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Showing posts from April, 2020

Word Wednesday

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Years ago...when I selected the name of these posts as "Grace Traces"...there were several things that seemed to fit and fall into place.

1. The title rhymes...I really liked that.
2. Grace for me is central as a part of my faith...it is the often invisible and yet always accessible presence of the holy.
3. Without grace...it would be like trying to survive without air or water or chocolate...simply not possible.

Grace is one of those words we can toss and throw around.  Grace is sometimes that extra strength we need when we are depleted or deflated.  Grace is that sensation that can stir from the top of our heads to our pinkie toes...a warmth that wraps around us.  Grace is that moment when goosebumps cause the tiny hairs on our arms to stand on end or that spine tingling feeling that races and runs down our back.

Grace is hard to define because some many of our ordinary words don't seem to measure up.

Grace cannot be quantified.

Yet in stories grace can come from deep…

Music Mondays

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In the coming weeks, on Mondays, I will offer you music mediation that stirs my soul.

Before playing the above video...breathe and be.

Breathe in to the count of four.
Hold the breathe for a moment.
Now exhale to the count of five or six.

Again, engage that rhythm of breathing.
And one more time trying to exhale all the stress and strain and uncertainty we constantly carry.

Now, as you listen I want you to close your eyes.

What images are awoken in your mind?
What emotions do you sense stirring in your soul?
What colors are evoked by the melody of the music?
If you had to write a story
Or poem
Or painting
Or response to this music...
What would it be?

I see in my imagination myself walking in the wilderness.  I am wandering - which is important because sometimes our walking is intentional...we have somewhere to be and a time to arrive.  But with this music, I am meandering...no where to be and no time to be there.  I see a butterfly sail past, a bird perching on a branch near by, the…

Words We Are Living With ~ Loneliness

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The words just keep getting better, don't they?

I am honestly impressed that you even opened this blog post...and that you are still reading.  I mean seriously, how could loneliness ever be a good spiritual practice?  We are social creatures who have been away from each other for too many days.  For those who live alone, the pain of loneliness can be palpable and even damaging to health.  Even if you have people around you, loneliness can still sit within you when you are in a room with others.

Loneliness, like waiting and silence, can invite us into something deeper.

You are crafted and created in God's image...but when do you spend time with that truth in a deep diving way?  Really only when we are forced to.  To be lonely, doesn't acknowledge that within us is so much that needs our attention.  To be lonely means that there is space to let the interior out into the light of day.

You can do this by writing,
Drawing (color your feelings or just randomly make shapes)
Sing…

Words We Are Living With ~ Silence

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If waiting is the hardest part...silence has to be a close second.  Let's face it, even if there are no external sounds, our interior chatter (what Buddhist's call, "The Monkey Mind") loves to fill in any space.  The second we sit down without the radio or television as background filler, it is as if our minds say, "Oh, I am so glad you are here...let's ruminate on what your brother/mother/sister/ cousin/ co-worker/volunteer, etc...) said last Tuesday!!"  Or your heart says, "Pardon me, but that pain from the words or actions of another has been sitting here for the last two months and I think we should pay some attention to that."  Or your soul says, "Don't forget about me.  Remember that New Years' resolution to live more peacefully or to pray or to read the Bible...how is that going?" We can fill to overflowing and flooding any quiet moment without any street noise because the traffic going on within always has more than e…

Words We Are Living With ~ Wait

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For over a month now, we have become reacquainted with words we usually try to avoid or keep a safe, social distance from...today's word is, "Wait".

Woven into many of us is a loathe of "waiting".

I always try to find the shortest line (which ironically moves the slooooooowest).
I tap my steering wheel and fidget with the radio at every red light.
At doctor's offices I stare at my phone like a magic portal to another world because God knows I am never going to touch one of the magazines in waiting room again.  Ever.
I sigh.
I fume with frustration.
I think of myself as being too busy (read too important) to wait.

But waiting is a part of life.  Even in a world of instantaneous communication and microwave meals. 

Right now, we are waiting for the all clear sign to flee from our homes knowing that it is now safe to move about our lives again.

I believe there is a spiritual practice of waiting.  We all admit that we are too busy.  Remember before COVID 19 how…

Easter Reflection take Three

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I think I'll soar...

Soar away toward the towering trees.

Soar away trying to touch the blue of the sky.

Soar away to look down at the world from a different view.

Can I soar above the fray of people's cynicism and brokenness?

Can I get away from the dis-ease of people passing along their pain through tweets that stir anger within me?

Can I find another place and space where compassion, rather than political back-patting, is the order of the day?

Can I discover a resurrection place where we welcome each person as formed and fashioned in God's image?

Can I make my home in a resurrection place where the least, lonely, and lost are not seen as lazy but part of God's beloved?

Can I say my mailing address is where creation is honored as God's first testament of truth?

Maybe such a dwelling isn't out there...
But in here.

Maybe where I need to soar isn't up, but down.  Down into the soul, the tomb/womb within, where I might discover and uncover the resurrection …

Easter Reflection take Two

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So I am walking around my neighborhood...as you do when the confines of the walls of our house start to close in around you.  When I came across this bird hanging out on my neighbor's car.

I love this photo.

I love it because it is like the bird is saying, "I think I am going to hang out here for awhile."

Or, "Hey, the color of this car really compliments my feathers."

Or, "Hey, Wes, how ya doing?"

Okay, it is a bit odd when the bird start to talk to you, that might be the cabin fever talking.

I love this photo because it is beautifully ordinary.

