Saturday, March 30, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Holy Saturday

O tarry and await the Lord’s pleasure;
be strong, and he shall comfort your heart;
     wait patiently for the Lord.
  Psalm 27:18





Friday, March 29, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Good Friday

In his hands are the caverns of the earth
   and the heights of the hills are his also. 
  Psalm 95:4

I crave the silence this morning. If I could, I would step out of my house and walk into the desert. Walk until I have left all behind. Walk until I am enveloped in complete solitude. Walk until I am so weary I have no choice but to let go of all the anger and fear and doubt and shame that shadow my days.

I want to enter the raging storm, the whirlwind, the turmoil. I yearn to submit to the fiercely blown sand of the desert that obscures the sun and rips flesh to shreds. To follow the vortex to the depths of human anguish. And there to meet my savior. To discover and hold fast to the truth that nowhere is beyond God. And then to ask for the wild sands to cleanse me.


copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Recieve and Hand On

A Sermon Preached at Diocesan House, Bethlehem PA
Maundy Thursday

1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Psalm 116: 1, 10-17
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

At the very juncture where Jesus turns to face into the storm to come—knowing full well what awaits him—he pauses to have supper with his friends. His thirty-some years of life, and three years of public ministry, are about to culminate in three catastrophic and literally earth-shattering days.

Everything has led to this moment.

In John’s gospel, Jesus is fully aware of what is about to come:  the betrayal and suffering, and also the glory. Knowing that God has given all things into his hands, knowing that he has come from God, and will be going to God, chooses humility. At this moment of knowledge and power, when all things are in his hands, he takes those hands and serves.

Jesus kneels down, and in the hands in which he holds the whole world, he gently cups feet of his friends, washing , drying, loving.

In a time such as this, at a moment like this, Jesus simply serves.

Peter has difficulty receiving this gift. He retreats from the moment of intimacy, connection, and service, first by withdrawing, “no, no I won’t let you,”  then by asking for something other than what Jesus is offering, “not just my feet, but all of me.”  But Jesus is firm.  He is offering one gift at this moment:  the gift of simple, loving service.

How difficult it can be for us to receive.
How difficult it can be for us to receive compliments, acts of kindness, a gift of service.  Like Peter, we defend ourselves.  From compassion, sympathy, gentleness, benevolence, thoughtfulness, and even humility.
Service to others, even service as simple as an act of kindness, is at the center of the passion story. It is Jesus’ last lesson for his friends before he dies. This teaching is so important, he even makes a commandment about it.  A new commandment, mandatum novem:  love one another, as I have loved you.

The symbol of this love is not a miracle, or a dramatic act, or a display of power.  It is the simple act of washing someone’s feet.

Service to others marks us as Christians. In fact, the third of The Five Marks of Mission adopted by the Episcopal Church is “to respond to human need by loving service.”  And to respond to others, to give to others, we must first be open to receive.  We cannot give what we do not hold.

A few moments from now we will open our hands to receive the sacrament. We do this because it was handed down to us. From Jesus to his followers, from St. Paul to new believers, from one generation to another, across time and tradition.

How will we pass it on?
The psalmist asks, “How shall I repay the Lord, for all the good things he has done for me?” (Psalm 116:10)  Our answer might be, by spending our lives in discovering how we are loved. By opening our hands to receive the good God gives us.  By using our hands to reach out to others in loving service.

Receive and hand on.  Just as we do around the altar.  Receive and hand on. Just as we do with the important things we learn. Receive and hand on. Just…receive and hand on.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013
Image credit: jannoon028 / 123RF Stock Photo

Wilderness Yearning: Maundy Thursday

Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come before you;
     hide not your face from me in the day of my trouble. 
  Psalm 102:1

The sky brightens, the morning birdsong gives way to the regular thrum of traffic, signaling the beginning of another day, a typical day. The world around me is moving on, but I hesitate.

Am I ready to enter the present moment? Am I prepared to step into the otherness of the three days ahead? Do I have the courage?

Despite the normalcy around me, I know this time as something apart, and I am unsure of my next step. The way of the wilderness, the way of the cross, the way of life, is not straight. Rather, it curves and twists and obscures the landscape ahead.

