one day be yours. These gifts are not the goal; “they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited” (C. S. Lewis). Yet they are yours to embrace and enjoy as a promise of things to come.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Hebrews 11:13-16
Romans 8:18-22
1 Peter 1:3-5
2 Corinthians 5:1-9

What are the reminders around you that point to an inheritance that will never be found on this earth?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Thursday, December 4

As you pass through this world on your search, a change comes over you. You no longer fit in. You look less and less like the citizens of earth, and begin to resemble that which you are looking for.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Genesis 23:3-4
Hebrews 11:9-10
Philippians 3:20-21
1 Peter 2:11-12

In what ways do you feel like a stranger in this world?


Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Wednesday, December 3

You are bound to be fearful at times. Fear of the unknown is one of the greatest hindrances to your next step, especially if that step is in darkness.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Hebrews 11:8
Genesis 12:10-13
Genesis 15:1
Isaiah 41:10

What are your greatest fears in your faith journey?


Monday, 1 December 2008

Tuesday, December 2

The very thought of Christmas may fill your heart with high expectations. Or, afraid of disappointment, you may not even acknowledge the secret hopes of your soul. Some hopes were meant to be fulfilled at the manger, by the advent of salvation on this earth. Other hopes await His second arrival, and the advent of our glorious perfection.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Genesis 12:4-9
Psalm 39:7; 130:5-8
Proverbs 13:12
Romans 8:23-25

What hopes and longings do you carry with you on your journey in this season?


Sunday, 30 November 2008

Monday, December 1

Advent is a season of searching. You have heard of the promise of “God with us,” and so you set out to find Him. He is coming, and has asked you to meet with Him. This in itself is a strange request (what would God have with you?), one which comes in differing forms. At times He whispers in dreams, at times He writes His invitation in the sky. You have heard it, and have become a stranger on an unknown path, led by a call and a longing.

Take a rest on your journey to read these passages and ponder this question:
Genesis 12:1-4
Hebrews 11:6
Jeremiah 29:11-13
Matthew 7:7-8

In what ways have you heard the voice of God inviting you to set out and follow Him, or felt compelled to search after Him?


First Sunday of Advent - Strangers and Sojourners

How strange to find yourself in this place tonight. Round the fire, the men warm their hands and faces, pulling their coats tightly to their bodies to keep in the heat. They speak of the earth and the sky and the sheep sleeping nearby. They smell of sheep and of wandering. You are a wanderer too, a stranger in this land, searching for . . . the sound of footsteps catches your ear, and you turn your head quickly away from the fire, peering into the night. You see a robe rustling in the wind, in front of which floats a long stick, drawing the figure closer. Your eyes adjust and suddenly meet with those of an old man. He smiles and stretches out his hands to the fire. The shepherds nod in greeting; they have welcomed many weary travelers on nights such as these. You move over to let the man pass, but he settles onto the ground beside you, folding his limbs into his robe and laying the staff over his knees. He sighs and closes his eyes a moment. You steal a sideways glance at the man, not fully trusting his presence. He is bearded and wrinkled, his face showing the work and weather of many years. You wonder what brought him here, what purpose there could be for such an old man on such a cold night.

“Good evening stranger,” he replies, meeting your sheepish gaze. “What hope was mine when I saw the light on the horizon. I have been traveling many, many hours, and am not from these parts – though I have visited this countryside in years past. But that could have been another lifetime for all the changes I observe now. Are you a stranger here too then?” he asks, gesturing to your clothes and features.

“Yes,” you stammer, for you had not expected conversation tonight. You pause hesitantly, then continue, “I left my hometown some time ago. I was told I would find what I was looking for if I left. But I don't really know where I'm going...” you trail off and let the silence finish the thought.

You are surprised to find the old man chuckling to himself. “Neither did I, neither did I,” he says with a laugh. “I know what it's like to follow a promise, and nothing else. People think you're crazy. You leave behind everything you know and trade it in for a sackful of faith. I bundled all my hopes up on my back and went in search of the promise - an elusive thing to track down at times.” He pauses, gripping his staff in both hands. “But I had to go. Had to.”

You nod earnestly, murmuring in agreement. As one of the shepherds adds brush to the fire, tiny sparks leap into the darkness and then disappear. “What happened to your hopes?” you ask.

“I never lost them, though bandits and kings tried to steal them. They can't take something that isn't meant for their country. As long as I had them, I was different from the rest of those I dwelt among. They kept me a stranger. But as long as I had them, I knew I would keep looking for the promise. I took them from tent to tent, knowing that one day I would trade them in for an inheritance.”

You ponder his words, and though you don't know his story, something of his manner resonates within you. From somewhere in the blackness, a bird calls. Invisible, yet audible. Yes, that's what the call was like. There is no way to prove such a thing, but it grasps your being nonetheless, echoing in every footstep, every fear. It fills you with longing even now. It awakens the hopes that ache to rise up and fly.

The old man stirs beside you, as if with the same restlessness. Again you wonder what brings him to this hillside hollow. “Will you be sojourning here long?” you ask.

Stroking his beard, the stranger lifts his eyes to the sky. “Ah, I've learned I'm not the one to be answering that question.”


Saturday, 29 November 2008

Abraham's Advent: Introduction

Advent is a season that has been celebrated by the Christian church for centuries. Advent means "coming," and in this season we await the coming of Christ, both his first and second advent. It is a time of preparation, expectation and anticipation. In all the busyness and consumerism of our modern Christmas, it is especially important to take a few moments away from the advertising and focus on the spiritual riches of this season. It is my hope that this devotional will be such a means of reflection.

