Friday, September 30, 2022

September Snapshots

The wonderful thing about September is summer-melting-into-autumn and the slant of the sun. Work finally slows down and I feel like I can breathe again. And this September I've had the gift of getting to spend a lot of time with Nick. :)




Vibes game—thanks for the second-row-behind-home-plate tickets, Brandi and Ruble! Nick and I are fairly convinced that part of the coaches' salary is based on their theatrics in getting kicked out of the game. Also, Vibes fans don't practise good sportsmanship. That has been repeatedly disappointing. The fireworks, however were amazing! Second time Nick and I have watched fireworks together this summer.





Nick and I don't have the same days off normally, so it was fun to have Labour Day off where we could actually spend a day together. We went to Twin Lakes to hike Interlaken and have a picnic lunch at the dock.



It was late in SeptemberAnd I'd seen you beforeYou were always the cold oneBut I was never that sureYou were all by yourselfStaring up at a dark grey skyI was changed
Cry 
—Mandy Moore



Post-picnic (Pic-Nick!)




Sunset on our way back to the car. . . We had to stop by the water to skip rocks and enjoy this amazing view—God sure knows how to paint the sky! We also saw a big black bear when pulling into Manitou. :)

____

The next weekend we went to the wedding of my coworkers. Their vows and celebration of the Eucharist (their first act as a married couple) brought tears to my eyes. . . And the pastor's wedding homily was both encouraging and challenging. (Not pictured: I caught the bouquet, a first for me!)



_____

Rather spontaneously, I flew to MN to meet up with Nick as he was driving home from a family vacation. We made the long drive rather slowly, but somehow managed not to take any photos! On the way, we got to stop in Omaha to see Kasey (alas, no photos of us together, either). She sent us home with a loaf of homemade sourdough bread and maple leaf cookies, and Nick shared cheese curds as we sipped caffeine and had a lovely evening. I have the best friends (well, friend and boyfriend)! In place of the photos we didn't take, here is Nick with family:



_____


I do plenty of things without Nick, too... I just don't always get photos of them!

  • I went for a long hike to clear my head and heart after a long summer stuck in my basement office.  I saw grey jays, downy woodpeckers, a stag and hart bounding up a mountainside, and way more green than I normally see in Colorado at this time of year.

  • There was an open Scripture Circle with Rabbi Noah, reflecting on the last chapter of the Pentateuch and how it is a reversal of several things in Genesis 1-2, and the completing of some things for Moses (a view of the sacred future of Israel, even though he doesn't get to Hebrew [literally cross over] with the Hebrews; finally seeing the face of God and indeed dying—having his ruach return to the mouth of God—and Drawn Out [the meaning of Moses] was put in the adamah by God Himself).

  • Then I've been working my way through the "Who is God?" Bible Project podcast. It's been very interesting and offering bigger ides and new categories to help me process the Trinity.

  • Packing and unpacking things with Lyndi as she moves into a new space and a new season of 'roommating' again.

  • Last weekend I saw a large buck on my neighbour's roof. Amazon ain't got nothing on Rocky Mountain Santa's delivery team.

  • Jeremy and Grace had a handful of us over to Celebrate Rosh Hashanah on Sunday... We enjoyed good food, lively conversation, and a very fun/funny game of Cards Christians Like. 

  • And lastly, I discovered that chiropractors really are magicians. Wow.

With that, I must retire to Dreamland and await October in all its splendour. 🍁

Saturday, September 3, 2022

My Only Remedy

 

 



Dear Aaron,

"Unmerited favor is my only remedy." Do you remember writing that to me a hundred years ago? You spelled "unmerited" with two rs, if that helps.

Four years. . . It's been four years since that September day that you left me behind. Sometimes it feels like forever ago; sometimes it feels like I just found out. I don't wake up immediately thinking that you're gone every day now, but I do think about you every day. Did you know that? Did you know that I still miss you when it rains? And when September rolls around, I close my eyes and go back in time. . . I think about all those years ago when we were prepping the Lodge, meeting everyone for the first time, not knowing we were about to become something altogether bigger than the sum of our parts: family.

