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On Creating Sanctuary

Over six months ago, churches all across the United States scrambled to answer the question, “How do we worship online?” We have fought and struggled with technology and with the Divine wondering when we would have to stop answer this question and when we could safely come back together.

I can remember distinctly the first Sunday of worship and the way I purposefully and intentionally created an outdoor chapel on our porch knowing that the signs of Spring blooming as a backdrop would serve as the perfect picture of hope in the midst of uncertain times.

Just two short weeks later, I discovered that the Columbia heat isn’t great for devices and that when they overheat, they just turn off abruptly stopping and cutting the connection not caring whether you were in the middle of preaching or not. This interruption led to creating an indoor chapel with my grandmother’s quilt draped over boxes for a makeshift altar and a painting of a cottage in the woods surrounded by flowers.

Now that the seasons are changing and the breeze is whispering of cooler weather and beautiful changes, I am asking the Divine to help me create again. I am searching our home for inspiration asking myself not how to we worship online, but rather how do we create sanctuary?

On Noticing

One of the ways that we find reconnect our body and our souls and get them back in communion is to notice. It sounds like a simple thing and it is, but we are so busy moving from one thing to another that we often forget to notice.

When I woke up this morning, I noticed some pain and soreness. I noticed that my right hamstring, the one that has always given me trouble since that one time I overtrained after a half marathon, was sore. I noticed that I had some soreness in my core where I did some work to yesterday to strengthen my core after carrying and caring for babies. I noticed that I didn’t have the heaviness under my eyes that I have had so many mornings. I noticed that it was later and that the children had slept a little longer.

My noticing turned into gratitude for rest for the children and relief from the heaviness under my eyes. My noticing turned into plans to take my run a little slower today to not strain my hamstring anymore. My noticing turned into thankfulness for the time in the mornings to not rush to school, but to be present in the new day’s light.

Noticing reminds us that we are not just a mind. Noticing reminds us that we are not just a physical body. Noticing gives space for our souls to speak to us and to bring us into the new day with intention, reflection, and gratitude.

Opening Up to a New Day

This morning as we started out for our walk, we came across this in the bed beside our house.  I had seen the hopeful signs that we might get just one more bloom before the summer ended and overnight, out it bloomed!

By the time we returned from our walk, the bloom looked just a little bit different. Can you see it? The opening of the center?

Isn’t it interesting how a little morning light can open us to the new possibilities and to receiving warmth and energy for the day? Isn’t it interesting how stopping and looking and practicing that each morning can remind us that each day is a new day?

These are disciples and practices that center and ground us reminding us that we are not alone and that we are connected to the daylilies and to the world around us. Thanks be to God for little whispers of the Divine all around us.

Molding Communion Bread

Last week, I went to the church for my weekly check of the building. On my list was organizing the non-perishable food donations that were collected through porch drops in order to pack bags for our neighbors in need. Also on my list was checking messages, checking the mail, and something I had been avoiding for weeks, cleaning out the refrigerator.

Mainly I didn’t want to be reminded of that refrigerator filled with food for after worship, fifth Sunday fellowships I didn’t want to be reminded of the Sunday baked goods that would serve as our Wednesday Bible study snacks. I didn’t want to see that moldy communion bread I was sure was in there.

But it was time.

When I opened the refrigerator, I found what I expected: moldy communion bread, moldy potato salad from our last fellowship meal, and stale baked goods. I couldn’t hold back the tears that came. The way we get together, the way that we are church together, and the way that we help our neighbors in need has all changed so drastically in such a short period of time. While I was sad, I also was overwhelmed with gratitude for a congregation who is committed to keeping each other safe and committed to continue to worship virtually until it is safe for ALL of us to come together in person.

I tossed the communion bread in the trash. Sometimes communion bread is blueberry poptarts, sandwich bread, or whatever else we can find in our own homes. As I walked out, I saw the food items piled up ready to be distributed to those who are hungry and thought, “Oh wait…that’s our communion. We are offering food in the form of peanut butter, granola bars, and soup to those who are most in need right now. We are offering the miracle of Jesus’ body and blood by recognizing the great need that surrounds us in these uncertain times.”

This do in remembrance of me.

Entering Eastertide: Waking Up

I am always struck that the women go to check the tomb and attend to the body of Jesus “at early dawn.” Just as the world is starting to wake up, they are starting to wake up to the miracle that Christ has risen.

I have to be honest with two young children who often wake up “at early dawn,” I often don’t have my heart and mind ready to receive miracles. Mostly, I am ready just to receive coffee and lots of it!

In the monastic tradition, morning prayers are often uttered before dawn breaks and before you break fast to consume food. The implication here is that the first thing we do when we rise is offer a prayer to realign our minds and hearts to the light of Christ.

O Sun of Justice, Jesus Christ, dispel the darkness in our hearts. Til our blessed light makes nightime flee and brings the joys of day to me.

Perhaps in the midst of these uncertain times, the darkness of the night has followed you into the day. Perhaps the weariness of not enough rest has lingered on your shoulder and in your back all day.

Let us remember to realign our hearts and minds to the light and hope of the Resurrected Christ.

Entering Eastertide: Pouring Out

Since we have more time in the mornings, I have switched my coffee from a Keurig to a French Press. It takes longer to fix a cup of coffee, but it’s so much better. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time, but there just wasn’t time in the rush of packing lunches, getting clothes on, and getting into the car.

This has been one of my favorite aspects of this new life. There isn’t a morning rush.

Yesterday I was talking to our four-year-old about what his teachers had sent for the day and he said, “It’s ok mom, there’s time.”