Birds stop on cars all the time, everyday.  You probably saw this on your walk today.

But did you really see it?

That is part of the Easter mystery.  We don't always see the beautiful ordinary, the sacred in the every day, that everything is spiritual.  Easter was meant to life the veil between the holy and everyday.  That is why Jesus took common bread and cup to symbolize God's grace.  That is why …

Easter Reflection

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A symbol of Easter has often been the butterfly.  This is because within a butterfly's life, creation is preaching and proclaiming the truth of resurrection.  A butterfly begins life as a fuzzy, slow, gravity-bound-to-earth caterpillar.  At some point, woven into the DNA of a caterpillar, there is the urge to transformation.  The caterpillar wraps itself in a cocoon called a chrysalis - I know a science lesson too today!  Inside there is a transformation from caterpillar into a butterfly.  Creation was and still is God's first testament.  In this one corner of creation we can hear the Holy Week story.  Jesus slow walk to Jerusalem, along the way ministering and meeting people where they are.  Jesus enters into Jerusalem on a donkey - which isn't known for its speed...although a donkey would probably beat a turtle in a foot race - it would be close.  It is in the cocoon of Jerusalem the transformation of Jesus into the Christ happens.  Happens as Jesus seeks to teach us ab…

God's Friday Prayer

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It shouldn't be this way!
The One who is grace embodied and broke open his life to share God's love hung on a cross.
It shouldn't be this way!
The One who prayerfully sought to awaken the truth that you are God's beloved left to die.
It shouldn't be this way!
The One who reached out to rich and poor and everyone who crossed his path.

It shouldn't be this way!
Confined and stuck inside and wanting to break out.
It shouldn't be this way!
Wanting to gather with others physically to pray.
It shouldn't be this way!
People hurting and the ripple effects of the coronavirus to be with us for weeks to come.

The ancients had a word for prayers of protest ~ it is lamentation.
Lament.
Letting our hearts break open with honest and raw emotion.

What do you lament today?
Someone you love who died?
Someone you care about who is hurting?
Your own difficulties not be resolved but revolving continually in your soul?

What do you lament today?
An economy that continually f…

Holy Wednesday Prayer

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The crowds are all gone now.
Not only the ones who sang or whispered or however they said, "Hosannas".
The crowds from sporting events, art openings, symphonies, and even churches.
The crowds that would hustle and bustle down the street, talking into phones, and check emails.
The crowds that gathered in cafes over dry toast to discuss the latest news.
The crowds of even two or three that felt safe.

The crowds were gone by Wednesday of Holy Week.

Oh, they were still in Jerusalem.  Hurrying to prepare for Passover.
Buying goods so they could hunker down in homes with family to tell the story of God's liberating love.
Shouting greetings and acting like this was just another Passover.

But for Jesus, the crowds were all gone.  No longer listening to his teachings.
No longer following him around.
No longer waiting to see when he might call from a rebellion.

Sure, his disciples ~ his friends ~ were still there.
But soon they would no longer hang around either.
One would betray…

Palm Sunday Prayer

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"Hosanna," the crowds sang and shouted while waving branches.
"Hosannas," that echoed off the stone walls of the gate into Jerusalem.
"Hosanna," as people stomped passionately into the dusty ground.
"Hosanna," which means, "Save us."

Where do you need saving this day?

It is a difficult question for a culture that idolizes the rugged individual.
The John Waynes of the world.
The self-made person - as if that was biologically ~ socially ~ spiritually possible.
A culture that has adopted Burger King's motto, "Have it your way" as our deepest truth.

Me?  Need saving?  Nope.  I am just fine.

Only I am not.
I see my wounds and wants reflected in the mirror each morning.
I see the pain unprocessed passed along in comments that hurt, harm others.
I feel the dis-ease within me, even as I sweep it under the rug of my soul.

Me?  Need saving?  Nope (whispered uncertainly).

I'll just stand here and wave my palm thinking, acting l…

It's Lent

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In the last post, I asked about a theme song for your life.  I am not sure I could decide on just one.  That would be like trying to pick my favorite flavor of ice cream.  I mean, let's face it, most ice cream is good ice cream.

But there is something about Phillip Wesley's music that moves my soul...especially since we share a name in common!

As you listen to this beautiful piece of music...slow read this poem by Susan Palo Cherwin.

St. Therese certainly knew the dark night of the soul; St. John of the Cross, Jonah in the belly of the whale, the Israelites in captivity,

And most likely every person has known the dark night of the soul.

That rocky place of such sadness; or grief; or fear that it is almost death.

That place where the air is too heavy for speech, too thick almost for breath.

In this deepening spiral of becoming, down and down and deeper down in the belly of the whale.

We may want to lay aside our harps, we may want to shake a fist at God.  Why me?

Why now!  The dark n…

It's Lent

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Okay...this is a bit of musical whiplash from the last post to today.  But I love how diverse the guitar can sound.  Sometimes I can get caught in a rut - whether I am talking about my writing or thinking.  I am posting these two diverse pieces featuring the same instrument to remind us all that there are many different sounds that can be expressed in and through us.

I don't always need to write the same way...but can explore new words and ways. But sometimes my reluctance to leave the rut can be based both on my own expectations and others expectations.  I can get trapped in a system where I get good feedback based on what I am doing...why risk trying something else. After all, we learned the cliche, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  Why leave what is working?

There are good reasons to stay in a place that is comfortable.

But there are also good reasons to continue to try new ways of expression and experiences.  If we only played the guitar fast and furious a…