Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. Thanks Giving. Giving Thanks.

It seems a bit vaporous on Thanksgiving day to just say, “I’m thankful.” On this day we are good at inquiring and responding to questions asking for what we are thankful. Many of us ask family around the table, and even kids in school, to name what each person is thankful for. My grandson, Julian (Jude), brought home a Thanksgiving craft wheel this week that he made in his 4 year old “Little Elks” preschool class . He could spin it, pointing to things on his list. His chosen responses consisted of Candy, Balls, and Mommy :).

I believe it is important to take time to be thankful and this holiday gives space for that. Right before we begin to write Christmas lists for what we want, and go into the biggest spending sprees of the year, we look around and evaluate the good we already have. In sincere communal gratitude one can almost sense the forgotten beautiful wisps of “Content”, “Enough”, “Satisfied”.

But, implicit in both thanking and in giving, is a direct object and indirect object. I am not a language scholar (in fact, I’m sure I’ve already dangled a few participles above) but I believe both of these verbs, give and thank, are transitive: “characterized by having or containing a direct object” (merriam-webster.com). “A transitive verb, used with a direct object, transmits action to an object and may also have an indirect object, which indicates to or for whom the action is done.” (cliffsnotes.com) In the same way that we don’t just buy birthday or Christmas gifts, or write thank you notes, and give them to nobody in particular, it completes the intention and benefit of giving and thankfulness to direct our gratitude to someone or Someone.

So, in this short blog post I want to remind us all this day, and every day, to name our direct and indirect objects, the target and reason and catcher of our thanksgiving. Yes, it includes family and friends, but also, let’s address our ultimate Provider. Name the Lord. Direct words to Jesus. Thank God. Acknowledge that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17).

I end this post with a prayer of Thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer and invite you and your loved ones to use it, or any prayers from your hearts, to address the Giver, the Lover, the Lord Christ—to name both for what, and to Whom, you give thanks.

A LITANY OF THANKSGIVING*

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us:

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea,

      We thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends,

      We thank you, Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,

      We thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work, and time to rest and worship,

      We thank you, Lord.

For all who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,

      We thank you, Lord.

For all who earnestly seek after truth, and all who labor for justice,

      We thank you, Lord.

For all that is good and gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,

      We thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places,

We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;

      To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father,

      and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen

*https://bcp2019.anglicanchurch.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/BCP-2019-MASTER-5th-PRINTING-05022022-3.pdf

I caught myself recently telling someone …

that it was the funnest thing I do in life. (My husband, Hule, mumbled an indignant comment in the background :).)

What was that “thing”? Mowing.

Mown paths on our farm

My love affair with mowing began one summer when I was about 11 or 12. I wanted a 10-speed yellow Schwinn bicycle and my dad said if I mowed the lawn for the summer he would buy it for me. So, week by week that summer, I befriended the delightful smell of cut grass, learned the skill of pushing a purring machine in a straight line, and acquired a taste for this delicious cocktail of exercise, sunshine, aromatherapy and beauty.

Fast forward to 2014 when we moved to our Jessamine farm. We had only a push mower and the uneven terrain, big yard, and my age combined to quell my love for mowing until, low and behold, we were gifted with a lovely John Deere riding lawnmower. I was in heaven!

Besides mowing our yard, we had gotten a grant to plant native grasses, forbes, and flowers on several acres on the back of our property, and I relished preparing the fields with a thorough haircut before planting.

Some of our flowers and vegetation

Once the flowers and grasses came in (Purple Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Little Bluestem, Virginia Wild Rye, Tall Dropseed, Partridge Peas, and Illinois Bundle Flower), I began cutting paths through them so we could walk freely in the fields. This was the best! The sun would begin to set and I filled with endorphins and life-enhancing neurotransmitters as I finished up week after week during the summers. Eventually I began expanding the mowing to create what I called “living rooms”—little mowed spaces furnished with chairs or benches and decorated for rest, gathering or solitude, prayer and contemplation. I now have 9 living rooms…& counting:

1. Camp Julian

2. Hazel’s Haven

3. Julianne’s Hideaway

4. Sarah’s Secret Spot

5. Memorial Point

6. Naked Holy Rocks

7. The Forest Trail

8. Matt’s Man Cave

9. The Anchorhold

Sometime in the future I will try and feature each of these on the blog with photos and explanations.

