Monday, September 17, 2018
In the journey of a thousand steps that is our bathroom remodel, yesterday's step was to remove tile from the floor. Apparently our twenty-year old tile really preferred not to be removed...it protested and pleaded and was simply a pain coming up in a thousand tiny pieces. It also left most of the mortar still stuck to the ground.
Which meant we had to grind it away.
Which meant a cloud of heavy dust hung in the air after about thirty seconds.
Which meant that dust went everywhere.
On every surface...out the tiny crack beneath the door...and, of course, on us.
A million tiny particles of dust flowing and flying...swirling and stirring so much that you could not even see. Surrounded and swimming in that sea of dust.
On Ash Wednesday, usually when you have the dust of palms placed on your forehead, the pastor says, "From dust you come, to dust you shall return." Yesterday, I felt like I had returned to the dust.
This is about some morbid thought...although we do live in a death-denying culture...it is good to be honest about our mortality. St. Benedict would say, "Keep your death before you daily." I think he offered this suggestion not because he was being a Debbie Downer, but because that is honest. Parker Palmer has recently pointed out that it is when we introduce what we keep hidden to what we are used to sharing and showing, when we introduce our shadow side to what shines brightly through us, this is important work.
And it is extremely difficult work.
We keep the parts of ourselves hidden for a reason.
Sometimes it is an addiction.
Sometimes it is a grudge against a family member or co-worker who smile to his face, only to mutter under our breath or roll our eyes or talk behind her back.
Sometimes it is what we really think because we believe people will not like us if they really knew us.
There are lots of things we keep hidden.
To be clear, I am not saying you need to Facebook, Instagram or Tweet this information out for the whole world to see or hear...although some people do this.
I am saying, do this work internal or even better with a few trusted friends, people who you know and who embody unconditional love.
It is vulnerable work.
Letting those parts of our soul that have a thin layer of dust upon them, because we don't want to disturb or display and so they sit there month after month.
But the soul is patient and persist.
The soul longs for wholeness, which means we need to show not only what makes our spirits soar and sing, but also what is sour and stark. What I find, is the more I can hold both my beauty and brokenness...I find more than a trace of God's grace in both.
May that be so for you this week.
Grace and peace ~~
Friday, September 14, 2018
Like a car...our physical/mental/spiritual/and emotional lives have a tank that can run on empty.
As you might remember from a previous post, we are remodeling our bathrooms, which means that physically I am working harder than I am used to. This is also a new moment in our lives when we feel over our heads...and need to watch several YouTube videos to figure out each problem. This reality leads to mental fatigue. Then there is the spiritual and emotional tiredness that happens, perhaps as a result of the first two or because I feel like I am praying constantly with every swing of the hammer.
When was the last time you felt that physical exhaustion? Perhaps when you were out for a hike or doing some major yard work?
What about mental fatigue...what is it that taxes the firing of neurons in your mind?
How about spiritual or emotional tiredness?
These realities happen around us and within us. And unlike my car, it isn't always easy to refuel and fill the tanks of our mind, bodies and souls. But, small moments I find are extremely helpful. Unless a gas take that you can fill for a certain price...the cost of keeping ourselves healthy in our whole bodies will cost something besides money. It takes time. For me, silence helps more than words can describe or define. I need moments of stillness to be. To remember that God rested on the 7th day... and still calls us to do the same every week.
As theologian Barbara Brown Taylor says..."Once a week, be good for nothing." Enter into the truth that there is enough.
Even if the bathroom remodel isn't done...
Or that sermon isn't perfect...
Or that kitchen is sparkling clean...
To rest in the arms of One who calls us into such space.
For me, Fridays are a great time to do that. By noon, I try to make sure that I have turned off the computer...the sermon is what it is...I head home to be. Usually Friday evenings are great family time. And Saturday mornings are moments to linger over another cup of coffee.
