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Backyard Roads

there are many little wonders to behold just outside the door

Snow and Shelties

Snow and the sheltie.

We got another six inches of light, powdery snow last night and when we had the driveway dealt with, we took to the little trails we had dug in the back yard and cleared them out, preparing them for my little buddy, my traveling companion, my little shetland sheepdog.

Opening the back door, I found the little buddy looking up at me in anticipation, almost as if he was asking me, “Can I come out there yet? Can I come? Can I? Can I? Can I?” Clipping the leash on his collar and stepping outside the door was my affirmative answer, and as soon as he reached the ground, we dashed out back and bolted for the trails. Round and round and round he went in all of his sheepdog puppy energy, rounding one corner, through another, and thumping into a snowbank if he couldn’t put the brakes on efficiently enough. As I was out in those little trails, visions of my childhood emerged.

Growing up in the Maritimes, we had winter. I remember the path stretching out from the basement door and winding around, around to the driveway. I remember the hill in the back yard, only a low one by my standards today but as a child, high enough to provide a good run on a toboggan. I remember our old sheltie, of whom my little buddy is the spitting image of, a big fella to three and four year old me.

Man’s best friend, they call them, and growing up, our canines were some of mine, and today, my little buddy curls up under my chair when I work and chases me around outside, does what I ask of him and provides many laughs. This man’s best friend, indeed.

Childhood Revisited

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Rest Easy

A drive to a childhood home involves crossing a bridge, passing from one province into another, and then on into yet another. It passes through village and city, past stop sign and traffic light. By farmer’s field and old home, off main highway and through back road, by bay and harbour and river and lake.

It’s the familiar faces of family, the aroma of turkey wafting from the warmth of the friendliest kitchen I know. It’s the sabbath after the last moments of fall have turned from future to past, when that drive from one home to another has turned from anticipation to happy reunions. Flickering candles, family photos, favourite deserts – all things I love about this particular time of year, about a little time off at Christmas.

Some seasons are well placed.

I keep saying that Christmas vacation is meant more for turning in early than sleeping in. There’s nothing like knowing that there’s no pressures for the day to help getting up early and feeling fresh.

Doing dishes the other night, this song came up on my phone:

In a few days, I’ll have to go back home and pick up my work again. Yet, work isn’t just working for the next vacation. Even on the days I wake up to a laundry list of challenges and chores, I’m promised that I can rest easy. Perhaps that’s where faith comes in. Faith that even though I fail often enough, it’s not my own efforts that earn my merit, but Jesus’ perfections, His taking my place before God. Faith that His strength is perfect in my weakness; so I can trust in His strength working in and through me. Faith that there is nothing more I can do to make Him love me more, and nothing I can do that will ever make Him love me less.

Have you ever extended unconditional love to someone? Have you ever experienced unconditional love?

You don’t have to work so hard
You can rest easy
You don’t have to prove yourself
You’re already mine
You don’t have to hide your heart
I already love you
I hold it in mine
So you can rest easy

Andrew Peterson, “Rest Easy”

 

 

Earworm

Old Haunts

Close the car door, check the time – a couple of hours before I had to be somewhere – and look up to see that row of trees I know so well. It’s been a while. And yet, that sense of familiarity that borders on vivid nostalgia did something for me, like coming home after a long time. That sort of light feeling that you get from knowing that a little bit of the load doesn’t matter so much anymore.

It’s a noisier trail than most. Joggers, kids, bikers, pets – on a nice day, there’s a fair bit of foot traffic. Perhaps that’s what comes from being in one of the city parks. Off in the distance, you can hear the highway traffic. As with anything, it just becomes part of the landscape, and I don’t notice it much anymore.

Soon enough, I’m greeted by the host of resident ducks, many of them paired off, waddling around in groups of four, six, eight, a dozen, or more. There were more and more of them as I rounded each bend, nearing the pond that was central to this park. Ah, the pond, the place to stop, to take a photo, to see the sun glittering off the water, perhaps even have a picnic. As I pass it, I start looking off to the right, into the woods. All sorts of trails go round the pond, but this was my favourite. It’s not well traveled; it’s a little past the pond, the main attraction.

A little patch amidst the brush, maybe eighteen inches wide, surfaces as I walk along. Looking down the embankment, I could see the trail – a little muddy, not particularly wide, but obviously a footpath, doubles back toward the pond. My memory had served me right. There it was, the trail, the spot that would become a long puddle to dart around after a rain, the opening through the woods to the little clearing at the far edge of the pond where the trail turned to grass.

A little further stood the spot right by the water where my bench used to be. I loved sitting there. Up to my right, during the fall when the colors changed, the sun would shine off the reds, the oranges, the yellows on the trees going up the embankment toward the highway. Ahead of me, the sparkling pond shone and ducks would be right at home in their natural habitat. There wasn’t much traffic at this particular spot, so it was the perfect place for me, the introvert to think, pray, read, write, recharge. The bench isn’t there anymore, but the memories are.

The path winds around the pond. There’s a picnic table on the other side, which afforded me the opportunity to stop, take in the cool breeze, and find entertainment in the ducks, frolicking in the water. It’s amazing – God created them, and they can just go along with their business as usual.

In that moment, I am thankful. For that place. For that city. For the memories forged there. And to the God who created it all.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Places.”

No Greater Love

The sun stopped shining. It was the middle of the day, and the sun stopped shining. For three hours, darkness reigned while the light of the sun failed to lend its light.

