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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

This summer a small stalk of corn announced its presence in the corner of my driveway while I was weeding the cracks of the summer weed invasion. This driveway, rife with sunken cracks near its entry, provides slivers of dry, dusty dirt into which various weeds cast their roots and cling to life.


No amount of weeding eradicates them permanently. Two thousand pound cars cannot crush the life out of them. It is as though they flatten against the pressure of all the forces that seek to destroy them.

Weeds simply have claimed this territory.


But a stalk of corn? For years, I have tried to actually grow corn in the few patches of soft soil that exist on the hard pan upon which our home is built. To no avail. And then, untended and unplanned, a corn stalk emerged in one of the cracks of the driveway.


The first few days, I fought a need to pull it out, perhaps simply because of the incongruence of its presence amidst the riffraff of growing things. But then, my science background called me to simply observe and take note, having already determined the hypothesis: Left untended and unwatered, this stalk would wither and die.

But in the heat of summer, a suggestion of two ears slowly began to form. I watched them when they first surfaced on the smooth stalk in their infancy. Leaving my home each morning, I noted in the changing light of sunrise how they fattened and spread. And I reveled in their growth and cheered them on like a mother watching her own child take those first wobbly steps.


The corn stalk simply refused to surrender to my hypothesis. Rather than death and decay, this corn stalk, its tassels lengthening, now brought a tantalizing promise of an impossible harvest.


Emily Dickinson once wrote that “Hope is a thing with feathers.” Though I have been drawn to this image for decades, there is something about the metaphor that makes hope seem so illusory and transitory. In the comparison, hope seems fragile and torn from its moorings, like a ship at sea. Hope becomes something just beyond our grasp as it floats on the vagaries of life’s breezes.


Not for me.


Hope is this corn stalk, tenaciously clinging to nothing more than a whisper of soil between asphalt and concrete. This hope commands attention as it stretches ever more closely to the sun. This hope announces, “I am here…strong, vibrant…persevering.”


Life is like this, I think. Not the blooming carefully tended flower boxes bursting with color and confined to their design. Not the well tilled soil of a backyard garden. Not the geometrical rows of a farmer’s field.


No, life is an errant piece of corn carried in a breeze or dropped carelessly from a pocket or carried in the debris deposit of a passing crow.


Life is this: a stalk of corn stretching towards the sun, taking sustenance from the tiniest source of nourishment and declaring hope as it clings to barren places.



  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

A minus tide forecast for Deception Pass is like a siren’s call to a sailor lost at sea, at least to me; the magnetic pull is almost irresistible. And yet something about the planned end of summer outing caused me to wake in the middle of the night and declare to my spouse that

I would stay home this day. Caught between the need to wander the shore and the guilt producing weight of things left undone, I became paralyzed. My husband provided a way out. “Think of it as a bookend… something we need to do to mark the end of summer.”


It is this same husband who loves to do “together…alone” as much as I do. When the tides call us, we walk the beach access path a short way together, but once at the shore, we go our separate ways – he to meander the rock strewn sand above water line and me to cross the slippery algae draped stones to the exposed sandbars, shoes in hand, to walk the wave line.


Once safely across the hazardous rock beds this day, I padded through the

cold, gentle waves that rolled across the sand bar with a chorus of squawking gulls as accompaniment. I remembered that the last time I walked this shore, I had stopped to write a love note with a piece of driftwood on these sands for songwriter, friend, and mentor Jimmy Yessian. After finishing that day, I took a photo and texted it to his phone with the message, “thinking of you,” as I contemplated his recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.


Today, as I walked this shore, I thought about writing a note again, one that would now mark his passing. Gazing across the sea, I thought about his life and the legacy of his deep well of love and compassion which he lavishly shared with all of us who were thirsty.


