First Baptist Church, Richmond, TX December 8, 2017
A few days ago, a rare (for this area) snowfall briefly covered our homes, our gardens, and our church. Young and old rushed to the windows to watch as flakes began to drift down. Later, the rushing was to go outside, to lift faces and palms to the wonder. I often think just when I need the sense of wonder quickened, a gift like this comes to do just that. Wonder at snowfall or the tiniest dewdrop glistening on a rose petal is a nudge to be open, to remain open-eyed, to be receptive to the fullness and expectancy of Advent.
Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder.The wonder keeps us open-eyed and exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make. ~ Eugene Peterson
I did not take this photograph; I do not know where it was taken. It found me. I kept returning to it to think of its story. How many hymns were sung by the faithful in this country chapel? How many wedding vows repeated as families began? How does the color of the glass glow when lit from inside at twilight?
I am grateful for those stories, the message of endurance told by weathered wood and stained glass.
here Fall brings no leaf peeper
for leaves with scarlet and amber
but there is change in the way light brushes leaves
the slightest shift in angle, a beckoning gentleness
my heart is dappled with the touch of autumn light
Globe Amaranth, Gomphrena
This flower is small but you almost never see just one or two plants. They have visual impact because they are usually seen massed together in a flower bed. That could be because there are so many seeds in a bloom not much bigger than the end of my thumb. Every petal becomes a seed. I once had Joe stop by a road for me to collect a couple of flower heads because that particular patch was a variety called Strawberry Fields – bright red pom poms waving in the sun.
It may be a stretch, but as I held this flower my granddaughter picked, an odd comparison floated up in my mind. I recently read in a morning quiet time the phrase “sturdy faith.” The words stuck and I have frequently considered what it means to have that quality, so necessary in a world of confusion and uncertainty.
Thrives in heat and does not need pampering.
Blooms nearly nonstop
Good for cutting and drying to share in many ways.
Attracts butterflies, adding to our garden’s beauty.
Harvesting promotes flower production.
Photo copied from FaceBook request 9/13/2017
Fort Bend County and the wider Houston metroplex news continues to zoom in on the destruction left by Hurricane Harvey and subsequent river and reservoir floodings. Heartbreaking stories are shared in media and personal conversations. In the aftermath, churches like our own, schools, gyms, fairground and convention centers shelter thousands and thousands of displaced, hurting people who have nothing and need everything. Donation centers dot our streets and neighborhoods. Food, clothing, and personal items were immediately necessary and as people have been allowed to reenter the warzone images of their sodden former homes, they need cleaning supplies and building materials plus the physical presences of helpers to demolish and repair.
In our immediate area, schools finally started this week and boxes that had contained sorted shoes quickly emptied. One friend who is volunteering at NRG center in Houston, reported a woman left wearing mismatched shoes because that was all that was available in her size and she had to have shoes. Friends who live just down the road from us tore out sheetrock, gutted their kitchen, and were thankful they had moved photographs to the second floor before they evacuated. A response to their story was sad, reporting they had put their wedding album and all family photos on top of the desk before they left. But the desk floated and the photos are gone or destroyed.
The photo above is from Rockport, down the coast from us, closer to Corpus Christi, where Harvey made landfall and left shattered homes, businesses, and dreams. They do not even know when their school can start because they are closed indefinitely. The picture made me think of the last time we were there – All our family at the time stayed in small cottages for a few days. There was kayaking, picnics, fishing – fun together. I then thought how the many who return to a picture of homes so sadly changed.
There will be more stories and hard work ahead in restoration. It will take alot of helping and alot of time. Once again, I thank God for the helping. For the hope.
“We are all in the same boat, on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.” GK Chesterton
I learned to love roses from my grandmother
why did I never take a picture of her cutting roses to bring inside
to put in a jar in the middle of a table
dressed with a white tablecloth she had ironed
so Sunday dinner could be offered to the preacher and his wife
or family could sit down to fried chicken and peas from the garden
or tea cakes and cold milk shared with a skinny brown-eyed girl
she only had that one rose bush under the front window of the farmhouse
bearing teacup sized yellow blooms that smelled as pretty as they looked
she only had that one rose bush
but it was enough
enough for her to grace food offered on mismatched china
enough to brighten the room they called a sleeping porch
enough to make a little girl remember
I wish I had a picture of her with those roses
I have her table, even the tablecloth
I have her love of one rose bush
I have grandchildren to help me pick roses
it is enough
Even in our most cherished moments, it’s there—this “something more,” a feeling that all life can offer is not enough. C. S. Lewis says of our best experiences, “They are not the thing itself; 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.”
I have been on the verge of complaint some mornings lately. We have had so many consecutive days of pewter colored skies, bleak landscapes, and dreary, rainy weather. But I believe in finding sacred moments in the ordinary and this, for now, is the ordinary. So I put the garden planning on paper instead of the ground, plan more ways to use the indoor time, and am reminded to praise God for his glory displayed in shadow as well as light.
…and in the mist.
We praise thee, O God, for thy glory
displayed in all the creatures of the earth,
In the snow, in the rain, in the wind, in the storm;
in all of thy creatures, both the hunters and the hunted…
They affirm thee in living;
all things affirm thee in living;
the bird in the air, both the hawk and the finch;
the beast on the earth, both the wolf and the lamb;…
Therefore man, whom thou hast made
to be conscious of thee,
must consciously praise thee,
in thought and in word and in deed.
Even with the hand to the broom,
the back bent in laying the fire,
the knee bent in cleaning the hearth…
The back bent under toil,
the knee bent under sin,
the hands to the face under fear,
the head bent under grief,
Even in us the voices of the seasons,
the snuffle of winter, the song of spring,
the drone of summer,
the voices of beasts and of birds,
praise thee. ~ T.S. Eliot
Source: Murder in the Cathedral
Kindness is my word for 2017, It is in the consisitent, repeated acts of kindness that it is best illustrated. If I ask what color is kindness, answers come from different directions. I took a walk around the house and captured little things that might speak kindness.
Warm, glowing colors. Stained glass that sings come in, worship, linger.
Candleglow and warmth and the fragrance of pine needles.
Light that shines from window panes at night.
Open arms and open hands.
What does kindness look like to you? What does it feel like?
bare branches reach
waiting in a gray veil
to wear green again
On Christmas day, Nora and I rode in the back seat of our car to church, watching for trees. She said the leaves were all gone away and I agreed. I said they would come back in the Spring and be here for her birthday. This is an often repeated story recently as she widens her 2-year-old world to pay attention to things that go away. I thought of this the last few days in our early morning fog. Most mornings, I can see beyond our fence and across the lake to a house that is being built there. I see duck families and herons on the water. But the fog here obscures all but the most pronounced and closest objects. So it is with these days approaching year’s end. I know what recent days have looked like, but the new year coming holds no clear vision for me. I am called to trust, to practice discernment, to watch for markers that remind me I have been and will be guided.
“Spiritual discernment asks us to pay attention…on many levels: to sensus fidelium ( the collective ene of the faithful), to read widely and deeply the best ancient and contemporary thinking, to pray, to attend to the prick of conscience, to watch, to wait, to listen.”
~from “Passing Angels: The Arts of Spiritual Discernment” by Wendy M. Wright in Weavings, November 1995