The man on the execution tree, barely recognizable and bloodied from the gashes and tears in his flesh, the makeshift crown of thorns that more resembled spikes, was not long for this world. Yet up there, he made provision to take care of his own mother and accepted the criminal there beside him, granting this repentant and dying man’s wish for forgivness.

Then the crowd heard a loud voice. He cried out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!… It is finished.”

Finished. Carried out to the end.

The greatest act of love.


Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. — Jesus (15:13)


There are a myriad of definitions of love. Even more ways to express it. Some are emotional based. Some are more based in personal enjoyment, liking what satisfies or pleases us, even to the point of infatuation. I love a nice cup of Earl Grey tea. A beautiful sunset. A good book. Perhaps a better term is that I enjoy those things. They make me feel good or bring some sort of pleasure.

Love requires some investment. Even those aforementioned things require a bit of investment. I have to boil the water to make the tea; I have to get off the couch to see the sunset; I have to block out some time to get into the book.

It goes beyond that. It considers the welfare of the object of the love, not just the reward for the person giving it. Sometimes the only reward one has is that one has loved. So it takes a little selflessness and humility.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. — Paul (Philippians 2:3,4)

Jesus invested himself totally and completely. He was ultimate in his selflessness; he humbled himself right to the point of a criminal’s death. The greatest love. The greatest commitment. The greatest care for others.

Jesus spent much time caring for people and their physical needs while here on this planet. Mother Teresa’s forerunner, you might say. Especially those that were not cared for by the well off and well thought of. Beggars. Sinners. Outcasts. And that care led him all the way to the cross. He cares for our souls.

What’s the thread in love? Some investment, a little selflessness and humlity, and some care and compassion.


 

“Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
who made the eyes but I?

Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?
My deare, then I will serve.
You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

–George Herbert, Love III

 

 

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “I Want to Know What Love Is.”

Not Home Yet

I pause for a moment. Hem and haw. Open my mouth part way, stop, tilt my head, reconsider my words, and try to say something that will make sense.

Eventually, an answer comes, one that is typically more convoluted than anyone expects. I hope it makes sense; sometimes it does, to me at least. I don’t really have a rehearsed answer, but maybe I should. One of these days.

To what question?

“Where are you from?”


I have never lived anywhere more than five years. I’m making the rounds around the Maritimes, round and round. From a young age, I have always understood that I am from away; wherever I go, I am from away. This is especially true since I have always lived in small town or on rural roads where everybody knows everybody. So no matter how long I stay, regardless of how many government documents I have that address on, I’m still not really from there.

Furthermore, I feel like I have three homes or so. The place I live in now. Whenever I leave school or church and say, “I’m going home now,” I go to that place. It’s where I lay my head down. Practically speaking, that is home.

But then, home is where family is. Going “home” while I was in university meant going back to the place where my parents live, where there is still a bed and a room with my name on it. Going “home” means driving a few hours, eagerly anticipating the long conversations with my mom and my dad, the aroma of my favourite dish cooking in the oven, the feeling that all, in that little moment of time, is right in this world.

But then, as I am further removed from being there full time, I feel less like I am “from” there. So I’ve gone even further back to the place listed on my birth certificate, though I’ve no memory of childhood there, having been too young to remember anything there. But I went back for my undergraduate degree and really came to love that city and people there. A while back, I said I was from there and it felt “right!”

And yet, most of the time, I still hem and haw and ponder and come up with the answer, “Well, I’m from all over. My dad’s a pastor and we’ve moved around a lot.” People nod, especially those who are from pastor’s or military families. They know.

And you know what, I’m cool with that. After all, this plot of turf on planet earth is only my temporary home, as Carrie Underwood sings, because my eternal home awaits. I can’t wait to be heaven bound and see Jesus face to face and finally say, “I’m home.”

But until then, I think on the words of Paul the Apostle:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith…  (Philippians 1:21-25).

So as I become a pastor myself, with more moves on the horizon, I look forward to making a new home where I go, knowing that I am just on my way home.

 

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Plead the Fifth.”

Ode to Fresh Beginnings

As I stare at the majestic, massive snowbank on the deck, mentally preparing for an afternoon of clearing the snow from the driveway, starting afresh after a bite of lunch, I also begin the writing process afresh.

Perhaps it’s because I have put much energy into writing for college that I find a block between me, the writer, and the parchment of the backlit screen I spend may hours at. Yet there are words, pictures, lyrics, and dreams being pent up in the little grey cells that call my head home. This new little home will house some of those words in hopes that I will hone this craft of writing.


I have called this space Backyard Roads for several reasons.

I think a back yard is a great place to spend one’s life. I grew up in several of them, playing baseball and soccer and football and ball hockey, fostering dreams of playing shortstop for my beloved Toronto Blue Jays. Digging around in gardens, pitching tents to camp in, pushing around the mower and raking the fallen Canadian leaves.

I love my bigger back yard – namely, Atlantic Canada. I firmly believe that I live in the most beautiful part of the world. Where else can you, within a morning’s drive, see the sea, flowing farmland, majestic mountains (hills to some, but they make my ears pop nonetheless), beautiful beaches, peaceful woodlands, and bustling cities? Having spent the last five summers visiting lots of little nooks and crannies around these small provinces, I also know that there are so many little gems to be discovered.

And I love driving the back roads. All things being equal, given a choice between the four-lane and the winding secondary road, I’ll find the nearest off-ramp, slow down a little, and enjoy the two-lane.

Call it a life of contentment. I don’t need to go far to find adventure, and I don’t need to get there particularly fast. After all, it’s right there in my back yard.

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