Later there will be time for maneuvering traffic. Later there will be time for phone calls, emails, meetings. Later there will be time to see people and remember to smile, just in case they haven’t seen a smile in a while. Later there will be time to clean the windows and floors. Later.
But these next few minutes shall be for appreciating the way the steam from my coffee dances into the morning sunlight. These next few minutes will be for a few prayers whispered from my heart in the morning silence. These next few minutes are for stillness and gratitude for this day, knowing “later” will be here so quickly.
Sometimes, the birds in this back yard play peek-a-boo. Singing and chirping their greetings from the deep cover of the bushes, or just out of sight behind the branches of the trees. The resident cardinals are especially good at keeping hidden, despite their briliant red feathers.
This week, however, they seem happy and content to be seen, and I absolutely love seeing them.
My grandmother, Ava, was the one who began and encouraged my fascination with cardinals. She was a wise woman. If I can only remember half of the things she told me or I overheard her say during the short years I knew her, I should be fine.
A quick glimpse of a cardinal has always been special for me, but an afternoon of these beauties allowing me a few pictures is enough to make me smile for a long time. All but one of these pictures was taken through the screen as I tried to not disturb the birds too much. So (giggle) these are literal “Screen Shots” .
Birds aren’t known for staying still long, of course, and these are no different. Eventually they left to survey other areas. Perhaps looking for nesting sights, perhaps looking for food, perhaps just enjoying the afternoon sunshine, perhaps all of that and more.
So, having whispered my timeless wish upon first sight, and spending time enjoying their lovely company I settled back onto the porch with my afternoon coffee, and made myself a note to more often remember to focus on the beauty and peace in these little everyday moments.
Early in our youth ministry season, I received a call from a senior at a nearby university seeking an opportunity to observe a class in our program. After our standard background check and an interview, she quickly became part of our group and settled in with the eighth graders and a few of the best mentors in a youth setting that anyone could ask for. The youth love seeing her. The volunteers love seeing her. We all love seeing her.
I remember walking into the lobby at our first meeting and having this beautiful young lady ask me nervously ask if her service dog would be allowed to stay with her. I couldn’t believe she would even ask that, and I felt sad that she had ever had to ask such a question. The dog and I became great pals, and we’ve both been placed in time out for playing while she was on duty, but only once, we got the message.
Today she and I sat down at the same table where we held her first interview. This time, however, she was interviewing me for her class. This was a final step in completing her project. Her time with us is drawing to an end.
Before she left, she let me record a short little “goodbye” video for the youth from her. Ah! What a beautiful soul in such a caring young lady. She is going to be so missed.
There’s a deeper point to this story, however. I can’t remember the number of places she told me she had contacted about observing, but she told me I was the only person who called her back. To those who did not call her back, I would say two things: First, you missed out on an incredible opportunity to get to know someone and help her pursue her goals. Second, thank you, because you did not return her call, she found her way to our program. Her presence, I know has enhanced our classroom group and I hope the experience has been enriching for her as well.
These young adults with whom we’re entrusting our future need experience, need encouragement and need safe places to pursue opportunities. If you are in such a position to offer those opportunities, I would ask and encourage you to consider doing so. I can only imagine, and I may never know how this young lady will impact the lives of others in the future, but I believe she will be a powerful force and great asset wherever she chooses to be, and we were blessed to have her observe and be part of our program for these weeks that passed far too quickly.
This evening I was on the back porch, aka my favorite room in the house, reviewing the events of the weekend with the amazing young people with whom I have the privilege of working over the weekend, and checking the calendar when I realized it is the last Monday of summer. Autumn is scheduled to arrive Friday! A couple of things happened nearly simultaneously: a sweet text from an old friend to schedule coffee & catch up time, and a strong sunbeam streaming through the leaves.
Both drew me away from my “business” immediately. Gears were switched, focus was redirected I stepped out into the summer air and turned my face towards the glorious sun rays.
Some sunsets paint the sky in vibrant colors. But sometimes…..sometimes the sun slips below the canopy and directs the late day rays through and onto the leaves. Today was one of those days.
If you missed it, perhaps you can enjoy these few photos, these evening views through some of my favorite trees.
I love it when sunlight breaks through these old trees. It’s as if the rays carry whispers from God saying “I see you, now look towards me”. And so, I will.
Welcome, friends, to this last Monday of August 2017.
