Category Archives: Theology

Bath Time!

It’s one of the great comforts in life – sinking down into a steamy bath on a cold night (or a cool one during a heat wave). We are formed in water in our mother’s womb, so perhaps taking a bath is a reminder of our beginnings. For whatever reason, it’s a wonderful to end our day the way we began our lives.

It takes about twenty minutes for our bodies to become soft enough to slough off the skin cells covered with the grime of the day. A little soap on a face cloth does the rest, and we emerge restored in body; if we use the time in the tub to let go of the day, we can emerge with soul and heart refreshed as well.

We baptize with water as an outward act of a inward transformation. I wonder why I’ve never thought to take bath time as a way to remember this sacrament until now…

 

Enough

Did you get enough?

It was the question that was asked almost every time we gathered around the table to eat together. Was there enough to take away your hunger? Did you get to try a bit of everything? At meal’s end, are you satisfied? The question may be about food on my plate, but it was also about so much more.

If I could travel back in time and talk with my four year old self, visit my teenage self, spend time with my new mother self, and ask “who will you be, what will you be doing, where will you live, and who will share your life?, I doubt the answers would look much like my current life. At four, I wanted to be a waitress; as a teen, I planned on a career in science; as a new mother, I was living in New York City with my husband, finishing up a dissertation in Theology and looking toward teaching in seminary.

I don’t think there was anything wrong with my plans or assumptions, but they were limited to my particular age and stage. The same is true of my current ideas and assumptions. There are so many could-have-beens in life, paths not taken for one reason or another. Had I not met this particular mentor, had I moved to another town, had I developed other gifts than the ones I chose to foster. Such might have beens are an interesting topic of conversation, perhaps, but only if they aren’t mistaken for should have beens.

If I really could go back in time and talk with my younger self [even better, talk with my grandfather’s twenty year old self or my grandmother’s thirty year old self], I wouldn’t ask any of the questions I listed two paragraphs ago. Instead, I’d ask the question I’ve heard or said so many times around the table: did you get enough?

From my four year old self dreaming of waiting tables to my fifty-five year old self writing this blog from my back yard, the answer is the same:

Yes. More than enough.

My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Ps. 23: 5b-6, KJV

New and Exciting…

Anything new and exciting happen today?

When I was a chaplain intern at Mercer Medical Center, my supervisor asked me to do something I’d never have done on my own. Take the least interesting visit you had with a patient or staff member today, write it up, and bring it in for discussion tomorrow. So I did. It was a quick exchange with a newly discharged patient while she waited for the elevator. I said good-bye, wished her continued health, and waved as the elevator doors closed. Her stay in the hospital had been short, her reason for being there temporary and non-life threatening. I doubt I’d spent more than ten minutes with her and we had no serious or life-changing discussions.

As I wrote up our elevator conversation word-for-word, I remembered how wonderful it was to see someone leave the hospital to take up the blessing of everyday life. No cancer, no debilitating injuries: she was given back to the holiness and grace of her ongoing life. Of all the people walking through the hospital halls, I was the one got to say good-bye and wish her well. I got to see the happy ending, the good outcome everyone who enters the hospital prays for. If that isn’t an amazing encounter, what is?

My new and exciting thing that day: there’s no such thing as a boring encounter or day. Perhaps it’s just my lack of expecting the amazing that blinds me to the wonder of it all.

 

Time for Dinner

If I’m the chef du jour, these words move my focus from food prep to table fellowship. If someone else is cooking, it’s my signal to leave whatever activity I’m doing in favor of breaking bread with loved ones.

What a marvelous way to meet the needs of the body while nourishing the soul in the company of others. For the meal and the time with others I am equally grateful.

 Thank you for my daily bread. Amen.

Are You Hungry?

This question is often the beginning of meal and snack prep, and a way to gauge how much food needs to be made – a pragmatic piece of courtesy.

Are you hungry? If you are, what will satisfy your hunger? When I ask such questions of others and of myself, I can better meet true physical needs and become aware of when I am eating (or offering food) when no need exists. Are you hungry is offering me the grace of intentionality in my eating and drinking, and a way for me to offer the same to others.

When asked in a spiritual sense, are you hungry? is an invitation to partake of God’s nourishing presence – as necessary and satisfying as food for the body. Perhaps Jesus spent so much time eating with others because he wanted them to make this connection. Perhaps we continue to break bread in his name because we realize that making the connection is the every day miracle we are starving for.

[This morning, I’m writing at the Dunkin’ Donuts just down the street from my home. Iced Signature Latte in hand, it struck me that this isn’t a question asked of anyone standing in the impressively long line of people working their way to the register. What can I get you, hot or iced, would you like an order of hash browns with that are the questions asked and answered. Perhaps the assumption is that anyone entering must be hungry or at least thirsty. For me on this particular day, it’s not an accurate assumption.]

