The Treasure of Lent

The word ‘treasure’ has been showing up in my morning readings; from different places, in different context. It finally catches me, slows me down enough to notice and ask:

What treasure does God have for me, long for me to accept?
What treasure lies in Lent for me this year?
What treasure lies in me?

And I wonder, what if I create a Treasure Box for Lent?  With paints and glued-on plastic hearts and maybe some buttons, and fabrics and ric-rac trim.  And maybe secret away little notes on scrappy pieces of paper in the box as Lent reveals her treasures.

“Is that okay?” I ask myself.  “To walk into this time before Easter with more a notion of creating something fun than sacrifice?


Then, as eagerly as I ran to find the cigar box that I have had stashed away in my art supplies, ‘the achiever’ showed up all worried, just like when I am choosing the next blank-paged journal, that it might not be the right box? Asking performance questions about if I should or could finish it by a made-up deadline of Ash Wednesday?

“What is wrong with me,” I think. “Have I so quickly fallen into the trap of accomplishment without even the slightest glance and allowance for the process? Don’t you remember that God is more in the process business than outcome?”

“Go easy,” I hear. “It is the creating and discovery with God in the unknown that reveals the treasure.”

And so, I begin.  And invite you too, to listen for what might guide you from the grip of thinking (too much). What art, song, dance, sport might loosen sometimes-strident, merit-based ideas of faith and move us towards the gentler wonder and mystery of the unknowing, the un-thought? The yet-to-be-created, the undiscovered?  To listen for and explore how you might be called to discover your treasure of Lent.

“I am the Treasure, and the Glory of My Presence glistens and shimmers along the way.” – Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

“Lead us to the heart of life’s treasure that we may be bearers of the gift.” – Sounds of the Eternal, A Celtic Psalter by John Philip Newell

* Just a little note of support: It is never too late to begin a practice of prayer and play; to not put too hard of a deadline on yourself to start, do, finish, accomplish. Each day is a new beginning, and each response of the heart is a sacred journey.

More Art than Reason

I’m beginning to believe it is going to be art, not reason, that will save us. And by us I mean all of us.

Not a side, or tribe, or politic or country. But saved from the collective fear that has stolen our ideals of freedom, justice, equality, and most of all humans caring for one another.

If we were to accept that we have but one face, as children of God, then fear fades…like when you meet your first person of different color or religion or sexual preference and discover your coworker, fellow student, or friend-of-a-friend, retreatant or person sitting at the other end of your pew isn’t so bad, or different, after all.

One face that we all recognize as our own, and hopefully with the compassion and compass of more art than reason.

Roque Dalton’s “Like You”
A poem and a poet from El Salvador,
and shared by Hannah Atkins

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-
blue landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.
I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.

Tipping Point

Briargrove Park, Houston

Kaboom. It sounded like large objects being tossed into a construction dumpster; a not so unfamiliar sound for us since we are still in construction here on Chevy Chase.

I ran to look out my kitchen window. I saw a US Mail truck laying on it’s side in the intersection of my corner lot. People were already running to the site. I got my husband and we ran outside. The mailman, not our usual carrier I noted, was sitting upright on the curb; blood was running down his stiff arm; a lady stood nearby. I ran back inside to get a comforter because I remembered hearing on TV that people in shock need to be kept warm, and surely it was quite the shock for him; being suddenly hit and tipped over like that in a tiny, more-toy-looking-than-not mail truck.

I gingerly placed the colorful comforter around his legs. He smiled with a mix of gratitude and bewilderment. Yep, he was shook up. He said, “Thank you. I’m all shaky.” I looked him in the eyes and answered with calm available as an observer, not victim, “Well yes, you took quite a hit, but you’re ok.” He smiled more, nodded, as I add, “I bet that was scary but you’re okay. You’re okay. I’ll sit here beside you. Not too close but with you.” They also say on TV, with arms wide-spread like the NBA’s Jason “the Jet” Terry when he drained an impressive three, “Give them room. Give them room for air.”

I noticed the lady on the other side of him, calmly rubbing his back. I looked around; someone was making the necessary calls to 911. I began noticing more of the familiar faces of my neighborhood, some like my corner neighbors I knew by name; others more by: he’s the jogger, she’s the one with that cute little dog, there’s my driveway neighbor in her cute pink sweat pants, holding her baby boy who just turned 5 months old.

