Waiting to See

Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody.  Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,” and he would have meant the same thing.

John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

It’s so easy to look through my own peephole, the one that fuels and is fuelled by my doubts and fears. The one that sees mostly what I judge to be lacking. The one that doesn’t trust—trust myself, trust other people, or the universe—all the places God is.

I fear that things won’t work out.  I doubt that others are capable of figuring out what is right. The bottom line is that I tell myself a story of woe instead of living the story of grace.

So, for today, I want to widen my lens.  To wander a bit… 

Today is the first day of Advent, a time of being open and waiting to see. Once again, I will begin this journey.

In the lectionary passages for today (Isaiah 2:1-5 & Matthew 24:37-44), I was guided to see that those people, the Israelites and the disciples, were waiting, too. And just like me, they were looking around through their fear and uncertainty. I like to think that the message that the Prophet Isaiah and Jesus taught them was to wait and watch through another peephole.

Four years ago at the beginning of Advent, I wrote that I’d asked God for guidance to let go of the fear that undergirded the subtle things I did and said in my desperation to manage how I saw others. That way of seeing tears down people and relationships rather than build them.  What keeps me from looking through that other peephole?  

Paddling Dreams

I’ve been writing this story for eight weeks.  You see, I didn’t understand what put me over the edge. 

Perhaps, it was that all of my excuses weren’t working. Perhaps, it was the time I’d spent watching others doing what I wanted to do.  Perhaps, it was the prospect that I could go beyond my worries that keep me from doing all kinds of things, even less risky things, like making a phone call or speaking to my neighbour.  Perhaps, if I knew what held me back, well, I’d probably think of another reason I couldn’t…

I live on the tip of Vancouver Island, surrounded by water. I’ve surrounded myself with images of paddle boarders on note cards, in magazines, and just blocks from my front door there are real-life ones launching their boards at the inlets by the marina. For more than a year, I’ve waded in the seawater most months and, on a few occasions, even dipped my whole body in the colder-than-comfortable chill.

I wasn’t necessarily looking for insight into my experience.  I’d wondered plenty about why I held back from doing what I imagined I could do. In an episode of “On Being” podcast, Father James Martin’s words caught my attention. The way of Ignatius was about finding freedom. The episode titled “Finding God in all things,” explored the practices of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I kept listening.

Fr. Martin said that Ignatius wanted us to be free of anything that keeps us from following God.  He mentioned those things as “disordered attachments.” I’m not sure what that means or if my longing for the water sport that has consumed imaginative energy over the years, counts as an attachment or as following God. 

I have vivid visions of myself on a stand-up paddleboard, my bare feet skimming the water as I consume the spaciousness and wonder that would surely envelop me.  That particular dream doesn’t seem like an attachment that would hinder my relationship with the divine.  What holds me back?  Maybe, there is more to uncover.

Father Martin explained freedom in a way that kept me wondering.  He said that I might need to let go of some things—things that prevent me from doing my ministry.  I suppose I don’t think I have a clear “ministry,” since that was defined by my job and now I am let loose from that identity. However, there are things—inside and outside me—that keep me from connecting in my world, that keep me from being open, trusting, and unselfconscious about measuring up and being myself.

One way to let go of something is to experience it, he said.

My desire to stand up on a paddleboard in the Salish Sea may not qualify as “my ministry,” however, I did feel like those words, experience it, were directed my way. But hang with me for a few more minutes; I still had more to learn about why I did not just try it, years before.

I believed it was fear that was disguised in all my excuses. And it wasn’t really fear of the deep, unknown, cold water.  When I consider my excuses, “I don’t have anyone to paddle (or learn) with” was one I often used. But the truth is that I didn’t ask. I didn’t know anyone who paddle-boarded and that was technically true. However, I live a few blocks from the marina with a paddle shack. I regularly walk by vehicles adorned with a rack of paddleboards on top and a logo on the door advertising their business to satisfy longing people like me.

It is not fear of cold water or those bobbing seals, but another thing that is open to exposure– my self-consciousness to risk my imagined competent self, to show my vulnerable unsure-ness—that is paralyzing and makes no sense. Maybe, I’m reluctant to show up for something just for the joy of it.

I experienced the same thing when I walked by the “Know Yoga, Know Peace” studio in the town where I lived many years ago.  The door was open when I walked by on Saturday mornings on my way to the Farmer’s Market.  I confidently read the menu board of the day’s classes wishing I knew what those titles meant.

