An invitation

act-in-faith-not-fear(This reflection is on the readings for the day before Advent begins, the very last day of the liturgical year, and appears in Give Us This Day. Please see the end of the post for further details.)

Our world seems to run on the fuel of fear. Simply watching or reading the news can fill our tanks with enough anxiety-provoking material to keep us running for days. Work and family concerns, fretfulness over jobs and money, disquiet about health, and apprehension over other things can turn us into nervous wrecks. Constant worry is exhausting, and that exhaustion typically leads to more angst.

Jesus offers a clear warning that might be easy for anxious people to miss. Do we think we’re off the hook because we are not out “carousing” or getting drunk? Not so fast. It seems that the “anxieties of daily life” are on the watch list as well, and that is a net likely to catch many.

It could be easy to take Jesus’ words Continue reading

Accepting What Is #whynot

whynotOn January 1 I posted about new year’s resolutions and my general lack of them. Rather than making a list, I thought about reframing the idea of things that I could do with the question, #whynot?

So what does that have to do with accepting what is? Well, on the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, I was walking the dog. It was dark, but that is often the case. That night, while I was busy “kravitzing” (i.e. being nosy, like Gladys Kravitz) by looking at a neighbor’s house, I neglected to notice the depression made by a sewer grate. My foot went down, I lost my balance, and BOOM. I must have Continue reading

Planting Peace

l_hope_bwToday is the day that I celebrate each fall, a day that I designate as “Annual Acts of Hope Day.” I put it in purple because that is a color that just seems hopeful to me.  Today is the day when I will go out and plant about 100 bulbs in and around my yard. Planting bulbs is a “small s” sacrament to me!

bulb_daffodilHonestly, bulbs are one of my greatest joys. You take this dead looking thing, you dig a hole, you plant said dead looking thing into the hole, cover it with soil, then winter comes and freezes us all to bits and pieces, and you wait for something amazing to happen. Or maybe you even forget all about it and then something amazing happens months later…

idp-poster-07Today is also the International Day of Peace, as designated by the United Nations. In my mind, every day should be the international day of peace. *deep sigh*

Peace is not solely a matter of external acts, but of internal decisions. Peace is an intentional way of being. Now, my desire to follow Jesus and my inner dirty filthy hippie combine into wanting to make me all peace-positive all the time. That sounds great, but I know and God certainly knows, that I bring plenty of disturbance of peace all around me, within me and outside of me. Just ask anyone who lives or works with me! Peace is a very conscious and deliberate way of life. A way of life that I strive for, but that I fail at quite often. Very quite often.

So it seems to me that if I can go plant my bulbs, each one a prayer, I have some small shot at being peace today.  Here’s the rub… just like the “peace” that many of us long for, we are not too patient about “being” peace, and then waiting in joyful hope for that peace. At least that is how it works for me! Which is why the bulbs are such a tremendous reminder that peace requires hope. As with all things of God, dynamism is necessary, not any simple “if this, then that” binary equation. Oh, the bulbs may appear very “if this, then that,” but I don’t think that is the case.

Yes, the bulbs remind me that I throw these dead looking things into holes, and much, much later, something happens. Is peace any different? We put our peace into our hearts, sometimes the dark holes of our hearts. In what seems an inhospitable winter, something is happening, that dynamism again, the Spirit. Then almost without warning, we are astounded.422All those dead things into holes over the winter and then this? Not to mention, the many that return and multiply year after year?

And so it is with peace. Let’s plant those bulbs of peace in our hearts. With some patience and prayer, we might find ourselves surprised and delighted by the result. And like with the bulbs, our own hearts, we might put peace out, let it go, and see what blooms in God’s good time.

FAMS501BeTheChangeYouWishToSeeHow to be peace in the world? Respect yourself, but don’t elevate yourself. Smile. Say hello. Don’t expect the worst. Don’t suspect people of some awful thing. Say thank you. A lot. To others and to God, especially when God serves up what appears to be a big problem.

Oh, I don’t do this so well, but as with most blog posts, I’m talking to myself, out loud at that, and you can hear me.

Bonus peace prize: This past Easter, the retired pastor at the church where I work gave me a grocery store lily. It was not in great shape and I did not take care of it very well, if I am honest. (This is not a commentary on his generosity, which is legend, but simply on the condition of the lily!) In its almost deadness, Mark thought that we should plant it. I scoffed at first, but then he planted it and it perked up, giving us another flower in the late spring. It was not well cared for this summer, yet, this was taken this morning. The surprise of peace!


Hopeful pessimist or hopeless optimist? Thoughts on Ascension Thursday

tumblr_m2ac30GRU61r35gi7o1_500“May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call…” – Ephesians 1:18

A little lectio divina led me to savor this particular line of today’s Scripture, for Ascension Thursday. While I’m a little wistful that Easter draws to an end, I also find myself hopeful. Now I’ve been floundering around for something to say about my hope, and wouldn’t you know it, God pointed me to some words on the topic. Just yesterday, in the throes of my final floundering, I came across a post written by Bridget at Women in Theology, where she, among other things, reminds us of something very important:

“…hope is not optimism. In fact, in certain cases (I suspect most of the cases where it actually matters) optimism can be a vice opposed to hope. An optimist can discount and ignore evidence against her conviction that things will right themselves. An optimist is threatened by others’ pain. But someone acting in hope—the conviction not that things will right themselves, nor that we’ll be able to right them, but that God’s power will work to overturn whatever wrongs our systems can devise—that person can face pain. Without denying pain or being swept away by it, she can face her own and others’ suffering.”

Hope is not optimism. Do a little lectio with those words – they are most powerful!  I find this so helpful – and so hopeful, as I return to those words from Ephesians that open this post. I also appreciate that Bridget reminds us of the importance of language and of depth of reflection, something we can easily forget in the land of status updates and tweets, in the land of “optimistic opinionating” that social media can represent. (This is not a swipe at social media, without which there would be post today, but rather a call to reflection. Add to that a reminder that God uses all things for good – including social media, which provided the incubator for both this post and the WIT post that ultimately inspired it.)

Today my reflection, along with it my prayer, is to be anchored in hope and free from optimism. This does not make me a hopeful pessimist, any more than the opposite would be a hopeless optimist… although I can see the allure of the latter. No, it is the banality of optimism that I was reminded of at the last minute, and the power of great hope that grows out of faith.

Pentecost will arrive on Sunday, May 19. In these days in between, we await the Holy Spirit. What will your prayer be during this powerful time? Suddenly, my own prayer which was centered around the ways that I “hoped” that God would shape my life, has shifted. Today – at least just today, just this moment – pray that hope grows more deeply in my heart. If I am able to string my prayer of hope from moment to moment, and day to day, between now and Pentecost, who knows what will happen? Maybe, just maybe, the “eyes of my heart will be enlightened.” And to that I say, amen, and amen, and amen.

In the meantime, don’t just go staring at the sky, waiting for Jesus to come back down. Open your heart and notice Jesus all around you, especially in the most pessimistic of places and in the people you would never imagine finding Jesus is, but where Jesus might be found with the open eyes of a willing heart.