Monday, March 31, 2014

Revel

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.  Psalm 89:15

The digital read-out in my car displayed forty-three degrees when I parked, but with the wind chill and overcast skies it is certainly colder. I stand by the metal bleachers, bouncing up and down on my toes and wonder how the girls sitting on the bench can stay warm. Even the players on the field are not moving enough to get their blood pumping; softball at this age involves a lot of standing around.

Nevertheless, my daughter and her friend are full of brightness and spunk as they greet me after their first game and first win of the season.

“Can we go for ice-cream?” she asks enthusiastically.

It is a ridiculous request as we all stand there shivering. I hesitate. And in that moment I decide to run with her zeal rather than curb it with practicality. “Sure.”

And fifteen minutes later I am eating moose-tracks from a cone and visiting with parents I have not seen for months while our daughters laugh and fill the room with the brilliance of youth and outrageous possibility.

As the day slips into the evening, I know I have been fed. Dinner will be delayed—and may not even be necessary.


copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Grasping Time

Saturday in the Third Week of Lent

So teach us to number our days
   that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

As I take the clothes out of the dryer, I realize how worn it looks. Surely it should have held up better than this, I think. We bought it new when we moved into the house. I have to stop and count. When I realize that we have lived in the house for thirteen years, I am startled. Where did all that time go?

I guess the dryer has held up rather well. What else has withstood the passage of time? On the wall nearby are the penciled marks, evidence of how our daughters have grown in this house. I try to take an inventory, as the years from toddler to teen play fast forward in my mind.

Have I been paying attention? Have I been aware of the preciousness of time? In the blink of an eye, another thirteen years will pass and all I know about life, about parenting, about being in this house will be different. I pray that I will spend the time well. I hope that I will notice the moments, and that I will be grateful and humble and kind. 

It might be a good idea to ask for God’s help now, in this very moment.




copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

Luxury

Friday in the Third Week of Lent

It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord,
   and to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;
To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning
   and of your faithfulness in the night season.  Psalm 92:1-2

As I set my alarm and prepare for sleep, I feel again a breath of pleasant anticipation. At first I am slightly perplexed about just what it is I have to look forward to tomorrow. Then I remember. In the morning, I will not be in a rush.

Many mornings, my prayer time fits into a precise slot.  But tomorrow, I will be able to settle gently into my space of quiet and mediation and I will have the luxury of time. I will soak up the love of Jesus that will carry me through the day. And I will fill a reservoir with God’s sustaining promise for the harried times ahead when I will depend on the quick one-liners of “help” and “sorry” and “thanks,” thrown like lifelines to the Most High.

Even now, as the night darkens, I begin my morning prayer of gratitude and praise.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Star Bright

Thursday in the Third Week of Lent

The Lord grants his loving-kindness in the daytime;
in the night season his song is with me,
   a prayer to the God of my life.    Psalm 42:10



As we walk into the cold night air, I suddenly notice the stars, “Look!”

My family stops as we all take in the ordinary splendor of a starry night. Living in the constant illumination of the city, we seldom see the stars so clearly. But we have been visiting friends who live beyond the urban glare, and in the clear night sky the luminosity is breathtaking.

It has been an evening full of laughter; I did not realize how thirsty I was for mirth. The beauty of the heavens is a fitting finale to our evening. Both the laughter and the stars remind me of the extraordinary blessing to be found in the ordinary. I travel home filled with the good of friendship and play and starlight. 

As I settle in for sleep, thankful that I have been refreshed and rejuvenated by the day that is past, I realize that the song of the day is not ended. Rather, it simply changes key as God’s goodness continues to shine all through the night.



copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Minding My Step

Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent

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




“Take off your cleats before you enter the house.”

“Can I take them off on the mat inside? It’s cold out.” 

I nod my acquiescence as the chill wind makes us both shiver. The softball field has only recently emerged from banks of snow, and I don’t want my daughter tracking clumps of sod all through the house.

