Archive for the ‘Fine Lines’ Category

Mess Maker

I made a mess today in spite of all my good intentions, not an unfamiliar experience. The mess happened in the most sacred space in our home. I have a little space on the top floor of our house that is my meditation and worship space. The central feature is a beautiful quilted wall hanging made by a parishioner for me in 1995. An antique chest passed down to me from my great grandmother is covered in a prayer shawl I used for many year. Three jarred candles top this along with mementos of the spiritual journey. The purpose of such a space is to utilize muscle memory and mental repetition to ease the discipline of daily meditation.

It works for me, sometimes too well. As I light the three candles to begin my daily practice, I speak “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And when we have a power outage, I light the emergency candles and speak the same words without thinking! For decades now, the Jesus Prayer has been my mantra. Sometimes I resist the phrase in the last part: “have mercy on me a sinner”…well, just the words “a sinner.” My monkey mind goes off in another direction as it argues “sin, that just means missing the mark….why is that so bad….and I’m not that much of a sinner….” Yeah, right. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy.

This conversation with the multiple strands of thought that go on in my mind at any one time, even while practicing a familiar ancient prayer was on my mind as I finished my prayer time today. As I looked up, I noticed that this space needed some cleaning. I kept the chant music playing as I went downstairs to get a basin of soap and water and some shears to prune the plants on either side of the chest. Pruning accomplished, I moved the plants to get at the windows which were smeared with the sap of plant leaves and began to apply elbow grease. As I stepped back to examine my work, I stepped right into the basin of sudsy water which completely spilled over like a waterfall over the loft wall down onto the sofa and carpet below. What a lovely clean mess!

I rushed down the spiral staircase to gather towels and didn’t know where to start! Throwing a towel on the sofa, I climbed back upstairs to sop up the source. Using my feet to move the soapy wet towels around I was able to clean the whole floor. And I remembered again that although sin simply means missing the mark, that in itself truly makes an awful mess. As I cleaned up the leather sofa I noticed all the dust that I had previously ignored. The damp towel from my mess became a useful dust cloth and I remembered all the times in my life when God has used my messes to set something else right. When I tried to quickly make my messes go away I just made another mess. God used even that.

I’d so much rather just get everything right and never miss the mark. That will not happen in this lifetime. Lord, have mercy on me, mess maker, mark “misser”, yes, sinner. Have mercy.

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St. John of the Cross

A dear friend of mine, Craig Bullock, posted this precious meditation fron St. John of the Cross. I hope it blesses you as it is blessing me.

If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the road pregnant with the holy and say,
“I need shelter for the night,
please take me inside your heart, my time is so close.”
Then, under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime intimacy,
the divine, the Christ, taking birth forever, as she grasps your hand for help,
for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yes there, under the dome of your being does creation come into existence eternally,
Through your womb, dear pilgrim-the sacred womb of your soul,
as God grasps our arms for help: for each one of us is his beloved servant, never far.
If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the street, pregnant with Light and sing.

St. John of the Cross

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I am not much of a gardener but I come from a lineage of green thumb, avid gardeners. I have very early memories of walking in the rows of gladiolas that my grandfather grew to sell to florists. I can still taste the delicious sun drenched and warm tomatoes from my mother’s garden. To this day, at age 88 (which we are calling double infinity) my mother has a gorgeous garden encircling her house. My husband and I brought home offspring of her beautiful Lenten Rose, three kinds of Hostas, and several “Hen and Chicks”. I’m hoping that by planting plantings from her garden, that my garden will grow.

Last Fall became Winter before I got around to putting my garden to bed. Several plants needed to be pruned before being covered with compost. That didn’t happen. I hate pruning. It feels so mean plus ….I forgot. As a result, my perennial flowers are struggling. My small Rambling Rose seems to jump out and bite me, I swear! It made me so angry that I almost pruned right out of the ground! My poor Lavendula is working hard to push past last years dead stems. My climbing Clematis is bulging, wild and fearsome. Several bushes are now becoming compost having not survived the winter.

Pruning is evidently necessary to healthy growth. But I don’t like it. I like it even less in my own personality and lifestyle. But oh the suffering I cause myself and others when I refuse to let go of what is dead and gone or needs to be. I annoy myself with reruns of what I shoulda, coulda, woulda done if I could redo ages 25- 45. I apologize and then apologize all over again instead of just accepting pro-offered grace. I can be really annoying, mostly to myself. And even that judgement could use a pruning.

I believe Autumn is the season for pruning so perhaps by then I will have steeled myself to cut off that which has not born fruit and let what is done be done and gone. I am in the season of being a crone. I’d like to be a lively and wise crone like my double infinity, green thumbed mother who has also taught me the importance of doing what needs to be done and then letting it be. Amen. Let it be so.

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The children stole the show at our church today. One child was excited to find an Easter egg in the toilet. Another had trouble getting up the stairs with her long, lovely Easter dress. But the scene stealer was a two year old who thought sitting in the circle on the floor with the pastor was an invitation to play Duck, Duck, Goose!” At one point, he looked out and saw the congregation and proceeded to say “Hello everyone!” followed by “Where are you Mommy? “. Soon he just had to go find her but then returned to the “stage” with his hands turned up and out proclaiming “I’m back!”
Which just may have been the most understandable declaration of Christ’s return from death that I have ever seen. Certainly it was the most entertaining.
The central message of our faith is that in the midst of the darkest hour on earth when evil seemed to have overpowered all that was good as Christ Jesus died a cruel death, just a few sunrises later he proclaimed “I’m back!” And one day we too will return from the many deaths of this weary world resurrected and whole.

