Monday, February 29, 2016

Unseen presence

Monday in the Third Week of Lent

Your way was in the sea, and your paths in the great waters,
yet your footsteps were not seen.
Psalm 77:19

It’s a simple note, really, that appears in my inbox in response to something I posted. But the sender is someone I am very fond of, and just seeing her name brings a smile to my face.

Ours is a long distance friendship; we follow each other mostly through social media, email, and the occasional phone call. Our relationship is rooted in porch rocking chairs and a long ago conversation in which we each discovered we had stumbled across a kindred spirit. I cannot remember what we talked about, except that it was fervent and authentic and sprinkled with laughter and sacred.

Since that day we have travelled separate paths, our footsteps unseen, unremarked by one another. Yet still we rejoice with each other’s life celebrations and support one another with kindness during times of sorrow and stress. Perhaps our paths will cross again. Or perhaps our paths are always crossing as we traverse the Way, immersed in baptismal waters, buoyed by the love of God who is the source of all.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sacred pattern

Saturday in the Second Week of Lent

You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”
Your face, Lord, will I seek.
Psalm 27:11

The light reaches through the slats of the blinds splashing patterns across the floor and wall. If I sit here long enough, I can perceive the movement of the sun, or the rotation of the earth, as I track the passage of light and shadow across the room.

A month ago this light would not have been here at this time of day. But the earth still would have been rotating around the sun. Whether I trace it or not, the dance of heavenly bodies continues in more than one expanding universe.

God too moves beyond my senses, creating arcs that I will never perceive, and nevertheless leaving designs for me to discover and study, to follow and dance along, to be thrilled and challenged by.

One cannot look on the face of God and live. Yet, this is the face I am to seek. I am asked to search out the one who breathed life into me and will surely consume me if I look her straight in the eye.

The light has moved. Or I have moved or the room has moved or the earth has moved or God has moved. The sun warms the back of my neck through the window closed against the winter cold. I turn my head and lift my face.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Casting questions

Friday in the Second Week of Lent

O God, you know my foolishness,
and my faults are not hidden from you.
Psalm 69:6

I look at the date again to make sure. Still only the second week of Lent. How can that be? In so much of my life time seems to be rushing by, anticipated events suddenly over and done with, and yet while it seems I have been forever in this season of yearning, I have made little headway.

Some days I look at my work—my home, my profession, my avocations—and think I have realized little progress. Despite effort and determination and the aspiration to make something good, I see only what unravels and sputters out. This does not lead to despair, but rather a wonder. What is this all about? How do I make sense of the world? Where is God in all of this?

And because I know of no other way, even this I offer up to God. My foolishness. My faults. My limited vision. My lack of movement. In a life of pilgrimage, I have spent a lot of time in the wilderness. You think I would know how to traverse it by now. Rather it still holds mysteries and trials and open spaces and false trails and moments of doubt and moments of wonder.

I lift my face to the breath of God and cast my questioning heart once more into the breach.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Connected, enfolded, and comforted

Thursday in the Second Week of Lent

You strengthen me more and more;
you enfold and comfort me.
Psalm 71:21

As I gather myself for early morning prayer, I hear the ding of a text message. A friend who wants me to know she is praying for me and asks, “are there other things you would like me to pray for?”

Throughout my life I have been sustained by the prayers of others. As a young child, by my mother’s friend who laid her hand on my fevered forehead. As a teenager, kneeling at the altar rail asking for strength and courage. In college, by companions in a campus prayer group. As an overwhelmed new mother, during a family tragedy, in times of grief.

And today I am strengthened by the gift of extraordinary prayer on an ordinary morning. As I am enfolded and comforted by this connection, I am suddenly lifted into that place where I know myself one of a chorus, proclaiming our praise and fear and grief and hope and supplication and thanksgiving in a song that continues to sound across time and space. Thank you, Jesus.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Full Word

Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent
Saint Matthias the Apostle 

By the word of the Lord were the heavens made,
by the breath of his mouth all the heavenly hosts.
Psalm 33:6

Almost without thinking, almost without noticing, I look up. And have my breath taken away by the beauty of the full moon.

Although several people had mentioned it throughout the day, as people are wont to do when it comes to a full moon as a habitual explanation of all sorts of things going awry and coming together, I hadn’t thought to look for it.

Such a simple thing to flood my soul with such power. Yet the matter and dust and radiation and atmosphere and rotation of heavenly bodies that make this encounter possible are hardly simple. And it hangs on a word.

God spoke the world into being and God spoke me into it and God is speaking still. And whether I am paying attention or not, my soul reaches for the Word, restless.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Baptism by water

Tuesday in the Second Week of Lent

You sent a gracious rain, O God, upon your inheritance;
you refreshed the land when it was weary.
Psalm 68:9

I had not anticipated a flood.

As I lingered in the shower earlier, my thoughts had been of baptism and the power of water. I know that all water is recycled water; so whether it is the water I drink or cleanse with, or ocean waves rushing up onto the beach, or a gentle rain, the individual droplets (and in fact the H2O molecules themselves) have been around for a long time. Around the world in fact, participating in a perpetual cycle of precipitation, infiltration, evaporation. And baptism. Perhaps, I thought, this very drop on my skin this morning was poured on me at my baptism many years ago.