How do you take time, make space? Knowing that it isn't easy. Sometimes that is the exact moment something that had been needling at you...some comment or moment of brokenness from the past week rears its head and ruins your perfect siesta sabbath moment. Suddenly, your mind is back in the meeting from Tuesday...your shoulders are tense...and your soul is stirring. Or you keep seeing all the things you could be doing around the house...or feel that pressure to be useful in some way.
But to have space, to be in the emptiness, isn't always a bad thing. It is a moment to cease and stop, breathe and be, to be still and know that God is God ~ and even God rested.
I offer this not as another thing to do...but as a call I need in my life and might offer you more than a trace of God's grace in yours. I pray it is so.
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
What is your favorite color and why?
Most of us know our favorite color...but have you ever paused to ponder why? I know I love the color blue. I find it to be peaceful...plus it seems that every style of men's clothing is made in blue... so I have a plethora in my closet.
But is that really my favorite color?
Maybe I'd prefer the passion of red that awakens excitement and energy?
Or the brightness of yellow that can cause even the grey and gloomy day seem a bit better.
Or green that symbolizes life.
Or purple that Alice Walker said God put on earth for us to notice.
What about the ways white and black dance in photographs or help a piano make music?
What about the ways the blue sky turns pink as the sun waves goodbye?
What about the ways red causes us to stop while green helps us go?
Take time today to notice the colors around you...which ones sing to you and why?
Are there colors that you tend to shy away from or shield your life? And again...why?
May the One who crafted and created a myriad of colors (Seriously...have you been to the paint store recently??) cast a kaleidoscope of hues in your life today and this week.
Monday, September 10, 2018
A handful of M and Ms sits beside me.
The colors mixed and mingled together,
I mindlessly push the blues ones off to the side,
Saving the best for last.
I wonder if God's grace is like that?
Am I surrounded by blessings that I miss?
Blessings like laughter of family,
A meal shared,
A moment of progress made, small as it is.
Blessings like a church where people care,
A moment where we deepen our faith.
Perhaps our lives are like a handful of M & Ms.
The colorful ways God moves in our midst,
Beckoning us to pay attention.
Orange for sunsets each night.
Brown for the earth producing food.
Yellow for bright moments of smiles.
Green for goodness that nourishes our lives.
Red for passion that stirs us from complacency.
Always blue last...
For the peace that lingers and lasts on the tips of our tongue like a small piece of chocolate.
A handful of M & M...
A faithful prayer...
One in the same.
Friday, September 7, 2018
I was recently reading something for a friend, when a hymn popped into my head that has been stuck on repeat and replay all week long. What I was reading was about how the world is changing and by default the church has to change too. The hymn that was playing over and over again is the one below:
In the Midst of New Dimensions
Words and Music by Julian Rush (1985)
In the midst of new dimensions, in the face of changing ways. Who will lead the pilgrim peoples wandering in their separate ways?
[Refrain] God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar, We your people, ours the journey now and ever, now and ever, now and ever more.
Through the flood of starving people, warring factions and despair,Who will lift the olive branches? Who will light the flame of care?
As we stand a world divided by our own self seeking schemes, Grant that we, your global village might envision wider dreams
We are man and we are woman, all persuasions, old and young, Each a gift in your creation, each a love song to be sung.
Should the threats of dire predictions cause us to withdraw in pain, May your blazing phoenix spirit, resurrect the church again.
I invite you to listen to the music and sing along:
As these words wash over you...what do you hear?
Which verses or words leap off the page or strangely warm your heart?
Why might you think this is?
May your reflections prompted by this hymn be for you a prayer and poem...be for you more than a trace of God's grace in these days.
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
One of the points of this blog is that it is a spiritual/prayerful exercise in noticing God's grace. Where we live, school is in full swing and session. Our son just began high school and is in the marching band ~ they celebrate the Scottish ancestors who settled in this area. They do this by wearing kilts. In Florida. Where it is still full on summer temperatures. Let's just say that the smell of wet wool in Florida is not an odor you will ever forget.
