First

First. Something always has to be first. You can argue or reflect on the chicken and egg thing but in the end something must be first to get the ball rolling. And in our yard these days,it is the crocuses. The crocuses have been first. Everything else is limping along in that ‘are you sure it’s still not going to snow?’ way we all have of protecting ourselves from the fickle nature of spring. Most of the other green things who are just as anxious, I’m sure, to be here as we are to see them. But they are hanging back, inching into the world with a Zen-like pace. Thankfully, the crocuses decided they were all in and bloomed their way into the world. They were first to start a race that will soon topple us with wonder.

And spring is that time to be filled with wonder. It is a daily watch of ‘what’s happening now?’ and it can sneak up on you. I’ve already lamented that somehow I missed some of the local lakes lose their winter shield of ice. I was busy doing the mundane tasks of what seemed most important on an ever-present list of to-do’s, and ‘Bam!’,was gone. Now water laps at the shores and I missed the chance to say a fond goodbye to the ice that has kept me company for months. Spring is a full time job of watching, of staying awake to the awe.

On Saturday I was sitting in a chair that is just inside our deck doors. I was reading, minding my own narrow business, when a swath of moving yellow caught my eye. A goldfinch was hopping from deck chair to the rocks near our backyard water garden. The sheer sweetness of its color filled my heart with gratitude that I get to exist with a creature so intensely beautiful and so fragile. Watching it take quick drinks of the cold water I wondered at where it had come from, how it had spent its winter. Did it know it was being blessed and had become a blessing to this human hungry for the color and hope of spring? 

Being first has never been my forte. I have never been as bold as the crocuses in showing their first of the season color. More likely to hang back, I want to see if it is safe yet to show up, to let my full,self be shown, be known. What about you? Which is why the purple crocuses with their impossible yellow centers have become such a lesson, such an object of reflection to me this spring. With dead leaves left unraked from the fall surrounding them, they pushed their way through the hard ground and chose to show up. They not only showed up but gave it their all and reached toward the sun with their whole being, being the first to splash the landscape with a hue that pulls at your heart. For what would any of us do such a thing?

This experience with the crocuses and the goldfinch reminded me of Mary Oliver’s Instructions for Living a Life, something I quoted during our Easter Sunrise service: Pay attention. Be  astonished. Tell about it. They are good instructions and ones that, if followed, might lead to a much fuller life. It is what I have been trying to do these slow moving, spring days. I am trying to pay attention….except for that missed ice exit….to all this spring might be offering up. To what is first…and second….and brightest….and most subtle. It is a full time job but one I accept with humility and a deep hope. 

Having accepted the offer of this paying attention, I have no doubt that astonishment will be the paycheck. I know that I will be offered daily, if not hourly, rewards of astonishment. Why, just now I looked out the window in the pale morning light and I can see the forsythia has decided to join the grand parade. Yellow branches of color, like fireworks in the summer sky, are shooting up into the morning. Slowly, slowly, the world is waking up with their showiest selves. 

Pay attention. Check. Be astonished. Check. Tell about it……which is what I am doing right now. 

??





Crossroads

This morning I was able to spend some time in our neighborhood coffee shop watching some of the goings on at a crossroads that connects three sections of our city. The rainy skies and post Easter fatigue allowed for some good staring, some fine mulling. Every now and then I feel the need to sit in a comfy chair in this place, cup of coffee in hand, and stare at the world going by. This was my plan…..to watch the two roads coming together and cars moving in the four directions as people made their way into this chilly, spring day.

I was doing just that when a man came to the sofa that also looks out at the crossroads. He had said ‘good morning’ to me earlier as he set his coffee down and headed out to get a newspaper from from the machine outside. Settling in with paper and cup, it was clear he wanted to engage me in conversation. I was polite and tried to keep my answers pleasant but short hoping I could once again focus my attention on what was happening outside the windows. But slowly I began to be pulled into this man’s questions and before I knew it we were deep in a conversation. He began telling me about a relationship he was in and the questions he was having about it. What can I say? I must have one of those faces that invites this kind of interaction. But once we really started to talk, it seemed the right thing to do.

