Saturday, March 30, 2019

Sacred handiwork

Saturday in the Third Week of Lent

May the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us;
prosper the work of our hands; prosper our handiwork.
Psalm 90:17

As I pull the rocking chair out of the attic, I realize it is more worn than I expected. The caned bottom has sagged, showing breaks in the woven strips. I will have to find someone to repair it.

My mind wanders to the caned-bottom chairs we sat on around our dinner table as I was growing up. I never thought of them as anything special. Those chairs experienced quite a bit of wear and tear from me and my two older brothers. My mother would repair them herself, sitting on the back terrace during the warm summer months with rolls of cane in a bucket of water, keeping the rattan supple while she patiently wove the strands back into seats.

And I think of all else she wove into our  lives—homemade bread and books read aloud and camping trips. How we are in a sense her handiwork, and my father’s, and myriad others’ along the way.

And all of us the handiwork of God.

Friday, March 29, 2019


Friday in the Third Week of Lent

For you have made me glad by your acts, O Lord;
and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.
Psalm 92:4

I see the picture of exquisite beauty my friend has texted me and I smile. We often send each other photos of some lovely gift that we encounter in God’s creation. I look around me to see what I might offer in return. However, while she lives in a part of the world where spring is in full bloom, I am in a conference center in a colder clime. I begin to pay attention, to look, to search out what this landscape has to offer.

What I discover is the nascent bloom. The tree bud just beginning to risk the still cold air, its new life making a statement against the glass and steel and concrete of downtown buildings.

I am captivated by the juxtaposition. The curve of the supple branch against the regimented lines of concrete brings a smile to my face as I think of the vivacity that is about to burst forth. I imagine the color and shape and fragrance of blossoms and leaves that this tree will present in the midst of this city displaying with abandon God’s abundance.

I capture a photo for my friend and delight for my heart and continue with my day once again assured of the presence of the holy in the ordinary.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The middle way

Thursday in the Third Week of Lent

As the deer longs for the water-brooks,
so longs my soul for you, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God;
when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?
Psalm 42:1-2

I wake with a yearning in my heart which I immediately try to brush aside. There is much to do today, and I don’t want to be distracted. As I begin my day, I try to focus my mind on accomplishing the next task, but the nagging feeling pulls at me.

I am afraid to give it my attention. If I take the time to explore this feeling, it may lead me far astray from the path that I am determined to follow this day. But then I begin to wonder at the consequences for ignoring what is tugging at my soul.

It is the middle of Lent and I am in the middle of the wilderness. I have lost sight of where I began and cannot not yet see past the horizon to a safe haven. Even to move straight ahead is to let go of certainty. And if I veer from my trajectory, who knows where I might end up.

Except I know this place. I know this uncertainly. I know this ache for solace. I have been here before, and I know the answer to the question of when I shall come to appear before the presence of God. I am already here. God is in this moment of thirst. God is in the yearning and the ache. God is behind me on the road already traveled, and God is ahead of me in the wilderness.

God is in this moment of transition. And in the next. And if I pay no heed to this longing, I may miss a spring in the desert, some unexplored beauty or gift, some necessary sustenance.

I lean into the place where my heart has already gone, knowing I am not alone, knowing I will find living water.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Awake to the holy

Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent

You are my refuge and shield;
my hope is in your word.
Psalm 119:114

As I feel myself rise toward the surface of consciousness, I try once again to submerge myself in sleep. I know it is too early to be awake. Nevertheless, I lose hold of the threads of the dream in which I was occupied and find as I come to full wakefulness that it is indeed the middle of the night.

There is no help for it, I think. I might as well use the time well. I might as well accomplish something. After all, there is always email to be answered, a report to write, an event to plan. I might as well. But as I get up, I become aware of another option. Perhaps this time if a gift. I do not have to give it over to industry, or distraction, or even disappointment that I am awake when I would much rather be asleep. Beneath the voice that wants me to be industrious, I hear the gentle invitation to contemplation. And I relax.

This is a liminal place, this middle of the night space between waking and sleeping. It has its own beauty and rhythm and purpose. I do not need to fill this time. Rather, I can be filled by it.