This spring I stumbled across some photos from your student session at Summit...it was like finding buried treasure. You looked so happy and alive. I know you're more alive now than you ever were before, but that doesn't fix things on this side. It doesn't stop these tears from flowing. It doesn't make me stop missing you on rainy days. Or every other day that I also miss you.

Sometimes I still wonder. . . What if I had called that summer? I never got to say goodbye, you know. And while I don't think you would have talked to me, I still wish I would have tried. I wish I could have said thank you for all the things you taught me; the generosity you spilled out on me. I didn't say it then, but I can say it now: Thank you, Aaron. Thank you for Oxford, for making my world bigger and sprinkled with beauty, for giving me the chance to meet my best friend, for all those nuggets of wisdom you were always strewing about in your letters. . .for helping me like Switchfoot. 

Every now and then I see you dreaming
Every now and then I see you cry
Every now and then I see you reaching,
Reaching for the other side. . .

What are you aiming for
Out here alone?
[You] said "I'm aiming for home"

You're home. You've reached the other side. And the world is a poorer place for your relocation. I know, because I am a richer person for knowing you, and I feel your departure keenly. 

Most people don't really understand the scars I carry with me because of my love for you, friend. They don't get you—but in all fairness, I spent the majority of our friendship not really "getting" you, either. We shared some similar sadness, loneliness, and loves. But you were and always will be light years ahead of me in perception. 


When it comes down to it, until the Kingdom comes fully, grief leaves us bleeding and broken, with unmerited favour as our only remedy.

❤ always,
Johanna

* "Red Eyes" Switchfoot, Jon Forman 

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

August Memories




I sure like this boy...


Most of August has been spent in my office shipping loads of curriculum and listening to audiobooks. But on Monday nights I escape the office and spend the evening with Nick. :) 

We've watched a good chunk of The Chosen season one, trekked to a waterfall, had an impromptu sushi picnic at the park, shared a couple of dinners with friends, and listened to an owl while watching the stars through the clouds over Garden of the gods.

I'm looking forward to no overtime and being able to make it to small group more regularly with September around the corner... But I'm especially looking forward to hikes and autumn skies, trees, and scents. 🍂 

Until then...

Friday, July 22, 2022

The Waiting is Also the Gift

 



This is a poem that I can't write yet,
I find that I don't know this truth—
I only know that it rings true
with all its resonance inside of me

All I know now is the melancholy
of holy waiting—the ache of longing...
Longing to belong to someone,
someone who is mine like no one else

I want to ring all the bells
inside someone else's soul—
to give them my soul and body
for always. I want them to stay...

My biggest fear is that someone
would know me—all of me—
and then leave, taking my soul
and breaking my heart to death

Will I ever learn that
the waiting is also the gift
Or will I simply feel
like it is always the hardest part?

Will I ever get to fully give
someone else my open heart
and have them care for it? Will they stay
when who I am should scare them away?


If waiting is all there is
Lord, help me to know it as gift.



______________________________________________________________________________________________

I wrote this in March 2022. Though quite a few things have shifted in my life since then, I still feel like this is a poem I can't write yet.  —JB


Saturday, June 18, 2022

Summer Friday Nights

 



When you hold my hand in yours, 
there is wonder written on your face
I'd love to live inside your heart, 
because it is a wonderful place

Well, I’d been writing songs about you
 before our paths ever crossed
Since I’ve been hanging around you, 
I’ve been feeling a little less lost


.:CHORUS:. 
Blue eyed girl, 
let your hair hang down
Let the colours of your soul 
spill out for everyone to see
In a world of black and white and grey, 
you paint something beautiful every day
I can't think of a better way 
to spend the time I have
So I'll spend it with you, 
my blue eyed girl


I’ll march right along to your beat; 
the rhythm of your spirit makes 
me feel much more alive
There’s wisdom in the way you speak, 
and I see "I love you" in your eyes

I wouldn’t mind staying up 
talking to you all night
As you're telling me everything 
about the books you read

.:Chorus:.

