Author: Catherine Lawton

Be(e) Doing Good

As my husband and I make our backyard garden a hospitable place for creatures, pollinators, and people … I watch the bees on flowers (like in these photos I took). The bees inspire me by the goodness of their work: They seem to remind the plants to produce, and the blooms and blossoms respond by flourishing. Honeybees pollinate and gather nectar within about a two-mile radius, reminding me of the interconnectedness of nature and of us all. They risk the journey of flying out to forage, then back to the hive laden with pollen and nectar, despite the perils of nature’s predators and humans’ poisons. Thus they store up honey that will feed the hive in winter as well as the people who respectfully extract and enjoy the delicious, surplus honey.

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As I watched a “bee doing good” this week, I was reminded to “be doing good” myself.* And this poem came to me:

Be(e) Doing Good

As you buzz about (many things)

    are you singing, bringing out

    the fruitfulness of life?

As you wing from place to place

    do you cherish each colorful face

    in the garden of life?

As you pollinate far and wide

    are you ever calling forth

    the Creativity of Life?

As you gladly sip secreted nectar

    will you with honey feed

    both the world and the hive?

Catherine Lawton


*”Jesus … went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38)

This post was first published at GodSpace

 

Walking Together On The Way

Hiking the Camino de Santiago

GUEST POST by Judith Galblum Pex

Having just returned from two weeks on the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, I’ve concluded that multiple-day walking is one of my most satisfying activities. The Camino is a 750 kilometer ancient pilgrim’s route currently hiked by about 350,000 people a year from all over the world.

I love the simplicity and freedom of life on the trail—getting up early in the morning and walking from point A to point B without all the distractions or to-do lists of everyday life. Being out in nature the whole day relaxes, focuses, and calms me. Though I haven’t done it as much as I might like, I believe that all these trails are designed to traverse through natural settings; both the Camino and the Israel Trail, which I hiked seventeen years ago, certainly cross stunning landscapes.

A highlight of the Camino was the people we met. Simply by deciding to walk the Camino, we entered into a special group of people who, for a period of time, all had the same goal. We developed an instant camaraderie and even a surprising intimacy with some. We belonged to the same band or company, an innate need for every human being. (And this happens to be the title of my soon-to-be-released novel: To Belong.)

On the Camino, we found ourselves walking alongside folks, sitting together for drinks or meals, and meeting in the evening at the hostels. Not all, but certainly many of the “pilgrims,” as the hikers on the Camino are called, are there to find answers to big questions or solutions to life’s problems. As we hiked along with our backpacks, we could easily share how Jesus came into our lives, lifted our burdens, and gave us purpose.

Camino means “way” in Spanish, and for me, a walk like this is a metaphor for traveling through life, each of us on our own path. Jesus said, “I am the way,” (John 14:6). As we trek, we develop rhythms and instinctively look for the smoothest and flattest paths—though climbing mountains gives us a better perspective on the entire landscape, what lies ahead and from where we’ve come.

If you don’t carefully follow the trail symbols, you can easily go astray. At one point, we found ourselves traipsing through a wheat field with no markers to be seen; but after we found our way back, we realized we gained something in our unexpected detour. Life is also like this. Having a good guide, a book or an app, was super important on the Camino in the same way that I need the Bible to direct my life. Whom we walk with is important on the trail. Good, compatible companionship makes all the difference; I’m thankful every day that John and I are good hiking and life partners to each other.

There’s obviously a reason that the Bible often uses the words “walk” and “way” and their synonyms, especially in Proverbs, a book of wisdom literature. “I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble” (Prov. 3:11,12). In Ephesians 5:8, Paul the apostle writes, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”

~Judy Pex, May 31, 2022


Photo credit: Judith Galblum Pex

 

 

Waves on the Cladach

What does “Cladach” mean? That’s a question we often hear. So let me explain:

CLADACH (Kla’ dak) is a Scottish Gaelic word meaning beach or shore, as in seashore.

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore.” ~ John 21:4

The Lord sends us forth on life’s sea to venture for him, while welcoming us to the safety of his shore; and always God is with us.