But I digress.
The fun part of this is watching our son have a great time, hanging out with friends, working hard at something he finds meaningful.
The graceful part of this is that both my wife and I were in marching bands when we were in high school.
The heartwarming part was having my son come up to me...during the game...and pose to have a picture taken with me!
Usually, Friday nights are down time for me after the work week. Our family enjoys pizza and ice cream and catching up. Now, for the next six or seven weeks, the routine is changed as we race/run off to get to the game ~ all while trying to figure out to put on a kilt. Good times.
Yet, it is good times. I have great memories of the band ~ that is where the vast majority of my memories of high school come from. It was an extended family. So, in some ways, it isn't so much that the routine is changed...it is that we have extended and expanded our family. Thankfully, we are not serving all of my pizza and ice cream.
Sometimes when changes happen in our life, we can bemoan the down sides and miss the traces of grace God offers. Sometimes when changes happen in our life, we can get stuck in our inconvenience ~ which is real and needs to be named. But when we stay stuck there, it can cause us to miss or be blinded to the sacred moving in our midst.
What changes are unfolding in your life as we enter September?
Are you welcoming or resisting?
Is there anything that at all that is helpful or hopeful about that change?
As those questions sit and simmer in your soul...may there be a trace of God's grace guiding you and sustaining you in these shifting September days.
Monday, September 3, 2018
This week, our family set out on a great and grand adventure.
Not to some exotic or exciting location.
Not to some amazing destination.
Not even to some place we'd been wanting to visit.
We began the journey of remodeling our bathrooms.
This is a journey we have been on before.
Our first trip down this road was painting our master bedroom room in our first house. The paint we got from the local hardware store was mixed incorrectly. It essentially looked like cottage cheese. We didn't know it was not right. We kept stirring and stirring and stirring. We even put some of it up on the wall before convincing ourselves that something was wrong. We ended up with some very nicely textured walls!! There was removing the little blue bird wall paper in the guest bedroom of that same house. Then there was building a small home office in the basement of our second house. There was remodeling both bathrooms in that house too- goodbye pink vanity top ~ seriously why was that even a color choice.
To be clear, I am no Bob Villa or the Property Brothers. But, over time, you tend to accumulate some amateur skills and a few tools.
One of my favorite metaphors for Philip Simmons is that our lives are the unfinished house we all live in...with half finished sheet rock...our national flag is a blue tarp. Another way of saying that is that we live in a construction zone. Right now our old dinning room table is serving as mission control with our purchases from Home Depot.
I seriously think when we are done with this...Home Depot stock may go down. I will try to give you a heads up.
There are two truths we try to hold onto as we enter into this journey:
1. It is a thousand little steps...try to focus on each step...not getting too far ahead. It is easy to want to rush into dreaming about tile or getting the vanity put in places (that is also sitting in the dinning room by the way). But, we are not on that step yet. We are preparation. We are on fixing walls and making sure we are doing the best job we can. Take the step for today. It sounds so simplistic, but it is so hard. My frustration comes when I want to be ten step down the road. I think this holds true for the journey of life.
2. There will be unexpected problems...that take longer than you want! This last week, we demoed a small bulkhead above our shower...which is a good way to get out some frustration. I was trying to pull a simple 2x4 off the outside wall of our concrete house. I pulled, I tugged, I pushed with all my weight on the crow bar. It was painful inch by painful inch. By God's grace, eventually the board gave way. Only after, did I realize the nails were stuck into the concrete. Ugh! Again, this is a metaphor for life. We see something we'd like to do, and suddenly some obstacle arises we have to deal with ~ day in and day out.
Our lives are the unfinished houses we dwell.
Our lives are construction zones.
Our lives are a thousand little next right steps.
Now, if you will excuse me, there is some priming of walls I need to do.
May there be more than a trace of God's grace in your life as you take the next right step this week.