Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Falling for God

Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

As often as I have said, “My foot has slipped,”
your love, O Lord, upheld me.
Psalm 94:18

As my foot slips off the curb, I experience a split-second of awareness that I am not going to regain my balance. Then I am on my knees in the street, everything I was carrying strewn before me. I pick myself up and am grateful that none of my neighbors seems to have witnessed my embarrassment. I brush off the dirt, surprised I have not ripped a hole in my pants leg. But other than a skinned knee and bruised pride, I am fine.

I regather my belongings and my composure and wonder why it is so hard to fall. Or rather, it is easy to fall but it is difficult to feel OK about it. Is it that skinned knees belong to adventuresome young girls and not middle aged professional women? That as an adult, falling represents failure rather than learning? Or is it simply that I do not want to know that I can be overcome by a curb?

Somehow, falling is all about being human. Sometimes I fall hard and sometimes I fall soft, but not falling does not seem to be an option. Falling can make me feel diminished. But in the eyes of God I am not less. Falling, failing, being overcome do not make me unlovable. Rather these moments of unlooked-for vulnerability expose me to God’s unfailing help.  And such exposure leads to succor and healing and life.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Rainy Faith

Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Your love, O Lord, for ever will I sing;
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
Psalm 89:1

The morning dawns dark and rainy and it is difficult to know if this is a brief drenching, or if we are settling in for a dull, wet day. I wrap my afghan more securely around myself to guard against the dampness. I know the sun is there, hidden behind murky clouds, and though the sky is gloomy, it is already warmer than yesterday.

The sun may be obscured, but its power is at work, its energy inextricably entwined with the continuous movement of water from clouds to earth to underground streams and back to the surface and into the atmosphere once more.

In the back of my mind, I hear an echo from one of yesterday’s hymns:

We wait in faith, and turn our face
to where the daylight springs,
till thou shalt come our gloom to chase,
with healing in thy wings.
(John Mason Neale, 1846)

I remember that the rain is full of life and promise. And that it comes at the hands of the Author of life. And I wonder what it would be like to enter this day with my face lifted rather than trying to duck the storm.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sun Kissed

Feast of the Annunciation
Saturday in the Third Week of Lent

Mercy and truth have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring up from the earth,
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Psalm 85:10-11

With piles of unmelted snow still evident, it is not that difficult for me today to contemplate Mary, the Godbearer. Most years this feast day catches me off guard. So many of our associations of the visit of the angel Gabriel to the young Mary are wrapped up in Advent and the frantic preparations for Christmas, that I find myself wanting to place this feast in winter rather spring. But if I meditate on Mary and her journey for only the few weeks before the birth of Christ, I miss the gifts of pregnancy.

Today is the announcement of a beginning. Today witnesses the divine arcing across creation to call forth life in a young woman who is astonishingly able to ponder and say yes. I see them reaching for each other across space, the light and grace of God’s love carried on the wings of Gabriel and the face of Mary lifted toward the warmth like a new shoot leaning toward the promise of spring sunshine.

And standing in the chilly air in my own back yard, I am aware of the warmth and light of the sun reaching across space and through the earth’s atmosphere, touching bare branches and cold earth. In turn, the seeds, shoots, and buds lift tender potential to the life-giving energy. Somewhere in-between they meet, kissing one another, promising gifts of mercy and truth and peace.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Path of Promise

Friday in the Third Week of Lent

For he shall give his angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
Psalm 91:11

As I pass a doorway, I glimpse movement in the room beyond. Even as I keep walking, my brain processes what my eyes have seen: a woman and a child walking a labyrinth.  I smile as I imagine their journey along the path—fast, slow, steadfast, deliberate, playful, together, apart, in tandem.

It is the second labyrinth I have encountered this day. The first was a picture my brother posted from the school where he is a chaplain. That one captured my attention because of its bright rainbow colored path. A path of promise. And although there were no children in the picture, I called to mind other times and places I have seen children running, skipping, meandering, sliding, and carefully placing one foot in front of another with serious intent along a labyrinth path.