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas - this year on November 30th - and each Sunday in the devotional is highlighted with a portion of narrative. There is a short thought and Scriptures to ponder each weekday, and a song to sing each Saturday. Even though Advent ends on December 24th, the devotional will run for a full four weeks, until Saturday, December 27th.

This devotional invites you to journey back in time to the hills of Bethlehem. Unpack your imagination and be prepared for a few surprises.

Advent blessings to all,


Friday, 28 November 2008

"The Color Green"

Another song by Rich Mullins, one I just discovered.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Coming soon to the blog...

Abraham's Advent

A daily devotional for the season of advent, starting Sunday November 30th.
It's something I started writing a few years ago, and this year have finally finished it!


Monday, 17 November 2008

"If I Stand" (Rich Mullins)

This is a great Rich Mullins tune. There is more out there than meets the eye...

There's more that rises in the morning than the sun
More that shines in the night than just the moon
There's more than just this fire here that keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger than this room
There's a loyalty that's deeper than mere sentiment
A music higher than the songs that I can sing
The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the giver of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise that You will pull me through
And if I can't let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You
If I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs
But if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home

There's more that dances on the prairies than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean than the tide
There's a love that is fiercer than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother's when her baby's at her side
There's a loyalty that's deeper than mere sentiment
A music higher than the songs that I can sing
The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the giver of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise that You will pull me through
And if I can't let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You
If I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs
But if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Surprised by Cheerfulness

Nope, not joy, just plain cheerfulness. I'm surprised because a simple choice to be cheerful really does make a difference. It doesn't necessarily come from a deep place of joy or anything else profound, but choosing to put a smile on my face, not be grumpy at the grocery store and just make the most of the good stuff certainly makes my day (and everyone else's) go a whole lot better. You don't even have to feel particularly cheerful to start out. Like scales, it's something you can practice, and the more you do it, the easier it gets and the better you sound. Like the old proverb goes, A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Cheerfulness is just a nicer way to live.


Friday, 14 November 2008

how i write

A pumpkin spice candle burns next to my desk. Cold autumn rains wash away the last of the yellow leaves, drum drumming on the roof as background music to my writing. The cat has resumed her sphinx position on the arm of the couch. It is as close as I let her get to the scattered notes on my desk. (In truth, she would be satisfied with nothing less than sprawling out across the keyboard.) The dishes sit dirty on the counter, but I am focused on this screen, imagining a world half a lifetime away, typing words which bring passions and pain out of the past and into my consideration.

i m a g i n e


waiting for the snow

I am searching the skies
for the mercy I've found
in the cool winter blanket of snow on the ground

The autumn is fading
and with it the brown,
and the things that I'm tired of hanging around

The power of snow
is one I love best
Its strength is in silence, its beauty in rest

I am searching the skies
for the flurry of white
for the covering of scarlet on a soft winter night


book list!

When I have finished writing the book I am currently working on (hopefully the first draft will be complete within the next 2 weeks!), these are the books I'm looking forward to reading. They are either books I have bought but haven't got around to reading yet, or textbooks I only got the chance to skim through at Wycliffe :)

  • For the Life of the World (Alexander Schmemann) - skimmed through most of this for a systematic theology course, interested in the sacramental theology
  • At the Heart of the Gospel: Suffering in the Earliest Christian Message (by Wycliffe professor Ann Jervis) - because who doesn't wonder about this?
  • The Way to Christ (Jacob Boehme) - apparently this was the key to a pneumatology course I took... should have read it a little more closely!
  • On the Incarnation (St. Athanasius) - just because I loved it and it's a good Christmas read
  • Mysterious Apocalypse (Arthur Wainwright) - on the way from abebooks!
  • The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery Vol. IV - fascinating look into the life of Canada's most famous authoress
This should make for some good winter reading ahead!


Monday, 27 October 2008

sifting sands

Abraham, I’m tired. Tired of not knowing, still keeping going, no roots for growing. My roots lie back in the boreal forest, but it’s unlikely I’ll ever return. I’m a tree who hasn’t been planted yet, trying to stay warm in a brown burlap covering. The desert is like a sieve for the soul. All my delusions of grandeur have been sifted through the sand. I have a handful of dreams and ideas, but I don’t know what to do with them anymore. Pack them away in the saddle bags for awhile I guess. I’m afraid they’ll break out here.

And, no offense, but you’re not always the best conversationalist. I’m a little lonely. I envy the Berean caravans that pass by, just out of earshot. Sometimes I talk to the sheep, just so I remember I have a voice. They listen politely, but have a bad habit of wandering just when I get to the good parts. Maybe you could introduce me to some of your friends?


Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Redeemed (a short liturgy)

Covered only in shame he cries out
The weight of a thousand offences bending and bruising
And he is redeemed.

Prayers like tears slip from the concentrated anguish
He is alone in his darkness and must be unloved
And he is redeemed.

He shudders at the altar, cold to his crawling skin
Dreading the recognition of self by the holy
And he is redeemed.

Accusations crawl like flies upon the offering
Elijah’s water soon will drown them
And he is redeemed.

Blood spilled before the foundations of the world
A torrent of timeless mercy defeats moments in sin
And he is redeemed.

Sweet purging fire you fell before his cry
You were glory in his darkness
He is redeemed.


morning poem

The sun makes its way over meadows of hay
And the golden light scatters like rain
The light-thirsty ground welcomes day as it rounds
Past the moon that is starting to wane

Morning calls to wake up and I reach for my cup
Of strong coffee that fires my veins
It gives me a shove t’ward the call from above
And I lift up my eyes once again

There out in the field the secrets concealed
By the night now are shouting my name
The meadow is waking and mine for the taking
Are mercies that brush away shame

I fling open the door and breathe in some more
Of the brilliance that cannot be tamed
Under heaven’s expanse I delight in the dance
That the dawn-drunken sparrows proclaim

A new day is here and there’s nothing to fear
In the sapphire sky there’s no pain
But an endless horizon of hope that is rising
And the golden light scatters like rain


Tuesday, 14 October 2008

what is love?