Table Blessing:  Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we eat, thank you for the birds that sing, thank you, God, for everything. Amen.

What Did You Learn?

My grandfather used to ask me and my siblings this question every day when we got back from school. He asked on the days we had no school, too. Why do you ask the same thing every day?, I asked him more than once. Why do you think?, he asked back.

What did life bring today – it’s another way of asking the same thing. This day is an ephemeral creature: elusive, mysterious, and here for such a very brief moment. It’s so easy to let it pass by without giving it a second glance. Good, bad, or a mixed bag, today’s life won’t be here tomorrow and can’t be preserved in a mason jar like jam or pickles. This might be close to why my grandfather asked the same question every day.

There are days of joy, and days of immense pain. Not everything I’ve learned has made me happy, but not a single thing has been a waste of my time or attention. When my days are spent, and I’m asked what I learned from my time  on this earth, with grateful thanks to my grandfather, I’ll have quite a few things to offer up.

[Today, I learned that potatoes are growing in the compost.]

Come on in; tell me about your day…

It’s not just the words: it’s the tone of voice and the light in the eyes of the one who says them. To be welcome, truly welcome, in one’s own home is something precious. Those that were born into this blessing give it hardly a thought until life teaches them that it’s not offered in every home. Those who didn’t grow up in a home with this blessing come to believe that they have no home in this world where they are known and loved for the miracle of life they are.

I’ve made many mistakes as a parent and spouse. I hope withholding these words and the true welcome behind them isn’t one of them.

Lord, you have given me a home in your creation. May I do the same for the people you have given me to love. Amen.

That’s the Bell

The notes of the bell or buzzer travel throughout the school building, spilling onto the grounds and into neighboring yards –  the audible signal that the school day is ended, and that it’s time for learners and teachers alike to leave the classroom behind. Life is more than a classroom, and it cannot be contained in school-shaped buildings. It’s time to leave it behind, until the next school day.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a school bell equivalent for the rest of life? A bell rings, and it’s time to leave the unfinished work at the office; a buzzer sounds, and it’s time to stop cleaning the house. For many of us, there’s no bell or buzzer to remind us that life is more than whatever work we are currently doing – that life is more than this one thing, and that it cannot be contained in any work-shaped box.

I like working, and I enjoy accomplishing my goals. I don’t want to shirk my responsibilities or burden others with my tasks. I want to work hard without being a workaholic. But sometimes the line between the two gets blurry, and I could really use a bell to sound when I cross it. I think that’s why I say the same prayer every morning. Two of its lines are: In all things, help me to rely upon thy holy will. In every hour of the day, reveal thy will to me. 

If I do my best to rely on God’s will, and humbly ask that it be revealed to me throughout my day, I swear I can hear the school bell ring when it’s time to put down my work  – until it is time to pick it up again on another day.

Great God, give me ears to hear your voice as I seek to order my day. My endings and beginnings are yours. Amen.

What’s my homework?

Write down your homework assignments.

In my son Colin’s third grade classroom, all the homework assignments were written on the chalkboard, right next to the door. In my son Jared’s fifth grade classroom, the week’s worth of homework was posted on a board; each day’s work could be found under its day’s heading – Monday, Tuesday, etc. School life is a lot easier when expectations are clearly stated, and learners given the time and skills to meet them. It’s a good practice, this writing down assignments.

This past week, I began my fifth year as my public library’s learning gardener. With Marcia and Katarina, my co-leaders, an eight week plan was created, materials selected, and our overall expectations for the program listed. Each day, I do my best to encourage the pre-school participants (and their parents, grandparents, siblings, and other guardians) to experience the garden, learn one new skill or idea, and try a garden-based snack. Each week, my co-leaders and I sit down to review the week and evaluate what did and did not work. Ideas for the next year are jotted down – our best attempt to learn from our successes and failures. At the end of the summer, we’ll look back over the entire program – not just for the pleasure it gives, but to grow next year’s program from its fertile soil.

If I were to write my assignments on a board – what I need to do to grow as I foster the growth of my young learners, I guess the list would look something like this…

  1. Keep what brought joy to the children and adults who spent time in the garden.
  2. Leave the outside world in better shape every year – garden beds, trees, bushes, patios and pathways.
  3. Point out the startlingly beautiful everyday miracles – butterflies, birds, spiderwebs, fireflies, flowers, and rocks.
  4. Be a good neighbor to the bunnies, squirrels, hawk, and groundhog that call the garden area home.
  5. Remember that the assignments are a means to a holy life, not ends unto themselves.
  6. Be a good partner, and let others lead when they are ready.
  7. Love the people life gives you.