The Playground and the Meadow

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The playground has a castle and a drawbridge and three slides and a climbing wall. There are tire swings and baby swings and regular swings and even big red chair swings the adults can sneak onto if there aren’t a lot of kids around.

When we’re at the playground, my kids are wild and rambunctious and run around yelling and playing and leave every ounce of energy there. The surrounding fence keeps them IN and they swing and slide and climb and run and there’s just so much to DO there.

The Meadow is a wide-open space with exposed granite and a gentle stream. It was made to be a ‘backyard’ for our mountainous neighborhood full of wild hills and forests of trees. There’s one pond and one picnic table and six Adirondack chairs. The stream has tadpoles and the pond has rocks at the bottom from two summers ago when my littlest toddled over, crudely tossing in every pebble he could find.

An army of trees circle the Meadow – more a protective shield than a boundary line – and cast long, lean shadows over the stream and the pond and the exposed granite. In the late afternoon, the sun peeks through with a wide smile like it’s trying not to get caught in a game of hide and seek.

In the Meadow, my kids imagine they are Susan and Edmund exploring Narnia, defeating the White Witch valiantly. They chase butterflies and bring me dandelion bouquets and pretend the big oak is their secret hide out. He chases after her, desperate to be big like she is, and she holds his hand as they cross the slippery rocks so he doesn’t fall and scrape his knee yet again.

In the Meadow, there isn’t as much to DO – there are no swings, or slides, or castles – but there’s so much to BE. In the Meadow, they are free to Be imaginative, Be together, Be relational, Be intentional.

They have fun DO-ing together at the playground, but love BE-ing together at The Meadow.

“He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most.” Psalm 23:2-3

I get caught up in the doing of the playground, too. My playground is ministry and work and friends and family and home. It’s joyous and blessed and holy and necessary. It can become a playground of To-Do’s though, if I’m not careful.

Read the rest over at Compassion That Compels today!

Being Trees

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The neighbors are up this weekend and their fire wafts the eighth of a mile from their chimney to this porch. It’s twilight and the sun is retreating and the onset of night sends its milky blue haze over the leafless trees, and somewhere off in the distance is the gentle hum of a motor…soft and almost indiscernable. The clouds cover all the sky…except for a thick band across the mountaintops that is peachy…no, purpley…now it’s almost gone.

This is a magic moment, a holy one.

My husband is driving home and my daughter is cleaning her room and my boy is curled up on my bed with a slight fever. It’s just me out here on this porch marveling at the thick band of sunset that dances on the mountaintops.

I’m struck again at the beauty of the empty trees — trees that bear no leaves, no evidence of their fruitfulness. Just twisted trunks and spindly limbs intertwining in a stunning silhouette against a milky blue sky. As I sit and listen to the distant hum and watch the sun fade, the stillness of the emptiness is achingly beautiful.

I only see these mountaintops in the winter — when the leaves have fallen into soft piles at my feet. I only see these mountaintops and this thick band of sunset when the limbs stop trying to hang onto that which needs to fall. And through the twisted and spindly silhouette, I see majesty and beauty and am in awe.

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The ashes at my feet have been replaced with a crown of beauty on the mountaintops — bigger and grander than the leaves the trees themselves bore the rest of the year.

This stillness — here on this porch, watching this sunset through these silhouettes — this stillness is deafening. Not the silence, but the stillness. There is no breeze, no wind. No leaves raining down like snow as it has most other days. Just tall, stoic, empty and bare trees that almost seem to be afraid to breathe for fear that something else will be taken from them…they feel poured out.

I think we’re the trees, yet we’re trying to be the mountaintops. I think we try to be majestic and beautiful and awe-inspiring for God, when we’re really supposed to be twisted and spindly and empty…so that through us others can see. I think we mourn the falling of our own leaves and fruit — but yet when they’re gone, it allows God to be seen through our silhouette. We’re evidence of creation, but we wave our leaves and obstruct the view of the Creator Himself.

I think we’re the trees.

Winter creeps in and whisks everything off limbs and we feel poured out. We feel poured out and empty and we hold our breath for fear that something else will be taken from us. We stubbornly grasp at single leaves that remain on our spindly limbs, unwilling to let the gentle breeze of the Spirit blow it off so new growth will soon come.

We try to be mountaintops; I don’t want to be a mountaintop anymore.

This stillness is deafening. The stillness of stopping and grabbing The Moment that’s been extended out to you unexpectedly — the one that crops up when your daughter is cleaning her room and your boy is curled up on your bed with a slight fever. The stillness of seeing the beauty in the bare, seeing through the bare and off into the distance.

It’s deafening.

Because when you stop to listen in the stillness, God’s presence is so thick you can’t hear anything but majesty and beauty and awe.

It is a magic moment, a holy one.

We are the trees.