Thursday, 24 March 2016

The end of Lent: when all you have has run out

I cannot do it. Cannot keep up with the hunger. I cannot feed them all.

The bird feeder swings empty again in the harsh winds of March, and those who have not forsaken it by now hop about the tree with wondering eyes fixed on me, their supposed benefactress. But the supply has run out, and I am too weary and poor to replenish it. The hunger of winter outpaces my resources.

Simply to feed the birds - am I too feeble, even for this?

My joy turns sour. My ears turn cold. My kindness falls short.

Yet despite my empty vessel, the sun shines and the jays still flash blue and the chickadees sing. They have a Provider. My humble offering will not, cannot, sustain these hundreds of wings. It was never meant to.

Perhaps they have been the ones sustaining me, all this time. Here at the feeder, beauty has been gathered into my view. I have seen the colours of joy. I have heard the tongues of heaven. I have been graced with the soft brush of feathers in the snow. I thought I was doing them a favour. Perhaps this feeder has been God's gift to me all along. And he keeps giving. He keeps showing favour. He keeps sending the birds.

No matter how much I prepare, the realities I hunger for are still gifts from above. That is what Lent reveals. That at the end of the day, we are all empty handed. All in need of grace. All in need of manna.

I alone cannot create what I wish to be. But I can look to my Creator with an open mouth. And tonight, as he breaks the bread, I can swallow the grain that must fall to the earth and die. As I am brought face to face with my emptiness, once again, I remember,

"The LORD sustains all who fall
And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time.
You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing." (Psalm 145:15-16)

All are welcome to gather in the swinging shadow of emptiness, where the ground is still cold and barren. He will open his hands to our insatiable, piercing hunger, and offer himself as bread for our need. Here at the foot of a leafless tree, he will spread a banquet in the presence of his enemies. From this cracked grain, he will give life to the world.

Here at the empty feeder, we will be fed.


Friday, 18 March 2016

Noon prayer: magnified joy

At the height of a mid-March day,
the sun is hidden beyond layers of stratus clouds.
Snow falls and a trio of ravens circles the sugar-topped pines, gliding above the slow footed creatures below. They glide above the slush and mud and slump of this temperamental season.

A the height of a mid-March day,
they remind me to look up.
To number my blessings by the flakes that descend,
to hold each crystalline wonder against the black pupil of my mind's eye,
to behold their beauty suspended in this moment and give thanks.

These blessings can float by unnoticed, small as they are, but now I enlarge my vision and capture them for what they are - all the little gifts that collide and stick together to shape my hallowed landscape.

The ravens move on, and so will this day.
Time to turn from window-gazing to worthy work,
but I hold these frames yet, and I will go imprinted by magnified joy.


Friday, 11 March 2016

"The Poet" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The poet hath the child's sight in his breast,
And sees all new. What oftenest he has viewed,
He views with the first glory. Fair and good
Pall never on him, at the fairest, best,
But stand before him holy and undressed
In week-day false conventions, such as would
Drag other men down from the altitude 
Of primal types, too early dispossessed.
Why, God would tire of all his heavens, as soon
As thou, O godlike, childlike poet, didst,
Of daily and nightly sights of sun and moon!
And therefore hath he set thee in the midst,
Where men may hear thy wonder's ceaseless tune,
And praise his world forever, as thou bidst.

A friend recently recommended this poem to me. I have discovered this power in poetry, and I hope to echo some of "wonder's ceaseless tune" in my own writing. 


Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Build with Kindness

Out in the roar of March’s winter prowl, it is still too cold for the sparrow to think of nesting. This is the tempestuous tugging between winter and spring, and March will have no clear winner. New life is either hiding or biding its time. Yet the sun is warming, and this patch of the world is turning steadily toward lengthening days.

Sparrow, my time will come before yours. I am nesting now. I am preparing a place for my not-so-hidden new life. The sun’s warmth spreads over me with an urgency as the days till Easter Sunday melt away. I must build.

I must gather the twigs, the soft grasses of autumn. I must gather the feathers, the string, and nature’s downy gifts. I must knit these comforts together in a sheltered hollow for my young.

Build with kindness, the wind whispers. This is the word I have heard. This is what I must circle our home with.

When kindness lines our days, the atmosphere changes.

Voices calm.
Tempers soothe.
Transitions are smooth.
We are all a little more settled, a little more satisfied.
There are more smiles, more hugs, more opportunities to share moments of wonder together.

When kindness lines our days, our hearts change.

Wrath is turned.
Mercy learned.
Compassion confirmed.
There is more repentance. There is more grace.
The Spirit’s fruit tree blossoms and bears good things, and by it were are sustained.

Kindness brings the warmth of spring to chilly days.

It is a simple investment, and small, but made mighty layer by layer. It is a habit of moments, of gathering the minutiae of life into a more gracious form. Kindness is never insignificant. By it I may build and bolster our home to be the haven I desire.

By kindness I will prepare a nest to receive you, little one – to sustain us all in the great change ahead, to soften the edges of tiring days, to warm this humble space with whispers from our good Father. His is the open hand wherein we may all rest. 


Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Letters to Arden: First Born

Dear Arden,

Can we believe it's been almost six years since you were re-making me into a mother? And now you are the big girl helping to make smooth the arrival of the third born.

When Jack came along, you were not yet two years old. You practiced with a baby doll, but did not understand the change your brother brought to our lives. He was so needy, and so were you, in many ways. There were times I pushed you away, out of exhaustion, out of frustration, out of a desperate need for you to not wake the baby. And you cried on the other side of the door, and I cried looking at you shut out and wondered how I could ever make it up to you. There were times you needed me, and I wasn't there. Days and nights I had nothing left to give. And I prayed for grace to fill the gaps I could not stretch to bridge.

I wonder sometimes, did you hold it against me? Is there something in you, even now, that cries out against the voice I raised, the arms I stretched to shoo you away? I wish there had been two of me, or more of me, and I could have rocked you both to sleep.

But now, my darling, you are nearly six, and thrilled at the prospect of this new baby - though prospect and reality will soon clash, I'm sure. You sing to the little life, say "good morning baby" and "I love you baby," and you are brimming with ideas for its care and keeping.

What's more, you have been taking care of me. You see my growing tiredness, and are quick to come to my aid. You have prepared bed and couch for my rest, complete with all the little things you think I may need - books and pens and a glass of water and carefully turned down blanket. (You know me well.) Your generosity has left me humbled, delighted. Just where this kindness has come from, I do not know.

I have done my best to love and care for you, but I know I have fallen short. I know I am no shining example some days. I can only hope the light of Love, that I reflect imperfectly, is warming the places I cannot reach.

Arden - your name means eager, shining, ardent one. I have prayed your name over and over, as thanksgiving, as blessing, as petition. There have been times I have dampened your spirit and snuffed out your flame when I should have coaxed it into life. Nevertheless, six years on, you are shining bright. The flame is in your eyes and in your kindnesses and in the way you show what love is made of. And you will kindle fires wherever you go. You are already warming our family. You are already making us laugh in your light. You are already bringing something more than I alone have given. This is grace, and wonder, and joy, that love can expand beyond the kindling we offer.

You were the first to make me a mother, and in your forge I have been reshaped. You will keep shaping me even as I shape you. Oh, we will rub each other the wrong way, but let us keep close for all that. Let us keep learning love together. The sparks may fly upward, but a greater flame shall warm us.

Now, as our lives are about to shift once more, and we must make room for another, remember this - when my hands are full you are still and always welcome in my heart.

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