Showing posts with label Lent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lent. Show all posts

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Lent: wilderness

Most of the time, I love my city life. I love the density of human beings and bookstores and groceries and coffee shops. I love the sidewalks and bikeways. But sometimes it can be overwhelming.

Sometimes, a ramble in the #wilderness is the only logical choice.

this post is part of Rethink Church’s photo-a-day during Lent 2020

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Lent: led

Yesterday my world literature students and I were discussing Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Garden of the Forking Paths,” so I gave them each a labyrinth on a piece of paper and told them to trace their way to the center and back out. Every time I teach this lesson, it’s interesting to watch them discover the difference between a labyrinth and a maze. This time, one student exclaimed, ‘There are no choices! Just one path, and every time I think I’m getting close to the center, it sends me away again!’

Indeed. In a labyrinth, the only choice is whether to keep going as you are led.

this post is part of Rethink Church’s photo-a-day during Lent 2020

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

ashes and love

Dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return.

Dust thou art.


Today is the day that many Christians put ashes on our foreheads to remember our mortality. To remind ourselves and each other that we live in a broken world and we, ourselves, are part of that brokenness.

On this day, we wear ashes, and we talk about dust, two things that on all other days we sweep up, wipe off, discard.

Remember that thou art dust.


This humble stuff, this grit underfoot.

We are dust, and our world is broken, but we are not alone in the dust and ashes. God remains our partner in the ongoing process of creation.

Today, oddly this year, is also Valentine's Day, when most Americans celebrate love.

Pablo Neruda's "Ode to My Socks" is always and ever my favorite love poem, but it seems a particularly fitting one for today's confluences of love and ashes, of the divine and the quotidian.

The /I/ of this poem recognizes the powerful magic of an everyday, humble object created with love.

I slipped my feet
into them
as though into
with threads of
and goatskin.

He resists the temptation to preserve the gift, to put it away, to protect the magic from the hardships of everyday use. Instead, 

Like explorers
in the jungle who hand
over the very rare
green deer
to the spit
and eat it
with remorse,
I stretched out
my feet
and pulled on
the magnificent
and then my shoes.
Today, remember that thou art dust, but also that thou art love.

Monday, March 30, 2015

uncertainty and the purple

Lou says that uncertainty is a good thing, that it challenges you and teaches you things about life. I can grudgingly agree that Lou is right, but I would add that a little bit of uncertainty goes a long way.

Lately, uncertainty has dominated all areas of my life: sale of Rustic Lakehouse, finalization of Adam's estate, transfer of our wordily possession to our next home, a place to live while the girls finish the school year, when my dissertation will be ready for defense, when my committee will be able to convene, job(s).

In some cases, the events are certain, but the timeline is not. The current buyer definitely wants Rustic Lakehouse, and I want to sell it to him, but he and I don't get to agree on a day ourselves. We have to wait for his bank to work their underwriting magic and assign us a date. My moving company has agreed on a day to come load the truck, but only offered a delivery window for unloading at our destination.

This storm of uncertainly feels a lot like the dark wilderness of instant widowhood with one major difference: this time, I put myself here. Each of these uncertainties is the result of a choice that I made. I did this to myself.

Sometimes I wonder what I could have been thinking.

But the one thing that I was certain about when I started making these decisions is that I can not stay here. Staying put feels like stagnating.

A little over a year ago I wrote about the importance of dwelling in the purple times of the Christian year. Always for me embracing the purple has been about an increased commitment to overtly spiritual practices: more time praying, more attending terce and mass at the abbey, more reading scripture, more doing church.  

This past Advent, I was frustrated that tasks related to the sale of Rambling Farmhouse consumed my mental and physical energy and kept me from being present in the purple. Then, Julie pointed out that sorting through the contents of a house collected over fifteen years of life was a very Advent thing to be occupied with. And she was right.

And here I am again in the purple time of Lent not doing more church, but instead doing more sorting, more introspection, more decision making. More discernment.

More preparation for the moment when my life begins again.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


For all my talk about the importance of dwelling in the purple times, I did not attend a service on Ash Wednesday. No ashes marked my forehead. I did not wear my faith publicly today.

In part, this was because of scheduling: Anna had a ballet performance in the morning, and Sofia had gymnastics in the evening. I could have tried harder, though. There are lots of churches in Kalamazoo, and I'm sure one of them was holding a service that I could have gotten myself to.

The bigger reason is that this year I don't need to be reminded that I am dust. I already know. The fragility of human life and the constant possibility of death are real to me in a way that they never have been before.

I am dust; so are you. Precious dust that houses a beautiful soul. Fragile dust animated by breath.

To dust shall we return someday, maybe soon. In the meantime, love.

the purple

Image credit: Michelle Quigley

I love the way that Christianity's liturgical calendar divides the year into seasons that commemorate the events of the gospel. In Roman Catholic and many mainline protestant churches, vestments and altar clothes are coordinated with the colors of the season, and these colors become a visual reminder of where we are in the annual cycle. The persistence of white in our worship spaces after Christmas and Easter have passed on the secular calendar is a powerful call to inhabit the season even while the commercial world places gifts and candy on deep discount to make room for the next holiday.

The white times are our holiest times, our feasts of celebration for the miracles that frame the Christian faith. I love the white times for the family gatherings and the food. But my heart is in the purple. The purple is contemplation. Purple is fasting. Purple is renewed commitment.