A BRAVE Interview

AN INTERVIEW WITH JANYNE MCCONNAUGHEY, PhD

GUEST POST:

Hello. My name is Ms. Skeptic and I am here today to interview Dr. Janyne McConnaughey about her recent revelations concerning her life with a dissociative disorder. She has accepted this interview in hopes she can help others in understanding the disorder. …

Now, Dr. McConnaughey, for those who do not know you, will you tell us a little about your life?

Honestly, the life story I always told was of a pretty idyllic 1950s childhood. Much of my story of growing up in a preacher’s home and serving in church-related educational ministries, and my now thirty-eight year marriage is included here. On the surface, it was a wonderful life!

You are aware most who say they have DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) do not have such idyllic descriptions of their lives? Were there signs that others might have noticed in you?

The disorder is mostly hidden and often misdiagnosed. A few things are helpful in understanding this. The first is an understanding of what a dissociative disorder is. In my journey, I began to understand dissociation as more of a spectrum. To some degree, in order to cope, everyone dissociates from reality on occasion—daydreaming for instance—very common and usually healthy.
On the other end of the spectrum is the person who separates into multiple identities to divide up the pain and live life. In this category there are some who have periods of amnesia while various “parts” live life. In my case, “DID NOS,” (Dissociative Disorder—Not Otherwise Specified) there was not significant amnesia between my alternate identities or “alters.” Thus, I didn’t wake up and find clothes in my closet that I didn’t remember buying. I did have significant blocked memories (due to repression), but none impaired my ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

So no one could tell?

No. After I explain it to my closest family and friends, they often say, “Well, that actually makes sense.” But we all have quirky things we do, and this was what everyone assumed.

I must pause at this point to say there are those in the field of psychology who do not believe in the diagnosis of DID. What are your thoughts on this?

(Sigh) This is so damaging for those who are dissociative—especially in one specific way. Dissociation at every level on the spectrum is a coping mechanism and as such is not a systemic mental illness—in other words, no one is born dissociative, it is a result of what happened to him or her. Granted, there may be some predisposed tendencies, such as intelligence and creative cognitive coping skills, but it is always the result of some type of trauma—usually sexual abuse at a very young age. As a coping mechanism for trauma, dissociation can be healed. It is complicated but possible. If a professional does not believe in the validity of the diagnosis, then the answer is usually medication—which may alleviate the symptoms to some degree but never addresses true healing.
In addition, being believed was important to my healing. I knew there were three adults in my head and felt myself shift to them periodically through the day. There was nothing in my story to cause me at sixty one to suddenly create a fantasy such as this—for what? Attention? (Laughter, lots of laughter.) Dissociative disorders are all about hiding—especially at my level of what I call “functional dissociation.” When I finally came to my own conclusion about being dissociative, it was absolutely crucial to be believed!Did you know?Absolutely not. Did I know something was not right? Yes! Most spend years in therapy before it is correctly diagnosed.

When did you decide to seek therapy? What brought you to this decision?

For some, the idea God audibly told me to go to a specific therapist is probably going to be harder to swallow than the disorder itself, but that is exactly what happened. I described my fear of going to therapy in one of my first blog posts. At sixty one, I was at the top of my professional career, a wife, mother, and grandmother, with many wonderful friends—and absolutely terrified.

Why were you afraid?

Great question. I was unaware of living as multiple identities, but did spend my life running away from a “me” I could neither understand nor tolerate. My life was successfully navigated above the turmoil. I didn’t understand what it was, but I knew it had the power to destroy my carefully-constructed life.

How long were you in therapy before you understood what you were dealing with?

This is a very simple question, which involves a very complicated answer. My first session, in hindsight, was an amazing display put on by “Janyne” to prove there was absolutely nothing wrong. I was just trying to decide about signing the contract for the following year, since teaching at the college didn’t seem like a good fit for me any longer. In the next couple sessions, it became apparent I had mother issues. This is not uncommon—maybe you do too? (Uncomfortable laughter.) By the third or fourth session we decided I should work through some of my anxiety issues by going back to my childhood memories with my mother. This was when I had my first introduction to EMDR.