I’d imagine myself in that serene place instead of standing in front of the yoga instructional video in my living room. I wanted to unlock the secrets of practicing in that candle-lit studio where no chit-chatting was allowed. I only imagined the accomplished version of me, not the one who would learn and grow in that community.

Yet, it was only a few months until I walked through the door with my ten-dollar yoga mat ready to risk my illusion. I showed up in February, committed to something I was reluctant to begin as a Lenten discipline. I went for 30 days and was rewarded with an extra free week for my faithfulness.  In that deep-hued room with a picture of Jesus and all the other representatives of major faith traditions on the wall, I made the journey to meet God and myself in new ways.

You’d think I would have remembered that experience and made the connection between my yoga story and my paddling story. I am wrangling these words to sort out why I still hesitate to go against that instinct to protect or even limit myself.  That is where the next part of Ignatius’ wisdom cracked my armour.

One way to let go of something is to experience it. 

Agere Contra, to act against, is necessary.  Sometimes we have to act against our instincts to do what we actually really want to do.  Ignatian Spirituality explains that we can deliberately choose to go against what our tendency might be, tenancies like my self-consciousness that protects the illusion of my perfect self, that hold me back. 

So, I signed up: Friday, 12:00 pm, on the north end of Willow Beach. 

I’d window-shopped the South Island SUP website many times. I’d seen the black vehicle with the logo on the side and paddleboards near the water when I walked the beach or the dog.  In mid-February, I stood on the shore of Roberts Bay in my winter coat and followed six dots across the water as they grew to full-sized paddle boarders landing right in front of me.  Well, I stood back a little to not seem like a voyeur.

With expert guidance, I did stand up with my bare feet inches from the surface of water that didn’t seem so cold.  We headed out to an island of seals that seemed farther than I could imagine—I, too, would have been a dot seen from the shore. But, I didn’t get there. My paddling skill and the strength of the tide returning cancelled my steady progress forward. 

I did learn to turn around and paddle back to shore with the tide. I kept my eye on a crab trap buoy to mark my forward progress.  We paused to sit down on our boards, look around, and rest in the spaciousness. I slipped off the board to practice getting back on.  It didn’t count, though, since I could easily touch the bottom to give myself a lift.  It didn’t matter; there would be another time.

My paddling dream is a prayer, opening me to a new way of being in divine relationship with all things and particularly the part of the world I inhabit right now. I see the exact shoreline I walk daily from another view.  I experience that newness by letting go, if even for a few hours, of my hold on myself.

Wonder is a divine gift we share—if I allow it.  Richard Wagamese wrote in One Drum that when we allow a sense of wonder, something magical happens within us.  We believe we can transcend our difficulties and old pain.  For me, the gaze is beyond the traditional ways of seeing my longing and belonging in Christ.

God is in all things—even my banged-up toes that skim the surface of the salty water that circles the entire earth.

Mitch took this picture from shore when he waited for me. I AM one of those five dots paddling back after watching the sunset from the water.

Linger to Listen

If I really keep my eyes peeled and my ears open, if I really pay attention to it, even such a seemingly limited life as the one I live will speak to me.  That’s what he showed me, in ways that I couldn’t have envisioned.  Frederick Buechner is an extraordinary gift to my life.

The man, Buechner, died this last week. His life will continue to share the vividness of his message that is fleshed out in stories from his own life and the lives he created in his novels. Listen to your life, he explained, is the essence of everything he was trying to say as both a novelist and a preacher. So, I’m listening to my life because he showed me how.

For the past four years, I’ve lived with the beauty of the natural world front and center. The ways this physical place communicates with me are startlingly sensory and have their own pattern of revelation.  

I have said many times that living in Victoria is a gift we’ve been given.  The abundance of life, masses of rock teeming with substance, shoreline, water, and sky never appear the same. I’ve come to depend upon the unfolding of my generative relationship with this place.

Eudora Welty writes that the events of our lives happen in a sequence of time and find their own order of significance that “is a continuous thread of revelation.” For me, that revelation comes through a pattern of wondering, sensing, experiencing, and noticing that there is something to listen to. Reading and writing weave together the threads.

Usually, well always, I wonder about things.  There are a few questions that are perennial:  What do I do?  What does God do?  What just happens?  I don’t expect to hear an answer.  I suppose a lifetime of measuring keeps me asking.  I am sure these are distracting questions. Listening is not an answer but a way of making a place for ourselves to belong.