Before you came along my skies 
were often dark and clouded, 
but the atmosphere is clear 
now that you're here
 I’ve heard my whole life that 
home is where the heart is, 
but I cannot feel at home 
when you’re not near

.:Chorus:.







The Arcadian Wild ℗ 2015 Vohnic Music LLC Composer, Lyricist: Lincoln Mick


Saturday, May 28, 2022

When You Lose Somebody You Love


 “One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn is how to lose someone,” sings Scottish musician Nina Nesbitt. Her official music video for “When You Lose Someone” debuted on March 1, 2022 and has been viewed over a million times. The video is replete with heartfelt sorrow and simple images of her holding on to a shadow-person who eventually splinters into starlight.



In a YouTube live chat, Nesbitt says the song is about her specific loss, yet she hopes that her listeners will relate to the lyrics in the many kinds of loss they, too, experience: a loved one passing away, a divorce or breakup, being separated from a loved one by mental illness, or other forms of ambiguous loss


Psychologist Pauline Boss “coined the term ‘ambiguous loss’ and invented a new field within psychology to name the reality that every loss does not hold a promise of anything like resolution.” (FN1) We experience this type of loss when our loved one is still with us physically, but dementia or mental illness has taken them away from their minds and from us. We see it in having to co-parent after divorce or in breaking up with someone we still love but can’t marry for whatever reason. Perhaps one of the deepest places we observe or experience this ambiguous loss is in fathers who are physically or emotionally absent from their children’s lives. 


Whether grief stems from an ambiguous or a concrete loss, it shapes us. We can choose to hide either in or from our grief. We can ignore it, we can feel asphyxiated by it, or we can choose to walk alongside it as a companion. Seeing grief as a companion is not easy, nor is it the conventional first step after a loss. As Nesbitt asserts, initial grief often goes


from feeling numb to feeling everything at once

And I don’t know if I wanna cry—

One of the the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn

is how to lose someone


In a sense, the image of holding hands with grief—walking with it rather than fighting it or ignoring it—is an image of us holding the hand of Jesus. He is acquainted with sorrow (Isaiah 53:3-4). He walks with us through loss, mourning with us over what is broken (John 11:32-36). Grief should be our response to disconnection, because it is God’s response to death and disintegration.


The separation that comes from death or ambiguous loss is still something to be reckoned with, even though Christians believe in the resurrection of the dead (I Corinthians 15:20-27) and ultimate reconciliation. When Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, relationships fractured in every direction: with other people (Genesis 3:7), with God (Genesis 3:8), with the creation (Genesis 3:17-19), and with ourselves. This sheering apart is not the way it’s supposed to be. The severing caused by death is not how God made his good world to exist. When we experience loss it is the catastrophic consequence of sin (James 1:14-15). 


What about those who don’t know God or understand that death and separation are an outworking of the Fall? For most of our culture, loss is something bad that we don’t want to experience. We want to outrun the ache of grief, the pain of loss. We want to be distracted from pain or become numb to it. But the reality is that our minds and bodies hold the scars of the Fall, whether we know that it happened or not. Surprisingly, Nesbitt acknowledges the continuance of loss:


[It] changes you forever in the blink of an eye

and it’s not something that just fades overnight

it’s something that stays for the rest of your life

when you lose somebody you love



We don’t just “move on” from a breakup or a death. While we shouldn’t stay stuck in the past or stop living the life God has gifted us, there is no such thing as closure when it comes to love. Pauline Boss continues, “‘closure’ is a terrible word in human relationships. Once you’ve become attached to somebody, love them, care about them—when they’re lost, you still care about them. . . .Somehow, in our society, we’ve decided, once someone is dead, you have to close the door. But we now know that people live with grief. They don’t have to get over it.”(FN2) She clarifies that this doesn’t mean obsessing over our lost loved one, but rather living with grief is choosing to remember them, even though remembering might hurt sometimes. 


