I attended the Church of the Front Porch today. We have had two consecutive days of sunshine and I didn’t want to miss any of it. I hope God didn’t mind that I spent the morning with a devotional book on my lap turning pages and thinking about what it means to be a child of God all the while glancing up occasionally to find the mockingbird who was singing saucily from the walnut tree, or to look for the redwing blackbird I could hear warbling in the wetland. As an artist, nothing gives me greater pleasure than to have someone enjoy, really enjoy my work. I hope God feels the same way because that’s what my worship was about this morning.
Yesterday was the last day of shearing. What a relief to have gathered all the lambs and ewes in to count, worm and shear and find, so far, none missing. Coyotes are having pups this time of year and fresh lamb makes an easy breakfast for mama coyote. Some coyotes kill for food, but there are others who kill just for the sport of it. My friend Cindy, the one who has a llama on patrol, found six dead lambs the other day. The trapper told her that the coyotes must have come in a pack so the llama couldn’t defend against all of them. The lambs weren’t eaten, just slaughtered and left scattered about the field. I love God’s creation, but it’s hard to love coyotes who kill for pleasure. I suppose God loves them, though. They are as much a part of His creation as those blackbirds I enjoyed.
Two nights ago, Joe drove me through a horrible storm to the emergency room. I had been fighting some back pain for 24 hours and it finally got the best of me. Joe said he’s never seen such weather, but I didn’t notice much of it from my fetal position in the front seat. After ten hours in the emergency room and a CAT scan, the doctor still couldn’t tell me why I had felt such hot knives stabbing me in my right side. There was no evidence of kidney stones or appendicitis to give truth to my overwhelming pain. By morning it had subsided, leaving me relieved and appreciative of every good day in my life.
This morning on the porch, I thought about God’s presence in my pain. It’s a place I hate to go to, but I have discovered sometimes I find God most clearly in the hurting places. Pain, whether physical or emotional, is like those coyotes: uncontrollable. And because I cannot control it, I must wait it out. In the waiting, I am emptied totally of myself. I see God most clearly when I am empty. There’s nothing else to stand in the way of His love.
At the Church of the Front Porch this morning, I was reminded of these words by Sir Thomas Brown:
If thou could`st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, `This is not dead`,
And fill thee with Himself instead.
But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes, He says, `This is enow
Unto itself - `twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.`
I am a little emptier and yet, much fuller this morning.