Nevertheless, I set me feet upon the path. I choose this way. Because I have been walking it a long time, because I have been this way before even as nothing looks familiar, because when I give myself to the tumult I know that I am not alone.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Wednesday in Holy Week

Yours is the day, yours also the night;
     you established the moon and the sun.
You fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
   you made both summer and winter. 
Psalm 74:15-16

“Maybe we’ll see some blue sky today,” the man says as I nod to him in the parking lot.

“I wish spring would finally come,” my friend comments as I enter the office.

We are all yearning for it—blue skies, warm breezy days, early flowers in bloom, gentle nights. Like many I am weary of snow showers and grey days and biting wind. This morning there was frost on the car windows.

But then, this is spring, I acknowledge to myself. This is always the way of spring. The stormy weather. The promise rather than the reality of warmth. The sparse color. A season of not quite. Not quite warm enough for the spring dresses on display, not quite dry enough for softball practice, not quite beyond winter’s imperative to hunker down and huddle up.

We stand in a not quite time as well, preparing for celebration even as we face into the passion, desolation, and emptiness of the next three days.

We do walk this road alone. Like all that has come before, and all that is about to come, the not quite place belongs to God. There is no landscape that God does not inhabit.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Tuesday in Holy Week

As often as I have said, “My foot has slipped,”
     your love, O Lord, upheld me.
When many cares fill my mind,
   your consolations cheer my soul.  Psalm 94:18-19

I look at my “To Do” list, then wish I hadn’t. Daunting. Complicated. Maybe even treacherous.

Of course, I remind myself, it is just a piece of paper. I have yet to be undone by a catalog. And I know something more. Beneath every unraveled moment, I have discovered God’s love. Even when I could not see it at the time.

I pick up my list and add to the top: breathe, pray, listen to music, drink plenty of water, trust. I begin with item number one. Then, almost as an afterthought, I add: find my sense of humor. I am fortified for the day ahead.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Monday in Holy Week

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and renew a right spirit within me.
  Psalm 51:11

The clutter has me cornered. If it doesn’t relent soon, I will lash out in fury, in a desperate attempt to save myself from drowning in it. Its gradual accumulation is the fault of no one person or circumstance. Band concerts, theatre productions, auditions, fundraisers, and the start of spring sports have all lent a hand.

I need space. I need space to think. To breathe. To feel at ease. I walk through the house and begin to make things right, somehow resisting the temptation to straighten the piles and simply move them from one surface to another. I focus on one task at a time. I find the wire needed to hang a picture that has been leaning against the wall for weeks. I recycle the catalogues that have claimed squatters’ rights on the front hall table. I gather scattered shoes, hats, scarves, papers, and intentions and send them to their proper homes.

As I follow each task to its end, I become aware of a kind of prayerful rhythm. I clear the spaces around me, and sense the spaces within me lighten as well. And hidden behind the clutter, I discover an almost desperate yearning.I open my heart, entreating God to create within me space enough for the holiness of this week.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Saturday in the Fifth Week of Lent

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

I wake before the dawn, pulling on warm socks, wrapping a sweater around me, seeking the comfort of familiar patterns and ritual. Giving thanks for the day before, asking guidance for the day that is emerging.

Today I will spend the morning with young people, who will begin to prepare a service for Good Friday, offering their gifts to lead others into the mystery of the passion. Taking their place in leadership within the congregation. Lifting their hearts and voices.

These children and tweens and teens will be my light today. They will grace me with their stories. They will be my companions as together we wend our way along the final twists and turns of our Lenten pilgrimage. I might be lost without them.

And with the hope their presence lends my heart, I move from the safety of my comfortable sweater into the brightening of the day.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Let me hear of your loving-kindness in the morning, for I put my trust in you;
   show me the road that I must walk, for I lift up my soul to you.
  Psalm 143:8

I wake up disoriented. Not that I don’t know where I am. Not because I am still caught in a dream. Rather, as I become present to the day, I am not sure I belong in it.

I search my mind for some inkling of the source of my uncertainty. As far as I know, the day ahead holds nothing to unsettle me. I slept well. I know the path ahead.

Perhaps my hesitation comes from knowing where I am. On the brink of Holy Week, in the too cold introduction of spring, hovering in that space where I yearn for journey’s end and so do not feel right in the day.