Can you explain EMDR?

Yes, this is always a question. It is a recognized, research-validated therapy treatment in which the client remains aware but is able to go below the surface of cognitively processed events and resolve the underlying emotions connected to the memories stored in the limbic brain. It is done in a variety of ways by bypassing the cognitive part of the brain and allowing the experience, with all of the intensity of the attached emotions, to surface. In my case, this also released repressed memories. If unfamiliar with this recognized type of therapy, it might be good to explore the EMDR International Association website.

Why was EMDR so important to your healing?

My survival was dependent on cognitive coping strategies and few therapeutic interventions would have been successful in getting underneath my defenses. There are some concerns that EMDR causes memories to surface too quickly and may overwhelm dissociative clients who do not have strong processing structures in place. As with any therapy, the keys are skillful use and care for the client. For me, EMDR was the avenue of healing.

Why do you believe this was true?

Many with dissociative disorders spend years in various therapeutic situations without ever obtaining a correct diagnosis. The whole purpose of dissociation is to hide subconsciously repressed or suppressed memories. While EMDR is designed as a way to process memories, in my case it also served as a mechanism to retrieve frozen memories from dissociative states. This doesn’t mean it would be effective in this specific way for everyone, since each case is unique.
My simple question of “Which one?” (explained in Chapter 4) early in therapy probably moved my healing at warp speed, since it allowed me to see my inner structures of functioning personas and dissociative states. My ability to see and analyze these dissociative structures was a gift, but I would never have allowed myself to see it outside of EMDR therapy. My structures were too perfect and I was too strong.

How do you know the memories were real?

This question voices a common fear. I was concerned that a therapist would convince me something had happened in my early life, but she never did that. This may occur on occasion with the rare, unethical therapist, and probably is the reason for the myth. It is horrible and prevents many from seeking help. Before the first memory of abuse surfaced, I said, “I don’t think we are going to find anything, do you?” My therapist never led me down any path. She simply believed in the truth of the memories that did surface.

But how did you know it was real?

My first memory was when I was probably three. While in the memory, there were neither adult words nor understanding to explain the pain. The truth my body told, and the anguish pouring out of me, could not be manufactured. I have no doubts. Once the memories were processed, the related triggers vanished—proof of the connection between the abuse and the triggers that had plagued me all my life. Many of these triggers are explained in the following pages.

So, you have no doubts about the truth of your memories?

Oh! Thank you for asking this question! Anyone who studies memory knows things may not have happened exactly like you remember them. In my case, there were many false cover memories (flat memories without emotion) to hide the real memories. In every one of them, I was brave and strong and escaped danger. Most of the time, it was illogical that a child, teen, or young adult could have escaped the situation, but my story convinced me. I never said these false versions of the memories in EMDR—even when I wanted to do so. I was a child and while the memory may not be exact, there is no question but something happened—something involving very traumatic sexual abuse. My body told the story during therapy, triggers made me live the memories my entire life, and once I faced the truth, there was nothing in me to doubt it. In fact, it finally made sense.

Didn’t remembering make it worse?

This is exactly what I would have thought, but the process of EMDR takes the power out of the memory by releasing it so it can be understood by the adult self. Integration was not possible until the power was removed from the memory.

What is integration?

The first step to becoming one whole person happened to me the day in therapy when I became aware of the three adults who had been living in separate compartments in my brain. I saw them and they saw each other. One of my therapist friends called it a “perfect three-point landing.” Recognition happened again and again as the alters entered my conscious world. I knew them immediately and could describe each of their personalities. So the first step was awareness. Then we had to find out why they had been created or split—always trauma of some kind had occurred. Once the trauma was healed, if they were twins (one who lived and one who held the pain), they could become one or integrate.
Integration only comes through healing—the split remains because of unprocessed pain. Shifting is a survival skill. I could not have held all the pain in one person.

The process sounds very complicated—how long were you in therapy?

