Category Archives: Journal

The Gift

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I write this morning to the sights and sounds of a squirrel having been traumatized by a Cooper’s Hawk who tried to have him for breakfast. He is now sprawled out on the side of an oak tree, tail quivering and barking at a bird of prey that almost ended his life. The young hawk, clothed in the kind of feathers that represent an immature bird, after unsuccessfully obtaining breakfast, came and sat about 20 feet from me, right after the sun had risen, unaware that I was so close.

They are called “Thin Places” in the Celtic tradition of spirituality.  A “Thin Place” is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God. Just now was one of those places. Another is from my most recent visit with my pain doctor and I wanted to share that particular thinning space. There is a Celtic saying that “heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller!”  I had returned home from an appointment with my pain doctor, parked my truck, and reached over in to the passenger seat to gather whatever paperwork and stuff the doctor had given me before exiting my truck.

The appointment had gone well for the most part. I had brought with me on this day an article that had been written about my pain struggle and my portfolio of previous art pieces. As a side note, I want you to understand that I look at my portfolio with a strong sense of sadness. It represents a time when I could sit in my shop and work endlessly with little or no pain as I completed the beautiful art projects represented in the pages of this book. This time for artists is called a “zone”, where an artist can sit in one place and mentally and spiritually go to another place that allows for greater creativity. My pain often prevents me from going to that “zone”, unable to stand after a few minutes of work or unable to focus on the project.

I had taken the portfolio to allow the doctor to see what it was that was at stake in my work with him and he was so very much impressed. The pictures reflected not only just fancy art pieces but it reflected a gift that I have always acknowledged to be straight from the living God, pictures of thin places represented through my creations. And now the gift if not gone, is certainly leaving quickly. For you see, I go to my shop and it now becomes more difficult than ever due to the pain and shortness of time by which I am able to do what I have loved. Am I depressed? Oh yeah! More depressed than I can express to anyone who reads this. I have watched my life as it has grown more limiting in what I can do and I keep yelling to the God of gifts, please pull me off of this ride, please! Please help me to continue in those precious thin places!

After getting home and pulling into the driveway, I got out of the truck and looked down and low and behold there it was; a feather. I had no room in my hands to pick it up so I went inside, threw my belongings down and returned to its resting place. I bent over and picked it up, holding it in my hand, and I knew exactly who it had belonged to; it was from a Cooper’s Hawk. It was a primary feather, the feather found on the outer part of a wing which gave the swift flying bird the ability to do what God had empowered it to do. I held the feather by the quill and stroked the hair-like fibers, going first against the flow and then grooming the hairs back in place. This was not just a simple feather my friends, It was and is a thin place.

One of the topics that I am grappling with is how do I continue to create. The pain has all taken its toll. The surgeries have all taken their toll. The depression has taken its toll. And here in lies the beauty of a simple molted feather. It is that time of the year when birds are molting and getting prepared for what the next season lies ahead. If it is waterfowl or songbirds, they are being prepared to fly the distances needed and the strength for the fall and winter through the shedding of old feathers for new ones. If it is a bird of prey, it is dropping old feathers and growing new ones that will help it to be able to fly and attack whatever is needed for sustenance, able to do and be what God has created it to be.

So how do I know that this is the feather from a Cooper’s Hawk? A few years ago I carved and painted a flying Cooper’s Hawk that I titled “Amazing Grace”.

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I had been inspired to do the carving as I observed a Cooper’s Hawk on the grounds of the church where my family and I were attending. I was in the midst of one of those “life transitions” and was asking God for a little bit of clarification. In the midst of this all, I became a constant observer of this Cooper’s Hawk and even named her Grace. I watched her dive and chase songbirds and squirrels, sometimes successful, most times not, but the whole of the events of this time, throughout the weeks and months of watching her, was nothing other than a spectacular “Thin Place”, the space that God had given to me where the veil was lifted and I was able to experience the glory of God.

Now, instead of the bird, instead of watching and being inspired by the acrobatics of a beautiful raptor, I was holding a molted feather from its wing. Suddenly for me, the thin place became a little thinner and the veil between dirt and spirit, between suffering and rest, between heaven and earth was ever so slightly lifted. My pain doctor, I am convinced, is a gift straight from God. Over the last three months, I have “molted” the levels of narcotic pain meds, molted some attitudes regarding my pain, suffered less, become more hopeful, found new treatment options, found a new pain counselor, discovered more possibilities for treatment, started vitamin supplements, taken more control of my pain management and am feeling less disabled. Am I cured? Oh heck no. Do I have less pain? By all means! Do I wrestle with all that lay in front of me? Yes! But at least now I am on a journey that I am able to see and experience good options for treatment and maybe even a molting of old flight feathers for new ones.