Yesterday I saw a daffodil bravely thrusting itself into the cold, not quite sunny day. Not yet in bloom, it’s hope of yellow brightness was evident nonetheless. “It’s afraid to come out into the cold,” I said to my friend.

And perhaps this is where I am as well. Yearning for the full warmth of spring, yearning for the final path through the wilderness, yearning for the strength to make the decisive push and to burst into life with hope and joy.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent

When my spirit languishes within me, you know my path;
     in the way wherein I walk, they have hidden a trap for me. 
Psalm 142:3

I know better. I have made a discipline of rejecting such offers. Nevertheless, I find myself reading the small print in the flyer. After all, it has the words “Ultimate Chocolate” printed boldly across the front. The picture is pretty enticing as well.

Of course, highly paid experts have designed the advertisement to grab my attention and keep it. For a low price I can order the classic introductory selection of 26 deliciously filled chocolates. Introductory is the key word. I would be buying in to a tasting club with monthly deliveries, at a much steeper price.

There is nothing wrong about wanting chocolate. Or about choosing to make monthly payments for gourmet chocolate, or even about buying into the introductory offer and then cancelling “at any time.” Except that I don’t need fancy chocolates from Britain. And exercising good stewardship of our resources does not include this expense.

In truth, I yearn for something deeper; the offer is a distraction along my path. I am tempted because I am weary, and in my heart of hearts I know that no matter how good the chocolates are, they will not feed my soul.  It is easy to confuse hunger for connection with hunger for luxury. I know, because I have been lost along that short cut before.

I show the flyer to my daughter, who rolls her eyes at me and tells me to throw it away. I know she is right. Nevertheless, I cannot quite let go of the allure. I tuck it into my book. Maybe I will look at it again later.


copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent

My eyes are open in the night watches,
   that I may mediate upon your promise.

The moment before I reach full consciousness, I try to reverse the process in order to sink back into a deep sleep. No good. I am awake. In the middle of the night. The house is quiet around me. I am unaware of any exterior disturbance that has disrupted my sleep, which is really too bad, because the only cause left is an interior one. My mind is disquieted within me and has demanded midnight attention. Sigh.

I remember bouts of insomnia as a teenager, not being able to sleep the night before an important competition, or a difficult encounter. I would lie awake making deals with myself, “If I go to sleep in the next five minutes, I will get six hours of sleep and that will be enough.” Two hours later I would convince myself that four hours would be enough, and as sleep continued to elude me, it became impossible to negotiate a treaty with my anxiety.

I don’t remember when I learned to pray in the dark hours. I can hear my mother saying to a friend, “I figure as long as I am awake, I might as well spend the time in prayer.” Perhaps I learned by osmosis.

Now I do not fight the wakefulness, nor do I abandon rest. I give myself to prayer, thanking God for the day that is past, asking for grace in the day to come. I breathe in God’s mercy and expel the tendrils of tension, intentionally slowing my heart and easing my soul. I give myself up to holy time.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Lent

The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in,
     from this time forth for evermore.
  Psalm 121:8

Burdened with backpacks, tote bags, instrument cases, and all the necessities of the day we head out the door only to be met with broken glass all over the threshold. The wind has slammed the unlatched screen door with just the right force to shatter its glass pane. Our forward momentum is unequivocally halted.

There is nothing else to do but stop and clean up the mess. The broken glass presents a hazard not only to us, but to any passerby, as it litters the sidewalk as well as our front stoop. Almost without losing a beat, we set down our cargo and redirect our energy to solving the dilemma confronting us. We work in unison. One daughter heads for the dustpan, the other for a large broom. I begin to gingerly pick up the larger shards of glass and deposit them into a paper bag. Although the weather doesn’t warrant it, my husband replaces the shattered glass pane with the screen one.

We go in and out this door all the time without thinking about it. Yet crossing a threshold is not an insignificant act. The edges of places signify change, introduce difference, can lead to comfort or adventure or the wild.

As we finish our cleanup, regroup and head out the door, it occurs to me that crossing a threshold might best be done mindfully, and accompanied by prayer.


copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Be strong and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord. 
Psalm 31:24

In the chill of the early morning, I wrap the sweater more tightly across my shoulders. The fickle March weather may bring snow again today. The coat rack in my hallway is overburdened with indecision. Heavy winter coats dare not give up their spot and the lighter jackets and sweaters vie for space insisting that we dare to dress for spring.

