Friday Five: All Around the Mulberry Bush

3dogmom has this week’s Friday Five over at RevGals:

It’s been a week of ups and downs at our house. On Tuesday I received word of the birth of my goddaughter’s second daughter, a blessing to that family, and the hope of the first daughter happily fulfilled. That evening I learned that my sister-in-law, a breast cancer survivor, is facing a recurrence of cancer in her lymph nodes, and probably her lungs. Joy and concern pressing in on my heart has made for a week of lots of deep breaths and deep-in-the-marrow prayer, smiles and tears. At times like this I my soul finds comfort and seeks expression through my senses. Pinterest feeds my visual need for beauty and color (not to mention adorable puppies, and herds of sheep). Cooking fills the house with pleasant aromas, and the results satisfy my palette. My hands find tactile pleasure in massaging my dogs, and music penetrates and reverberates in the fiber of my being. When you need to hold disparate parts of your life in tension, what do you do? Share five things that steady your pace, recharge your batteries and invite peace to your soul.

I made my list and then went back and reviewed it. What is interesting is that though I am an extrovert, when I need to refuel, I tend to move into solitary experiences. It was an important aspect of my CPE to realize what I needed to be ready to give in ministry the next day.

1. Labyrinth: I go walk the labyrinth in my backyard. I’ve walked in the heat, snow, rain and now it’s mud season! It’s a place to hear and see the world I live in and to separate myself out from it, just for a little while, to pray.

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It’s Mud Season in my labyrinth.

2. Photography: I have no delusions that I am an amazing photographer. But every now and then, I get some good shots.

2014-02-22 CnO Canal 1
C&O Canal near Antietam Battlefield, Maryland.

3. Knitting and crocheting and vegging: My latest projects have been hats and lambs for infants (knit) and matching afghans (crocheted). The blankets take a LOT longer. I’m also looking into creating preemie clothes for the NICU. We have lots of “million dollar babies” and their parents appreciate the handmade things. (If you have a hospital with a NICU, call and ASK them what they need.)

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Henry is not amewsed.

4. Music: Right now my piano is covered because of all of the construction dust in my house. I can’t wait to uncover it and play again. I really miss it.

My piano.

5. Coloring: I have started dabbling with coloring. At home I have colored pencils and various designs that I color (mandalas, labyrinths, patterns). Away from home, I play around with the “Paper 53” app on my iPad. No delusions that I’m a great artist… I’m just letting the arts be my muse.

Tree in Winter. Made with Paper 53 app on my iPad.
Tree in Winter. Made with Paper 53 app on my iPad.

Pick it up; let it go; put it down…

This morning I set aside some time to ponder my annual Lenten discipline – WHAT am I setting aside or refraining from doing to make the next 40 days more meaningful? It’s not just a casual “I won’t get on Facebook” or “I won’t drink coffee” — not that I am criticizing you if you choose to change your usual habits and haunts. (I could pick those disciplines for myself!) For me personally it is more a question of spiritual reflection and refinement. What is it that so easily distracts or entangles me?

My readings this morning in Exodus 4 reminded me of Ken Medema’s song about Moses. (I’ve put it at the end of this post if you’ve not heard it.) The end of the song has always been a touchstone for me. As Moses finally obeys God and picks up the snake-becoming-a-rod, he wins the first of his battles to trust God and God’s direction for his life, and for the people of Israel.

Ken Medema phrases it thusly:

God to Moses:

“Do you know what it means, Moses?
Do you know what I’m trying to say, Moses?
The rod of Moses became the rod of God!
With the rod of God, strike the rock and the water will come;
With the rod of God, part the waters of the sea;
With the rod of God, you can strike old Pharaoh dead;
With the rod of God, you can set the people free.”

And then Medema turns to his listeners:

What do you hold in your hand today?
To what or to whom are you bound?
Are you willing to give it to God right now?
Give it up, Give it up, let it go…
put it down.

Seeing the shepherd’s rod he carried in his hand turn into a snake and back again must have been a scary thing, indeed. Then God demonstrates another miracle in turning Moses’ hand leprous and then disease-free. Two miracles. Two demonstrations of power to show Pharaoh and his court. Finally, God tells Moses to take water from the Nile and pour it out on the ground, turning it to blood. THREE miracles. Surely that is enough to boost his confidence?

But even with those this miracles in his tunic (pocket?) Moses doubts. He still has to go TALK to the people in power over him. Genuine self-doubt takes over.

10 But Moses said to the LORD, “My Lord, I’ve never been able to speak well, not yesterday, not the day before, and certainly not now since you’ve been talking to your servant. I have a slow mouth and a thick tongue.”

11 Then the LORD said to him, “Who gives people the ability to speak? Who’s responsible for making them unable to speak or hard of hearing, sighted or blind? Isn’t it I, the LORD? 12 Now go! I’ll help you speak, and I’ll teach you what you should say.”

13 But Moses said, “Please, my Lord, just send someone else.”

Exodus 4, CEB

I understand this. I really do.

I can rationalize why SOMEONE ELSE can be, do, say, act instead of me. And I head off on other trails than one that is set before me. Or perhaps I procrastinate. Or I manipulate the circumstances so that “my” choice looks like God’s idea. (Just saying Truth here.) I can walk myself down a path of worry and self-doubt that almost (but not quite!!) prevents me from doing a U-turn. It’s a scary step to move out of the comfortable into the challenging. And deep down, the things that I know I can lay aside to better do the work I’m called to do??? I don’t want to set them down. I let complacency — or, dare I say it? fear of criticism — leave me bound up in a place of comfort, instead of flinging myself forward in freedom.

So here’s to flinging!
Flinging down rods.
Flinging down doubt.
And picking up what God asks each one of us to do.

What do YOU hold in your hand today? Can you set it aside this Lenten season and watch God work?

Join me in a grand adventure… God’s got this.

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Learn more about Ken Medema here…