Here I go again, slipping behind in my Lenten discipline of writing on one word each day. Sigh. It makes me aware of my human failings, even when I have vowed to be diligent. I suppose we all find ourselves in this position from time to time. Yesterday and today’s words are warmth and nature. Another two words I find couple together nicely. Whenever I encounter the word “nature,” I immediately think of Mother Nature. It is always a puzzlement to me why we call God Father, but Nature, Mother, but we do. Neither is actually a gender. God for me is Spirit. God for theologian Pannenberg was a “force field.” I can accept that. Nature, for me is our entire universe, and the Hubble Telescope photos are awesome evidence of its enormity, infinity even. It is the birds, who I call my little dinosaurs and feed every winter. It is the animals, including my beloved Maltese, Loki. It is sun, moon, sky, oceans, earth, flora, fauna; it is all of creation. I suppose I could do without mosquitoes or the house fly. I love the nature in my life, particularly when it is warm and I can enjoy it fully outside of my home. I think too of Mother Nature as a Spirit of warmth and nurturing. Okay, most of the time. Mother Nature can be violent during tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, all the horrors of nature. But, on a quiet, warm sunny day, Nature and I get along just fine. Nature is God’s creation. Nature is God’s own, just as I am. I like that.
When I was seven, and a southern Baptist, the ministers always talked about having a personal friendship, or relationship, with Jesus. That puzzled my young mind since I simply didn’t grasp how one could be a friend with a dead person. And then I learned about resurrection, our soul, and a plethora of spiritual entities from the mystics to the myriad of saints. In my adult life I even experienced many spiritual interactions with what I like to call the “Spiritual realm.” Finally, as I studied the scriptures, attended seminary, studied many scholarly works on Jesus, I too developed a personal friendship with Jesus. Obviously it wasn’t a face-to-face, I can reach out and touch Jesus friendship, but a deeply spiritual friendship nonetheless. We take walks together, we have chats, I pray with Jesus, and in my mere human weakness, I even ask Jesus to let my NY Giants win the Super Bowl (they did). What a guy that Jesus.
One of my favorite early hymns is “What a friend we have in Jesus.” It was the first hymn I learned to play on the piano, and to this day I can at least sing from memory the first verse. Over the years I have learned our friends can be near or far away yet our bond of love keeps us connected; often frequently; often rarely. It is like that with Jesus and me. Our love for each other keeps us connected. Thanks be to God.
A friend loves at all times. Proverbs 17:17
As words go this is not my favorite word. Even in Lent. I am not one who actually makes any sacrifice in Lent. I still eat my chocolate, dessert, or surf the net. Rather, I prefer to do something positive, or take on a special ministry. One year I decided to give to Habitat for Humanity on a monthly basis, and three years later we are still doing it. This year I am finding one extraneous thing in my home or my closet to donate each day. At the end of Lent I’ll have 40 items to donate for others to use and enjoy. I’m not sure we are called to sacrifice by God. I am sure we are called to always be positive and to love, love, love.
“…and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Matthew 12:33
Another pairing to catch me up on a daily basis. Lenten discipline is hard for me, but I’m trying. A Word. Peace. Years ago someone took a huge national poll to see what American’s wanted most. The winner by a large margin was “Peace,” or “World Peace.” Wasn’t that one of the main messages of Jesus of Nazareth. Peace be with you. We all want peace in our personal life as well as in the world. And so we pray to God, to God the Word, for peace. Perhaps someday all those prayers will be answered.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philipians 4:5
Well, I’m already way behind in my daily Lenten Post, highlighting my human flaw of procrastination. And, then the day gets away from me, and before I know it the day is gone. To catch up I’m doing two topics: Favorite place to pray and Sacred Space. I do however, think they are a good pairing. Wherever I pray, for me becomes a sacred space. A space where God and I converse. Where, if I am good, I listen to God. Where, I hope, God listens to me. I don’t really have a favorite place to pray. That would really inhibit my praying. I like to pray everywhere, anytime. I remember at my Commission on Ministry interviews someone asked me what time did I put aside every day to pray ? I paused for what seemed to me like an eternity. Finally, I said, “My whole life is a prayer.” Everywhere then is my favorite place, and God’s world is always sacred space.