Memorial point, a path nearby, and Hazel’s Haven

This year we added a new mower to our “fleet”. It’s an Exmark riding lawnmower whom I have named Hildegard, Hildy for short, after one of my favorite saints, Hildegard of Bingen. We also have been given a Honda ATV named Ruby, and when the sad time comes that the fields and paths and living rooms are all cut, Ruby and I go tour the grounds together surveying the Gardens.

Sunset at Loretta’s Living Room, Julianne’s Hideaway, and the path of Eden’s Loop

In Eden tending the garden and naming were the tasks given by God to the first humans. We were made for this. We find meaning, hope, and home, finding ourselves and one another, with our Creator, while tending, walking, and soaking in beauty.

Paths

I encourage you today, to go find Eden, observe place and nature long enough to name, find our Creator in an outdoor living room and chat, discover fun and meaning while tending the beauty of your place and paths.

The Anchorhold, Maggie’s grave at Memorial Point, and a Harvest Moon coming up at the end of a satisfying mow.

National Daughter’s Day

I saw on Facebook yesterday that it was National Daughter’s Day. I missed it :-/. But I will post belatedly today.

I can’t easily say with words how much I love and respect my daughters, but I will try. They are both loving, kind, brave, courageous, persistent, intelligent, capable, insightful, beautiful, caring…. I could go on and on. They have been one of life’s greatest blessings.

It’s such a mystery that when Hule and I found each other and married, and “made” these two humans together—joining our DNA and histories, nature and nurture, that made the possibility for them to exist. Without that specific equation, they would not exist.

We are not always created from happy, blessed unions—and if we’re not, it does not diminish our value. Every human’s value is in the ONE Who formed us from earth’s dust and rib, created our DNA, made us in His image, and breathed His life into us. God, is our ultimate Parent—we are His daughters and sons.

Life is a Miracle. Family is God’s original plan—Edenic hope.

Sarah Jo and Julianne Kay, you bring grace and joy to this world and to your Momma and Daddy’s hearts and souls! Today we celebrate you.

The Coronavirus…Is it Real?

“I see it, I see it,” said Hazel, pointing to my small paisley decorated retractable tape measure.

“What do you see?” I asked.

“The virus. I see the virus!”

For over a year now our lives have been rerouted and turned upside down because of “the virus”. Hazel has often referred to “the sickness”. Hazel is four and, despite being her grandma, I declare she is nigh a genius. 🙂 Her mind is continually picking up things said, things seen, things smelled, and integrating them quickly into her vast repertoire of knowledge, then easily figuring out a way to express those new discoveries. So, like a true nurse educator and science lover, I said,

“Oh, nobody can see the virus except with a very powerful microscope. But Hazel, here… (I pulled up the image on my phone), this is the coronavirus. See, they made a picture of what it looks like under a microscope.”

PHIL.cdc.gov

Even Julian, my curious two year old grandson, came near to see it too. They both studied it.

Hazel paused for a while…..

“But, is it real?” she asked.

“Well, this is a picture of it, but this is not the actual virus here in my hands.” I said.

“What?” answered Hazel.

“Well–like when I have a picture of you–see?” I showed her a picture of herself on my phone. “That is a picture of you. You are real, but that is not you. You are real, but that is just a picture of you.”

At this point I was even getting confused. We started taking pictures of things with the iPhone and then showing the real thing next to the picture of the real thing, but she kept saying,

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

This was the first time I had encountered Hazel being stumped and it surprised me.

But it got me thinking. Thinking about this world she’s raised in. Watching TV, animation and news come into the living room back to back. Every Christmas and Easter we walk the tightrope of whether Santa or the Easter Bunny are real. Then there’s God and Jesus. We read Bible stories and then Paw Patrol stories, Anatomy books and books of fairies, then of angels. We go to church and say grace at meals and even whisper prayers in the air from time to time:

“Is there really a Chase and Rubble? Is that really what my body looks like inside? Are angels real? Are fairies? Is God really real? Is Jesus God?

