Learning Our Name

A few weeks ago at a retreat I was a part of, we were making our way around the circle saying our names. I am not sure how it happened, if it was seem thing I or someone else said, but people began to give not only their first but their middle names as well. Most people knew one another before this retreat but it was interesting how, when folks used both first and second names, the circle seemed fresh, new, and people seemed to be meeting one another in a different way. Questions flew about the room as to how middle names were chosen, what the stories were that were part of that name. Something in that gathering of people was changed, was opened up by hearing aloud a fuller name for people they had known for some time. It was a fascinating and powerful experience.

Yesterday I was speaking on the phone to our older Seattle son who is a preschool teacher. It is one of my great joys to hear him talk of the children who come into his life. He becomes animated and his voice fills with joy as he tells funny and sweet stories of these little one. He was telling me about a new student, a little three year old girl whose family does not speak English at home. This little one is now maneuvering her way in a world of other children, playing, and learning English as she goes. She also is not called by her given name at home but by special pet names we all use in families. Each family has its own way of doing this…Buddy, Sweety, Kiddo….you know what I mean. And because of this the girl did not really answer or turn in recognition to the teacher’s calling out her name in the group. “We are helping her learn her name.”, my son said.

His words went deep into me. What an amazing gift to give to another person… to help them learn their name. Many times we call ourselves names that are not our real name. I have known those who call themselves ‘stupid’ or ‘irresponsible’ or ‘loser’ or even worse ‘worthless’. Sometimes these are names given to people at an early age and it takes that person a lifetime to be taught their real name. In the meantime, the damage of that false name can harm them and those around them with its lies. The pain of not answering to your real name can have lasting scars.

This past Sunday in the Christian household we began the long journey of Lent together. The scripture we heard was of Jesus rising out of the waters of baptism and hearing God’s voice name him…..Beloved. It was a name that blessed him and went with him into the wilderness where he would need to cling to both the blessing and the name. This name…Beloved…is also given to each of us. As images of the One who breathed us into being, this name is part and parcel of that very Breath. We carry it with us even when we can’t remember it, even when others may call us otherwise.

Like the little girl in my son’s class, most of us need to learn that name. It does not come easily to us. The world can see to that in a myriad of ways. But that does not make it untrue. Each of us is Beloved. Sometimes we simply need teachers who walk with us, stand beside us, read stories to us, take us to the playground, help us unwrap our sandwich at lunchtime, settle us down for an afternoon nap. Those who by their actions and words remind us of our name. Beloved.

Who has helped you learn your name? Who in your life continues to look at you and help you remember that your are, indeed, Beloved? How will you be that teacher, that companion that helps another learn their name?

The fullness of our names is important. To speak our names and to claim those names helps to change the energy in a room and the power in the world. May we carry with grace all our names…..especially Beloved….into the days ahead. There just might be wilderness places in which we will need to cling to those names and remember who we truly are.

IMG_0641.PNG

Re-member

The art and words of artist Jan Richardson have been an inspiration to me for years. I can’t remember when I first learned of her work but I heard her speak years ago and have been taken by her gentle way of embracing the presence of the Divine in her life and then offering that to others through collage, painting and poetry. This Lent I am once again participating in an online retreat that she hosts. Five mornings a week a painting, a reflection and a poem usually in the form of a blessing arrives in my email inbox. This gift shows up sometime in the wee hours of the morning and it is the first contact with words I have in the day.

This second week of Lent she is focusing on the word ‘memory.’ She points out the number of times the scriptures use the word ‘remembrance’ and most of those places are very significant in the shaping of the stories that hold the Christian and Jewish households. Remembrance is how we tell our own stories, the ones that gave birth to us, that help us hold onto the wisdom we learned from mistakes and missteps, those experiences that filled us with deep joy and awe that sometimes connected us with Mystery. We remember so we can pass on to friends, family, another generation, what it was like to be ‘us’ in the span of years with which we have been blessed.

Of course, memory is a tricky thing. Anyone who is a sibling and begins to tell a story of something that happened, something seemingly significant or trivial, at a family gathering often hears a brother or sister recount the story in a very different manner. What is remembered from the original experience is different depending on the person. The lens we use is uniquely ours and how we experience and then remember is also. It is an important lesson to learn in any setting. It can keep us humble.

