“When I entered the cave hoping for a glimpse of celestial brightness, it never occurred to me that it might be so small. But here it is, not much bigger than a mustard seed—everything I need to remember how much my set ideas get in my way. While I am looking for something large, bright, and unmistakably holy, God slips something small, dark, and apparently negligible in my pocket. How many other treasures have I walked right by because they did not meet my standards? At least one of the day’s lessons is about learning to let go of my bright ideas about God so that my eyes are open to the God who is.”
― Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark
A handful of years ago, I purchased this book by Barbara Brown Taylor then let it sit quietly on the shelf in my meditation room.  I was both intimidated and intrigued by the title.  Having navigated years of darkness of one sort of another, I knew I would be able to relate, and yet, was I ready to sit with Darkness and get to know her as eagerly as I sought out and embraced Light?
A year or so later, this book found me, and just like an old friend, shared with me wisdom and grace.
These words and stories demystified what it means to sit with Darkness.  It seems we have a tendency to make Darkness out to be the black sheep of the family–never wanting her to come over and stay awhile, not appreciating that she’s misunderstood.
When we spend time in creation, we realize that both Darkness and Light exist as a necessary relationship for growth, re-creation, and awe.  A bulb or seed blossoms from the darkness of the earth.  The light of stars and planets is sprinkled upon a palette of darkness.   And, God re-recreates our bodies, minds and spirits each day after a night of rest or wrestling.
Even a small baby lying in the manger grew in the darkness of his mother’s womb and was cradled by Darkness so that others could follow Light to arrive at the stable.
If there is one myth I would love to demystify in faith-speak, it’s the notion that Darkness = bad, Light = good.  I believe it perpetuates an unrealistic goal of always striving to live in the Light, and when we don’t achieve that goal, we assume we are unhealthy or life is unfair or there is no hope.
Perhaps we could use seasons like Advent to learn to sit more comfortably with Darkness.  To appreciate the she too is a part of life.  To recognize the God who is.

the psalm of hope

I wrote this psalm several months ago when I found myself questioning God about why certain events had come to pass–events that seemed to benefit the oppressors and create suffering among the oppressed.  During that time, I turned to the psalms in the Bible and found great comfort in knowing that lessons would be learned, situations would evolve, and God would be steadfast.  Perhaps that is a part to hope–being available to God’s purpose and desire to “do the right thing” which strengthens and sustains us.

~Cameron

I think we all befriend Hope as children when our hearts and spirits naively but unconditionally anticipate the light, even in trying times.  Yet, as we grow older, our experiences introduce us to Disbelief, Darkness, and Doubt, and we struggle in our relationship with Hope.

This past year, my friendship with Hope has evolved, not only through intentional spiritual formation but also by way of life lessons.  It has not been easy, but then again, if it were, would Hope and I continue to grow together?

Anne Lamott says this of Hope:

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.

May we continue to seek solace in our friendship with Hope and may we anticipate love and light with childlike abandon, never giving up.

The Psalm of Hope

Our Healer, our Hope

We greet you in the morning with fresh faces turned toward the sun

You warm our skin and our hearts with your light

You envelop us in your tender love

A new day is dawning and we are strengthened in spirit

Our souls are grateful for the renewal another sunrise brings

We anticipate what is to come with trust in you

Even when the night seems longer than we can bear

Even when Doubt and Darkness block your light

And cover us in the shadows of pain, sadness or loss

You remind us with each rising sun

with each hatching egg

with each blossoming bulb

that you are our Hope

and for you we will wait and watch and work

and never give up.

the season of sabbatical

A new season has come to visit the farm.   I knew the visit was impending, but life kept me busy, and quite honestly, I was in denial about her coming.  I mean, who wants to stop and clean house when there are tomatoes to harvest, cucumbers to pickle, and seeds to dry.

And yet, she quietly slipped in the back door, ignoring the dirty dishes and unswept floors.  She settled in patiently on the couch and watched as a new phase in my life began after the launch of my daughter into her first year of college.

Hurrah–the gift of Time filled my heart with anticipation and excitement for all of the projects I could take on now.  I danced around my home giddy with delight–what creative activity would I begin first?!

Sabbatical smiled and waited.  “Honeymoon period,” she nodded knowingly. And she was right.

After a couple of weeks, I realized that I am tired.  I am spent.  I don’t want more, I want less.  I don’t want to lead, I want to follow.  I don’t want to just do; I long to just be.

And so, being a gracious host, I have invited Sabbatical to stay awhile.

When my daughter left, I didn’t grieve it as a loss.  This talented and independent child was confident about the next steps in her life.  Who wouldn’t celebrate with her?

I did, however, find myself learning new rhythms, “God rhythms” as my friend Teresa suggested, that have nudged my mind, body, and spirit to “just be” a little differently.  And so Sabbatical invited me to join her for awhile in a season of centering, simplicity, and rest.

I can’t take credit for the connection with Sabbatical. My spiritual director introduced me to her at our last meeting.  As I described what I longed for, Katie smiled and gently suggested, “What you are seeking is sabbatical.”  Like you (I imagine), questions spilled out of my mouth about the reality of sabbatical at this point in my life.  A college tuition, a house payment, a new professional position.  I certainly couldn’t afford to invite Sabbatical to hang out for three months–how would I get anything done?

But as the new God rhythms created opportunity for a gentler push-pull of life, I realized that Katie was right.  As I centered in prayer with the Spirit, I had an epiphany.  No one was going to “let me off the hook” and invite Sabbatical for a visit.  I would need to extend that invitation myself.

And so, while the world continues to move in its own rhythms of the day-to-day, Sabbatical and I are creating a new routine as seasonal friends.   While others may not understand it, (one friend proclaimed, “I thought that meant you got to check out of life for a few months. You’re still working!”) our relationship is one I hold in gratitude for this next period of my life.