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:
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.
On Monday, I am having a knee scoped to tend to some irritations and pain I’ve been dealing with since Labor Day. As anyone knows, even “minor” surgery requires a lot of preparation. It’s been a hectic few weeks. Squeezing in extra visits to patients, and getting all the requisite paperwork filed. Then there were doctor’s visits, physical therapy sessions, and lab tests. I tried to be organized without being crazy about it.
Friday afternoon, I tied up loose ends at work, changed the message on my work phone, and signed off on my caseload. I felt pretty good, but was honest about my feelings of trepidation.
I came home to a to-do list a mile long. Laundry, cooking, groceries, and errands, plus paying bills. I also put away the last Christmas decorations! (Hey! It’s barely into Lent! That’s an accomplishment.) I started looking for the info I need for our taxes. I treated myself to a nice relaxing pedicure Saturday afternoon.
Clean all the things!
File all the things!
Wash all the things!
Do all the things! ALL of them!
Yeah. I’m calm on the outside, crazed on the inside.
It’s ironic and, at the same time, fortuitous that this year’s Lenten focus is on REST. Reconnecting with the Creator God who knows us best, and understands our needs. And even commands us to rest! (Oh yeah. That.) And it’s almost funny-not-funny that in our Lenten sermon series, I am preaching on…REST. The Divine’s sense of humor is unreal.
So for what it’s worth, there many things left undone on my to-do list. There are tasks I will have to deal with when I have a brain post-surgery later this week. And, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that will stay “un-done” until someone (possibly not even me) gets to it.
And yes. I’ll rest. And let my body do the healing work it needs to do. And be very, very intentional about finding Rest in the One who knows and loves me best.
As my burdens bury deep into my heart And the pressure starts to suffocate my soul
Your voice calls out from the clamor Drawing me close to where You are I rise up out of the chaos Fall to my knees and meet with You
My soul finds rest, my soul finds rest in You My heart will sing in the shelter of Your wings
Rest in You, by DK Worship, featuring Andrea Folet
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.
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!
I’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!
Tonight I offer
prayers for the whys
prayers for the not agains
prayers for the dying
prayers for the dead
prayers for the angry
prayers for the scared
prayers for the healers
prayers for the investigators
prayers for the grieving
prayers for the bystanders
prayers for the perpetuators of hate
prayers for the unhelpful rhetoric
prayers for the politicians
prayers for news outlets
prayers for our faith communities
prayers for the gun lovers
prayers for the gun lobbyists
prayers for the peacemakers
prayers for change
prayers for hope…
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
So says the writer of Proverbs, anyway. (16:18 if you’re playing along for points.)
This evening just before things were completely dark outside, I heard our wind chimes singing mightily in the back yard. I rushed out the back door, grateful the rain had stopped, if only for a moment or two. The chimes were glorious and a fitting “Amen” to a weekend of rain and wind. And then… I hit a slick spot on the slate pavers on our patio and went DOWN in a glorious splat.
Yes.Ow. Very much ow.
I sat there for a moment, the wind knocked out of me, in pain. Nothing appeared broken. The only thing sprained is my dignity (even though no one was there to see my acrobatics, I did have to text my beloved to come and help me stand up, as I was shocked and wobbly.) I left a large dry spot on the slate approximately the size of my backside, and a lovely mossy skid mark on my jeans.
The Proverbs quote came to mind. I don’t believe it was a haughty spirit that caused my butt-first landing. I thought wryly to myself that actually, in this case, inattention came before the fall. Or maybe it was rushing. Or perhaps multi-tasking.
Sometimes stuff just happens. This wasn’t out of meanness. It wasn’t to teach me some cosmic lesson. It was just the cumulative effect of six inches of rain in 3 days on a slate patio.
My pants will wash and I imagine any bruises I’ve collected will fade in a week or two. At the moment, I’m headed for the couch with an ice pack and an afghan and maybe some crocheting. It’s not been the best of weeks, to be honest. But not the worst, either. I’m grateful for friends, for family, for a steadying hand when I need it the most.
Whatever has caused you to fall flat today, may you leave the buttprints behind, and know that the universe is not conspiring against you, either.
A heart song that has been speaking to me this week is this song “You Say” by Lauren Daigle. May it encourage you.
I have been thinking a lot these past months about privilege and its insidious impact on our culture in general, and the Church in particular.
Privilege creates barriers of assumptions. Of misrepresentation. Unfortunately those of us who have privilege don’t see it.
Privilege comes in many forms: White privilege. Straight privilege. Educated privilege. Housing privilege. Food source privilege. Employment privilege. Transportation privilege. Health privilege. I could go on…
Maybe you’ve played the “Privilege Walk” exercise with a group. (You can read more about that here.) Many people of privilege, myself included, found it uncomfortable. Eye-opening. Humbling. But how I learned the most from the experience was listening to others during the debrief session who were less privileged than I. Listening. Not apologizing. Not being defensive. Not being embarrassed. Listening.
I’m also taking responsibility for my ignorance. I’m engaged in some serious reading on the topic of white privilege and intersectionality right now. The biggest take-away so far? Those of us who have privilege have some serious issues with granting other people the same rights we have. Especially people who look/live/love differently.
I wish I could say that the Church (and Christian organizations) are doing a better job at honoring differences and admitting bias and privilege. But we are not. We like our little enclaves and private worlds. We want to hold on to what WE have created, what WE have done. It’s as if we’ve forgotten that everything we have, everything we are, everything we create comes to us via the Spirit’s download. We forget that scarcity is not the economy of heaven. Like the T-shirt says:
Equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you! It’s not pie!
The Church today either identifies with a mega franchise or clings fiercely to our tiny fiefdoms. (There’s not a lot in between.) We fiercely defend what we are used to doing in our churches. (Don’t think so? Try changing it up sometime.) Yet — we say we want to see the Beloved Community on earth and the kin-dom of God to be created in our midst.
Living with a generous Spirit is touch-and-go. Just when we think we’ve got it figured out, something changes. Our stability is gone. The music is different. The preacher is different. The version of the Bible (or prayer book or bulletin size) is different. New people come and sit in “our” (assigned, personal, everyone-knows-we-sit-here) pews! “Those kind” of people attend our churches now. The antidote to this holy entitlement is to focus on deconstructing our privilege, owning what it is, admitting where we have acted selfishly, and work on ourselves (not others) before we see actual change.
Today in our worship service at Twinbrook Baptist, we sang the song by Holly Near, “Singing for Our Lives.” Holly wrote it in response to the assassination of Harvey Milk in 1978. It is a song beloved in the LGBTQ community specifically, and the Resistance community at large. It expresses a very real fear. Unless one has listened to the voices of our brothers and sisters of color, and our LGBTQ siblings, one forgets how easily hate creates an atmosphere of violence.
We are a gentle angry people, and we are singing for our lives.
We are a land of many colors, and we are singing for our lives.
We are gay and straight together, and we are singing for our lives.
The Gospels are clear – If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, then just maybe we need to demand less, expect less, and show more compassion and respect. And we need to confess when we have been racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and xenophobic.
It’s not an option. It’s not easy. But it is the way of Christ.