A Pause

A typo almost dictated the title to be “A Oa..”, which made me think of “an oasis.” What is a true pause but an oasis in our day? At least, this pause is for me. This pause is at the end of a comfortably full day, when I got home before dinner was already late, while the sun is still out, and the house still quiet since the fam isn’t yet back from after-school activities. Moms and dads of all sorts know this kind of pause, a sort of calm before the storm.

And in this pause I choose to write because it’s been a while since I’ve journaled or blogged or written anything other than sermons. While sermons are a treasured part of my ministry, there’s so much unsaid in a sermon, even as I hope to have said enough, trusting Spirit to fill in the gaps.

Pausing for a moment to write grants me the opportunity to see, to open my eyes and gaze with wonder what’s going on around me, let alone what’s going on within me. Pausing for a moment to write helps me realize where my prayers manifest, especially the prayers left unsaid.

This Lent has been a time of prayer: long and intentional, short and rushed, whispered, sung, listened to, promised, and hoped for. My breath prayer this Lent has been

Let me abide in you, O God.

One night driving home it took on the tune to the Taize hymn “Bless the Lord my soul,” and it has stayed with me since then–not that I’m ready to let it go.

If Lent is about realizing our dependency upon God and increasing our awareness of God’s presence, I believe this Lent I learned more about the opposite. I find myself returning to my breath prayer as an escape from all the constraints I put on myself, mostly, and all the anxieties I hold onto when I know full well it’s out of my control. I have seen how much more I depend upon my timing and my management (even though I know how horribly that works out most times!) and see just how messed up things are in the world through our microcosm of a community, rather than trusting in God’s perfect timing and dream for us all.

Preparing for Holy Week, this insight is rather perfect, for once we know something, it’s hard to ignore or pretend it doesn’t exist. (I’ll try to be sincere in my gratitude for this knowledge as I keep thinking, “Those to whom much is given, much is required.”) What has God revealed to me in the desert that I can take into the Easter season? What have I learn that, gilded with Resurrection, illuminates not only my ministry but even more importantly, God’s presence in the world?

I think I need more pauses to decipher the answers to those questions, but I know that Easter has much to say about God’s timing and God’s dream for us. In this pause, I can almost feel it in the anticipatory silence surrounding me.

Continue Reading

“Nothing complicated about it”

When thinking about how we move through the day, I’m more likely to imagine a digital clock ticking the minutes and hours away as we scurry from home to school to work to lessons and sports to home to bed. So much of our day is guided by appointments and obligations, most that make our lifestyle possible and others that make our lives enriched, and we consider ourselves privileged to do all this.

Then I come across something like this, reading out of a book I happened upon in our church lending library:

“In ancient times people found it natural and important to seek God’s will. With little spiritual guidance and in utter simplicity, they heard from God. There was nothing complicated about it. They understood that every moment of every day presented an opportunity for faith to fulfill a responsibility to God. They moved through the day like the hand of a clock. Minute after minute they were consciously and unconsciously guided by God.” -Jean-Pierre de Caussade in Abandonment to Divine Providence*

I confess that I do not in every moment think first about how my next move will “fulfill a responsibility to God.” While I may occasionally think, “God, what would you have me do?”, it doesn’t often enter my mind when I am making my daily rounds around the house or through our city’s streets. I’m more likely to be caught up in my own thoughts about what I have or haven’t accomplished on my unwritten to-do list. We are creatures of habit, and my routine is about what I need to do next, what I’m expected to do. It shouldn’t be a surprise that our society is primarily full of egocentric people, taking care of ourselves before everyone else because our primary thoughts are typically about ourselves. It’s natural for us to put #1 first, whether that be me, my family, my country, etc.

What would it be like if it were “natural and important to seek God’s will,” to hear from God, to move through our day “minute after minute . . . consciously and unconsciously guided by God”? De Caussade has a way with words (even in the translation) that points both toward a simple yet profound beauty. This beauty comes to me even as I see photos of the horror of the Syrian refugees and read the clamor of American citizens advocating for rights to marry or to live without fear.

The guidance of God contrasts sharply to the suffering and oppression at hand. Any action that is born of hatred and violence, of fear and anger, does not align with what I understand to be God’s will, that we love God and our neighbor. Christians aren’t the only ones who believe this, either.

Perhaps that’s why there’s nothing really complicated about it. If we let God’s will guide our next move, we move in compassion. If we believe in God, in God’s unconditional love for us, it is our faithful responsibility to share this love with others, including ourselves. This means that we surrender to the will of God: we surrender to experience the tremendous freedom that is found in the power of unconditional love. It’s not popular. It’s risky and counter-cultural. It makes us vulnerable because we open our hearts and become an easy target. I think God knows this kind of love well.

