Grounding Footsteps

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The events of the last weeks have had me reaching out for what is grounding, what has withstood the tests that have inevitably challenged humanity throughout time. Questions like ‘what really sustains?’ and ‘ what brings courage and wisdom?’ have floated in between the anguish of troubling newsfeed that can be our constant companion if we allow it. Trying to keep a balance between being responsible and informed and staying calm and sane can be a difficult.
Recently I have returned to a devotional book given to me as a birthday gift from a friend. It is simply titled Celtic Daily Prayer and is a rich compilation of scripture and reflection from throughout the swath of writings of those who have been shaped by the faith of those who have made a home in or near the British Isles. Each month in the book is themed and July is devoted to pilgrimage…pilgrimage to places held holy by those who lived and traveled there. In yesterday’s reading I found words that soothed my soul.

July 14 was given over to the pilgrimage site of Assisi, Italy. “In Assisi the past is not history, but the life of Francis is now, just as Christ is now.” writes Norma Wise. These words had me swirling back in memory to my travels two years ago and the experience of beauty and strength that permeated the streets of Assisi. While all the modern amenities we have come to hold so precious were present in this ancient city there was also the sense that time was fluid and that the living presence of the humble teacher we have come to call St. Francis might appear around the next corner. His gifts of simplicity and wonder at the fullness of Creation seemed to shimmer in the very air. 

Further in the devotional reading were these words: “There have been thousands of footsteps around Assisi, but through them all the footsteps of Francis seem freshly there, unaltered,calling out for us to walk in them,and learn.” writes Brenda Grace. The days we walked this tiny Umbrian town, the place was filled with pilgrims night and day. Languages floated by in conversation, words unfamiliar, unknown. Faces shown forth with characteristics of those from a variety of countries and national origins. Our own footsteps made one more groove in the stones there and left their image in the dusty paths. It was easy to image our footsteps mixed with those of Francis and his followers…calling out to us to learn.

Learn? Learn, what? Certainly, the value to the Holy of each created being from tiny insect to upright human. Perhaps, the joy of the simple things of the every day…the sunrise and sunset, the trees swaying in breeze, the rain falling, the light twinkling on water, the smell of a freshly bloomed flower. All gifts of Creator…all which we had no hand in bringing to being. Our only work is to receive them in our presence, exclaim our wonder and enjoy. Our deep connection to every part of the world…the poor, the lonely, those on the margins, those we name other or least…all these are kin. These could be just a few of the lessons Francis might teach us for our day and time.

This mental pilgrimage, these memories helped me find the grounding I needed to walk out into the day and I was grateful. The words and the challenge to walk in the footsteps of Francis once again helped center me for the work of the day. I thought of how in a sense I had brought his footsteps with me across an ocean and into my own land. This thought helped me to walk more gently with yesterday’s experiences…to hold someone’s gaze more fully…to breathe more deeply of the beauty that still exists around me…to offer blessing to the strangers who pass our way…to make my prayer constant, unceasing. These can be things we abandon when life gets tough.

Today, I am sure, pilgrims from all walks of life are showing up in a little town in Italy, a place where only their clothing and the cars rushing by gives indication of the year. But history is not past there. It is now…just as Francis is now…just as Christ is now. This brings me comfort and peace for the journey of my own present. What is bringing you comfort and peace these days?

Under Appreciated Words

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Surrounded by the pain and astonishment, a common phrase heard over this last week has been “There are no words.” There are no words that can make sense of the loss, the grief, the despair we see seeping into all the cracks and crevices of what we thought we knew, what we hold dear, what we value. There are no words that seem adequate for our anger and disgust over lives, dreams, possibilities cut short once again by the strength and power of bullets, of racism that runs so deep in the rivers and tributaries of this nation and our very veins that we fail to see it, own it, claim it. There are no words that seem to be powerful enough to jar me fully awake to the white privilege I embody every day even when I desperately do not want to admit it. There are no words that speak enough truth. There are no words that will bring enough comfort. There are no words that will help any one of us believe that this time, this time something can be done to stop the insanity. There are no words.
I have found myself not knowing how to pray. The words don’t come and so I simply breathe…and in that breathing hope beyond hope that I am connecting with the More that holds all the wordless places. The More that is known in the silence and the ancient time before words defined us and helped us try to bring meaning to what we experience in this big adventure called life. Inhale. Exhale. Hope. No words.

