“At night God’s song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” ~Psalm 42:8
Dear Members and Friends,
A three-quarters moon rose in the east, surprisingly radiant. It was June. My three ladies were asleep, so I ventured out onto the front porch to gaze at it. The light was otherworldly. Its silvery glow transfigured all the living world into something luminous, a fantasyland modeled only vaguely on the place I know by day. Like most front yards, ours is mostly ornamental and rarely visited, except to be mowed. But by the light of the moon, an ordinary yard becomes a brilliant place, a place of endless possibility. I followed the moonlight down off the porch and out into parts of my property where I never go after dark. By moonlight, I drifted over to the area we call “the side field.” For all I know, satyrs dance there by night; I’ve never checked. There’s nothing to see or do over there after dark. A clothesline, a vegetable garden, a rotting split-rail fence. It’s true that the borders are porous over in that direction. Neighborhood dogs (and their owners) lay claim to our side field. But in reality, it belongs to us just as much as the room where I sleep each night. It’s as much ours as the little spot with the recliner and lamp where I spend so many leisure hours, reading. By rights, I could set a folding chair out in the field at 3:00 a.m. to read a book by flashlight. By rights, I could sleep in a tent out there in the middle of January. But I don’t. With nightfall—and in the winter—I withdraw indoors, and the field becomes a little less mine. It’s the after-hours domain of “Grimalkin,” the fierce old feral cat who lives in the cellar of our ramshackle summer kitchen. Darkness transforms the field into a wild country of roaming deer, and local dogs, and garden tools left laying treacherously underfoot. But it wasn’t wild on that night. The moon had visited it with a serene beauty that only the moon can give. On that night, the moon-glow caused oak leaves to shine like the riffling water of a midnight brook. And as I wandered around the side field by the light of the moon, I wondered a little sadly, “How have I allowed darkness and wintertime to take this lovely place away from me?”
The cold and the dark cause us to hunker down and turn inward. They chase us out of places that are rightfully ours and send us to hover like moths around electric lights in climate-controlled rooms. May, for me, is a month of constant outdoor labor: putting in the garden, mowing, hacking away at wild vines (the “unholy trinity” of poison ivy, Virginia creeper, and wild grapevine—which threaten to engulf modern civilization and consume everything ever planted or built by human hands). It’s only in full summer that I step back and gaze upon my small domain to see not a toilsome to-do-list, but a beautiful place for living, a thing of joy. I love the way summertime causes us to branch out into ourselves once again, reclaiming the fullness of our life with all its places and moods.
“Branching Out” was the theme of our recent capital campaign, and it was appropriate! It feels like summertime at Bower Hill Church in more ways than one. With ever-growing numbers of children in the Christian Education program, we are expanding into parts of our building that sat more or less unoccupied for years. The chapel—which saw only four Advent services per year, plus the occasional funeral—is now being prepared for weekly junior church. Long-neglected classrooms are being reclaimed for Sunday school. Due to the increasing number of small children in our midst, we’ve had to move the nursery into a larger room—the old library. Our whole campus is becoming a tool for mission; we’ve planted a “Boaz vegetable garden” in a once-disused yard! The few classrooms that still don’t have a class are home (literally) to Family Promise. Today, we see our church expanding, branching out, “reclaiming the fullness of our life.” It’s an exciting time to be Bower Hill Church.
There’s a larger lesson to be learned here, and it is this: No season lasts forever. There was once a season of “hunkering down” in this place, but by God’s grace a new day has dawned over us. In the same way, the darkness and cold that you may face today is not eternal. It all passes, as do our bright summers. That’s why my favorite name for God is “Eternal One,” which I borrow from the French. God alone is eternal, but Christ’s joy keeps cycling back around for all of us time-bound humans.
Happy Summer to You,
This is one of 4 articles appearing in the June 2014 Newsletter. Download the Full Newsletter here.