“What has made this winter difficult,” says a friend, “is that we could never commit.” I instantly resonate with her description. For months we have vacillated from bitter cold to unexpected balmy days to rain that washes the mountains clean of snow and then freezes roads into hazardous ways. I am wearied by the variability, having to adapt both outerwear and inner resolution again and again.

The wilderness is not tame.  No path through it smoothly culminates in journey’s destination. Traversing it can be wearisome, even as I yearn for the solitude and insight it proffers. Even as I anticipate joy and renewal, strength and discipline, I wonder if I can hold fast to my purpose. To be prayerful. To continue to turn my heart toward God. To expect to find renewal along every corridor.

Is there more to do than wait for spring? Than wait for the Lord?

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Saturday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Let your loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us,
     as we have put our trust in you. 
Psalm 33:22

“How was your day?” my husband asks.

“It was good. I took a nap.”

And as I reflect back on the day, this is truly the highlight. It doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment. I scan the rest of my day looking for insight and vision, any experience that might have profound meaning. Yet my mind and my heart keep returning to the late afternoon, and sunlight streaming through a window, and my decision to choose sleep.

It takes trust to surrender to sleep. And to choose rest. Can I trust in God enough to step away from all that needs to be done, lift my face to the warmth of afternoon sun, and be still? Can I yield my agenda, and welcome God’s care for me? After all, God created rest—and charged us to honor it.

          O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved,
          in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of you Spirit lift us,
          we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God;
          through Jesus Christ our Lord.
          (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 832)

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Let this be written for a future generation
  so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord. 
  Psalm 102:18

This morning I reach for the book as I settle in for prayer. It used to always be the book. A particular book that contains the daily prayers and reading and psalms for the year. But these days I might be praying from my computer. Or digital tablet. And almost unbelievable to me are the times when I am traveling or on the go or in the midst of busyness that I reach for my phone. I have an app for that.

Now as I pray again words that I have prayed for years, I realize in a deeper way the timelessness of what I do. Regardless of the technology that conveys them, the prayers that I yearn for in the morning and relax into in the evening are ancient. The psalms have been voiced for thousands of years in more languages and more places than I can count.

Today, in this time and place, in any time or place, I add my voice to more than seventy generations of those who have praised God with these words. I lament, weep, shout, rejoice, protest, demand, relent, thank, acclaim, revere, worship. I hunger and thirst for God alone in my room and in the midst of a multitude.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent

When my mind became embittered,
   I was sorely wounded in my heart.
  Psalm 73:21

I hear the complaint come out of my mouth and I almost cover my face with my hands to prevent any more grumbling from escaping my lips. Because I realize that I have been complaining for a bit now, that I have indulged in a litany of criticism.

I know this path. The more I find fault and assign blame, the more tainted and burdened I feel.  It is my own soul I damage with bitterness.

I once sat with a friend who was dying from a devastating disease. “I refuse to be bitter,” he told me. “I don’t want that to be the way I live my last days.” I don’t think I understood until that moment that bitterness was a choice.

To be honest, this is a lesson I am still trying to take to heart. Before I even know I have made the choice, I can find myself in a spiral of resentment. The remedy is to make other choices. The antidote is to practice kindness, thankfulness, humility, and prayer.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Steady my footsteps in your word;
   let no iniquity have dominion over me.
  Psalm 119:133

After the second failed attempt, it finally dawns on me to make a phone call. I am looking for a particular adhesive in order to repair a pair of boots. The show opens this week and all the backstage helpers are scurrying to get the final pieces in place. Hems to be adjusted, props still to be found, scenery to be painted, and this pair of boots which is causing one actor to slip across the stage.

I thought this would be one quick errand. I scan the aisles looking for the adhesive to no avail. I walk through the store again, sure it has to be there. I finally decide to ask someone, but cannot find a single employee. I head to the checkout counter. No, they don’t carry the adhesive. I drive to a nearby store to try again. This time I wait at customer service and ask if they carry it. The woman has never heard of it. I leave the store, my frustration beginning to mount. Why can’t I manage one simple errand? I pull out my phone and make an Internet search to see which stores actually carry the adhesive. The most popular recommendation is to order it online. Great. Two other stores are mentioned. One is too far away. But I can try the other one, if only they will have it. But I am doubtful. After all, why should this part of my day go smoothly?

