Rise and Shine!

I’m a morning person, so this is a happy sentence for me. For my husband and sons, not so much. They do not bound out of bed, ready to engage the world. They prefer waking slowly, staying in place until the world comes into focus, then getting out of bed. They rise and they shine, but not right after opening their eyes. They more than make up for it on the other end, though – late night comes, and they are going strong long after I’ve run out of energy.

Rise and Shine doesn’t have to be limited to this kind of interpretation – the clock bound, literal kind. In the larger sense, I think it means something like this:

RISE     You are a unique gift from God to the world. Stand up and  claim your space. Offer your gifts, your insight, and all the love you have to a time and place that desperately needs them (every time and place needs them!)

AND      There’s a whole world out there that you haven’t seen. Don’t settle for what has already been, resting on laurels or living in the past. The story of your life continues: make every chapter the adventure it’s meant to be, and…

SHINE     You are a beloved child of this universe and the God who continues to create life. Trust that love and fearlessly grow in grace, wisdom, and holiness. The light you shed can illuminate the world in ways you never realize or expect.

Rise and Shine!

sunburst by Margaret Hill.

Every School Day: Eastertide 2019

Rise and Shine! Wash your face, brush your hair and teeth. Get dressed. Make your bed. Have some breakfast. Put your coat on. 

I love you! See you after school (work)!

Let me know you are here when I call your name. Open your books. Take one and pass the rest on. Check your answers. Use your inside voices. Time for recess! Lunchtime!

Gather your things. Write down your homework assignments. Any questions? That’s the bell. Good-bye!

Come on in; tell me about your day. What did you learn? Are you hungry? Go out and get some fresh air. Homework time.

Time for dinner. Anything new and exciting happen today? Did you get enough? Time to do the dishes.

Bath time! What book would you like to read tonight? Jump in bed. Say your prayers. I love you! Sleep well, see you in the morning. 

I heard these words, or something like them, most weekdays when I was growing up; I’ve spoken these words, or something like them, most weekdays as my children grew up. I thought I’d take a look at them. I hope you join me – and tell me some of the things you heard and said every school day…

Looking for God in all the wrong places…

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Luke 24:1-5a, NRSV

When you were a child, did you ever run into your teacher somewhere unexpected- the market, a fall fair, gas station, or restaurant? If you are like me, it made you feel really uncomfortable. Teachers are supposed to be in school, not picking out cold medicine and birthday cards at the drugstore in downtown Farmington, New Hampshire. That teachers have a life beyond their roles in the classroom, that they might be living and breathing people just like me – what a strange thought! That they might not live in the limited, school-shaped box I assumed they did was a shocking idea: that meant they were more than what I knew of them and how I experienced them.

The disciples who loved Jesus, who followed him and put their hopes in him, had expected to find Jesus in a tomb-shaped box among the dead. When he wasn’t confined to their limited understanding of him, when he wasn’t where they placed him in the grand scheme of things, it must have been the shock of a lifetime.

I hope I learn this lesson well enough to stop putting God in a box of specific shape and size – no matter how lovely the box, it won’t be big enough to contain the creator of the whole universe. Even church-shaped, denominationally decorated boxes will not contain a living Christ.

[The Deer’s Cry, Rita Connolly, from Shaun Davey, The Pilgrim, released 1983, recorded at Festival Interceltique de Loriant, Glasgow royal concert hall, Tara Music]

The Dark Side of the Moon

It’s where the sun never shines, always facing away from light and warmth. It is in profound shadow, unseen. It is part of the same moon that lights my nights and governs the tides, the part I don’t see and don’t think much about. I can overlook its existence without effort, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there – I’m just ignoring half of the moon’s reality.

The older I get, the more reluctant I am to reduce reality to the light parts I can see rather than embrace the totality that includes the parts I cannot. My limitations make it a sure thing that what I cannot see, comprehend, or experience will always be larger than what I see, understand, and encounter. I am too tightly bound by time and place to catch more than a glimpse of the wonder and mystery of God’s universe. The same is true of each and every person I have ever met, spend time with today, and will ever meet in the years left to me. I can never see the whole person, light and dark sides both.

The parts I cannot see aren’t invisible because they are sinister or unacceptable, they are just beyond my scope. I am hoping to keep this truth in mind as I walk through the dark mystery of betrayal and death into the brilliant mystery of resurrection.

[Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon, recorded at Abbey Road studios, released by Harvest records in 1973]

 

 

Biding My Time

Wasting my time, resting my mind…

[Pink Floyd, Biding My TimeRelics, recorded 1969-1971, released May, 1971, Starline. It’s not the usual Pink Floyd song – a bit burlesque, with an amazing trombone solo and a bluesy form. It could just as easily be a BB King, Eric Clapton, or Mama Cass number. It would be a great Bob Fosse dance number, too.]

