Glimpses of Glory…

Why is it that so many of us feel that Christmas is bearing down upon us like a juggernaut, crushing all in its path and leaving us feeling bruised and beaten down? Could it be that it all starts too early and goes on too long? It’s not even December and yet the Malls have been filled with Christmas decorations and the never-ending music of “Frosty the Snowman” for weeks.

No wonder I have trouble remembering what this season is all about. Before I know it, my calendar is filling up with events and I’m caught up in the rush-rush, hurry-hurry, go-go mentality of the season. “Have you done all your Christmas shopping yet?” the clerk asks me as she bundles up my groceries.

And I’m overwhelmed with the feeling that I’m behinder than the dog’s tail and if I don’t get myself in gear, I’m never going to “get it all done”!

Yet, in the midst of it all, there are glimpses of glory – if we look for them. Small moments that remind us that we are on a journey to a manger in Bethlehem, not to a Christmas tree in the Mall.

I had a such a moment today in the check-out line – a long, slow check-out line. I was feeling anxious and rushed, wondering why I’m always in the slowest line in the store, when I noticed a young mother in front of me with a baby asleep in the cart. “How old?” I asked. “He’s two and a half weeks,” she said proudly. She leaned over him, her face alight with love, and gently stroked his cheek. And in that moment: a glimpse of glory reminding me that Christmas is a manger, a mother and a babe, and love.

These glimpses are all around us: a kindergarten choir singing “Away in a Manger”, the sound of the jingle bells at the Salvation Army kettle, the sight of the nativity scene on the church lawn. They’re there, everywhere, if we just look for them.

And when we find a glimpse of glory, for one wonderful moment, in the midst of the madness of this world’s commercial Christmas, all else fades away and we find ourselves on the road to Bethlehem.



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Speaking to the soul…

I play Native American (or Indian) flutes. These are simply musical pipes made from a single branch of wood, hollowed out, with a few holes down the front and a small piece of wood tied over one of the holes to direct the breath. That’s all.

The ones I play are “grandfather” tuned. That is, they aren’t tuned to our musical scales, the ones we learned to sing in grade school – do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. Instead, the notes are tuned to the basic note of the piece of wood. That means that all of my dozen or so flutes sound different from any other flute and that’s what makes them so special.

Now, I have to admit, I don’t play “tunes” on them. For one thing, few known tunes work with the grandfather tuning of my flutes, and for another, I’m non-musical and have a hard time learning and remembering which notes go where. I play what is called “from the heart”. It’s as if I can hear the music in my head first and then my fingers just go to the note. Hard to explain, and for me, even harder to believe, but that’s what happens.

When I first found these flutes and discovered that I could play them, I had no idea of their power. Over the years, I’ve discovered that there is something in their sound that transcends our usual way of listening to music. There have been some studies conducted which show that the Native American flute triggers the right side of our brains. That’s where we go to pray, to meditate, to dream, to imagine, to connect with our inner selves.

When I play for others, and my usual audiences are either people in a palliative care setting, mentally challenged adults, or older folks in various levels of care homes, I find that the flute music reaches beyond cognitive abilities and touches the deepest part of the soul. The same thing happens when I play in a church service.

The room always grows quiet. There is a sense of deep listening. I feel the music reaching into the hearts of those around me. I know that it touches their souls. And I am the one who is blessed.

I suspect that in our lives, we are given opportunities to connect with people in the same way that I do with my flutes. Perhaps it is only in simple words, or a gentle touch, or even just a smile, any of which, when done with the love of the Creator, touches deep beyond the polite surface of our civilized society.


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Holding fast….

It’s been a tumultuous couple of days. Seldom have so many people around the world been so engaged in a political debate and vote. And when all is said and done, the old order is no more and the new order, an order that will have ramifications on all of us in ways that we cannot see, is here.

I walked down by our little lake this morning. It’s one of those sunny/cloudy days when the air is soft and the ground underfoot is still damp from last night’s rain. Even though it is November, little flowers are still peeking through the layers of golden leaves that litter the ground and the moss glows a vivid green that lifts the spirits and belies the coming winter.

The lake is calm and serene this early in the morning. The scudding clouds reflect on its still surface and only the browned reeds around the margins tell of the end of summer. Out in the middle, a flotilla of ducks are busy, diving and quacking, oblivious to my watching eyes. A lone heron paddles along the margin, and I can hear the busy conversations of a flock of finches in a nearby bush. I gasp in delight as the otter suddenly appears under the board walk, no more than a glimpse of brown shiny fur in the water, and then he is gone.

As I search for another sighting of the otter, I see one perfect white water lily. The rest of the lily pads and blossoms have already succumbed to the rising water of our rainy season, and to the slow drop in the lake temperature. But this one, this beautiful white bloom, brings to mind the verse, “Consider the lilies of the field…”

And I realize that in the great scheme of things, if we keep faith and continue to work to bring the Kingdom of God to our world, if we remember that our job is only to show the face of Love to all those around us, no more; that despite wars and uprisings, political upheavals and dissension and strife, if we are like the lilies, simply Being, not worrying or fighting, doubting or fearing, if we allow ourselves to rest in God’s glory and draw courage from it, we will have done all that is required in this time of unrest and disquiet.


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Streams of living water…

They joke around here that there are only two seasons and one of them is dry. The dry season is summer, when rain can be absent for months at a time. It’s not really an issue with the locals – they’re used to it.

I’m getting used to it, too.

But, there comes that day in the late fall when the reservoirs are full and the trees and plants have soaked up enough water to last them through the year, when the lawns are green and the bushes are going through a second flowering, and something magical happens…

The water returns to the dry creek beds, the barely flowing rivers, to the culverts and the drains, to the ponds and lakes, and to every small stream and brook. Suddenly, the air is filled with the sound of running, bubbling, babbling, flowing water – a sound that had been missing during the long dry months of summer.

This morning on my walk, I realized that the moment had arrived. I could hear water running everywhere. In Sometimes Creek, so named because it only runs some of the time. In the ditch along the edge of the road. In the little waterfall coursing down the side of the rock face. In the outflow culvert emptying into the lake.

I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed the sound of water until I heard it all around me.

Our lives are like that: we become dried up and arid, feeling that our Christian walk is dull and that God is far away. We don’t even realize just how dry we are until the moment when God reaches out and touches us, and we are once again filled with the streams of living water.

Then, like the dry land, we soak it up and feel our souls expand, our spirits blossom with joy and our hearts open to God’s ever-present love.



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