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Palm Sunday

I love Palm Sunday – I come expecting a parade of smiling children handing out palms to anxious adult hands. Adults smiling lovingly, grateful to be in the presence of innocence, remember their own long ago perfection, innocence and joy. A time before Good Fridays of grief, confusion, abandonment, and being paralyzed in the face of wrongful death.
Our pastor read through the entire Passion story according to the gospel of Matthew. This was not the usual paragraph or two we expect to hear from some gospel each Sunday waiting for the sermon to make sense of it all. This reading could not be so easily ignored. Nearly 3 chapters. Sometimes I close my eyes and just listen. Today, I followed along in the pew Bible and was surprised by what I have missed or forgotten or taken for granted.
Pilate’s wife played an important role. I never noticed. She had a nightmare in which she saw the consequences of condemning this innocent Saviour. She wrote a note that was delivered to Pilate as he questioned Jesus, The Lord of his wife, a clearly good and innocent man. He washed his hands of him but did not interfere in the consequences of an angry mob. Just hours later Jesus The Lord, Messiah, Innocent gives up his life on a cruel cross. And the dead, the Holy dead, break out of their tombs days before Jesus’ own ressurection. I can’t imagine this. I’ve forgotten the the spectacle of long dead holy men and women wandering in our cruel world. What did they do? Whom did they visit? Once again innocent as the babes who waved those palm branches. I want my heart, my presence, my intentions to be that of a resurrected holy person wandering in the midst of suffering and being an agent of light and hope and blessing. More often I feel the confines of a body on it’s way to the tomb. This week I want to remember our original innocence, that child-like joy, the lense of perfection and love through which our Creator God sees us, his beloved children.

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Cleaning House

“God cannot clean the house of you while you are in it.” Anne LaMott

Yesterday our addition of a dormer bathroom finally got started after a months delay. A 7 week project will likely be 3 months. But when all is done, we will not have to descend the spiral staircase to get to the toilet in the middle of the night. Even after one day, I find I really need to leave the house as the hammers pound and drills whine. Yes, the renovations go better when we don’t have to watch or judge.
Thankfully, it is during these seasons when we aren’t actually totally present and a bit confused about what the hell is going on in our lives, that God does her best house cleaning when we aren’t up to perfect attention. And that is a kindly empathetic Grace, thanks be to God. Take a deep breath and relax knowing that if you let go, God will grab ahold. God’s best work is done when we are not on the director’s chair. Even better when we give up on our pretensions and let it be. “Mother Mary comes to me, whispers words of wisdom, let it be”. Divine Mother, let it be glory for God’s sake. Amen

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The Star of Bethlehem

I’ve rarely heard a sermon on the Star of Bethlehem or even about the Magi. When I have, those sermons have been very disappointing. We actually know much more about these things than pastors are willing to admit from the pulpit. For one, the Magi were both astronomers and astrologers because in that day there was no distinction between the two. The planets were harbingers of good and bad, signs in the sky as one factor to help us understand the mysteries of life on planet Earth. Centuries later, Galileo was much sought after for his astrological readings as part of a medical diagnosis. Even in his day, astronomy and astrology were as one science.
I recently had the opportunity to see the video entitled The Star of Bethlehem . If you can rent this video, it is well worth it. Written and narrated by a lawyer, it is rather tedious. In addition, this lawyer’s Christian experience is limited to a narrow world view which causes him to fear astrology inordinately. However, the story of the Biblical importance of the Star of Bethlehem is an awesome, powerfully moving story.
In mainline churches we call this the season of Epiphany for which the star of Bethlehem is the harbinger of the Light of Christ, God in the flesh, come into the darkness of the world.

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Merry Christmas to all! Every year we hope for peace to descend on us like magic from on high but this peace is already here for all of good will. God never imposes on us – but gloriously invites us: read the old familiar tale anew:
From the Gospel of Luke:

8 Nearby, in the fields outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds were guarding their flocks from predators in the darkness of night. 9 Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light—the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!

Messenger: 10 Don’t be afraid! Listen! I bring good news, news of great joy, news that will affect all people everywhere. 11 Today, in the city of David, a Liberator has been born for you! He is the promised Anointed One, the Supreme Authority! 12 You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough.

13 At that moment, the first heavenly messenger was joined by thousands of other messengers—a vast heavenly choir. They praised God.

14 Heavenly Choir: To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God!
And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God!

May today be a day of pleasure to God. Show God a good time as you celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

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The First Christmas Carol

From approximately 350 AD:

Mary bore a mute Babe
Though in Him were hidden all our tongues.
Joseph carried Him, yet hidden in Him was
A silent nature older than everything.
The Lofty One became like a little child, yet hidden in Him was
A treasure of Wisdom that suffices for all.
He was lofty but he sucked Mary’s milk,
And from His blessing all creation sucks,
He is the Living Breast of living breath;
By His life the dead were suckled, and they revived.

(from DIVINE INSPIRATION: THE LIFE OF JESUS IN WORLD POETRY, edited by Robert Atwan, George Dardess, and Peggy Rosenthal, Oxford University Press)

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Power of Praise

Take heed, then, to come together often to give thanks to God, and show God’s praise. For when you come frequently together in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed and his fiery darts of sin fall back, worthless. For your unity and harmonious faith prove his destruction, and the torment of his assistants. Nothing is better than Christ’s peace, by which all war, both of heavenly and earthly spirits, is brought to an end.

-Ignatius of Antioch

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”

-W.T. Purkiser

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