Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Over the last several weeks, we have sought to find ways to be open to creation as a vital and vibrant part of our story and lives. We have drawn near to elements of earth, water, wind, creatures, and photos that invite us to step into the sacred in the ordinary.
I offer this picture as a reminder that the pathways that shape our souls are sometimes long while others are short, these twin truths happen simultaneously in our lives. For example, I think about raising my children now in their teens as a long road (with a lot of twists and turns, ups and downs - and that was just Monday!) Serving a church is a long path filled with companions in faith. Faithfully facing our aging happens with every birthday candle added to the cake each year. Then, there are moments that shape our souls which last only a few moments. I think of trips taken that still linger and have left a lasting impression. I think of people who I have met and our paths have crossed, intersected just once, but the person still shared/shined her light with me. Our life is a mixture of long roads we are still trudging and short paths where the past impacts the present.
Where do you find yourself in the midst of a long journey - physically, spiritually, or emotionally?
Where was one moment this week that has shaped your soul in a short period of time or even a few seconds?
The bridge above is short, just a few steps. Yet, when I walked across it to stare out at the bay, my soul felt refreshed and renewed and reminded that I am connected to God's creation. The bridge allowed me to step toward and even feel like I was standing in the midst of the water hearing the waves gently lap against the boards.
I invite you to step outside. Close your eyes. What do you hear? What do you smell? What kinds of sensations brush up against your skin? How might this one single moment shape your soul-scape? Then gently walk, wander around, soaking in the ways that every moment can open us to bridges connection us to traces of God's grace.
Monday, October 14, 2019
I know...its a squirrel.
Wait, don't leave yet to go watch a YouTube video...stay with me for just a moment, because there is a story and a point about the ways our souls are shaped.
I am wandering around a garden in my community with my camera. This is fast becoming one of my most meaningful prayer practices and the way traces of God's grace surface in my life. I am off in a secluded, off the paved path, place. As I am standing in the shade, soaking in the breeze blowing in ways that are refreshing and renewing, I close my eyes and I can hear something rustling. At first, I think it is just the wind. But, then, no. Something seems to be moving amid the shadows, just out of my field of vision. Slowly and as silently as I can, I start to make my way around the tree. Then I spotted Mrs. (or Mr...not sure how you tell the difference) Squirrel munching on a nut, having a mid-morning snack, up in the trees, glancing down at me as if to say, "How ya doing? Care for a nut? I've got a few spare up here." Okay, I am not sure that is exactly what the glance of the squirrel was meant to communicate, so please feel free to interpret the stare/glare in your own way.
When I first started practicing prayerful photography, I thought it was all about sight. As a matter of fact, the first time my wife would point out various sights (like a butterfly) I was missing.that kept fluttering around us. So, I started putting my energy into scanning the landscape around me, thoughtfully gazing, not just glancing, at the world I was encountering and experiencing. But more and more, I think hearing is just as important as seeing. What we hear feeds us and fuels our lives. Think about how much of what we hear today has the nutritional value of a bowl of surgery cereal. What we are auditorily receiving and perceiving from the world is often bickering and bitterness, rather than moments of grace and love. To be sure, pain needs to be process. To be sure, injustice needs to be named, claimed, and dealt with. To be sure, there needs to be a place for anger at corruption and cruelty. Yet, sometimes shouting just adds to the cacophony. Sometimes yelling just perpetuates more yelling in a vicious cycle. Non-violence is not only about physically refraining from hurting and harming others, there is a non-violent posture toward ourselves and others relationally that is vital too.
What have you heard today?
Where has there been a trace of grace?
Where do you long to practice a balance of hearing sounds that shape your souls?
At first, I thought it was just a squirrel chomping on a nut. Turns out, there was more than a trace of God's grace and love in this one moment.
Friday, October 11, 2019
Note to Self When Walking (Because I Forget) by Carrie Newcomer
When walking in the woods,
Or on a path,
Or down the street,
In a store,
Or just upstairs,
When you are intent on going,
Wherever it is you are going,
Notice how the mind can chatter,
Like purple finches in the trees,
Endlessly clicking and warbling,
Rising and falling and rising again.
Notice all your plans and longings,
All the things you got, but didn’t want,
All you wanted, and didn’t get,
All the circular conversations aimed at changing,
What was already said or unsaid.
Notice all the losses you are carrying,
With as much grace as you can muster.
Notice the sky, the feel of the air on your skin,
The sounds or what hangs in the silence,
The hard knot in your throat.
Notice all these things and more,
Because there is always more.
Then let your heart open,
Even just a crack,
A dribble or a dam break,
It doesn’t matter.
Because it is in that opening,
You’ll find a clear space
The one you keep finding
And finding again.
Remember to love it all,
All of it.
Hold hands and high five
With what’s easy and dear,
Ephemeral and brilliantly ordinary.
Wrap compassion like a blanket
The kind we place tenderly,
Around other people’s shoulders,
When the disaster is done and the worst is over.
Love it all,
Without looking for any way out,
Not condoning, just allowing,
For it all to just live,
Where it lives.
Love everything that broke your heart open
That changed you forever,
That made you softer,
And helped you understand,
What you could not have understood otherwise.
Love what you’ve endured,
Love what you are still enduring.
Love the purple finches and the sidewalk,
The view from the upstairs window,
The brambles and wild asters,
And the click of the keyboard.
Love all of this
Small and fragile,
Big and beautiful,
Then take the next step.
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
When the sun slowly sinks,
Kissing the far horizon,
I feel my soul let off the accelerator as if to catch it's breath.
When the sun slips from bold, bright, brilliant in the sky to softly giving way to darkness,
I feel my soul realize there are moments to be brave and moments to sink back.