I almost hesitate to answer this question. If someone is heading into therapy, he or she often wants to know exactly how long it will take to be helped. That’s an unanswerable question. I thought I would be “outta there” in a couple sessions. My denial makes me laugh; but in reality, the time it took me to reach integration was unbelievably short. It is very common for people to say eight to twelve years! That seems realistic! It is complicated. I completed the integration of the three adults in less than six months, but was sometimes in therapy for seven to eight hours in a week. What we did in so short a time was literally impossible! To say it is possible or recommend it to anyone would be irresponsible! I did not know how to do this any other way. We all knew this was true. Once the problem presented itself, I attacked it with a vengeance. It was necessary for me to give up almost everything in my life to heal; and I lived through months of hell—while still working. Most of that period of time is a blur. Without my writing, the memory of the deep processing would be lost.
So, never do what I did! Go slowly. Take time. Take breaks. Stabilize. Then go back. Slower would have been better for me; but I didn’t know any other way.

Is it hard for you to go back and read what you wrote during therapy?

Sometimes. Most of the raw processing was accidentally deleted. Those raw documents would probably be difficult to read; I did not have a clear sense of self, probably because of the extent of the trauma which created such a disorganized state. Much of my raw processing was transferred to a version of the story in which my identity was carefully disguised—a method, which distanced me from my own pain. I’m saving the volumes of material related to the psychological process of healing, for a later book. It is a very messy process, but true healing cannot happen unless someone is willing to get messy. Getting messy is something we almost always avoid, probably because we think we are the only ones who ever had such awful thoughts. Part of my sharing my messiness in this book is to tell others it is OK—you are not alone. There is so much fear. We need to help each other feel safe.

Is there anything else you would like your readers to know before they read your Brave books?

It is important to say my parents knew what happened to me at three but made choices based on the era in which they lived. My father loved me, and my mother was incapable of being the mother I needed. They both on separate occasions said I was “difficult” as a child. Yes, I imagine I was. It is also important to know I was born in 1953. What happened to me (multiple times) was unthinkable. As children, we were taught to respect adults and obey them. I had no words to describe what happened, and my perpetrators told me no one would believe me. They were right. Therefore, I used every possible God-given coping mechanism to survive.

It is hard to listen to you and not believe you.

(Laughing.) Yes, I wish I could just sit and talk to anyone who is skeptical. My openness and clear honesty is a gift. I have nothing to gain personally by sharing my story—except to help others.

Thank you for sharing so openly with me today. I do think this interview—and your BRAVE books—will help others to understand more about dissociation. I wish you the best as you continue to live out your life.

~(Excerpted from the book, BRAVE: A Personal Story of Healing Childhood Trauma)

The Long Cold Stare of January

JANUARY

A captive to granite gray stare,

I shiver and hunker there.

Clouds shudder also and

shake loose frozen crystals

flashing slivered light.

Now silver gleam the gazing eyes.

I rise unblinking, captivated.

As I awoke from sleep one morning, these words came distinctly to my mind: The long, cold stare of January.

I don’t know where those words came from. But they came clear and definite and stayed with me. I wrote that phrase in my journal, thought about it a while, looked outside at the wintry landscape, then composed the (above) poem.

I live in northern Colorado. January is our coldest month. And it is a long month, 31 days. The cold, short days and long nights can make one feel captive. It is a season when people, those who can afford it, like to travel to places like Mexico, Florida, or Spain. Other people may dream of warm beaches during January. But the weather often keeps us indoors and isolated. One can feel captive.

One can also feel captive in an uncomfortable way when people stare at them. Cold stares are especially disconcerting.

Feeling trapped, fearful, impatient with your situation can make your outlook seem hard and gray. But, truly, there is beauty in every season. Opening our hearts to “see” that beauty can turn those cold, gray eyes to a silver gaze.

Contemplatives speak of the “gaze” of the face of Christ that holds, sees deeply, and can draw out the inner radiance of one’s true self.

Recently I was reading a story that described the “silver” eyes of some Scottish Highland folk. I had never heard eye color described as silver before. Polished silver is not necessarily a cold-looking metal. A warmth seems to gleam from deep inside.

Hidden in every hard place is hope. If we look for it with eyes to see, it will eventually gleam forth; and then, rather than be captives we may become captivated by the presence of love and even joy.