There are memories that we cherish. The birth of a child. The first time we laid eyes on a beloved. A special trip to someplace we had always longed to go. A meal so delicious that even in the memory it is nearly possible to taste it again. Sites of beauty and awe. An encounter with a creature that filled us with deep knowing we are a part of something immense.

There are also memories we would just as soon forget. The death of a loved one. A diagnosis that shattered us. An accident that changed everything. The loss of a job, a hope, a dream. Harms that we met and hurts whose wounds we still wear. These are memories we often wish there was a delete button for.

How we cherish our memories is up to us. And how we allow them to be remembrances that are healthy and helpful in living this day and into the future can make all the difference. There are people I know whose attachment to memory is so strong that it is difficult to move into the future. This is also true with communities. Sometimes the memory of what has been will not let the possibility of what might be evolve. Memory can become a prison or a bridge or what helps us take flight.

Most children I know love to hear the story of how they were born. I remember sitting with our sons flipping through their ‘baby book’ looking at the pictures of their early days. This looking was usually accompanied by telling once again how the day of their birth played out, who came to visit, what sounds they made, how their name was chosen. It seemed to be a kind of anchor in remembering who they were as they were living into they would become. Each of us have a similar anchoring moment or moments. What are yours? What are the memories that ground you and remind you of what is most important in your life? What lens do you wear when you remember?

The season of Lent is grounded in memory. We are telling an ancient story and mining its words for what it brings to us this go round the Sun. The story is remembered by each of us in different ways as all stories are. It is up to each of us how we re-member. May there be gentleness and grace in all our memories and may they help us be present to the wisdom of what has gone before.

IMG_0640.JPG

Gathering of Creatures

Yesterday two unrelated experiences came together to cause me to ponder all the ways in which we can believe our differences create impossible opportunities for coming together. So often it seems, as we listen to the radio or television or read the news, the ways in which we have named our different ways of seeing the world, of believing and worshiping, of understanding and using power, seems impossible to overcome. Backs are turned. Words are said that can’t be taken back. Wars are waged. Any notion of acting in unity seems beyond the realm of human imagination. We see it played out over and over on the large and small scales of human living. Just writing those words brings a certain sadness, I have to admit.

But yesterday at worship during prayers one from our circle shared his experience of watching his grandsons playing at an indoor playground. As they played, other children of different skin colors and even different languages came into the play area and seemingly without missing a best, all the children were playing together. Children can have a way of doing this. Whatever the game at hand, children can welcome another player to their mix. Running….jumping….throwing a ball….and almost always laughter. Sweet, child laughter.

Later in the day I received a photo by text from my husband who is traveling to places warmer than here. Places where grass is visible and water moves. There were no words to accompany the photo. I believe he knew I would get the message without any explanation. Sitting on some kind of nest or at least round pile of dirt and vegetation in the water sat an animal, woodchuck, muskrat?….two mallard ducks…..and a turtle. All within a few inches of one another. Co-existing in the sunshine and warmth. I laughed out loud and also felt warmth flow throughout my body. It seemed a continuation of the hope lifted in the prayer earlier in the morning.

So many times our only lens in life is the one of difference. We use to it to build walls and create definitions of class, status, politics, gender, religion, sexuality. There must be something in doing so that creates an illusion of control, of a certainty about order that helps us breathe easier and that calms our fears. But I wonder, does it serve us well? Does it hold the common good of all Creation? Does it bring us to a more evolved place of being the creatures we were created to be? My experience says not.

Yesterday afternoon, I gathered with a group of people to watch and discuss a DVD series called Painting the Stars that celebrates the communion of science and faith and looks at the ways in which the expression of faith in the Christian household has and is evolving. Taking into account what we have learned in the last 2000 years about how the universe works, the series asks how our faith has evolved. Do the ways of understanding the scriptures and the life of Jesus mean to us what they did to the early followers? How does what we know about the science of Creation impact our faith and our living? It was a fascinating conversation and seemed perfect to have at the end of the first week in Lent. After all, what is Lent but an opportunity to enter into this story again, mining the wilderness for ways of becoming the fullness of who God intended us to be?

