Tag Archives: Easter

Put Your Coat On…

Every chilly school day, it’s the same. Students leave their High street homes, turn a corner, and walk down my street. As soon as they are out of their parents’ sight, they whip off the hats, coats, jackets, and mittens their parents just made them put on. Girls swap sneakers and boots for strappy sandals with three inch heels, boys take off long-sleeved shirts to reveal the T shirts underneath. Tottering on icy streets, shivering and covered in goosebumps, they make their way the last quarter mile to Middle and High school. Just after 2pm, they will reverse the process, returning to home and parents re-dressed.

I can’t say why dressing for the weather is just too embarrassing for my young neighbors, or why making a fashion statement is worth frozen toes and wind-chapped arms. Image is everything, even at the cost of chattering teeth.

Most of these boys and girls will grow past this phase, eventually wearing weather appropriate clothing of their own free will. A decade or two down the road, they will be the parents insisting that their own children put on hats and coats. Age accounts for a good part of this change, but I think there’s another essential element to this transformation. A parent knows a truth that their children may not: deep, abiding love makes all of us capable of seeing the unique beauty of every person, and incapable of valuing something so inconsequential as off-season fashion.

Seeing with the eyes of love gives us just the barest glimpse of how God sees us. It’s a rare gift, but some even grow to see everyone with such eyes.

Dear God, give me eyes to see the beauty of everything, and the heart to love without limit. Amen.

Have Some Breakfast

Dinner on the go that became the Passover meal. The wedding at Cana. There are lots of dinners in scripture, but not near as many breakfasts. Even in our day, there are so many more special occasions celebrated over dinner than ever there were over the day’s first meal. We do lunch, have power lunches, meet for dinner, and go out on the town for an evening meal: save the once-a-year Mother’s Day Brunch, breakfast doesn’t factor into the big events on our calendars. Breakfast is skipped by many in a literal sense, and also in the gathering together sense. It’s a quick bite before everyone begins the day’s activities.

I love breakfast. I look forward to granola or a PBJ rice cake every morning. Eggs, potatoes, and a yogurt parfait make a weekend breakfast a delight – add some bacon and pancakes and it’s as enjoyable as any dinner I’ve had. Some of my family’s best conversations have been over these foods, nourishment for body and soul for every one of us.

Unless I’m eating breakfast with others late in the morning, it’s easy to forget giving thanks to God for the food on my plate and for the hands that worked to provide it. I’m not ungrateful so much as unmindful. It’s taken writing this piece for me to notice this. Have some breakfast will now mean more than getting out the cereal bowls and coffee press: it will be taking time at the very beginning of the day to remember that I cannot live on granola alone. I come to the day by the grace of God, shown in the beauty of the world and the simple bounty of the breakfast table. Perhaps that’s why the risen Jesus shared breakfast by the sea with the disciples he loved so well.

Can any day begun this way be anything but a grace?

It’s all in how you say it…

I entered my local library twice yesterday, and each time met a mother. The first was crowding up against her preschool daughter, trying to get her to walk faster. Come on! she said, her words full of exasperation as she physically pushed her daughter. The second was standing a few feet from the library door, keeping an eye on a sleeping toddler in her car just a few feet away while observing her two sons as they checked out books for school projects. Come on! she said, her face lighting up with a smile and her words full of encouragement. The same words, different actions, and a whole different experience for the children.

As I left the library, it crossed my mind that every single sentence in this Every school day series can be turned from a positive to a negative meaning – it’s all in how it’s said.

The power to wound and the power to strengthen are held by everyone who uses words to connect with others. Which will I wrap my words around today? Which will you?

Make Your Bed

You made your bed, now lay in it…

I’ve never heard it used in a positive sense. It’s often said by someone who wants to reinforce the feeling of guilt or failure already haunting the person it’s aimed at – an additional prick for someone hemmed in by thorns.

I’m not opposed to someone accepting the consequences of bad, destructive, or unwise actions. Sometimes the best thing friends and family can do is to refuse to fix things. Mistakes faced and damage repaired require taking responsibility, and that is a necessary step in growing up. But it’s hard enough to take that step into maturity without adding an extra little bit of weight to the burden. Is it really worth a moment’s satisfaction to make such a remark? Best to keep silent.

But make your bed isn’t the same thing, is it? Make your bed means leave the place in good shape. Make your bed means take the time to create a place that welcomes you when you return. Value yourself highly enough to put in the time and effort to create a hospitable resting place, just as you would for an honored guest. When you flatten out the sheets, as you straighten out the blankets and fluff the pillows, you are doing more than making a bed: you are loving yourself as you would a neighbor.

Dear God, help me to love you this day. In acts big and small, help me love myself as my neighbor. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Get Dressed

I’m not doing this today. I’m staying in pajamas, doing my best to get over a nasty cold that started sometime yesterday afternoon. With luck and rest, it will be on its way out tomorrow.

Getting dressed signals my move from solitary or family only time to time spent in the larger world. I am ready to invite people in, and I’m ready to walk out the door into the world of friends, neighbors, and strangers alike. It changes, depending on what will fill my hours – sweats or old jeans for yard and garden work, skirts or blazer for board meetings, black jeans and a colorful top for dinner with my husband. Getting dressed is an outward sign of what’s happening in my life; how my body is clothed is affected by my actions in this world. I think that’s true for most other people as well.

I wonder: if I had to choose an outfit to reflect the inner workings of my soul, the inner agenda of my spiritual life, what would it be? Sitting here in my pj’s, soothing a scratchy throat and headache with herbal tea, in no shape or mood to go out or invite others in, perhaps it’s a good time to take a peek in that inner closet…

Wash your face, brush your hair and teeth…

When I was a baby, my parents did them for me. When I was able, they taught me to do them for myself. When I had my two sons, I repeated the pattern. They are signs of the love others have for us, and they are signs of our self-regard. They require touch and glance, time and effort. When done with intention, they wake us up with a loving touch and give us a joyful start to the coming day. Such simple tasks, such monumental acts.

My niece and her husband will welcome their first child into the world this October. They will do these things for him, offering their love in these practical tasks. It’s a legacy worth more than any trust fund: a welcome to the day, the world, and the family.

When you rise tomorrow to wash your face, brush your hair and teeth, remember how much you are loved.

 

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]

A Waste of Precious Time

Yesterday was Pentecost, the celebration of the Holy Spirit alive and moving in this world. I arrived early to set up for the high school class I lead, only to find that a fundraising car wash and the need for extra acolytes had reduced my class to just me. Several hours of preparation and a twenty mile drive for nothing more than a few minutes in an empty room and a return trip home. My thought on the drive home: what a waste of time.

And I was right, it was a waste of time: just in a way I didn’t appreciate until I was more than halfway home. I was so focused on the time I spent prepping for something that didn’t happen that I disregarded the celebration of the Spirit who always moves in unexpected and mysterious ways. I ignored the grace of so many youth and adults scrubbing cars to fund the mission trip to Puerto Rico. While I wasn’t rude, I certainly wasn’t gracious about the whole thing.

In truth, preparation for learning in faith is never a waste of time; I had the chance to pray for my class and learn something new. It’s a testament to my own lack of perspective that I forgot this. The real waste of time: I had the chance to see the Spirit moving in surprising and wonderful ways and I turned a blind eye to it. Not a waste of my precious time, but a rejection of the gift of sacred time the Spirit offered me.

O Lord, open my eyes to see your grace and my heart to love the gifts you give. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.