Patience: Temporary and Abundant

Standard

05AFC3C3-3E54-4BE4-9B87-34D52188AF67.JPG

“Lord, let me know my end,
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.

You have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.
Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.
Surely everyone goes about like a shadow.
Surely for nothing, they are in turmoil,
they heap up and do not know who will gather.

And now what do I wait for?
My hope is in you…

Hear my prayer, O Lord:
and give ear to my cry;
do not hold your peace to my tears.
For I am your passing guest,
an alien, like all my forebearers.”

– Psalm 39

I have been reading Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology and I just finished the long chapter on “Christ Plays in Creation.” His thoughts on Sabbath have me reeling and wondering many things. “We inhabit a mystery. We must not pretend to know too much.” Reading Psalm 39 on Monday led me to wonder about how often we think of time as either guaranteed (not cherishing what is, forgetting that it is a gift) or too scarce (angry at how “little” of it we have).

With a window, propped to hear the birds singing and conversing, I ignore the ticking clock and name for me to remember…

Patience requires nothing of me. I am awed to wait and wonder at all that grows not at my own initiative. I take in all the beauty that emerges due to Another’s design.

Patience requires everything of me. I am asked to wait and wonder at all that I wish to actively tend and nurture, produce and share – but I must wait my turn in Life’s Timing that I cannot control but I can submit to in frustration and joy, confusion and gratitude.

Patience says that all is temporary, so do not miss this moment and all that cannot last within it. Do not assume the moment needs MORE – missing that it is already brimming with more than we could ever take in, even if we tried.

Patience says that all is abundant, so be content with missing some of the moments or being unable to take it all in. There is more than enough. Patience says that life’s plentitude does not fade but extravagantly, almost arrogantly continues. Do not assume the moment needs CAPTURING – missing that the glory witnessed continues and cannot ever be erased.

Patience allows the eternal to exist right now – abundantly in the temporary.

Its power lingers as children come in and climb into my lap, asking for nutella with bread and if they woke early enough to have their 30 minutes of computer time. Then patience begins to interact with the ticking of the clock and I am beckoned back into the world of timed minutes. Already I am late in getting ready, but I just could not help myself. I could not help but believe that it is all true – that the birds singing, the cool air coming in the window, and the abundance of life was asking to be noticed and remembered.

But the school bell rings in an hour and 15 minutes. The house must wake, move, and have its begin in order to make it on time.

Time marches on, but thank God for all that has been and all that remains to be enjoyed.  Surely, even on a Friday morning, there will be enough of it.

Psalm 27: One Thing Worth Asking

Standard

“One thing I asked of the Lord,
that I will seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in God’s temple…

I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and
let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord.”
– Psalm 27

Come close and wait. Consider the only task ahead is the permission you must give yourself to let down all the walls that keep you “protected” (the tasks, the identity, the relationships – all that you do to respond to fear and endings).  Give yourself permission to be the true, vulnerable being that you are – the only one who is able to step into the presence of the Lord, the One Who Is.

What will come next when you and I come before the Holy with all the real depth that we can muster?

I sense that this moment is an embrace. It is an overwhelming sense of being known.  It is a wholeness that we had been trying to construct all this time but had failed.  It is the wholeness that God gives and we receive.

This wholeness is a protection we thought we were making but now is bestowed – the kind of protection that does not eradicate danger but sends us back into dangerous situations with an intangible but palpable armor of faith, hope, and love.  Our vulnerable selves are not tempted to fight but ready to rest in a Promise that is more powerful than whatever fear threatened was coming.

In this embrace, now we wait.

Now we are able to wait, for we know that all the “doing” that matters must begin in a posture of dependence upon God and God’s goodness, rather than a mustering of our own worthiness.

God,
who is beyond all that we can imagine,
who is all that we will ever need,
who is saving us, hour by hour,
through the humanity You became in Jesus
and the mystery You continue to be,

One thing we ask,
One thing worth asking,
Hold us close and send us forth
as waiting participants in your created and creating world.

We are Yours.
You are ours.
All is well.

Amen.

Ash Wednesday: But There is More

Standard

Before You, we will gather
in a sanctuary drained of its color.
The saints’ form will show,
but their vitality will seem lost for now.

How tempting it will be
to revel in the darkness,
to taste our bitter mortality,
to consider all we will lose,
to fall into the overwhelming sadness
over the fragility of it all.

But there is more.

