In the Little Things

Write 31 days, Day 10
Writing prompt: How

Each day, every one of us faces the question, “how will I choose to live today?” Some of us approach the question with intention, though most of us, I suspect, simply drift through our morning routines. Let me suggest, though, that even if we never have consciously considered this question, it still shapes us. We choose whether we will take a shower, surf the Internet, or greet our spouse with a kiss. We choose whether to walk with our shoulders back or staring at the ground. We choose whether or not we will think poorly of those who believe differently than we do.

For me, it has been beneficial to intentionally consider how to approach each day. Borrowing from Chuck DeGroat, I ask myself “how can I be an ambassador of shalom today?” or from my friend Curt Thompson: “am I living as an outpost of goodness and beauty?” I firmly believe that we can make the choice each day, indeed in each circumstance, to strive toward wholeness and peace or to degrade toward bitterness and division.

Last night, when I came home from work, I was irritable. Perhaps 20 minutes later, Heather asked me if I needed anything because I “seemed short.” She was right, and I told her so, but it was for no reason I recognized. It helped me to own that emotion and ask myself, “how does my attitude toward my wife, my son, and my dogs press toward shalom?”

None of us will get this perfect. We are all broken. Yet our imperfections do not disable our capacity to strive toward wholeness. I pray that more and more people will strive to embody truth, goodness, and beauty in their daily routines, and that those choices will push back a little bit of the darkness.

Reflection:
What daily rhythms help you to live toward wholeness?  How can you stretch toward deeper wholeness this week? 

Each Breath, Inspiration

Write 31 days, Day 9
Today’s prompt: Inspire

To inspire is
to breath life.
So often we wait
for something…anything
to energize us
to get creative juices flowing.

But are we paying
to the present
moment?

-To criss-crossed rakes, slumbering
beneath the blanket
quilted leaf by leaf.

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-To a 9 year old
contemplating the rain or perhaps
multiplication’s complexity.

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-To ducks
upon ponds and puddles
contemplating the rain or perhaps
multiplication’s complexity.

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-To a benevolent Dane
enthroned upon
a burgundy dais
overseeing the play
of his loyal subjects.

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Each whisper…each blink
a breath
an inspiration.

For reflection: 
What inspires you in this moment?

Morning Greeting

Today is National Poetry Day, which is as good a time as any to share one of my older poems, written in 2015.

Black birds in black trees
     wings and branches
     stretched heavenward in morning praise
     silhouetted against the pastel Southeastern sky
A world awakening
     coming alive

Venus looks down from her heavenly seat
     the last nocturne light to retreat

Leaves fall
     crows caw
          squirrels having a ball
greeting the morning with glee
chattering aloud, “Come see! Come see!” 

Autumn’s Bouquet

I smelled it today
for the first time.
Autumn’s bouquet
carried on wisps of wind.
Fallen leaves–
yellow crescents–
shuffle along the roadway.
Some still dressed
in vibrant greens
hang on to life and limb,
yet when I pause
beneath the drooping canopy
and listen
I hear death’s rattle
in their breath.
Sleep comes soon to them all.

Goodbye, Old Friend

Yesterday, I was returning home from Rice Lake, a weekly drive I have made hundreds of times over the past dozen years. Time and repetition have created familiarity. For all its seasonal changes, the contours of the landscape have become a part of me. Just north of Chippewa Falls, I always look at a certain field, a shallow bowl protected on two sides by a ridge of mixed hardwoods. I once saw a black bear sitting in that field eating corn. I have hoped to see him again, though I never have.

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Further north, a horse farm is nestled in the hills. I often wonder, how many horses do they have? I have never been able to count, but each season, new foals join the group. They chase the older ones through the large pasture, sparsely dotted with large round bails.

I cross three rivers. Typically calm and unassuming, when bitter winter air presses down upon the water, they breathe blankets of fog into the atmosphere. Though a visible reminder of the cold, these low clouds are welcomed beauty.

Although I have come to love each of these scenes, they have been casual companions. Not so this barn; she has been a true friend. Whether driving north or south, I have always looked at her. On the rare occasion I have had others ride along with me, I have always pointed her out with fondness. My office wall features a watercolor I made of this barn. Though I never shared this with my wife, I once toyed with the idea of finding out if this homestead was for sale. Okay, more than once.

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Yesterday, as I drove home, I saw a pillar of gray smoke rising through the raindrops. I suspected it was the burn pile that is often smoking in the afternoons. Yet, as I rounded a curve on 53 South, I saw what was left of the barn–my barn–smoldering on the ground. I knew it was coming. The house has been gone for several months, yet I was filled with sadness and a sense of loss. My old friend was no longer.

How does one develop a particular affection for something inanimate? Why had this barn, a skeleton really, had such a hold on me? Why this farm, and not another? I cannot truly say. Partly, I believe, it projected wisdom, strength, and beauty. It represented for me a lifelong love of farms, but more importantly, for the farmers I have known and loved–my grandfather Wilfred, my uncle Paul, my uncle John–many of them, like this barn, now passed on.

We don’t love generalities, we love specifics.  We cannot love creation without recognizing that we live in a specific place. We cannot love humankind without loving particular people. We are embedded in specific families, communities, and cultures at a particular time in history. This farm has been a part of my story over the last dozen years and has been imprinted upon my heart. Other people and other places, some known only briefly and some known for a lifetime, also exist there. They are a part of me.

And so I say goodbye, old friend. Thank you for being an important part of my life.

Beauty, is above all, a manifestation of grace, of abundance and generosity. It’s the reason why God placed flowers on the earth: to have little voices calling to us constantly about grace.-Dallas Willard

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