Echoing Footsteps

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
– Alfred Lloyd Tennyson 

Our congregation is taking a “slowed-down” approach to Lent this year. Our main theme is “Restore My Soul” – finding ways to feel renewed and refreshed in the faith. We are focusing on being “un-busy.” There’s just too much in our culture that fights against a deeper, richer spiritual life.

I chose to use coloring again for my personal Lenten discipline as a means of reflection and self-expression. Especially with my current physical challenges from knee surgery, I need to be intentional in reflecting and listening to the Divine. So, I pulled out one of my favorite coloring books which has page after page of labyrinths to color. I flipped open to a fresh page and saw this:

labyrinthpast

The colors of a completed labyrinth from a previous Lent bled through the page opposite of the new labyrinth I began coloring today. I paused to wonder, “What echoes from my past am I walking with today??”

Positive or negative, challenges or success stories, I have internalized all of these past events. Some memories are faded, others push through with more of an impact. All of them are a part of me. All of them are essential to who I am and how I serve as a pastor and a chaplain. And even the hardest memories can be an asset and inform how I serve. But they also can be triggers and block me from doing my best.

Stumbling. Falling. Trying again. That’s a life that walks with Christ, day after day, year after year. Walking in the Divine’s grace and love. Always until forever.

Blessed be.

It’s Star Words time!

The Three Wise Men - Matthew 2:1-12
Artist: Jesus Mafa from Cameroon.
No. Not Star Wars time. (I see you out there.)

Star Words is a concept I first learned about from Marci Glass, one of the RevGalBlogPals. She credits Reformed Worship for the seed idea.

The concept is simple: One selects (or is given) a word for the purpose of reflection and meditation for the New Year. It is based off of the story of the Magi coming to see the Christ Child. In most Christian communities, this story is part of Epiphany celebration (or the twelfth day of Christmas.) However, I think it can be part of one’s spiritual practice, regardless of your personal spirituality or religion (or lack thereof.)

Here is the text as found in Matthew 2:1-12 (CEB).

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”

3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. 4 He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

6 “You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
because from you will come one who governs,
who will shepherd my people Israel.”*

7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” 9 When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

* Matthew 2:6 Mic 5:2; 2 Sam 5:2

In choosing/giving a star word, there is an opportunity for reflection and even re-direction. After all, the Magi thought a new King would be born in a palace. Instead, the scholars in Herod’s court told them to go to Bethlehem. They also listened to the warnings of the Divine (even through dreams!) to not return and tell Herod where the Child was living with his family. How might the Divine give you re-direction or insight with your Star Word?

The gifts of the Magi were costly. Their intentions were pure. What would a poor workman and his wife do with all of these treasures? Perhaps initially, to pay their way to Egypt as refugees, and then later, to re-establish the family in Nazareth. What gift will you receive from learning about yourself and your Star Word?

I invite you to receive your own Star Word!

bagofwordsI’ll pick one at random from my bag of stars. It will be yours to contemplate in the New Year. You might not like the word you get… but eventually, there will be some sort of spiritual insight or affirmation from it. As I like to tell people, “the word chooses YOU!” Every year I have engaged in this practice, I have learned something about myself and have been encouraged in my personal spiritual practice. You can read about my reflections on my 2018 Star Word here!

To get your own star word:

  • leave me a comment (and I’ll reply with your word)
  • message me or respond to my posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr
  • just ask when you see me!

Here’s to the journey of wonder, contemplation and Light!


The Magi
by Godfrey Rust

Will you study these signs
as carefully
as you study the prices
in the Christmas catalogues?

Will you seek out the manger
as diligently
as you search for the right scarf
or this year’s toy?

Will you examine
your heart’s pilgrimage
and be sure towards what stable
it carries its precious gifts?

Will you be a wise fool
to find and follow
the strange star of truth
in a sky full of glittering lies?

© Godfrey Rust, godfrey@wordsout.co.uk. Used by permission.

Pink Crocs in the Labyrinth: God Mother Shoes

IMG_6694Family legend states that my mom had a pair of “Godmother Shoes.” They were so-named because one of her progeny reportedly objected to her wearing them by saying, “My GOD, Mother, you’re not going to wear THOSE shoes, are you?”

Mom is a good sport. The shoes were forever nicknamed, and she wore them when she wished.

My pink faux-Crocs (or “Frocs”) fall into this category. However, they are the perfect shoes to slip on when I want to go get the mail, do a quick chore in the yard, or empty the compost bucket. This bright pair of footwear gets the progeny eye-roll every time I wear them. This morning, however, they were just right for a quick stroll around the labyrinth before work. And in pajama pants to boot!

Fall in the labyrinth is lovely. The morning light is stunning. The birds are happily chirping, feeding at our many stations. The rabbits watch from the cover of the forsythia. And there is little background machinery or mosquitos to annoy me as I walk.

This morning I wandered, camera in hand, to capture the loveliness that I saw all around me. The photos helped capture the words in my morning reading of Psalm 86:

Teach me your way, Lord,
so that I can walk in your truth.
Make my heart focused
only on honoring your name.
I give thanks to you, my Lord, my God,
with all my heart,
and I will glorify your name forever,
because your faithful love toward me is awesome
and because you’ve rescued my life
from the lowest part of hell.
Psalm 86:11-13 CEB

Here’s a taste of the beauty I could see all around me.

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The Good-byes and the Butterflies

2014-06-24 05.52.57I hung up my lab coat one last time,
turned in my keys and badge,
and hugged co-workers good-bye.

It was time.
I am Called to a new place.

I sought out co-workers and friends
to thank them
to remember them
to be reminded of the ways they blessed
and taught me.

I left a part of my heart
and hours of care
in a place with difficult decisions
and dark days,
of too-small babies
and too-late treatments,
of soul-searching questions
in the deeps of the night.

And in each moment,
through each person,
God was there.

The next chaplain will arrive
take the keys,
wear the badge and coat,
listen and pray,
speak and hold silence.

Life is full
of these sacred moments
and last words
and good-byes.
They must be held,
ever so briefly,
honored,
and then released.

2014-06-23 13.44.54

I came home to butterflies
on my flowers
and squirrels in my garden,
with day lilies trumpeting
the heat of summer
and wrens serenading their young.

In my next venture
I will see more of these holy moments,
memorable individuals
and unanswerable questions.

The Holy will be Present
to guide
to bless
to strengthen
to bring peace.

I go out in joy.
I am led forth in peace.


soli deo gloria.