Category Archives: Meditation

Nothing in Particular…

My older son headed back to college this morning; my younger has returned to his usual high school schedule. For the first time in over a month, the family routine has returned to its usual configuration. A look over the recent holiday vacation brings to mind: nothing in particular.

We ate the usual meals at their usual times, with conversation spanning a wide range of unimportant topics. There were trips to buy clothes and groceries, and walks around Wareham – solitary, in pairs, and with all four of us. Sorry, Carcassonne, and Risk were set up on the carpet, and jigsaw puzzles took shape on the coffee table. Chores got done and each of us got bored every so often. None of it was remarkable or memorable.

It takes some unstructured, nothing-in-particular time for me to regain the awareness of the mystery that is every person; focus on particular talents and accomplishments can bring a blindness to this sacred truth. For whatever reason, sometimes it’s hardest to see God in those who share my address and name. Looking over a game board, the dinner table, and jigsaw pieces, I caught more than just a passing glimpse.

Craftsmanship

I ordered them from the seasonal sale catalogue, September 2000: LLBean leather ankle boots, stitched in Maine. They have kept my feet comfortable and dry for nineteen plus years. I’ve raked leaves, dug garden beds, trimmed shrubs, and chased children in them. For $45 and the cost of two sets of replacement laces, these boots have made my life richer for the miles they’ve carried me. I don’t know who put in the time, effort, and expertise to stitch leather onto sole, but I’ve said many a thanks to him or her. In a world of the disposable, it’s a rare blessing to find a classic designed for long term wear.

I took my last walk in these boots yesterday. The holes and cracks in the soles let in too much water, sand, and mud for use in bad weather or damp terrain. After almost two decades, the time had come to say good-bye. With a prayer of thanks for the life they gave me, I let them go.

For me, these boots hold two truths:

Good craftsmanship enhances life, well worth paying for.

Everything has its time, and that time is finite.

Like these boots, I hope my life’s work turns out to be an example of both.

Shaped

Life begins with a clean slate of potential, but with no experience.

Then comes the changes life brings – things that split us into different aspects, different ages and stages.

Life turns us around, revealing sides we didn’t even know we had. The people we know leave deep impressions.

God’s presence shapes us in ways we cannot understand. The process isn’t easy or quick.

Some of the changes are big, others small; some are nearly invisible from the outside.

But in the end, the shape of our lives can reveal the love of God in ways we could not imagine when we first entered this world.

As 2020 begins, I am thankful for the blessing of God’s hand in shaping my life.

A Different Way of Seeing, A Different Way of Being

[Handrail detail, Christ Church Parish, Plymouth, Massachusetts]

A fresh set of eyes and a beginner’s mind find a whole world of wonder and meaning in the very things that most people take no notice of. I’ve run my hand along the rail for years without really seeing its beautifully carved detail. It’s only because I’m working on a “find the image in the sanctuary” game as a way for children of all ages to learn more about their faith that I’ve managed to see what has been in plain sight all these years.

The beauty of the sanctuary as a whole can obscure the details – symbols, words, and colors that tell the story of Christian faith lived in a particular time and place but also taking part in the much larger world of faith. Too much focus on one or two details runs the risk of losing the larger picture. Big picture or small detail: God can draw my spirit into loving communion either way.

One of the blessings of 2020: beauty prayerfully made that deepens faith.

Welcome 2020!

In a few hours, 2019 will bow out and hold open the door for 2020. I’ll be toasting in the New Year with friends – an almost every year gathering for the seventeen years I’ve lived in Wareham. When the festivities end and my husband and I are back home, I’ll take a few minutes to thank God for the year just past; then, I’ll begin 2020 by writing about blessings – the happy ones, sad ones, hard and easy ones. I hope you share a few of your own along the way – conversation is so much more fun than monologue…

 

Welcome, Jesus!

Readings: Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:8-20

Glad tidings of great joy! Jesus has been born to us! Merry Christmas!

Boney M, Mary’s Boy Child/ Oh My Lord, Sony Music Entertainment, 2010, available on itunes]

[Holy Family, by Margaret Hill]

[Nat King Cole, A Cradle in Bethlehem Christmas for Kids, Capitol Records, 2000]

Without Darkness

Readings: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
[Isaiah 9:2-7]

Darkness. Deep darkness. Yoke of burden. Rod of oppressor. Boots of tramping warriors. Garments rolled in blood. These are not the words we want to hear on Christmas Eve. So often, they are edited out of this passage, so it jumps from a cursory acknowledgement of darkness becoming light to the wonder of a child given to us. We’d prefer it that way, I think. It is easier to avoid all that other stuff. We want to focus on the good stuff, especially on Christmas Eve.

