Breathing in the Shadows

The moon is blue.  Super blue.

Yes, there are scientific reasons for the terminology.  You may seek them out for yourself.  For tonight, I am just happy to sit on a stump and watch the shadows.

I watched the moon for a while, beautiful thing that it is, but as it approached its zenith, my neck objected, so I bent down to relieve the tension.  That’s when I noticed the shadows.

The world is awash in shadows.  At midnight.

The old mulberry tree, its spindly limbs bereft of leaves, stretches bony fingers this way and that across the cold sleeping grass.  There’s a ghost story waiting to be told there, were the world not so brilliant in the moon’s glare.

I glance at the two Labrador retrievers cavorting nearby, and can’t help noticing their shadows mirroring their every leap and crouch.

Shadows in the moonlight. Creator’s handwork.

Basking in the beauty of the late night, I smile.  For a moment. 

Then I feel it.

I knew I would.  There is a high-pitched whistle as I breathe in.  And out.  I struggle a bit to hold down the cough that is inevitable.

Time to go in.  I bid goodnight to the dogs, with a warning for them to behave themselves until morning, and I head indoors.  Indoors, where it’s warm.

I bring my shadows with me.  Shadows of resentment.  Shadows of doubt.

Shadows of negativity.

Wait.  That’s a bit redundant, isn’t it?  A shadow is already a negative, of sorts.  If the object is the real thing—the positive, the shadow must be its negative.  The un-thing, one might say.  

So, here I sit, my un-thing weighing on my chest, and I watch the two dogs still cavorting outside—two black shadows dancing with their black shadows.

Not a care in the world.

I watch them and I am envious.  Nighttime is the worst when bronchitis hits.  The asthmatic aspect makes it difficult to breathe; the cough that follows makes it nearly impossible to sleep.

In the darkened house I lie watching the shadows.  Shadows on my soul because of the shadow creeping into my lungs.

Do you feel sorry for me yet?  You shouldn’t.  I have come to realize that some shadows are darker than others.  

Just tonight I read the words of a new friend, one I’ll probably never meet in the flesh, who is in his sixth year of suffering with cancer.  His lungs and other organs are full of tumors, some even visible through his skin.  Four surgeries, multiple courses of chemo, and still the shadows persist.

He sits in his chair, receiving the infusion of chemicals which will bring waves of nausea and pain, along with rashes, and he prays for those sitting in chairs around him.

He prays.  For them.

I breathe as deeply as I dare, trying to keep from coughing and waking the Lovely Lady, but my mind is already on another friend who has a constant shadow, as well.  Her lungs are working at a fraction of their capacity, the only cure, a transplant.  

She’s not a candidate for a transplant.  And yet, her cheerful encouragement comes as an almost daily occurrence—to friends, to strangers—she points out the bright spots rather than the shadows.

If we walk in light (as He is in light), we walk in community with each other, and in fellowship of His saving grace. (1 John 1:7)

We walk this road with heroes.  Heroes of faith who show us the light rather than point out the shadows.

When we are in light, there will invariably be a shadow.  But, you knew that already, didn’t you?

When we walk in light, there is always a shadow. Always. Click To Tweet

The shadow is strongest in the brightest light.  Sunlight—moonlight—streetlight—you name it.

We can focus on the un-thing, the shadow, that comes from walking in His light, or we can keep our eyes on the things that are.  

Life.  Love.  Heaven.  

Things that are.

The Apostle (my namesake) was adamant when he spoke of it.  The temporary things we are suffering here are nothing (un-things) compared to the glory we shall one day know. (Romans 8:18)

Some, like my bronchitis, are more temporary than any of them, likely to disappear within days.  Others may last a lifetime.  Or, they may claim that life even.  It’s still true.

The shadow is not the real thing.  It never will be the real thing.

The shadow is not the real thing. Click To Tweet

Breathe easy.  The day will come when the shadows will flee forever, the light in our eternal home, our God, Himself.