A few weeks ago I heard the author Sara Miles speak. She has given her life over to helping feed the hungry, the homeless, the hopeless on the street of San Francisco. She posed the question: “What is the most important word in the Bible?” The room being filled with church types, professionals at scripture reading, I imagine thoughts like salvation…redemption…God…Jesus…resurrection…even love perched upon the lips of those around me. We all wanted to appear to be good students who knew the right answer.

But before any of us could raise our hand and receive her approval, Sara answered her own question. “With.” With is the most important word in the scriptures, she said. When she said this simple word, one we use over and over every day, I felt that place in my chest open that is the home to what is soul. I felt myself breathe more fully and allow the goodness of the moment and the gift of this under appreciated word rest in that heart place of my deepest knowing. With..I whispered to myself. With..liking the way it seemed like breath itself.

“Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” “Noah walked with God.” “God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” “God said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you.” “When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” “God is with us.” “For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” “It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

This great preposition, with, is the under appreciated word that reminds us of the invisible lines of connection that exist throughout all Creation. ‘With’ is the bridge-builder, the hand-holder, between us and them, you and me, this and that. In the scriptures this four letter word is a wake up call to the ways in which we can never be separated from the Spirit’s movement in our lives, in any given situation. Ever. 

And so, maybe there are no words for what we have seen unfold over the last week. No big, important words that will make it all make sense or make it better. At least until we embrace fully the power of ‘with’. I am with you and you are with me in this time of crisis in our nation and our world. We are with one another regardless of the color of our skin. We are with the families who suffer today because a loved one will never come home again. We are with those who have chosen a profession that seeks to serve and protect and is filled with experiences most of us could never imagine, experiences filled with fear and misunderstanding and rapid decisions. We are with our privilege and our racism and pray we can break its hold on us. We are with one another in the hope and promise of change and a brighter, safer future for all God’s children.

And when there are no words, may these bring a balm…”And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Makers

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Yesterday I posted a blog about an experience on a beach on Whidbey Island. I hoped that the image of a creation called ‘Tristan and Ryan’s House. There was a technical glitch…so here it is.

Makers

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In the first and last analysis, we human beings are makers. From the beginning of time we have been tasked with the work of making. Making shelter. Making fire. Making food. Making art. Making other people. While animals also are makers…nests…hiding places…other animals…as humans we have a big job of being makers. I was reminded of this when I noticed the business card of a friend’s daughter who creates amazing statues and fanciful art inspired by her Australian heritage. Her business card did not read ‘artist’ or ‘painter’ or even ‘sculptor’. It boldly stated her name and then ‘Maker’. I have kept this card to not only remind me of her work but also of my own.
Last week my family and I meandered along a beach on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington state. This particular beach is the recipient of all manner of washed up logs, branches, even whole trees stripped to a clean, near-whiteness by the ocean’s push and pull. These gifts from the Sound litter the sand for as far as the eye can see looking like skeletons of large sea-faring mammals that have met a treacherous demise, washed to land by a violent wind.

And yet…because we are at-heart makers, these abandoned ‘bones’ had been gathered by beach walkers of all ages to create something more, something whimsical and magical. Several places along the beach held the visible frame of a shelter for perhaps a small child to hide from the sun’s rays or the too eager eyes of a parent. The wood leaned in triangles and rectangles and structures resembling a Lincoln Log playhouse. The creations, now with no other maker in sight, begged for attention and the addition of one more log here…another right there. And so I obliged, adding my own twist of creativity that said ‘I was here.’