Somehow the fullness of that eternal intention of unity with Creator and Creation came to me yesterday in a prayer and a picture. Someplace along his own wilderness journey, Job hears a voice saying: “But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth,and they will teach you.” In an evolving faith lessons come from a variety of sources. Sometimes it is sacred text or the well chosen words of a speaker of wisdom. But other times the lesson shows up in a prayer for a rainbow of children playing or an assortment of varied creatures on a mound of soil.

And so it is. Blessed be.

IMG_0638.JPG

Slow Work

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
~Pierre Teilard de Chardin, SJ

And so another Lent begins. This is the day we in the Christian household have named Ash Wednesday. Today you will likely see people walking around with a smudge of black on their foreheads. It is a mark they have received at a worship service that begins this forty day journey. It depends on who you talk to what the journey means. People carry their own messages that were planted within them about the season’s gifts or challenges. Messages caught from something a Sunday School teacher or minister said, something a parent or other adult mentioned along the way. For some it is a season of giving up, letting go, austerity. For others it is a taking on, an addition of spiritual practices that define days in a different way than the ones that have come before. It all depends on the person…..the kind of longing that exists….the life that has already been lived….the one hoped for.

There is a blessing in having some kind of focus when you choose to pay attention to these human created seasons meant to connect us in deeper ways with the Sacred. This Lenten season the community of which I am blessed to be a part has chosen as its focus a poem by Pierre Teilard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest who was both theologian and paleontologist, scientist and person of faith. His words, ‘above all, trust in the slow work of God’, will hold us as we walk toward Easter Sunday when Lent will have its grand ending.

Slow work. It is a countercultural message in so many ways. As 21st century people we are not given to trusting in most anything slow. Impatience seems to be our daily food and we cringe at the idea of nearly anything that would contribute to slowing our pace, our expectations, our work, our lives. So many times during any day I find myself shifting to some anxiety about the need to get going, to rush toward completion of a project or a thought. Seldom do I question what the rush is all about.

And yet, if we have lived any number of years at all and have been awake to them, we know that it is the slow work that really matters, that really contributes to growth, beauty, depth, legacy. Consider the bulbs nestled beneath the frozen ground right now, those round nuggets hiding in the darkness waiting to bring forth the first shoots of green and color to a world too long shrouded in white and gray. Slow work. Or the yeast that rests in dough for hours, punched down only to rise again even fuller creating the perfect loaf of bread. Slow Work. And of course there is the infant discovering its tiny hands and feet, searching the faces of those around for signs of love, trust, encouragement, inspiration, on its way to becoming an adult. Slow work.

The season of Lent receives its name from an Old English word ‘lecten’ which literally means to lengthen….to lengthen the hours of light that lead to the season of spring. Which is the slow work of God to which we will all be present over the next 40 days. Those of us who find our home in places where frigid temperatures have frozen the ground and suspended any sense of life are longing in sometimes desperate ways for these lengthened days of more light. We are staking our lives on greenness and the hope it brings. We are desperate for new life.

And so today some of us will be marked by ashes that represent the grittiness of what it means to be human. We were born out of the earth, out of the Garden after all, and we will some day return there. As the ashes are placed on our heads it might be a good thing to remember the ways in which the slow work of God has been present to us, in us. In remembering, we might be called to breathe more deeply, more intentionally, slowing down our pace and allowing the impatience that might be bubbling just below the surface to dissipate. Perhaps that dark mark of ashes will help us find rest in the slow work of God.

IMG_0637.JPG

Heart

” I have a heart for the homeless.” These are the words a young woman who was visiting our church said to me yesterday. She had made her way into our worship space after the service was over and the community had gathered along tables to make sandwiches for the guests who come to our Dignity Center, a ministry with homeless and others who live in various stages of transition. I had already met her and answered questions she and the young man who accompanied her had asked. It was an engaging conversation. Then I moved on to the next encounter allowing them both to look at the beautiful art in the room in which we worship. But some time later I noticed they were still in the room and were walking away from the table where people were finishing up their assembly line of sandwich magic. Bags of ham, turkey and cheese nestled between two slices of bread were now stacked and ready to be placed in the refrigerators for the hungry people who would make their way to us over the next days.

