Take a breath

  
At first glance
the snow is piling up
on branches and cars.
It’s not much
just enough to frost the world
in loveliness.

I watch
as fat flakes fall
and the sky brightens.
Time to start my day,
driving,
charting,
seeing patients,
offering prayers,
listening, and
waiting.

But first…
I take a breath
as I remember and reclaim
Whose I am
and offer thanks
for the beauty of this day.

A deep breath…
I feel peace and wisdom descend.

Blessed be.

Unfinished: A perpetual state of being

 

This blog started with a title that (occasionally) makes people wonder. “Are you a composer?” They ask.

Uh… No.

I was fascinated by the story of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony when I took music history in my undergraduate studies. He wrote the first two movements and sketched out a possible third one. Though he lived several years after beginning the composition, he never completed it. What frustration he must have felt…

I know that feeling. There are dreams and goals that I have in mind for the year ahead. I know that by the end of the year, some of them will not be completed. It’s hard to accept that I’m constantly a work “in progress.” The perfectionist in me doesn’t like it. The realist I me knows I have to get over it.

We all have to learn how to live within the tension. I’ve thought a lot about this, and decided that I am more successful when I enjoy every moment of the journey, every aspect of the creative process. Even this meditative coloring has beauty in its unfinished state as I remember God walks with me on each part of this journey.

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
Isaiah 43:1-3a NIV

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.

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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)

The Movement of the Spirit

I was running to my car in the rain, doing my best to not get completely drenched. The promised wind and rain arrived and that meant traffic would be worse than usual.

Lovely. My shirt and hair were drenched, my glasses smudged, and my shoes squished. I hate seeing patients when I’m little more than a frumpy, wet noodle! Grumbling, I took a deep breath and tried to re-focus. The last visit was very taxing on me emotionally and spiritually. I leaned back against the headrest. And there it was…

One maple leaf, just turning golden, plastered on my windshield. The raindrops around it glistened, and the sun peeked through the clouds, illuminating from behind like a stained glass window.

My car became a cathedral, and my heart was encouraged. God’s Spirit blew in through that mystical moment and lifted me up. “I can do this work… God help me, I can do this!”

Words from Henri Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved came to mind:

The movement of  God’s Spirit is very gentle, very soft… but that movement is also very persistent, strong, and deep. It changes hearts radically.

I had multiple reminders that day to stop, rest and see God’s Spirit at work. This was the first of many. There are times my work is exhausting spiritually and emotionally, but God’s Spirit is always there to guide, change, and move.

Blessed be…

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The work of the Spirit photo credit: Rev. Deb Vaughn

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see — how good God is. Blessed are you who run to the Lord. Psalm 34:8 (The Message)

Healing Rain

Healing rain is coming down
It’s coming nearer to this old town
Rich and poor, weak and strong
It’s bringing mercy, it won’t be long

Healing rain is coming down
It’s coming closer to the lost and found
Tears of joy, and tears of shame
Are washed forever in Jesus’ Name.

Lift your heads, let us return
To the mercy seat where time began
And in your eyes, I see the pain
Come soak this dry heart with healing rain

from Healing Rain by Michael W. Smith

I took off my shoes and carried a stool out to the back porch.

It was the first real rainstorm we’ve had in probably a month. The sound of the rain on the leaves and the patio was a soft, inviting hiss.

I soaked it in.

(null)I listened to the birds calling, watched a chipmunk scamper within inches of my toes. The rain dripped off the wisteria and ran down the trellis. Little by little, the stresses of the week washed away. The rain came down harder, and I realized I was soaked from the knees down.

It was time to retreat and get ready for the next part of my day. It was funny that ten minutes in a rain storm did so much to refresh me.

Remembering to stop, pray, breathe, and be thankful got me through the end of one week and prepared me for the beginning of the next. It refreshed my perspective. It released hope. It reminded me why I do the work I do.

My toes got a little wet. But my heart was refreshed.

Blessed be.

Cold-hearted

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The Mid-Atlantic is not known for supremely cold winters. Oh, we get a “cold snap” here and there in the winter months, but anything that lasts more than a week or two, and the natives get a little restless.

After all, we’re not Buffalo. Or Minnesnowta. We have plows and salt trucks, and it’s not unusual to have to wait a day to get plowed out in our neighborhood.

The last few weeks the temperatures have stayed below 40 degrees. The federal government closed at least once, and schools have been closed or delayed. Even our daughter’s college closed because the roads were not safe.

I know. You’re laughing at us. We accept your disdain. At least we’re honest.

Now it’s been cold long enough that the cumulative effects of the cold are starting to show up. Little by little, I see changes that aren’t “normal” for around here. For instance, I don’t quite remember the color of my car without dried salt spray on it. The back gate is frozen shut. I feel the tension in my shoulders from hunching down into my coat as I go from my car to the facilities and homes where my patients live. And there are very few things which will drag me from home once I’m holding a cat and warming up.

When I drove by this pond near our house and saw the geese scattered across the ice, I wondered at the change. A month ago, even a few weeks ago, the water was open and clear. Normally they would be paddling about, feeding and waddling and honking. Today, they were more like peppercorns spilled over an icy table. Cold. Quiet. Still.

The change was gradual. The result is clear.

In the season of Lent, there is a call to renew the spiritual connection, to find that spark that has diminished and rekindle it. The human heart — my heart — can grow cold and unfeeling.

The words of Keith Green’s song came to mind…

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to you and dead to me…

During Lent, I’m about this business of renewal. Remembering the mercy shown me. Living into God’s compassion. Reclaiming the love and fire I have for my work.

Spring will come. My heart will thaw.
I’ll join the song…
Blessed be the Name of the Lord.