But the piece de resistance was one creation that took its inspiration from the many ships that sailed the nearby waters. Log upon log had been piled until a two story pirate like ship had been made. Towels hung on one of the walls, perhaps left behind by the architects, used to dry off after a cooling dip in the frigid waters near by. Looking up, I saw a long piece of flat wood with the words “Tristan and Ryan’s House”. I laughed and wondered who these lads were and how long it took them to be the makers of this remarkable creation.

With the beautiful work of Tristan and Ryan still swimming in my brain,that evening I came back to hear the news of the shootings in Orlando. Once again, what seems impossible had happened. Lives lost. Hearts broken. Families crushed. Possibilities cut short. Hatred and misunderstanding, fear and phobias littered a place that had once only held the sounds of laughter and the beat of music and dancing feet. Like most people, I felt the despair of yet another such tragedy.

And now in the aftermath of such destruction, such pain, here we are. Again. What to do? How to feel? What does it all mean? How can we stop it? There are calls for prayer and moments of silence. There are shouts for control of our nation’s fascination…love…of guns. Once again sides will be taken and lines will be drawn in the sand, political rhetoric will roll off tongues and fall on mostly deaf ears. We will say the names of these young people as we did the children of Sandy Hook and in all the other times in the hopes that this time might be different. And we will mean it and yet it know it is inadequate.

But perhaps this time will be different. Perhaps this will be the time when we remember that we are all born to be makers. Makers not of destruction but of shelters. Makers who take the raw materials of what gets washed up on our shores and who build something beautiful and filled with hope. Makers who stake a claim on a house we have built, a house built in understanding and kindness and goodness and the promise of a future. A house that welcomes all and refuses to allow hatred and fear to have the final say. We will put our name on this house and baptize ourselves in the cooling waters that flow outside its door. We will call this house, Love.

As a maker, this is my prayer.

Makers

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In the first and last analysis, we human beings are makers. From the beginning of time we have been tasked with the work of making. Making shelter. Making fire. Making food. Making art. Making other people. While animals also are makers…nests…hiding places…other animals…as humans we have a big job of being makers. I was reminded of this when I noticed the business card of a friend’s daughter who creates amazing statues and fanciful art inspired by her Australian heritage. Her business card did not read ‘artist’ or ‘painter’ or even ‘sculptor’. It boldly stated her name and then ‘Maker’. I have kept this card to not only remind me of her work but also of my own.
Last week my family and I meandered along a beach on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington state. This particular beach is the recipient of all manner of washed up logs, branches, even whole trees stripped to a clean, near-whiteness by the ocean’s push and pull. These gifts from the Sound litter the sand for as far as the eye can see looking like skeletons of large sea-faring mammals that have met a treacherous demise, washed to land by a violent wind.

And yet…because we are at-heart makers, these abandoned ‘bones’ had been gathered by beach walkers of all ages to create something more, something whimsical and magical. Several places along the beach held the visible frame of a shelter for perhaps a small child to hide from the sun’s rays or the too eager eyes of a parent. The wood leaned in triangles and rectangles and structures resembling a Lincoln Log playhouse. The creations, now with no other maker in sight, begged for attention and the addition of one more log here…another right there. And so I obliged, adding my own twist of creativity that said ‘I was here.’

But the piece de resistance was one creation that took its inspiration from the many ships that sailed the nearby waters. Log upon log had been piled until a two story pirate like ship had been made. Towels hung on one of the walls, perhaps left behind by the architects, used to dry off after a cooling dip in the frigid waters near by. Looking up, I saw a long piece of flat wood with the words “Tristan and Ryan’s House”. I laughed and wondered who these lads were and how long it took them to be the makers of this remarkable creation.

With the beautiful work of Tristan and Ryan still swimming in my brain,that evening I came back to hear the news of the shootings in Orlando. Once again, what seems impossible had happened. Lives lost. Hearts broken. Families crushed. Possibilities cut short. Hatred and misunderstanding, fear and phobias littered a place that had once only held the sounds of laughter and the beat of music and dancing feet. Like most people, I felt the despair of yet another such tragedy.