It’s different, you know, when Monday is your day off. The world seems to be in such a rush; everyone has so much to do as the new week begins.
Meanwhile, my focus is on a coffee cup and how few words I can speak.
Soon enough, I will be searching the news for the hopeful and reassuring actions in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and other situations happening throughout the world.
But not yet…..
Now it is time to sit quietly with ancient prayers and fresh coffee as the rays from the rising sun reach through these old oaks and bathe the back porch in soft morning light. And I will stay here, where the morning light dances, as long as it lasts. At least part of this morning’s ancient prayer comes from St. Augustine (354-430) “O Lord, my God, Light of the blind and Strength of the weak; yeah, also, Light of those that see, and Strength of the strong; hearken unto my soul, and hear it crying out of the depths. O Lord, help us to turn and seek Thee; for Thou hast not forsaken Thy creatures as we have forsaken Thee, our Creator. Let us turn and seek Thee, for we know Thou art here in our hearts…..”
The rest of this morning’s prayer is a whisper of overwhelming deep gratitude and thanks from the core of my heart and depths of my soul, sent forth on the morning breeze with true intentions and hopes that it may grow as the rest of this day unfolds.
Be safe out there, everyone. Look out for one another. Saint Augustine, pray for us.
Soon enough it will be time to leave the back porch, but not just yet…..
Today was one of those rare, cooler than normal summer days here. The late July breeze seemed determined to dance with the leaves, swaying the green ones that held firm to their branches, and sending gold and red ones spinning through the air giving us a welcomed and refreshing reminder of autumn. It was the perfect day to go take a stroll alongside the Haw River in Saxapahaw, NC.
A few steps down from the parking lot, and the trail awaits under a dense canopy of full trees.
There are parts of the trail where the sky isn’t clearly visible directly overhead but today that didn’t matter at all, the reflection on the water shows the clouds moving in.
Sometimes, the light shining through the clouds, then reflecting off the leaves and water makes the entire area, even the air, seem golden-green. If today were a color, It would be this shade of green:
A little further along the trail, the clouds have moved and a little more sunlight is reaching through. Early hints of the coming autumn, golden leaves are hiding within the summer green trees, falling, and drifting downstream.
When I was younger, this part of the river was heavily polluted with dyes from textile mills, both here on these banks and upstream. Environmental restoration began several years ago and continues still. Much more information and details can be found on the Haw River Trail website. It’s really quite interesting.
On the return walk, near the end of the trail the silver reflection of the building clouds caught my eye once again. There have been sporadic showers throughout the day, but despite their impressive appearance, the clouds haven’t delivered any severe weather yet.
The stroll was nearly over when I snapped this last photo. Of all the scenes today, I think this one was my favorite.
There are still quiet, peaceful, lovely places in this wonderful world where one can simply watch the river roll and the sun set, and be thankful to be able to appreciate such moments.
It’s Tuesday here, and during this time of the year I take advantage of the option to work from my remote office, aka my back porch.
The morning and early afternoon was spent with calendars, books, and websites, listing topics and lessons for this coming season in youth ministry. It’s an uplifting exercise in planning. Serious topics with positive reinforcements to help some of the best middle school age youth I know, try to grow in their relationships with one another and Christ despite everything that will try to dissuade them as they encounter more and more of this world. I do this planning away from people, away from human chatter, away from news reports, I don’t even play the radio during this time. Even so, it is far from silent here on the porch.
Today the backdrop for this task is one of tall, old oak trees with full branches of deep summer green leaves, appearing a brilliant gold shade in the morning sunlight and nearly black in the afternoon cloud cover swaying in the soft and much appreciated summer breeze. It’s hot out on the porch, but it’s worth it. My “office mates” on the other side of the screen are a pair of cardinals chirping sweetly at the turning pages and scribbled notes, a few finches peek in from time to time and a humming-bird hovers at the bushes and seems to be interested on what’s going on as well.
These happy and graceful birds, singing to and with one another through the heat and humidity draw my attention upward. Away from the computer, away from the papers, they remind me to be still a few moments and experience the day. Soon enough the rush of a more structured schedule will return, and perhaps I will recall these moments through these words. To stand and get the camera would send them flying away, and any still photograph would not aptly capture this day of most beautiful sights and songs. So, I will stay in the heat a while longer, planning for cooler days and soaking up these most joyful noises.