No more tears.

No more shadows.

Only Light.

Breathe deep.


Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe
And to love you.
All I need is the air that I breathe.
(from The Air That I Breathe ~ Albert Hammond)


Even though I walk
    through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4 ~ NIV ~ Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Into the Sun

I’ve spent a few hours staring into the sun.  

That didn’t come out quite right.  Let me try again.

I’ve spent long periods of time looking at someone standing right in front of the sun—which has kind of the same effect.  I just didn’t want you to think I had ignored my mother’s instruction about not looking at the sun.  

But, in fact, it was at my mother’s instructions I looked at the person standing in front of brightthe sun.  That person was my father—taking a photograph of the family.

To a young child, there was no greater torture.  Don’t blink, they said and then made you stare at the brightest light imaginable while the exact setting was selected on the old Kodak Hawkeye box camera and children were shuffled around to achieve the ideal composition.

The pictures weren’t very good anyway.  For all the torture we endured, we still squinted, blinked, and put our hands over our eyes at just the wrong moment, and were captured on film for all eternity.  

Everybody smile, they said.  

We tried.

I brought the little camera home a little while back.  No, not the Kodak.  That was my parents’ camera.  This was a little cheap plastic box camera, purchased through the Sears & Roebuck catalog.  It was mine fifty years ago.  Still is.  It has my name written on the side of it, in my best nine-year-old printing.

snappyI’ll never take another photograph with it, but the memory of the power that was endowed by the little plastic box will stay with me forever.

With it, I could stop time!  Precious moments could be saved and relived whenever I wanted.  Pets, friends, even creations from my own hands would never be lost.


We don’t think of photographs quite the same way anymore.  Every person who carries a phone has a camera—much better than any which were available in my childhood.  Taking a photo isn’t even an event today.  

But, I remember the day when the sight of a camera would make my siblings scurry for cover.  I recall when the arrival of that package of black and white photos in the mail was a grand event—when all of those siblings wanted to make sure they hadn’t been caught doing embarrassing things.

It was a distinct possibility.

Years ago, I read that in some cultures photographs are rare because the people believe the camera would steal your soul.  While not all cultures this belief has been attributed to actually hold to it, there is adequate proof some did—and many still do.

Photographs steal your soul.  

I’m skeptical.  That said, I do understand how someone might think this.  Your exact image has been captured on paper.  How can that not take something away from you?  

We laugh.  Still, today, many no longer can live in the moment, enjoying events as they unfold, because they are intent on snapping photographs to view later and to show to their friends.  Selfies, we call them.  One must be sure they are in their own picture!  It will be proof one day that they actually were there.  

Never mind that your back was turned to the event itself. You’ll always have the photograph.

Perhaps a part of our soul is stolen as the camera snaps.  I don’t know.

My mind is again back in the sixties.  Looking into the sun.  Shadows must be avoided at all cost.

Standing in the bright light of day.

But, I remember some events I would have been embarrassed to have recorded on camera.  Those happened in the shadows, perhaps even in complete darkness.

Mom wasn’t around to remind me to look toward the light.  Dad wasn’t recording the action for posterity.

Come to think about it, there are still some activities I don’t want saved for people to see.  The dark works better for them.  I might be embarrassed to see the photographs those would yield.

The Teacher spoke of folks like me—at least, like me at those embarrassing times.  He declared that men loved darkness rather than light for one reason—they wish to hide their evil deeds. (John 3:19)

I wonder if it’s time to come out into the light of day again.

The Son may make us squint a bit.  

The shadows will all disappear.

Perhaps, it’s time again to make some memories worth viewing later.  Memories which will last forever.  Literally.

Everybody smile!




This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
(1 John 1:5-7 ~ NASB)


Which of my photographs is my favorite?  The one I’m going to take tomorrow.
(Imogene Cunningham ~ American photographer ~ 1883-1976)





© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.


Winter Solstice.  

