how faint a whisper

glimpses of God in a heaven-crammed earth

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Early morning found me driving out of the city, the mist seeming to rise from my heart as surely as the sun was burning it from the land around me. I left the highway for a curvy small-town road, and then one without lines or shoulders or rails, and followed it between empty hills, the sun over my right shoulder.

I almost didn’t stop. Driving down the road, my eyes were less in front of me and more often turned to the side to catch glimpses of the sun glancing off the dew and mist of the overgrown fields, but still, I almost didn’t stop. In a rare exception to the current pace of life, time wasn’t even an obstacle: I was meeting a friend, and she had just let me know she was going to be late, but I still almost didn’t stop. I was clearly caught in wonder, almost irresistibly drawn into the beauty that wanted me to meet it at a slower pace than possible on wheels, but something in me still groaned that it was too much work to stop and answer. The field had those ugly yellow private property signs every 50 feet, the death of far too many wanders before they even begin – what if I got in trouble? (Because whoever owned this un-purposed field was clearly going to be driving by early on a Wednesday morning to chase away fringe photographers.) Besides, the pictures might not turn out. It might be too bright, or the scene flat, or I may not have the skill to capture it in the way I want. Or I might crest the couple feet over the edge of the field to find the other side was actually a dump, or a construction site, or something equally opposite from the beauty I was imagining. In an instant I had a hundred excuses, which really came down to one: what if it was safer to stay in the car and content myself with sideways glances of backside glory than put myself in a position to fully embrace it and risk being disappointed?

I stopped. Turned off the car, grabbed my camera, waded through the dew of a semi-trampled path between brush, and turned to face the sun:






It was not what I was expecting, but it was literally breathtaking. Ethereal. And beauty was given a new definition I never would have considered before that morning. A field of spider webs, really? Yes, beautiful. Yet they, and the moment, were fragile. The light was shifting right before my eyes, the mist rising, the dew evaporating, the heat of the sun breaking through. The picture was changing. And these webs, the result of what must have been hours of overnight labor, would likely not last through the day. It was a glimpse. But I saw the beauty of the Lord in a new and fuller way in that glimpse, and so did not even ask the question of worth.

It might not have worked out. It might have been too bright, or the scene flat, or have turned out to be a dump. I might not have had the skill to engage with it in the way I wanted. I might have even gotten myself into trouble. I might have gotten hurt, or lost, or worst of all, been disappointed. It might have been too fragile to last. It might have been safer to drive on. To try to forget that in my prayers I begged the Lord to bring me to the edge of this beauty. To allow me to travel this road and engage with this dream, this emotion. And once here, I don’t want to make the effort to get my shoes wet with dew and “waste” fifteen minutes to possibly see a definition of beauty I have never previously considered, simply because I have a distorted view of what may define it as “worthwhile,” and that definition is markedly selfish.

Oh how this deserves my attention! Not because it is guaranteed to be beautiful, no matter how pure the longing for it may be. And not because it won’t be fragile, a fleeting beauty I can’t hold onto. But because if I do not stop, I won’t see it at all. If I do not take the dream, the emotion, the longing, and engage with it; if I do not enter in to ask the question of why I am even on this road, and why now, I do not place myself in the path of possibility to have my definition of beauty, and my understanding of the Lord, blown wide open once again. And really, following a God who promises to make ALL things beautiful, even if beyond my sight at times, what do I have to fear?

It is the graciousness of God to place me on this road. Because He knows, and deep down, so do I, that my heart will not be satisfied with a sideways glance from the pace of my life. I must stop. See, feel, attend. And let the fact that He has called this road beautiful be the only definition of worth by which to judge whatever I find over its edges.

The old hymn-writers were right: Oh, what peace I often forfeit…oh, what needless pain I bear…

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“The practice of paying attention is the rarest of gifts because it depends upon the harshest of disciplines. So uncommon is it for us to grasp the beauty and mystery of ordinary things that, when we finally do so, it often brings us to the verge of tears. Appalled by our own poverty, we awake in wonder to a splendor of which we had never dreamed.”
– Belden Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes


The sun was shining yesterday like healing after a long, cold winter. The trees have exploded into buds white and pink and green, tiny fragile versions of their full selves. Every year I tell myself I’m going to notice. I’m going to watch and see the actual day when they first appear, when the green tendrils start sneaking up the brown blades of grass. But every year I miss it. Every year there is some morning when I wake and all of a sudden spring is here. The buds are open and the grass is a shade of green I had forgotten existed. The wonder of new life is bursting forth from every crack of the earth.

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joy is…

these guys…
pirate faces…
my brother as a father…
and that he brought us this girl.

Joy is 10 years of friendship with these girls…IMG_2538
that has lasted through lives that look just a little different than they once did.IMG_2557b

Joy is this miracle turning one:
and this kind of freedom…
and this face.

Joy is fall apples sweet off the tree…

and beauty in the absolutely ordinary.

Joy is how they love and care for each other…IMG_1262
and know how to live well, and love well, life.

Joy is a first reunion after 5 years…
ending summer with this view…

and with these girls.

Joy is communion and friendship and grace…

phone conversations with sweet friends, and the ache that is missing so many others. Being sharpened and edified and challenged and encouraged and loved.

Joy is understanding a fraction of what Paul meant when he said, “I thank my God every time I remember you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…”

Joy is the common love of Christ, and in that finds its source, its fuel, its meaning.

Thank you. To all who fill my life with such joy.

I cannot claim these words, but find them resonating in my heart as to the joy that is sharing in the nature of true friendship:

“Look up, friend! The world is too beautiful for my eyes alone.”
(Jer Clifton – – a college friend.)


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We got some great snow after Christmas. I was like a little kid, as with last year’s winter being so incredibly lame, and the two before that spent in the African desert, I hadn’t seen this much snow for a very long time.

It doesn’t so much look like this anymore. Instead New York has currently decided to gift us with one of winters’ worst attributes – bitter cold and windy with no snow. boo. But hopefully we’ll see this again a few more times before the end of the winter.

Snow is so beautiful. It’s almost as if, through its pure whiteness, it makes everything around it seem cleaner and newer for a while, transformed by this soft, silent blanket of white, and somehow I feel as though I can be new again, the dirty brown and mud of the death of winter covered by a beauty I could never create. And then I remember that I am new, and can be new again every day. And suddenly the ordinary is extraordinarily not so; a reminder of redemption in a coating of snow.

A lot of things clamor for our attention and our clutter our vision in this life. I’m glad I didn’t miss this one. How faint a whisper. Continue reading

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a killing frost

I woke up this morning to this:

I love living in a place with seasons. I love the way the cycle of nature; the death of fall and rebirth of spring; echo our death and rebirth in Christ. And I love that we can be reminded of this year after year after year.

But this morning as I was entranced by the beauty of the coating of frost, standing in the wet grass soaking my slippers because I was so excited to get some pictures I didn’t bother to put shoes on first, I was struck by a new thought: there is amazing beauty even in death. Even in this “killing frost,” as they say, in the clear indication of the winter that is fast approaching, in the stark bareness of branches and brownness of plants, there is still beauty.

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