Love is one of the scariest and most difficult teachings of the Christian faith. If you think that talking about love is wishy-washy or warm and fuzzy, then you’re not really talking about love, not God’s kind of love. God’s love is defined by the cross – self-giving till death with no guarantee that you get anything back. And this is how we’re supposed to love each other. Love should be so self-defining to the Christian that the Bible says if you don’t love, you don’t really know God. If you don’t love the way Christ loves, how can you call yourself a Christian? But have you met the other people in my life? I can hardly stand to listen to some of them for more than 30 seconds, let alone lay down my life for them. This is a hard teaching.

The kind of love we’re asked to give to others really is impossible, it’s superhuman. And last time I checked, I’m just a mortal. Ah, but that is the point. This love can’t possibly come from within me. I am incapable of producing it, we all are. Much of the sinfulness of this world comes from this inability. In the absence of love, selfishness takes over, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get to the top, even if it means trampling over others like lemurs on the march. Others are there to serve us, to benefit our plans for a wonderful life, to make us feel important and significant, or at least to get out of our way. This is the darkness in our hearts.

But God tells us real love comes from Him. Love is who He is. And when we encounter and embrace the love of Christ, something new is birthed in us. Our ability to receive is directly related to our ability to give. When love is freely given to us, when it abides in us, it casts out the darkness and fear of our selfish existence. We are freed to love, because we know that even death cannot hinder love’s power.

It is not enough to sing Jesus Loves Me. God’s love is not perfected in us until we love each other. If we claim to follow Christ, we must follow his path. The path of love is always down, its shape is always cruciform, it is always given away. This is how God’s love is completed in us. We don’t understand God’s love by hoarding it. God does not rest satisfied in His own flawless fullness. He rips His very heart out and offers it to us, bleeding on the cross. We learn love by living love.

Many days I am an unwilling pupil. I just don’t want to make the effort. I’d rather stay home and sit on the couch, thank you very much. Love is hard work! Thankfully, the same writer who says if you don’t love others, you don’t know God, also says that if we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves. Love’s perfection takes practice. And on the days our love falls short, we fall back on God’s unfailing love.

Of course, we are still uneasy about this whole sacrifice thing. Seems a little self-destructive, don’t you think? What if I’m taken advantage of? What if I get burned, or burned out? So far, I haven’t been able to find a passage that says to love only if certain conditions are met, or that we can opt out based on certain well reasoned excuses. Sometimes you will have to love till your heart bleeds, till your hands are blistered, till your head is spinning.

But the beauty of the life of love is that it is designed to be shared. The Christian community should be a well spring of love, where giving and receiving flow naturally so that all are carried on its waves. If we are all loving deeply, we can all drink deeply. This is what true Christian fellowship is all about. This is how we share God’s love, this is how we are perfected as His bride. This is where we find rest for our souls and provision for our needs. This is where daily bread is shared because people are willing to be broken for the sake of their brothers and sisters.

This is also how the world will know we are Christians. If the people in your community were asked to define the Christians in it, would they say that Christians are the people who really love each other? If not, we have a problem. Our love inside the Christian community is directly related to our influence outside the Christian community.

To our selfish hearts, this is scary stuff. But this is real love and real life. This is real God.


Friday, 10 October 2008

my October

my October

winter's appetizer with the end bitten off
dull and dry
poplar boneyards rattling in the front yard
darkening days

I sat at the window
glass eyes
mourning brown grass

But you came in russet silk
A kiss on the sweet sour wind
You knocked on the back door
And lit the pumpkin lanterns

We roasted the seeds in auburn smoke
Drank cider crushed beneath dancing feet
And slept on a bed of saccharine decay
You gathered love into

my October


"To Autumn"

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

~John Keats (published 1820)

Thursday, 9 October 2008


I can’t help it. I always feel like a hobbit when I go walking in the moonlight. You’d think I might feel like something a little more romantic. But no, it’s hairy feet and ringwraiths. (Mmm, and lots of food… hobbits certainly know how to eat. Just don’t break the bowls and smash the plates! That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates.) Thanks to Dad reading us stories before bed when we were kids, I can picture the little company travelling by night and sleeping by day. When the moon is bright, you don’t need a lantern, or flashlight. Your eyes adjust, and the moon shadows fall sharply on the path. When you go into the deep dark woods and have to turn on the flashlight, it only makes things spookier. The trees no longer whisper conspiratorially, but are menacingly standoffish. The light is intrusive. And of course, if you were a hobbit on a dangerous and secret journey, the light would attract attention. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to head into the night alone, even if the scariest thing I ran into was a raccoon. It’s funny how just one person makes all the difference. When my husband is with me, I feel like I could be entrusted with such a quest, creeping over hills and moors and stealing through elfish woods. Just one person, and I’m not so scared of the spiderwebs or the rustlings in the dark. Just one person, and the night isn’t so cold, the trees become friendly again, and a simple walk becomes an adventure.


Monday, 29 September 2008

coming up on three years...

Well Abraham, it’s been about three years now. Three years of Bedouin camps and bumpy camel rides. I remember the first time we met, at the shepherd’s midnight fire. It’s funny how Bethlehem was the door to time travel. It makes sense, considering who we met there.

I must confess, I haven’t always enjoyed the pace. I’ve been tired and frustrated and lost, not to mention the lack of general hygiene. And your lead camel seems to save all his spit for whenever I pass. The whole thing just isn’t sanitary. But I think you’ve saved my sanity in many ways. I’m glad you’re here. At least we’ve been lost together.