I’m going to replace the battery in my watch, the watch my husband gave me as a gift. I cannot promise that every time the minute-hand moves that I will first be thinking of God, but de Caussade said we can be “consciously and unconsciously guided by God.” When I fail to ask for guidance, may my faith guide me even when I’m unaware.

*As found in Nearer to the Heart of God: Daily Readings with the Christian Mystics, Bernard Bangley, ed., 2005

Continue Reading

Said and Unsaid

A seminary education covers a broad spectrum of everything pertaining to the religious life, much of which is unquantifiable.  How does one measure love? wisdom? mercy? grace? good? evil?

We can talk about God, but how does one experience God?  How do we experience God when evil happens in our life or the lives of others?

There is much written and taught about prayer.  There are steps to follow and different styles to try, but the actual doing is up to the individual.  Each experience is unique, and no one knows how God will be revealed in any given moment.

But God was there.  God is here.  God will be forevermore.

That’s hard to teach.  It’s hard to learn.  That’s faith, right?

Sometimes there are no words, and the silence speaks volumes.  

These are the thoughts I had when I saw these photos, a tribute to Boston by Amanda Soule on the day of the bombings.

 

 

Continue Reading

Day 21 . . .

Right.  I know.  There are not enough posts between my last and current to count to 21, but I do have several prayers penned in my moleskine.  When I get more than 10 minutes, I’ll enter them on my blog.  For now, tonight was too momentous not to mention right away.  So let this count for Day 21.

Dear God,

Keep teaching me.  Keep infusing me with your Spirit.  Keep surrounding me with those who share wisdom, just enough so that they don’t even know they’re doing it.  This life is amazing, and I give my humblest thanks.

I am trying to walk the path to best serve your will.  I am trying, discerning, and I know I could not do it alone.  My path has converged with so many wonderful people; I have been blessed with a tremendous family and unimaginably compassionate friends.  Of course, each of us has a flaw or two, and from them we learn the most about ourselves.  I can’t imagine it any other way.

As I’m continuing along, help me to be mindful.  Help me not waste a dozen or more waffles because I forgot about them keeping warm in the oven.  I have enough, but there are so many without.  Help me be present to recognize the needs of others and to pay attention to what is at the heart of the matter.  Help me to hear the truth in my own heart.

And always, dear God, help me be grateful – for your love, for the gifts you’ve given me, for my friends, and for the gifts of others.  Help me remember how sweet these tender moments are with the children and how wonderfully supportive my husband is.  May they know my love for them is unconditional and greater than I will ever show.  Help me at least try to embody unconditional love.  I think I’d like to try.

Grant me the strength to do the work set before me, and may all the glory be yours.

Amen.

Continue Reading

Day 12

God bless Brenda Ueland; may her soul rest in peace.  Her words from decades ago resonate loudly to me, reminding me why I do what I do, putting in print the cries of my soul.  Sit a while, Sara.  Dream.  Write.  Gaze into the distance and feel.  That’s what my soul says, and I think Brenda would nod approvingly, maybe even give a sly little wink.

Every blessed moment when plans change or tragedy strikes or life seems all off-kilter, we still have a choice.  Thank you for providing us with this choice.  Sometimes I do just want to be a hedonistic sloth or wallow in self-pity.  Thankfully, I don’t prefer this for long.  What it does provide me with is a broader perspective and a greater appreciation for when those other holy, enlightened moments of peace and contentment come.  These aren’t the same as the moment of ecstatic joy (though those are lovely, too).  Moments of peace are like when you realize you’re floating on the water and relax into the flow.  Life is good.  All is well, and I feel it in the core of my being.

I’m convinced this peace does dwell within and through us all.  Our awareness of it is what changes, blinding us with ignorance of its presence.  Help us to know and to feel.  Help us to show this peace to others . . . and to see it in them, too.  Awaken us to the Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Thank you for the rain.  Thanks for protecting my children and animals (yes, even the chickens).

Continually guide us all onto the path that lives into the greatest compassion for everyone, however great or small that may be.  Hear us, O God, in our time of need.

Thanks and glory to You, now and forever.  Amen.

Continue Reading

Day 11

Wow.

This life is so full.

I fill a page with a schedule for the children for the day to come.  Nearly every minute is occupied, even if with the designation of “free time.”  Every moment of my day is occupied, too, from early morning to late at night.  Even then the unexpected tasks get wedged in between the standing commitments.

I’m reminded of the demonstration of the jar being filled with rocks (the obvious priorities), then smaller pebbles (the commitments and responsibilities), then sand (the everyday stuff), and just when it looks like it’s full and can hold no more, then you add water (I think of this as Spirit).  There was still room for water, a necessity of life.

