Faith Looks Up

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“The most powerful mentors in my life all had one thing in common, and it has released a hunger in my own heart. They gazed at the Lord with a child-like simplicity and wonder. They had an innocence about them — a simple purity, humility, grace, and a deep abiding love for Jesus that was naked to the eye, a visible passion that ruled each day. I cried out for that…”

– Graham Cooke

Timing

Waiting
Waiting

Timing is so important! If you are going to be successful in dance, you must be able to respond to rhythm and timing. It’s the same in the Spirit. People who don’t understand God’s timing can become spiritually spastic, trying to make the right things happen at the wrong time. They don’t get His rhythm – and everyone can tell they are out of step. They birth things prematurely, threatening the very lives of their God-given dreams.
– T. D. Jakes

Ascent

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I managed a visit to my father before the snow fell. This is a couple of blocks from his place.

 

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Dad was a prairie boy, but he was always in love with the mountains.

 

 

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Our house in Calgary was built on a hill facing the Rockies on the horizon and every clear morning he would stand by the window checking out the view.

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Every Saturday or holiday we could get away we drove the hour or so to Canmore, or Kananaskis, or Banff, not to ski or climb or golf or canoe, but to walk along the trails or sit under the trees and breathe.

Dad’s memories are fading, but now he lives beside the river he loved. He doesn’t work anymore or write anymore, and it’s hard for him to tell even one of his thousands of stories. He’s not even sure of who the people are who come to visit him. Life has been distilled to its essence. He looks to the mountains and breathes and he is thankful.

 

“The moment we become grateful, we actually begin to ascend spiritually into the presence of God. The psalmist wrote,
Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing. . . . Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.’ (Psalm 100:2, 4-5).”
-Francis Frangipane

We Could Ask the Flowers

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I still had some flowers in the garden on Sunday, but by Wednesday the blossoms bowed under the snow — frozen solid. I hate to see the flowers die. I grieve for them every autumn.

My granddaughter, a few weeks before her fourth birthday, made a profound observation about the flowers dying. It was profound, because only a few weeks later her Daddy lay dying.

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This is what her Mommy wrote:

Every time I left Bruce, I felt like I left half of me at the hospital. It felt wrong to leave him, like my being there would somehow make all the difference, but every time I was at the hospital, I felt like I should be at home with my children, making life feel as normal as possible, playing and laughing so they wouldn’t have to be worried about Daddy. No matter where I was, I didn’t feel like I was in the right place…

My kids never knew the severity of what was going on. At two months, two-and-a-half years, and barely four years old, I didn’t think it would be good for them to know that Daddy could die.

I recalled a conversation Keziah and I had shared not long after baby Vivia was born. A warm chinook wind had peeled back the blanket of snow in the park, and we were able to get outside for a little stroll. As we walked past an old flower bed, she looked up at me and said, “We don’t know what it feels like to be dead. That’s a’cause we’ve never been dead before so we don’t know how it feels.”

She looked at me for agreement. I nodded.

She went on, “And if you’re dead, then you’re dead and you can’t tell anyone a’cause you’re dead.”

She paused and thought about it for a few minutes, while shuffling her heavy winter boots down the sidewalk.

“But maybe we could ask the flowers a’cause they die every winter so they know how it feels…Too bad they don’t have mouths, or they would prolly tell us!”

I remember thinking at the time, What three-year old thinks about death? And now I wondered, What three-year old thinks about being raised from something that looks like death?

-from While He Lay Dying by Bruce and Lara Merz  (available here)

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The Courage to Not Take Up Arms

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On Remembrance Day, amid all the photos posted on social media of grandfathers who fought in the wars, I would like to honour my grandfather, the deserter. He held some sort of minor rank in the Russian army that allowed him to see early that the Czar was sending troops out horribly under-equipped for war. He sent his men home and fled the country with a price on his head.

Remember that scene in Dr. Zhivago? It’s just drama, of course, but somewhere in there is a story like my grandfather’s.