There is the call to repentance –
turning our eyes away from self-pity
towards Christ’s pity for a world
aching with injustice and indifference
but filled with people making heroic efforts
to make a change.

See what breaks Jesus’ heart
and let it break my heart.
Let it break.
Let it be.

But there is more.

There is the call to redemption –
tasting despair, we know to ask,
we begin to yearn
for a God who has the power to save —

though that terrifies us
for it is beyond our understanding
(and therefore our control);
though we dismissed the thought of salvation
once we were too educated;
though we gave up on the
swoop-in-and-rescue salvation;
though we foolishly conflated fairy tales’ happily-ever-after
with the gospels.

Fragile, broken-hearted, redemption-hungry people
are the ones ready to begin the long journey.
Even in our standing to follow,
we are already being saved –
in the dark sanctuary, there is air in our lungs;
during the difficult times, there is resilience in our step;
though it will not come in this lifetime, there awaits a forever rest
that will come for all.

Look, there is more.
The Guide bids us follow.
Stand up, O Mortal, and come forward for the ashes.
“Dust you are,
to the dust, you will return,
redeemed and dancing.”

No Matter What Comes Today

Standard

This morning I thumbed through my journal as it has reached its capacity and I move on to a new one. I found this prayer that I wrote on January 18. I was just about to start writing my thesis. I had just begun praying the hours with Thomas Merton’s prayer book – a practice that is changing the nature of my days. I was entering into a season where every hour counts and where my hustle determines whether I can cross the finish line. How much I needed this centering then and now. Before I enter the final week of thesis writing, this is the truth in which I stake my greatest claim.

In the morning before the sun rises
and before I am fully awake,
I remember You and Your mercies.
I recall the news: that no matter what the day holds,
You are the Lord of my life
the Creator of the ends of the earth
and of my interior world,
the Savior of my drowning soul
the Forgiver of my heart who tries to go its own way.

You desire me to live in Your peace.
You call me to dwell
and let all my action come from
this home base.

No matter what comes today,
I am already content with its ending.
I am already at peace.
I am already choosing to rejoice by nightfall.
For the truth of the world –
– the peace that is ours to claim –
depends not on the outcome of the day
but upon a covenant made a long time ago.
A promise that remains even today.

So this day, I go ahead and give You
my soul
devotion
obedience
commitment
for it is a privilege to do so.
It is the most obvious step to take
when salvation has been tasted,
when I consider all that we claim You to be
and I remember the ways You have
guided my life up until now
when I remember that the morning
brings mercies new to be ours –

a fresh start
a forgiven heart
a call new to discover

I remember that Your peace is our dwelling place.
It is a peace that cannot be earned,
no matter what comes of today,
and it is a peace which today’s challenges
may threaten but can never destroy.

In the morning when I rise, grant me devotion.
In the afternoon as I work, grant me commitment.
In the early evening as I play, grant me rest.
By nightfall, grant me a content heart.

All glory to You, the Giver of Days whose endings are already secure.

Finally at Home

Standard

Words shared in Lone Oak in celebration of my grandmother’s life.

The route down I-65 South always seems to pass quickly but once you take the right turn on exit 91, time starts to crawl. The Western Kentucky Parkway is a time warp – miles passing by without any major milestones, other than the middle-of-the-highway Beaver Dam rest stop where we fuel up with caffeinated beverages and snacks.

But there was always a reward at the end. Winding through Lone Oak, we would pull into the driveway, whether off of Bleich Road or Pepper’s Mill, to find steps adorned with seasonal décor and a door opened by two smiling faces – my grandparents, Betty and Roger. Continue reading

The Path this Christmas Morning

Standard

IMG_1800.jpgWhen so much is expected of me (by the world, by others, but most of all, by myself), guide me in the greatest journey there is to take – the path I walk when I turn from self-sufficiency and gift-giving to God-dependency and the-gift-receiving.

This is the true path on Christmas morning where, in the bleak midwinter of the soul, I realize my smallness before the glory of God revealed all around me.  I remember that “servant of the Lord” is a far better life than “master of my universe.”  I choose to believe that the greatest gift does not need my preparation but is already here from a God who became flesh to live among us.

This Christmas morning, I preach to myself again the sermon I preached to others on Sunday morning.  Before I ever give a gift, I must receive the gift – the good news that God, creator of the heavens and the earth – loves me and is on the way to me to redeem what I thought was lost, to restore what I thought was too tattered within me to be of use anymore, to resurrect what I thought was forever gone.  Even more, this God is equally on the way to my neighbor in dramatic and powerful ways.

