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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Pastor Dan, one of our favorite pastors, did a sermon once on a Christian fad running rampant in the American culture in the 80’s. This was expressed in Christian knickknacks and jewelry with WWJD printed on them…What would Jesus do?

Pastor Dan suggested that perhaps the slogan should be WDJD- What DID Jesus do, and that perhaps we could devote ourselves to the study of what He actually did by immersing ourselves in the “most owned, least read book in the world,” even by Christians.

I thought about that this morning on my early dawn walk in the desert. Over the years, I had been reading different translations of the Bible, not wanting it to be the least read book on my own shelf. Turning over the stories that had become like my own, it occurred to me not only what Jesus DID, but HOW He did it.

He walked.

He walked alone and with his friends. He observed nature around him and drew parallels to what it meant to be his followers using the world around him as inspiration. He walked to solitary places to be alone and reorient his daily life and align his priorities.

I can already hear the objections…. I know…it’s different now,

Our times are so much more complex, our modes of transport so varied, and to imitate the physical daily life of Jesus is reserved, we think, for the hermit and mystic in our modern times.

But what if it isn’t?

I know for myself, during the pandemic, in order to nurture what little sanity that was available, I walked more miles in those two years than in the previous ten. The created world grounded me, and the solitude and quiet meditation while walking were essential to my mental and spiritual health.

Walking on a beach at Deception Pass, I found comfort in the certainty of the rhythmic sound of waves meeting sand. Walking a trail alone in the wilderness, I found my spirit becoming attuned to the quiet whispers of a loving God. Even walking the neighborhood, I found a renewed sense of community in the greetings of the other walkers whose faces I had never encountered in the thirty previous years of life in the fast lane.

Walking made the world smaller and larger at the same time.

Maybe now is time for more silence and more walking. Maybe now is time to make room for the praises and prayers that issue forth from the rocks and plants, the bubbling streams and the songs of birds.

And maybe now is time to create some space for a three mph life.

Perhaps then we would value the earth in all its beauty and seek to protect it. Perhaps then we could better hear the heartbeat of the world and respond with lavish grace. And perhaps then we could hear the whisper that promises whether we turn to the left or the right, we will hear a voice behind us saying,

THIS is The Way.

Walk in it.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

This Northwest hotel exists for travelers like me. People who have resources and who can be comfortable while traveling. My days of sleeping in cars as a “lifestyle” option are over, and a little plastic card allows me warmth and a free breakfast in the morning.

This daylight savings morning, all of us enter the foyer a little sleep deprived. In their graciousness, staff have opened the morning food bar early, and our tired faces project our gratitude. Outside the rain pours, the Frazier Valley winds blow, and early winter has made an appearance here.

Despite the gloom, I shuffle to a table by the window and enjoy watching the arrival of fellow sojourners as they wander through, some in slippers, some with dogs, and all slightly tousled, just as I am. Beauty routines do not take precedent over coffee.

I notice one older, worn woman come through the lobby from an outside door to get a coffee refill in a porcelain cup, unlike most of us using disposables. She carries the coffee outside, I assume so she can partake in a cigarette, and I go about my work of planning the day.

She comes in several times, interacting with staff to get more coffee and a few breakfast items. She seems to be known in this hotel, and the front desk clerk’s voice is warm and friendly, as it has been every single day I have been here to every single person she comes in contact with.

Taking a break from my meal and thinking about my circumstance, I realize the woman with the coffee is still on the other side of the glass from where I sit. Along with the cup of coffee, her table is filled with boxes of cereal and cartons of milk. Next to her is a large bag filled to overflowing with more cereal and milk.

And yes, she is having a smoke.

I do not know her story. I suppose the possibilities are endless. Maybe she is homeless. Maybe she has pets. Maybe hungry children await still sleepy from a time change and resting in a hotel room. I will never know.

And ultimately it does not matter, because the encounter is not about her.

Years of practice have given me better listening, and it is very clear: The Spirit did not give me an assignment today, other than to just observe and wonder and pray.

But I do know this.

Whatever her circumstance, the front desk angel does not treat her any differently than the rest of us. She observes the trickle of cereal and milk out the door and simple smiles. She greets her with a friendly voice and smile, just like the rest of us. No judgement. No harsh criticism.

Just simple grace.

And the only action required of me this morning is simply to pass it on.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,

Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Almost 50 years ago, driven out of the sleeping quarters by nausea producing diesel fumes, I took my borrowed down sleeping bag to the deck of the sailing schooner The Adventuress as she journeyed on the waters of Puget Sound to Victoria, B.C. from Shilshole Bay.

A river loving creature, I was not prepared for the enormity of living on the sea as I lay on cold, hard, weathered boards soaked in sailing history. Often jostled awake in the drift of night, I would stare at the clear night sky, a gift itself that summer in the rain soaked Northwest.

The stars. Oh, the stars.

They invaded the moonless night, punctuating the dark sky above me with infinite pieces of light. A hint of a glimpse of the Milky Way sent my heart pumping and filled my soul with restlessness. A week on that sea, sailing under those stars, and I was helpless to escape.

I went home, quit my job, and two weeks later was in Seattle, beginning a post college life, singing at the Pike Place Market and helping crew a 32’ T-bird in sailing races on Saturday mornings while hunting for “real” jobs.

Having now moved to the desert all these years later, I have been wondering what happened to the person who loved those seas and those stars? What happened to the person who was inexorably drawn to the meeting of wave and shore? What happened to the person who completely uprooted a life in Colorado just to know these stars on the sea were close?

This puzzle invaded my thoughts as I stepped out the door into the dark this morning before the dawn. Covering up my walking light to dim its effect, I stared, as I always do, at the night sky. No street lights are allowed in this designated Dark Sky area, and that allows for a nearly virgin night sky to fill the void.

No matter how many times I exit my home and gaze at the stars, the effect on my soul never varies. It takes my breath away. It fill me with wonder and majesty and makes me feel small and insignificant in the best way possible. It helps me remember how human I am, and that something/someone much bigger than I am sets the planets in motion and wakes the stars.

In these moments, I have come to experience a new emotion not common to my inner landscape. I am happy. Not clap my hands happy, but happiness rooted in a deep contentment in my soul.

Because I am most at home amidst the stars.

All these years, especially towards the end of my Northwest stay, I thought I was sun starved. But this morning I realized that it was not the rain or the cold nor the cloud filled skies, but the absence of stars that had filled me with longing.

Now the stars walk with me before their brilliance begins to fade in the dawning day. An owl hoots from the top of a telephone pole and then shows a flash of white underbelly as it floats off. Wings flutter out of bushes and desert birds begin their wake up calls. Coyotes tune their voices, and a symphony begins as Light is born again on the horizon.

Today, the stars will disappear in the glare of sunlit skies as I scurry from one task to another. And then, like old friends, rested and ready to shine, they will wait outside my door in the pause between dark and day, these “forget-me-nots of the angels,” revealing their blossoms once again before folding into an awakening sky. Until tomorrow becomes today once more, and they claim their place in these “meadows of heaven.”

and I claim mine.

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