This week has been marked with our four-year-old learning how to pedal a bike with training wheels. The first day and the first tries were frustrating especially as he accidentally reversed his feet and brought the bike to a complete stop not knowing there were foot brakes on the new bike. I watched his face as he tried to push the pedals down. He was trying his very hardest and wanted to figure it out so badly.
Now more than ever, we are trying to figure out how to be community together, how to be family together, and how to be church together in a way that keeps each other safe. It is frustrating when technology doesn’t work and when we know that we will have to continue in this struggle for a longer period of time as we watch case numbers rise. It is a struggle to teach our brains new patterns. It is frustrating to continually create, innovate, and imagine each and every day.
Figuring it out is exhausting, but this struggle is teaching us not to take each other for granted. This struggle is teaching us to adapt and to believe in ourselves. This struggle is making us stronger.
Even before breakfast, our four-year-old was asking to get back to his bike. By the end of our time outside yesterday, he was able to do a loop without stopping. He woke up ready to confirm to himself that he had figured it out.
I pray that we will find that four-year-old confidence within us as we figure out new ways to be church and be community together.
Over the course of our e-learning, we found a lot of things that we could turn into new things. Used toilet paper rolls turned into binoculars. Use milk cartons turned into bird feeders. Pillows turned into rocks to jump through rivers of lava that were threatening the side of the boat which the ottoman turned into. Putting away laundry turned into trips to Mars, the Moon, and the Sun the laundry basket rocketship transporting us to the different destinations.
Creativity and imagination guided our learning and changed my eyes.
There is so much in the world and in our lives today that is limiting. We feel restricted because the life we use to know was taken from us quickly and swiftly. We feel angry that local leaders are telling us that we must wear masks in order to keep other people safe. We feel overwhelmed that the things we used to do like going out to eat or gather with friends and families now require risk assessment and the constant monitoring of our own bodies and our loved ones to see if those gatherings were dangerous.
In the midst of trying to manage so much, our creativity and imagination have been switched off. Our survival instincts are on full throttle.
It’s not until we reactivate our imaginations that we will be able to reimagine what life can be. It’s not until we access our creativity that we will be able to switch from being defensive about all the changes to seeing those challenges as invitations to experience a completely new way of life.
I remember the times when a letter of acceptance to college, a summer program, and a scholarship to teach overseas came in the mail. My heart started racing and my breath shortened because this was a doorway leading to a completely new experience.
So too is this time and this place a doorway, not a closed door. The question is will we step through to create a new scene, a new chapter, and a new story of what it means to be family and community together?
This week the pictures began to pop up on my social media feeds reminding me that it was just a year ago that I was commissioned as a spiritual director after a two-year certification program at Lutheran Southern Seminary. I was shocked to realize that it had only been a year since our last intensive when I had a baby in tow learning about the desert fathers and mothers for the last time in that kind of setting. Last June, I remember the greetings and the celebrations of being together. I remember everyone being surprised at the baby in my arms because the last time we had gathered I had been carrying her within me. It isn’t surprising then that this baby almost a year to the date would choose this week to finish nursing. Her whole life has been inextricably tied to this journey to become a spiritual director.
As I was looking back at pictures, I found myself also looking back at our coursework. The study of men and women who were looking for a deeper relationship with the Divine, not in search of answers but in search of wholeness. My journey was the same. I wanted to know more about what I didn’t know. I wanted to know more about how to walk intentionally and purposefully with people who were looking for healing and hope. I wanted to know more about this Divine breath that resides within my lungs.
Over the course of reflection, I looked back at the monastic daily prayer schedule. As I looked over the times, I looked at my phone calendar and realized, the times of prayer are awfully close to the times I have fed our baby over the last year. Perhaps there is something beyond coincidence to those parallel schedules. Perhaps much like an infant needs nourishment throughout the day, so too do our souls.
Perhaps there is something to humbling ourselves throughout the day remembering that we are not in control and we do not have the answers that provide our souls the nutrients they need to keep going. And perhaps after we have drawn close to the Divine, we find that the refreshment brings us much needed rest and peace.
May we listen to the cries of hunger from our souls and pause to give our souls nourishment throughout the day.
One of my favorite songs from a movie is from Mulan. The lyrics that always get to me are:
Who is this girl I see
back at me
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?
There have been more than a couple of times in my life that I have stared at my reflection in the mirror unsure if I recognized the person I was looking at or not. The most memorable for me was five days after our son was born. He had a traumatic entry into the world. I had a traumatic post-delivery twenty-four hours.
I looked at my reflection in the bathroom mirror after being helped into the shower and out of the shower wondering who was looking back at me. It’s one of those moments you don’t forget because you have been so changed by life and experience.
This week I have looked deeply into the mirror and into my reflection confessing, wondering, and hoping. Confessing that the very whiteness of my skin has granted me certain privileges while others have suffered. Wondering why I didn’t recognize that being in my very body, a body that society has privileged, has impacted the way I view the world and how I exist in the world. Hoping that the deep desire for justice and transformation can transform me.
Take a minute today to look at yourself deeply in the mirror. Who do you see staring straight back at you?
There are some spiritual practices I readily practice. Walking and wandering while reflecting and pondering are always life-giving. As I walk and wander, I pray for family, friends, and for our world that we would find a more peaceful and just way of being together. I am always so grateful that my job is to read, study, write, and create. These have always been very natural tendencies for me and to be able to answer a call that encourages and supports those habits is truly wonderful.