While I had come to stare at a crossroads,the long and short of it was that this man was also at a crossroads. He had some important decisions to make about how he was going to proceed with this relationship and his own life. It was not lost on me that I had come to engage in a passive experience of observing a crossroad and then found myself in the process of an active living out of one.  I hope our conversation was in some way helpful and that this man can make the movement that needs to be made. Whether he turns east, west, north or south, the crossroads in which he was finding himself is likely to take him in a direction that will require change and perhaps pain. My prayers go with him. 

As I left the coffee shop and made my way home through the rainy morning, the experience had me thinking about all the people I know who are at some kind of crossroads. People who are making decisions about jobs, school, places to live, the act of taking on a new career, turning away from what has been and toward something that is yet to be. Of course, there is an element of this crossroads experience that is the gift of the rising of each day. But sometimes the crossroads where we find ourselves is more pronounced, more dramatic. The act of faith it takes to turn one way or the other or to go forward or in reverse will have far reaching consequences. 

This crossroads stream of thought had me remembering my time on the island of Iona in Scotland. This tiny island of only about one hundred permanent residents has only two roads and very few cars. The two roads make a perfect crossroads at the near center of the island. This crossroads becomes a part of the pilgrimage path that thousands of pilgrims walk each year following in the footsteps of St. Columba. Standing at that place where the two paths meet, pilgrims are invited to reflect on the places in their lives where they have come to a crossroads.What caused the choice of one path over another? How was the decision made? How was the Holy seen in each path? 

Reflecting on crossroads had not been my plan for the day after Easter. But in many ways it now seems a good one. As we entered into the story of this holy day that is a pivotal point in the lives of those early followers of Jesus, they also had found themselves at a crossroads. What to do now that their friend and teacher was no longer with them? How to move on from the violence and grief they had experienced? The path they took at their own crossroad led to us re-telling and re-entering that story once again just the day before. In many ways it is a crossroad we find ourselves at over and over again. How to live into this story and make it our own? What path of hope will we cling to in the midst of all the experiences of our lives? 

Whatever crossroad you find yourself at this day, here is a blessing for your walk….

That no matter which way you take, you know you are not alone……..That wherever the path leads, you will know kindness………That each step will be a step toward something that will bring you peace……..That you will arrive in hope and the promise of new life.



Peace Pilgrim

All of us all over the world, are cells in the body of humanity. You are not separate from your fellow humans, and you cannot find harmony for yourself alone. You can only find harmony when you realize the oneness of all and work for the good of all.~Peace Pilgrim

As I turned the page over on my calendar yesterday, these words greeted me. Actually, they seemed more to punch me in the stomach. They seemed so timely to me. It was like being drawn into the practice some people I know used to have of opening the Bible and letting their finger drop a certain place. There they would find whatever it was they felt they needed for the day. I am pleased that this works for some but it never has for me. I fear I have to do much more scraping and wrestling to find the nuggets of wisdom I need.

But given the news that is coming out of Indiana and Arkansas, I read these words with wonder and a certain longing. I wondered what would happen in our world if we held these words close to our hearts, allowed them to guide our actions, our decisions. They seem such truth to me but it is clear, given the movements of certain people in these states, that these words and their sentiments, are not the values of all. I have to admit it is a head scratcher for me. And it breaks my heart. 

Of course, reading the calendar words led me to discover who the writer was. Peace Pilgrim. I thought I was fairly safe in thinking this was a chosen rather than a given name. (I only spun around in the ‘what name would I choose for myself?’ place for a few minutes.) And it was true. Peace Pilgrim, born Mildred Norman in 1908, was a peace activist and the first woman to walk the length of the Appalachian Trail. She gave her life over to educating and spreading the message of peace in a spiritual way though never tied herself to any particular faith tradition. She walked by faith….not carrying money, had no financial backing, relied on those she met for food and shelter. Seems I remember a certain prophet encouraging such behavior 2000 years ago. Peace Pilgrim spent her life walking back and forth across this country spreading a message of peace and good will to all she met. She began walking in 1953 and continued bringing this message for over 28 years. She walked through the Korean War and the Vietnam War crossing the United States nearly 20 times. Ironically, she was killed in while riding in a car on her way to Knox, Indiana on her way to give a talk about…..our oneness….our inability to separate ourselves from one another…..the pursuit of the common good. 

