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For the past several weeks, I’ve been running in the dark. I don’t mean this metaphorically, though there is that, too. Rather, because the time change doesn’t happen until this coming weekend, I have literally been running in the dark during my morning runs. I even tried pushing back my running times a little (at least when I’m running in neighborhoods and not at the track). And still, I am often running before the sun’s light breaches the mountain ridge.

I never finish running in the dark, however. Which means I’m always running while light is breaking through. Every morning, it’s like watching a Monet painting take shape—only on a kind of scale beyond my comprehension. It’s the maker of Monet. The Master Artist at His easel, His foot resting on the earth, the sky in front of Him as canvas, and I, a whiff of dust with a soul, somehow allowed a seat in his workroom, invited to watch Him at play.

It’s not only the sky I’ve been witnessing transform. The mountainsides are showing off their glory, too. Here in Southwest Virginia, it seems in one overnight the trees collectively remembered they have their annual color dance to attend. One morning I was looking out to mountainsides still blanketed in deep summer green. The next, they looked like a spilled out treasure chest of color; castings of garnet and topaz, jacinth and gold.

Creation isn’t the only one in a flurry of seasonal turning. Last Sunday, I walked into the sanctuary of my church and saw the paraments (the decorative cloths adorning our altar and pulpit) had been changed from green to red, reflecting a break in ordinary time to celebrate the Reformation. This week, the paraments will be white to celebrate All Saint’s Sunday. After this, they will be back to the soothing green of ordinary days, then white again for Christ the King Sunday. After this, Advent begins, that season of waiting and preparing with all the saints, dwelling in darkness but waiting with anticipation to be bathed in Light.

I find great comfort in these overlapping seasons. More than comfort, I am moved toward hope. When I say hope, I mean something deeply different than an ephemeral feeling trapped inside myself. The kind of hope of which I am speaking has flesh on it. Hands and feet. Eyes and ears. It’s hope that enters in and participates in the life of the seasons it sees being lived before its very eyes.

Hope that participates pulls out its old nature journal from homeschooling days, goes out on a Tuesday afternoon and draws some autumnal life in bloom. Then it draws some autumnal life in the glory of decay. It copies a poem in that same journal. Maybe it even tries writing a poem of its own—a poem no one other than the One who gives hope will read.

Hope that participates takes a walk in the woods just to hear the crunch of fallen leaves under its feet. As it listens, it hears something else, too. It hears the murmurings of song….

Praise the Lord!

Sing to the LORD a new song….

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people;

He adorns the humble with salvation…   – Psalm 149

Hope that participates stops, looks up at the crimson canopy of leaves, and sees that the song is true.

These are some of the ways the changing seasons of creation and the Church have awakened a kind of participating hope in me. I may make it sound romantic, but the reality is far more messy. First, I have to fight for the time to engage. Then I fight for the justification to choose engaging over “work”; you know, the practical and necessary tasks of life. If I make it through all that, I then wrestle with the question, “How?” How do I begin? How do I stay in? And besides, what makes me think I even ought to engage? (back to justification).

I rarely hear clear answers to my questions. Most of the time, when I do commit, it’s a decision made in the dark. But, if I can just stay in, like my morning runs, I behold the witness. I am gifted with eyes to see creation’s dance in its dying; the Artist’s continual beauty on display. He didn’t have to make the autumn-time gorgeous. He didn’t have to fill the sky—or this world—with His light.

What’s more, He didn’t have to make me to recognize it and connect it to His Word. But He did.

Why would He do this, if not so I might live giving witness to my witnessing?

First month of nature journaling with children at church during children’s chapel time

Sing to the LORD a new song….

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people,

He adorns the humble with salvation.