Posts Tagged ‘quiet’


image116I remember working at Youth Haven Ranch as a teenager.  Waking early to shower, and walking on my own to the giant red barn, a new addition to the campground since I’d attended as a camper.  The dew on the grass competing with the beauty of the steam rising out over the field in the distance.  The birds calling out to welcome anyone willing to rise early enough to wish them good morning.  Coffee was not yet in the vocabulary of my palette.

With difficulties at home, it meant the world to have the confidence of Kyle, Mike, Bob, Dave, Joe, Scott and the others.  These men who were leaders of the camp, placed me in oversight of the “Petting Farm” for the entire summer of 1998.  Each morning I’d rise early to great the midwestern Michigan beauty that exists as an island between streams of somewhere in the sprawling farmland, otherwise known as a “campground”.  I, neither “city kid” nor “country boy”, but rather a conglomerate of “raised by church-going single mother” and “growing up on a highway”, would open up the barn every morning.

Thomas Merton echoed the Psalmists who spoke of all creation having special knowledge of God, and an awareness of the divine.  The personified versions of these animals knew not only God, but could have significant discourse with me on passages of scripture, drama from home, or the latest girl counselor I might be crushing on that summer.  Norma, the cow, was particularly wise and would share her insight with me – providing I allowed her to escape to the grassy fields before Jack – the lone donkey.  As you might expect, he was little help anyways, always laughing when I’d ask his opinion.

The exuberance each animal met the dawn with, running out of their stalls to stretch, run, and snack, was equaled each week by new sets of young people – each eager to pretend for a week – that life was simple.  It was a campground for economically and socially disenfranchised kids.  Shedding the fear, the instability, and the harsh climates of home – by the 3rd day most kids understood they were safe and loved here.  The animals knew the same as I entered the barn each morning, to care for their stall and feed them.

I attempted to begin most mornings, once the animals had been let out and immediate needs cared for, soaking in the silence of the big red barn.  Breathing slow at the start of the day, I would go over the schedule of what groups would visit, and read some of the scripture from a recent message at the chapel times.   I was experiencing for an entire summer, what many of the children there tasted for only a week – the desirable simplicity of life.   To understand sabbath was less a day of the week, and more an invitation to rest and be content.

I want my kids to know that contentedness.  Shoot, I want the world to know that contentedness.  In my best moments today – I have it.  The contentment Mary and Joseph felt when they laid their firstborn son in an animal food-trough, surrounded by the sights and smells of the barn.  The breathing slow.  Not knowing what tomorrow might look like, but holding enough in this moment to outweigh any anxiety that may threaten to surface.

There is so much to hold in this moment.  You are beloved.  You are enough.  You are capable.  You are able to contribute to the lives of others.   Your smile can be a candle-light in the dark day of another.

There may be weeds growing – but there is so much wheat.

May you discover how it grows even today.


Because I was forced to spend time in quiet…

There is quiet.FullSizeRender

It’s not far, but it’s often a world away.
Today, I’ll say there’s no way it could be near. It couldn’t be here.
Because here is noise, busy, and hurry. Here’s worry. The scene is blurry,
And clarity? The lens hasn’t been cleaned for a while. You smile,
Holding tight the commitment you’ve made for tonight.
“I’m doing alright.”

And so are we all, but as Fall turns to Winter you realize,
There might be lies in the Truth. The Truth lies bare when given a moment to spare.
And there, in slow breathing and heart beating, you find it.

There is quiet.

Leaves have turned, and are falling. The silence is calling
For those willing to press pause on the pace, and face a world less moving.
Less proving, and more being. More seeing. Freeing you from shackles unfelt.
Moments melt into Sabbath. You catch your breath. There is life. There is death.

There is quiet.

Breathing deep, drenched in nothing.
Absence that feels like more substance than you’ve had in a while.
You smile, remembering what it’s like to wander.
In body and thought, you’re caught up in wonder, staring at the clouds
As if they contain a story you’re anxious to hear.
You stumble, lost in your surroundings,
A leaf-covered path, the aftermath of Autumn.
Emerging to a lake, you take it all in with a grin
And begin to lose yourself in the wealth found in the surface
Of water undisturbed.

There is quiet.

Heavens reflected in smooth glass
Trees stretching deep down into the sky
Fooling the eye, you sigh.
This is why

There is quiet.

You can’t stay in this place
But you scoop up the pace, and put some in your pocket.
Commit to remember, as you head into November

That there. Is. Quiet.

asking for saints.

“Daddy, “dead” means “died”.”  My 4 year old was talking to me from the back seat of our mini-van.  She’d just internalized a basic truth about the end of life, and was repeating it back to me.  She said it confidently, but still with a slight question mark waiting for me to confirm what she’d said.  So why was our 4 year old talking to me about such a weighty topic?

The girls had helped me get the candles out for youth group this past week.  They asked me what it was all for, and I told them I’d explain after evening services.  So as we gathered in the minivan after church and kids programming, I explained.

“Tonight I invited the teenagers to come and light a candle.  They would each light a candle for someone they wanted to remember, who had died and gone to be with Jesus.  We talked about the people we loved, who were not with us anymore because they were with God now.”

It’s true.  For our monthly scheduled “prayer experiment” this month, I offered our teens almost an entire night where we gathered chairs in a circle, and just remembered together.  Some chose to remain quiet, but obviously reflecting on someone meaningful.  Others may have been bored off their rockers, but at least they were respectful of the moment.  But several chose to step out and light a candle, and share with us a memory of someone who’d made an impact on their life.  I’d been nervous and not known what to expect…but felt God was smiling on the idea.  (probably even gave it)  We thanked God for these people, and closed in prayer that someday, someone might remember us as having made an impact on their life for God.

The good news is…I was way ahead of schedule.  We’ve got an “All Hallows Eve” party next week with pumpkin carving and what-not.   So you’ve still got plenty of time to ask the people/youth group/children in your life:  “Who is someone you’d like to remember, who’s gone to be with God?”

For my kids….it was Grandpa Nicol.  They knew his smiles, his laugh, and how much he loved baseball.  Then, they went through a short list of relatives they haven’t seen in a while….and I confirmed they weren’t dead yet. 🙂  Here are a few words that might make you thankful for someone…

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