Muddy cleats are easy to spot and ban. But then I think of the rest of us. What are we tracking into the house? I reflect on where my feet have been today, about the different paths I have walked. Perhaps there are traces of discontent and annoyance along with satisfaction of work well done in my footsteps. It would be good idea, I reason, to shake the dust of worry from my feet and intentionally step into the light of love.

I wipe my feet on the mat, smile at God for the gift of this grace, and enter my house with thanksgiving.



copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: sirikul2010 / 123RF Stock Photo

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Possibility

The Annunciation

Will you not give us life again,
   that your people may rejoice in you?  Psalm 85:6


Scenes of the Angel Gabriel visiting young Mary and announcing the incredible news that she is to be the theotokos, the Godbearer, seem more a part of early winter’s Christmas landscape than this brisk spring morning. Yet the forty weeks of Mary’s pregnancy must begin now if a babe is to be born on December 25th.  

For years my family has sat next to the Annunciation window on Sunday mornings. Throughout the year the light differs as it pours, seeps, splashes, or trickles through the stained glass, illuminating Mary, the angel, a holy spirit dove, an open book, lilies tucked into a corner, and radiating beams of light. I often contemplate this window, looking for clues to the miracle of the moment in the gloriously colored thick slabs of glass. What hidden treasures have I missed? What mystery compelled the artist to depict the scene in just this way? What does young Mary have to tell me?

Today she tells me that I too might be bearing abundant promise. I expect to find signs of new life in the wilderness. However, I realize I have been anticipating the seed that will blossom soon, filling the spring with energy. But it is also quite possible that deep within me, new life might just be beginning, not to show forth for another long season.


copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: zatletic / 123RF Stock Photo

Monday, March 24, 2014

Desertscape

Monday in the Third Week of Lent

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


It finally dawns on me what is missing. When my daughters were young, we used a bowl of sand as our Lenten centerpiece, reminding us of the season and our journey through the wilderness. As the girls grew older, they added to this desertscape. Small rocks. Half buried tea lights. One year, a small devil made out of paper appeared, testing us from the center of the table.

But this year the dining room table is bereft of the desert bowl; a star candleholder still occupies the space, a remnant of the Epiphany season. In the front hall, a winter scene is still displayed. Somehow the passing of the seasons has gone unmarked in our household decorations.

Has spiritual time also gone unremarked? Is my restless searching for God hampered by my scattered attention to my daily environment? Or are all of these signs of my particular place and time in my life in Christ? The wilderness can be disorienting. Sometimes, I need to stand still. Other days, I simply need to take one step, and then another. Regardless of my stance, all times are God’s time.


copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: filmfoto / 123RF Stock Photo

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tasting Gratitude

Saturday in the Second Week of Lent

We give you thanks, O God, we give you thanks,
   calling upon your Name and declaring all your wonderful deeds.  Psalm 75:1

The birdsong is almost cacophonous. In the last few days, the warmth and life and hope of spring can be seen and smelt and touched. I no longer have to assure myself and others that spring will surely come just because I know in my mind it must. Now I can taste it.

I am thankful for raucous morning birdsong. I am thankful for brown grassy lawns emerging from icy snow banks. I am thankful for sunlight and rain. I am thankful for all the senses that tell me of God’s magnificent presence. I am thankful for yearning, I am thankful for hope, I am thankful for all the possibilities this day will afford me to live in gratitude.



copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

Holding Hands

Friday in the Second Week of Lent

Yet I am always with you;
   you hold me by my right hand.  Psalm 73:23



I watch the toddler reach up and put his hand in his mother’s. I remember that moment.  When my children first began to walk, I would hold one of their tiny hands in mine, encouraging them, steadying them, ready to grab tight if they began to fall. But then came that particular moment for each daughter, when instead of me reaching for her hand, she would reach for mine. Her choice.