I quiet myself. I breath deeply. I open myself to an awareness of the holy. I find myself in a place of refuge and restoration, and I decide to linger.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Gracious delay

Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent

They railed against God and said,
“Can God set a table in the wilderness?”
Psalm 78:19

As the plane sits on the runway, I watch the window of opportunity slowly close. We have landed, but are waiting for a gate to be available before we can disembark. My flight was delayed and the possibility that I will miss my connecting flight becomes more and more of a reality as we continue to wait. I am actually relieved the moment it becomes clear that making my connection is no longer possible. At least there will be no last minute dash through the airport with my heart pounding.

Missing my connecting flight is the last in a long list of complications to my day. And I already know that I have missed the last flight for the night and cannot leave until morning. The temptation to allow frustration and anxiety to fuel my next steps tugs at my soul and equilibrium. I take several deep breaths and refocus my attention on what is right with the world.

As I deplane, I begin to problem solve. And then I am met with abundance. Person after person greets me with kindness. The gate agent. The airline representative at customer service. A helpful fellow traveler. The shuttle driver. The desk attendant at the hotel. I am offered smiles and food vouchers and extra toiletries.

In what could have been a wilderness of complication and harsh words and disappointment, I have found hospitality. I am aware once again of God’s generosity, and how important it is to treat one another with compassion. I offer a prayer of thanks to my creator and a gentle greeting to the next person I meet.

Monday, March 25, 2019


The Feast of the Annunciation
Monday in the Third Week of Lent

The Lord will indeed grant prosperity,
and our land will yield its increase.
Psalm 80:3

I hear the rustling in a vague location somewhere above me. I recognize the sound; the robin is once again building a nest in the eaves of my house. I have never actually seen such a nest. It is tucked away beyond my ability to spy it out. But I hear the scratching and I see the bird going to and fro—evidence of industry and preparation.

I also see the beginnings of rust color buds on the red maple out my window. I feel the warm dampness in the air and smell the difference in the soil. New life is on its way.

I have done nothing to make any of this happen. In fact, most of the time I am oblivious to the profusion of ongoing creation that surrounds me. Only when I take the time to be still and notice do I become aware of the gift of being placed within this astonishing cycle of life.

All around me the heralds of the Holy One announce new life and prosperity and redemption. And most astonishing of all, I am invited to the celebration.

Image source:

Saturday, March 23, 2019


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

Even from within the protection of my solid house I feel the power of the wind. I know without looking up the weather forecast that it is bitter cold. The sun may shine with spring-like brightness warming the air, but I know the moment I step outside biting gusts will cut to the bone.

I measure the wind’s force in the frantic staccato of the wind chimes and the frenzied rushing through the trees and the path it takes bending branches to make way. Somehow this display of might and energy makes me feel alive, dynamic, enthusiastic.

In this season of Lent I am reminded of the call to love God with all my heart and mind and strength. I think such complete love might sweep through my soul like this spring wind sweeps down my street. Vigorous. Cleansing. Exuberant.

Calling upon the name of God is not a small thing. I am perhaps foolishly eager to step out into the day and be swept up with all of creation

Friday, March 22, 2019

Being known

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 pick up the prayer beads enjoying the feel of them in my hand. A gift from a friend, they came to me already imbued with prayer.

I am surrounded by other gifts, other prayers. A mug. A shell. A bracelet. An ashen stone. Such tokens not only accompany me through the wilderness of Lent, they remind me that this is not a solitary journey. I have traveling companions. People who also journey. People who know me. People who want to be known.

It is a comfort to be known and loved. Known for all my faults and shortcomings and growing edges and be loved. And if I am truly known, then also known for my goodness and gifts and accomplishments and loved. We are complex creatures of an abundant and all-knowing God who loves us perfectly.

I touch each token, grateful beyond all measure for those who travel with me as together we grow in the knowledge and love of God.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Gracefilled crossing

Thursday in the Second Week of Lent

My mouth shall recount your mighty acts and saving deeds all day long;
though I cannot know the number of them.
Psalm 71:15

As I pull out of the parking lot I consider my route. I have an errand to run on my way home and a choice between two bridges. One way or another, I have to cross the river.