What is real?

And, how do you explain that to a four year old. And how do we even know that ourselves?

Because of art and books and movies and TV, and video games, anyone’s imagination can become visible. So, anything and everything seems real when brought to the vision and hearing–especially to that of a child. Is this touching on why Jesus said:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Children are sponges and readily receive the reality of the kingdom of God. Even great thinkers like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton entered kingdom realities through the portals/wardrobes of childhood’s believing. To my logical mind, this seems reckless. Hazel has imaginary friends and talks to them. Who knows, but that to her, our prayers seem like talking to imaginary friends. We have “pictures” of Jesus, but we explain that’s not really a photograph or even painting of the real Jesus–nor is the picture the actual Jesus himself. And then there comes the explaining that not all people even believe that God is real. And not all people believe Jesus is God. He wants us to come to him in faith. Our belief in him is what takes us to the doorknob to open the door and “see him”.

But this is not just a God conundrum. There are some who do not believe there is a coronavirus and they live as though there isn’t. There are consequences to that action; but the virus doesn’t exist or not exist, infect or not infect, its substance and reality do not change, based on whether we believe strongly enough in it. It just is what it is.

Hazel and Julian in the time of “the virus”

The God of the Old Testament introduced himself as, “I Am Who I Am.”

The substance, the reality of God, does not rely on our belief, but our faith in him opens or shuts the door to our friendship with him. Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” and “Who do the crowds say I am?” Then Jesus asks the REAL question: “But what about you? … Who do you say I am?”

Jesus introduced himself as I Am:

“I am the bread of life.”

“I am the light of the world.”

“I am the door.”

“I am the good shepherd.”

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” he asked.

Do you believe this? Is God real? … even if we don’t have a microscopic close up photo of him? Are you living like God is real? Today Jesus asks each one of us what he asked his disciple:

“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Scriptures referenced above include Exodus 3:14, Mark 8:27, Luke 9:18, Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20, John 6:35, John 8:12, John 10:9, John 10:11, John 11:25, 26, John 14:6, John 15:5

Advent

Photo of our Jessamine farm front yard on the first snow of 2020

Hule and I have decided to do more this year for Advent. That’s new for me. Lent had been new for me the last few years: not the concept of Lent—just the idea that it’s more than the horrific prospect of no chocolate for 40 days! In a similar way, the concept of Advent is not new to me, it has just mostly been a time for slick purple and pink candles in crunchy Styrofoam wreaths, opening little calendar doors each day, a countdown of shopping days ‘till presents, cookie baking and tree decorating. So, being a virtual “nubie” at Advent and an information junkie—I went to the stacks. (Thank you Richland County Public Library.)

I checked out about a dozen books on Advent and have been reading the Advent Lessons and Carols Scriptures for this year: Genesis 2 & 3, Isaiah 7 & 53, Luke 1 & 2, Hebrews 1 and John 1. I’m finding that Advent is a time of waiting for the Messiah—the fruition of all of the Messianic promises. Wait, Prepare, Rejoice, Love are the 4 “watchwords”.[1] This week is about waiting. Ireton informed me that: “In Hebrew, the word for wait is also the word for hope.” (Ireton 2008, 22)

Hope has been one of my special words lately–one I’ve thought about a lot. Hope=Esperanza in Spanish; the name I would give myself if I could rename me. It seems there are two kinds of hope. One is a hope in people: fallible humans. This hope is less sure. This hope has the capability of disappointing. “I hope he will do what he said.” “I hope she will make it.” It implies some sort of trust, some kind of vulnerability, but the open-endedness of not being certain. Secondly there is hope in God. If we cannot hope in God, in whom can we hope? This is a more certain hope—a hope that does not disappoint. Here, once one believes God is true and good and all-powerful, then hope feels more like waiting, and our hope is in that we heard his promise correctly, discerned rightly, what he meant when he said in Isaiah (about 735 years before Christ came[2]): Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. In Isaiah 7:14b Immanuel means God with us. God doesn’t mind making us hope a long time—wait for many years. Just as we wait now for Christ’s second coming! And so, part of Advent is to put myself back in that time between 735 B.C. and C.