Looking at the calendar whose little squares offer wisdom to me each day, I felt blessed by Peace Pilgrim’s words. They gave me hope and helped me feel connected to something larger. Listening to and reading the news over the last days has made me a little crazy. And frankly a little frightened. I wonder at how, with all we know of the ways the Universe works, of how intricately woven together we are with one another and the ways of the Creation, how anyone can consciously choose to exclude another. The fact that this behavior is also driven by an understanding of faith boggles my mind.

It is enough to start a person walking….and walking….and walking. I think of Peace Pilgrim walking across the country, stopping in small town diners and city squares, waiting for someone to come up and talk to her. What did those conversations sound like? What words were spoken? How often was she welcomed and how often rejected? What did she do to buoy herself up against the harsh voices who saw the world differently, who wanted to create clear lines of separation and do so in the name of God?

I haven’t reflected enough on this all to see why this gift was handed to me in the midst of Holy Week. But I have a sense there is something to learn in it all. For this moment on Holy Thursday, I am simply thankful for the words and life of Peace Pilgrim and for how she has shown me the face of Jesus….the great welcomer…the voice for the common good….the teacher of inclusion and love. 

May this message cast its spell on all those who might think otherwise on this day, this holy day.



Picture

Yesterday I wrote a post describing a church from my hometown in southern Ohio. I had added a photo of the church which I thought shone forth the simplicity and beauty of those who had worshiped there over the years since 1835. I realized only today that it had not appeared. It is such a wonderful symbol to me of the faith of all those that have gone before that I am trying this again. May its simplicity and the power it holds in that simplicity be a prayer for those of us who walk in these days leading to Easter.

“Ay, call it holy ground, the soil where first they trod…..left unstained what there they found….freedom to worship God.” ~ Hemans

Moriah Chapel, founded 1835.

?

Holy Ground

This week we call Holy is a week full of memory. As people who make their home in the Christian household, we will be gathering in various forms to remember, to re-tell ancient stories, to celebrate what it means to be people who have given over their lives to certain ways of being in the world. Depending on where you live and the role of tradition in your particular church or denomination, this remembering and celebration will look different. But the telling once again of the last days of the life of Jesus of Nazareth will be a part of the remembering. How each individual congregation makes meaning of those stories is what has divided us and what also keeps that story, and its memory, alive. 

I was driving through the Ohio countryside this week looking at the rolling hills that shaped my own spirit allowing them once again to wash over me with their beauty. Something about this landscape reaches deep inside me in a way I cannot deny. The pastoral scenes are dotted with little wooden framed churches that rise out of the farmland, strongholds that have stood against change and hard times. Stopping to take a closer look at one white chapel along the road, I read the plaque on the brick entry to the cemetery and church.”Ay, call it holy ground, the soil where first they trod;left unstained what there they found, freedom to worship God.” The words were dedicated to a group of Welsh settlers who built the church in 1835. I remember worshiping at this tiny chapel in the country when I was a young girl, the Welsh voices lifted the roof in song and prayer. My mother pointed out the ‘tea room’ in the back of the church urging me to look inside. Though a CD player sat on one of the tables, not much had changed in that room in decades, and is not likely to do so.

Only a few people worship at this church now. It is served by a pastor who makes her rounds to several wooden structures throughout the countryside in addition to her Sunday morning service in town. I thought of all the tiny churches that adorn the countryside all across this land, the people who built them, who called the ground on which they stood ‘holy’. I wondered what their founders would make of the faith communities of the 21st century.