Here, in the northern hemisphere, it is the shortest day in the year.  Throughout the winter, because of the earth’s tilt on its axis, the sun is not visible in the sky overhead for as long each day.  Shorter days equals colder weather.  Theoretically.

On this shortest of the short days in this year, the wind is blowing a gale out of the south.  Rain, says the weatherman.  Tornadoes, others whisper ominously.  Listening, some will be afraid.  I shrug my shoulders.  What may come,  may come.

Or, it may not.

In my experience, mostly they don’t come.  Worry won’t change the odds, either way.

Funny.  It’s not the big things, the disasters, that cause me the most problems.

Shadows.  I worry about shadows.

I remember watching the shadows as a skinny little urchin under the heat of the South Texas sun.  Early in the morning, we rushed to beat the daylight to the fishing hole, trusty Zebco rod and reels slung over our shoulders.  We hoped to be fishing before our shadows could be cast across the feeding place of the perch we sought.  No doubt it was childish imagination, but we were positive the shadow would spook the fish, guaranteeing a morning devoid of the victorious shouts echoing along the banks:  I got one!

Then again, in the evening as we ambled toward home down the long avenue, our shadows would stretch for yards, as the sun dropped down to the western horizon.  Shadows meant the day was over.  That could only lead to one thing.  We were never ready to go to bed.  Never.

Ah, but in the middle of those wonderful, carefree days?  No shadow was cast by the sun at all.  High above us, the brilliant yellow sun was all light.  We moved, unencumbered with the dark appendage following or leading.

In the middle of such a day, who would worry about the coming night?  It (and its shadows) were endless hours away.

But the skinny urchin is an old man now, living many miles north of that childhood home.  In winter, the shadows are long during all of the daylight hours.  All of them.

tiptildyshadowsJust last weekend, as I lazed in the sunlight, I glanced over at my backyard companions.  It was midday, yet the shadows cast by my canine buddies lying nearby stretched toward the north, looking for all the world like the going-home-shadow of the westering sun on the backs of those boys, all those years ago.

Somehow though, the shadows I dread in winter aren’t only those springing from the southern-fleeing sun.  There are other shadows, not explained by scientists or weather maps, that gather thick as the year ebbs.

Imagined or not, the shadows creep, as the nights grow longer, deep into the soul.  Whispering at first, they warn of impending loss and sorrow.  Soon the shadows are all we see; their threatening voices fill our hearing with raspy, wailing torment.

Why is it, do you suppose, the Church fathers chose December, the month of shadows, for the celebration of the coming of brilliant Light to all the world?  It is not likely that we celebrate the event at the time of year it actually happened.  And, it really doesn’t alter the reality of the marvelous story.

Still, I wonder—why this month?

Oh, but what a contrast!  Night and Day!

The shepherds felt the contrast.  We’ve heard it so many times, we don’t really think about it.  In the dead of the night, every shadow fled from the field in which they lay.  (Luke 2: 8-12)

The glory of the Lord shone round about them?

Sounds like the shadows were nowhere to be found.  As with the South Texas midday sun, the light blazed.  Absolutely blazed.

Uh.  They were afraid.  Really afraid.  I think that’s what sore afraid means.  Maybe even really, really afraid.

And the angels told them they had nothing to fear.  Nothing.  This kind of thing—this blazing light at midnight—was about to be the norm.  The Baby, the one they would find lying in a manger, had come to bring light. To all people, He would bring the noonday sun into their midnight darkness.  

To all people

The light has shined in the darkness.  It will never be truly dark again. (John 1:5)

And the shadows?  Well, they’re just—just—shadows.  No substance, only threats.  With the coming of Light, they slip away, as if they never really were there.  

Light trumps darkness every time.

Even in the short, gloomy days of winter.  Maybe, especially then.

Worship Christ, the newborn King.






For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6 ~ NIV)





She bore to men a Savior, when half-spent was the night.
(from Lo How a Rose, E’er Blooming ~ German carol ~ ca. 15th Century)



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.