On Waking…

A cornucopia of insects is thrumming outside my window right now. It is 5 am, and I am (again) awake (earlier than I expected). Sleep has been…elusive lately…. or rather, the ability to sleep beyond 6 hours or so. I cannot control this impulse to wake in the wee hours, only ride the wave (and trust me when I tell you, I would control it if that were possible). So I linger, on the edge of sleep, letting the songs of the crickets and the katydids wash over me.

I have a certain reverence for these early hours, before the world begins to wake itself and shake the dust from its eyes. In this liminal space, the earth feels full enough–certainly not empty, but not overwhelming, either. I find that I can sit and listen without restlessness, wrapped in the soundscape of creation. Human sounds–the roar of an engine, say–become unwelcome interruptions. Our scurrying here and there doesn’t belong.

When I started to wake in the night, my first thought was that something was wrong with me. My mind was running frantically, and thoughts were spilling out of me faster than I could set them down. I felt like a broken water main, emptying itself on the lovely garden of rest that I have tended so carefully over the years. I worried about the long-term implications, wrestled with my thoughts and tried to make them hold still. I told myself, perhaps if I could understand this, it will go away, and leave me be. I thought of Jacob, wrestling the angel on the banks of the river Jabbock, crying out, I will not let you go until you bless me.

But bodies have a way of telling us what we need. And mine? It seems that my body needs me to pay attention. She needs the soft quiet before daybreak. She craves space that belongs to nobody but her. She needs this sacred dark, this palpable quiet. I am doing my best to listen to her. To let her lead me to the place that I need to go. I will know it when I see it.

The birds and the squirrels are beginning to rustle in the bushes. They are early risers, too, their gentle morning grumbling a natural alarm clock for the rest of creation. Not long from now, the earth will be filled with the soundtrack of the living once more, and I will no longer be alone with my thoughts. I cannot stay here. So I breathe deeply. I let the gift of this quiet permeate throughout my body, and hope that I will be able to carry its memory with me, whatever this day brings.

A blog about (not) blogging, and other experiences that take my breath away

I posted the following to presbymergent‘s website and it should, pending review, show up sometime over the course of the next week.  I spent a little time working on it, so I didn’t quite have the time to write something for here this week, so I thought I would post it here as well.  Enjoy!


For all of my twittering, facebooking, g-mailing, blogging and blackberrying, and so forth, the truth is that I most often find myself in sacred space, in the presence of God Himself, when I dare to put that all away, step away from my techno-centered routines, and simply be.  At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, I most often see God when I stop texting and start looking around at the world God made with the eyes God blessed me with, tasting the air on my tongue and taking in the world around me rather than confining my experience of the world to that which appears on a small, digital screen.


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Most recently, it has been the reality of the summer—a warm breeze picking through the branches and leaves of the live oaks, the whirring of bugs and beetles high above me, the taste of honeysuckle and thyme in the air—that has brought me back to myself.  There isn’t much cell phone service worth using on the streets near my parent’s northern California home, so I have been forced to set down my phone and amuse myself with my surroundings instead, packing away the email, facebook, or catch-up calls that are so often a feature of my more urban hiking adventures in Philadelphia.  As I walk down the dusty trail that lines highway 130, my ears prick to the gentle rustle of oleander and wild turkey, and I find myself reeling with the recognition that I am a part of something bigger than myself, that the signs of life around me are small reminders of something deeper and grander than anything I could imagine, something that could so easily go unnoticed and then suddenly bowl me over in a instant of blazing clarity. 

            When John Calvin wrote of the glory of and specialness of creation, I heard what he was saying.  And I recognized myself in his remark that we too often fail to see the beauty that is before us.  Every once in a while, however, a thin space, as the Celts called it, opens before our eyes, and the truth of the world and God’s presence in it is clear to us.  As Calvin would put it, we find that in God we are given spectacles to see the sacred quality of all things, which hide in plain sight before me.

            So what are the things that stun me back to the recognition of the Sacred?  There is no pattern that I can discern, no perfect formula for figuring it out.  While I am often bowled over by that which is natural, I also find that God can strip me of my ignorance of the sacred around me in the most mundane or even complicated of circumstances.  I see it in the pattern of a quilt made by my own hands and a well-written poem, or even in the midst of the fray as much as the beauty of a mountain range.  And I could argue that it takes practice to see the sacred with more clarity, and yet even that isn’t always the case.  I have learned that the world will surprise my fuzzy eyes into focus as shockingly when I am looking for the sacred as it will when I am doing everything but.

            Ultimately, these moments of recognition are both a mystery and a gift, for like God they are beyond my ability to grasp them, and filled with grace and wisdom.  They surpass knowledge and understanding and are filled with Truth.  They bring me closer to God, to myself, and to my fellow inhabitants on this great, sacred sphere that we call home.  For that, I am thankful.