A Beautiful Broad Place

IMG_3457 Burmis field mtns ch

Again friends and neighbours face crises as homes burn, jobs disappear, false accusations pop up, loved ones make foolish choices, doctors predict dire outcomes, marriage promises evaporate, supervisors exhibit incompetence, and leaders cloak corruption in meaningless words. Sometimes it seems like the trolls and curmudgeons on social media have created an alliance to keep folks living in a place of fear and disappointment.

And the fear of disappointment is perhaps our greatest fear.

What if all this effort is in vain? What if the things that have always defined success for us disappear, or fail to meet our expectations?  What if the good job isn’t there to go to in the morning, or the city burns, or our marriage fails, or our kid becomes an addict, or the judge believes the liar?

How do we keep the faith when we want to put up thick walls to protect ourselves from disappointment?

I wonder if the point where people position themselves on the gullibility/cynicism spectrum has to do with how they handle disappointment. I wonder if trolls and curmudgeons are using negativity as a shield against the expectation of disappointment. Romans 5 talks about the hope that does not disappoint. The question is, what is that hope and how does it stand up in the face of the very real possibility of loss or deception?

Times of loss can become times of gain when they cause us to pause, assess, and change our way of thinking.

When our hope is in perishable things – or even perishable people – we will inevitably suffer disappointment. When our hope is in the Eternal One we have a handhold in the future. David, the warrior poet, understood this.

Oh Lord, the God of faithfulness,
you have rescued and redeemed me.
I despise these deceptive illusions,
all this pretense and nonsense;
for I worship only you.

In mercy you have seen my troubles,
and you have cared for me;
even during this crisis in my soul I will be radiant with joy,
filled with praise for your love and mercy.

You have kept me from being conquered by my enemy;
you broke open the way to bring me to freedom,
into a beautiful broad place.

(Psalm 30:5-8 The Passion Translation)

May the radiant joy of freedom in Jesus Christ be your shield today. May your heart settle in a beautiful broad place.



I’ll fly away

In flight

Some glad morning when this life is o’er,
I’ll fly away;
To a home on God’s celestial shore,
I’ll fly away.

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

When the shadows of this life have gone,
I’ll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I’ll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then,
I’ll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end,
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

We said goodbye to two special men in the past couple of weeks.

They lived in different cities and I don’t think they ever met. One was a family member and the other a good friend.

Interestingly they both had the same surname, a Scots name meaning rock. They were both employed by the Canadian post office for nearly their entire working lives. They both succumbed to similar illnesses. They were both kind, gentle men who cared deeply about their families and were humble servants who quietly did what needed to be done, never looking for attention or reward.

The thing about people who have the spiritual gift of service (or “helps”), is that you never notice how they were always there, always willing to make everyone’s lives go more smoothly, until suddenly they are not there. The empty space left is enormous. That’s when you realize how much was accomplished because of them.

They never had the applause they so rightly deserved. But I think that is probably the way they wanted it.

Godspeed, Alec and Cam. We shall meet again.

Storms May Come and Storms May Go, Part II/ The Storm that Came and Went This Week

Photo: The shade tree a few weeks ago

We live in a valley running north/south that receives relatively little wind. Yesterday a mighty wind blew up from the south and hit our town hard. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of trees fell.

I know there are many places that have suffered much worse wind from tornadoes and hurricanes. I know there are cities that have much longer power outages and much more uncomfortable heat. I know there were places in the world this very week that suffered much worse violence and death.

I am overwhelmed by the news sometimes. I don’t know how to grieve for those places. I can volunteer to send aid, or even go pick up the pieces myself. I can weep with those who weep but I can’t honestly say “I know how you feel.” I don’t, not really. Every heart has its own pain.

Today I grieve for my town and for my own little garden. Is that selfish?

I loved my May tree. I never planted it. Someone who never saw it in its mature beauty had the foresight to put a skinny little stick with a couple of branches into a hole in a new subdivision. They moved away before it had the time to become the shade tree under which my sweet daughter and I had tea parties, or developed the strong limbs my boys pridefully climbed, waving at their nervous mother from a position higher than the roof of the house. The planter never knew how my little grandchildren loved to drag the blue inflatable pool into its shade on hot days and splashed each other or filled plastic ice cream pails with water from the elephant sprinkler to water the big shade tree. They never saw friends sitting in its shade, drinking ice tea, combing the grass with bare toes as they talked about things that really matter. They never saw handsome suited young men and their pretty sparkly prom dates posing for portraits beside its thick trunk.  They never heard the songbirds that nested in its high branches praising their maker at the first sign of dawn. But they had faith to plant it, and I thank them.