Now, I think of God’s hand, always there, never failing to reach for me and hold me fast. And like that boy, like my daughters, I can also initiate the moment, reaching up to place my hand confidently in God’s. My choice. Every moment of everyday, I can choose to reach out to the one who loves me, protects me, helps me learn to walk in so many ways.



copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: inspirestock / 123RF Stock Photo

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Song

Thursday in the Second Week of Lent

My lips will sing with joy when I play to you,
   and so will my soul, which you have redeemed. Psalm 71:23

As I hear the familiar tune take shape, I begin to gently hum. It is a TaizĂ© chant, and at first I can’t remember the words. Then my daughter adds her voice, and together we sing. I take joy in the way her confident alto intertwines with my softer soprano. 

I am not a great or frequent singer. But singing with others, listening to those voices and leaning in on them, carries me into a place where I am within the song. As the chant continues, I cry out to God in yearning, supplication, and praise. My soul is lifted up along with my voice and I find myself within a joy that far exceeds the happy thought with which I first opened my lips.



copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Small Kindness, Steadfast Faith

Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent

Let your loving-kindness be my comfort,
   as you have promised to your servant.  Psalm 119:76

I am thankful that I no longer have to wrap myself against the biting cold as I leave the house in the morning. As I drive through the intersection, I wave to the crossing guard faithfully at her post. We are on a first name basis; year after year she has walked my daughters safely across the street.

All fall and winter, she and the others on other street corners have stood watch in the early morning hours. In bitter cold. In rain and snow. They have brought shovels from home and dug out paths in the mounds piled high by the plows. They have offered daily welcome to children and parents with warm smiles, greeting them by name.

Even as my daughters no longer need to be escorted across the street, these kindnesses, small and great, bring me comfort. I recognize the love of God: faithful in all climes, opening paths for me in difficult times, calling me by name.


copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Not a Waste

Tuesday in the Second Week of Lent

For God alone my soul in silence waits;
   truly, my hope is in him.  Psalm 62:6

By the time I get my daughter to her softball practice, my only recourse is to wait. If I drove home, I would only have to turn around to drive right back. I have no errands to run. I can think of nothing nearby that would be a useful destination.

I’m sure if I entered the athletic center, there would be a place to sit. But it would probably be noisy and I might have to make small talk with other parents. I don’t really have the energy for that today. What I genuinely crave is quiet. So I choose to sit in my car.

Even so, I am torn between wanting to make good use of my time (I have my computer with me, I could work) and thinking a nap sounds lovely. I have an hour. I don’t want to waste it. And why do I think sitting still, settling into the quiet, resting my body and mind is a waste of time?

The hour is not mine, but God’s. And in the silence, I am able to remember this.


copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

From Others' Hands

Monday in the second Week of Lent

May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing,
   and the hills be clothed with joy.   Psalm 65:13

As I pour milk onto my organic whole-wheat cereal, I pause. I become aware of the significance of that food in my bowl. I have simply opened a box that came from the grocery store. I do not see the framers or plowed fields behind my bowl of cereal. But there would be no cereal without them.

Yesterday I drove past miles of farms, admiring stone houses and red barns, hoping to see the fresh green of new growth. I saw brown. Brown trees, brown fields, brown lawns in the foreground of dull landscapes. And yet beneath and behind and within that leaden wilderness the miracle of seed and water and light is already at work. And that miracle will be recognized and nurtured by people I will never see or know, and yet because of their faith and determination I will eat.

So much of what I have of life comes from the labor of unknown others. Without one another, and the gifts we employ, we would only hunger in the wilderness. I belatedly say grace over my cereal, offering thanks for God’s generosity and goodness, and for all the hands that have prepared my meal. I hold myself in the moment, humbled by the thought of just how many they might be. 



copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Perspective

Saturday in the First Week of Lent

And I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
   I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee to a far-off place
  and make my lodging in the wilderness.
I would hasten to escape
   from the stormy wind and tempest.”   Psalm 55:7-9


As I drive along a straight stretch of highway, I watch a hawk soaring above. What does the world look like to her?

So often I struggle for perspective. I try to get up on the balcony, get a bird’s eye view, strive for some critical distance. I seek out the quiet place to think, the space that makes it possible to maneuver, room to breathe.