And now in the aftermath of such destruction, such pain, here we are. Again. What to do? How to feel? What does it all mean? How can we stop it? There are calls for prayer and moments of silence. There are shouts for control of our nation’s fascination…love…of guns. Once again sides will be taken and lines will be drawn in the sand, political rhetoric will roll off tongues and fall on mostly deaf ears. We will say the names of these young people as we did the children of Sandy Hook and in all the other times in the hopes that this time might be different. And we will mean it and yet it know it is inadequate.

But perhaps this time will be different. Perhaps this will be the time when we remember that we are all born to be makers. Makers not of destruction but of shelters. Makers who take the raw materials of what gets washed up on our shores and who build something beautiful and filled with hope. Makers who stake a claim on a house we have built, a house built in understanding and kindness and goodness and the promise of a future. A house that welcomes all and refuses to allow hatred and fear to have the final say. We will put our name on this house and baptize ourselves in the cooling waters that flow outside its door. We will call this house, Love.

As a maker, this is my prayer.


Heart-Hope

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A week ago, I sat in a meeting with our bishop as we grappled together with the action and the inaction of the every-four-year gathering of the people called United Methodists. This event happened in Portland, Oregon and brought with it what now seems like its quadrennial dose of angst and hand-wringing. It is not an easy task to be human. To be the church. To be a church dedicated to living in a global way with people whose life experiences and understanding of the Holy are so very different. A kind of difference that most often draws lines in the sand rather than compelling hands to reach out. 
As the bishop gave his opening remarks that would set the stage for what we hope would be healthy, helpful conversations, he said something, two words really, that grabbed me and have not let me go. It may have been a throw away two words for him. I don’t know. Maybe they were specifically chosen for their impact. All I do know is that after he said them I was unable to really listen to the next few minutes of what he was saying. Instead, my thoughts, hung on this statement: “It is my heart-hope…” 


It is my heart-hope. I thought of what it means to have ‘heart-hope’. This is not the hope that can be grounded on what sends a person to thinking…to believing..all things done with mind-hope. In my way of seeing, I can hope in all kinds of ways. Mind-hope is often based in knowledge, in angling with statistical probability. “Given what I know and the odds in this situation, I hope this will…turn out well…will solve the problem…will prove I am right. ” This hope stays floating someplace above the shoulders in a foggy, cloudy presence waiting to land on whatever will receive it.

Heart-hope is also not an experience that finds its roots in what can be defined by creed or doctrine or even good old common sense. The right words rarely feed heart-hope and do not give it wings to fly. Saying whatever seem to be right words, even multiple times and for years, also do not give birth to heat-hope. With heart-hope, it is never a recipe of do A, then B and, hopefully, C will inevitably happen.

No. The kind of deep longing we can call heart-hope finds its home in the very depths of who we are. It finds its home in the muscle that sits in our chest and throbs with our very lives. It is moved by passion and love. Yes, it gets broken over and over again and yet we work like anything to mend it, one beloved breath at a time. Heart-hope is fueled by faith, however we name that, and is the stuff of miracles…those acts that confound us and have us looking over our shoulder for the More who must have shown up without our seeing, without our knowing.Heart-hope is the riskiest of business because, in it, we have the most to lose.

What are your heart-hopes? I have heart-hopes, deep, enormous heart-hopes. Many of them surround my children and those I love fiercely. Other heat-hopes are directed toward injustices I witness in this world…those that bump up against the lives of other people’s children, young and old alike. Still other hear-hopes are held for our nation, the world, this beloved planet and even this church to which I chose to hitch my star. So many heart-hopes.

