ALTHOUGH THE LIGHT IS OUT

 Pond, Clayton. “The Kitchen in My Former Studio.” 1968.

Pond, Clayton. “The Kitchen in My Former Studio.” 1968.

the light is out above the kitchen sink,
so cleaning is harder.
this thing is true;
the light is out above the worktable of my heart,
attempting surgery in the dark.
soap, water, brush, rinse.
air dry.

later, on the drying rack
dishes are still dirty.
this lack of light, unbearable.
more soap, more scrub; no difference.
there are always bits left behind
and I must wash again.

oh, to stop scrubbing
my own heart
and let Love
wash it clean.
no bits left behind
although the light is still out.
a perfect clean,
although the light is out.


I stumbled across this, written over a year ago, as I was searching my archives for the perfect first post for The Mustard Seed Conspiracy. At the time I wrote it, I was living in a house whose kitchen boasted but one single light, two bulbs, in the center of the ceiling. On dark winter evenings, I’d wash my dishes and think them clean, only to wake up the next morning and see them in the light - still dirty. My weary disgusted-ness at gross bits of old food are how I feel when I discover my flaws resurfacing time and time again, no matter how I try to amputate them. The annoyance of re-washing dishes over and over mimics my continual frustration at being human, at my endless attempts to get it right and the mistaken feeling that perhaps I could, if only I could see a little better.

The last stanza reflects my best hope for myself: that I could live as God sees me, relaxing into His love and letting it cover over my multitude of sins.

FALLING

 Photo: K. Dagen

Photo: K. Dagen

she resonates with the fall trees,
as they whip about in the fall breeze,
feeling small among these tall trees,
eager to shed off the death in their fall leaves.


eager to shed off the death in her fall leaves,
she resonates with the fall trees.


she clings to her belief
like she clings to this forsaken leaf,
shed by the fall trees
being whipped about by the fall breeze.


being whipped about by the fall breeze,
she clings to her belief.

 Photo: K. Dagen

Photo: K. Dagen

the crisp air reveals her breath
as she gazes and reflects on this beautiful death.
each color of leaf
a different shade of gold, a different hue of grief.
just like them she’s changing.


just like them she’s changing.
the crisp air reveals her breath.


in breath, she heaves
a sigh
of relief,
like the breeze
in the fall trees.
in death, she believes.  


there’s beauty in the  f
a
  l
  l
 i
 n
g
.
.
.

HUTCHMOOT

 Photo: K. Dagen

Photo: K. Dagen

I am finally able to sit down in silence with this piece of scrap paper covered in scribbles of half-processed and fast-written thoughts; a slight drizzle drips outside, a cup of hot tea in hand (although where’s the crisp air?), and a cuddly kitten on my lap (who can’t quite seem to decide if she wants to stay or go).

Yes, I can write now.

The top of the paper says “Hutchmoot.”

After five years of dreaming about it, I was finally able to make it to Hutchmoot. That’s a long time. Also, it seems, the best time. A year earlier would have been too soon. A year later, possibly, too late. I entered into Hutchmoot at the tail end of stripping so many things away that don’t belong to me or who I am. I arrived at the precipice of entering into a truthfulness, staring down into it from that cliff of doubt and practicalities, but filled with the courage to finally jump. I knew deep in my spirit that this weekend would give me the wings to glide off. I knew that I was ready.

Yet, as I entered the doors of Hutchmoot on the first day, paging through all of the books, observing the artwork and listening to the conversation, an all too familiar voice whispered to me, “You don’t belong here.” The lie is deeply rooted in the fall of humanity. This lie I have been tempted to believe most of my life. Many times I have reached out and chosen this lie. Many times I have accepted it. I have chosen it out of self-doubt and perfectionism, thinking I could never be good enough. I have chosen it out of protection from opportunities and dreams and people and relationships that I long for and love deeply, that mean so much to me I would break to be rejected. It’s a lie that has usually left me on the outside looking in. This is a lie that seperates.

 Photo: K. Dagen

Photo: K. Dagen

Thankfully, the spirit of Hutchmoot is a Kingdom spirit. Thankfully, the Kingdom spirit sings over the lies. The lies feel stupid amidst all the beauty, and they leave. They quickly realize they have no power, even to the smallest of humans, standing on the edge of the cliff, peering off into the abyss below, wings strapped on tight. The fog below ebbs in and out, giving way to patches of intense clarity. Yes, there’s something down there.

