Friday is my Sabbath, and on this past Friday in preparation for Holy Week, I looked forward to a day to cease to work. It was a gorgeous spring day, and I spent a lot of time outside.
On one of my saunters across the patio, the toes of my shoes caught on a gap in the concrete, and I fell flat on my face. As I lay completely prone, I began to do an inventory of injuries. I laid there a little longer as I got over the shock of the fall.
It was quiet. The birds were singing. There was a soft breeze. I became aware that I was completely alone. No one knew I was lying on the ground in my back yard. Although hurting and jarred, I wasn't anxious or afraid.
As I finally creaked to my feet, a little bruised, my face bleeding, I was very thankful for no broken teeth or bones.
Thanking God for only minor hurts, one of our St. Mary's Stations of the Cross came to mind:
+ Jesus Falls the First Time +
This contemplation of a place along the way of Jesus' walk to his crucifixion is not based on any Scripture, yet walking along uneven stone streets, carrying a heavy load, literally and metaphorically, it is highly likely that Jesus fell.
On this Tuesday in Holy Week I ponder Jesus' falling.
What sounds did he hear? What hurts did he feel? Is this when the soldiers compelled Simon of Cyrene to help Jesus carry his cross? Jesus, the Son of God, fell. Jesus, the Chosen One, fell. What does it mean to love and follow and serve Jesus, who falls?
It's nine o'clock in the morning. On this Holy Momday, Minerva is praying Morning Prayer at St. Mary's.
I am at home in the Rectory sitting in my prayer chair. Sacred sage incense is burning. I am praying with Minerva and others at St. Mary's who have stopped to pray. I can feel the prayers rising like the incense and surrounding me.
It's nine o'clock in the morning. The hour when Jesus is taken to be crucified.
It's nine o'clock in the morning. The hour when the Spirit swirls like fire and wind upon and within the disciples gathered in Jesusalem fifty two days after Jesus died. Fifty days after Jesus' resurrection.
But today, it's nine o'clock in the morning on a day we call Holy because we are simply being with Jesus. Praying. Listening. Worshipping.
We'll do it again at 6.30 tonight. Gil will lead us. Whether we are at St. Mary's or in the chapels of our hearts, will you stop and join us?
There is nothing more important, more essential, more more holy than to pray. To listen. To worship.
A parishioner wanted to talk about the disharmony she feels on Palm Sunday. This is a woman who finds the liturgy of Holy Week to have great meaning--the walking day by day through the Scriptures and prayers leading to Jesus' passion. Why, she asks, read the Passion Gospel on Palm Sunday? Why not sit with the events of the Gospel of the Palms alone on this day? Why hear the long Gospel, too, as if we're assuming folks won't be back at church again until the Sunday of the Resurrection? Why do a week of Gospel reading in one day?
I'll admit I've thought some of the same things. I want to walk each holy day with the integrity of that specific day. But this year, for whatever reason, I'm good with the circling back of the Holy Week stories--of previewing the whole week, then hunkering in for a day by day.
True. I know there are a slew of folks who will come to church today (and I'm so thankful for each and everyone of them) who I won't see at St. Mary's again until Easter Sunday. It may be good for them to hear the whole story today. But that's not the point.
I think we all need to be reminded where Holy Week begins--with the crowds, like me, who want a Savior they've created to their own liking. We need to hear the juxtaposition of the popular Jesus with the mystery and the truth of the Savior we have who is vulnerable unto death. The one who is always obedient to God's will.
So today we have the palm cross.
So today we also have the nail.
I will hold both in my hand, and this Holy Week I pray that Jesus will get me nearer the truth of who he truly is, and not the comfortable image I imagine him to be. Comforting, yes. But not necessarily comfortable.
I met with my spiritual director yesterday. Of course we talked about how Lent was going. I've said before that being raised in the Baptist tradition, tithing my money to God comes easy, but Lenten disciplines, a later in life practice, is always a challenge.
