Friday, February 26, 2016

A Sabbath's Day Walk

It's my Sabbath. The day for the monkey brain to rest. For email checking to cease. To give to God the many, many things left undone.  

To take a Sabbath's day walk. 

On my list of things I've wanted to do is walk to my neighborhood Starbucks. It's only a mile away, but being a Texan, I always drive there.  

Still.  It's my practice not to drive on my Sabbath.  And I had a reward for free food that expires today. So I decided today was my day to walk for my breakfast. 

I downloaded the new Kate Campbell cd. A perfect choice since she recorded it on the road, and the songs have a traveling theme. 

Walking in Houston can be a challenge. No sidewalks. Cars whizzing by. Direct routes blocked by security gates.  

Once safely arrived, I enjoyed my free breakfast sandwich and was quiet amidst the morning rush. 

I read my morning devotional and decided to respond to the 40acts challenge immediately. I bought a Starbucks' card and loaded it with cash.  On my way home, I stopped in the bank next door to the Starbucks and gave the tellers the card, inviting them to enjoy coffee on me today. I left with them sending me God's blessings. 

On the way home, I listened to a podcast I never have "time" for. I also received the gift of a butterfly sighting and the first bluebonnet of the year. 

In the Orthodox tradition, a Sabbath walk is about half a mile. I'm grateful that mine could be longer today. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Loving Generously

Today's word from 40acts, our parish-wide Lenten invitation, is love. 

As God would have it, today is my mother's 90th birthday. To celebrate, my brothers and I are going to spend the day with her. One brother and I, both of us living some distance away, drove up yesterday. My other brother, who lives nearby, will be here this morning. 

On this day that we are invited to love as Jesus loved us, Jesus who meets us wherever we are, Jesus who gives us whatever we need most, I am struck by the ways that others are sharing love with my mother. Truly, in response to God's love for us, but also in response to how that love has been expressed through my mother's ninety years of living very well.  

A favorite niece and her family came last week with lunch and the gift of a good and joyful visit. 

A parishioner, knowing that a cookie recipe was one of my my mom's favorites, brought me a batch of  "Grandma cookies" Saturday, baked especially for Mother. Mother ate one as soon as I arrived in Chambersville, enjoying it with a big smile. 

Another parishioner, who has never met my mother, gave me a card to bring to her. Turns out this parishioner had been the recipient of one of my mother's prayer blankets at a challenging time in her life. 

My daughter has already sent a homemade card and her own famous biscuits (also a favorite of my mother's), baked in her NYC kitchen and delivered by US mail. My mother has been a huge inspiration for my daughter's James Beard award winning blog and her two very well-received cookbooks. 

From her greatgrandsons who live far, far away (who wished her happy birthday last night via FaceTime), I've baked one of their favorite treats, sunflower butter bran muffins, for breakfast. My brother will be bringing his own cranberry pecan bran muffin recipe. The love keeps growing. 

And my mother hasn't even gotten up yet!

Thank you, Mother,  for teaching so many, many people about God's love by your quiet, faithful acts of generosity. We love you.   You make it easy to accept today's 40acts challenge of sharing love with generosity. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Syncing with God in Lent

How is your Lent going? I always look forward to Lent. It feels like a spiritual do-over. The timing is well enough away from both the liturgical and calendar new years to be right in sync with a need for a spiritual refresher.

During the last days of Epiphany, I enjoy thinking about fine tuning my spiritual practices. I have fun searching out books or devotionals and/or retreats that will make the Lenten final cut.  Last year, I bought a new purple mug and bowl from my favorite potter for use during Lent. This year, I took some of my Christmas money and bought some new purple earrings for Lent.  Like I said, I have fun getting ready for Lent. 

And then the reality of Lent set in. 

An exhausting week of Lenten preparations at church were capped with attendance at our yearly Diocesan Council. The earrings I bought with my Christmas money look pretty, but don't help me be any closer to God.  The new planner that I went through a great deal of twists and turns, not to say expense to secure, at least so far, hasn't left me feeling any closer to God. 

Then my new iPhone crashed. Over and over and over. It was only two weeks old, so I went to the Apple Store for service. Thankfully, everything was backed up on both my computer and in the cloud. 

Turns out, the way to fix the phone was to completely erase it and set it up as a brand new phone. That meant that even though my contacts, photos, music, and documents were saved in the cloud, because my back up most probably was corrupted, I had to start anew.  

It wasn't like when I bought my new phone and everything transferred over with relative ease. I only had my most essential data, and everything, everything, had to be downloaded and rearranged and set up.

I spent the evening picking and choosing. What wallpaper would I use?  Which apps did I really need?  What were my preferences for sounds and notifications? Passwords had to be entered. Years of choices and selections had to be reexamined and evaluated to see if they were all that essential. 

Many of us say our phone is our life.  This Lent, my phone has become a way to reflect on my life in a way that feels very inconvenient. 

My phone has become an unexpected spiritual practice and place for theological reflection.

What is essential?  What was simply accumulation that I didn't need after all?  What new ways of navigating will I discover? How will I be forced to pay attention during irritations and frustrations, and when trying to figure out how to get things good enough? 

I am certain that I'll have many little bumps as I continue to set up my phone in a way that syncs with my life. Hopefully, the phone will no longer crash.   Of the only true importance, how will this twist in the Lenten journey assist me in getting better in sync with God?  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday: Beginning again

And so it begins.  The holy season of Lent.

On Ash Wednesday, all day long, I will place ashes in the sign of the cross on people's foreheads, and say the words: Remember that you are dust.  To dust you shall return.

This may be the most spiritually and emotionally exhausting day of my year.  All day long, with people whom I love dearly, together we will remember that we will all die.  

It feels as if I am doing 200 or so little burial services today.

Today I recall the foreheads, those I have smudged with ashes on past Ash Wednesdays, of people I love who are now resurrected from the dust.

Dick.  Jamie.  Pat.  Andy.  Bill.  Mark.  George+.  Lin.  Marilyn.  So many more.

I will walk these forty days of Lent with the words of St. Benedict in my heart: 

Keep death ever before me.  


Always.  We begin again.

With generosity.  Reflecting on and tweaking my spiritual practices in order that I will be able to live more fully the days that God has given me.   

Where will God lead these forty days?