I remember that this gift never grows old, cannot be earned, and cannot be lost.  It cannot be repaid.  It will not evaporate when I get frustrated.  It is as real the day I was born as it is today and as it will be on the day when I breathe my last

Every time I encounter this news and lean into it with more depth, I taste this truth as if it is new and I find myself surprised that it is even sweeter than I remembered.  It is news so good that just the beginning of it is enough to rejoice at the fulfillment of it.

And just like that the angels sing, my soul is at peace, and it is time to start to live again this mystery.  Children will stir any minute now, it is time to get ready.

Morning “stories” from my Advent Instagram practice with the daily lectionary…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

TWO: “Up!”

Standard

IMG_0670.jpeg

“Up!” he cries, eyes fixed upon my face and hands full of toys. “Where do you want to go?” I ask as if his request is transactional – as if I am a tool to achieve his desires. He and I both know that it is more than that, but in the chaos of dinner-prep, I can’t help but turn everything into actions with purpose.

“Up,” he repeats, each time with more tears and all the urgency he can muster. I bend down, careful with my back.  I have the back of a working mother whose third child prefers to be held for much of the evening routine (an impossible request while making dinner as cooking inevitably requires two hands and sharp knives).  Then there are the two older children like to play in such a way that can quickly knock the wind out of me (when did they get so big?).

Lifting him up, I rest his two-year-old frame on my left hip, and I wonder if my hips have gotten weaker or if they are just getting to the place of protest.  After 8 years of mothering, they would like a rest from toting little ones around. They don’t hold the way they used to.  Now, my back has to accommodate with an uncomfortable lean that I always regret later in the day.

Just as I lift him up and my hips, back, arms, and tasks protest, his eyes lock with mine. Only inches away from my eyes, his face lights up with an infectious smile. He moves expertly so that his shoulders square with mine and he gains my full attention.  He has done this for the past 6 months, and I am always amazed at its brilliance. He manages to look at me in such a way that I forget everything else.  I mirror his smile, just the way he once learned to smile by watching me.

“Who is the cutest?” I ask.  His smile grows ever bigger as he replies, “Walt” and then quickly “Mommy.”

Ever since he learned to say his name, he usually follows it with his name for me – “Mommy.”  Even while the older two have matured to “Mom” (usually uttered like a shout or a demand), Walt still draws out “Mommy” slowly and his eyes twinkle.

I know these are temporary times.  His journey to independence began the day he was born and it continues to this day.  While parents of children who are grown might advise me to always pick him up and carry him for however long he wants, we all know that life is not that easy.  I cannot bottle up his youth as if I can soak it up enough for a lifetime.  Besides, my hips and my back won’t let me.  And dinner does actually have to get on the table at some point (often the source of why he wants to be picked up in the first place).

Lately, I practice my new line while I mince onions and gather ingredients from the pantry.  “You can be with me, but I can’t pick you up right now.”  After a few times of repeating it, he will walk away for a moment with shoulders slumped to find a toy.  The sight of it ignites some mother-guilt to flare up, but it quickly dissipates.  Even as I type this, I know I will later read this and regret every time I have uttered it.

But he is growing up, and that is not bad news. It’s not news at all.  This is the task before us – to relearn how to be connected even when it is not at the (aching) hip as much anymore.

The day we came home from the hospital, I managed to steal a few moments in solitude and I wrote out gratitude on that Thanksgiving day.  The list is scribbled out on a half-filled page.  For bodies fragile and yet strong. For children who know that they are loved. For parents who are capable of reflecting love and receiving it because they know what it means to be loved. For the way gratitude can comfort weakness.

I speak all the words again this morning and I whisper quietly in the dark, “Amen.”

This year as we celebrate Thanksgiving and the second birthday of our youngest, may I not begrudge nor idolize my hands that are full or my list that is long.  Instead, may I be tender enough with my own self that I hear my own cries, pause the chaos to pick my self up, and joyfully look my self in the face enough to hear my name again.  In so doing, may I find that it is the Divine Mother herself letting me know that life is more beautiful than I could ever grasp while living it.

In the arms of the One who is still birthing me even today, I pause and give thanks.  I remember again that gratitude can comfort weakness.  I am seen and I am free.