~Catherine Lawton


Photo by Kacper Szczechla on Unsplash

This post was first published at Godspacelight 1/18/22, here slightly edited.

Bobo, Ouyang, and Susan: Experiencing Community

Beauty, comfort, and caring community can come to us in surprising ways.

Ouyang is a Chinese friend of our author Susan Elaine Jenkins. They became acquainted while she lived and taught school in China for many years. Ouyang appears in Susan’s memoir SCANDALON: Running From Shame and Finding God’s Scandalous Love. If you read Scandalon, then you know how Ouyang helped Susan adjust to life in China and how Susan helped Ouyang better understand Christianity. Their conversations shared in the book are deep and moving and show God’s hand at work across cultures.

So I was delighted when Susan and Ouyang contributed a story, “Bobo the Hedgehog,” to our most-recent release, The Animals In Our Lives: Stories of Companionship and Awe.

“Bobo the Hedgehog” relates a moving childhood experience of Ouyang during the dreary days of the Communist Revolution in China—a period of time with very little beauty, comfort, or caring community. Seemingly by accident Ouyang found all those things—beauty, comfort, and caring community—when he happened upon a rare thing, a rose garden, one of the few gardens sanctioned by the government. And inside that “secret,” gated garden was a kind old gardener who befriended Ouyang. When the old man found a hedgehog by the river, he kept it hidden and let it be Ouyang’s “pet” for a while until the risk became too great and the hedgehog was released back into the wild. But the comfort and joy a pet hedgehog brought to the boy never left him and became a part of who he is today.

The kind gardener (however clandestinely) sharing the creature with him, at a time when families were not allowed to own pets, a terrible time when starving people were eating whatever animals, including pets, they could find … is the type of experience that can give needed hope to a child in a bleak environment.

Ouyang’s childhood memory, written for him by Susan, provides a rare glimpse into what life was like in those difficult times. It also gives a glimpse into the life and character of the boy who became the man, Ouyang.

Soon after The Animals In Our Lives was published, Ouyang found this little hedgehog (pictured above with him) on a river bank. Happy, formative, hope-giving memories again flooded back to his heart and mind.

Ouyang’s story of “Bobo the Hedgehog” is one of many included in The Animals In Our Lives, that demonstrate how animals of all kinds can give us companionship, the experience of awe, and a sense of God’s presence.

 

 

“Go and be amongst them as my very self.”

Jesus came to show us what God the Father is like.

I was reminded of this truth today while listening to an audio book of sermons by George MacDonald, the 19th-Century Scottish author, poet and Christian minister whose writings deeply influenced C.S. Lewis.

In his strong belief in God’s relentless, fatherly love for all He has created, MacDonald proclaimed beautifully:

What more could the living God do than to send…this Lord Jesus Christ, His own eternal bosom friend, being His very Son, saying:

Let them see what I am like. Go, and be Myself amongst them. You can do it because you are my son.… They are my sons; but they cannot understand the Father until they get some idea of what the real son of my heart is. Go to them and dwell with them. And suffer them. And let them do anything to you they like so that they may see what I am, who from morning to night am serving them and doing all that I can do for them. And they won’t believe me. Go and be amongst them as my very self.’

And so he came.

Formed in the womb of Mary, birthed in an animal stall, hailed by dusty shepherds and star-gazing magi.

Jesus’ coming is what we both celebrate and look forward to during these days (that Christians call “Advent”) leading up to Christmas.

Jesus came to show us that God is with us and God loves us.

We writers seek to express this beautiful, life-giving truth in beautiful compositions of words. Lyrics of worship songs and verses of Psalms touch our hearts. And a beautifully crafted poem lifts our hearts in expectation, realization, and celebration of “the present and the presence” of God’s Love in Christ.

For that reason, during Advent we at Cladach are sharing with our followers, readers, and friends “A Poem A Day.” I myself am enjoying spending five minutes each day reading a poem and listening to the poet read it. Each one reminds me in fresh ways that, in Jesus, God came to “be amongst us as His very self.” The creative imagery in poetry reminds me that something very solid, very immediate, very physical yet very eternal and spiritual has happened!… Is happening!… Will happen!

