Forest Path

path forest uphill autumn light ch rs DSC_0128

“When I trust deeply that today God is truly with me and holds me safe in a divine embrace, guiding every one of my steps I can let go of my anxious need to know how tomorrow will look, or what will happen next month or next year. I can be fully where I am and pay attention to the many signs of God’s love within me and around me.”

~Henri Nouwen

 

Great and Mighty Things

Kootenay river autumn ch rs DSC_0616

I waited for the perfect day to follow a trail down to one of my favourite places. That day came this week. I love this spot by the Kootenay River on a cool still autumn morning. I didn’t want to leave.

It doesn’t always look like this. Some days low grey clouds hide the mountains and barren trees bend in cold wind. Some days deep snow can block the roads or combined heavy rain and churning dirty meltwater can flood the river valley. On those days we enjoy the warmth of a fireplace and the benefits of clean hot water in the bathtub and computer networks that allow us to get our work done.

Sometimes leaving the comfort of home feels scary, especially in the autumn when bears are desperate to put on weight before hibernation. We don’t see them every day, but simply knowing that they are out there is often enough to keep people at home.

Leaving the confines of the familiar requires courage.

I’m doing something I haven’t done before. I am aware circumstances can change suddenly and that there are territorial threats out there. What if I make a mistake? What if I’m wrong? What if I wander into something I can’t handle? Maybe I should just go back to doing what I have always done in the confines of structures that tell me what to think and how to feel. Maybe I should be content with listening to experts tell me who God is to them and what they require of me to fit in.

Kootenay river shore ch rs DSC_0738

But what if I miss seeing his majesty for myself? What if playing it safe means missing moments like this moment down by the river? What if staying behind locked steel doors means I miss the spiritual equivalent of this view, this peace, this sense of his presence?

Faith, like a seed, ventures to grow. And today conditions are perfect.

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

(Jeremiah 33:3)

kootenayu river mountain reflect autumn vertical ch rs DSC_0518

Finders Keepers

 

munro lake yellow tree autumn ch rs DSC_0454

I lost my finder.

My talent for losing keys, wallet, and phone is the butt of jokes in my family. All of them hear me say, “I just had it in my hand!” regularly – like every time I am late for something. My adult kid and her spouse bought me several of those little electronic dollar coin-sized devices that are supposed to keep track of important stuff, like keys wallet and phone. I call them my finders. I appreciate the help. They have rescued me more than once.

meadow steeples mountains autumn ch rs DSC_0684 - Copy

One evening this week I drove out to favourite spots about half an hour away, hoping to catch golden hour light. Frankly, I forgot to account for the advancing season and early mountain shadow on that side of the valley. The window of opportunity shrunk rapidly. I took a few photos, then came home.

aspen leaves yellow clo ch crop DSC_0514 - Copy

I know I had a finder on my car keys at Munro Lake because I noticed it coming out of its stretchy pouch that hangs on my keychain. I put it back in. When I pulled them out of the ignition at the next stop, the finder was missing.

I searched the car, including under and around the seats. I checked every pocket in my clothes and in my camera bag. Then I checked again. And again.

I must have dropped it somewhere in my meanderings. Losing an item whose only purpose in life is to help me not lose things was just too embarrassing. I had to find it before the jokes started. My phone should help me track it down, right?

Peavin gold ch rs DSC_0242

The next morning, I went back to the same area –with my camera, of course. The morning light was wonderful. The birds gathered in the meadow preparing for their flight south. The breeze blew sweetly and the sun glistened on the grass. Heavenly.

I checked my phone. It located my key finder… last known location …28 km away… two weeks ago.

Peavine aspen autumn ch crop DSC_0253

That was no help. I walked up and down the Peavine road looking for a shiny object. I went back to Munro Lake and Mineral Lake and Moyie Lake – eventually. The morning felt like that time my friends kidnapped me when I turned down an opportunity to go on a picnic one perfect spring day because I thought I should study.

tree tunnel road autumn DSC_0608

I felt like God kidnapped me this time. I felt his love and his presence as we walked and talked. I was in no rush. I didn’t want to leave.

Peavine pond geese autumn ch crop DSC_0280

Four hours later, after I couldn’t think of anywhere else to look, I said, “When I first got to know you, Lord, you showed me you were with me by finding things for me. Could you do that again? I know it’s a just a little tracker, but I can’t find it myself. I’ve looked everywhere. I need you.”

Moyie lake sept kayaks grass beach ch rs DSC_0342

I saw people carrying kayaks toward the beach and took a few more photos. Then I went back to the car. I opened the door. There was my finder! On my car seat!

Munro cabins autumn reflection ch rs DSC_0382

Today a friend was talking about sensing God’s presence. We don’t call him down to be in our midst. He’s here already. He promised he wouldn’t leave. He seeks our presence. He delights in us. He wants us, our attention. Our awareness of him increases by focusing on him through whatever means he invites us to worship. For me that often means being out in nature.