This is the moment I think to call ahead. Even before the man answers the phone, I am sure they will not have it and will think I am crazy for asking. But I hear him say, “Just a moment, let me check,” as he puts me on hold.

I don’t expect him to actually check. I imagine him counting to ten as he thumbs through a magazine before he tells me, “Nope, don’t have that.”

But then his voice come back on, “Yes, we have it.” He tells me the size of the container and how much he costs. I thank him and tell him I will be right over. “I’ll keep it behind the counter for you,” he replies.

As I drive, I wonder what caused me to expect disappointment.

I enter the store and a very pleasant young man greets me cordially. He has the adhesive. I remember I also need batteries; he ably directs me to the correct aisle.

“Did you find everything you were looking for?” he asks as he rings up my order.

Well…no. But I am glad I did not find the disappointment I was looking for. I think I will stop looking for it.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

As often as I said, “My foot has slipped,”
   Your love, O Lord, upheld me.
When my cares fill my mind,
   your consolations cheer my soul.
  Psalm 94:18-19

I depress the clutch pedal and reach for the gearshift, preparing to enter the traffic. Nothing happens. The gearshift is frozen. I am not in any gear. I am not in neutral. I’m not sure how a car cannot be in one or the other, but here I am. Of course, I am stuck in the exit lane of the parking lot. And it is 5pm. Without being able to put the car into neutral, I can’t even push it out of the way.

I turn off the engine and restart the car. Still stuck. I call my husband to pick up the daughter who needs to get to the radio station for a live interview. I call roadside service. The tow truck will arrive in one hour. I call the service desk at the garage. Is there anything I can do from here, any trick to get the clutch to release? No. I restart the car and try the gearshift again just because I am a hopeful kind of person. Still stuck.

I wait. Periodically I get out of my car to inform a person who has pulled up behind me that they will not be leaving the parking lot by this exit this afternoon. They will have to go out the in ramp. They all take it very well, offer to help, and tell me how sorry they are.

The cars along the road beyond the parking lot are courteous as well, often leaving space for me to merge in front of them. I wave them on. I am not going anywhere.

Apparently I am not going anywhere soon. The tow truck has been delayed.

An hour and 45 minutes later I am still waiting. The only thing I can think to do is to be thankful. Thankful for the kind offers of assistance. Thankful for the courtesy of other drivers. Thankful for my husband who is now handling his and my share of the numerous parenting obligations this evening. Thankful for the woman from roadside assistance who calls me with updates. Thankful that it is still daylight. Thankful that dinner will be waiting for me when I get home.

The tow truck arrives. The driver gets into my car, and in one attempt gets the clutch to release. Of course. As I hover on the edge of self-recrimination, he smiles kindly and tells me not to worry.

And as I drive off in the gathering darkness, I am grateful for the grace of thanksgiving. I am glad I did not spend the last two hours reciting a litany of anger and blame. My phone rings a few minutes after I arrive home. It is the tow truck driver making sure I arrived safely. Another opportunity to be thankful.


copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Happy are the people who know the festal shout!
   they walk, O Lord, in the light of your presence.
They rejoice daily in your Name;
   They are jubilant in your righteousness.
  Psalm 89:15-16

I sit quietly in an in-between time sinking into the luxury of waiting. In a life full of occupation and obligation, I have learned that focusing on rest rather than impatience is more life sustaining. Not that I always manage this feat. But for this moment I am content. And then I hear the voice.

A rich baritone echoes along the hallway and I find myself moving toward the source. A rehearsal.  I settle in to listen and a heartbeat later am astonished at the magnificence of the sound. The exquisite tones cascade into the space and just when I think my body cannot absorb one more glorious note, his voices deepens and expands with a resonance I didn’t think possible.

The sound transports me into a plane of holy otherness. I have been looking for, expecting to find treasure in the wilderness of Lent. But this one catches me off guard, takes my breath away and when it returns to me life is not the same.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Saturday in the Third Week of Lent

Give thanks to the God of heaven
    for his mercy endures forever. 
Psalm 136:26

I look at the two boxes and various other items stacked by the door and contemplate how I might get them to the car in one trip. If I repack those two boxes into one, sling a bag over each shoulder, grab that book in one hand…I still won’t make it in one trip. I reassess the situation. I probably can’t make it in just two trips either. Sigh.