This summer, we have experienced some of the lowest tides in years and so much of the rock usually below the water is exposed. I’ve walked out a bit farther and observed the life that clings to those rocks. I look closely into the slippery verdant patches where I can’t safely walk. The birds can, though. That blue heron rests on one edge for a time, and then I spot the four oystercatchers. 

The birds’ black bodies show off those long red beaks and fleshy legs and feet. I hadn’t seen them for a couple of months. I suppose they were taking advantage of the bounty the exposure provided so they lingered.  I took time, too, to watch them. 

At first, I wasn’t certain the sound I heard was coming from those shorebirds. The sharp loud cry hung in the air.  I looked up, expecting to see a crow flying overhead.  The oystercatcher’s beak was indeed opening into the air.  I sat down to listen and take in the spectacle. 

Oh do you have time to linger…

Little did I know how it would take me a few more days to remember; to remember again the gift of persisting in that moment.  How could I not sit down on that rock and listen?  That’s also the day I read Mary Oliver’s poem “The Invitation.” 

Savouring Mary’s insight, I heard that my own flamboyant birds, those oystercatchers, did not strut and call for my sake or the man near me who also stopped to wonder about the birds. They did it for the sheer delight and gratitude for the snacks the sea left them when the water changed course. 

There is a pattern, dare I say, to how God speaks through my questions, experiences of each place, and, yes, other people’s words that open me beyond my limited way of seeing the world.

The birds and rocks and water teach me how to live in this world—to soak up this place in delight and gratitude.

Believe us, they say,
   it is a serious thing
just to be alive
 on this fresh morning
  in this broken world.

(from ‘The Invitation” by Mary Oliver) 

So you must not judge what I know by what I have words for. 

 From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

The Moss Lady in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC

This is the Moss Lady. My favourite place to sit in the park is on the bench hewn from a massive log that is across from her. I’m sure it was placed to respectfully take in the majesty of this spot. I started to add another image that seemed full of hidden mystery and then I remembered the Moss Lady. I imagined her ear and her palm listening to the earth. Listening for what we don’t have words to say.

I want to believe that.  I want to believe that what seems to be true and I cannot explain is real. I want to believe that God is present in my lost-ness and my longing to belong or whatever sense that is.  I want to believe that I can rest in that unknown—that I can dig all manner of weeds, read books, walk around, and gratefully lack control.

And yet, I look for tangible evidence of what does matter. How can I not know that? Because I cannot square what I choose with what happens? “What am I to do” or more accurately “what should I do” seems to be a question I ask too often. 

Every day there are moments when I connect with the Creator and when I’m really brave—with other people.  I long for those assurances, for belonging even when I cannot name what that is or how it happens.  When I’ve caught a glimpse of that mystery, it doesn’t depend on me.

Those moments are both expected and surprising and sometimes, I miss them.  I cherish a particular span of time with my Aunt Edna when my mom and I cared for her in the last months of her life. Less than a year later, I was doing the same caregiving for my Mom that made dying seem familiar and shared.  Then, I spent his last days with my Dad when weeks became moments and words were only mine–a rare thing to happen between us since he was “a talker.” My sister Lisa came to stay with me for a week when I knew the end of her life was inevitable and the end of her life still showed up unexpectedly, half a month later.

Those moments our family shared gradually accumulated to reflect our whole lives. During those days, I knew an irrational peace while time stood still. I didn’t really consider things I “needed to do;” I simply entered into what came in the next few minutes as I did the everyday things with extraordinary attention.

That collected experience might be why I spent a single night with Carolyn and her husband Harold. I’d only exchanged a few words with Harold over the years I saw them at church.  Mitch and I stopped by the hospice room on our way home that evening.  Neither of us remembers how we both decided to visit.  As their pastor, Mitch had checked in on them before but my involvement now seems happenstance.

When we arrived, we learned Carolyn and Harold’s only daughter Susan unexpectedly had to drive back home, three hours away, and would return the next morning.  Carolyn would be alone in the room with Harold that night, where she and Susan had held death’s vigil for weeks. 

I simply offered, “I can stay.”  I didn’t consider that I had not even made it home from work on that day. I don’t remember anything Carolyn and I talked about or if we shared a meal before the daylight waned. I can still see her, a petite brunette with kind eyes, sitting in the big chair at the end of Harold’s bed.

I slept in the other lounge chair and listened to Harold’s noisy breathing.  I knew about death rattles, as they are called, from Edna and then my Mom’s last days when their lungs were filling up with fluid that would eventually silence the rattling.  And that was Harold’s quiet end just before dawn. 