The wilderness is more than a place of trial and deprivation and struggle. It is also a refuge, a retreat, a haven. So much is possible. What can I see from here, and now? How can I soar? How am I already soaring?



copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Swing and a Miss

Friday in the First Week of Lent

Harden not your hearts, 
as your forebears did in the wilderness…  Psalm 95

There is so much to do and I am on a roll. Work. Dentist appointments for both girls. Grocery shopping. Music lesson. Critical email. Dinner prep. Important phone call.  Dinner. Bills. Taxes. Troubleshooting computer connection to printer for daughter. I am on a roll.

Except I am missing something. My daughter has been talking to me.

She has been telling me about the wonderful afternoon that she and her sister spent together. I am barely listening. My teen-age daughter. She is spontaneously telling me an animated story. About her life. About her relationship with her sister. About how they have been enjoying one another. And I have been barely listening.

I am so focused on being efficient, getting it all done, forging ahead, pushing on without stopping because….

 It is hard to keep one’s heart open in the wilderness. But it is so very important. 



copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Songs of Promise

Thursday in the First Week of Lent



The heavens declare the glory of God,
   and the firmament shows God’s handiwork.  Psalm 19:1


Against the raging of the ferocious wind, I hear the glorious resonant tones of my neighbor’s wind chimes. Some craftsperson designed them with grace and precision. Even a soft breeze sets off their sweet baritone. And in the midst of this morning’s tumult they nevertheless respond with beautiful song.

Yesterday, in the wake of tempestuous rain, a magnificent rainbow arced across the sky, more stunning than I have seen in years. With colors bright and vibrant it seemed impossibly perfect. It held its place for a long time and even as I tried to visualize the science of its making, I was captured instead by its promise.

God is not tame. For this I am grateful and in awe. I want God’s wildness. I want the fierce power of the Almighty to sweep through me, cleaning out the wounds and detritus of old grudges and sins and crippling remembrances, leaving in their place rays of light.

Soft or fierce I want to open myself to God’s glory, lift my voice and sing.



Image credit: tobkatrina / 123RF Stock Photo 
copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Changing the Game Plan

Wednesday in the First Week of Lent

Remember your word to your servant,
   because you have given me hope.   Psalm 119:49

I wake up problem solving, the transition from dream to reality hardly noticeable. One of yesterday’s unanswered emails pops into my head and as my brain anxiously proposes possible replies it is all I can do to reach for my prayer book instead of my computer.

Prayerfully I review the day before, giving thanks for the moments of grace discovered. Then it dawns on me. I have missed the giftedness that is all around me. Suddenly all of the people I encountered yesterday come back to me in a new light and I realize that I am surrounded by resources. My entire body relaxes, the day before me now one of promise rather than trouble.

Hope is a gift that gently tugs at my attention, a barely discernable breath with just a hint of warmth, smelling of moist soil and freshness and the promise of life.



copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Joyful Shout

Tuesday in the First Week of Lent

Clap your hands, all you peoples;
   shout to God with a cry of joy.  Psalm 47:1

Taking a break from our meeting, we stand outside in a spot of sun, determinedly soaking up the almost-spring warmth. Inevitably, our conversation rehearses the ravages of this winter not quite past. More snow is in the forecast later this week, but for the moment we are undaunted. Then my colleague exclaims, “Look!”

Tucked in amidst the brown and dirty grass that has been exposed by the thaw, a crocus humbly points pale purple petals to the sun. We excitedly gather around to get a look. Our joy seems out of proportion for this ordinary showing. We almost overlooked it altogether; and perhaps if our yearning for spring were less desperate such an appearance would hardly have generated comment.

What else have I overlooked? What else deserves my joyful notice? I take a picture of this small spring flower and text it to my friends, determined now to see God’s grace in my work, in this day, in this moment.


copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Green Twig

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 52:8

As I brush off the debris that has collected on the patio during this long and harsh winter, I notice some supple twigs among the rubbish. A few downed slender branches of forsythia show new growth. These are not the dead branches of last fall, but new shoots that have been broken off in the recent ice and wind.

New life can be brave and tender. I admire the courage of the bush to boldly put forth new growth into this questionable spring, so late in coming. And along with this boldness, vulnerability.