As I adopt a more reasonable plan for transportation, a new thought emerges.  As long as I am going to be making multiple trips anyway, why make it hard on myself? Why not carry lighter, more reasonable loads?

I pick up the first box and head to my car. Although the day began gloomy, the sun has finally made a brave appearance, painting the sky a watery blue. Late winter sky. Early spring sky. In between sky. I enjoy the freshness of the air as I head back to get my second load. Then my third, and my fourth.  None of the loads are cumbersome and as I complete my task, I realize the stress of the situation has been replaced with a sense of calm contentment. Huh.

Why did I feel a need to accomplish this mission in one, overburdened, difficult trip? And as I examine that question, I am confronted by another. Why do I insist on doing things the hard way, as if that somehow makes the tasks more worthy? Or myself?

Today I find mercy in letting go of the hard way. Grace in choosing the patient path. Peacefulness in trusting in God.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Friday in the Third Week of Lent

O Lord my God, my Savior,
     by day and night I cry to you.
Let my prayer enter into your presence;
     incline your ear to my lamentation. 
Psalm 88:1-2

I am halfway down the block before I remember that I wasn’t going to come this way. I see the traffic ahead of me slowing to a stop.  A construction crew has been working on this road for days; I had intended to avoid this particular route. But it is my usual way home and the autopilot kicked in. In a day that has presented many frustrations, this may be the last straw.

I see an option and quickly turn down a narrow side street. In this part of town, these small streets almost appear to be alleyways. But the houses proudly face into them, the constricted space cheerfully inhabited.

Have I ever been down this street I wonder? I take in my surroundings. A front stoop proudly presents wooden pillars painted a summer sky blue. Another house boasts lavender shutters. Even on this dreary afternoon, three row homes delight me with their architectural details in lintels and cornices. I am close to the home, but this way is unfamiliar. What else have I missed in my everyday surroundings? My detour becomes an exploration.

We have just passed the halfway point of Lent, a friend reminded me earlier. I am relieved, because the way has seemed difficult lately. My usual paths have been blocked, my practices thwarted, my reflective space narrowed.

It is time to refocus. Not on where I think I am supposed to be, but on where I am. The side street, the unexpected way, nevertheless leads me home, all the while offering its own beauty to be discovered.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Thursday in the Third Week of Lent

For you O Lord, are good and forgiving
   and great is your love toward all who call upon you.
  Psalm 86:5

The gift arrived in the mail the other day. Not snail mail, but email. Not the mug itself, but simply the photo. I tucked it away in a mailbox saving it for just the right moment. Now.

Today I carry this emblem with me.  For sustenance. For fortitude. For fun. I tuck it in my pocket, I set it on my desk, I bind it on my forehead. This cup is running over with the humor and kindness of the one who sent it. With the capacity for relief and liberation. With the promise of God’s love and forgiveness.

Today I give this gift to myself.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent

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

My daughter and I rush out the door into the early morning and hustle into the car when it dawns on us almost simultaneously. It is light out. For weeks now we have been making this early run for a band practice that takes place before school. We have begun these mornings dark and cold and many was the time we forgot to take into account the weather and lost precious minutes scraping ice off the car.

But today the light is different. Of course it has been changing for some time now; since late December the days have been lengthening. Not evenly, as it turns out. The rate of change in sunrise and sunset is not a constant. After the winter solstice, the sun begins to set a bit later adding seconds to the day. By mid-January the day is lengthening at both ends by a minute. Now we gain two and a half minutes a day giving us 11 ½ hours of daylight.

The change has been with us all along, but today we notice. We experience it as a gift. We smile at one another.

Lent comes from lencten, an old English word for spring, which means to lengthen. The days are lengthening. The Lenten passage offers opportunities for our understanding to broaden as well. God’s word in the wilderness lightens the path for us, not only so that we not lose our way, but also that we might discover treasures in the desert.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent

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

There is something almost endearing about this teenage squabbling. I can hear my daughters from three rooms and a flight of stairs away.  I have no idea what they are arguing about, but behind the “You are so mean!” and “You’re so obnoxious!”  I can hear the good-natured kidding.  This encounter will end in laughter rather than tears.