I've learned by years of starts and stops, of twists and circle backs, that my day by day through Lent is best defined as a rhythm. What surprises will God have in store that will take me to new places of mystery?
So on this day of Sabbath, as I prepare myself to walk beside Jesus leading our dear parish through Holy Week, I ponder the rhythm God has given me.
To light incense and pray.
To read poetry.
To dance healing prayers for a friend with cancer.
To remember to rest.
To write notes of love.
To be thankful for all of my stuff as I give away those things which no longer give joy.
To pray with an icon.
To travel on rabbit trails while reading Scripture.
In the Rule of St. Benedict, we remember that everyday we begin again, and so I offer a blessing for all who walk these final days of Lent, written by a woman whose writings have been a path for me these Lenten days:
I made a trip to my mother's to celebrate, belatedly, her 89th birthday. Our wonderful associate, Katie+, took the evening service on Sunday so that I could arrive in time for dinner with the bonus of my youngest brother being able to join us. His birthday was a week ago, so we had a double celebration which, of course, included pie.
When I'm at my mom's, I like to get up early and make her special coffee (this time beans from my vacation on the Georgia coast), and clean out the dishwasher while the coffee brews. That way my mother will get up to the smell of good coffee and a kitchen ready for the day.
The bonus these past two mornings is that I got to see the sunrise.
My mother lives in the country (my daughter, Lisa, calls it The Farm), and the acreage includes a small lake. Standing outside in the quiet of the beginning of the day, how can one keep from praying?
The verse that shimmers up is this:
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, The lifting of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Psalm 141.2
The morning sacrifice, too.
I pray for those God places on my heart.
For the young man from the parish who was driving home, and a pedestrian crossed in front of him on the freeway.
For the St. Mary's staff who will be meeting without me today.
For all of those walking through Lent.
For the gift of time with my mother.
For the many who are afraid.
So many more.......
Soon I'll spend a lovely morning with my mother.
We'll have oatmeal bread baked from my grandmother's recipe.
Spring is coming, and we'll spend some time in the yard. Mother is sending me home with bluebonnet seedlings.
We'll have lunch of her homemade soup, and then I'll, sadly, but filled with love, drive home.
As the sisters of Our Lady of Grace sing, Until we meet again, know that you are loved.
The last full day on Tybee yesterday, and it was a cold and gray day. The decision was made to have a nearly non-driving day (Friday is my Sabbath, after all).
The morning was lolled with coffee and card-making
In the afternoon, I put on all of my layers and went on a brisk beach walk which was followed by a labyrinth prayer walk near the marsh.
On the short drive back home, my best friend and I noticed a plea for food at the local food pantry. Blessed with such abundance and filled with gratitude, we stopped at the local IGA and filled up our grocery cart with cereal, juice, canned fruit, peanut butter, and macaroni and cheese. What better way to thank God?
This morning, with temperatures near freezing, bundled up once again, there was time for one final Tybee time beach walk. Prayers were said sitting beside the water before returning to my little cottage to prepare to return home.
As I sit awaiting my plane at the airport, I prepare mentally to celebrate the third Sunday of Lent in the morning back at St. Marys. I have been unoccupied for the past four days. I have been recreated. I have been on vacation, and it has been very good.
And now it is time to be occupied with all the God calls me to do in the quotidian. For the people who will join me in serving at St. Mary's tomorrow and everyday I am truly thankful.
Time does not change us. It just unfolds us. ~ Max Frisch
As I was proofing this blog about a day of rest, I was struck by how often I had used the word spent, as in spent the day, spent the morning, spent the afternoon, spent the evening. What is it about time that curries words like waste, use up, deplete, kill, exhaust? There have to be better words for how we live our days. They aren't to be ticked away but savored and experienced and notated.
A wholehearted day of perfect weather on Tybee Island, and my friend and I decided to travel no farther than a mile away to North Beach-- a day of lolling on an island. Bliss.