Carolyn thanked me for staying as we waited for Susan and Mitch to return. I was grateful, too, although I can’t explain why.  Grateful for the happenstance and unquestioning response, I suppose. Grateful for the enormity of blessing in the presence of death

Maybe I can trust this kind of unexpected turn to an ordinary Friday. I say that our lives cannot be reasoned when that is precisely what I continue to try to accomplish when I second-guess and fret over what I do and what I could do, and what just happens. Maybe I will do that a little less if I keep my ear and my palm resting on the earth like the Moss Lady.

How would I live if I attended to an experience of time that I cannot reason or control or even fill up of my own volition?  Would I relax my mind, refrain from worry and fret, and listen?

I don’t know how to explain how death made life unencumbered in my experiences.  There isn’t an absence of pain, reflection, or blessing; there is an alteration of focus.  And it is not my wondering that has a word to add.  Yet, there is the spirit of hope and healing and connection and Love that is real; LIVE THERE.

Look

Yesterday was a good morning. 

However, I didn’t wake up in that goodness.  Instead of warming up to the new light and a wide-open expanse of time on the horizon, I complained.  I worried about things that are not my business.

The day changed when I did proper work instead of looking for some elusive solution or another problem to ponder.  On a good morning, my work is to read, usually three things that are nourishing.  This morning I read an article in Canadian Geographic about Prince Edward Island’s answer to the famed Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. I would like to experience that kind of sustained walk. I read the fourth chapter of Acts from The Message; I came a little late to appreciate Eugene Peterson’s life work. I read a poem from Mary Oliver’s book, Devotion, just because she heals me.

I am always looking.

The Island Walk is a 700-kilometer journey around Prince Edward Island, one of Canada’s Maritime Provinces.  The walk was created without particular religious significance unless you appreciate like I do, the legacy of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Anne upended her fictional faith community that is preserved on the Island.  The trail promises to “discover a humbling place and to come back different.”  I copied down the article author’s sentiment that his portion of the walk left him “with a sense that if I just let things be, I will eventually get where I am going.”

In Acts 4, Peter and John talk back to those authorities that sought to silence them.  In the Message translation they answer the religious leaders,  “Whether it’s right in God’s eyes to listen to you rather than to God, you decide.  As for us, there’s no question –we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard.”

What I noticed was that Peter and John didn’t debate the authorities, telling them that they were wrong to condemn Peter and John’s response to God’s spirit.  They opened a window.  Peter and John did not manipulate or convince or threaten.  They simply told the accusers to make up their own minds.  But for Peter and John “there’s no question –we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard.”

I spend precious moments wondering why—why other people think and respond the ways they do—even when I don’t know what I’m doing.  Well, I situate my wondering as something other than what it is: I think I want to help but I really want to control; I want clarification when I’m silently judging.  What if I was about minding my own work to do?

Maybe the verb should not be that I am looking at what is clearly someone else’s concern. Maybe the verb that describes my best work is to “look” in the present tense, at that moment, just in that moment. My best work is to pay attention, to honour, to see the goodness and grace of God in the sliver of this day that I am in, the part I can touch and that touches me.

So after reading the third nourishing thing, I took a walk to the sea, to a new spot I found hidden behind the marina on the Turkey Head Walkway.  I sat on a big rock closest to the tide coming in.  I looked at the life that attaches itself to those rocks and adapts to the challenging conditions when the tide is low. The clear water lapped the shore.  I sat and watched and listened; I can count on Mary Oliver.

I go down to the shore in the morning and depending on the hour the waves

are rolling in or moving out,

and I say, oh, I am miserable,

what shall –

what should I do?  And the sea says

in its lovely voice:

Excuse me, I have work to do.

I prayed that I would recognize my work to do this day. The waiting anemones left me with the sense that I can let other people’s responses be their own. 

Gate at Abby of Gethsemani

God rest in my heart

and fortify me,

take away my hunger for answers…

                        Mary Oliver

What a perfect prayer for me today. 

REST in my heart, God—

Don’t just be here but rest here, get comfortable, take your own kind of time, relax, take refuge, lean in, don’t worry, find comfort, forget, enjoy, just be—all of those things are rest for me—are they the same for you?