And that is where the world stops. There is no hope beyond saying “It’s okay to live with grief. It’s okay to miss someone. It’s okay to feel the loss you’ve experienced.” There is no hope of seeing a loved one again. Maybe they disappear into the stars, as in Nesbitt’s music video; maybe they are reincarnated, as some Eastern cultures believe, but you can’t really know your lost loved one again as you did. There is no true hope in those ideas. 


Even Christians sometimes get lured into the world’s idea that “death is simply part of life.” But let's be clear, while death is a reality, it is not part of life in God’s creation. Death is a result of the Fall—it is the great enemy to be finally and fully defeated (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).Thanks be to God that by the Resurrection of Jesus, death is already being worked backwards until it one day is no more (Revelation 21:1-6). As Orthodox theologian and priest Alexander Schmemann expressed it: 


Christianity is not reconciliation with death. It is the revelation of death, and it reveals death because it [Christianity] is the revelation of Life. Christ is this Life. And only if Christ is Life is death what Christianity proclaims it to be, namely the enemy to be destroyed, and not a "mystery" to be explained. Religion and secularism, by explaining death, give it a "status," a rationale, make it "normal." Only Christianity proclaims it to be abnormal and, therefore, truly horrible. At the grave of Lazarus Christ wept, and when His own hour to die approached, "he began to be sore amazed and very heavy. . . It is when Life weeps at the grave of the friend, when it contemplates the horror of death, that the victory over death begins.”(FN3)


We know that Life himself, Jesus, wept over death (John 11:33-36). We know that he has gained victory over death and he offers that victory—eternal life—to all who will believe in him, turning away from sin and toward him (1 John 5:11-13 TLB). But we also know that not everyone chooses to receive beauty for ashes, eternal resurrected life instead of eternal death. Just as Jesus bore the scars of death in his resurrected body, we too bear the scars of separation and loss dealt by the Fall. Grief shapes us. As the consummation of the Kingdom of God draws ever closer, we must acknowledge that some grief extends to eternal death and some grief ends in the hope of eternal life. Right now we live between these eternal and temporal griefs, holding both sorrow and resurrection-hope by the hands as our companions. Perhaps Nesbitt explains it best: One of the hardest things we ever have to learn is how to lose someone.


_____

Footnotes:


  1. Navigating Loss Without Closure —OnBeing Podcast with Pauline Boss and Krista Tippett

  2. ibid

  3. Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy (Crestwood, NY: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1973), 99-100. 


* All Scripture quoted is from the ESV unless otherwise noted.


Originally posted for Reflect at Summit Ministries

Monday, May 2, 2022

Hosptitality for the Life of the World

   


When you walk through the front door of my home, twinkle lights, pressed leaves, and a few hundred books greet your eyes. Written across one mirror you’ll see the words, “I want to join God in bringing healing into people’s lives1.” Though I’m not a doctor, a counsellor, or a pastor, I desperately desire to help heal the brokenness I encounter daily. For me, offering this healing many times looks like evenings of connecting with others over a meal.

While the embodiment of hospitality comes in many forms, my tiny cabin best allows for evenings of feeding others’ eyes and appetite with beautiful, savoury food in an atmosphere of warmth and openness. This sort of hospitality not only shares a meal but feeds another’s soul by seeing them and being seen by them, by listening to their soul and holding back advice unless asked.

For some of us, limited space invites creativity in how (or how many) we can host. Recently, one of my single friends said he can’t host people since his apartment doesn’t have a table. But while hospitality often happens around tables, it also comes curled up on couches with mugs of something hot or nestled in armchairs with plates perched on our knees. Whether we serve gourmet food or simple fare, feeding the body helps us connect with others in a more open, relaxed way—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. There’s nothing like inviting a friend into our space to enjoy being present with one another.