There are other spiritual practices I tend to push aside. They are not comfortable. They are not welcome in my life. And yet they are so very important in grounding me in my understanding again and again of my dusty nature. Prayers of confession have always made me jumpy. Even as I would say these prayers communally, I found myself trying to speed up the pace of the confession so that we could get through it and be done.
This past week, I have done a lot of confessing to God. I’ve confessed that I have been a part of the problem by telling myself that I didn’t enjoy a privileged life. I have been so focused on what I have had to overcome and work through that I didn’t stop to think that there were other parts of daily living that I never, ever had to worry about. I have told myself that I had to fight my own fight before I was ready to fight for others.
I have confessed this week that I have thought of every excuse and justification so that I wouldn’t have to admit to being a part of the problem. I have confessed that I feel lost and overwhelmed because the problem is so deep and so ingrained into our society, into our culture, and into our communities of faith that it seems impossible to change. I have confessed that I am scared and fearful of the voices and stories because I wanted to pretend that they weren’t true.
I have no doubt that I will do much more confessing. For now, I am thankful and grateful to bear witness to this good and holy and important work. May my confessing bring me to my knees, silence my mouths, so that I might listen, truly listen, and be a part of the change.
Yesterday, we took some time to go to Croft State Park. This was always a place that provided retreat and respite because it was so close to where I grew up. Also, I knew that this is where my grandfather was during World War II. There was even a desk from the administrative office at our family business growing up.
As we walked the trails by the lake, I found myself imagining what it was like a training camp. The number of soldiers who came to train in the woods or backwoods as some may call it. So much of the landscape and the foliage was familiar to me. It felt like my backyard, but to those soldiers coming from around the country, the heat and humidity and bugs must have been surprising.
I knew where we were going and I knew the significance in my own story of that place.
This is a significant point in our history personally, culturally, and societally. This is an invitation to stop and to decide how you are going to participate. What conversations are you going to have with your family? What conversations are you going to have with your kids?
In Exodus chapter 35, we find the reminder that when Jacob was fleeing for his life, God appeared to him and after God appeared to Jacob, he built an altar to remember that God appeared and that God was with him.
7 Jacob built an altar there and called it “God of Bethel,” because that was the place where God had appeared to him
How are you going to mark this time in a way that you will remember? What will you build to remember? This is indeed a remarkable time to be a part of history and to be a part of much-needed change. May God grant us strong memories to remember and courage to continue the work of change.
This week, I have been intentionally quieter here in this space. I have been reading. I have been listening. I have been lamenting. I have been asking for guidance.
All of these are practices that get pushed aside in the midst of the busyness of life. When something like the events of this week provokes the realization that I have benefitted from a system that has oppressed and silenced so many, my initial instinct is to deny that realization. I want to say that I’ve had my own fight to find my voice. I want to say I too have been silenced. I want to say I know how you feel.
But I don’t and to say these things overshadow the voices that need to be heard.
On one of our walks this week, the four-year-old unprompted said: “The kids want to help and when they do God will be proud of them.” Yes, I wanted to shout. Yes, we need a new generation of helpers. We need a new way of being and learning and growing together.
From these voices, from the kids, from these realizations, maybe just maybe, we will finally be able to create something new.
I dreamed of screams last night.
It’s just a dream I told myself.
But it wasn’t.
Last night the screams of justice were heard all across our country. These screams were followed closely by the screams of fear from people who were victims of tear gas and rubber bullets. Screams of citizens trying to make their voice heard and realizing that the system and government in America are going to fight back. Fight to continue to oppress. Fight to continue to hold power and control.
My screams turned to tears and sobs.
I dreamed of screams last night on Pentecost Monday when we remember the mighty rushing wind of the Spirit coming so that all may be free.
Come Mighty Spirit, carrying these screams to the heart of God and let justice roll down.
I dreamed of fire last night.
It’s just a dream I told myself.
But it wasn’t.
Last night fires raged with voices demanding justice all across our country. Fires that have been smoldering in the hearts and souls of those who have suffered every day in an unjust system. A system designed to benefit some and oppress most.
And some are surprised.
Surprised that there was this amount of suffering in our country, in our city. Surprised to come face to face with their privilege, their participation in a system that harms so many.
I dreamed of fire last night.
The night of Pentecost Sunday.
Come Spirit of Truth, burn within us the compassion to listen and courage to act to let justice roll down.
We are just days away from Pentecost, which marks the end of the fifty days of Eastertide. In the season of Eastertide, the church calendar follows the stories and journeys of the apostles who have received the Spirit of Truth and have preached this good news all over. This is where the story of the life, death, and resurrection spread so that we are still talking about it today.
If you follow the book of Acts, you’ll find that there is a pattern where Paul goes into the synagogue to teach and is the message of hope is received by the Jewish people. Then after a day or two, the Jewish leadership gets involved and they either run Paul out of town of beat and imprison him. This is when Paul is often taken in by a Gentile and the message of hope transforms whole households.
Our congregation was already studying Acts before the pandemic and before the Eastertide season began and now as we study together, I am amazed at how much we need these words. We need the hope of those first apostles. We need the courage of those first apostles. We need the imagination of those first apostles.
Because we are creating church together in the most unusual ways. We are spreading the message of hope to new communities in new ways. Thanks be to God for the Spirit of Truth that leads and guides us on our way.