FORTIFY me—

I’ve been troubled, heavy in my heart, sad, loving, and occasionally surprised, but mostly I look to the wrong things to fill my heart and mind.  Fortify seems to mean what will build me up, strengthen what I already am, and encourage what will help me face whatever comes, all the hard things.  And maybe, I will know God’s presence alongside the woe.

TAKE AWAY my hunger for answers—

My will to solve each mystery, to figure out why and when it will be fixed, healed, made new—for the better of me—and what I perceive to be true.  Show me how to let go and let God, to not make “it” my business.

But there is greater comfort

in the substance of Silence,

than in the answer to a question.

                        Thomas Merton

Instructions for Living

Today I discovered Mary Oliver’s instructions in her book Devotion.

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

So I will tell you.

My grandson, Malachi, and I were together this weekend at his house. He has developed some wisdom in his three years and I need some after 69 of them.

As the sun moved overhead, we put two lawn chairs under the tree in the front yard. When we (okay, me) needed a break from digging around the trees or playing soccer in this humid weather, I suggested, “Let’s take a break and relax.”

Later in the afternoon when he suggested we sit awhile in those chairs, I asked him, “What has been the best part of this day?”

His answer; “Relaxing.”

Watch for me

Give ear to my words, O Lord,

give heed to my sighing,

listen to the sound of my cry,

My King and my God,

for to you I pray.

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice,

in the morning I plead my case to you and watch.

Psalms 5:1-3 NRSV

My friend baked a cake for me; a chocolate one with cream she whipped and piled with red raspberries.  I was waiting for her to drop it off—no, I was watching for her.  And that is what I did, I watched. I actively looked for her. I knew I would see her when she turned off McNeil onto Linkleas.  I stood in front of the window ready to greet her when she drove up.

We live on a very narrow street that really doesn’t go anywhere.  The street is just a few blocks long, between two other streets that are more efficient for travel- if you’re trying to get someplace else in the city.  We have two large windows on the front of our house and no door—the “front” door is actually on the side out to the driveway. It is easy to miss someone coming, or for someone to miss our house hidden behind a large evergreen, but it is here, the first house on the street. 

A day or two later, I read this Psalm and noticed how the Psalmist asks for God’s attention: give ear, give heed, listen to the sound of me.  In turn, the psalmist will plead and WATCH.  I think this choice of verb is significant. I’m not a Walter Brueggemann but I take care with words.   So often we tell ourselves to wait; wait for something to happen, wait for God’s action or some kind of answer.  Several other translations of Ps. 5:3 say to “wait” but I’m holding on to “watch.”

There is a sense that after we “plead our case” in the morning, we spend the rest of the day actively watching.  Watching – not trying to figure things out or simply waiting while we’re distracted by something else, but staying present to see and enter into what is already here. 

See the goodness that is part of watching for where and how God is already present and be there.  That presence is in the reassuring words of a friend, the startling wisdom of a three-year-old, and the kindness of my own 40-year-old child.  That presence is in the sadness that I cannot explain and in circumstances that turn out okay.  And in every changing color and shape of the sea and sky, through the delicacy of the white fawn lilies in the woods, and reflected in the camas that came up through the gravel outside my back door. 

On the nights we say compline, we repeat this Antiphon:

Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

Watch with Christ.  This isn’t a solitary adventure.

If you see me…

I suppose the word “zoom” has always been a verb (and imitates a sound). I remember the word trailing a racing car when I read to my young son.  Before I remembered, I was going to begin this piece with this question: do you remember when “zoom” became a verb?   A verb as in the sentence, “Do you want to zoom or meet in person?”  Just to be clear.

Early in the pandemic, we met together, worshiped together, and I even joined my yoga class via Zoom from the comfort of my own bedroom.  A pet or child might make a brief appearance and shift the conversation or at least my attention.  I noticed couches and wall art and bookshelves.  Books seemed to be a popular backdrop; some people even turned certain books forward so I could read the title. I occasionally admired peoples’ kitchens and rested in their messy corners.

Now, I’m taking a continuing education course at the local University, “Writing your sacred story.”   We are in our fourth week and the group is small; fifteen of us zoom into class every Saturday.  While several of us live here in Victoria, our teacher is leading from Pender Island and some are attending from the other side of the country, from Toronto and Ottawa.  One participant joined from Costa Rica when we met together for the first time.  Yes, online expands our access and I wonder how this reach shapes how we welcome one another.

Before that first class, I checked my camera and sound to make sure they worked.  I also determined if the light was right in the corner I chose to sit and tilted my computer at just the right angle so that my whole face was visible, not just the top of my head.  I must admit I took note that my ‘background’ was a bare corner; no one would see my own messy bookshelves but I decided that was okay.