Twice now I have seen a TV show about ancestry with interviews of famous people who were ashamed to find out their forefathers chose not to join “the Patriots” who won the violent conflict that established the direction their nation took. Instead their great great great grandpappies (or their surviving families) also fled to Canada. The famous peoples’ reactions upon discovering this news puzzled me. In Canada their forefathers’ choices are not a source of shame. They are called United Empire Loyalists. In Canada they are heroes, ancestors who are honoured, not sources of embarrassment.

That’s the way it is with war. Often you can’t tell heroes from villains, loyalists from rebels, patriots from deserters, until the history books are written, and even then it depends on who writes them.

Grandfather’s son grew up to fight in WWII in the Netherlands. Uncle was overwhelmed by their genuine expressions of gratitude when he visited Europe 40 years later. He knew he had done the right thing.

Sometimes courage is fighting for the King or for the President, and sometimes courage is laying down your arms in the midst of a stupid, pointless conflict and dismissing your men, even if it means risking standing in front of a firing squad yourself. The man in the photo spent the rest of his life looking over his shoulder, but he also knew he had done the right thing.

Thank you, Grandfather.

 

 

 

Panorama

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I was driving through a horizontal Southern Alberta rain shower when I felt the urge to explore. There, near the bridge over the Old Man River on the Cowboy Trail (Highway 22) a road I had never taken beckoned. I had no deadline to get home, so I turned left onto the gravel road and followed it. When I reached the other side of the valley I looked back and this is what I saw.

I’m not a detail person -which means that I don’t handle details easily. I get trapped in the minutiae of the day. I have to keep lists and the bullets points form a kind of map to help me find my way back out. I can easily lose sight of where all the details lead.

When I get bogged down in a problem and start obsessing about things that don’t make sense to me, I hear Abba telling me to take a step back and see the bigger picture. I’ve been in that bog many times over the years, questioning the “right” way to do Christianity. When too many questions start to involve the word “should” He draws me away from the arguments to go for a walk with Him.

“Step back,” He says. “Look at the greater panorama, the big picture, the one that started before your lifetime and will go on until eternity. Look carefully and as far in any direction that you can. Can you perceive my voice has called all of it into existence? The story of gospel of Christ did not start in Bethlehem and end with an empty tomb outside Jerusalem. The gospel is written in every molecule, and every detail proclaims the glory of my Word. My Word will not return to Me void. It will accomplish my purpose -eternally.”

Genesis 1

In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below.

Here’s what happened: 

At first the earth lacked shape and was totally empty, and a dark fog draped over the deep while God’s spirit-wind hovered over the surface of the empty waters.

Then there was the voice of God.

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Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking.

The Voice was and is God.

This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator;

His speech shaped the entire cosmos.

Immersed in the practice of creating,
all things that exist were birthed in Him.

His breath filled all things
with a living, breathing light—

A light that thrives in the depths of darkness,
blazes through murky bottoms.

It cannot and will not be quenched.

The Voice was and is God.

The Voice took on flesh and became human and chose to live alongside us.

We have seen Him, enveloped in undeniable splendor

—the one true Son of the Father

—evidenced in the perfect balance of grace and truth.

(from The Voice)

Perplexed

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I’ve been going through a bit of a molt lately. I think we all do that once in a while. It involves the shedding of  parts of ourselves which were once effective, and perhaps even attractive, if I may say so myself, but now this time of examining which ideas to keep and which to shed has left me in a somewhat frazzled state. I feel a lot like this goose I met in the park the other day. The other geese seemed to have it all together, but this one seemed just a little, well, perplexed…

Yeah. Perplexed. Not where I thought I would be as the next season approaches. But I am here anyway – disheveled, unfashionable, decidedly non-trendy and not at all prepared to fly in formation.

Pardon my appearance. Molting (or going through a spiritual “ponfar” -Trekkie reference) can be a little embarrassing. I’m apt to “lose it” at the most inconvenient times, and frankly I don’t even know if I agree with myself half the time.

But change is like that. Sometimes the hardest part is having grace for ourselves when our own inconsistencies and partially formed concepts frazzle our own nerves, let alone the people around us.

Thanks for your patience. You are very gracious, my friends.

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But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)