Winter Solstice Blessing

Winter Solstice Blessing

From Karen Clark’s blog and book A Path of She

Nature remembers what we humans have forgotten – that every cycle must return to stillness, and to the dark.

Every out-breath requires an in-breath

Every outer endeavor turns back inward to its origins, its center, in order to begin again.

From death comes new life, and from darkest night, the new dawn is born.

May the darkness of winter bring new appreciation of the Light.

NaBloPoMo: Happy New Year (C) Resolution

In the liturgical calendar, the “new year” actually starts with Advent, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. It always catches me a little by surprise, even though I know when the holidays fall on my calendar. It is with the “new year” theme in mind, that the Revgals offer this prompt:

NaBloPoMo Day 22: What’s your spiritual resolution for Year C?

 

I have two resolutions and they are very intertwined…

  1. to “finish strongly” with our present congregation, Church in Bethesda
  2. to “begin humbly” with a new church family, wherever it will be, in 2016.

It’s hard for me to write about the process our church is going through right now. I have been a part of its leadership, serving in various  capacities, preaching very infrequently, and loving the saints God brought through the doors. There was, as Carrie Newcomer sings, “Room at the Table for everyone.”

There was a radical welcome, but it was not enough. A convergence of problems signaled it was time for a change.

In the last eighteen months, we lost about half of our regular attendees due to transfers and moves to other parts of the country. We were not able to retain a large enough congregation to meet our budget and do some necessary capital improvements and repairs. And we couldn’t afford to keep Todd, our lead pastor, full-time. In the midst of the swirl of changes within our church, God was leading Todd into the discernment process  with The Episcopal Church. Our Sunday worship will morph into something new and, as of yet, unknown.

 

So I stand in the swirl of the the liturgical year and the calendar year in a peak of emotions and wonderings… knowing that God is in the mix and I am, without a doubt, completely loved.

And for now, that is enough.

IMG_9923

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 

I Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

Don’t go changin’…

Don’t go changin’… That’s what got me singing:

Don’t go changing, to try and please me
You never let me down before
Don’t imagine you’re too familiar
And I don’t see you anymore
I would not leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times
I’ll take you just the way you are
– Billy Joel

Well, maybe a little change is a good thing…

Those are great lyrics to demonstrate unconditional love. Not so great when it comes to home repair and upkeep!

Recently, we had to do a major repair, clean-up and de-clutter for a home appraisal. (No, we’re not moving. It was for other reasons!) In the process of preparing for the appraiser’s arrival, I had to look at rooms in our home from a stranger’s eyes. Rooms that I thought looked cozy and comfy were under piles of clutter. I realized that some quick spruce-ups were necessary.

Several hours of cleaning and straightening up by myself and my beloved, and we were ready. The sun sparkled through the windows. The floors gleamed. The cats cooperated and kept all of their hair off the freshly vacuumed furniture (sort of…)

Look quickly! There's no clutter. (Well... OK there's a book left on a chair.)
Look quickly! There’s no clutter. (Well… OK there’s a book left on a chair.)

It was worth the effort, but it took a lot to get to “show room” quality. For a few hours, we were picture perfect!

It got me thinking…

There are many things in our lives which are right in front of us and need improvement. But instead of addressing them, we just choose to ignore the mess. OR (perhaps worse) we see the problems, and decide it isn’t worth the extra effort to improve.

As I went about my day, picking up and clearing the decks, I couldn’t help but think about the way I approach the unwanted tasks in my life. Whether it’s mending or ironing, cleaning or de-cluttering, I make excuses to do ANYTHING else. Or perhaps it’s that last 20 pounds I am trying to lose and I sit and read (or play on-line) instead of exercising. (That stepper machine isn’t a coat rack… sigh…) I can find any excuse not to “just do it.”

Why is it so hard?

Because I’m selfish…
Because the status quo is easier than making a new habit…
Because I am afraid to put myself out there…
Because it’s slightly scary to decide to make a change when those old ruts are so familiar…
Because I don’t have enough confidence…
Because I have tried and failed in the past…
Because improvement takes work! And lots of it!

I think it’s a combination of all of the above. However, when I finally do overcome an obstacle (self-made or environmental) the feeling of accomplishment is huge. Our home is clean and inviting. The results were worth the discipline.

It’s lots of baby steps in the right direction (as FlyLady would say).  Lots of little tasks that add up into a big difference. Cutting out between meal carb-type snacks and walking more every day helped me lose 20 pounds in 4 months. The next 20 pounds will take more effort, but I still have it as my goal in 2014. (And I’m proud to say I’ve lost the first 2!)

Peter’s words come to mind:

This is why you must make every effort to add moral excellence to your faith; and to moral excellence, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, endurance; and to endurance, godliness; and to godliness, affection for others; and to affection for others, love. If all these are yours and they are growing in you, they’ll keep you from becoming inactive and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:4-8, CEB)

It’s a little staircase of intentional thoughts, words and deeds. Each depends on the other for forward progress. Slowly. Gently. Carefully. Thoughtfully. And with God’s help, we’ll all get there…

Blessed be.