There’s time.

Sometimes it seems all there is, is time.

There’s time for a pouring out of freshly brewed french press coffee. There’s time to linger over the breakfast table and lunch table and dinner table. There’s time for one more chapter at night. There’s time for the extra loop on the walk.

For this Eastertide blessing of pouring out and time, thanks be to God.

Eastertide Grief

I can remember when it was finally time to share that our Eastertide secret pregnancy wasn’t going to be one filled with hope and new life, but grief. I can remember the gasp of joy as I shared with my congregation that we were pregnant and the gasps of grief as I shared that we miscarried.

Since that season, Eastertide will always have a tinge of grief in it. It seems strange for this season (the one where we know that death has been overcome) should be clouded by grief. And yet, maybe this year we know this more truly and more deeply than we ever have before.

We hope and then we see the reminder of the number of people who have lost their lives and hear predictions that those numbers will be even higher.

We find courage and then we see the rate of employment reach records we haven’t seen since the Great Depression.

We find calling and then we see food banks with lines that are two to three hours long and people waiting only to find out that there is not enough food.

Maybe this Eastertide, we lament and grieve together. Maybe our voices can join in crying out “Why, God, why?”

Life and death side by side all through Eastertide.

Maybe life becomes clearer when death is close by.

Maybe life and death residing together draw us closer to the One who has experienced both.

 

 

 

Entering Eastertide: Waking Up

I was recently asked by someone if I feel more tired or less tired than when things were opened and we were moving from one place to another. I had to take a minute to think about that. Am I more tired? Is it more difficult to wake up?

More and more we are hearing reports and suggestions that it is time to think about how we are going to continue in this new reality for the next twelve to eighteen months. We are being asked again and again to wake up to this new reality whether we are ready or not.

At our house, this happens pretty often still. With a four-year-old who dreams vividly and a fifteen-month who is teething like crazy, there are many nights and early mornings where my partner or I wake up when we aren’t quite ready to get up yet.

That’s what this feels like to me. It feels like we are waking up to the idea that our way of life has changed, our culture has changed, and the way we raise our children is different. We are waking up, again and again, remembering that nothing is as it was.

We are waking up to the truth that there are healthcare professionals and people who are willing to give their lives to save other people. We are waking up to the very best in humanity and sometimes the very worst.

And while we are waking up, we are discovering how strong and how resilient we are. May God grant us the rest we need when we need it and the peace we need as we wake up again and again.

 

Entering Eastertide: Water to Drink

The Governor of South Carolina’s announcement that some non-essential businesses would be allowed to reopen as well as some beaches on Monday sits in juxtaposition to his announcement today that schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year. If you like it’s hard to tell which direction we are heading in and whether we are getting closer to a new normal or are really far from it, you are not alone.

I can remember running my first half marathon stateside. I was running with my sister-in-law and good friend. It was a half marathon and a full marathon and as we passed the turn for the marathoners to go one way and the half marathoners to go another way, I can remember that we looked at each other and said, “We should have definitely done the full. We’ll do that next time.” That was six miles in and by the time we all hit mile ten, we realized there was no way that we could have run the full marathon.

Is this where you are? Do you feel like you signed up for a 5K with two weeks of homeschooling and work from home and then realized that you were actually signed up for a marathon?

That’s how it feels to me and I have to admit that I am tired and thirsty from this journey so far and I have no idea how much longer we are going to have to keep going.

I can’t help but wonder if this is the very same feeling the people of God had in the middle of the wilderness journey. We hear their complaints to Moses and to the Divine even though the Divine was providing their daily bread and even though the Divine was walking with them every step of the way.

The people of God had the same complaint about thirst and fatigue in the midst of their journey. In chapter 17 in Exodus, the Lord tells Moses:

‘I’ll be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. You are to strike the rock and water will come out of it, so the people can drink.’

Take drink the word of the Lord that promises that the Divine is with you as you walk this journey.

Entering Eastertide: New Roads

On our daily walks, we have been entertained with the construction crew who has been repaving our road. First, they had to scrap down the road that had been previously laid down. A process called skimming, which we found out about because of a kind worker who was willing to explain this process to my four-year-old. For almost a week, the road sat skimmed and bumpy. We have two skinned knees to document that phase.

As we walked on that bumpy road I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Is this all they are going to do? Is this the final product because I think what we had before was better than this.”

It has taken two more weeks to put down the new road, but when we walked on it the difference was noticeable in the way the stroller’s wheels glided smoothly along the surface. It was a smoothness you can feel in your knees and joints.

I was thinking about how if we had been in “normal times” I would have been annoyed by how long it was taking for the road to be repaved because we would have been in our car running back and forth to here and there. We would have waited as they allowed one lane of traffic by. We would have been inconvenienced.

But these non-normal times have allowed us to look closely at the way new roads are made. First, what was there has to be scraped away leaving a rocky, bumpy surface. Isn’t this where we are now as we are sheltering in place trying to figure out how to be connected, how to learn, and how to work?

We are waiting for the new road. We are waiting for what will be created. We are waiting for the smooth surface.

This is not an easy process. We watched as the asphalt was poured into the paver and how that asphalt was heated to a temperature so hot that steam rose into the sky. Then the roller came pressuring the asphalt into place. And finally, the brusher truck came to brush away all of the tiny pieces of asphalt that didn’t make it into the new road.

Certainly, there is heat and pressure in our circumstances. This is not easy. Creating new life never is, but now that I have walked on the nice smooth road, I don’t want to go back to the makeshift road we had.

May God grant us patience to wait and strength to transform into something new in the midst of all the heat and pressure.