On the drive back to Minnesota, we stopped to visit my father-in-law in Milwaukee. While there I read a letter written to him by his father. I marveled at the length of the letter and longed for such written correspondence….no text ‘grunting’ here. Long, beautiful sentences flowed out as he shared his understanding of faith and the differences he had observed in the various expressions of the Christian story by faith traditions. All this he did without judgment or mean spiritedness. In today’s ways of speaking about different expressions of faith, it was a joy to read. I wondered how many people I know could do the same without creating an ‘us’ and ‘them’, could lay out the differences with such respect. His letter created another kind of ‘holy ground’ on which a life was built, a life that left ‘unstained’ what he had found in his own faith journey.

This week we call Holy provides another opportunity to till the soil of our own faith. Each year, like the spring in which it arrives, we have the blessing to turn that rich soil of memory, tradition, faith,history and longing over once again. In it we will plant the seeds of hope….for what the story will bring to birth in us this year. How have the forty days of Lent been for you? What has been itching just below the surface that has troubled you or made you joyful? What is longing to come to birth in you, through you? How are you experiencing the life of Jesus?

These might be questions to carry into this week knowing that we all come from good stock of those who have carried similar questions before us. Some built churches in the countryside to hold their faithful longings while others wrote long letters to make their way to the answers. We have been and are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who dedicated themselves to remembering, telling and living their faith. And now it is our turn. May we do this work well for the healing of our own spirits and the healing of the world. 

? ?



 

Spin!

Last year in preparation for a pilgrimage to Italy, I was reading much about Francis of Assisi. This man later named a saint has been adopted by both Protestant and Catholics alike. His love of Creation and ability to see the Face of the Holy in even the smallest of creatures is an inspiration. I thought I had read nearly every story about this beloved man. But this week a new story came to me by way of the online Lenten retreat I have been participating in with artist and wise woman Jan Richardson. 

The story goes like this….Francis and one of his fellow brothers, Masseo, were taking a journey and come to a crossroads. It is not easily understood which is the route they should take. Saint Francis then instructs Brother Masseo to take up his place at the center where the roads cross and to spin himself around…..and around…..and around. Of course, Masseo becomes dizzy and finally falls to the ground. St.Francis and the brother then set off on their journey in the direction that Masseo had fallen.

Like many of the stories of Francis, there is a lightheartedness and even humor to them. I love this about this holy man. It is a reminder to me to take myself and this life I lead a little less seriously. What a way to make decisions…..simply spin yourself around till you land in some direction….whichever way you land could work! (Or better yet, get someone else to do it for you.) Doesn’t it make you smile? 

Reading this story made me think of the many ways we make decisions. Some people make important decisions through logic, through the process of thinking things through from beginning to end, weighing all the odds. Others trust their feelings,’listening’ to their gut for what seems like the way to move on any particular path. When our sons were younger we often taught them to make a list of pros and cons of any situation and weigh the possible outcomes before proceeding. Some folks I know use visualization of imagined outcomes to make decisions. Still others require a talking out with another person or group of people of the situation at hand, until they can walk their way into next steps. 

Most people in faith communities trust in time spent in meditation and prayer that gives birth to a deep knowing that the steps being considered are being drawn out by Mystery. We often call this discernment. It is a word that has, in my opinion, lost some of its power over the last years. Co-opted by the business world the Unseen participant in the process of true discernment is often not considered.

But also, as people of faith, we can trust in the deep knowing that no matter the process we use for moving along life’s often circuitous path, the Holy is a constant companion. Perhaps this is what Francis was emphasizing to Masseo as he urged him to spin. Perhaps it didn’t make much difference to Francis which way Masseo fell at the crossroads. In his way of walking in the world, the Holy was on and in the path no matter which road was taken. 

The fact of the matter is that we probably need all the varied ways we have for making life’s decisions. If we have at the table a diversity of thinkers, feelers, left-brained and right-brained, gut and head people, we are most likely to come to a better decision, whatever the the path to be taken. It might also take a fair amount of spinning. But somehow I am also comforted by the notion that whatever the decision making process, there is also an Unseen partner at the table whose grace holds whichever way the journey takes. That even if the next step comes after spinning and falling down, we are all held by a goodness we continue to try to imagine and live into. 