And then I emerged into the day to discover the hot water heater in the guest-house in which I am staying has failed and the water is rising.

I call my dear host and for the next 30 minutes we rescue items, shut off the water to the house, search for other various shut-off valves, call the plumber who can't come until tomorrow, remember to turn off the circuit breaker, sweep water toward a place it can drain, and laugh. Not necessary in that order.

Baptism into a life in Christ is all these things. Gentle, anticipated, ferocious, energizing, chaotic, unexpected, soothing, dangerous, refreshing, overwhelming, life-giving. And sometimes the Spirit compels us straight from our baptisms into the wilderness where we may encounter trials as well as an unforeseen flood of laughter and love.

Monday, February 22, 2016


Monday in the Second Week of Lent

I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God;
I will present to you thank-offerings.
Psalm 56:11

My friend notices the tree first, “Look at those roots, they are amazing.” And indeed they are.

Strong, bold, and substantial, they undulate rather than twist their way from trunk into ground leaving the firmness of their support in no doubt. I know nothing of the life of this tree, but I imagine the roots as ancient and I think of all that they have seen: sun, storms, wind, seasonal shifts, foundational upheavals, long stretches of hardly any change at all.

I have been thinking of roots a lot lately, of my own mostly. Of how I am connected to my past, of the strength to be found there, of the stories to be told if I were to trace the curving lines back to their source. And of my certainty that even if some of those pathways wend their way past decay and disappointment, that the gnarled lines attest to the triumph of love. Because vows made on my behalf and those I have uttered on my own bind me to the Source of all creation.

Because I am bound in love, I am able to stand tall this morning, lift my face to the light, and open my mouth in thanksgiving.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Saturday in the First Week of Lent

Search me out, O God, and know my heart;
try me an know my restless thoughts.
Psalm 139:22

We linger over lunch, and extend our time still further enjoying each other’s company and a long friendship. Our conversation traverses wide territory: work, kids, upcoming plans, past follies. We laugh a bit at our earlier selves, recognizing that we continue to become.

It is good to have someone know me well, really well, and love me nonetheless. I realize the comfort found in a relationship that spans the years having been tried, enjoyed, neglected, respected, renewed, celebrated. Not perfect. And just right.

One of the ways God knows me is through her eyes. One of the ways I know the Holy One is in the gift of self she offers me. Being known and being loved. I am still learning about both.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fine Linen

Friday in the First Week of Lent

The Lord put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God;
many shall see, and stand in awe,
and put their trust in the Lord.

Psalm 40:3

I check the linen tablecloth for just the right amount of dampness; it will soon be ready for the hot iron and I already anticipate the smooth crisp result.

I don’t remember when I learned to iron linen, but it was long before I inherited this cloth from my grandmother. It is the smallest of the four I now own, and it is on its way to a new home. I haven't used it for such a long time, that I decided to pass it on to someone else who would welcome it, enjoy it, give it renewed life.

Sending it along the stream is a kind of letting go, but it is also an invitation to newness. Newness for the recipient, myself, the cloth. It makes no sense to hold onto something, devotedly stored but never used, when it could live its purpose. And in releasing it, space is created. And more than space. Possibility. Generosity. Connection.

I know the hands that will accept this gift, so I know the cloth will be lovingly received. As will its legacy. As will I. And perhaps someday it will get passed along again. The thought brings a song into my heart as I feel the embrace of the One who is the beginning of every good gift and every gracious letting go.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Calling light

Thursday in the First Week of Lent

The Lord, the God of gods, has spoken; 
he has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Psalm 50:1

I head home into the dusk and notice that the sky has finally begun to clear. After a day of slush and snow and rain, it is a relief. And then I realize I am not headed into the dusk at all. Blue sky emerges, the light hits me, and I am struck by the truth that the days are getting longer.

It seems only yesterday I would have been driving home in the dark at this time of day.
I understand that my experience of the lengthening of days is unique to where I live. This hemisphere, this latitude, this earth in its particular orbital relationship to the sun and other planetary bodies. Nevertheless, my very body and soul respond to the increasing light as if it were integral to my Lenten sojourn across the wilderness, as if I were created to dance to this rhythm.

As if I and the universe itself were uniquely attuned to God’s call.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tender place

Wednesday in the First Week of Lent

I entreat you will all my heart,
be merciful to me according to your promise.
Psalm 119:58

I test the spot in my heart and find it is still tender. There has been healing here, but there is more to come.

For several weeks now, even before my face was marked with ashes for this journey, I have submitted a room in my heart to self-examination. I directed the light of my current understanding to shine on the past and there found dead wood to be discarded, wrong assumptions to be righted, burdens of past obligations that could have been set down long ago. I did not enter this territory alone, but holding God’s hand dared to engage in repentance: awareness, contrition, sorrow, confession, amendment of life. And as the Holy One lifted burden after burden off of my shoulders, tendrils of new life began to show.