Peavine pond ch rs DSC_0223

Spending time with the Lord is not an escape from reality. He wants us to bring that awareness of his presence into everything we do.

autumn maple ch crop DSC_0366 - Copy

I wonder if God feels like I do sometimes when I’ve gone to a lot of work to prepare a meal for my loved ones and they can’t hear me call them for diner because they have ear phones on, or are engaged in heated discussion with someone, or think they can’t take time away from work. I’m there. I’m just not on their radar at the moment.

Moyie River sq DSC_0348

It wasn’t my finder that needed finding. It was me. I’m glad God kidnapped me.

Thank you, Lord. That was a delicious meal. You are beautiful.
autumn trees cool ch rs DSC_0617 - Copy

 

Where Can I Hide?

 

Mission window autumn virginai creeper vine ch rs bright DSC_0292

Have you heard the expression, “I was so embarrassed I could have crawled into a hole?”

I learned to hide when I was a child. I didn’t play hide-and-go-seek. My game was just called hide. Some kids hide to avoid punishment. I hid to avoid the look of disappointment on adults’ faces. Whether it was true or not, I felt I could never measure up, that I was not good enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough, or talented enough, or hard-working enough.

I hid so well that a science teacher once insisted I was not in his class when my parents went to a meeting to check on my progress. I was in his class. Second row from the window. Fourth seat. I’d been there all year. I was hiding in plain sight. I just knew how not to attract attention. I felt weak in the subjects of math and science. I didn’t want him pointing that out.

Those feelings chased me into adulthood. Periodically, I strived to find recognition, then, accosted by my weaknesses and fearing the look of disappointment again, I vanished into busyness, or study, or books containing stories of other people’s more interesting lives. I stood behind a window where I could see out but no one could see in, because I knew how to stay in the shadows.

One day a little boy arrived on our doorstep. He clutched a plastic garbage bag containing everything he owned. The exhausted social worker who nudged him into the house had “packed” for him. This little boy (I’ll call him Davey) showed me what attempts to hide must look like to God.

After a few weeks of living with us, Davey began to relax and play like the other children. Eventually, like all children do, he pushed the rules. Something broke, something spilled, someone cried – the usual stuff that happens in a house full of kids. When the mini-crisis settled we realized Davey was gone.

We searched, we called. We called loudly, gently, insistently and desperately. We searched places everyone in the house and in the neighbourhood had already searched. The sun was setting and the wind was turning cold. I checked the basement one more time before calling the police and the social worker to report a missing child. In the corner of the utility room, behind the furnace, a corner of plaid shirt moving ever so slightly caught my eye.

“Davey?”

Silence.

“Davey, I know you are there. Come out now.”

The space was so small I couldn’t get close to him.

“Davey, I need you to come out now so I can make sure you are okay.”

Silence. Then a faint whimper.

“Don’t hurt me.”

My heart broke. He didn’t know us well enough to trust that we would not beat him. He stood motionless all day in a hot, dusty, spider-infested corner because he feared our reaction. That’s what experience taught him before he came to our family. Only kindness demonstrated consistently by someone who genuinely cared about him could change his ideas about his value and the existence of a safe place.

I watched another wee young lad learn that shame didn’t need to keep him from his daddy. He loved being outside and he played with the intensity of an athlete developing strengths and pushing the limitations of his body. The problem was that he frequently pushed the limits of how long it would take him to take a break from play and run to the bathroom. One day, as his daddy and I chatted we realized he had also disappeared. I started to panic.

“Don’t worry,” his father said. “ I know where he is.”

I followed him down the hallway to the bedroom.

“Come on out, son,” he said, sticking his head in the closet. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

When the little boy messed up (and from the smell we knew he had messed up badly this time) he slipped away and hid from the one person who loved him most and the person who was prepared to clean him up, give him new clothes, and send him out for a fresh start. His daddy was dedicated to preparing him to become all he was meant to be. He wasn’t going to give up on him. The child didn’t need to hide.

I realized that fear of disappointing my heavenly father had also marred my relationship to him. I was afraid of him. I was afraid of harsh punishment. I was afraid of abandonment. I hid. I hid from him rather than face possible rejection. I didn’t think he would have grace for me.

How that must have hurt him. I didn’t understand who he really was.

David, the singer/song-writer and soon-to-be king, wrote about realizing that hiding from God was not only useless, it was impossible.

Where could I go from your Spirit?
    Where could I run and hide from your face?

God is not repulsed by our smelly messes. That’s a lie that those who have rejected God out of fear that he will reject them have been feeding us since the first time we understood that we did something wrong. The truth is God comes looking for us.

There is no place we can go to hide from his Spirit. This is absolutely not in a God-is-going-to-get-you-you-miserable-sinner way. This is in a way that understands our weaknesses and offers to clean us up and give us direction and a fresh start. He’s a good, good father.

If you fear responding to God’s call for a closer relationship because you are afraid of disappointing him, or that there is harsh punishment awaiting you, someone has been lying to you. That is not who he is. Jesus came to show us what he is like. He is relentlessly kind and has always planned to adopt you. Your relationship doesn’t depend on creating an illusion of sinless acceptability. He already knows everything about you and your stinky messes and he still loves you! He wants to be close to you.

Take the risk of rejecting the lie. Come out of hiding and let yourself be loved. You are the one he hopes for. He longs to be your good daddy — the perfect father who will never hurt you — because he loves you.