For all the decisions…..and the discernments of this day, may it be so. Blessed be.

Waiting Season

The last few days have been traveling days for me. After church on Sunday we set out for a week of vacation with my family in southern Ohio. Often this is a flying trip but this time we did the road trip through the farmlands of Wisconsin, across the flatter lands of Illinois and Indiana and then into the rolling hills of Ohio. This trip is one I have taken many times. There are familiar spots along the way, markers that we are half way there or nearly there. Some of the markers have been shined up and look better than I remember while others have grown shabby over the years. There is a sadness to see them diminished.

Driving across this land in March, these fields that are home to the ‘bread basket’ of our country, look much different than they will in just a few months. For as far as the eye could see, fertile soil rolled out mile after mile in its waiting time. Waiting for warmer weather. Waiting for tilling. Waiting for planting. Waiting to come into its fullness. Rich dirt,turned over so its black color shone was, like the human who observed it, waiting for the season of spring to unfold. This   view of the waiting fields was only interrupted by a single white farmhouse plunked in the middle, home to the farmers who were likely also in the same suspension of season. Looming over it all were the enormous wind turbines gently fanning their angel wings over the waiting game. Something about these tall, white pinwheels always pulls at my heart…..their power to harness the wind and create unseen, yet experienced energy. Seeing their slow turning always expands my heart in my chest. 

Waiting is something that is difficult for most of us. Our impatience almost always gets the best of us. And yet the opportunity to observe these fields in their waiting stages brought about a certain patient pull in me. To look out over their expanse and to know that, soon, they will be giving birth to life that will then feed the lives of thousands can instill a patient hope for what is yet to be. I wonder if the farmer feels the same. I wonder if those who make their homes in the houses dwarfed by land yet unyielding look out over the black soil and experience that patient hope. Of possibility. Of promise.

No matter our work, no matter the landscape that greets our eyes each morning, we have a fickle relationship with waiting and patience. These days of Lent can be an invitation to be, simply be, in this particular day of this forty day journey. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Not the ritual of Ash Wednesday….not yet the alleluia of Easter. The fields of Lent still stretch before us and though we may have planted some seeds within the soil, patient waiting is still required. 

Lent, which comes from an old English word meaning spring, holds the promise of new life. But it is a new life that does not come with the fast paced, do-it-now, immediate pace to which we are accustomed. Instead, it is the ‘slow work of God’ with which our faith community has been reflecting over these last weeks. Slow work that thaws frozen ground. Slow work that allows planting small seeds and trusting in the movement of Sun and rain to pull and water them. Slow work that begs the humans observing to breathe more deeply, to keep an eye on what might happen when control is turned over to the Mystery. 

And perhaps, this is the greatest lesson of all in this long, waiting season.

??








Bravo!

We are people of story. We were made for story, made of story and it is story that helps us survive and evolve. To tell the important stories that have shaped us and to do so in new ways is the gift of imagination and creativity. But it also the stuff that saves us and breathes new life into us.

Personally, I have always been someone who loves to see a Shakespeare play ‘updated’, told with props, scenery and nuance that brings another dimension to a classic tale. While Elizabethan clothing is beautiful and I love looking at it, there is something to be said for hearing the verse of this great playwright spoken by people wearing clothes that are familiar, in scenery I may have experienced. Though, of course, I cannot know it to be true, I somehow like to believe that Shakespeare would also like to see these flights of his imagination brought to life in settings he could not have imagined, allowing him to see the timelessness of the stories he wrote.

Yesterday I attended a production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ at Lake Harriet United Methodist Church in south a Minneapolis. This 1970 rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice was a hit in its time and also one that was shunned as heretical by some. It was the stuff of my youth and I even had the gift of being in a production in college. It was fun to experience how the lyrics, the pauses, the phrasing, the music came flowing back and washing through me as if it had never left. Good stories do that. As the musical tries to answer many of the questions people have had over time about Judas and Jesus, their relationship, the balance of power and justice, Jesus’ own understanding of his life and role in what is the central faith story for the Christian household, it was a massive undertaking by two artists. The fact that this particular rendition of its telling has not been left to some forgotten shelf, to another time of rock opera mania, is fascinating.