I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to go home yet. It’s not really my choice, and I don’t know where home is yet either. So I hope you don’t mind me tagging along a bit farther.


Monday, 8 September 2008


love bears all things
believes all things
hopes all things
endures all things
love never fails

There is no more beautiful truth than this. This is God's love, meant to be given to us through human hands. This is the love that bears my burden of imperfection, believes I am worthwhile, hopes that the morning will be better, endures through the night, never fails me. I am thankful my husband enacts this ancient poetry, giving words wheels.

1 John 3:18


Sunday, 31 August 2008


Freedom falls like an August wind before the thunderstorm, charging the atmosphere with the electricity of hope. Hope that the deluge will descend in the splendid violence of overburdened precipitates, releasing waves of sound that drown the whimpering city. Freedom falls in the force of flood - close your eyes and let it take you.


Thursday, 28 August 2008

Own Me

- Ginny Owens

Got a stack of books so I could learn how to live
Many are left half read, covered by the cobwebs on my shelf
And I got a list of laws growing longer everyday
And if I keep plugging away, maybe one day I’ll perfect myself

Oh but all of my labour seems to be in vain
And all of my laws just cause me more pain
So I fall before you in all of my shame
Ready and willing to be changed

Own me, take all that I am
And heal me, with the blood of the Lamb
Mold me, with your gracious hand
Break me till I’m only yours
Own me

Oh you call me daughter, and you take my blame
And you run to meet me when I cry out your name
So I fall before you in all of my shame
Lord I am willing to be changed

Own me, take all that I am
And heal me, with the blood of the Lamb
Mold me, by your gracious hand
Break me till I’m only yours
Own me


Abraham, how could you? How could you follow a God who seems to laugh in your face by turning promise to torture? Did doubt scream protests and tear its clothes inside your head? Sure, it turned out for you. The lesson, we are told, is about trust. Just trust and it will all be ok. But I’m not so sure what will happen to me. I’m afraid to walk the path of self-denial, three days to the top of the hill, heaping kindling upon what I welcomed as a gift. I have my old swiss army knife, heavy in my pocket. Is it big enough? Will I have to use it? I doubt there are rams in these parts, much less angels. Abraham, will you carry me home if I have to come back alone?


Wednesday, 27 August 2008


Is this my reflection?
Is my heart this black or is the mirror distorted?

Spirit, meet me in the old sweet songs
Back to the floor, I open my hands

I fight the power I have given to the dark
While secretly desiring it

Spirit, I have forgotten how to surrender
I cannot speak your tongues

Take my life and salvage any light left
Break me till I’m only yours

Spirit, take these honest tears
And turn them into a baptism


Sunday, 24 August 2008

a little dirt

Don’t get me wrong. I like those Bruce Trail types – the quiet non-motorized people with clothes from MEC and non toxic water bottles out for pleasant strolls in pristine-ish wilderness. I am one sometimes. The problem is, this part of Ontario is divided into Bruce Trail, aka You Only Wish You Could Ride Your Motorized Vehicle Here Trail, and pavement, with rich “NO TRESSPASSING” property and fenced-in farms in between. So what’s a couple on a dirtbike to do? Usually, ride the smooth highways and look wistfully down private roads. I could almost fall asleep on the back of the bike. There’s no room for us in these parts. We’re too much of a menace to civilized society I guess. But tonight, we found “Unopened Sideroad 10.”

It started off as a double track with a little sign that said “Road Closed,” probably more for insurance purposes than anything else. With no indication of private property or surveillance cameras, we headed in. It was a real dirt road, the kind that runs between farmers’ fields, the kind you use at your own risk, the kind where you have to watch what’s coming up and duck out of the way of overhanging branches, the kind nobody cares about. It smelled like manure and trees and dipped up and down over a little ridge. We could feel the ground under the tires, the way it should be. It was a glorious anomaly. We followed it, grinning all the way (too short) to its end. As we approached the concession, I could see a sign facing the way we just came. I was afraid it would tell us we had been trespassing or engaging in some other reckless disregard for the law or public safety. But all it said was “No exit.” And in my books, that’s fair game. Sometimes you just need a little dirt.


Wednesday, 20 August 2008

a walk

(Fort Smith, NT - June 17, 2008)

I saw, heard, felt

delicate wildflowers, always ready for a bouquet,
a slowly picked bundle of yellow, white, pink, purple
small and fragrant beauty

the river
the sound of rapids, glorious white ribbons streaming round the rocks,
the sound of liquid thunder
I fell in and out of love on your banks

poplars in the wind, whooshing and waving and singing,
silver undersides of leaves sparkling in the sun,
soothing and stirring the earth and sky

the old paths, worn by childhood memories and imagination,
soft and sandy, familiar to my feet

the lookout, breathless lookout, stage of the sunset,
throws my heart over the landslide into the river,
the largest place I know

the leprechaun forest, chopped down and left for dead
the magic has seeped out – don’t you understand what was here?

the road much travelled, the sound of gravel in the driveway,
leading home

this is my home
the forest my teacher, sweetly whispering
the river my priest, sacred and forgiving
you gave me my purity
entreated my imagination
broke me on the rocks of womanhood
sang longing into my spirit

you always open your arms and take me back


Tuesday, 19 August 2008

a bit of a chill

Today there was a chill in the air, a delightfully fresh reminder that our present toiling under the sun will soon give way to a harvest reaped in joy. This year I am especially ready to welcome autumn as the season of new things, to savour each crunch of the leaves beneath my feet and gleefully pull on my wool socks. When the trees begin to glow orange, then the feasting will begin…


Monday, 18 August 2008

moonlit kindness

In the moonlight I saw things for what they were. First, I laughed at how silly I was. Then, I was sad because things didn’t have to be that way. But the truth is freeing. Sigh no more – the crickets are singing and the stars shine simply again. I’m glad it was the moon that showed me, the quiet gentle moon. There is kindness in its silvery self revelation. In the sun I would have been burned, red-faced by exposure. Prayers are answered in peculiar ways. Tonight I find grace.


