Hey Rob, “Lang may yer lum reek!”

It’s not often that I have the opportunity to share my space here at Buddy Breathing. But I should be more intentional about that. Because there are so many people out there who are smart, talented and interesting.

Case in point, I’ve known Rob Rife and his wife Rae for many years. Rob used to lead worship at our church, and we’d joke about being some of the few members of the congregation that actually ‘got’ the tin whistle and the bagpipes… our mutual heritage being British, while the majority of our congregation were Germanic in origin. We’d joke in a decidedly British way, share our love of UK sitcoms and Monty Python, and once Rae and I wrote a short skit in which we played the part of two middle aged British women who referred to one another as ‘Hen’.

And Rob and Rae’s two boys bear the same names as our boys… their “Graeme and Calum” to our “Graeme and Malcolm.” No we didn’t plan that! And while they don’t have a daughter as we do, they named their bunny… yes, indeed… they named her “Clare,” completing their family unit with an unusual reflection of our own daughter “Claire!” Did you do that on purpose, Rob? Well, did you?

Anyway, Rob often made me cry during Worship service… something about the sound of those two instruments I mentioned, and the decidedly Celtic flair of the music he led, that echoed within me deeply. So you can imagine how utterly sad we became when Rob and Rae told us they were moving away.

Yet our lives continue to intersect, sometimes at peculiar times… like the time we happened upon one another while on vacation at the Oregon Coast… me seeing Rae in a parking lot while we were driving past leading to us having a gut wrenching funny lunch at a local restaurant. Good times always!

So, I am honoured, and I am smiling, as I introduce you to my friend Rob Rife. Some of you may already know him, and some will meet him now for the first time. He’s talented, deep, and funny as all heck. And he has agreed to share some of his writing here at Buddy Breathing. I’ll be posting several of his works over the next while.

Thank you Rob. Thank you so much.

And for those who are wondering… “Lang may yer lum reek!” means “Long may your chimney smoke!” (it’s a Brit. thing!)

Silence of the Fall

by Rob Rife

It is surprising just how many toxins build up in our spirits when we neglect regular periods for silence, solitude and spiritual refreshment. What an affront to our self-referentialism to discover that the world has gotten along famously without our invaluable contributions! Nevertheless, it remains an immensely challenging undertaking to willingly disengage for a few days in order to re-engage the deeper things – God and those archetypal realities of our meager existence.

My house stands in need of significant repair, my wife deserves my attention, my sons need a father and my employer needs me to make the trains run on time.To retreat from our responsibilities requires our brazen intention to be vulnerable before God with no guarantee of visible returns on the investment of time.

Be that as it may, I took three days last week in Ocean Shores to enjoy silence, contemplation, reading, writing and sleep; not necessarily in that order! It’s enlightening how a good, long drive is always like Drano to a clogged soul or foggy mind. I guess that’s why there are so many good road trip stories. Few things are so fast acting in ironing smooth the unsightly spiritual wrinkles that beset us.

And, for me, there is absolutely no better time to do so than the fall. Everything feels different in the fall. There is a hesitancy about the passing hours that seems somehow not so…insistent. The world is not so in-your-face cheery and the sunlight’s less gaudy rays lie slanted on blushing trees, caressing the sadder sky in reassuring gestures that although winter is crouched and ready, she too, must pass like autumn before her.

Pursuing silence in the fall has always offered far more treasures for mystics like me. I am reminded of a line from a Chris de Burgh song, “there’s nothing quite like an out of season holiday town in the rain.” Amen to that. Take away the touristy stores full of shiny, campy bobbles attractive only to our covetous need for yet more worthless shit and we’re given permission to exhale.

Our need for silence mirrors Jesus’ similar need. It’s instructive to see the unabashed willingness of Jesus to turn his back on the madding crowd and escape to the hills under cover of night to meet his Father. He understood his own personal rhythms well and could thus obtain maximum benefit from such times of solitude. From there he changed the world. It is just that self-awareness for which I yearn. In such times an unseen door opens that invites us to see what God sees – and what God sees is remarkable…

Robert grew up in Calgary, Alberta but is presently the Minister of Worship and Music at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Yakima, Washington. He is a master’s student, self-proclaimed book nerd, multi-instrumentalist (including Highland Bagpipes-go figure), singer-songwriter, studio musician, choral director, poet and liturgist. He defines himself as “small-‘c’-catholic-post-evangelical-small-‘r’-reformed-Celtic-contemplative-with-issues.” Robert’s debut CD is entitled “be that as it may”, an eclectic collection of Celtic flavoured folk-rock. He went grey at 30, hates spiders his right ear is bigger than his left. Greatest achievement to date: a 22-year marriage to wife, Rae and 2 boys, Calum and Graeme.