A Time-Out

February 7, 2023

What could be better than a trip to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum on the coldest day of the winter. So far, that is. The temperature was well below zero, but the first day of the spring flower show enticed us to bundle up and treat ourselves to color and creativity and promises of the season to come.

The day before we had received some unexpected and unsettling news, (Thanks for worrying, but I am fine and so is our whole family.) and we needed to take a deep, cleansing breath.

I needed to step back, even if for only a brief time. Not in denial. Not in false comfort, but as a reminder of the varied ways God is visible. Pausing in front of each of the displays, the easy rhythm of my breath was restored. Instead of my mind swirling with questions which I had no way to answer, my heart beat, steady and sure, invited me to be present to the beauty in front of me in that moment.

Later, while having lunch in the arboretum dining room, the beauty of the present moment continued, but in a surprising way. The dining room was full of colorful plants and artwork, but what drew me was the view out the large windows. The winter view on that cold, cold day.

Chickadees filled the bare branches waiting their turn at the various bird feeders. Squirrels performed gymnastic feats as they attempted to pilfer what was not meant for them. Downy woodpeckers seemed still, stationary, on the suspended suet. And cardinals–three of them, dazzlingly lipstick red against the expanse of white– feasted.

This was what I needed. I thought what I was after was some relief. From winter’s intensity. From what ached in my heart.

But what I really needed was the clarity of those bare branches full of life. The movement of God could not be missed as I looked out the window. Yes, I oohed and aahed at the colorful, let’s pretend it’s spring displays, but the winter view was reality, and it was just as stunning.

I’ve been reading Prayer in the Night, For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep by Tish Harrison Warren, who is an Episcopalian priest. The book examines phrase by phrase the compline or evening prayer.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake.

The Book of Common Prayer

In the chapter on suffering, Warren writes, “The suffering need soothing, not just numbing. We need real hope, the kind that can carry us through the night.” p. 131

I delighted in the spring flowers, but I found hope in the clarity of the bare branches.

Earlier in the week I bought forsythia branches. The branches were bare, no blossoms yet, but over the next few days, look at what happened. What was bare is now full with delicate, sweet yellow blooms. Once more I witness the movement of God.

An Invitation

Where has God been visible for you in these winter days? I would love to know.

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