During Advent, each day we post a new poem, in print and audio, to help us experience this immediacy of the meaning of Christ with us. Click HERE for A Poem A Day during Advent.

In addition, a video featuring five poems from the week is posted weekly on our YouTube channel.

For God so loved the world!

 

 

The Animals In Our Lives

Photos of furry creatures and social-media videos of cute animal antics … books and movies of animal adventures … these are popular because they evoke feelings of wonder, memories of beloved pets, joy and excitement of wildlife sightings, or perhaps sensory experiences of a trip to the farm. Here is what I believe about our relationship to animals:

• Animals are our fellow creatures, loved by the Creator.
• Animals can provide companionship, inspiration, and comfort.
• Animals can teach us about the Creator and how to relate to God.
• Animals provide metaphors of our lives that help us understand ourselves.
• Animals (especially those in the wild) represent elements of Mystery.

God cares for his earthly creatures. He created them, blessed them, called them “good.” He saved the animals from the Flood and then made a covenant with “every living creature.” Many Scriptures display God’s care for animals. Old Testament laws protected animals. Jesus’ parables affirmed and spotlighted them.

In God’s Creatures: A Biblical View of Animals, Susan Bulanda asks: “Is it possible that God has put the desire to care for all animals in the hearts of many people … God’s love for his creation showing through humans?” Later, she adds: “Could there be subtle lessons of love God gives us through our pets?”

I think you will recognize these reciprocal lessons of love—some subtle and some not so subtle—in the stories, poems, anecdotes, and reflections included in this volume.

Sometimes animals are mirrors for us to see ourselves more clearly. I have found my dog to be a barometer of my emotions. His responses tell me when I am getting anxious or when my words sound too harsh; he responds much differently when my tone of voice is sweet and cheerful. It makes me feel bad to see him put his ears back and watch me with a worried expression. It makes me feel good to see him wag his tail and smile at me.

Animals, both wild and domestic, also help us by calling forth our sense of awe. As Thomas Berry has said, we need all of creation, including the animals “to evoke a world of mystery, to evoke the sacred.”

I continually wonder at the wilds of nature that can thrive alongside, often in spite of and struggling to adjust in the midst of, the civilized, tamed, domestic world. When a bird comes close and sings, when a deer steps out of the forest; these surprise sightings thrill. Finding myself sharing space with a wild creature, aware of each other, watching each other even for a moment, is a reminder of not only how different we are, but of what we have in common. Both the animal kind and my kind have breath. We communicate with body language and voice. We walk, run, choose mates, nurture families, search for food, seek shelter. And when we share moments of awareness and attention, the resulting experiential knowledge surely changes or affects us both in some way (hopefully not making us more fearful of each other), perhaps increasing our appreciation of our common creation.

We also share our lives with pets and, sometimes, farm animals. Our human friends learn to accept our animals as “part of the deal.” In a deeper application, the slogan often seen on kitchen towels or plaques, “Love me, love my dog” could, I think, be re-phrased “Love God, love God’s creatures.” Theologians have said as much, and more.

  • Celtic saint Columbanus exhorted, “Understand, if you want to know the Creator, created things.”
  • Orthodox scholar Maximus the Confessor taught the idea that creation (as well as Scripture) is God’s book. “God is ‘encoded’ for us in everything he has made. We are surrounded on every side by his ‘letters,’ his ‘analogies’ in creatures….” Our part is to care for, as well as give attention and respect to, the creatures, and even to praise God on their behalf.
  • Protestant evangelical theologian (and bird watcher) John Stott wrote, “God has given to human beings a midway position between himself and the animals. … In consequence, we combine the dependence on God that is common to all his creatures with a responsible dominion over the [animals] that is unique.”
  • Catholic writer Charles Camosy adds, “Nearly all theologians now agree that the biblical dominion God has given human beings over creation is not a license to use and dominate, but rather a command to be caretakers and stewards.”

