Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
And what is this that we call love?
Tell me, what is this mystic secret hiding behind the semblance of our lives,
And living in the heart of our existence?
What is this vast release coming as a cause to all effects, and as an effect unto all causes?
What is this quickening that gathers death and life and from them creates a dream
more strange than life, and deeper far than death?
[Kahlil Gibran, Prose Poems, (Andrew Ghareeb, trans.); New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1934, pp.5-6]
At the end of this Lenten journey, almost at the feast/betrayal/death, how can I not wonder at the vastness of God’s love and the dreadful depth of human fear that would kill it rather than embrace it?
An almost-healed ankle sprain has me walking a bit slower than usual, and taking advantage of the many benches Manchester’s downtown offers. That’s how I ended up in this spot on Saturday, seated on one stone bench and facing another – a pause between the bookstore and the woodworkers’ shop. What has hindered my activities for weeks has also opened spaces in going from one item on my to-do list (Easter cards) to the next one (box for organizing). Had I not needed to stop, I wouldn’t have noticed the beautiful curve of the walkway I was soon to take.
The curve itself is an example of functional beauty, but it also offers something in its curvature: a change of perspective for anyone who walks it. What a lovely way to be reminded of the world that lies between point A and point B – and what a grace it is to spend time in the in-between part of the journey.
Letting go of what doesn’t matter: The frustration of moving slower than usual.
Loving what does: The beauty that a slower pace and curved path offer.
Rain has buried most of the scattered snow islands, giving the wild thyme a drink and encouragement to grow. There’s still snow on the mountains, creating the fog rising over Route 7 – a ribbon of mist that marks and obscures the highway all at once. With the drumming of the rain on the roof and the cover of mist on the road, I have no idea how many people are on the road, what they are driving, or which direction they find themselves going. I acknowledge the mystery that I see, but my recognition of it doesn’t give me any insight into what is behind the veil. Unless I travel the road myself, or someone gets off at my exit and tells traveling tales, I’ll never get beyond knowing that there’s a mystery in my backyard.
Where are you going? What wonder, grief, and joy accompany you? Who has loved you, and whom have you loved long and well? Do you know how precious and unique you are – and how that’s true for every living thing?
If there’s any chance of catching a glimpse of what’s behind the veil, it’ll come through just such questions. All that’s required of me is a listening ear, time, and hospitality – and, perhaps, a willingness to share my own life’s travel tales.
Loving what matters: The mystery of the here and now – and a glimpse behind the veil.
Letting go of what doesn’t: The worry that there’s nothing behind the veil.
There’s no telling where they might crop up. One day there’s nothing but last year’s brown grass, the next day delicate beauty in miniature appears with a few green grass blades on the side.
I had nothing to do with their planting or placement, and they don’t seem to be on any particular blooming schedule. But every Spring, they are the first flowers to adorn the yard.
They move me almost to tears every time they arrive, asking nothing of me but awareness and appreciation – and they would be beautiful without those. But my time on this earth would be so much the poorer if I didn’t see them at my feet. So I look for them, and I’m careful where I step. I don’t want to crush underfoot one of the wonders of the world.
I’m doing my best to do the same for the Spirit’s presence.
Letting go of what doesn’t matter: Assuming that beauty and holiness will be where I expect it.
Loving what does: The serendipitous.
I agree with Emily Dickinson – hope is a thing with feathers.
But not always.
Sometimes hope is a thing with fronds.
I believe the saying – hope springs eternal.
I’d also add: Spring is a sure sign of eternal hope.
I don’t know what’s coming up in front of Gringo Jack’s, not that it matters much. I do know what’s poking out of the snowy bed at the rectory – not that knowing matters much. The hope of new life is a gift, whether I can put a name to it or not.
Letting go of what doesn’t matter: Knowing exactly what that budding life is.
Loving what does: Life renewing itself.
The church voted to sell the current rectory a couple of weeks back. This isn’t because there’s something terribly wrong with it – the view is spectacular, the lot almost three acres, and the home a spacious four bedroom built in the 1990’s. But it just doesn’t quite match up with the current needs of the community or the age and stage that most Episcopal clergy are in – including my husband and me. Such a large home and property will be a wonderful place for a family with young children, pets, and all the activities and possessions that come along with them.