And yet it is a story that can be…..actually must be…picked up from its 1970′s home and placed in a new time. This production used a homeless shelter to house its characters. Jesus, Judas, the apostles, Mary Magdalene, all were found in a shelter for the least among us. They were fed at a soup line and surrounded by the various, colorful characters that can be seen at any shelter, in any city, all across the country. Pilate, Herod and those in power looked like those many of us sit next to at desks and see moving along the avenues of business and government. Business suits, red power ties, cellphones close at hand, checking all the important information flowing to us at all times. It was powerful imagery and good theater. The fact that it was created by a church community, with people of all ages, made it even more so.

So much of the time we like to keep our faith stories where they were….written two thousand years ago or more. We like to do the work of studying historical context and unpacking language interpretation to better understand what the writers of the stories really intended. This is important work to do but it can also allow us to stay in our head, to think that this faith thing is a purely intellectual exercise. But the real test of a story and of faith is to bring the intention and power of that story off the page and into our living, to let it into our heart. That’s what this production did for me…..a show that in the time it was written, was likely thought might become just a campy musical created by people who wanted to have guitars in church, to distance themselves from the hymns of their parents and grandparents. To see the story we have all been walking through once again in this Lent brought to life by regular people, re-imagining it for our time, placing it at the intersection of one of our biggest challenges we know as a nation and a faith tradition…..homelessness….was brilliant and prophetic. To them all, I say ‘Bravo!’

I say ‘bravo’ and thank you. Thank you for reminding me of the power of story and that these stories we tell are ones that are ‘living’ if we allow them. In that living we we can come to know in new ways their transformational power which is the point, isn’t it?

This production is running one more weekend. If you are reading this in the Twin Cities, I commend it to. You will not be disappointed.

IMG_0676.JPG

What You Hold

What you hold, may you always hold.
What you do, may you always do.
And never abandon, never abandon.”

~St. Clare of Assisii

There are words that seem to draw us back to them. You can be walking along, minding your own business, and a phrase or word will play itself across the screen of your mind or whisper into you ear. Who knows why this happens? Sometimes these are not welcome words. Sometimes they are old, poor messages given us in other days that are not helpful, even painful. Words a parent or teacher or supposed friend said that sought to define who they thought we were but were not true at all. These are the phrases that can show up that to try to pull us from a new found path or some well worn practice toward healing and wholeness. These are not the phrases I am thinking of today.

Instead, I am remembering words that can be touchstones, reminders of the truly, deep wisdom that we all have but often forget. Things we know about ourselves….how we tick, what ways of communicating make sense and what ways will never work for us. Things we have come to believe in down to our marrow. What we would ‘go to battle for’ and what we are willing to let go. Sometimes these reminders are snippets of conversations that seemed benign at the time but on later reflection we knew to be pivotal in our shaping. Again….a parent, a teacher, a friend could have spoken them or sometimes it is a favored author whose well chosen words were the ones to hold this weight, this power.

Periodically, I come back to the words of St. Clare of Assisi which appear above. These words came to me later in my life by way of a short sung refrain. I remember where I was and the sights and sounds and feel of the room. I was swept up and held by the powerful intention of her words. From that moment on Clare’s words have become a sort of affirmation of faith for me. They seemed to speak of that knowing that we often feel just at the center of our body, our gut, but the place that represents something more. In chakra language it is the solar plexus, the place of our life force.

This past weekend we sang this refrain again at a women’s retreat. We did so while honoring the women in our lives who have nurtured our roots and grounded us, those that have helped us stand strong and those who have helped us reach up and out into the world. Clare’s words seemed the perfect soundtrack for what we were doing, what we were claiming.