Monday, 11 August 2008

learning imperfection

Learning imperfection goes against the grain
Of a tree that’s used to growing perpendicular to pain
But tangled gnarls and crooked roots
Rounded burls and offset shoots
Are proof you see that the perfect tree
Is only made more interesting when weather leaves a stain


Thursday, 7 August 2008

The bells

Today the church bells are ringing. It’s noon, and I can hear hymns pealing from the church tower nearby. Amazing Grace, This is My Father’s World, Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus. It sounds like the bell ringer is practicing. They are familiar tunes to me, but I wonder how many others would recognize them. Whenever the bells ring, I feel as if we are stepping back in time, when townspeople would receive daily encouragement from the church’s bells. Most people now are probably more annoyed than anything. But I love them. For a few minutes, the soundtrack to the neighbourhood is gospel joy. They don’t ring daily, and sometimes I think weeks go by between soundings. So I am always surprised when I hear them, and thrilled.

The first time I heard them in Georgetown was our first Christmas here in 2005. It was Christmas Eve, and we had just come home from our church’s service. I had never heard bells like that before, and I was so excited. Christmas carols rang out all evening – tidings of comfort and joy. I felt like it was really Christmas that night.

There is something uniquely inspiring about hearing the church’s music over the noise of everything else. Perhaps it’s my longing for the good old days, or appreciation for ancient forms of music. Or perhaps it is the realization that this glorious song will one day be heard in all the world. Today, they are a sacrament of the coming kingdom, when the music of grace will rule all our neighbourhoods.


Thursday, 10 July 2008

under the oaks

Father Abraham, do you know your children have ipods? That we can look up your travels on Wikipedia? But we have oak trees too, that look something like the ones here at Mamre. Shade is a timeless treasure, and it’s nice to sit under the oaks on hot summer days like today.

When the tent flaps blow in the wind, slapping against the frame, I remember the day three strange men came. I remember the promises made, incredulous promises that seemed to mock dead wombs and old bones. The heat puts me in a contemplative mood - the sound of the branches rustling and goatskins flapping and flies buzzing makes it all seem like somewhat of a dream. The horizon looks hazy, as if a lake could appear in the distance at any moment. A trick of the eyes, of the heat… I hear whispers in the wind. Do you hear it too?

I think I might be crazy. It’s not just about the mirages and voices in my head. It’s about being here, following your steps. I’m a descendent, you know, though I look nothing like you or Sarah. I’m trying to figure out where I’m going by tracing family history. This detour into the past may give me clues to my own future. I heard the call too, but now it seems so distant. Ur was a long time ago. Who have I become along the way?

I see you, hoping against hope in something that does not yet exist. You tell me your God gives life to the dead, calls something out of nothing. I see you growing stronger, staggering less. Well I just feel like a drunkard, wandering around the desert on sour curds and milk. But the oaks are talking still, echoing words of glory I strain to hear:
Is anything too difficult for Yahweh?

(Romans 4:16-25)


Thursday, 12 June 2008

pelican protection

Pelicans do a curious thing in storms. When the winds blow strong, bringing waves of rain against them, they don’t run away. They stand together and turn and face the wind. With their long beaks pointing toward the direction of the assault, they plant their wide orange feet on the beach and look straight into the storm. They do this so that the wind will not take them off guard from behind, lifting their wings and exposing them to the cold rain or knocking them off balance. They are safer this way, facing it. They see it, know it, and protect each other till it is over. They close themselves in with long white wings, feather armor sealing strong bodies that will fly again when the sun comes out.


Tuesday, 3 June 2008

hey Abraham, wait up

Change is the wind, unpredictable and unstoppable. Abraham, where are we going? Do the breezes talk to you, pushing you out of your tent and along an unseen path? Is it God’s face you see in the thunderclouds, and if it is, why do you look weary and sad? When Sarah is frustrated she calls you Abram, but you silence her and keep moving. I guess that’s called faith. I’m following you because I don’t know where else to go. He hasn’t told me my new name yet.

Do you ever miss Ur, or the friends we camped with at the oases? We’ve seen many beautiful places along the way. How will you know where to stop? Maybe you never will.


Friday, 30 May 2008

Hind's Feet

This is a song I'm working on in the beginning stages. I don't know if I really like it yet. The lyrics came out of some Scripture reading I was doing tonight, but I haven't got to the piano yet to fit them to a melody. I've mixed Isaiah 55 with Habakkuk 3.

Hind's Feet

This mountain is high, there’s snow all around
The rain chills my bones and I can’t see the ground
My feet they feel lame, they’re blistered and weary
I don’t know why you called me to come up here

So give me hind’s feet
To walk in your ways
And though I am thirsty
I’ll still sing your praise
Your thoughts lead me up
Though I don’t understand
I’m weak in the knees
And too fearful to stand

When I heard you call me I hoped I might find
The blossoming fig tree, but I’ve left it behind
The path leads through thorns, and the nettles they sting
But you beckon me higher and ask me to sing

So give me hind’s feet
To walk in your ways
And though I am thirsty
I’ll still sing your praise
Your thoughts lead me up
Though I don’t understand
I’m weak in the knees
Please help me to stand

Though I can’t see you, I know you are near
Your word of compassion falls soft in my ears
And somehow my feet find their place on this mountain
And the cold stony desert turns into a fountain

So give me hind’s feet
To walk in your ways
As the mountains break forth
Into shouts of high praise
Your thoughts lead me up
And the trees clap their hands
Your strength is what gives me
The courage to stand


Wednesday, 28 May 2008

talking trees

I wish I knew what the trees were saying. Either they’re mumbling in their dreams or I’m sleepwalking.