It is not always so. Despite, or perhaps because of, their love for one another, they can sling arrows that cause real pain.  Living together, they have had to learn to communicate and negotiate, to apologize and make amends. They have encountered one another’s breaking points, and learned respect.

It is painful to watch them break each other’s hearts. It is even more painful to choose not to intervene, to allow their conflicts and injuries to be their own. Yet only if they know and own the pain can they also know and own the healing.

Out of broken rocks in the wilderness, God delivers life-giving water.

In the midst of the desperate landscape of broken hearts flows the healing power of love.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Monday in the Third Week of Lent

I think of God, I am restless,
     I ponder, and my spirit faints. 
  Psalm 77:3

There I go again. My mind has wandered off the prayer path. I start off just fine, even joyful, as I enter a quiet time and space in the early morning. As I sink into the familiar pattern, my entire body relaxes into the comfort of knowing and being known. And all is well until I realize that my mind has been drifting and I have to reel it in. I try to trace the erratic path of my thoughts so I can find the moment I stopped praying and being attentive to God. How did I get here?

For as many years as I have had a daily prayer practice, I have also struggled. Time and time again I begin with deliberate focus and direction, only to succumb to the temptations of meandering and short cuts.

The disciplines of Lent are the same disciplines needed for traveling in the wilderness: pace yourself, get plenty of rest, drink enough water, stay in shape, pay attention, don’t go it alone, use a guide. Is it God’s sense of humor or order, that these are also the disciplines of daily living? Each requires mindfulness, and it is easy to wander off. The call of Lent is to repent. Return. Turn back to God.

The day ahead beckons. As I leave the space of quiet prayer, I set my heart and mind to look for God in the nooks and crannies of my day.


copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Saturday in the Second Week of Lent

You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me.  Psalm 23:5

I wake up with two or three dialogues going in my head. Still trying to solve yesterday’s dilemmas, my brain simultaneously imagines scenarios for tomorrow and the next day. For some reason the theme is difficulty.

I know one approach to this predicament. I reach for my prayer book, and as I settle in to my morning devotion, I review the day before with a litany of thanksgiving. Then I see the grace that was there as well. A bowl of ice-cream. A movie with my family. A friendship rejuvenated.  An important conversation.

God’s abundance is ever present. When I am surrounded by troubles, confronted by people or tasks that pull me off center, even there I can look for God’s table and choose to feast on love rather than the bread of anxiety.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

Wilderness Yearning: Friday in the Second Week of Lent

But as for me, my feet had nearly slipped;
     I had almost tripped and fallen;
Because I envied the proud
     and saw the prosperity of the wicked.
   Psalm 73:2-3

“Who is that boy, what’s his name?” I demand.

My daughter shakes her head as she looks at me with mild amusement, “I’m not going to tell you.” And she is right.

She knows I only want to know his name because I want to know the name of his father, AKA the jerk driving the perfectly polished, high-end, sports utility vehicle that just blocked me in. I hate morning drop-off.

I hate the parents who assume they are the only ones who have someplace to get to and that traffic and parking rules don’t apply to them. I hate the drivers who double park and then sit there on their cell phones long after their kids have entered the school building. And I hate this man who pulled in front of me while I was patiently waiting, with my turn signal on no less, for a legal parking place to open up. Now he sits there with his flashers on, as if that excuses bad driving, while his son make not one, not two, but three trips back and forth to the car to get all his gear for the day.

I want the man’s name. I want to report him to the parent police. I want to give him an earful of just what I think about his fancy car and his fancy suit and his fancy job that makes him so important that he can ignore all traffic laws and all other parents who are dropping off kids and all the rules of common decency. I want a name to curse.

And just beneath my tirade is an ugly truth. Why don’t I have a fancy car? Why do I have to be so courteous and rule obedient? Why can’t I be super privileged?

But for my daughter’s bemusement, I might have slipped all the way. Her ability to stand outside it all calls me back to myself. I step away from the ugliness of envy. I let go of my desire for retribution. I reach my hand toward God, breathe deeply, and go on with my day.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013