Then, a man wearing a light parka and with small child in red-wagon tow, offered the mailman his filled-to-the-brim with ice and water metal mug, saying, “Do you want a drink of water? I don’t have anything contagious.” The mailman accepted, but I could see by his small sips that it was disappointingly not stopping his shaking. But he kept on smiling, and seemed to begin figuring out that he really was going to be okay, and that people were gathering and taking care of him. “You all are being so nice to me,” he said. “I really really appreciate it.”

Someone chuckled a bit and asked if he had delivered his mail to his house before this happened. Everyone laughed, including the mailman who then seriously reported, “I was all done for the day except for a couple of packages to deliver to Ella Lee.” I offered to take them down there but again he smiled, and said, “I don’t think they’d like that.”  “Oh yeah, that’s right,” I told myself.

The nice lady and I pulled his jacket a bit higher and up around his shoulders and someone asked, “Should you call your boss?” “Oh, yeah,” he laughed a bit, “but my phone’s in the truck.” One of the guys, just like a Boy Scout, jumped to action and bolted up, then down into the now-vertical vehicle and began looking for his phone and keys. We watched through the windshield as he sifted through the tumble of mail and shelving and paper cups scattered and piled up on the paved street, reminding me of a carnival claw reaching for fluffy toys. Eventually he found the phone, and the mailman made his calls.

It was about then that the fire truck and ambulance showed up, silent running as we don’t want the neighborhood to be too disturbed I suppose. The EMS began attending the mailman and I noticed for the first time the driver of the big, black SUV that had hit the small mail truck. No one was talking with her or checking on her as she tentatively strolled on the other side of the intersection.

There was light chatter, sprinkled with levity that comes after excitement enough to get us out of the house but not so bad as to being terrible, with questions about what happened? One neighbor reported that, “She was driving way too fast and ran the stop sign. Can you believe how loud it was?” One of the firemen said, “This happens all the time. These mail trucks get hit and tip over a lot,” to which someone responded, “They need to be driving Hummer’s.” Yeah right, I think, most people want to eliminate our mail system all together; we will hardly fund a bigger, safer truck.  And some of us nodded, awkwardly confessing to having also missed a stop sign before, and added, “It’s easy to do, but she was going way too fast.”

I overheard the EMS person asking him, “Are you supposed to go to the hospital when you get into an accident? Is that what the post office wants you to do?” He answered, “I don’t know, this has never happened to me before.” We looked at one another, “Good answer.”

While the guys stood around, I heard them talking about how we have to take care of our mailmen and our neighborhood, and one said, “We haven’t had this much excitement since Harvey, and all the water, and watching Joe’s dog swim down the street. I again noticed the woman from the SUV. She was coming in for a closer look. I noticed too that I was kind of mad at her. I didn’t want to talk to her. I reached out anyway and asked, “Are you okay?” She said yes, but not with any invitation to continue our conversation as she walked away.

They put the mailman in the ambulance. The fire truck left. The police and eyewitnesses gathered across the street to do whatever they have to do, and the rest of us went back inside to our warm, cozy little mostly ranch-style homes.

The next morning I woke up early, couldn’t sleep; made tea while looking out my window to the corner where there was little evidence, save a slight oil stain, of all the excitement the day before. I thought about the mailman. I thought about how everyone came running out; curious, yes, but also wanting to help. I thought about how much I love my corner, my neighbors, and I love my neighborhood; and how we are a mini-model of the natural design and goodness of humans.

People need purpose.
The lady wanted to sit with him, gently touching his back. I wanted to offer a blanket and sit beside him on the curb with lightness and assurances that he was okay. A man shared his Yeti. Another fished the mailman’s phone and keys from the sideways truck (not as easy as one might think). People ran to the scene to help. Just like Harvey; just like we always do when we think someone might be in trouble.

People need community.
We came out of our homes and talked about our love of our mailman, by name, and our community. It became jovial once the level of damage was ascertained as minimal, but a brief hush hung over us when someone talked about how bad it would have been if someone had been walking close by when it happened. We collected and showed up in the concern and love of our community. It was almost palpable.

People need to understand what went wrong.
We asked questions about how it happened. This is what we humans do, or at least want to ask when hearing news of a death, or accident, or illness. We want to know what happened as if somehow connecting the cause and effect can prevent the same thing from happening to us, or a loved one.

I used to be apologetic for wanting to know why and how in the aftermath of bad news, but I am beginning to believe that it’s practically built into our DNA to want to figure it out, how it works or doesn’t. It’s natural that we want to know and plan and protect as if the random events of life can be figured out like numbered doors on The Price Is Right: Door #1 is a birthday cake, Door #2 a boat, but for heaven’s sake don’t pick Door #3 because behind that is a fast-moving car running stop signs.

