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Entering Eastertide: Rest

On our morning walk yesterday, our four-year-old looked at me and said: “Mama, my feet just can’t go anymore.”

I knew exactly the feeling he was describing. The weight of loss and grief combined with the severance from community is exhausting right now. Not to mention the additional responsibilities of trying to work and homeschool and care for children. The allowances that were given to people working from home in regards to presence and performance have disappeared as businesses start opening only perpetuating the exhaustion we feel.

“We can’t continue like this.” Behind those words, I hear fatigue and loss and loneliness.

This is soul talk.

When words like these come from our mouths, our souls are trying to get our attention. Our brains have not been able to solve or change or control our circumstances. We have been continuing to live like this much longer than we expected. We hear the news that we may have to continue to live like this for longer.

And so our souls cry out for rest. Some way to rest and replenish so that we may receive the strength to do the very thing we don’t think we can do any longer.

But how do we find soul rest?

It may be reading a good book, taking a nap, listening to hymns, talking to a good friend, or worshipping virtually with a community of faith. During this unusual season, I am finding my soul is reminding me of things she has always loved. I didn’t remember how much I loved watching birds until we saw two pileated woodpeckers on our walk. I didn’t remember how much I loved baking until I had time to be home and smell pumpkin bread and chocolate chips cookies being created in the oven.

Souls are tricky to find. They hide beneath other voices that have raised us and tried to train us into compliance. Souls also ask for the strangest things like guitar lessons or a new set of pants or a certain type of pen.

Practicing deep breathing with your hand on your heart and the other hand on your core is a great place to start to give your soul room to breathe and rest.  When we do give this time and space, our souls become less camouflaged and more insistent with their needs.

Your soul is trying to speak to you. Your soul needs rest.

Grant us the time and space to replenish our souls we pray O God, Amen. 

Entering Eastertide: Losing Connection

Since there are so many people who are working from home in addition to having children who are home trying to do schoolwork, there are several times throughout the day that we lose internet connection. This connection is important for uploading school videos as well as the work my partner and I do.

As I thought about what a frustration it is to lose connection especially in the middle of uploading something, I thought this is a pretty good representation of where we all are now. We have lost connection.

We have lost connection to our families because we are trying to keep those in our families who are most vulnerable safe. We have lost connection to our school communities. Now those times catching up with someone in carpool line seem so very important. We have lost connection to our church communities as we miss those conversations we had before worship and after worship.

In so many ways, connection was easy because we were in the same place at the same time. To be sure, we missed opportunities to connect and check on each other, but at other times that connection was so strong that it was almost visible.

This is the hardest work we are going to have to do in this new normal. We are going to have to find ways to reimagine connection. Ways that keep us safe, but also that ground us and wrap us in a web of belonging.

Holy Spirit, connect us to each other in surprising and mysterious ways. Amen.

Entering Eastertide: A New Normal

Here in South Carolina, stores and restaurants are opening back up. If you drive the same routes you used to drive, you can pretend for just a minute that it is “back to normal.” There are many places and people not requiring masks and social distancing guidelines are proving difficult to enforce when there are small spaces and so many people who are ready to be back in the world again.

Even as much as I want to be “back to normal,” there is a whispering within me that suspects we won’t go back. Life never really does go backwards does it? It pushes us forward into new experiences and new normals again and again.

I hear this a lot from people who are grieving. It’s the waking up to the new normal without a loved one, without a job, without a marriage that is the most difficult. It’s the waking up to the new normal that causes you to confront what you have lost.

We are grieving after a traumatic experience. We are wanting and wishing to find equilibrium because we as a people always seek balance and predictability. If you find yourself trying to get “back to normal” only to be confronted with the reality that there is nothing normal right now, you are not alone. We are all trying to adapt and adjust to living with a virus strand that caused a global pandemic.

As much as we want to get “back to normal,” let us work together to create a new normal where we can live and work together without endangering each other of the people we love.

Entering Eastertide: Dazed and Confused

In the book of Acts the story of the ascension of Jesus goes like this:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But yc; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

I love the ending of this passage. The disciples are looking up dazed and confused as to what they have just seen when all of the sudden two figures clothed in white robes ask them why they are looking up. During Eastertide, we follow the stories of Jesus appearing after the resurrection to many different people and then the story ends with the promise of another who will help the disciples tell this story.