C=Christ is here!!! Christmas!! Wahoo!!!

I’ll have to admit that it takes a little pretending to wait—hope—for the Messiah when I know he has already come. It’s like Good Friday when we mourn for Christ’s death but we really know he will rise again. I guess it’s also like watching a really sad movie the 2nd time around: crying, hoping, fingernail biting is not the same when you know it will end well.

And so this week, I wait… I hope… for GOD WITH US!!!


[1]Ireton, Kimberlee Conway. The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2008.
[2] Thank you ESV Study Bible

The writing above is from a 2011 post on a previous blog that I wrote when I was newly worshipping with the liturgical calendar in “the Anglican way”…

Happy Mother’s Day!

img_4074

I was born into motherhood nearly 39 years ago. It is one of the highest privileges and deepest mysteries I’ve ever encountered. Birthing and Mothering allows women to participate in Sacrament—in unconditional Love, Creation, Christ-mas, Baptism, and Communion.

I’ve written a poem for all mothers and their children, for my daughters, granddaughter, and for my mother. It only scratches the surface of this unfathomable mystery. I share it with you here:

I am Mother

by Loretta Goddard

I lie down and surrender to love and risk.

Protection withdrawn, my womb opens to receive another.

My fertile bed prepared by God opens its lips to the seed.

The race is on—unpredictable and exciting—one possibility meets thousands and chooses one.

A match is made

A fire strikes

Burning and burrowing beneath the soil of blood and mystery.

I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. I lie still.

Selah

 

We test “waste” to know your presence. We listen and peer in with sound waves.

I lie down once again and look to screen and risk seeing you and falling madly,

deeply,

forever in love.

I carry you around in my purse and pouch and put you on my refrigerator and marvel at the blurry, fuzzy jelly bean sized person in me,

Who is you.

I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. I lie still.

Selah

img_4073

I begin to pant and feel squeezing—tightness

Yes—pain

Intense—severe

I risk death with joy and moaning, for you.

You have kicked in me, punched my ribs, rolled like a bowling ball inside me.

How I have longed to see you and touch you and now it is immanent and I am scared.

As you emerge I am born.

I am mother.

I hold you.

I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. I lie still.

Selah

img_4072

I give my days and nights to you.

I give my body once again—my rest and food, vitamins and drink all churn inside me until milk comes flowing through my chest to nourish you…sustain you.

My hours are yours, my body is given—scarred, stretched, engorged.

This is my body, broken for you. Take and eat.

You snort and grunt, draw near to suckle, your hands knead like a cat on a blanket, like a baker with his dough.

img_4071

I wait. I look to stars.

I con-sider. We lie still.

Selah

img_4070

Stay at Home Orders

img_3791

I slept late this morning.  Night before last I barely slept.  During this time of Covid-19 and “Stay at Home” orders all structure has been thrown out the window.

Actually what I have now is what I long for often–long periods of time alone to read and pray and journal…and drink coffee; less biddings to go and do, less social necessities, a monk-like/nun-like existence: Ora et Labora, Ora et Labora.  That is it mostly.

My evangelical Christian worldview brings guilt that I need to be out there spreading the word, helping people.  Indeed that is what Jesus and the disciples did.  They didn’t hole up and stay in caves praying–quarantining.  They didn’t even stay in one place like the desert mothers and fathers, or in a monastery or Christian commune, and let others come to them (except maybe some like John who was exiled to Patmos and Paul in prison).

But I am not Jesus nor His first century disciple.  The early church had a mix of calls for each person according to their gifts–according to what “body part” they were, according to their unique vocation.  And this pandemic time is a unique, likely, temporal time too.