The desert monk and wise one, Abba Poemen, gently warned those wrestling with their own ancient heart-hope: “Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.” As I continue to hear the bishop’s words ringing in my ears, I pray that I may have the courage to allow these deep hopes to settle into that place of Wisdom that travels with each of us if we have presence of heart to listen.i pray that his heart-hopes lie gentle in his chest as he offers his work and his very life to this church he visibly loves. I pray that I may allow the heart-hope that beats deep within to be true and authentic and that I honor that in each person I meet even if our respective heart-hopes do not seem to want to dance with one another. Perhaps when we each hold our heart-hopes as sacred we might move to a place of satisfying the Heart of All.

Patience

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Do you have the patience to wait till the mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?”

~ Lao Tzu

I am a pool swimmer. This does not fit well in my once-adopted, now-home state that boasts more than 10,000 lakes. When I moved here I was not prepared to be expected to jump into any body of water without notice…or fear…of what lurks below the surface. I am not given to want to swim with anything that doesn’t also walk upright. For years, I avoided this confession and tried as best I could to get into the water and remove my mind from the fish, the turtles, the weeds…all the things ‘I could not see.’ I tried not to pass this dislike of lake swimming onto my children and the fact that I succeeded pleases me. 

This week I saw this quote from the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, and began to think about the notion that maybe my aversion to swimming in lakes may go deeper than the recreational pursuit of swimming. This week I read these words of the founder of Taosim as both real and metaphor. Do I have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the water is clear? Do I have the patience and the courage to move when I do not have the ability to see what also moves around me? Do you?

Like most people, I want to believe that I am more flexible than I probably am. I like to have things neatly decided, following a path I have carefully constructed based on good sense, desire, hope,set goals and a large dose of optimism. All that works out well when that path is nicely marked by both light and a long view of what is ahead. It is when the path twists and turns or when the shadows fall across the way that I get antsy. It is then that control is threatened and rigidity rears its ugly head. It is when the waters are muddy that I want to pull inward and protect myself and those I love at all costs. And at times like these, my initial reaction is to begin flailing against the muddiness, doing anything possible to clear the water and the path of any obstructions. Which, of course, only makes things worse…and more muddy.

The wisdom of Lao Tzu is to stand still. To practice the art of patience. And patience is an art, make no mistake about it. To stand still and wait for the particles of whatever is creating the inability to see the clear way ahead to settle, until the ‘right action arises by itself’. Patience. Waiting. Stillness. Hope. The arrival of right action. An action that has a wisdom of its own and will arise out of the mud if we have the ability or the sheer will to await its coming.

There are so many places in the world right now that seem steeped in mud. The very air seems full of particles that prevent us from seeing clearly. Mostly it seems we are all doing a lot of stirring up rather than standing still. We are creatures given to action, after all, and sometimes to our own detriment. I see this in our nation, in our world and in our organizations and institutions. The muddiness makes us so fearful and causes us to feel so out of control that we use our words and our actions to make something happen…anything happen. And this often only makes us unable to see clearly.

I wonder if these are days calling us instead to stand still, to have the patience to wait for the mud to settle. St. Augustine said “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” And above all, it seems as if wisdom is what is called for most in the living of these days. Don’t you think? 

So, today, at least for this day, I am going to try to be still enough to wait for the mud to settle. I am going to have faith in the Inner Wisdom of all that lives and breathes believing that right action has the power to give rise from where is lies hidden in the weeds. I will swim with all I cannot see and have courage. If you, too, are swimming in places that seem unfamiliar or unwelcome, I invite you to join me in this prayerful patient, waiting.

 

Peace of Heart

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Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work; it means to be in the midst of those places and still be calm in your heart.”~Unknown

For most of the days of April, I read these words from an unknown author on the calendar that graces a door where I do most of my morning ‘getting ready’ ritual. Getting ready for work. Getting ready to enter a new day. Getting ready to be surrounded by the noise that creeps in, surrounds and fills any available space, often sucking air from the rational mind, the tender spirit and the vulnerable heart. Reading these words nearly every day I hoped for the wisdom of them to sink in and become the calmness it proclaims. 