Somehow in my daily life I still have room for prayer.  I need it.  I need to take the calls from friends.  I need to do the healing work, the holy listening.  I need to play a supporting or even a leading role in various ministries.  These nurture me and in some delightful way, it can help others.  It helps keep me balanced.

Today I felt out of whack.  It could be because I didn’t get up when I should.  I didn’t start the day with prayer.  It could be the whacky weather.  It could be our family routine being turned upside down.  It could be stress.  It could be the striking images I saw in the magazine of the most significant photos of the past 100 years – space, science, society (the Challenger, a growing baby en utero, starving children, a lynching).  It could be any combination of these things or of other things I have yet to consider.

There is so much in this life.  Dear God, I know you don’t expect me to hold it all, to understand it all, so help me to let it go, all of it.  Cleanse the thoughts of my heart . . .

And I give thanks for the rich life I lead.

Continue Reading

Day 10 . . . Again

Day 10 I honestly didn’t do anything.  I rested the whole day, and for that I truly give thanks.

But if I take into consideration what I have done this day, may I remember that today is a feast day.  The Transfiguration.  Today I watched seven women become baptized members of the church.  I felt the Spirit move between and among us.  We got to wait in quiet contemplation and in a little uncomfortable silence.

Lord, bless these women.  Help them in the paths that lie before them.  I don’t know what choices they’ll have to make, what obstacles they have to overcome, but I give them love, though this love I extend compares naught to the infinite power of Yours.

Our community is so small, but I hope the impact of all the little acts of kindness, the abundance of tender mercies, and the radical hospitalities that appear when we least expect it radiate a greater power than the sum of all that is done outside of Love.  May goodness overcome all evil.

Thank you for all my blessings.  Bless my family and my home.  Bless all those I love dearly and those I love whom I shall never meet.  The glory is Yours.

Amen.

Continue Reading

Days 8 & 9

This feels like it might be pushing it a bit, but I’ll count it anyway.  🙂

Thursday, Holy Eucharist at the noon-thirty service at St. Martin’s, the UA Episcopal campus ministry.  I enjoyed my lunch in silence, staring out at the ivy.  Prayer is mostly listening.

Friday, I retrieved a child from camp.  In so-doing, I got to attend the mountain-top chapel service at Camp Mitchell, our diocesan camp grounds.  Yes, it was already over 90 degrees F at 10 am, but it was lovely to be with all the youth and witness all the sweet reunions.

Many petitions for rain, for safe travel, and for enough.  Our wants are many, but may our needs provide enough through Your abundance.

Amen.

Continue Reading

Day 7

A prayer for the mothers, to the young just learning the maternal ways and to the elders surrendering the responsibilities to their children.  To those who birthed and lost.  To those who birthed so that others might share in motherhood.  To those in the thick of it like I am, trying to hold the invisible and ever-wavering balance.  To those of us who slip and fall, may we know that we never fall away from Your Love.  To those who continue to radiate your Grace and Love, may they be an example to us all.

Wherever we are and whomever we are, our work is never done.  May our works and our lives be blessed.

A house burned today, yet the family survived.  Your mercy be upon them.  They are dear and have suffered so much even before this day.  Be with them.

I seem to have misplaced my written prayer list.  I thought I saw it yesterday.  It apparently has disappeared with my phone, and I’m beginning to wonder if there are, indeed, house elves.  Perhaps it’s time for a new list.

Bless all our families.  Protect all families.  Be with us, your children, for we are quick to whine, clumsy, and selfish . . . yet so full of potential.  May we all grow into the image of our Creator.

Amen.

Continue Reading

Day 6

Divine and mysterious God, I do not know your ways, nor can I comprehend your depth.  Your currents are swift and often beneath the surface.  Sometimes I do not even know where my own head is, but I trust that all will be well.  Thank you for this faith.

I lose things.  I forget things.  I do stupid things in fear or anger.  You love.

I have moments of grace, of joy, and sometimes even of sincere compassion.  You love.

No matter who we are or where we consider ourselves in relationship to You, we receive love – a love that knows no bounds, no conditions, no limitations.  As I read over my prayer list here in a moment, may I imagine a love like that for each of these persons.  Surely that kind of love has the power to heal, to forgive, to overcome, to bring peace.

It is so hot here.  I do not know how many are suffering in this heat and have no relief, but I hope they are safe and able to survive.  So many of us are blessed with air conditioning, and we selfishly complain when the thermostat pushes 80 degrees F.  Yes, I am a spoiled and whiney child at times, too.  Thank you for your Mother-love.

As our paths continue to flow in your Will, as the currents converge and diverge, seen and unseen, continue to grant us strength to persevere.  Thank you for providing me dear souls with whom to share my journey and from whom I learn so much about life, laughter, and love.  I am so blessed.

May I ever be surrounded in your Love and Grace.

Amen.

Continue Reading