I approached them and asked if they had been roped into making sandwiches as well. That’s when she turned her earnest, confident young face toward me and spoke. ” I have a heart for the homeless.” Something in her words moved to a place deep within me. I believed her. I had no idea what action her heart had led her to make up to this point in her life but I trusted that it had. After answering her further questions about the ministry of the Dignity Center, I again moved on with my day. But this young woman’s words continued to roll around in my head and, I suppose, my heart. I wondered about all the things we ‘have a heart for.’ I also thought of the many times we struggle trying to find out what this longing is.

It’s an interesting phrase isn’t? To say one has a heart for something is one way to say this is what we love, this is what we care deeply about, this is what brings a certain meaning to living. I know people who have a heart for music. Without the ability to make music, to listen to music, to discover some new musical sound, these people would be desperate. I also know people who have a heart for teaching. They are the ones who always have some new book they are willing to share, some specific way of explaining a concept, a light in their eyes as they offer an idea or a thought.

There are those people who have a heart for children. You can watch these folks search out the young ones in a room, making eye contact, engaging them in a way that honors their age and doesn’t seem condescending as they interact. It is a gift to behold. And there are also people I have known who have a heart for the elderly. Their deep listening, their ability to be fully present in a way that rushes nothing, waits at just the perfect pace, giving respect and dignity. It is an offering that is pure blessing.

At some point of our living, it is important to discover what it is we have a heart for. I know of no particular way to make this happen except to pay attention……to what surprises…..to what brings deep joy….to the gentle fluttering at the pit of the stomach….to some deep knowing that cannot be overlooked. These are good indications that heart work is happening.

What do you have a heart for? Have you discovered it yet? In the Christian scriptures, Jesus is said to have offered these words in teaching the people: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” May this day have each of us knowing the fullness of what it is we treasure. May this day bring us all closer to what it is we have a heart for…..

IMG_0635.JPG

Saving Landscape

Every morning I receive via my Facebook feed a photographic image from the Isle of Skye. We all have, I believe, those places that nourish our souls, landscapes that help us remember deep truths about ourselves. Seeing these images first thing every morning helps me, even in these bleak winter days, to remember a grounding that goes someplace within that has a centering affect. It may sound crazy but it is true. Seeing these photos of rock, stream, valley and hallowed hills help me to breathe more deeply no matter the quality of sleep the night has delivered. This landscape of Scotland is a heart place for me. Sometimes when I am trashing about in my self-induced anxiety about whatever the worry of the day is, I remember this photo which then takes me to a place that shouts, for me, the eternal story of which we are all a part.

Most people, I believe, have such a landscape memory that holds them. Though they may not describe it in such a way as I do, people take mini-vacations all the time by thinking of a place where they have felt truly themselves in profound ways, places where they can let the troubles and distractions of the world fall away, leaving only the beauty and presence of their own sacred selves. Many people I know, and I include myself among them, have experiences like this thinking of the shores of a Lake Superior. Its rocky edges flowing into the deep, dark blue of expansive, cold water brings a cell-deep reminder to breath with waves and majesty. I have a sister-in-law whose love of the beach, its white sands and warming sun, calls to her over and over, offering its gifts of calm and sweet release. She is drawn there and cannot resist its siren call.

As human beings we are born to relationship. I believe it is woven into the very fabric of Creation. Most often this relationship is expressed through our encounters with other humans. We live out that pull toward relationship through the ups and downs of family, friendships and work-life patterns. Many of us also extend this relationship building to animals….pets that travel life’s path with us……those ones that look at us with more love than we often believe we deserve. ( Just this week I have been missing the Big Black Dog that moved to Seattle with our older son.) These living, breathing ones that have a give-and-take with us are the bedrock of living this relationship life.

But I believe we also have relationship with the landscapes around us as well. This is the recognition that often goes unspoken or forgotten, the connection that can often be the most grounding when the threads of our life starts to fray. It is at those times that we can cry out like the psalmist before us…” How lovely is your dwelling place,O God! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the places of God. My heart and my flesh sing for joy.” O.K., maybe none of us would say it quite this way but the feelings are still there.