Like many, I am troubled by the harshness that seems to have become our daily bread, a harshness that seems to have no home for peace of any kind. The divisive nature of our community life, our political life, our church life…our life. Each day I vow to try to make sense of it. To soften my heart. To put judgment aside. To turn the noise of it into a peaceful way of being. My success rate has been negligible. Even as I listen to less and less news on the radio and watch less and less on television, the clashing and banging creeps in on social media and in conversations I overhear. The din of it is often overwhelming.

When I was the parent of young children, I learned a very important lesson…lots of lessons really…but this one seems to bear on this peace I am seeking. When our boys were having a ‘melt down’ and were crying or upset, if I allowed my own anxiety to elevate until I was melting down either inwardly or outwardly, it only made the situation worse. But if I could find a calm place within, if I could breathe deeply into the Stillness, it seemed to allow the space for my child to calm himself, something I could not do for him. It was not always easy. I wanted to fix it. Stop it. Have it be over! I have witnessed this playing out on planes with an inconsolable child. If the parent is calm, the child almost always settles down quite quickly. If the parent gives into the anxiety, there is almost always a melt down of biblical proportions.

What to do? I am not naive enough to believe there will ever come a time without trouble or threat of hard work. The very act of living, of traveling the planet with other human beings, teaches us that we each have such unique and different lenses with which to glimpse the world. It is both gift and challenge. And the reality is that the chaos of trouble often gives rise to our most creative work, work that is hard yet can lead to surprising results. I am saying these things to convince myself of any truth there might be in these words. I am saying these things to help create a space where peace might find room to snuggle in. 

Today I sat in my backyard and watched a baby rabbit move slowly, contemplatively like a yogi. Nearby a chipmunk darted and dashed gathering who knows what. Over head the songs of birds wafted in the air creating a soundtrack for the unfolding color of flowers and the greening promise of summer. I was reminded of the Wendell Berry poem entitled ‘The Peace of Wild Things’.

When despair for the world grows in me 

and I wake in the night at the least sound 

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, 

I go and lie down where the wood drake 

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. 

I come into the peace of wild things…….

This poem seems to call to that place I could often find as a parent. In a world that may seem to be having a ‘melt down’, the peace of the wild things can call us to an inner connection with the Stillness that moves through us and all Creation. Perhaps that calmness of heart I so long for can be touched by not only turning off the news but by spending more time observing those wild things who continue to live out their lives without words. Perhaps that calmness of heart can be glimpsed in the spare words of the poet. For today, it is worth a try.  

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April

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In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.”~Genesis 1:1-2

This past Saturday I was doing my usual errands…grocery shopping, Target run, working out. I was traveling the streets that I do so often, those streets that I move along never expecting to see something that jars me out of my daily sleep walking. Do you travel such streets? As I stopped at a four way intersection, my eyes veered toward the sign at a local Lutheran church. It is an occupational habit to read the signs outside churches. They can tell you a lot about a congregation or, at least, a lot about the person who decides what goes on the outside message sign.

Every April God Rewrites the Book of Genesis”. Those were the bold words that greeted me on an ordinary day. An ordinary day that happened to also be cold and a little bleak. An ordinary April day in Minnesota. But the sign gave me such pleasure. I laughed out loud, turned the corner and came back to take a photo of the sign. As I snapped the picture I silently gave thanks for the clever person who had decided that this was the message this particular church was sending out into the world this week. The message that had stopped my mindless moving in the world and had woken me up.

Though the last days have felt anything but spring-like there are signs of beginning…of Genesis…everywhere. Crocus blooms have thumbed their noses at the colder temperatures and decided to be the first to show up at the party that will become summer. Their cousins, the tulips, are also giving it a go, fanning their green arms in the air while holding back a bit with anything colorful. Yesterday on my evening walk, a forsythia bush screamed for attention saying ” Look at me! I’m yellow!” Indeed, you are.