Lulled into contemplation by the waves caressing this shore, it is impossible to not think about life… in all its beauty and all its complexity and all its sorrow. This ocean, so vast…our lives so complicated and intertwined. I watched the waves as they lifted and swelled, providing glimpses of soaked wood and debris. Much like us, I thought, they too had lived out their purpose and then, battered by storms and tossed in the wind, had come to this shore for their final journey’s rest.


And yet, as soon as the comparison arrived, it was crowded out by this truth:

 

Though we travel these waters, we are not like flotsam and jetsam at the mercy of a capricious sea.

 

Every microscopic drop of this sea was spoken into existence. Every drop of this sea was created with a purpose. And every drop of this sea was being led home…by forces too deep to comprehend.


Standing there gazing at the rolling sea, I recalled a surfer I once met on the North Shore of Oahu who said he loved to surf because he was able to ride a wave that had traveled

across the sea and was now taking its last breath before reaching the shore.


My friend Jimmy has ridden that wave’s last breath. Once he had been a single drop falling from a water filled sky. He had journeyed down the mountain in the rush of gravity and flooded into the sea. He had intermingled in a vast sea of humanity, changing the course of the drops around him. He had been battered and tossed by storms, but he had been held and guided by Love greater than his own.


And now he was home.




  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Language is a funny thing. If you had lived in the 1500’s you might have gathered small sticks into bundles for kindling and carried your “faggots” home to help with fire building. If you were an elderly woman in the 1600’s eking out a meager existence by making faggots and selling them, you would have been called the pejorative term “faggot-woman” or “faggot” for short.


If you were a fool or a simpleton in the 1800’s, you might be a dope. In the sixties, you might have smoked it. But now you would be excellent.

It is in this light that I have been ruminating(no pun intended) on the word “sheep”, which seems to have become a pejorative term in today’s culture used to describe people who willingly become vaccinated or wear masks or follow directives from authorities.


I don’t have a desire to examine the politics of this, but as a Christian, I have been contemplating the spiritual aspect of this term as well as the oft repeated concept of not wanting to be a “sheep” because all I need to do is trust God for my health.


Yes, in the Old Testament prophets often warn that the people of God were like sheep without a shepherd, with all of the chaos that implies. But the key word is WITHOUT. Even our psalmist acknowledges that the God who made us, who calls us His own, declares we are the sheep of His pasture.


That same God, in His mercy, gave us a Shepherd, one who would never leave us or forsake us. And, as I get to know Him better, my contentedness in my “sheep-hood” deepens.


I freely confess I am not a Biblical scholar and rather classify myself as a fool for Christ. But I do know this to the core of my being. I am a sheep.


I am living in New Testament times, and the sheep of God’s hand, of which I am one, are no longer without a shepherd.


My Shepherd, Jesus, made this very clear, “My sheep, listen to my voice;I know them, and they follow Me.” That’s what the sheep of God’s hand do – they follow.


But they don’t follow the ways of this world where position and privilege and personal liberties and power are the currency. They don’t follow political leaders or pledge allegiance to flags or governments. The sheep of God’s hand follow a Shepherd, one whose sole purpose on this earth is to serve others.


This is the Shepherd who is “good,” and His goodness is revealed in this: He willingly lays down His life for His sheep. If my purpose is to be more and more transformed into the likeness of Jesus, then any movement in that direction leads me away from self and towards doing whatever I can, laying down my life if need be, for the sake of others.


You may hear in these times some people demanding their rights and freedoms, but may you never hear that from followers of Jesus. You may hear the word “sheep” thrown at you like an epithet. Wear it like a crown. Because our Shepherd Himself was led “like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He did not open His mouth.”


Amidst the cacophony of the brokenness of these times, I listen for the sound of my Beloved Shepherd who calls me to lay down my life for the sake of others. And in the context of His ultimate sacrifice, what is being asked of me in these times comes at little cost.

I am a fool for Christ.

I am a sheep with a Shepherd.


And I experience my deepest peace when I listen to His voice and follow Him to the best of my ability each and every day in His mission to sacrifice and to serve.














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