Hope. Just the word is awesome. Hope. My daughter once told me that if we didn’t have hope, she didn’t think the human race would survive. Interesting. I thought about that a lot and came to the conclusion that she was absolutely right. As Christians we say we live in the hope of the resurrection. We hope for good weather. We hope for good health. We hope our loved ones will not die too early, or without saying goodbye, or some painfully slow death. We hope our team will win. We hope we will get good grades in school. We hope our marriage will last as long as we live. We hope people will love us. We hope, we hope, we hope. Yes, hope may be the very foundation of our life. As Jesus wandered in the desert, climbed the mountain top, or spoke to the masses, he most likely hoped people would hear his message to help the poor, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, help us to live in truth, mercy, and justice. I hope that I can live up to and into the life Christ called me to be.
“the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147:11
I’m not sure when it started, but I know today that I absolutely need light in my life. My house is light, with lots of windows and two huge skylights. I don’t usually dress in somber clothing, light is better, or at least bright colors. I get sad when too many dark, gray days in a row roll by my windows. We often hear about the “Light of Christ,” or “God is light,” giving credence to my belief that light is good. Scriptures tell us that darkness will never blot out the light. Oh God, I certainly hope so. For me light is my soul food. Nourishing my essence. Kissing me with renewed freshness. When I am still and wait for God’s presence, I am filled with sacred light. I love that.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5
I was named after Saint Rita because my mother believed she was the saint of the afflicted. She named me after this saint because my sister, some 8 years older than me, was born with Down’s Syndrome. My mother thought I might take after my name-saint, Rita, and help my sister. After my sister died at age 37, I decided to do some research on St. Rita. Turns out she is not the saint of the afflicted, but the saint of impossible causes. My youngest daughter thinks there is nothing I can’t accomplish, so maybe the name fits in an odd sort of way. I like St. Rita, and I have been told she is more popular than St. Mary in Italy. I guess we all have a lot of “impossible causes.” Human nature is just that way, a lot of impossible situations we have to pray our way through or around. I’ve never personally prayed to St. Rita, but I know many people who do pray to her. I know my mother, as a good Catholic, prayed to her and lit candles regularly for my sister. May they both rest in peace; I know they have risen in Glory and now live among the saints.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19
In my ministry I have always said, “If you feed them they will come.” Of course, we always laughed, but in truth, who doesn’t enjoy a meal together. The first Christians looked upon the last supper as sharing an entire meal, not just some wafers and wine. It is a ritual I wish we as today’s Christians would revive. The meal I most remember from the scriptures is the feeding of the 5,000 when a few loaves and couple of fish fed them all with 12 baskets of leftovers. That is how I view feeding our soul, not only our own, but everyone’s. Somehow, no matter how little or how much we have, there is enough for all. It is how I view my giving, of my time, of my treasure, and of my talent. As busy as I am, there is always a slot to help, there is always another dollar to give, there is always a gift I can give. My life is a meal to share. How about yours?
He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; Romans 14:6a
Last night I received the sign of the cross in ashes on my forehead as a reminder that I am dust and to dust I shall return. Ashes are the dust of our earthly bodies when the life breath is no longer there. Ashes are remnants of a life lived, perhaps fully, perhaps not. I have the ashes of my most beloved dog, Prince, in my china cabinet. Not because it brings me nearer to him, but because when I see the urn it brings back a flood of memories of the 12 fabulous years I had with him. Ashes. They also remind me I too will be ashes, and I am humbled by the thought of what a mere speck of stardust I am in this holy universe where we are temporarily planted. A mote. May I be a godly mote. And, when my ashes are put in the ground, I have faith my spirit will soar with God. Amen, amen. Ashes.
“..and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7