In August of 1999, I was living in a box-filled temporary apartment, teaching a couple of classes, taking care of an eighteen month old son and writing a dissertation; Dave was in an unpaid chaplaincy program, waiting to hear where he would begin his work as a priest.  We had called three apartments home in less than a year, and Colin had undergone hernia surgery at the end of May. Exhausted and facing an uncertain future, at age 35, I got stress-induced shingles. The doctor prescribed Valtrex, codeine, and sleep. The Valtrex cured the shingles in a day, the codeine was unnecessary, and 10 to 12 hours of sleep a day for two weeks restored me to health. I learned a hard and valuable lesson: if I want a good and holy life, I have to maintain a nourishing life pattern and pace.

A good and holy life is an intentionally slower life, an opting out of the workaholic pace that is not only culturally acceptable but socially expected and rewarded. Activity and rest, time spent on and with others, meaningful work, restorative play, and prayerful practices that return my wayward soul to God have to find their places on my life’s calendar. The overly busy periods are inevitable, worries and troubles will come, but they don’t have to become my life’s template.

Choosing such a life should be a no-brainer, and it is – but only  if I trust that a life truly and well lived is always and ever in the embrace of God and the company of beloved neighbor. Am I willing to put in the time, effort, and rest to have such a life?

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother;

my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore. 

Psalm 131, NRSV

[Photos by Jared Fredrickson]

 

Money

Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. I Timothy 6:6-10 NRSV

Money…Share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie… 

[Pink Floyd, MoneyThe Wall, recorded December 1978- November 1979, various studios, released by Harvest and Columbia records in November 1979]

Money itself doesn’t seem to be evil, but what people will do to each other and the world around them to gain it certainly can be. It can be used to accomplish some amazing things – look what the Carter Foundation, Lilly Foundation, and Gates foundation have managed to do for the world. Money bought and distributed mosquito nets to combat malaria,  enabled further study in too many humanities fields to name, and continues to make strides in eradicating disease in the poorest parts of the world. It can also fund hate groups and buy political influence for personal or corporate gain.

Within communities of faith, money has gone both ways. I’ve seen churches use bequests to provide a safety net to the homeless and to keep the nearly homeless from the streets. I’ve seen congregations torn apart over $100,000 or less when members cannot agree on how to spend it. I’ve seen parents with more than enough take advantage of Vacation Bible School scholarship programs, using them as cheap daycare; I’ve seen other congregants give up vacation trips to pay VBS costs for entire families. The money itself doesn’t seem to be point: it’s what people are willing to do with it and for it.

Pink Floyd’s take on money lands squarely in Biblical territory. Greed is the issue, not the money itself. Grasping for it and wanting to keep it at the expense of others is beautifully and succinctly stated in Money. Paired with the images offered in official and non-official videos of the song, the power of money and greed cannot be overlooked – it’s well worth a few minutes on YouTube to check them out.

The downside of greed, the devastation that the love of money brings – these are not just inflicted on the world as unfair labor practices, price gouging, and rigged taxation. The ones who gain from such dealings are also devastated, but not in the same way. There is real spiritual damage done to anyone who grasps at money at the expense of those in greatest need; the soul shrinks and it is impossible to find true satisfaction or contentment from any amount of money. Able to buy any amount and kind of food, the miser starves.

In my last moments on earth, I hope I can look back on what I did with the money I had and see that it did more than put a car in the driveway and an extra jacket in the front hall closet. I hope I scattered some of it far enough afield that it grew into something that nourished the world.

A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, it is enough.

But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after. I Timothy 6: 6-10, The Message

 

 

 

 

Another Brick…

They build walls and chimneys, provide paving materials for sidewalks and roads, and will get you to the Emerald City if they happen to be yellow. Thrown through a window, they make robbing the store a whole lot easier.  All these things are possible for a remarkably low price and a lot of hard work.

I’ve built a few things with old bricks I found in my backyard; I’ve done the same for the library learning garden with orphan bricks from projects completed long ago. Friday, I used up all but a couple of those library bricks to build a small garden bed. It’s off the broad side of the storage shed, and it’s for the groundhog who lives under it.  Two hours of digging, putting bricks in place, and spreading garden soil, manure, and compost brought it into being. What was just a patch of scraggly grass in sandy soil is now a place that will feed the groundhog and his squirrel and rabbit neighbors.

Without those discarded, forgotten bricks, the garden bed wouldn’t survive the first Spring rainfall. Small and discarded no more, they make a life giving garden possible.

…such wonderful possibilities to come from finding what was lost…

photos by Jared Fredrickson, March 2019