My very good friend, Jan Kaneft, is the Archdeacon at Church of the Apostles in Columbia, SC.  She wrote a devotional during this time that really spoke to me.  I include it below:

SCRIPTURE: The LORD your God is in your midst, a Mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
THOUGHT: Last week we ZOOMED with dear friends in North Carolina. Almost immediately, the conversation centered upon our grandchildren, a common occurrence with grandparents. Bill, our friend, laughingly described his new garden apprentice-his three-year-old grandson.
He loves to help me feed the birds. We end up with more seeds on the ground than in the feeder. It’s always messy. It would be easier and much quicker to do it myself, but I just love being with him.
He went on to say, Time spent with my grandson reminds me of what our relationship with Jesus is all about-He doesn’t need us; He wants us.
The prophet, Zephaniah, proclaims a similar message to the Israelites in Judah. God, the covenant keeper, initiates with His people a call back to relationship. He is faithful even when His children are making messes of their lives. He blesses with His presence because He delights in His people. Pure and simple, He just loves being with us.
Locked in the constraints of COVID-19, much of our activity has been curtailed. Has this restraint unveiled a fear inside that busyness has kept buried: does God really love me? Many of us believe that we are required to achieve something to prove to God and to the world that we are worth loving. In other words, what we do engages His love. The doing can become a lifeline to our significance, affirmation, security, acceptance—our value. It is difficult for us to believe that He just wants us. If this is your struggle, let the words of Zephaniah remind and encourage you today: God rejoices over you with gladness. God quiets you with His love. God exults over you with loud singing. Friends, He doesn’t need us; He wants us.

First, this includes one of my favorite Scriptures–Zechariah 3:17. This reminds me–We are/I am not socially distanced from God!  He’s in my midst.  He’s here.

And, as Jan reminded me, He loves me more than I love my grandchildren, Hazel and Julian, from whom we’ve been “socially distancing”.  And He wants to be with me more than Hule and I long to be with Hazel and Julian.  Wow!  That’s a lot.  Being around them, distancing 6 feet away and outside, and not getting to hold them was excruciating.  So I’m asking myself:

Do I distance myself from You, God?

Not going all the way to embrace You and sit on Your lap and be quieted by Your love?

Receive Your cheek kisses?

Hear Your ho-ho-ho; Your songs and shouts of joy and gladness over me?

I watched yesterday as Hule previewed a new video just sent of the grandkids.  Hule’s face was priceless–rejoicing over, smiling deep, deep face furrows of joy watching their every move.

God, if You indeed, rejoice over us–over me–in that way, it is an amazing privilege.  I want to acknowledge and soak it in.  I want to live seated in Your lap, in Your embrace, surrounded and covered with Your love and never let the wetness of Your kisses on my cheek evaporate.

Once again I’m reminded of another of my life Scriptures: Romans 8:38 & 39.

What can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus?

Not coronavirus

Not social distancing

Not job insecurity

Not economic catastrophe

Not sickness or even death

Nothing

This incomprehensible, unbelievable, ever-present love of God is the eternal foundation of life!

Covid-19 from the farm

img_3375

I began the morning while it was still dark–6:30ish a.m.

A quiet house

Heating blanket on

Furnace catching up from nighttime turn down to morning turn up

67 to 72 degrees

No coffee yet

Papers shuffled

Nest made

Bible at side…waiting

Candle lit

A week ahead

The new way…

Last week I was “off” from babysitting because it was my daughter’s spring break; but the whole world is shuttering now for the novel coronavirus–isolation, lockdown, shelter in place….  On Wilmore Anglican Church’s Sunday morning sermon Facebook feed, Hule echoed musings by Andy Crouch who was referencing Osterholm, an infectious disease specialist, asking:  Is this a blizzard? a winter? or an ice age? We went into this thinking–a blizzard–just a few weeks.  Now it’s apparent it will be at least a winter.  But with political stalemates and the tenacity of those numbers and climbing curve, and the falling stock market, we are all wondering if it’s ushering in a new metaphorical ice age.

Lord, You are in control and You are good!  Hule’s quote of “Granny Rene” is right:

“God is God.  God is good.  And God loves us!”  This is what we know.

But God, what are you up to?

I am reading the Old Testament book of Job.  What God was up to in Job was not apparent to Job’s children, his employees, his country, his wife, his friends–not even to Job; but from heaven’s perspective it was made clear.  In human eyes we might say, “That’s not fair!”  “I don’t get it!”  But God is God.  His ways don’t have to be explained or justified.  He is sovereign.  We are not equipped to push back the works of God, or meant to question them.  God allows Satan, with limits, to seemingly wreak havoc at times for His own purposes.  Jesus himself experienced that:

His corona–His crown–His thorny, blood-stained crown, because God loves us;

His isolation and His own body shut-up, quarantined–in a cave, a tomb,

While hell was harrowed.