We have been taught and told that if we have a light, we have to let it shine.
Everywhere we go.
Can any of us really do that? Can we do that when in a hurry or life is a flurry or our souls seem set to worry?
Can any of us really always shine our light, or eventually does our oil run out quicker than the Bridemaids in the parable Jesus told.
Do any of us what to shine a light with that person? The one who causes anger to burn brightly or pushes all our buttons.
When the sun starts its descent, so our souls are shaped by moments of rest, renewal, even wrestling in the night. We need deep sleep when dreams dance in our minds. We need moments of quiet. We need to sink into an easy chair with a good book rather than ran to the next gala.
The sun shines at day, but moves beyond our view at night.
The sun shines by day, then goes to a far away, foreign place.
The moon light teaches us to embrace our shy soul sides...the sunset remembers us that no one can burn brightly all the time.
May your light shine with grace and may you be surrounded by peace that sustains you in these days.
Monday, October 7, 2019
The stars hung between wispy clouds slowing covering them like a sheet,
And a small sliver of the moon shone through,
While the other three quarters of the lunar circle stood silently in the shadows.
In that pre-dawn moment, gazing at the soon-to-be gone night sky,
I was re-introduced to a part, piece of myself.
Like the moon that Thursday morning, I to have moments when I want to hide most of myself.
The shadows of my life creep and crawl and cover over my light.
Shadows of questions about being good enough.
Shadows of about the thing I said yesterday I now wish I hadn't.
Shadows of vulnerability that seem strange, out-of-place, in a world of power and privilege.
We love the light.
The ways we let ourselves shine.
Its in our posts, tweets, and social media feeds of always wanting to "win" as if life was a zero-sum game.
Yet, the shadow-side, the three quarters side, the you - you tend to conceal and contain, that side is of God too.
It isn't either, or...it is always both/and.
Both my moments of brilliance and boneheadedness.
Both the light shining, streaming forth and the parts of me I'd rather keep tucked away.
Both are me.
And I thank that sliver of moon the other morning for reminding me.
Friday, October 4, 2019
The concentric circles crossed and connected ~ like the web of life that supports us all.
The circles quickly faded ~ like a day we don't want to end.
As new circles appeared ~ the temptation was to compare and contrast.
"I like the previous circles better."
"Oh, they were much more rounder and beautiful-er"
"Oh look, that one is like Mickey Mouse ears."
All around us the world is shaping us.
All around us we interact and insect with the sacred still crafting and creating.
We miss so much.
But even if we tried to slow down and soak in everything, our minds and hearts and souls would be too saturated to take it all in.
If you were able to see everything, smoke might start billowing from your ears as your mind tried to process the beauty and brokenness ~ the ordinary and otherness of the world around us.
So, we do what we can.
We observe the world through the filters of our experiences.
And sometimes even through the lens of our perspective something new manages to wiggle and work into our worldview.
Suddenly our perspective finds its limitations and boundaries.
Do we dismiss such new information as "fake"?
Do we deny and say, "My eyes are playing tricks on me"?
Do we discount and think, "Well, I for one am not changing my mind".
Do we stick our heads in the sand rather than risk admitting our own bias?
The dangers of living life today is that there are many voices who will tell you that you are right and everyone else is wrong.
The dangers of living life today is we can find lots of support for our safe, personal perspectives.
The brave, bold way of the world is to admit not only that you could be, but probably are, wrong
And both at the same time.
The brave, bold way of the world is to accept our limitations and still be vulnerable enough to say, "Here I am, send me."
The brave, bold way of the world today is to stop trying to impress or improve or institute our will, rather to know that it is all a divine dance where sometimes we are waltzing with grace and other times stepping on toes and other times tripping to fall flat on our face.
There are traces of grace, concentric circles of God's presence surrounding it all.
Surround you right now.
And that kind of truth, love, and promise gives us hope.
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Not gonna happen.
Impossible and improbable.
That was what the weather channel said were the chances of rain that day when I set out to the store. But with a cart full of bags the rain fell from the sky. Not a soft, gentle rain, but one that goes sideways because of the wind that is whipping all around. Not an inconvenient rain, but one that soaked my shirt and sandals and skin.
Rain can refresh and renew.
But it can also ruin a perfectly wonderful afternoon picnic.
Rain is necessary and needed for all living things to grow - including us.
But sometimes we just wish that it would wait a few moments...like until my grocery are in the trunk and I am safely inside my car.
Jesus centuries ago said that the rain falls on both the just and unjust (not sure who I was at that moment, but given what I said in response to getting soaked, I am going to lean more toward "unjust") Rain cannot be controlled or contained. Sometimes strangely rain can also fall in the front of your house while the back is dry as the dessert in summer.
Rain shapes our souls. As much as I long for the solar power of the sun to fill me with vitamin D, I also know that the chemicals that are stirred up from the earth after a good rain storm bring a smile to my face too. I know that rain in Florida is like snow up north ~ an excuse to stay inside with a good book or a movie. I know that sometimes in our lives what we think will never happen suddenly ends up to be exactly our experience. We don't go looking for love that night, but end up meeting our future spouse. We don't go expecting to have a good time at that event, but it ends up being exactly what we needed. Sometimes when we give something a zero percent chance of making a difference, it is exactly the moment that transforms us the most.
When has this been true for you?
When has the unexpected and unforeseen suddenly become exactly what was needed and necessary? A blessing you could have never asked for and now don't want to ever give back?
Those rain moments that shape our souls might never have been predicted, but are nevertheless traces of God's grace soaking and saturating us in life giving ways.