Last night we went for a walk in the dark, wrapped in a blanket, just to stand on a little wooden bridge and hear the stream pass beneath. I’ve always loved the sound of running water, and it is one of my dreams to live next to a river or stream. The first time I heard Handel’s Water Music as a child, my imagination was captured and I have since associated music with water. Every waterway has its own song, some bright with sparkling hope and others darkly mournful. I felt the song of the stream last night, but not through my ears. I really do think it was singing, words I wish I knew, words I think I believe I will one day understand, if all of creation is to be renewed.

We sat on a bench under a tree, a whispering tree, probably with spiders threatening to spin webs in my hair at any moment. For once I wasn’t nervous about the bugs, just happy to know there are still places where trees are comforting in the dark. Of course, having my husband beside me also lessened the fear of scurrying creatures. But they are creatures, too, we all are, the stream and spider and I alike, and on quiet nights you can hear our sighing. There is something yet to come, this I know at least, something that involves our little lives now in a grand story.

There are nights I feel rather like a woman from another time, thrust into the passing lane of the 401, from a time when the world was understood differently, when there was more magic and fear and awe. Those sorts of things help me understand deeper, they send out their tendrils and grasp the mysterious gospel, pulling it into dark heart soil where it groans and grows, till I can almost make out the whispers in the leaves above me.


Thursday, 8 May 2008

acres of freedom

"It's ok to be lonely as long as you're free."
Rich Mullins

There are some things in life you have to hold lightly... when the heart is free from unnecessary encumbrances, there is an acreage that opens up within. In this field the wind blows both fierce and sweet, but there is a price to pay. Breathing this air makes me lonely sometimes, but loneliness isn't always a bad thing, not if it comes out of obedience, not if it works a deeper salvation. These acres of freedom are ripe for exploration, the question is, am I brave enough to go?


Monday, 21 April 2008


The birds have secrets.

The ravens know where there is a cupboard in the sky, full of food for frightened prophets.
The doves know when the flood will end, and when it is safe to venture down the mountain into the unknown.
The crows know how long it takes a mustard seed to grow, and when we will all find nests in the top of the great tree of the kingdom of God.
The sparrows know where the Father's eye is, and have learned not to worry about tomorrow.
The eagle knows when to shelter the young and when to ruffle them off the edge to try their sticky feathers.
The eagle also knows how to wait on the wind till its wings rise up and away from weariness.
The dove knows the path of descent into water and fire, moved by the breath of heaven.

The hermit thrush sings evening prayer and the tundra swans lift the song north to a glassy sea.

The birds have secrets. 

Sunday, 20 April 2008

rara avis

Today we went on a motorbike ride in the sunny Sunday afternoon, down to the river where the rocks are warm and the bugs are lazy. The water was too cold for toes but not for beetles. I saw eight hawks circling in the sky, a rara avis in an invisible meeting place. I watched them watching me. They told me it was going to rain. Then they told me they knew the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. But we have forgotten how to listen. I stared hard and tried to open my ears as they circled round and around. Then the wind picked up and they disappeared over the ridge of the escarpment. We got back on the bike and drove southwest, where the sun was melting into ocean-coloured clouds. On the way home it started to rain. All I can say is the birds knew.


Tuesday, 8 April 2008

sit awhile

Sit by me awhile
Let’s talk about God and the stars and the distant seashore
Hold my hand lightly and smile
We’ll look for our future in the cloud shapes above
Tell me a story
The kind you save just for me
We are friends and strangers and lovers
Bound to one path and to each other
Love is a mystery
And the soul is a deep place
Let me in and let me swim


Monday, 7 April 2008

hey prophet

Hey prophet
Keep your eyes clear
You can still see through tears

Do not lose heart
The weight of glory is heavier
Though it is unseen

Free your tongue
There is power in a whisper
And love speaks from the gutter


Saturday, 5 April 2008

magic births

The afternoon has warmed its beams
And wakened spring from all its dreams
This current is our merry bed
We watch the swans fly overhead

A canopy of feathered white
Encompass us in magic flight
We set a sail for western skies
We watch the dusk around us rise

The feathers turn to falling stars
We are alone and night is ours
The river floats into the moon
Magic births and love will soon


The Last Rose of Summer

I first heard this poem by Irish poet Thomas Moore sung as a duet by Hayley Westenra and Méav Ní Mhaolchatha. To me it captures both the sadness and beauty of a change in season and our deep need of companionship in a fragile world.

'Tis the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
To give sigh for sigh.

I'll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter,
Thy leaves o'er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
From Love's shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit,
This bleak world alone?

Thomas Moore

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

how do i see you?

Coming home on the bus tonight, we passed by a homeless man with his empty Tim Horton's cup, sitting on the curbside of a busy corner. A family of several generations crossed his path, well-dressed, likely on their way to some fine Toronto entertainment. The adults picked their way around him, but there was a boy with them, about nine years old. He walked within inches of the bundled-up man, and openly stared as he passed by. I could sense his questions and childish wonder - why is this man here? why does he have nowhere to live? why does no one look at him? why doesn't he look at me? It seems we grow out of those questions and formulate our educated opinions which make us comfortable with doing nothing, at least very little. But the child challenges us to look again, to stare impolitely and perhaps meet the gaze of poverty. I don't have an answer, but that doesn't mean I forget the question.