I make a decision and pull into traffic heading toward the newly renovated bridge. For two years the bridge was under construction. First one lane and then another were closed, clogging traffic and training us to use alternate routes. When the work was finally complete, I remember my daughter commenting, “Every time I drive across this bridge, I feel like it is such a privilege.”

Privilege because it was easy. Privilege because it was beautiful. And privilege because it reminded us both that access is not always available to everyone.

Today I recall her comment and think the of the numerous ways the work, choices, and actions of others ease my
path—and how oblivious I am to their contributions. And encompassing us all are the works of God, which are beyond measure. I have so much for which to be grateful.

As I cross the bridge, I offer thanks for all whose labor and ingenuity make my crossing possible. And I contemplate my own choices. How I can choose to be grateful. How I can choose to be aware. And, during this season of Lent, how I can make better choices to ease the way of others.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Luminous comfort

Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent

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

As I pull the bags out of the back of my car, a flash of glittery fabric grabs my attention. The dragonfly finger puppet lies on top of the pile of items designated for the thrift store. I hesitate. This creature has had quite a journey the past week or so. As I continue my cleaning-out-the-attic project, the puppet has changed places several times, moving back and forth from the keep pile to the thrift shop bag.

I do not remember any special occasion that brought this creature into our house. It has no particular memory or sentiment attached to it. I have simply loved it because I find it beautiful.

Sometimes the whimsical is a comfort to me. Finding loveliness in the small can lighten a load, bring a smile to my face, remind me of God’s goodness. And certainly now is a time when occasions for delight need to be recognized and cherished.

I hand the bags to the thrift shop attendant, but not before I have rescued the luminous creature and placed it in my pocket.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Determined gentleness

Tuesday in the Second Week of Lent

In God is my safety and my honor;
God is my strong rock and my refuge.
Psalm 62:8

Temptation to step away from my determined course whispers at me several times along the way. I could drive straight home. I could run an errand instead. And then the murmur of fear. This will be hard. You have lost too much ground. You won’t be able to keep up.

I don’t even want to count the days it has been since I have been to the gym. First, I was sick, then I was traveling, and then… well, life happened. Now it has been long enough that the discipline has begun to wear off and even though I know how important it is to treat my body with respect, a desire to give in to cheap self-care asserts itself.

Even when I get to the gym, the voice continues to call me to less. Skip this. Reduce that. Do something small.

I know I need to wrest my attention from this lure of defeat. I remind myself that taking care of my body is a spiritual practice. That while I may have lost some strength, I have not lost my Rock. I have a different voice to which I can attune my soul. The one who offers safety and refuge. The one who gives honor rather than shame and blame. Remembering this, I choose to be both gentle with myself and determined. I pick up the first set of weights. And I decide gentleness and determination might be good practices for daily life.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Simple pleasures

Monday in the Second Week of Lent

My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed;
I will sing and make melody.
Psalm 57:7

I almost stop myself as I reach for a favorite spoon in order to scoop out my yoghurt, about to deny myself this simple pleasure. If I use the spoon now, it won’t be there another time on perhaps a more important occasion, an inner voice rationalizes. At least, not until it is washed again.

Thus, in a small way, I can step away from joy. The tempter excels in subtle.

The spoon itself actually belongs to my oldest daughter, a gift to her when she was a toddler. I love it for the person who gave it to her, for its reminder of a wonderful time in childrearing, and because it is well crafted and fits nicely in my hand.

I pick it up, and with purpose turn my attention away from the rationalizing whisper and toward the delight this one modest act adds to my day. I turn toward the memory and relationships and love embodied by this everyday object. I turn toward the one who created me, and where I know my heart is firmly fixed.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Ways and vistas

Saturday in the First Week of Lent

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

I arise a bit earlier than my norm to allow time for the drive to my morning destination. My work encompasses several counties, so I am often on the road. On any given day, I may travel in numerous directions from my home or office in order to attend to business and vocation.

I enjoy my excursions. I delight in familiar routes and landscapes, and how they change from season to season, and how I can be surprised by a new vista along a way I have traveled often.