If you stop to think about what they have experienced for just a moment, you will realize the disciples are in shock. They have watched their leader whom they have followed for three years be crucified and buried. They have run in fear hoping the authorities decided not to round up those who followed him and give them the same fate. They have waited and grieved and prayed.

Then the stories of the resurrection met their ears. They stood by with hope and then Jesus appeared in their midst as they were gathered together and they celebrated. They rejoiced and wondered what this meant. They listened as he told them the stories of the scriptures.

Then he was gone, taken up in cloud. They gazed up listening and wondering what this all meant and where they were supposed to go from here.  Then they heard the message from the men clothed in white, “Move on, there’s work to do.” So many emotions in such a small amount of time. They were dazed and confused. Not sure really what to do next.

This is a pretty good description of the last six weeks for me as well. The wide range of emotions I have felt from one day to the next often leaves me feeling dazed and confused wondering what to do next, wondering what to feel next, wondering what will come next.

Maybe the promise of Jesus here to his disciples is the same promise for us:

you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you

You will receive power to take that next step, to do the next step and to be the witness of the way God continues to dwell among us.

Come Holy Spirit come. Awaken us again.

Entering Eastertide: Tangled Up

Eastertide has always been a jumble of emotions. We bask in the good news that Christ is Risen and yet we know that Christ is about to leave again. It’s a tangle of hope and waiting and wondering.

I don’t know about you, but that’s kind of like life right now. My four-year-old brought me this tangled up compilation of toys asking me if I could get the yoyo out. I looked at it for just a moment before I thought, “Yes. This is what life feels like right now. All tangled up.”

Each day can move so quickly from being calm and present to being scared and anxious. We are living and yet we are also constantly asking ourselves how much longer do we need to live like this. We are hoping for a new life.  A life where there is testing and answers and something resembling our old life at least just a little bit. But we don’t know when that will be and we don’t really know what that will look like.

It’s all tangled up.

When I started trying to free the yoyo, I realized I had to first take out the Santa Claus and then I had to get the stethoscope free. When we start listening to ourselves, our hearts, this is kind of what we find. We start looking for peace and find our fear. We start looking for joy and find our disappointment. We start looking for hope and find helplessness. It can be daunting to try to search ourselves to find the yoyo that has been dictating our days.

This untangling, this time of pulling things out and looking at them is so very important to caring for ourselves and giving our souls time to breathe. Move slowly and gently. We may be tangled up right now, but that tangle is all of us in one place just waiting to be guided to freedom.

Entering Eastertide: Slowing Down

One of our four-year-old’s activities yesterday was to do a movement activity of the life cycle of a butterfly slow and then fast. He loved it. He especially loved demonstrating just how slowly he could move. I found myself wanting to speed him up. There were other activities to get to. He wouldn’t move until he had gone just as slowly as he could.

It made me think of all the mornings I would ask him to hurry up as we were trying to get on shoes, gather lunches and backpacks, and get out the door.  Now, we don’t have to hurry. Now, we can slow down and yet I still find myself wanting to hurry the day along.

I’m not alone. I know there are so many people who want to hurry along this idea of staying at home. I know there are so many who want to “get back to normal”. Some days it even feels like we are stuck in a slow-motion version of a life we used to live.

But what if we are trying to hurry back to what was because there is a piece of us that knows that life we used to live isn’t going to be there anymore? The virus hasn’t disappeared nor the risk of becoming sick. What if in our hurry we are trying to convince ourselves that the massive amount of change and grief we have experienced isn’t there?

As I watched his four-year-old body moving from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly, I thought yeah I would like to fly and be free right now. But you can’t become a butterfly without the stillness and silence of the chrysalis. New life is coming, but metamorphosis takes time.

May Creator God grant your stillness and peace during this transformative Eastertide.

Saving Celebrations

As the morning dawned, the women who had prepared spices two days earlier, the day that Jesus died hurried to the tomb. They had saved this act of remembering the life of the one they loved to observe the sabbath. In my mind, they spent that day in exhausted rest. The kind that can only come when hope is dashed and miracles don’t prevent death from taking someone we love.