There's a song by Jason Upton I recently rediscovered called "Power in Poverty." It stares impolitely into my heart and desires.

There’s a power in poverty that breaks principalities
That brings the authorities down to their knees
There’s a brewing frustration and ageless temptation
To fight for control by some manipulation

The God of the kingdoms and God of the nations
The God of creation sends this revelation
Through the homeless and penniless Jesus the Son
The poor will inherit the Kingdom to come

Where will we turn when our world falls apart
And all of the treasures we’ve stored in our barns
Can’t buy the Kingdom of God?
Who will we praise when we’ve praised all our lives
Men who build kingdoms and men who build fame
But heaven does not know their names?
What will we fear when all that remains
Is God on His throne, with a child in His arms, and love in His eyes
And the sound of His heart cries?


I see you through the smog
A fierce orb of plasmatic glory
Our pollution puts you in a new light
You glow through the dark
Wasted breath catches in our throats
To render worship speechless


Tuesday, 25 March 2008


I’m still coming to terms with this resurrection thing. I don’t think it’s something you understand fully after a sunrise one morning, or even after a couple kind of freaky appearances. First I thought he was a gardener, then a ghost. Now Jesus has to call out, in the same words he’s used before, to meet me in the same empty boat. I am still a child with no fish. Only when the miracle happens again does the echo catch in my heart and reality dawn on me. It truly is him, standing on the shore, but I am so far away. I am not a strong swimmer, and most certainly cannot walk on water, but I throw myself into the sea, pummeling the waves and hoping he is not a mirage born of sleepless delusion. I make the hundred yards to the beach. He is still there, thank God, and in light of the past bizarre days, I have never been more grateful to see a little charcoal fire burning merrily where the sand has been dug away. I smell fish and bread and the familiar scent of Jesus as he lugs me up to dry warm sand. “Come and have breakfast,” he says, and these word remain as some of the most memorable and precious I have heard him say. Breakfast with Jesus. He gives me the bread and fish he’s cooked up, and it’s like we’re camping, two friends watching the sun over the lake. I need to be here awhile, to pick at fish bones and burn my fingertips on bread almost too hot to eat. I need to learn what he looks like all over again. I know breakfast doesn’t last forever, but I hope he’ll cook for me again.


Thursday, 20 March 2008

bread (2)

Soft evening light streams through a kitchen window and onto the worn surface of a wooden table. The hermit thrush sings, and by these chimes the woman knows it’s time to begin her work. She lays out flour, water, salt and the fragrant yeast. Her hands have memorized the motions – sprinkling, stirring, kneading. Her arms are strong from this nightly task. Love, frustration, sweat and prayers are worked into the dough till it is soft and resilient to her touch. It is the same process, day after day.

She makes bread, makes a living for her family. She sets the offering to rise in the warmth of the kitchen. The last thing she will do before she sleeps is punch it down again and separate it into loaves to be set in pans. Under the cover of night it will transform and gain its life. She will rise before the dawn to the robin’s song, and will make the fire blaze and put the loaves into the oven. As the family wakes they will smell her sweet labour, and she will be satisfied to place golden manna before them. They break the bread together and are warmed for the day’s work. They eat till they are full, and there is always enough left for supper. By the time the thrush chimes again it will all be consumed, crust and crumb. The woman will sigh and begin again the daily sacrifice. It is their life.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst . . . I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6)

In the city

The following is increasingly uncomfortable. I can’t turn back. I don’t want to go on. I have limped along at a distance through the maze of twisted streets, half hoping not to be noticed. I’ve been climbing on my hands and knees behind him, cursing this narrow path, praying for escape. For in the fearful ascent I have been uncovered for who I truly am. I have travelled the road and it leads to the place of the skull. Standing unclothed I am the laughingstock of my closest friends and deepest enemies. The sudden and shaming revealing of self hits me hard in the pit of my stomach. The light pierces and burns, illuminating corrupted flesh and a calloused heart. My punishment is all around me. Yet in this shame there is a grace, for I have not been left here to decay. So I submit to the pain of uncovering. Here humiliation is mercy, for though I have fallen, it is not over the precipice, close as I have been groping to the edge. I have stumbled over Jesus himself, and in the fall is my salvation.


Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Journey to Jerusalem

Trampled leaves lay a path into the city. Bleeding palms and torn garments are what is left of a triumphant entry, and now the dusk descends. The city is full of shadows and night voices. I’ve never been here in the dark before. I jump at what I think is a soldier or vagabond around the corner, but it is only an old rooster scratching the stony ground. I’m not sure I want to follow this man, but I know I’ll get lost here if I don’t. The streets are so narrow I hardly know if I’m staggering upwards or stumbling down. I smell bread baking, women roasting lamb, roses growing in thorny gardens. I do not yet understand what this journey means.

Left under a black sky all I see is my own heart. I am uncomfortable with silence, for it brings out aortic wars I have long suppressed. My feet are weary of the blind struggle, but I know I must go on. What I fear most is the journey into myself.



What if we gave our bread away? If we broke our gluttoned souls and opened our carbohydrate wallets, would we all have enough to eat? While we argue over substance change, starvation whispers in desperate stomachs. Have we reached a point where thankfulness becomes selfishness and we hoard our eucharist in hallowed arks, not seeing how it rots in our fat hands? We are fine kings and priests who gorge ourselves at the banquet table and brush our crumbs into the highways and hedges of human existence. We are growing moldy. Is this his body?


