Monday, February 19, 2018

Learning curve ball

Monday in the First Week of Lent

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.
Psalm 52:9

I look down at my hands, noticing with some surprise the wrinkles and blotches and loose skin. Of course these are not a young person’s hands, I have to remind myself. These are hands that have been around the block, raised children, done a lot of heavy lifting.

Some days I forget that I am middle-aged. I see my children and the children of others grow and mature but somehow think of myself as standing still in time. Not because I want to remain young, but because I don’t feel particularly wise or proficient, and am continually looking up to others who are older and wiser than I am. In this tug of war with time and maturity, sometimes I am at peace with what I do not know and encounter my limitations with calm, and other times I want to get it all right already.

My lifelong formation in Christ is just that—lifelong. I will always be on a learning curve, will forever be finding new insights along familiar paths, will constantly be confronted today with what I did not understand yesterday. Along the way my body will necessarily diminish. But what will not diminish is God’s love for me, God’s call for me, and the infinite ways in which I can respond.

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Sacred disequilibrium

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,
and bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling.
Psalm 43:3

There is a racket outside my window this morning; I see a couple of birds flitting back and forth from a tree to the corner of our roof and suspect they are once again building a nest in one of the gutters. Can it be that time already? I look more closely at the tree and notice the buds.

I’m not sure I am ready to commit myself to the advent of spring. I am still in my winter mode, programmed to bundle up, be on the watch for icy patches on the walk, stay close to home on cold, dark evenings.

But the difference in the light, both morning and evening, signals that the we are already in the transition to the next season. There is no control button, I realize. No moment when we turn a switch so winter ends and spring begins. Neither is this conversion a smooth transfer from one period to the next; rather it is a riotous journey with unpredictable weather and conflicting signs and disequilibrium.

Nevertheless, spring will arrive in all its fullness and creation will continue to unfurl with abundant life. In this seasonal changeover, in all times of transition, what is steady is the light of God, the presence of the Holy, which continually calls me to come along the sacred way.

Friday, February 16, 2018


Friday after Ash Wednesday

Into your hands, I commend my spirit,
for you have redeemed me,
O Lord, O God of truth.
Psalm 31:5

Already redeemed. The price has already been paid. This is the realization that smacks me in the face as I pray a psalm that I have prayed before. How many times? Hundreds? How often have these words been on my lips in daily prayer, or spoken or recalled in worship? And today is the day the cry of the psalmist, who first sang these words thousands (thousands!) of years ago, slips past my guard and touches my soul.

And why would I armor myself against the love of God? Why have I kept this truth at arm's length, the truth that I am worthy? Worthy of God's love. Worthy of other's compassion. Worthy of respect.

It may have begun as the smallest lie of the enemy, a whisper that crept into my heart and made a kind of wretched home there, sounding a decade's long undertone of discontent and ugliness and desolation. But it is a lie.

And the truth is God's love. The armor I need is the armor of light. When I fall, when I error, when I act horrendously, God lays before me the way home-the path of remorse, confession, and repentance. God is always calling back to where I belong, because the Holy One has already claimed me.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Be strong. Be Brave.

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Our steps are directed by the Lord;
he strengthens those in whose way he delights.
Psalm 37:24

As I look up from my morning prayer, I see the inspirational icon across the room displaying the words “Be strong.” In my office, a painted rock on the bookshelf reminds me to “Be brave.” Be strong, be brave. Is this my mantra for the Lenten walk?

I have been thinking about strength lately, the kind of strength that is not about being powerful and rigid. The kind of strength that comes from practice and discipline. Not a tremendous display of force that comes out of the blue, but capacity that builds bit by bit as I walk with Christ. Spiritual vigor that gains definition as I practice daily prayer and awareness, like the physical muscle that increases as I work out at the gym.

It is tempting to admire the super-hero-might that sweeps in to save the world and impress others. But in my heart, I know that committing to the way in which the Lord delights engenders a different kind of steady strength. Strength that is nurtured by a slow warm up, healthy nourishment, the direction and encouragement of others, and times of rest. Strength that is flexible. Endurance that is not about powering through, but about honoring vulnerability.

And this leads to bravery. Having the courage to trust in the slow and steady, to rely on others, to remember who is the savior of the world, to have faith in the One who calls me into this journey.

Be strong. Be brave. Belong to God.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Dust in your hands

Ash Wednesday

My spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is desolate.
Psalm 143:4

In your hands
  the dust of the earth became

The dust of which I am made
seeks you
thirsts for the living water of your touch
yearns to be washed clean and formed anew

In your hands
   the caverns of the earth
   the heights of the hills
   the dust of the world and of my heart

In your hands
   my best and my worst self

In your hands of love

Image credit: kesu87 / 123RF Stock Photo

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The holy now

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

You trace my journeys and my resting-places
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Psalm 139:2

I move my finger along the groves of the wooden labyrinth feeling its smoothness. All is quiet around me, my office empty of people and projects. I sink into the contemplative moment, allowing myself to rest.

I have followed so many different ways to arrive at this moment. And any way forward is full of possibility. I know I travel with the promise that God is with me on the journey and in the resting places. God traces my ways: as in finding me? Or as in sketching out my life? Or as in following along as my finger follows this labyrinth’s path?

I lean into the holy now, sensing God as companion and guide, shield and rock, hiding place and fierce power. I come to the center, lift my finger for a moment, and then begin the journey outward, heading toward the redemption that awaits.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Boundless wonders

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

Great things are they that you have done, O Lord my God!
how great your wonders and your plans for us!
there is none who can be compared with you.
Oh, that I could make them known and tell them!
but they are more than I can count.
Psalm 40:5-6

I begin my morning journaling and almost without thinking start a sentence with, “Thank you for...” and I stop. For the last several years I have been practicing gratitude. Emphasis on the word “practice” because I by no means have this down. I find it so much easier to list for God the things I want help with, the people I am concerned about, and the troubles of the world that worry me.

I often set myself the task when journaling of writing eleven thanksgivings before I do anything else. I choose eleven because reaching past ten reminds me that there are always more. This undertaking compels me review the day before looking for God’s presence and for the many blessings that went unnoticed by me.

The counting is just the primer. Sometimes it is as far as I get. But often it ushers me across a threshold into an intimate encounter with Christ. The sacred opens to me and I am awash in boundless love and know that God’s wonders are more than I can count in a lifetime.

I pick up my pen and continue my conversation with the holy. I smile as I realize I am almost ready. Ready to receive the wondrous gift which is about to be given again.