Restless in a Season of Waiting

From Augustine’s Confessions:

Fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

~-o0o-~

Elder StatesCat, Polgara, is restless today. She paced around the kitchen as I had my morning oatmeal. She walked back and forth between the back door and the couch.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

She is usually asleep by the time I’m done with my morning routine and heading out the door. Today, she is restless.

About two weeks ago, we took her to the vet because of a large calcification on her shoulder. X-rays and an exam showed that she has a fibrosarcoma on her left scapula. It’s getting larger by the week. Given her advanced age, and the fact that she has Stage 2-3 renal failure, we aren’t doing anything more than comfort care and spoiling her.

I notice she hesitates before turning in a new direction. A couple of times when she has turned abruptly, she lost her balance and staggered a little. I know she is not doing as well as even a few weeks ago.

Her restlessness reflects my own… My questions and prayers have bounced all over the place this morning.

I settle to read on the couch and she climbs up beside me, carefully gauging how far she has to jump. She begins to relax, kneading and purring quietly. As long as I sit here and read and write, she will keep me company.

Polgara
Polgara

I’m not the best at settling and waiting, but that’s the season that I’m in right now. Doubts and discouragement creep into my thoughts. I sit with these doubts, but I don’t adopt them. It is part of this process of discernment and transition.

To what? I have no clue. When? I don’t know. Why is it taking so long? As a mentor pointed out, I have highly specialized skills in a flooded market. Underemployment is common for many of us trained as chaplains. That’s reality.

Despite all this, I am not feeling hopeless. Frustrated, perhaps. Tired of waiting, most assuredly! I know that the God who hears my prayers and my frustration also answers…

Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.

Psalm 6:8-9 ESV

Thanks be to God!

P.S. Green Day’s Waiting is stuck in my head.

A Psalm of New Growth

One of the reasons I love spring so much are these days of fast growth and change in my garden. Things that were brown vines and naked trees are shoving out new growth. This vine for my trumpet vine was literally brown and dead-looking a week ago. I walked out onto my back patio this morning to pray and saw a sudden burst of green!

New life, New growth
New life, New growth

Over the last several days, as I watered, weeded and mulched, I wonder if it “hurts” to have this new growth come so quickly. And I’ve decided, based on my own life, that it just might.

Today’s post is a Psalm of praise to God in days of growth, challenge and beauty. May it nourish and encourage you in your spiritual “growth spurts.”

A Psalm of New Growth

by Deb Vaughn

Lord of the roots and vines
Lord of the skies and trees and birds
Lord of the wind and thunderstorms
Join us here
On this tender plot of our lives.

You have guided us
You have prepared us
You have nurtured us
You have turned us back to the Trellis of your ways.
We praise you.

Spirit of transplanting
Spirit of fertilizing, pruning and mulching
Spirit of weeding and clipping
Meet us here
As leaves unfurl and blossoms dance.

You have guided us
You have prepared us
You have nurtured us
You have turned us back to the Trellis of your ways.
We praise you.

Redeemer of the healing rains
Redeemer of the land and heart
Redeemer of the luscious harvest
Join us here
On this tender plot of our lives.

You have guided us
You have prepared us
You have nurtured us
You have turned us back to the Trellis of your ways.
We praise you.

Even when the blossoms fade
Even when the harvest is stolen
Even when there is an early frost
Even when we long for your healing rain
We praise you.

You have guided us
You have prepared us
You have nurtured us
You have turned us back to the Trellis of your ways.
We praise you.

You are welcome to use this Psalm with credit to the author, and to God.

Impeded but still singing

My daily Bible reading plan took me to Acts 4-5 today, where the early Church began to face opposition from the established keepers of Tradition. I resonated with these words from Gamaliel:

“If their plan or activity is of human origin, it will end in ruin. If it originates with God, you won’t be able to stop them. Instead, you would actually find yourselves fighting God!” (Acts 5:38-39 CEB)

 

I have felt a bit thwarted as I’ve papered the area with resumes and cover letters. This does not seem to be an ideal time to find a new Call. While I could have found a job, it would have required driving more than an hour each way (more on a bad traffic day), or would have been more of the life-bending overnight/weekend hours I have now. It’s been a bit discouraging. I know I’m Called to be a chaplain and pastor; I also know that I do not have to jump at the first offer, but am waiting and being thoughtful and discerning.

So for the time being, I’m putting an aggressive job search on hold. I am going to work more hours at my night/weekend job since the family needs are more flexible. And I’m also making various trips (with Bearded Brewer, with Reedy Girl on a college tour, to the beach) so it’s not all bad. It’s all about perspective.

I was reminded of this Wendell Berry quote by one of my sibs this morning. It surely fits in some of the career impediments I’ve had in the last few years. I have no doubts that I am working and doing what I’m Called to do, and the place and time for a full time assignment will come in God’s time.

The photography is from a trip we made as a family a few years ago.

Impeded but still singing

The Real Work

It may be that when
we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know
which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

— Wendell Berry

 

Resting in the grace of the world

 

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
 rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought 
of grief.

I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars 
waiting with their light.

For a time 
I rest in the grace of the world,
and am free.

—   Wendell Berry