Where are the places that hold you in just such a way? What are the landscapes that, when remembered, remind you once again of who you truly are? How can you go to that place, if not literally then in your imagination, when life threatens to overwhelm? What image would most ground you in the Beloved presence to center you for the work of this day?

Wherever those places are, I wish you a vivid imagination to go there. Perhaps you have a photo of this place that could be tucked into your pocket and stationed in a place where you will see it often and upon seeing it remember your true self. For me this morning’s image of mist rising off an (unfrozen) lake which slowly extended into a view of the Cuillin Hills of the Isle of Skye, did the trick.

I am grounded for the work of this day. Blessed be.

IMG_0634-1.JPG

Serenity

There is the saying that the only real constant in life is change. There is deep truth in this as painful and confusing and difficult as it might seem to we humans ones. Depending on personality and sometimes age, we mostly like things to stay the way ‘they are’ whatever that means and sometimes even if it is not too pleasing. We are ‘creatures of habit’. I say that sometimes age plays into this phenomenon but not always. We all know children who want things to happen the same way, at the same time, in the same order. There is comfort in the similar and it allows us to continue under the delusion of control, a delusion we all want to at some level grasp with white knuckles.

We were, however, birthed out of a process of change. No matter how you understand or tell the story of the Universe or where you see the human in this process, it is a story of change. To not change is to be stagnant and we all know where that leads. So, the good news is that this life, this planet, this body, this way of being, is drawn to change even when it gets there by kicking and screaming.

I have been present to much change lately and have found myself the observer of the many ways people experience change. There are those who dig their heels in and say ‘no way.’ There are those who avert their eyes and seem to hope that somehow someone will come to their senses and stop this craziness. There are those who are deep listeners, those who wait for the still, small voice that brings wisdom. There are those who talk their way through the change, waiting to hear their own voice make sense of it all. There are those who walk away and those who are motivated by the sheer energy of something new. There are the leaders and the followers doing the dance of change, sometimes changing partners mid-stream. There are the nay-sayers and the cheerleaders, the skeptics and the sages, the doers and doubters.

The truth is that in every creative approach to change we need them all. And something tells me that this is a part of the wisdom of the Greater Process that is Creation. From the beginning we have been called to change and become something new, something that has, perhaps, never been before. This happens in small daily ways and in large earth-shaking ways. But it is always in the process of happening. It is the way of Life.

Is there change for the sake of change? Probably. Perhaps there is gift in that if nothing more than a cure for boredom. But Reinhold Niebuhr, the great 20th century theologian, offered this wisdom about change that has become the prayer for our brothers and sisters in recovery: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Serenity. For all those who are being pushed by change this day in ways that cause pain and despair….serenity. For all those who are being pulled by change that stirs spirit and creative juices this day….serenity. For all those who are straddling the fence posts of change this day wavering,wondering……serenity. For all those filled to overflowing with desire and passion for change….serenity.

Change. Wisdom. Serenity. May these deep words hold us all.

IMG_0633.JPG

Clear Glass

I want to be clear: I love stained glass windows. I love the colors and the way light can play through those colors at various times of the day. I am drawn to the idea that they, like their ancestor frescoes, were probably originally used as ways of teaching the scriptures to those who did not have education or the ability to read. I am fascinated by the art of them…..how they take tiny pieces of colored glass to form something larger, creating faces and landscapes, evoking emotion and a sense of awe. I am inspired by them and have spent many hours of my life staring into the art and the stained glass and marveling at the artists who created them.

But over the last week I have spent several days in a worship space designed in the round. Light wood adorns floor and ceiling. White walls give way to windows….clear, glass that allow me to see outside, to see the stark, black trees against a winter sky. If I am on one side of the worship circle, I can see all the way to the lake where ice houses dot the frozen water and trucks and cars move across the surface, something that still fascinates and brings out fear even after all the years of living in a Minnesota. Talk about an affirmation of faith.

If I sit on another side of the circle I can see the trees rising up the hill. Squirrels do acrobatic feats that cause great intakes of breath from this human one. I am plunged into awe for this creature who lives with such courage and vulnerability. What a teacher this bushy tailed animal is! The trees the squirrels use as a play set are bare or have single leaves dangling in the wind. Why have they held on so long? To what are they making a last ditch effort to cling? More lessons.