Today instead of waking to the Saturday morning drone of lawn mowers, the people in our town woke to the sound of chain saws.

I walked around town photographing downed trees, downed wires, smashed carports, and debris and detritus caught in the most unusual places. The roads were blocked, the traffic signals hung by a cable and swung in the breeze. Everywhere people wandered about telling strangers their stories. “Where were you when the storm hit? Are you OK? Is your house OK? You think that’s bad? Why over on  14th…”

Eventually I wandered home no longer able to ignore the fact that the tree I loved buckled through the trunk and now tilted at a dangerous angle.

It had to come down.

Some friends arrived with chain saws. I covered my ears with music on earphones, or chatted loudly with friends we invited over for meals and to re-charge their phones and devices, since somehow our block still had power.

But it still sounded like a chain saw massacre in my garden.

Am I silly to grieve a tree?

I had to re-read my own post of a couple of days ago. Storms may come and storms may go. Wonder just how many storms it takes until I finally know you’re here always.

Yes He is here. We are safe. The tree fell away from the house. Our house is fine and still maintains its roof, and unlike many on our street, all of its shingles. We are still wealthier than most people in the world. The storm brought out the best in people.  Neighbours came out into the street to check on each other and help each other. We laughed and joked with relief when we heard that, miraculously, no one was seriously hurt. We pooled our melting ice cream and partied.

But tonight I mourn.

Change is seldom easy, and rarely do we feel like we are ready for it, but things change. God is still in the restoration business and He is still good. I trust him to see the bigger picture. I praise Him and bless His Holy name.

Tonight I mourn.

Tomorrow we will start to clean up.

And then I shall plant a skinny two-branched shade tree to bless somebody’s grandchildren.

Photo: The shade tree after the storm

Around town:

Related post:


Storms may come, and storms may go


Acrylic on panel

When I saw this tree beside a dirt road in the country I knew I had to paint it. The main trunk, struck by some calamity, had died, yet the tree was not dead. A branch, still nurtured by the roots, became the new tree.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12)

Sometimes we think our dreams are dead. Sometimes it looks like all hope is gone. Sometimes it’s our own fault and the dream looks as though it has died as a result of our own foolishness. Sometimes health fails, spouses leave, businesses crumble, loved ones die. I don’t blame God for nasty things that happen in our lives. But I trust him to turn them into something good.

We live in a fallen world where the consequences of a single sin can have a domino effect that goes on for generations. Innocence lost is innocence lost whether it is the result of our own choices or someone elses. But God can restore and build on the very things that cause us so much pain. He’s so good at using our disastrous circumstances that we may think He set them up. Not really. Jesus Christ didn’t come to condemn; he came to save. He came to set us free.

I painted a storm behind the tree. Is it approaching or leaving? Storms may come and storms may go; I leave that decision to the viewer.

The words of an Amy Grant song came to mind as I worked on this. I wonder just how many storms it will take until I finally know Jesus Christ has promised to never leave me or forsake me?

Arms of Love

Lord I’m really glad You’re here.
I hope you feel the same when You see all my fear,
And how I fail,
I fall sometimes.
It’s hard to walk on shifting sand.
I miss the rock, and find there’s nowhere left to stand;
I start to cry.
Lord, please help me raise my hands so You can pick me up.
Hold me close,
Hold me tighter.

I have found a place where I can hide.
It’s safe inside
Your arms of love.
Like a child who’s held throughout a storm,
You keep me warm
In Your arms of love.

Storms will come and storms will go.
Wonder just how many storms it takes until
I finally know
You’re here always.
Even when my skies are far from gray,
I can stay;
Teach me to stay there,

In the place I’ve found where I can hide.
It’s safe inside
Your arms of love.
Like a child who’s held throughout a storm,
You keep me warm
In Your arms of love.

In Him there is no fear.
No fear!

The Dream Lives

Painted prayer: The Dream Lives

(Click on photo for larger version)

This painting was for a woman with a broken heart who, at the time, faced going through life without a partner.

She chose to respond by staying up all night and thanking God for every single thing she could think of.

God responded by healing her wounds and sending her a wonderful husband (in a most unlikely way) who has blessed her beyond anything she ever dreamed.

God also healed her of infertility and has given them beautiful children.

God is good.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18