Purple is not easy.  Embracing purple time often means making sacrifices and asking oneself hard questions. Purple challenges the people who dwell there.

Today we enter the purple, and I woke up this morning not knowing what my Lenten commitment would be. Most years, I look at my life and try to rebalance what is off kilter. Sometimes this has meant giving up a food (ahem, chocolate) or making a commitment to patience. Usually I hear the call loudly. In the last seven months, my world has been so off kilter that rebalancing has been an ongoing task.

I the absence of a loud call, I commit to listening better in meditation and prayer each day.

"Earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust: in certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life." -The Book of Common Prayer

Here are some of the things I'll be reading:
A meditation on Lent and spring.
Daily posts on Observing Lent with a Servant's Heart.
Daily posts from Goshen College.
Sunday sermons on Lent and Easter with Game of Thrones, hyperlinks will appear as the sermons are posted.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'm Kind of in Awe of Fasting

The Velveteen Rabbi is one of my favorite blogs to read because Rachel Barenblatt's introspective representation of her own spiritual journey inspires me to take a closer look at mine (and, if we're being honest, because it makes me picture a velveteen rabbit with tzitzit and tefillin).
Recently, Rachel wrote about "Approaching Av....and Ramadan" and getting ready for the fast and introspective prayer to come. Fasting as a spiritual practice, of course is not limited to Judaism and Islam, but neither is it part of mainstream Christianity.
In  high school, one of my Jewish friends was nervous that she couldn't make it through Yom Kippur, so she talked fasting strategy with her dad. One key to a successful fast, he told her, is to eat lighter on the days ahead, so that the stomach can shrink a bit. The Muslim student in our class bemoaned the challenge of observing Ramadan, though she was happy to be excused from participation in phys ed. I was confused by this foreign (to me) practice.
In college, I had passing contact with Ramadan because of the Kay Spiritual Life Center's shared worship space. We Methodists rearranged some of weekly activities so that the Muslim students could share their evening meal. Because the allocation of time and space at Kay is finely tuned to allow each faith group private use of sacred spaces, this was one of the few times I saw our Muslim friends in fellowship with one another. I could see the community that Ramadan cemented among them, but I still didn't get their holiday.
When I was first teaching, my shadow tutor and one of my students both observed Ramadan. Since the sun set during our evening class two days a week, for that month we had small snacks during the class. And, because the other students and I were curious, Ayrene and Misha talked about their physical and spiritual experiences of fast. I finally started to get it, and I'm in awe of their dedication.
The discipline of fasting is less about the physical experience than about the opportunity for spiritual growth. Time not spent on cooking, eating, and tidying up can be used for prayer. Physical discomfort can be a call to pray without ceasing. Radical fasting marks out a time as other than ordinary. The balance between energy spent on spirituality and energy spent on secular details shifts in favor of the former. My Lenten fasts, prayerfully chosen though they are, pale in comparison to the discipline of fasting for Tish b'Av, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan. I've thought about observing a total fast for a day or a daylight hours fast for a week, but I struggle to incorporate it into Methodist tradition in a meaningful way. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lenten Balance

I usually use lent as a time to take stock of what is out of whack in my life and try to repair it. One year, I gave up chocolate, another year, I made a commitment to expressing patience when I felt anger. This year, I have been struggling to identify and articulate the aspect of my life in need of work, especially since participation in a covenant discipleship group this semester has meant ongoing attentiveness and progress toward balance. Nevertheless, I want to make a Lenten commitment that is greater in scope than the weekly covenant commitments. So, here goes...

Resolved: I will embrace balance this Lent, using the motto corpus, mens, spiritus from my alma mater and John Wesley's construct of public and private acts of piety and mercy as the models. Unlike the Lenten sacrifices I have made in the past, this may look different from one week to the next. The continuous aspect will be the evaluation of balance. Specifically, I need to balance the needs of my students with the requirements of my professors, and the demands of my professional life with the responsibilities of my private life. Self-care is also important, including sleep, exercise and wholesome home-cooked food.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Maundy Thursday Away from Home

You, stranger, kneel
before me
with a basin of
warm water between us.
Humbling yourself
to wash my feet.

I, wanderer, sit
in this strange apse
with my bare toes cold
on the marble floor.
Exposing myself
to your care.

Trusting that you
will not wrinkle your nose
at the perfume of shoes
that have circumambulated
the city today.

Hoping that you
will not look askance
at the hobbit hair
my razor missed.

Wondering what
this ritual will bring.

We are not, you and I,
Mary and Jesus or Jesus and disciple.
I have never
raised your brother from the dead.
You have never
called me to be a fisher of men.
Yet no one has ever
held my feet so reverently.
You have
touched my most private public part.

I, now clean, clothe my feet.
I resolve
to tap you on the shoulder
to take your place
to know the humbling.

But the line is empty.
Too nervous to expose myself,
I had waited too long.
And did not seize
the opportunity to be humble.

I could not sleep last night, and, anticipating today's holy day, I recalled the time I spent Passion Week at a conference in Boston. I had made the travel arrangements not realizing that it was Passion Week, and was initially disappointed to be away from home. But I was able to attend services at an amazing cathedral in Boston and to be fully attentive while there. I will never forget.
Free verse is fairly new to me. I find myself clinging to parallel structure in the absence of meter and rhyme.