A few people in the class layered a beautiful background scene behind them. I figured out one participant must live near me since she introduced herself by referencing her background photograph of the very bay I’d walked by earlier that morning.  Another person took care to blur the room and only their face was in focus. During class writing time, we were invited to turn off our cameras for 20 minutes or so, I suppose as a way to focus on our task.

So, here is the real story.  

For 30 seconds, each person is “seen” up close as they introduce themselves or share an insight.  During the class discussion some, of course, talk more than others. I might take note of my impression of them or look at the room where they were sitting, or some detail about their bookshelf or wall decor or messy corner. However, a few days later when I was sharing my own experience in the first class with a friend, I had no recollection of several of the class members, even though I’d written down all of their names.  I knew there was a man named Jim or another woman who had her childhood journals but I couldn’t recall their faces. 

During the second class, we each shared how our in-class writing exercise went.  Lucy, one whom I hadn’t quite remembered, shared that “zoom life,” as she called it, allowed her to really look at people.  She said she stared at each of our faces and really looked at us.  She laughed that she really couldn’t do that if we were all sitting together in the same room. During the freewriting exercise, Lucy had unexpectedly created a character out of one of those faces she had been intently watching.

I was amazed at her sincerity—no, that’s not quite the word.  She wasn’t looking at what kind of room I was in, what picture I chose to hang on my wall, or wondering about those things I’d chosen not to show or replace with a beautiful landscape.  She wasn’t wondering if that office I seemed to be in was my work or my home.  She was looking at me.

Lucy captured a way to focus on the face of the person she wanted to hear, the face of the person she wanted to know without the surround we planned, to look unashamedly at me with my self-consciousness in full view.

In the introduction to Listening to your life, Frederick Buechner wonders about the felicitously chosen compilation of excerpts.  This kind of book that we keep by our favourite chair and dip in and out of is a good one when the words sound like a friend talking.  I wonder if that is what Lucy wants to see something that familiar on each face. 

As Buechner explains,

…not so much that tell me something new that will keep me awake, puzzling over it, as the ones that will help me see something as familiar as my own face in a new way, with a new sense of its depth and preciousness and mystery.

I believe Lucy is one who sees something in my own not-so-familiar face in a new way.  To see, even me, as someone familiar and see me with a new sense of my depth and preciousness and mystery.

Fishing

Humankind is like a wise fisherman who cast his net into the sea.  He drew it out of the sea full of small fish.  The wise fisherman found among them a large, good fish.  He threw all the small fish back into the sea and chose the large fish without hesitation.  Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.

The Gospel of Thomas, Saying 8

The gospel of Thomas contains the sayings of Jesus in the wisdom tradition.  I find the simple rendering of Jesus’s sayings leaves more room for me to walk around, to connect Jesus’s words to my own lived experience. 

I believe that one thing, the large, good fish, is to love and be loved by God.  I believe that relationship of love comes into our lives in tangible ways—maybe, reading and writing to witness that presence is one of those ways for me.  It is a way of observing the world that doesn’t have to be figured out. 

Instead of an act of judgment in the sorting of the catch that is explained in a similar story in Matthew’s gospel (13:47-49), the simple saying of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas expands the possibilities for fishing in my own life. I am distracted by many things. Many of those things are good, but nonetheless distractions. Perhaps I will recognize the “big fish” when I give my attention to those things that make God’s abundance easier to see rather than focusing on the mass of little fish that take up too much space.

In this morning’s sunshine, I decided to sit in my swing amid the “gardening” I’ve been doing.  I looked over the newly transplanted rhubarb freely offered by a friend I haven’t seen since last fall. I felt the promise of the jasmine I’d planted behind me.  I saw the places that are almost cleared of weeds for now and the places I still need to attend.  I noticed the new green that has been resting all winter.

The bigger of our two apple trees in our yard is getting ready to blossom, the tiny leaves unfurling, and some almost buds are visible.  The smaller apple tree is a little farther behind, still bare to my eye.  However, a hummingbird has discovered something of new life in what look to me as just nubs. The tiny bird hovers just a foot from me, probably wondering when the sweet jasmine flowers will be available.

Sitting for these precious moments in the morning brightness, it is easier to experience what it means to hold on to that big and good thing and let go of the little fish that pretend to be bigger. 

And then, I find some words to share that unsayable thing with you.