Wednesday, 12 March 2008


I am searching for simplicity
The stripping of sin and selfishness
My heart is cluttered with the pursuit of happiness
I must first pursue what is pure

I am searching for clarity
The moment of intimate wisdom
Self-deception is an art I have perfected
Fear and grace bring me to honesty

I am searching for direction
The rising mist on the early morning path
Is it pride or timidity that holds me back
When all I hear are echoes of a calling

I am searching for Jesus
The unveiling of cloudy eyes
My senses are dulled by my own drowsiness
I need nothing less than death and resurrection


Take Off My Shoes

This is one of my favourite Delirious songs.

I'll take off my shoes, I'm coming in
Untie this rope, I'm staying with him
Love of my life, I'll live and die
Just for the moments for my king and I

Why did you call, why did you wait
For someone so guilty, someone so fake
There are no words for my beautiful song
Now I'm in the arms of my beautiful one

Hold me, blow all the pride from my bones
with your fire
Hold me, breathe on this heart made of stone
make it pure
Hold me, saviour of heaven and earth
king forever
Hold me, love of my life lead me on
through the fire
lead me on

I'll take off this crown, and fall at your feet
The secret of joy are the moments we meet
How could a man with all of your fame
Pull me from darkness and call me by name

So hold me today, as I carry your cross
Into the desert to find who is lost
Look at my hands, they're still full of faith
God keep them clean till we finish the race

Hold me, blow all the pride from my bones
with your fire
Hold me, breath on this heart made of stone
make it pure
Hold me, saviour of heaven and earth
king forever
Hold me, love of my life lead me on
through your fire
lead me on...

I hear you singing, I hear you singing
Stand up and be strong
You gotta finish, finish
We've gotta finish, finish
I love you
I'll take off this crown and fall at your feet
So hold me

~Delirious (Mission Bell, 2005)

Monday, 10 March 2008

to dance

I want to dance
To leap gracefully, always poised
To fall elegantly into the energy of the earth
And rise on strong arches
To enter the exquisite motion of music
With a silent harmony, grace notes flexing and pointing
I desire the timeless rhythm
To feel it in my clumsy feet
Until my toes can touch the sky
There is a song that I know
But it cannot be sung
I must search it out with tendons
Give it voice with the pounding blood of throbbing feet
Till they are beautiful on the mountains


Tuesday, 19 February 2008

triune prayer

Surround me today holy Trinity. Let me stand within thy threeness, let me stand upon thy oneness. I need thy strength and purity. Surround me with thy will till I know not my own. Let all I do flow as from the heart of thy being. Let thy mystery illuminate my passion and infuse my hands in thy service. Holy Trinity be thou my life and my living.


The Roof

Dad said we weren’t allowed to go on the roof, and Mom agreed. But the old woodpile next to the garage was the perfect stairway to heaven. So we waited till it was dark, when we could see into the house but they couldn’t see out, and we climbed Jacob’s ladder, angels in snowsuits.

We crawled up through the snow, under the spruce branches, noiselessly, till we reached the peak. There we lay, cold and still, with a singular purpose – to watch the northern lights.

It seems they were always out the most when the mercury was at the least, but we didn’t care. Shivers are a small price to pay to sit at heaven’s threshold.

They say if you whistle loud enough, the lights will come down and carry you away into the black night. The elders say not to whistle, but maybe their bones are too crackly for the journey. We whistled as loud as we could. We were young, and foolish, and not supposed to be on the roof, but we knew there was something up there, something beyond, and we wanted to go.

I thought if I could breathe deep enough, I would inhale the magnetic fire, and be drawn up to piercing brilliance with the exhale. My heart was pierced, but my feet stayed on the roof.

The next day, Dad looked out the window and saw our clumsy path. He smiled and said nothing.

Lent reflections

Lent was never part of my religious tradition growing up. It was one of those “Catholic” things that involved eating fish on Fridays and praying with beads and things like that – highly suspicious to a Protestant. I think I first “discovered” it in my third year of college, when we had a class on the festivals and seasons of the Church's year. I was fascinated to learn of this great Church tradition that has been practiced across time and continents, and decided to give up chocolate! I haven’t observed it every year since then, but I am always aware of those little words that pop up in my agenda or on a calendar: Ash Wednesday. Being part of an Anglican seminary the last 2 years has also raised my awareness of the season.

It’s not just about giving something up. It’s not about a yearly weeding out of unhealthy practices, like fated new years resolutions. It’s not about works righteousness and it’s not about making myself feel any better or worse about myself.

I'm no expert, and I haven’t done any research into the season, but this is what I’ve felt out from those around me and experienced myself:

It’s about orienting myself to a bigger story, to its rhythms of denial and fulfillment, death and resurrection, of fasting and celebration. It’s about placing myself on the way of Christ, and embracing the call to pick up my cross. It’s about reminding myself of the constant necessity to place my sins, my habits, my unexamined life, my desires and my time before a holy merciful God. It’s about joining with a community who are trying to walk with each other on this often-difficult way, confessing our sins together, jumping into the gospel story in the days leading up to Christ’s passion and asking Him to form us through His footsteps.

This year I’m fasting from television. It’s not a great vice of mine in particular, but I’ve felt it eating away at my time and mental energy, and it has all but replaced dinners together at the table. Since I’ve decided to give it up, I’m amazed and amused at how many times a day I have the impulse of turning it on – at a lull in my activity, when I’m bored or tired, when I’m procrastinating, when I’m just being thoughtless. It’s a good exercise. Days seem longer – who wouldn’t want more time in their day? – more reading and dish washing get done! I think the greatest change I’ve noticed so far is not only the diminished noise level in my house, but that my inner life is quieter. TV is another voice in my life that sometimes just needs to shut up. I haven’t come upon any great spiritual revelations in its absence, but I pray the silence is an open door for God to speak more clearly.

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