I too yearn to unfold new shoots, perhaps more tentatively than the forsythia. Even so, I lift my face to the sun, trusting in God's mercy, knowing that safely planted in God’s house my tender green spirit will be imbued with the strength and courage to thrive.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Thirst

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

As the deer longs for the water-brooks,
   so longs my soul for you, O God.  Psalm 42:1

By the time I reach for the water to assuage my thirst, I realize I have been thirsty for a long time. When was the last time I drank anything, I think, as I review the day behind me.  I try to be very conscientious about my water consumption, usually keeping a glass on my desk and filling it several times a day.

I have read that by the time the mind registers thirst, the body is already beginning to be dehydrated.

One of the gifts of the desert is thirst. The reminder that we need to partake of life-giving water in order to live. One of the gifts of the wilderness journey is thirst. Can I still my mind and body and soul long enough to become aware of my need for the living water that is Christ?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Release

Friday after Ash Wednesday

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

As I maneuver the car into the parking spot in front of my house, I have to apply more caution. The thick ice that has formed into mounds in this spot has begun to melt. Finally. But as it does it slowly reveals the damage it has worked on the pavement, leaving large potholes in its wake.

Driving in my neighborhood has become a kind of Olympic sport: pothole slalom. No street can be simply navigated. Rather, we drivers must adroitly swerve around these hazards and make way for one another as the mounds of frozen snow that still encase some parked cars turn streets into curvy single lanes. And often we wait.

We wait for spring. We wait for warmer weather. We wait for the snow and ice to melt. We wait to see what will be uncovered. We wait to be released, to be free to navigate familiar ways with ease and confidence.

I yearn for the same release for myself. That a way might be opened within me and around me. That I can shed the constraints of doubt and anxiety and old habits that keep my head down and my shoulders hunched. That I might open myself once again to the light and life and love of God and be free.


copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: virynja / 123RF Stock Photo

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Broken Fast

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Put your trust in the Lord and do good;
   dwell in the land and feed on its riches.  Psalm 37:3



I finally give in to a handful of pretzels. Typically I enjoy a fast day. I like the prayerfulness of it, the tug that comes at me during the odd hours when I begin to reach for something to eat and then become mindful of my want and step away from it. I appreciate the reminder of how easily I assuage my desires as I am in the act of setting them aside. I enjoy the longing and the simplicity a fast brings.

But this time my need for sustenance wins out over the spiritual discipline. At least I’m choosing pretzels, I think. After all, they are a Lenten tradition. And I am mindful about eating them. I count five into my hand, and munch them slowly, deliberately. I do not try to consume them surreptitiously, pretending they don’t count. Nor do I judge myself for breaking my fast. It is what it is.

Even in the wilderness abundance awaits discovery. God sustains us on every journey. Sometimes that sustenance is more obvious than at other times. I have just stepped onto the Lenten path to discover that already there are riches to be found along the way. In fasting and in mindful eating. In giving up and in taking in. In trusting in God and in trusting in God. And in trusting in God.



copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: red2000 / 123RF Stock Photo

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Deliverance

Ash Wednesday

You are my hiding-place; you preserve me from trouble;
   you surround me with shouts of deliverance.  Psalm 32:8

The morning dawns cold and I burrow into my prayer shawl seeking warmth. This winter has been hard--its own kind of wilderness with drifting snow and fluid ice presenting a constantly changing landscape not unlike shifting desert sands.

The bright daylight outside my window arriving earlier each day assures me that spring must come. And the birds, impossibly chirping in the frigid air, confidently announce deliverance from winter’s grip.

In my home and in my soul I have hidden from the storms in the safety of prayer and refuge. But now the Holy One coaxes me out with icy sunshine and optimistic birdsong into the morning of ashes. I will mark my forehead and I will set my foot upon the path even while the snow and cold linger, trusting that warmth and green lushness and new life await. I lift my face to remember I am dust and greet with welcome the juncture of despair and hope. Willingly, because I have been here before, I enter into another wilderness in search of the life I know can be found.



copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014