Bless the Beast

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Sadao Watanabe, “Jacob Wrestles the Angel”

Like all seasons of life, this sabbatical year has been beautiful and brutal.  It has been bitter and sweet.  It has held great joys that I have relished and great griefs that I have lamented.  There have been moments that have been good and moments that have been good for me.

Along the way, I have wrapped each negative feeling with a purpose.  By God’s persistent grace, I have journaled my way from loneliness to self-reflection, from loss of career to personal re-stocking of wisdom, from loss of community to gained a connection with the common experience of living far from home.  Though our return to Louisville is only a few months away, my endurance for resting and reframing has begun to run low. Continue reading

On the Eve of the Inauguration: What I Know, What I Feel, What I Believe

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Last year when I had to walk youth through some difficult moments, I grabbed a dry-erase marker and created three columns… what we know, what we feel, and what we say we believe (and must remind ourselves in hard times).   As the inauguration looms, I find myself employing the same strategy for the future that looms before us. Continue reading

Playing in the Enchanted Mystery

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img_1241Watching our kids outside my front window in the freshly fallen snow, I can’t help but wonder at all I cannot understand…

…the power that God’s creation has to bring slow time to a rushed world

…a child’s ability to be joyfully present in a single moment that is protected from yesterday’s regrets or tomorrow’s worries.

…the daily practice of forgiveness and grace that sustains our days

A professor in Duke’s Doctor of Ministry program made the case in class this week that the world is, indeed, enchanted.  God’s presence is infused in every nook and cranny.  When we participate with this reality, we are dancing with God’s glory.  He argued that church’s task is to bring the enchanted world to the people whose domesticated god has left them bored, disconnected, and lost.

It is a reality that we cannot comprehend, cannot adequately describe, and cannot control.  It is a mystery which we blindly plumb.  We do so with the assurance that we will never fully understand it and yet we will uncover crumbs that can satisfy the restless soul.

As the snow blankets the ground and little wrapped bundles of presence shriek and squeal as they slide down the driveway, I wonder at the enchanted mystery in which they are playing.  I stand amazed at how theology takes flesh right before my eyes in red cheeks and snow-covered gloves.

Perhaps he is right.

Praise be to the Creator of this enchanted mystery who still enchants the weary heart.

“Every day I see or I hear something that more or less kills me with delight, and leaves me like a needle in the haystack dog light.

It was what I was born for – to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world – to instruct myself over and over in joy, and acclamation.  

Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant – but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab, the daily presentations.

Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these – the untamable light of the world, the ocean’s shrine, the prayers that are made out of grass?”

– Mary Oliver, “Mindful”

The Hymnal that Holds Us Together

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Empty Sanctuary

I swear that the stones sing.  During the week, I used to walk in Highland’s sanctuary and in the quiet, even with no other voice present with me, I swear I could hear the congregation singing.  From the worn stones, from the tattered wooden pews, from the high rafters, the hymns pour forth as if in a continuous stream.  Even now, I can walk into the sanctuary in my mind.  If I am still long enough, I can hear the particular voices and faces from the Cloud of Witnesses, present and past.

Now during this sabbatical year, so far away from the stones that sing and the communal worship with the Cloud of Witnesses, a hymnal has become the sacrament that leads me home, grounds my feet, centers my being, and remembers me.  In this exile space where I worship away from the land I call home and the people who call me home, hymns are the great time-and-space connectors that hold us together.

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Stop Sign

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It will come amidst the noise from the ride, our youngest yelling at the top of his lungs, “Stop sign!” (“top tign!” in 2.5 year old articulation). It is not worry that Mommy is missing it, but instead his pure joy over the sight of it. Bright red with its white border and block letters, when was the last time I cried out in joy at the invitation to STOP?

Amidst the Advent activities at home, the youngest could use a personal stop sign. He mourns each day that he cannot consume the Advent season in one fell swoop – opening every door on the calendar, eating every chocolate piece, lighting every candle, coloring in each day.

“Wait,” I tell him. “You must be patient. Advent is the season of waiting for God’s coming into the world. You cannot rush it.”

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Forever and Ever

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Forever and ever.

The scripture’s haunting words have stuck with me this morning.  Like a taunting whisper, they echo throughout my mind.

The house sits empty across the street. The one who loved it most is no more. Mr. John died this past week. A solitary man, he kept to himself. No car. No close family. He was independent, talkative, and kind.

They carried his body out yesterday. The package that sat on the front steps for the whole week should have given it away. The smell of death spilled into the street and I can’t quite shake it. The house his parents called home is all that remains. But the image of mother, father, and son reunited redeems even an empty house and lingering smells.

Forever and ever. Continue reading

Try Again

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The house is quiet now, but once the doors creak open, the rooms will flood with noise. Paws will patter in the path after the youngest’s breakfast remains. The oldest will embrace the beloved, “stay at home day,” with pancake petitions and plans for play. “I’m cold,” on repeat, will lead the youngest to be picked up and enveloped in my arms.

The day will quickly turn into a never-ending line of requests and demands. They will be delightful Saturday ones, but commands nonetheless. I will enter fully into my specific role as “Mommy” within our family system.

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