Healing Begins When We Embody Scripture

God starts the story of the world with plants for food, with trees that are both beautiful and edible, delighting the senses. God provides daily bread for the Israelites, bodily food as a sign of His hospitality and faithfulness in the wilderness. Jesus begins His public ministry at a wedding feast, turning water into wine, an image of His blood poured out for many. Jesus deliberately comes to us embodied, offering His body as food and drink (John 6:48-51) for the life of the world.

God’s hospitality floods the pages of Scripture, so it is every bit on purpose that in the coming Kingdom of God, the blessed are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:6-9). In that supper of feasting and drinking, our bodies and souls will be made glad in His presence.

Our bodies are never overlooked in God’s story. They connect us to Him, to others, and to the earth in a myriad of ways. We experience our selves in our bodies, and these clay houses can serve as the doorway from hurt into healing. With a warm meal and a hearing heart, I join God in bringing healing to others by inviting them into sacramental life2 in my tiny home.

_____


FN 1: Boyett, Micha, Found (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2014) pg 16

FN 2: “Centuries of secularism have failed to transform eating into something strictly utilitarian. Food is still treated with reverence. A meal is still a rite—the last “natural sacrament” of family and friendship, of life that is more than “eating” and “drinking.” To eat is still something more than to maintain bodily functions. People may not understand what that “something more” is, but they nonetheless desire to celebrate it. They are still hungry and thirsty for sacramental life.”  

Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1963) pg 16

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash


Originally published for the Navigators' Spring 2022 edition of Upfront.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Turning Tables

 
In this season of bright sadness
a voice in the dark says:
"Go. There is nothing left
for you here," all is madness

We go. In silence we slide
out into the night,
round moon slicing the sky
above, its sadness bright

The table is turned,
the wine swallowed burned
its way down inside
now part of us, blood of Christ

Christ, bloody and torn
turns universe-tables,
Son of Man crowned with thorns
endures epithets, labels of scorn

Dark sun shades that day
we remember as this weekend
crawls on toward the ember
of new fire, night turning grey

Ashes of sadness form a nest
for Heaven's Fire to rest
before He leaps upward
in life—excelling mythic-bird

There is nothing left
here in the tomb—death bereft
of corpse and terrible sting,
Life holds in hand the final victory

The Fullest Extent of Love 
exited the grave on His own two feet,
turning the sadness of sorrow sweet. . .



Friday, March 18, 2022

Purim

 


Tonight was the full moon Shabbat occurring closest to Purim, the holiday celebrated by the Jewish community in honour of God saving the Jews from destruction back before Jesus was born. Purim involves wine, dressing up in costumes, eating hamentashen (Haman's hat/pockets/ears—depending on your tradition/etymology)—jam-filled, triangle cookies, giving alms to the poor, and reading the book of Esther (cheering for Mordecai and jeering against Haman when their names were read).



Did I mention that people dress up? Not exactly in formal wear, but in our case, in order to dress up like Esther or Vashti, formals worked perfectly! These are my small group gals! (We're missing two...and I don't think we took photos of the fellows, oops.)





This work of art is Haman. That's Challah Haman, to you! He was made by Brienne and we thought he was fabulous! I ate his beard with butter. And his eyes are hard-boiled eggs to pluck out. How fearfully gruesome! 
 


There was much wine to go with the challah... Making it a true Shabbat!


 

All in all, a fun and fabulous evening was had... Especially by the boys, who all dressed up as superheroes and helped us with the booing and the hooraying whilst eating cookies. :) Who could possibly have more fun with that?



 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Ash Wednesday IV





Ash and oil
mix in paint
across my forehead

A cross my
forehead boldly bears
stares at me
from the mirror

Dust of death
to wipe away
like life—brief

Unlike the bread,
the strong wine,
both now part
of my body
much like I'm
part of His

Life from death
Life swallowing up
sin's spectre grey
painting a cross
for Life Himself
to die upon. . .

Yet He holds
so much life
death is undone
like ash become
palm once again



___