And now, knowing there is more renewal to come, I place my tender self at the feet of my savior, seeking mercy, and praying for that gentle spirit to surround me as I step into an unknown day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tracing Faith

Tuesday in the First Week of Lent

This God is our God for ever and ever;
he shall be our guide for evermore.
Psalm 48:13

It has been a long time since I have thought of my grandmother, but this morning she is here, in her smart tailored dress and matched shoes, bringing with her the elegant house in the center of the small farming town in the Midwest.

The chair I sit in came from her front room, where I remember formal visits with her friends and Christmas mornings with my family. I trace the memories back and call forward the kitchen wallpaper, the brick patio, breakfasts with my grandfather who always put half-and-half on his cereal. And summer visits, which included the wooden church with the red door.

Church was a given, whether at home or on vacation or at my grandparents, and as much a part of the fabric of my life as my mother’s own stories of her early faith formation.

The strength I have is equal parts God-given and inherited, and even that which has been passed down to me connects me to the Creator of the universe who is the source of the faith of my mother and grandmother. And to this legacy, on a daily basis, I fold in the resources I have discovered along the way as granddaughter, daughter, sister, spouse, and mother.

Although I am often lost along the way, God has been and will ever be my guide, a love I can trace in any direction.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Just a step

Monday in the First Week of Lent

In my integrity you hold me fast,
and shall set me before your face for ever.
Psalm 41:12

God knows I tried, but nevertheless my morning prayer discipline falls apart, my mind meandering down futile pathways. The promise of lesser but quicker satisfactions invade my space: I could quickly answer that email, or go make some toast, or check online for a sale on box springs (I need a new box spring). I pull my focus once more to the scripture in front of me and wonder if I should just throw in the towel for this morning. God will understand.

But because I know the sweet taste of connection, because I yearn for my soul to break free from the mundane and be encompassed by the holy, I throw a plea to God instead. Help me to keep from choosing the lessening. Help me to keep my feet on the path toward deepening. And the answer comes swiftly. One step at a time. Ordinary advice after all.

God knows. God knows me.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Stopping place

Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:6

In one sense, it is an odd gathering. A handful of adults of various ages, a teen, a couple of children. Drawn by differing purposes to walk a sacred path together, not planning to meet each other here, we nevertheless coalesce into companions together on a journey.

As the beauty of space and simplicity and music and holy text swirl around us we are propelled onto the Way of the Cross. Stations. I meditate on the word itself as I am lulled and comforted by the serenity of this moment at the end of a full day and busy week. A station. A regular stopping place.

What a gift that this unusual mix of people and this ancient tradition could be quite ordinary. And that in meeting one another to walk the way of sorrows we are drawn more deeply into the mystery of love.

Friday, February 12, 2016


But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord.
I have said, “You are my God. Psalm 31:14

I follow the path of the electrical wire again, and finally it begins to make sense. The cloth covered wiring may not be as old as our 100-year-old house, but clearly no one has disturbed it in recent history. Over the years, various people and plans have added to the complex pathways along the pipes and beams in the stone floored basement. I have not had to sort it out before, but now, in order to make a needed repair, I try to make sense of it.

And what about the pathways of my interior life? How many times have I changed direction, rerouted a practice, looped back to revisit an assumption? What trails have I left behind me, and what might I discover by retracing them? I expect among the junction boxes and transformers of my life I will see strong connections that continue to supply energy as well as tangles that might best be unraveled and intricate patterns that will bring understanding.

And I suspect that running through it all will be the love of God.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

One way or another

Be still before the Lord,
and wait patiently for him.
Psalm 37:7

The house is in disarray. In the midst of work being done, nothing is in place. I sit and pull a cone of calmness over me as I block out the mattress on the floor, the pictures from another room leaning against a desk that is out of place, one shoe (who knows where its partner may be), and several cloth grocery bags full of items that may or may not find their way back to where they belong.

It is in this time and this place, in the midst of the disorder, that I school myself to stillness and lift my face to God. The invitation of the holy has been tugging at me since I woke and the call of the mess has raised its voice as well and with awe I discover the blessing in all this is that I do not have to choose.

Or rather I can choose the mess or the calm and nevertheless God dances there offering me a path that will wend its way in the wilderness one way, or another, or another.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Welcoming Dust

Revive me, O Lord, for your name’s sake;
for your righteousness’ sake, being me out of trouble.
Psalm 143:11

Again I consciously push the hunger aside. I have been awake for only half an hour, and yet a dozen times I have had to keep myself from breaking my fast. It is not that this fast is so difficult; I am not suffering outrageous hunger. It is more a matter of mindfulness. Like an application running unattended in the background, my mind tells me of course it is time for a banana, or a bowl of oatmeal, or a quick omelet.

Each time I say no to that automatic impulse to eat, I consciously change my path and set my face toward the dust.

I am clearing the way in order to welcome dust. I am preparing myself to be marked. I am making room in my day, in my life, in my soul to carry ashes, to mar the repentant surface with a dark smudge, to seek cleansing by reaching for the dirt because aligning myself with the mess of the earth is the only way out of trouble.

Because as God spoke some dust into being me, so in this dust I am once again revived.

image credit: sportlibrary / 123RF Stock Photo