I hesitantly walked into the auditorium on the first day for the first plenary, not knowing what to expect, only to be quickly and warmly scooped up by Hutchmoot veterans before I could even find a seat. I would soon find out I was in a place where the welcoming speech mostly consisted of comforting all the introverts. A place where people don’t ask the dreaded, “So what do you do?” - but rather, “What do you create?” or  “What do you write?” or “Why are you here?” A place where even the chef is a writer, and even the meals are immersed in story and meaning. I was in a place where you don’t have to constantly be on the lookout for “your people” because you’re already surrounded by them. A place where every form of artistic expression is deeply woven into each other.

I was in a room full of resonators, and the ring of our notes playing off of each other was loud enough to drown out a thousand lies.  

And the truth is, if I don’t belong there, than I truly don’t belong anywhere. Hutchmoot - it’s essence, is mission, its values, its people, its joy, its community, its passion, its vision, everything! - embodies who I’m becoming as a person. It embodies who I’ve always been. It embodies who I am.

I am a writer. I am a creator. I am a servant in a Kingdom of beauty, with the gift of the eyes to see it, and the responsibility to show it to others.

Hutchmoot gave me the permission to create. It said “YES” to all that needed affirmed. It surrounded me with a group of people to cheer me on, some from the top and some from the bottom, as I leap off of the cliff.

So here I go, awkwardly winged, into the fullest of truths.

The Voice that I love says, “Welcome home. You have arrived.”

SNOW

 Photo: K. Dagen

Photo: K. Dagen

Outside -
a shovel scrapes;
panic.
No.
I want to be the one,
I want to be the blessing.

Layer up;
hurriedly.

Dig, scrape, lift,
labor -
for me and for my neighbor.
Let me be the blessing.

Don't watch,
don't look,
I need this more than you.

Irritants
give way to shame;
overcome by my own humanity.
Even my best attempts are ugly.

No stirring, no movement.
Apart from me all is still.
I labor.
But the world waits.

Quick to bless?
No, quick to mess.

 

My shovel only interrupts a work that is not yet complete.
Neglecting
to see the smooth subtle beauty
before it's destroyed by human frustration;
all for me and for my neighbor.

The snow keeps falling.
It covers over all I've done,
and gives me the grace,
the space,
to try again.

Outside -
the snow falls;
peace.
I wait.

SINNERS AND SAINTS VI

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The omnipresence of God does not rely on our feelings. We can sit and be still and rest in the presence of God without actually feeling him. His being does not rest on our state of being. His love is not swayed by our state of responsiveness. We can be confident that his love towers over us, even when we are not overcome with the same emotion. We can still declare that he hears us, even if we can't quite seem to hear him. We can trust that he still searches and knows the thoughts and needs of each mind and soul, even on the days when its hard to utter a single word to him. 

LIGHT

 Photo: K. Dagen

Photo: K. Dagen

the most precious resource 

on december 21

is light.

 

and on december 22

we exhale, assured

that today there is more of it

and tomorrow even more and 

more and 

more after that,

until the world is 

aflame with redemption.

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
— John 12:46

These words of Jesus' came in the midst of a confusing time, a deciding time, in which those who had been hearing his teachings and believed him had to decide whether they valued their own convictions over the praise of men (Pharisees). His words are a statement of hope for those struggling to break out of the chrysalis of expectations their Jewish world had built around them.

Yet, only days later this hope appeared to end as Jesus died a criminal's death. But as we know, this end was not in fact the end, but a fulfillment; it was not just the death of Jesus but the death of death's ultimate power over humanity. 

This story of hope is familiar to us, as are Jesus' words about light. But on the Saturday before the resurrection, it was not yet a story of hope. It was a story of darkness.

Often the story of our world seems like a story of darkness. In Advent, a season of waiting and longing in our chrysalis for the light to break through, the weather and the church calendar can appear to agree: the world is bleak and dark.

But December 21st, the winter solstice and darkest day of the year, is like the Saturday before the resurrection. Except unlike the disciples in the first century who weren't sure what the next day would hold, we know! Even when we don't see evidence of what is hoped for, the complete restoration and redemption of the world, we know Jesus has come - and so we hope and we wait for the light to increase. We bask in hope like the light of the sun, which we cannot create, but only behold and enjoy.

The light is coming, the light has come, the light is growing longer and brighter every day. Jesus is the light. He is coming, he has come, and he will come again. On literal and figurative winter solstices, let us remember he is still at work in the world. Let us be people who love the light, who live in the light, and anticipate the amplification of it.


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BY SALLIE MCCANN

Sallie lives and works in Lancaster, Pa. She loves the natural world, reading, writing, walking, and her fiancé. Her undeniable passions are Mary Oliver, tea, and talking. Sallie shares her poetry on Instagram @sallieforth