  

 

Re-Stood

Oil on Canvas

The greek word Anastasis from which we derive the English word “resurrection” is really interesting. I am not alone in appreciating this word especially if you have lost a loved one too early or have a debilitating issue and even this day that the Lord has made has been made because of one who re-stood, relived, and revived. The word literally means to stand up again. Oh how I love that term especially knowing where my legs are going now!

Paul talked about believers who would literally stand again by the power of the resurrection if they believed in the “standing up” Christ, post death, pulled down from two sticks, transferred to a stone tomb, the two ton stone rolled away, re-standing next to God and us too someday! That’s us believers, but somehow, we who have been re-stood up keep going and sitting down again. That is not what we are supposed to do if somehow we believe in the re-stood up Christ who lives right now, in the living spirit of a God who expands our existence and the universe every second, minute, hour, day, month, and year.

I battle with my own existence. I get caught up in a time that was, where I stood up because at times now, the prospect of literally re-standing after even sitting down hurts like you wouldn’t believe. The faith that we hold on to tells us however that one day, we will again stand, risen, new legs and the whole bit.

Sometimes movies tell the story of our Christian faith in ways that we have to use our minds to dig in to. So the movie “Avatar” depicts a guy who is a parapalegic who cannot stand and through the use of a fictional being, gets new legs; gets to run, dig his toes in the cool moist dirt, and look up into the sun and laugh. He gets re-stood on new legs.

We are literally re-stood in this life because of our belief, asked to go forward, with new legs, not backwards, with whatever in the heck we have that may or may not work. Forward. Re-stood. Misunderstood at times because the love we are asked to carry and walk with. Mind, fractured body; faith, yet again, found not in whatever we don’t have but in someone who lived and died and stood again who asks us to do the same. It is the day the Lord has made, rejoicing most of all because, on this day, he and we will be restood, raised again, out of the tomb and ground, and even poured into the mason jar for pete’s sake!

Forward.

Find me at www.kerrysmith.me and Kerry@kerrysmith.me  moving forward.

 

 

A Gentle Resting Place

Release!
Release!

This is the day that the Lord has made. But isn’t every day? Our lives are not our own. We claim all kinds of stuff as ours including the actual breath that we breathe. It is not ours. It does not belong to us. We rent it. We rent the space between our ears, the space we walk on, the attitudes we express, the thoughts we think. We can rant and rave and yell and fuss but at the end of our days, we have a certain number of those days, preordained by the living God and none of it, not one little iota of it, belongs to us. But we sure do think so, don’t we? Enter the parable where Jesus talks about the wealthy farmer who was so satisfied with the status of his life that he built bigger barns to store his stuff in, only to die in the middle of the night. We may believe that we know and have a lot, but in an instant it can all be taken away.

Yesterday, in my desire to do something less difficult than stomping around in a swamp, since it is the opening of duck hunting season, I decided to do something less strenuous like bow hunting for deer, which I have little confidence in and little previous success. Oh don’t fear, Bambi would be safe and besides, I needed something to protect me from marauding bands of squirrels that may try to chew my leg into a nub.

Unable to climb into a tree and looking for a place to sit, while walking through the woods in the predawn darkness, already in pain and hoping that this precious time would help to alleviate some of the stress of my journey with pain, I fell. Yep, landing gear up and in slow motion, I landed; touchdown! Only the landing strip was right on my crossbow! Not sure what all the cracking was upon my graceful landing, but as sore as I am today, I think it was at least some of me. I think my crossbow got it too though I won’t know until later today. Believe me, the killing of something was not at the forefront of my noggin to start with; it was the fact that I could go outside and meld into the life of the natural world. Oh, I melded alright, right into the freshly made mud from our latest storm. It has left me sore. It has left me realizing something else; our life just is not our own!

An owl let out a string of hoots that sounded more like a deep, hysterical belly laugh. I think I was the object of his sickly joke. The crows found him right after daylight and made a mockery of his attempts to hide, telling everyone within miles of earshot of his potential murderous desires. The wood ducks flew and squealed in their excitement for finding a few acorns in the swamp that I inhabited. The mallards quacked and chuckled, circling and looking for a place to land for their early morning breakfast. The robins awoke, chirping with the acknowledgement that an invader was present. And in the world I now occupied, I realized, no matter how much I have gone through and am going through, I was small. I was a simple little piece of a bigger puzzle that was around me.

I would never think that what I go through as a curse by God. It has been a journey of questions with no answers, of denial and acceptance, of frustration and disappointment. For each of us, in our attempt to control everything that skeers us to death, suffering comes to us. But do you know what else it is? This damnable pain is a gift! It is a gift where the model of my existence has been pulled apart like a box of Legos and is being reassembled into something different.

What that is, I haven’t a clue but one thing I do know; I realize that the footprints of my existence on this rotating rock is small and is only made relevant by acknowledging the presence of a God that walks with us in the midst of our suffering and pain. I may have cracked my bow. I probably cracked my spine. I definitely am reminded that in our imperfections and suffering, God is as close as the laughing owl and barking squirrel.