We all know life is not like that, not three doors, not neat guaranteed agreements of behavior and consequences. And that we can know, and plan, and yet life still brings on what life brings. We can plan but we are not in control. But yesterday I was reminded that some things are dependable and predictable and lovely, like neighbors responding to a crash. And today as I remember the excitement on my corner, I wonder that I might consider it to be a mini, personal tipping point and invitation to broaden my boundaries and sense of community.

I do love my neighborhood.

Wash me over with Love

Where dust and grime has collected under years of neglect,
not noticed
Wash me over with Love

Where too parched a land has cracked, deep crevices exposing
deeper pain
Wash me over with Love

Where withered limb bends low close to breaking, nearly touching
the shadow of itself
in separation
Wash me over with Love

Where imagination has all but dried up after too many disappointments in itself
and its reflection
Wash me over with Love

Where histories harden hearts thirsty for recognition
and re-writes
Wash me over with Love

Where storybook pages turn yellow and crackling brittle from
not being turned and read
Wash me over with Love

Where clay river bottoms draw dry, no longer with purpose
of transport or host to fishes
Wash me over with Love

Water always runs to its lowest level;
naturally seeking and serving
the driest and thirstiest of me.
It is the last place of puddle that is filled first
when it rains again.
Wash me over with Love

Thin Light of the Season

This entry was originally posted near the third anniversary (now sixth) of my sister’s leaving. I offer it here as a meditation on what grief might look like for some in this season of preparing.

Thin Light of the Season by Theresa Wyatt Prebilsky

This is what I know (for now) about grief:

Grief is not proprietary.
Grief can not be compared.
All grief needs notice and attention and care.
And, grief never ends – we only stop crying out loud.

Yesterday, I cried out loud. I cried alone. I cried out to others. I marched out my mindful prayers, but my heart felt too broken to heal.

That’s how faith looks sometimes.

But this morning, even though sadness lingers like weakness after a fever has broken, self-pity has eased.  My spirit leads me to my Bible and invites me to enter the familiar reminders of God’s presence and love; my heart is softened.  I welcome the mystical way of God’s Word finding me by spirit, and how automatically this well worn book falls open to heavily bookmarked and underlined pages.

“The Lord is with you.”

My heart begins to open wide, then wider, and my eyes land on what feels suited for the pain in my heart and this hope in my God. Yet, as right as they seem, I crouch with whispered apologies to invisible critics who might condemn me for claiming Mary’s words as my own solace. I cower but push on and repeat and embrace them in this season of preparing.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.”

I hear them, and I repeat them. I know that yesterday I could not have walked into their spirit, but today they bring my heart into gratitude, focus, clarity, and the simplicity of purposeful relationship with God.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.”

In these, there is no room for wallow or wonder about what has gone, is no more, or what might yet leave. They elicit no invitation to define, declare or deliver a set of petitions or defects to the Lord. They ask me to reply in the fullness of being one of God’s, loved by God, remembered by God, accompanied by God. Abandonment is banished, or at least tempered by, “The Lord is with you.”

What glorious compassion and companioning love comes in the echo of Mary’s words, coming in the morning after merciful sleep has loosened some of the worst of the strangleholds of dogged grief. I am grateful for the healing time that has been purchased by another night and day, and find that a surprisingly authentic response of “I love you” comes like breathing out after in, dawn after dark and life after leaving.

I rejoin Nature’s rhythm and way with fullness of heart, and pray again, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.”

Yes, sadness lingers, but I can see again the thin light of the season. It draws me again to grounded gratitude and service.

15 Minutes Of Love

I have been invited to practice 15 minutes of Love a day, now and until Christmas. The only requirement is to pause, step into stillness, and focus on Love for a short time away from the flurry and distraction of a busy season. And my busy mind.

During this time, I am choosing a very simple practice called Centering Prayer – focusing on the word love as it reflects for me the essence of what I belief God to be; then, gently re-centering a hundred-thousand times if necessary back to the word. My intention is to simply call on and breath in love for the sake and goodness of Love, without expectation of what I might gain or accomplish in my practice or attitude.

… just sit with Love for 15 minutes a day.

There are many different and colorful routes to prayer and meditation. I invite you this season to follow a practice that makes sense to you, and leads you into Love. And in this, I believe we get to experience being One beyond our practice, and ourselves.

May love meet you in your moments, now and always.

Welcome to this space – a gathering place for the mind, body and soul.