A couple of weeks ago I sat in our large, church sanctuary where the stained glass windows surround us like a technicolor womb. Span the images in a slow circle and you will move from the birth of Jesus, through the major events of his life, until you arrive at the resurrection window. Along the way you can glimpse the apostles and my particular favorite, ‘the women’s windows’, depicting four strong women of the Bible. It is an unusual occurrence to have a set of windows dedicated to women, something I always point out to visitors. These four women make up the north window and are best seen while you are leading in worship. I consider it a good reminder and a powerful, watchful presence.

Periodically, the stained glass windows are taken out for cleaning. Scaffolds are built and the windows are lifted and taken….someplace….where this cleaning happens. One more thing to be astonished about in the world. How do the workers do this? What are the risks? How is it even possible? But it is and this particular Sunday, one large window on the northeast wall was gone. Instead of stained glass, I was graced with the clear, blue winter morning sky. At one point clouds floated by but mostly it was just the pure light of a cold, January morning.

Sitting there, singing the hymns, praying the prayers, being present to the scripture and its illumination by the preacher, I was struck with how the whole sanctuary seemed fuller and more whole to me. The world was not shut out by the colored pictures of ancient story but was instead open to the beauty of the world. I dared to glance every now and then upward toward the clear glass in hopes of a flock of birds flying by or even the white wisps of an airplane on its way to some country far away. The way in which the window provided a frame for the world seemed an even greater point of connection with all the wonder of Creation and therefore the Creator.

Perhaps the worship leaders of days gone by were right to cover over the windows so those in worship could not see outside. I have to admit to the distraction afforded by my ability to see farther than the room in which I sat. And yet, if the point of our faith is to take it into the world, would it not be a good and right thing to have an eye on that outside world even while in worship? A theologian whose name is escaping at this moment once said we actually have two sacred texts from which to study and experience our walk with God….the scriptures and Creation. My brush with clear glass windows has proved this to me this week.

And I am eternally grateful……

IMG_0627.JPG

Clear Glass

I want to be clear: I love stained glass windows. I love the colors and the way light can play through those colors at various times of the day. I am drawn to the idea that they, like their ancestor frescoes, were probably originally used as ways of teaching the scriptures to those who did not have education or the ability to read. I am fascinated by the art of them…..how they take tiny pieces of colored glass to form something larger, creating faces and landscapes, evoking emotion and a sense of awe. I am inspired by them and have spent many hours of my life staring into the art and the stained glass and marveling at the artists who created them.

But over the last week I have spent several days in a worship space designed in the round. Light wood adorns floor and ceiling. White walls give way to windows….clear, glass that allow me to see outside, to see the stark, black trees against a winter sky. If I am on one side of the worship circle, I can see all the way to the lake where ice houses dot the frozen water and trucks and cars move across the surface, something that still fascinates and brings out fear even after all the years of living in a Minnesota. Talk about an affirmation of faith.

If I sit on another side of the circle I can see the trees rising up the hill. Squirrels do acrobatic feats that cause great intakes of breath from this human one. I am plunged into awe for this creature who lives with such courage and vulnerability. What a teacher this bushy tailed animal is! The trees the squirrels use as a play set are bare or have single leaves dangling in the wind. Why have they held on so long? To what are they making a last ditch effort to cling? More lessons.

A couple of weeks ago I sat in our large, church sanctuary where the stained glass windows surround us like a technicolor womb. Span the images in a slow circle and you will move from the birth of Jesus, through the major events of his life, until you arrive at the resurrection window. Along the way you can glimpse the apostles and my particular favorite, ‘the women’s windows’, depicting four strong women of the Bible. It is an unusual occurrence to have a set of windows dedicated to women, something I always point out to visitors. These four women make up the north window and are best seen while you are leading in worship. I consider it a good reminder and a powerful, watchful presence.

Periodically, the stained glass windows are taken out for cleaning. Scaffolds are built and the windows are lifted and taken….someplace….where this cleaning happens. One more thing to be astonished about in the world. How do the workers do this? What are the risks? How is it even possible? But it is and this particular Sunday, one large window on the northeast wall was gone. Instead of stained glass, I was graced with the clear, blue winter morning sky. At one point clouds floated by but mostly it was just the pure light of a cold, January morning.