And yet. How can we yearn for light if there is no darkness? How would we even know what light is? Even more, how can we know that we need a savior if we are not burdened, oppressed, trampled upon and bloodied. How would we even know what a savior is?

The key to the preparation we need during Advent is coming to grips with those things we wish were not a part of our living. We need four weeks to overcome our natural resistance to this task because it is something we would rather not do. Christmas Eve is an important time, perhaps the most important time to be in touch with these difficult realities. This, of course, does not mean that we do not experience hope, peace, love and joy throughout our lives. We do. And it is a great blessing. But that is only part of the story. There is darkness in the world. There is also darkness in our own spirits. If we don’t acknowledge that truth, we cannot truly appreciate our need for a savior. If we cannot acknowledge that truth, we can never truly experience that fullness of the wonder that comes to us on Christmas Day.

On this last day of Advent let us acknowledge the darkness in our living. When we are able to do that, we are at last ready to welcome the birth of the one who truly is a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God and Prince of Peace. When we are able to do that, we are ready to receive that Savior whose gracious, loving, redeeming presence with us we celebrate on Christmas Day.

Offered by Jeff Jones, pastor, author, walking home to Bethlehem.

[Four Rowhouses, 2018-2019, by Colin Fredrickson]

ADVENT 2019

Readings: Luke1:46b-55; 2 Samuel 7:18, 23-29; Galatians 3:6-14

Ages reaching down to present.

All knowing seeking innocence.

Awaiting fulfillment of the Word,

generations to come and kingdoms

teeter on the brink of the response.

The complex mystery of the Alpha and the Omega

bending to purity and simplicity.

Combined breath of universe

and totality of holiness,

in stillness and silent reverence

listen for her answer……

and in a moment for all time,

in complete surrender to love,

She replies, “Yes……

Be it done to me according to Your Word.”

And we are forever changed….Peace has arrived.

Offered by Debbie Hill, artist, poet, musician, walking home to Bethlehem. 11/04/2019

[Four Rowhouses, (2018-2019) Colin Fredrickson, artist]

Jesus Saves

Readings: Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 11:2-11

“She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1: 21 (The Message).

There was poor Joseph in a quandary. He had just discovered that his  young bride was pregnant and they were about to get married. He loved her so much that he went to work to quietly take care of things so she would not be disgraced. Still, though, what to do? Then THE dream. God’s angel cleared things up in no uncertain terms: “Get married, the child is from God’s spirit, name him Jesus.” This must have been a pretty convincing dream because Joseph followed these commands to a T.

 I’m told that Jesus was a rather common name for a boy in those days and in that region. But the name now takes on a special kind of meaning and eventually Christians grew to know Jesus as the one who saves us from our sins just as the angel told Joseph.

As a youth down in Tennessee, many of my Sunday nights at the old Broad Street Methodist Church were spent singing hymns out of the Cokesbury Hymnal and one of our favorites was Priscilla Owen’s classic gospel hymn “Jesus Saves”(she wrote the lyrics) which goes from a personal embracing of this message to one to which the nations and all of nature attest. The final verse proclaims:

Give the winds a mighty voice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Let the nations now rejoice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Shout salvation full and free, highest hills and deepest caves;

This our song of victory: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

On this last Sunday  of Advent, I also think of another song penned by Mark Lowry some one hundred years later:

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you

May we all experience this new birth in ourselves during these Holy-days.

Offered by Bill Albritton, singer, teacher, traveler walking home to Bethlehem.

[Four Rowhouses, 2018-2019, by Colin Fredrickson]

Restoration

Readings: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; 2 Samuel 7:23-29; John 3:31-36

Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.  [Psalm 80:3, 7, 19, NRSV]

Restoration. As with a row house that’s seen too much neglect, restoration isn’t something that is self-generated. Someone needs to intervene, to put in the time and labor to mend what’s broken and refresh what’s faded. Not demolition followed by new construction, but a rescuing of what once was – restoration. Because what’s loved isn’t razed, even in decrepitude. What’s loved is brought back to life – restored.

God’s love for us must be infinite. Why else would God restore us rather than give up on us and start again? Why else would God come to us as one of our own?