It is not only our eyes that have the opportunity to know that life is beginning to rise from the sometimes seemingless ‘formless void’ of winter. Have you noticed the sounds of morning these last days? The birds are busy making morning music that says Creation is on the move. There is a calling out to one another or a ‘hey, I’m back, good to see you again’ song that can make walking in the morning as loud as a rock concert. 

April is the month when the book of Genesis gets rewritten. The morning sky paints itself with pinks and oranges with the sheer goodness of light. Not to be outdone the evening heavens seem to want to do the same. Reds and golds accompany the Sun as it ends another day of hard work, work that has coaxed new life out of ground that has lay cold and hard, out of branches that have been stiff and unyielding in the winter winds.

I am of the strong belief that the book of Genesis is being rewritten all the time, every day,every moment, every year, if our heart is open and our minds awake. But April is the month when those of us with words have the opportunity to give fresh eyes and ears to a world that is always reaching toward resurrection. It is an awesome task to give oneself over to noticing and paying attention. And yet that is our calling.

Will you watch with me? Will you look for signs of newness and offer your gratitude? Will you help tell the story of light coming out of darkness, life coming out of death? Will you declare over and over again…it is good? Very, very good.

  

Silence

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I will be silent and hear what God will say in me…”~Meister Eckhart

Mostly, we live in a noisy world, a world gone wild with loudness. There are so many sounds and distractions that pull us in any given moment. Perhaps this is what happens to many people, but I have found that as I grow older I long for more silence. Silence…today’s word for Lent. Silence is often in short supply. This can be true even in church, a place where you might think some quiet might be helpful. But there are words and often too many. There is music which can serve to help sloug away the assault that can be the every day experience of most people. But silence? Not so much. 

Some of my deepest experiences of the Sacred have been sitting in a room with people in silence. It has not happened that often so I can call it to memory quite easily. I am often envious of our Quaker brothers and sisters who, I’ve been told, know how to keep silence with one another. I have never actually worshiped in a Quaker meeting but I have often tried to image the sheer beauty of the silence of people sitting, being present to one another and the More. Yes, envious…that’s me.

The 13th century mystic Meister Eckhart must have known his share of silence. And these words speak to what he sees as one of the gifts of no sound, of being quiet, wordless, for a span of time. “I will be silent and hear what God will say in me.” What does the Holy want to say ‘in’ me? Not to me. Or even through me. But ‘in’ me.

Most days it would be difficult to hear even the Voice of God within with all the sounds that make up our daily living. Car motors. Radios. Television. Airplanes overhead. Traffic and all its accompanying sounds…blaring horns, screeching brakes,revving engines, speed. Voices elevated in anger or frustration. Voices trying to sell us things they are convinced we need. Wind. Storms. Thunder. Rain. And on and on. For those with ears to hear, there can be a continuous flow of sound. It keeps us company and can keep us from being present to ourselves and our very soul.

But even in this noisy world there are places that can cut through the sound and create a sanctuary of rest from it all. If we can get ourselves to most bodies of water and allow our eyes to focus on the shimmering water, we can begin to touch the silence. Sometimes even the frozen, glistening surface of a lake can do the same especially if it is illuminated by a bit of brilliant, winter sunshine. Staring out from a high point…a mountain or hill…can serve to provide perspective of how small we really are and how vast the Universe is in comparison. This usually brings about awe which always gives birth to silence. Holding a new born can do the trick as well as cradling any animal new to the world or watching a bird in flight. Beholding the first blossoms of spring, looking deep into the faces of flowers that have worked so hard to show up can bring about the silence of wonder…and mystery…and miracle. 

It seems to me any one of these experiences, held in silence, might help us glimpse what God might be trying to say in any one of us. Words like ‘praise‘ come to mind. Or ‘gratitude‘. Or ‘humility‘. Or even ‘love‘. But right now, I don’t want to muddy up the silence with even the hint of words. Instead, I simply want to be quiet. Silent. And listen deeply, fully, wholly. 

What will God say in me? What will God say in you? Shhhhhhh………..