The morning was not spent but lazed wholeheartedly in my little house on the marsh reading, writing, listening to music, and chitchatting.
The afternoon was not spent but sauntered wholeheartedly walking on the beach, capping it off praying vesper prayers from DailyPrayers for All Seasons as folks strolled past. Praying in public indeed.
The evening was not spent but abided joyfully watching and laughing to Getting On, a very funny comedy about a geriatric unit of a hospital. Ice cream eating was included in the festivities.
The sunset gift wrapped the day in God's beauty.
Time is a game played beautifully by children. ~ Heraclitus
(A little introduction is required by way of rereading yesterday's blog, please.......)
The journey to Savannah, Georgia, and my vacation, or is it retreat, on Tybee Island continues:
Yesterday at the airport, after five hours of waiting for a plane, just as I was leaving the terminal to walk to the gate where my detour flight to Columbia, South Carolina was boarding in about an hour, I heard announced, "The 9 AM flight to Savannah is now boarding."
I raced to the gate where my United agent friend was standing. "Can I change my ticket back to my original flight?" Of course! As he hurriedly typed in my sixth boarding pass for the day, I asked him what had happened. He gave me a big smile and said, "It's a miracle!"
I still don't know exactly what happened, except that they finally found a crew and that the plane itself probably needed to get to Savannah or a bunch more flight dominoes were not going to fall.
The kind agent had seated me in the exit row (woo hoo!), and once we finally took off, except for some bumps, it was an easy flight.
I thought about the twists and turns of the day--all too frequent, it seems, when I try to get to the people who are important in my life (last week my road trip to see my mom for her birthday had to be cancelled because of icy roads). As I listened to the playlist that contained the songs that the folks in my small group at the Daring Way conference had shared as the music that helps them be courageous, I found myself tearing up again and again--tears being the sign of the presence of Christ, after all.
I thought about the kindnesses I'd experienced in the twists and turns of the day. A friend who graciously detoured three times on her own long road trip from the mountains of Georgia to Savannah no to Columbia no back to Savannah. Two gate agents who with humor and care had done their best to make a bad situation better. Of smart phones and apps which made things a little easier. Of knitting and music and interesting things to read. That I knew that eventually I'd get to where I needed to be.
I remembered earlier in the day when I'd offered the gate agents a blessing and we'd had a brief, public theophany.
And then when I landed in Savannah later than planned, but still with time to walk the beach before dark, an email from United with a big apology and a $50 credit towards my next flight.
Every year during Lent I travel to Tybee Island, Georgia, a very quiet beach town outside Savannah. Although I consider it a vacation, somehow it seems to always end up on the parish calendar as a retreat.
Truth is, it is a vacation. Truth is, it's a retreat
My best friend will pick me up at the Savannah airport in her blue Miata convertible then we'll drive into town for coffees, lunch, and provisions. Vacation.
Listening to great music, we'll drive along the marsh and over bridge after bridge till we're on a sleepy little island. We'll unload the car and then walk to the beach for our first walk with colors of beige and blue and gray. Retreat.
What's the difference? I'm not actually certain. I'll use vacation days for this time apart but there will be lots of walking and quiet and pondering and reading and praying and creating and rest. There will be movies and laughter and conversation. And wonderful surprises.
Vacation. Retreat. God time.
Boarding soon. Or. Maybe not.
Sigh. For the third time in a year, a flight has been cancelled due to lack of crew. Now seated at Starbuck's with my food voucher--purchased yogurt and water, now waiting to catch a flight to Columbia SC. My best option on a fogged in day.
Gave a blessing to a very kind gate agent, and came out of the closet as a priest (thankfully hadn't been as cranky as the folks in front of me).
Not a vacation yet. Not a retreat for sure. But thankful that God is here.
I'm an Episcopal priest serving as rector in the Diocese of Texas. My daughter lives in New York City and has published her second book. My son lives in Bend, Oregon with his wife and their two sons who call me Grandma Texas.