I am thankful for all the dogs, cats, fish, chickens, ducks, birds, as well as the rabbits, squirrels, and deer that have been part of my life at different stages. I have cared for them, learned from them, and shared life with them. Many times when I or my family were facing challenging times, our hearts and spirits were lightened because the animals were there.

God, of course, is always there, everywhere, ever present to us; but God, who is spirit, does not have a corporeal body with skin, hands, and feet. Animals (as well as people) help God help us feel our loving, relational God’s presence.

With all this in mind, I enjoyed compiling, editing (and writing a number of) these often-funny, sometimes sad, and always awe-inspiring experiences with animals. I hope our readers enjoy these stories, too. You may find yourself laughing, crying, and appreciating more than ever God’s creatures, the animals in our lives.

~Catherine Lawton


Image credit: © Can Stock Photo / Gajus

This blog is extracted from the Introduction to the book, The Animals In Our Lives: Stories of Companionship and Awe. The book contains delightful accounts of people with their dogs, cats, sheep, horses, backyard birds, woodland deer, and many other creatures. Our animals—pets, farm animals, and wildlife—inspire our awe, entertain us, help us, teach us, play with us, mourn with us, even work with us. Any animal lover will enjoy this very readable book.

 

Living Creation

Stepping into the garden

We plant gardens, come what may.

In the Garden a few years ago

Every morning we look out the window of our home office and see our vegetable/flower garden, and on most days we see the Rocky Mountains rising in a solid, constant backdrop to the view.

Last fall the mountains were hidden by wildfire smoke that settled over our Northern Colorado area (and much of the western states, too). We were reminded that, though nature is given to bless us and for us to steward, we cannot control it.

We’re thankful for those who manage well the wild forests, rivers, and grasslands. And here at our home place we continue to care for the piece of earth entrusted to us, and we seek to persevere with the hope and patience we learn from Creator God who brings sunshine and harvest, cycles of seasons and rains, maintains the stars in their places, and every spring calls forth new life out of burns, decay and dormancy.

Life will winlove will win … as we commune with, cooperate with, work with our living, loving God who is actively creating and re-creating.

This is a theme I feel called to share through writing and publishing, featuring …

 

Holy Stillness

Treasures of Darkness : Holy Stillness

I have found that spiritual, emotional, and physical healing can begin even in times that are darkened, cold, alone, silent … when I still my heart and contemplate the “treasures of darkness” (Isaiah 45:3). One of the sweetest treasures of darkness is the realization that we are not alone. This realization encouraged me anew this winter as I contemplated that nature also experiences the waiting that has become more acute for us during a pandemic winter.

In much of the Northern Hemisphere, at least, we have been waiting for lighter, warmer days of nature’s renewal. And during these days of Lent we also recall, again, Jesus’ crucified body waiting in a dark, cold cave of death. When Jesus “woke up” in that cave of a tomb, did he open his eyes to darkness? Or did his open eyes, his very breath and resurrection-life energy, shine light into the darkness even before the stone rolled away? John wrote that Jesus is the light and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

We can experience moments during periods of waiting that are holy, even healing. One morning this past winter I sat in meditative prayer in a corner room of our basement. That room has two windows with below-ground-level window wells. During the summer, toads and tiger salamanders dwell in the window wells. My grandchildren like to look for them. During winter, these denizens of the deeps dig into the earth and wait in darkness, finally emerging again in late spring. On that cold, sequestered pandemic morning I was thinking about these creatures—and my own sense of waiting—when this poem came to me:

Holy Stillness
There is no heartbeat
in a seed
Yet life waits
in that brittle encasement
as surely as in the stilled
breathing and slowed
beating heart of
toads and salamanders
in winter deeps and
sleeping bears in caves
Waiting, waiting, we wait
in lengthened nights and
chilled soil and cloistered suns
for warmer, lighter, moister days
to dawn
From on high—and pulsing
in the depths—we hear
“Wait… Wait… Be still…”
and “Coming—
I did, I am, I will.”

~Catherine Lawton


(This post was first published at GodSpace on 3-27-21.)
Photo: Ehud Neuhaus / Unsplash
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