And as I drive along, I feel the connection with the people who inhabit this beloved landscape. Friends and companions and colleagues and partners in ministry await me at destinations. And God is with me in my journeying. Always we are in this together.

As I prepare to leave my house, I offer a prayer of gratitude to God who is acquainted with all my ways—not only the roads on which I travel, but also the ways in which I go about living into my vocation.  I lean into the promise that I cannot be lost.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Perpetual connection

Friday in the First Week of Lent

Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance;
I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation.
Psalm 40:11

I wake with my heart still full of the goodness of gatherings and meetings with friends and colleagues yesterday. We spent time in silence, conversation, prayer, laughter, storytelling, problem solving. In community we shared guidance, encouragement, hope, solace, celebration, faith.

I can sometimes get lost in a personal relationship with the Holy, which can lead me not only to focus solely on myself, but also to believe I am in this alone. Both of these places are off the mark. It is so clear that God created community, calls communities to love and action, and continually invites us into community. We are called to share our gifts of experience.

Even as I sit in solitary prayer this new day, I am inextricably connected. The early morning freight train, the birds singing their way into this new day, the cars rushing by my house. The neighbors sleeping and awake. The workers repairing a pothole. The squirrel doing gymnastics in the tree. The great congregation.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Holy exchange

Thursday in the First Week of Lent

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and make good your vows to the Most High.
Psalm 50:14

I lay out the day before in my journal, beginning my morning conversation with Jesus with, “Thank you.” As I begin my litany of gratitude, I smile remembering small kindnesses of yesterday. The woman at my favorite lunch place who never hands me a menu because she knows my order. A colleague who brought laughter to my day. The driver who made room for me to merge.

I am reminded again how easy it is to overlook these acts of thoughtfulness and consideration. And how powerful they are when I focus on them. Being attentive to thankfulness changes my perspective, soothes my soul, directs my heart to God.

In a sacred miracle of exchange, I offer my gratitude to the Holy One, and in return I am gifted with peace.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Way of Possibility

Wednesday in the First Week of Lent

This is my comfort in my trouble,
that your promise gives me life.
Psalm 119:50

Although I have been diligent, the list of things needing done doesn’t seem to get any shorter. It is like the Hydra; each time I cross off one item completed, one or two more appears in its place.

So often I try to manage my life by wrestling my calendar, commitments, tasks into some kind of order and submission. I find myself expending energy to try to get ahead of the game. This morning, it occurs to me that perhaps what is more important is to play. Be present. Know that it is not all up to me. Recall that I have the best companion on the way, a Creator who loves me.

As the day unfolds, so does the way before me. The Holy One has strewn the path ahead of me with invitation and possibility.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019


Tuesday in the First Week of Lent

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

The day continues to warm and brighten, until by afternoon the entire community seems giddy with thoughts of spring. It is early in the season yet to rely on warmth and gentle weather. Yet the call to playfulness is hard to resist.

With the change in time, the daylight stretches into the evening hours, and even though I have worked late I am lured out for a brisk walk before dinner. I choose a path along the creek, the way not yet quite clear of snow and ice and winter debris. I step carefully, reminding myself that the trail, like the weather, may change unexpectedly. I walk in a transitional stretch.

The beginning of Lent is also a liminal time. Called to a season self-reflection, we can be intentionally somber about our need for change of heart and practice and life. And, it would be a misstep to think this is all Lent has to offer. Along this way is room and necessity for joy.

As I turn to head home, a boy and his father pass me on their bikes. We greet one another with smiles, strangers acknowledging our mutual enjoyment of this unexpectedly brilliant gift of a day.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Tenacious stories

Monday in the First Week of Lent

We have heard with our ears, O God, our forebears have told us,
the deeds you did in their days, in the days of old.
Psalm 44:1

The going is slow, not so much because there are so many boxes to sort through, but because I have to stop and linger over the items they contain. It is a complex undertaking, this cleaning out of the attic, a task I have set for myself this Lent.