The home inspector came today to take a good look at the house from roof to basement floor and all around the property. He took many pictures and will write a report of the home’s condition so that prospective buyers know what they are getting into with this place. Good wiring. A roof that’s at the end of its lifespan. A few outlets without faceplates, and a functioning dishwasher. The church is selling this house in good faith, and an inspection is part of that.
Taking a good look at things and how they work is something every individual and community should do every so often. It’s a way to recognize and honor the changes that the years bring, and to adjust accordingly – it’s part of living intentionally in the present rather than continuing a pattern that may have been appropriate in the past but may need adjusting.
Leaving Massachusetts for Vermont wouldn’t have happened without just that kind of life inspection, a recognition of the new possibilities that a changing life stage offered. It might have been easier to stay in the same place and pattern, but it wouldn’t have been as much of an adventure…
Letting go of what doesn’t matter: Old patterns that are no longer necessary or helpful.
Loving what does: The gifts and challenges a new life adventure brings.
It took almost two days for the storm to wind down to a few floating flakes. Twelve hours into it, I took a shovel to the four inches of snow piled up on the front porch and the ten inches on the walkway. When another half a foot accumulated a few hours later, my husband cleared the porch and walk. The next morning, the walk was buried in another foot of snow. I pushed through the snow blocking the door and went out for round three of shoveling.
It took a lot of bending and heavy lifting to clear a path the first time, and all that work disappeared as the snow continued to fall. All that was accomplished with three rounds of shoveling was the restoration of a way in and out of the house. Such work is usually only noticed when it hasn’t been done, and the path is blocked.
I experience centering prayer in much the same way – a lot of work without much in the way of discernible accomplishment. But it keeps the way clear, getting me beyond my own small internal world and allowing me to welcome others into it. And that is no small thing…
Letting go of what doesn’t matter: some tangible gain for my every effort.
Loving what does: anything that gets me beyond my own small world – and allows others into it.
It’s not quite five in the morning and I’ve been up for awhile now. The wind is howling with a storm coming in, and an internal restlessness accompanies it. I have no plans for the coming day, so it’s as good a time for a sleepless night as I could wish. I’m thankful for that, and thankful that it doesn’t happen often.
Poetry seems like a better option than Netflix, so I turn to Robert Nathan’s A Winter Tide to find an old favorite:
It would be wiser, since we live in fear,
To use our sorrows to correct our ways.
If winter be the color of our days,
Then learn of winter to be still and clear.
The greener spring, the new and happy year
Is not for us but for birds to praise;
It is the snow that over autumn lays
Its quiet hand that is our teacher here.
For see, it has its lessons for the soul:
Look how the tree with piety keeps fast
The bud and blossom hidden in the bole.
So bear the winter with its frosty blast,
And seek, beneath the season of our grief,
The spring unending and the waiting leaf.
[Nathan, Robert; A Winter Tide, III; New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1940, p. 5]
Letting go of what doesn’t matter: fear
Loving what does: Learning of winter to be still and clear
The wellness class activity was going online comparison shopping for the dinner-for-four ingredients, trying to reduce the cost of the meal by thirty percent. Next was advanced conditioning in the school weight room. A quick climb up the stairs to supervise an independent work period followed; then it was time for meal planning, round two. That was my first day. My second day was stepping into a couple of different rooms so that teachers could do critical assessment paperwork and Zoom meetings. I answered a few questions, helped learners complete their assignments, and did my best to offer assistance where and when it was needed. I didn’t plan any of the activities, I didn’t know any of the learners, and I had to ask for help finding the rooms. None of it was what I went to school for, or what I’ve done in the past in any professional role. Day three as a substitute high school teacher will likely be the same: going with whatever comes along, asking for directions when necessary, and honoring the time and needs of leaders and learners.
Substitute teaching feels a lot like life. Lots of things are out of my control, and where my help and skills are needed are in things I did not devise or expect. I’m not in charge in more than a temporary sense, and it may not turn out as advertised or expected. But I got to meet some wonderful young people; I met caring men and women who show up to foster the lives of others in many different disciplines and with widely different approaches. Patience was needed, and a willingness to ask for help from whomever happened to be around when I needed it.
It’s not what I expected to be doing at this point, and it wouldn’t have been my first choice. But much of what has been holiest and most meaningful came out of the plans and needs of others. That seems to be the beginning of what grows into something I choose – or that chooses me.
Letting go of what doesn’t matter: My limited view on what I think I’m supposed to do at the moment.
Loving what does: Serving God and neighbor where I can in this time and place.