Sitting there, singing the hymns, praying the prayers, being present to the scripture and its illumination by the preacher, I was struck with how the whole sanctuary seemed fuller and more whole to me. The world was not shut out by the colored pictures of ancient story but was instead open to the beauty of the world. I dared to glance every now and then upward toward the clear glass in hopes of a flock of birds flying by or even the white wisps of an airplane on its way to some country far away. The way in which the window provided a frame for the world seemed an even greater point of connection with all the wonder of Creation and therefore the Creator.

Perhaps the worship leaders of days gone by were right to cover over the windows so those in worship could not see outside. I have to admit to the distraction afforded by my ability to see farther than the room in which I sat. And yet, if the point of our faith is to take it into the world, would it not be a good and right thing to have an eye on that outside world even while in worship? A theologian whose name is escaping at this moment once said we actually have two sacred texts from which to study and experience our walk with God….the scriptures and Creation. My brush with clear glass windows has proved this to me this week.

And I am eternally grateful……

Fleeting

If you are an early riser as I am, you have likely been audience to some amazing sunrises these past days. I am unsure why at this time of year, in this particular climate, the sky wants to dress itself up as if the whole day will be a grand ball complete with young women decked out in feathery, multi-colored ball gowns that vaguely resemble clouds. Is it the January light setting its sights on the spring we all have begun to talk about, dream about, plan for? Is the sky filled with an invisible moisture that creates the pinks, purples and indigo hues that paint the heavens just as the first peek of the Sun makes its entrance over the horizon? These are the times I wish I had paid more attention in science class. Perhaps I might be able to answer my own questions.

But I am not sure that any scientific understanding of the dawntime phenomenon would be adequate. The show of sky and light seems to me more worthy of poetry or music and certainly silence. The awe it elicits would not find justice, at least for me, in any rational explanation. What it calls for is something much more….prayer…..praise…..adoration….reverence.

One morning I had been busy over something that seemed immensely important, looking down at my computer, pecking away frantically at the keyboard. Out of the morning quiet, my husband urged me to turn my head and look out the window. The sky was hot pink, deep orange, lemon yellow, brilliant purple at the level of the horizon we glimpsed through the trees. While we watched, within moments somehow, the colored lights flipped upward and flooded the puffy, marshmallow-like clouds with purple and pink causing them to look like cotton candy hanging in the sky. There were no words……only the feeling that you had been privileged by something that verged on miraculous.

And then within what seemed like the blink of an eye it was all gone. All gone. The sky seemed ‘normal’ again. Blue, though not overly so. Clouds without any particular sheen or sparkle. Just there. They promised to make the upcoming day one more day of meteorological ‘Partly Cloudy’. It was stunning to realize how fleeting the beauty was, how fleeting the experience of that beauty. It felt like a punch to the chest. I wondered at the blessing of seeing such a morning begin while also feeling a sadness at how quickly it took a turn.

The experience of this bright and brilliant morning caused me to think of all the fleeting moments that pass through our days, through our lives. We have all had those moments on which our life seemed to turn for better or worse. A look full of love across a table and a beloved is discovered and things seem to change in a forever kind of way. And then there are the fleeting moments of children growing up and the wondering where the time went and why we didn’t pay more attention, why we focused on the petty,seemingly urgent and not on the precious present of a giggle of a small hand held against our face. Looking back at photos of these young ones we try to conjure up the full hearted experience of those fleeting moments.

Thinking along these lines reminded of a poem by Jane Kenyon in which she talks of the ordinary things that begin her day with the husband she loves. A cup of coffee shared. Breakfast at a simple kitchen table. Reading the paper together. She celebrates these moments and ends each celebration with the words ‘some day it will be otherwise’. In its writing the poem recognizes the fleeting nature of the beauty which graces the every day…..and the reality that someday that beauty, that grace, will be no longer present for us. Like the quickly changing colors of a January morning, it will be otherwise.

And so on this day, may we all open our eyes to the gifts that show up in all their ordinary splendor. May we celebrate them and relish them and honor the fleeting brush with which they paint the canvas that is our living. Somehow the fleeting nature of it all makes it ever so much more precious.

IMG_0626.JPG