Sunday, September 29, 2013

Salvation of the Fall

It feels good to have a pen in my hand and a journal in my lap again.  This time of year always makes my fingers itch to write, my words tumble in front of my eyes, and my mouth curve into an ever-present goofy smile.
Of course, it takes me a while to put actual pen to paper, sentence after sentence, because I'm too easily distracted by the soft breeze, gentle sunshine, and golden air that comes with Autumn.  Basically, I'm in love.
But back to words.  The peculiar thing about writing, especially writing about something (or someone) with which (whom) you are in love, is you become overwhelmed with the emotional side of things.  I want to write, to use my words, to explain why and how Autumn is so special, but all I can do is look at it and grin.
Seriously.  When you read this, you can't tell, but there is at least a sixty second pause between each sentence because I'm too busy being enamored with the outdoors, goofily grinning at the trees and the sky.
How do I put into words what I see when I survey the golden-aired days of Autumn?  How do I put into words the unfettered joy from my toes to the ends of the hairs on my head?  How could there not be words within the thousands I command that do this morning literary justice?  It is a fool's errand to capture things in words that are not meant to be captured so.  But too late, I have begun.
The colors are brighter.  The bird songs are clearer.  The days are slower.  The deer are lively.  The air is crisper.  The leaves are crunchier.  The people are happier (okay, some, not all).  Everything is restless to move, to explore, to stretch legs after an oppressing, hazy summer.
But what really characterizes Autumn is in what you  can't see, or touch, exactly.  The sun touches the skin with a fiery glance that would be just like summer's sun were it not for the cooling, graceful touch of the air.  It is perfection to your skin.  What could be a scorching touch is tempered by the merciful, seemingly ever-present breeze.
These set my soul afire.
It is in this season, in this hot-and-cold paradoxical weather, that I find the peace of salvation, of grace, of perfection.
Nothing to me is more adept to describe the character of my God than this season.  He is the hot, just, fire of the sun and the mercifully cool touch of the air.  Grace & fire.  Justice & mercy.  Love & truth.  Hot & cold.  Perfection & perfection.
The perfection of God demands the perfection of his followers.  His hot justice, hot righteousness, brilliant perfection are a constant in the Old Testament, in Revelation, and in pockets of Romans and other New Testament books.  But, some are spared that fiery purge through the merciful perfection of the cross.  The cooling sacrifice of His son covers the heated justice of the Father.
It is only through this that I live with hope for tomorrow.
Autumn is more than just the golden leaves, the sharp air, the harvest season.  It is the season when I work out my salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12-13), not unlike the dying leaves on the deciduous trees.  Without the cooling touch of the air, we (the leaves and I) would be scorched, burned to death by the fierce heat of the sun.  As it is we are buffeted, caressed, and moved by the air and sun together...Yes, to die, but to be born anew in Spring.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
Lamentations 3:22-24

Monday, September 9, 2013

Indian Summer

Field season is over.
It's been over for a month now.  I still remain "in the field," but more as a placeholder, an emergency contact, an onsite employee in case the bears decide to get crazy.  They do every now and then, shucking collars or going off the grid.  In between, I do odd jobs; I have continued the roadkill surveys, I track for Casey (as you might have read in my telemetry blog), I remove leftovers from summer work, and I answer hunter questions.

So, my days are filled, but as the noon's cool off and the cotton bolls come out, I cannot help but hold my breath for the coming autumn.  We've had some legitimately cool days, giving me just a taste of my favorite season.  Fall is coming!

Any good SEC alumni would say that fall is the best season because of football.  It's icing on the cake, for me, but fall itself is the cake.  The crisp air, the golden colors, the switch in energy of everyone and everything...fall brings with it the death of many leaves, but the new breath of hope, peace, and contentment.
It is difficult to convey with words why autumn feels like a hopeful, new beginning to me.  By all rights, it shouldn't, really.  Crops are harvested--not planted--leaves begin to die--not begin to live--animals are growing up--not being born--hunting season begins.  Death, or at least the advance of life, happens in the fall.

Maybe that is it:  life continues.  Animals born in the spring have (hopefully) matured enough to be safe from those things that will quickly snuff their lives.  Crops have completed their duty:  grown to their fullest.  Leaves leave their chlorophyllic duties to the next generation.

Accomplishment.  That is what Autumn is.  It is when the world leans back, folds our arms, and says, "whew."  It is the hope for tomorrow, for the next year of accomplishments, the peace of the previous year, and the contentment of cooler weather and warmer beverages.

But we're not in autumn yet.  We're in Indian Summer.  The final stretch of new growth, maturation, hard work, green leaves, and hot days.  I'm keeping my heart on the horizon, but my hands and my eyes in the present, with the work yet left to do.