As they near the tomb, they find the stone rolled away, but they don’t understand what has happened until a Divine messenger asked them to remember the words Jesus uttered when he was with them. The words they didn’t understand at the time. The words they didn’t want to hear at the time. The words, “I will die and rise again.”

I keep mulling over this call to remember because it’s the remembering that causes the women to see that resurrection is possible. It’s the remembering that ignites their imaginations to dream of new life.

Last week, I celebrated a birthday. We sang, ate cookies, and enjoyed deliveries from family members while connecting via Facetime or Marco Polo. So many people responded saying, “When you get to really celebrate after this is all over…” or something along those lines.

I’m not saving celebrations for “when this is all over.” The death of our old life has been a tremendous loss and will continue to be. Grief never really leaves us, but without the death of the old life, we can’t remember the words of promise of new life.

I’m not saving celebrations for a different time and a different place because my birthday occurred here in the midst of the chaos. Our daughter took her first steps here in the midst of the turmoil. These are major events, markers in how this pandemic impacts everything.

I’m not saving celebrations because I need to celebrate in the here and now not with disappointment that I can’t celebrate a certain way or in a certain place but instead imagining how we can celebrate in this new life.

Leaning Into Lent: Transitioning

Each morning after we wake up and have breakfast, we change into clothes to get ready for our day and then take a walk around our neighborhood. It’s our time of transitioning from home to “school”. The same type of transitioning we used to find in our drive to school.

Yesterday, the governor of South Carolina announced that our schools would be closed throughout the month of April as well. Many states have announced that schools are closed for the remainder of the school year. All of these are indicators that we are transitioning.

We are transitioning to a new way of life. This is difficult and tiring work.

Just as we are transitioning into new routines, new work, and new ways to connect and be community together, so too are we transitioning into a new season around us.

May the Divine open your eyes, allowing you abundant grace for this season of transitioning.

Leaning Into Lent: Finding Light

For all of the Lenten season in which I have pastored, I have always challenged my congregants to resist the temptation to skip the darkness to find the light. I have asked them instead to sit in the darkness and to contemplate why it is so difficult for us to sit in darkness and why the darkness makes us so uncomfortable.

This Lenten season is different.

We are experiencing new things and change at such a rapid pace. I think this Lenten season the invitation for all of us is to see the darkness. See the changes that are rapidly surrounding us. See the way these changes and this upending of our “normal” is having an impact on our physical selves as well as soul selves.

And as we see the darkness, see also the light. See that around us there is still new life blooming. See the people who are creating content for children and families who are out of school and who are in a new normal. See the companies whose CEOs are giving up their salaries to try and support the workers they have had to lay off. See the companies that are shifting to provide things like hand sanitizer. See the way people are not going out and who are social distancing in order to give the most vulnerable in our population.

See the light in the midst of the darkness. The Spirit is still moving and God is still speaking.

Leaning Into Lent: Walking in the Wilderness

To be sure the events of the last week have overwhelmed so many of us. Every day things are changing. Events are being canceled. School schedules are changing. We are all walking in the wilderness of a new way of life.

Walking in the wilderness began our Lenten journey with the story of Jesus being tempted there. Walking in the wilderness continues our Lenten journey as we go back to the people of God in the wilderness after escaping slavery in Egypt. The change in our day-to-day activities is asking us to adjust rapidly and think of how our decision to be present may be perpetuating a virus that can hide sometimes for as long as fourteen days. The change in our day-to-day activities is asking us to trust in something bigger than ourselves.

Perhaps you didn’t mean to find yourself in the wilderness even in the middle of Lent. Perhaps you don’t want to be in the wilderness of uncertainty of a virus that is spreading all around you. Perhaps you don’t want to be in the wilderness of social distancing. Wilderness walking always challenges always frustrates and almost always reveals our hunger and thirst for food and water, but also for the safety and security of control.

May you rest in the assurance in the midst of this wilderness walking that you are not alone. The same God that walked with God’s people in the desert via a cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night is with you. The same God who was tested and tempted in the wilderness is with you. You are not alone. Creator God is walking with us all.