In our lives situations happen that can draw us away from what we know, what we hold. People can come into our lives that can try to distort our own deep knowing. It can be a mind altering and heart-breaking experience. Life circumstances…..illness, loss, grief, injury, abuse, addiction…..can also mess with what we hold most dear and knock us, temporarily, off center. Right now, I am thinking of the many people who have recently lost jobs in our community due to corporate change. I am also thinking of a dear one who is fighting for his life in a hospital across the river. May they all find some way to hear the phrase, the sacred word that brings them to their own deep and grounded knowing of what they hold, what they will never abandon. And may it lead them to their own experience of how they are held and never abandoned by the One who walks with them.

There is courage and power in Clare’s words and they can draw you into a confidence and certainty that can serve you well. I know they have for me. In October I was blessed to be in a church in Italy dedicated to Clare’s work, her life. Standing before a wax figure depicting her that lay on top of her tomb, time stood still for me, an odd thing for this Methodist gal. And yet it was true. I was suspended in some liminal space and time. Perhaps her words were once again affirming themselves in me. Whatever happened it was a moment I will never forget. I felt it in my solar plexus…..my life force.

What you hold may you always hold.
What you do, may you always do and never abandon.
But with swift pace, light step and unswerving feet,
so that even your steps stir up no dust,
Go forward, the spirit of our God has called you.”

IMG_0673.JPG

Five Senses

These are the days to be vigilant. To keep our eyes and ears and all our senses open to the change that is slowly arriving. There is a palpable shift in the air around us. If you breath deeply as you make your first morning step into the outside world, you can smell something happening. It is the scent of ‘what next’. Full of wetness and earthiness and hope, its scent lingers in your nostrils. The scent is accompanied by a different slant of light. The Sun seems closer, more vibrant, as if it has tremendous work to do….which it does. While we humans may have messed with our created timepieces and moved an hour ahead over the weekend, the Sun is doing its work without need of anyone naming its light, its intensity, its beauty. It is simply doing what it has always done and will continue to do. For those of us with sensitive skin, it is time to ramp up on the sunscreen usage!

Yesterday morning as I sat in the semi-darkness of early morning, I was startled by the loud, honk of returning. Two large geese flew right over our house, low enough for me to catch a good look at their improbable, flying bodies. Their honking greeting seemed to say: ” Hello! We’re back! Did you miss us?” And then later in the morning, I was walking out of the church and coming in the door was one of our dear ones who also flies to warmer climes in the winter. We greeted one another with hugs and laughter saying….”It must be spring!” It was good to see both human and bird for seeing them signaled a change that is coming.

As winters go this one has not been bad. There have been cold days, yes, but we have not seen the snow we so often do. That precipitation has made its way to other parts of the country this year. But winter has a way of running its course and the inevitable turn toward spring is always welcome regardless of the severity of winter. It is a guest whose face we never tire of seeing at our door.

There is a grace that lives in spring that calls to some of the deepest parts of us. It is the new life that we thought was perhaps impossible. Because, if we are honest, it is the cold and frozen places in our lives that we think might never change, might never warm to something different. In truth sometimes we want to hold onto those frozen places, keep the cold, hard thoughts, feelings, opinions, beliefs, just as they have always been. It is easier that way. After all change is difficult, growing is often painful, and courage can be in short supply. To remain in the wintry places only requires putting on a few more layers of protection and nothing ever need change.

But there is a seed that was planted within us by the One who breathed us into being. It is a seed that has provided for the grace of all that would call us to our fullness.. And this requires the painful and beautiful work of letting go, of reaching up, of melting, of changing,of growing. While we often forget this seed, it becomes visible to us in the change of seasons, in the movement from winter to spring. It does not happen over night. It happens slowly, with metered intention. It may arrive in the semi-darkness but longs to live fully in the brightness of daylight.

These are the days to be vigilant in our watching,in our acts of being awake to the slow work of God in our midst. Piles of dirty snow are melting back into the Earth. Green is emerging from white. Buds are itching to burst open. There is returning all around. Within it all there is an eternal message that calls out to us asking us to take stock of those places within that are begging for the warmth of the Sun, those places that are hoping for the grace of change.

On this emerging day, may we have the capacity to see and hear and taste and smell and feel the gifts of all that is arriving.

IMG_0670.JPG