Tag Archives: stars

the ground remains


The weather has finally permitted for my backyard in the evening to transform once again into a glowing outdoor room. A friend of mine and I sat around the rickety wooden table under balls of chicken wire and lights puffing our pipes for nearly three hours this evening.

In my day to day schedule, I like to pretend that I am too important, so I don’t have time for moments like these. There’s no space for propping my feet up, bringing the music outside, lighting up a cigar and laughing, talking about ideas, and wrestling with what we are learning as it is shaken and stirred with who we are becoming.

But tonight, even though as it approached I felt as though I didn’t really have time to indulge this gathering with a friend a needed to catch up with, it was in fact exactly what my mind and soul needed to find each other again.

The work is good. The meetings and projects and plans and research and people are all good, and there is progress toward good things no matter how tenuous or temporary it may be. The calendar pages are flying off the wall faster than the second hand on the clock is ticking, but I am keeping up as best I can nevertheless.

There is something quite magical, and humbling, and ultimately holy and important about stopping long enough with another on the same journey to realize that when I prop my feet up, the ground remains. I am not holding things together, but merely participating in their newness. The meetings and projects and plans and research and people are all good, and for me to be a valuable asset in the mixology, I must make the intentional effort to take time to prop my feet up with thoughtful and entertaining and humble friends. I must hear their questions and see what they are thinking. I must join them in wrestling with their own demons and delights so that I can, in the morning, put my feet back on the ground and start again.

The ground, however, remains. The tasks are still there. My momentary pause from standing on my feet to push ahead is a reminder that I am not the one holding anything together. Propping my feet up every once and a while makes the work a little more honest, a little more true, a little more humble, and a little more holy.

So cheers to the rickety wooden table in the backyard on a brisk evening under the chicken wire lights and stars with good people on the same road.

Pine Tree

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with your interfering and your promises

Unlike the other gods
you are not satisfied with holocausts
and the sweet smell of smoke.
Unlike the other gods
you do not let us be
but come and pitch your tent
with ours and sniff out
all we do. You are not satisfied
to have us satisfied,
to leave well enough alone.

No, you sent me out,
an old man, with your interfering
and your promises, and all your countings
of the stars and my son’s son’s sons.
You might have picked a better man
to fall before the terror of great darkness.
Twice, fear for my life
passed my wife off as sister.
Why not, with her barren womb?

And then a son. In my old age a son.
You do nothing like the other gods
and so I know you are my God
and my son’s God and my son’s sons’.
I do not understand the stars
uncountable in number;
nor do I understand you.

I wept. And when,
after all, you did not accept my sacrifice,
the ram brought laughter home.


+ “Abraham: With Laughter” from Madeleine L’Engle’s The Ordering of Love

Pine Tree

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the in between time

I got a lesson in stars a few nights ago. Camping underneath the South African sky in Franshoek for a couple of nights, I found myself one evening settling into the sleeping bag, staring up at Orion on his head, the bright Southern Cross nestled near the thick Milky Way smear across the sparkling sky. I knew that it was moments like these where existential thoughts come. You hear them referenced time and again: “Underneath the stars, I looked up and decided right then that my life needs to …”

So I waited.

I closed my eyes again–a hard close like we do when trying to reset our thoughts so we can find what we are looking for–and opened them again. Same breathtaking sky, still no existential question or declaration born.

So I waited.

Nothing. I passed out for the night.

The next morning, we stumbled out of sleeping bags and tents and strolled in together, faces, hair and clothes not put to rights. We made coffee for each other. We laughed heavy laughs before ever brushing our teeth (or, at least I had not yet brushed mine).

I have had three weeks of this kind of in between time, and the size of my world has grown bigger because of it.

Coffee and tea made for each other first, ugly thing in the morning.

Deep laughs on the way to and from the school and market.

Back yard stillness that’s almost too dark to make sense of, but the sense of it is clearly very, very good.

Walks through the commons. Walks through the forest.

Laughs that turn to tears ordering items on menus, cradling bicycles, and sitting around with the boys over a beer.

The endings of conversations where it’s clear that people have seen each other.

Words about work and hope and pain with feet dangling in a tiny pool on the side of a mountain.

It’s the in between times of work and play that add up to those existential realizations that something else is always brewing in the world of ours, something holy and real, something a bit thicker than what we are aware of at our worst, and a bit richer than those things we finally notice when we are at our best.

Thanks, Craig, Liesl, Caroline, and the kiddos for making me at home, and for challenging me to live into the great news of the kingdom. And for teaching me that it’s the lesson in stars itself which ends up being the existential moment we wait for.

Thanks for the in between times this month. They have born in me great courage.

Cape Town

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