In the evening, I chance upon a third. As I attend a meeting, I hear the footsteps of people ascending the stairs to a room above, where I remember a labyrinth painted on the floor. I imagine strangers walking the sacred path above us and somehow including us along the way.

All these walkers are unaware of me. Yet I feel we are companions on the same journey, that together we walk a larger sacred path, sometimes in tandem, sometimes apart, as our footsteps bring us close and then send us out again to the periphery. And all the while we are kept along God’s loving way, held in promise, while the angels are in charge.

Photo:  Celtic Labyrinth used at St. Martin’s Episcopal School, Winnetka, CA. Designed and created by artist Carol Greene of St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church, Simi Valley, CA.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

An Uncertain Way

Thursday in the Third Week of Lent

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?
and why are you so disquieted within me?
Put your trust in God;
for I will yet give thanks to him,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.
Psalm 43:5-6

The weather is playing havoc with spring. Or maybe is it the other way around. Warm for one day, unreasonably cold for the next two. A season’s worth of snow arriving in a single spring day after the mildest of winters. Nothing seems certain. Sandals or snow boots. Winter coat or sweater. This seems not the typical ambiguous transitional time of spring, but a wild uncertainty. I wonder if this is now the new reality, rather than an anomaly. It shakes my trust.

I walk simultaneously in another season; the rhythm of the Church Year informs my choices and movement as much as the North American climate. I have grown up attuned to both. Lent too can be a time of wild uncertainty. Traversing the desert is not a steady walk toward redemption, but a gut-wrenching slog across treacherous terrain. Sandy ground shifting beneath my feet, winds erasing the way forward, caverns waiting to swallow my soul.

Even though I think I know what to expect, I am often caught off-guard. By the longing. By an impasse. By a familiar discipline that ties me in knots. Some days I simply trudge along and wonder if the world around me is forever changed.

At such times, I understand that I inhabit a place where thankfulness must be anticipated rather than experienced. But the anticipation is based on memory, on certain knowledge that I belong to One who loves me and will not leave me bereft. I will practice gratitude and the path will clear. Expecting God is the way forward.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Carried by Light

Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent

Your word is a lantern to my feet
and a light upon my path.
Psalm 119:105

Individual voices wrap around one another becoming a stream of gentle sound as this small group prays familiar words. We toss the phrases back and forth across the space, call and response, like passing a basket of warm bread around a table.

The cadence rises and falls as we wend our way along this path of prayer, content with one another’s company. And then we fall into silent intercession. I pray for each person in the group, and then for those who are absent. And then my prayer expands to include others in the building around us and then the community beyond and further still until I am following a current of prayer that encompasses the earth.

I am buoyed up and carried along, no longer by my supplications, but by a song that has been sounding all along, voices of angels and archangels and all the company of heaven glorifying God.

Gently, gently, I return, or am returned, to this small faithful gathering. A single voice intones the final benediction and we disperse, the echo of sacred song illuminating each footstep.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rock Splitting

Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent

God split the hard rocks in the wilderness
and gave them drink as from the great deep.
Psalm 78:15

At the end of the work day, I examine the problem once again. It has been in the background all day long. Several times, it has come to the surface, each time proving itself insurmountable. And each time I push it aside, I hear the enemy hint at despair. I am between a rock and a hard place, and can see no recourse. I wonder what God is calling me to do. I decide it is a good time to go to the gym.

My prescribed workout is challenging, and more often than usual I stop and reach for my water bottle. In the midst of my concentrated effort, I am astonished that a few sips of water can carry me so far. And then somehow, I have come to the end; I have completed my training routine and feel simultaneously exhausted and refreshed. I head home.

Along the way, I discover that my intractable problem has been transformed into an opportunity for curiosity. I wonder how many possible approaches there might be. And I almost laugh as I understand that God is at it again, offering me abundance where I had seen only barren rock.

It is not just that God can act in the wilderness. God does act. Has acted. God continues to break open a way in the hard places, the impossible places, the places where we senselessly fling ourselves against unyielding obstacles. God is between the rock and the hard place—transforming desolation into life-giving water.

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