I have enlisted my daughter’s help as she is home from college this week. And as we work, I realize that it is not so much the physical labor that I need help with, but the sorting. There are stories to tell. Sure, I need her to weigh in on what is important to her, what she wants to keep, what she is good with passing on. But more significant is the encounter with heritage. Stories from her childhood, and mine, and her grandparents.

In our faith community too, I find life in the stories we pass along to one another. Hearing about the current professional endeavors of a young man I remember as a rambunctious kindergartener. Learning through a funeral eulogy of how a venerable elder first fell in love. And we gather around even more ancient stories, the sacred texts of scripture, our heritage of loving-kindness, forgiveness, grace, hope, redemption.

I pull out an old photo album, run my finger along faces I have not thought about for a very long time, and ponder the tenacious threads that connect us over time.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Joyful practice

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord;
shout for joy, all who are true of heart.
Psalm 32:12

In the pre-dawn darkness I prepare for a journey, anticipating how I will appreciate the solemn quiet of this morning’s drive. It will take me some time to arrive at my destination, and I am grateful for the space for contemplation that the trip will afford me. I have much to think about.

I am traveling to the funeral of a dear friend and colleague. He was one of the most gracious human beings I think I will ever encounter. Wise. Gentle. Curious. Always open to learning something new. He taught me a lot about Jesus. And he taught me a lot about joy.

I learned that joy is something that I can cultivate; it can be a practice, a spiritual discipline. Already a mantra begins in my heart, to accompany me this day. Practice joyfulness. Live kindly. Delight in those you encounter. Celebrate God’s creation.

The sky brightens. It is time to go.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Stepping stones of mercy

Friday after Ash Wednesday

I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy;
for you have seen my affliction; you know my distress.
Psalm 31:7

The voice on the other end of the phone is calm, matter of fact, and kind. With a few direct questions, he gets to the heart of the matter, as if he grasps my dilemma with more clarity than I do. Probably he does. For me the difficulty is all consuming, and that in itself hampers my ability to see the possibilities of different paths and outcomes.

It is the recognition, the being known, that brings solace.  The ability of someone else to climb into my mess with me, and tell me they know the mess, and assure me they know a way forward.

I feel the sweet relief of compassion. Gratitude washes through me and I offer a prayer of thanks to God. A stranger along the way has shown me God’s mercy, that I am worthy of kindheartedness and consideration. And while the difficulty still lies ahead, I realize I do not need to let it take over my life. After all, my life is in the hands of the One who knows me through and through and has promised me love.

I can take the next step. And the one after that. I can walk in God’s love.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Trust fall

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

As I let the quietness of the day envelop me, I feel a sense of solace. While I do not have the opportunity to spend this time at a retreat house as I would like, I realize that I can set the day apart, set myself apart. It will be a day of fasting.

I begin by choosing to set food aside for the day and focus my hunger on prayer. As I pay attention, I realize how often I put food in my mouth, reach for a snack or a bit of this or that, without thinking. This day I drink water instead, grateful for its nourishment.

And as the day continues, I appreciate the gift of setting aside other distractions as well. This day will not be given over to fixing things, or doing one more errand, or getting ahead of the game. I focus instead on paying attention to my soul, to doing some deep thinking and needed contemplation. And I discover again the richness found not in accomplishment, but in being. In sitting still with God.

It is a kind of trust exercise, to let myself fall onto the mercy of God. I must get past that moment of hesitation, that subtle voice that tells me I need to earn my keep. Yet when I let go, it is to discover the loving embrace of the One who calls me to dwell in the land of abundance.


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Where to begin

Ash Wednesday

I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go;
I will guide you with my eye.
Psalm 32:9

In the early morning I sit and wonder where I am going. It’s not as if Ash Wednesday has snuck up on me. It’s not as if I don’t have a calendar. It’s not as if this day were not predictable. Nevertheless, I wonder.

How shall I begin? In giving up? Giving in? Giving over? Giving of myself?

I know enough to know that the path ahead will invite me, surprise me, thwart me, cause me to stumble, compel me to depend on the help of others, seem impassable, reveal new vistas, make more of me. And as I contemplate this beginning, I realize that I do not need to know the way ahead, because all along the Way I will be instructed, taught, patiently guided, and loved.

And so the journey begins.