And Job lost it all:  his livelihood; his house and farm; his children and his wealth.  When he faced the sudden calamity, the sudden blizzard, he said:

Naked came I from the womb

Naked shall I return.

The Lord it is who gives

and the Lord takes away.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

And “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”  God is good.

Then entered winter.

Satan was given even more permission and Job’s body was ravaged.  Was it a novel virus that was unleashed on him?  His wife told him to “curse God and die.”  And Job said, “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?”  “And in all this Job did not sin with his lips.”  When we never acknowledged that it was the Lord who gave and it was the Lord who provided good all along–when we think it was our own goodness that brought it about—besides being extremely blind and arrogant–we don’t know what we don’t know.

How is it that we believe so often that we create the good but it is God who brings the bad?  And how is it that we believe it’s all about us?  That our purposes are at the center instead of God’s purposes?  Do we fault God for acting like God?  …for putting His purposes above our own?

The suddenness of Job’s losses brought on a stunning: a sitting together on the ground in silence together for 7 days before a word was uttered.  A 7 day silence.  7 days of ground-sitting together before a word was spoken.  Something gigantic is there–something absent from our culture; a language few of us speak!  A practice foreign to our list of possibilities: sitting together 7 days in utter silence.

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know that I

Be still and know that

Be still and know

Be still and

Be still

Be…

It’s that empty, wordless nothingness–

Silence

Stillness

No raging

No questioning

No figuring out

No philosophizing

No doctoring

No leading

No consulting

No data collecting

But sitting still with the circumstance together with a few friends in wordlessness–on the ground:

We are but dust and to dust we will return.

Naked came we–Naked shall we return–Blessed be the name of the Lord!

This is part of practicing Lent.

And what we always know is:

God is God.

God is good.

God loves us.

 

 

Contemplating Lent

Contemplating Lent

img_3106

Something about the liturgical seasons bring me into contemplation and make my pen long for paper.  In this Garden season of planting seeds, tending, waiting, watching and expecting, Lent, literally meaning Spring, I focus my attention on the church calendar’s observation of Lent–a season of a 40-day focus on Jesus’ coming, suffering, and dying for us.  During this time I have chosen to fast from certain foods (including sugar), from excessive screen time (tv, phone surfing, etc.), and from a life of distraction and distance from God.

Two days ago I was questioning the relevance of fasting from foods during Lent, likely with the intention of a justification for modifying my commitment.  “Shrove Tuesday” (another name for Mardi Gras) is intended to precede our Lenten fasts.  It’s a time to clear out our pantries of sugar and sweets and the things we’re likely to be fasting from beginning Ash Wednesday–the first day of Lent.  Apparently, I did not adequately ‘shrive’ my pantry and I found myself drooling over the pecan sticky bun on my counter on this, my first day of fasting from sugar.  Yikes!  And, so, seriously, unlike myself, I “woke up” after a pounce upon the prey, and a quick devour, with dripped pecan pieces on my sweater and a cat-that-just-ate-the-canary expression when my husband walked through the door a little while later.  Yes, I confessed…after a few hours…and started the fast again.

How does this relate to Lent?

Humankind’s journey toward this Lenten season began with a Garden of planting seeds, tending, waiting, watching, and expecting and with eating something that was not good for us.  Genesis relates that Adam and Eve were invited to eat every tree in Eden except one–the tree of the Knowledge Of Good And Evil–I call it the KOGAE tree.  But when Eve saw the fruit from this one tree that was to be avoided, fasted from, she pounced on and devoured it and then suggested Adam do the same.  They both had metaphorical pecan drippings all over their ‘sweaters’ when God walked up, and their cat-that-ate-the-canary expression started it all.

In this season of life, I have a new lens for contemplating everything.  Four days a week I have the privilege of helping to watch my two precious grandchildren–ages 1 1/2 and 3 1/2.  Now, my grandkids love sugar and sweets about as much as their Grandma does (please, no judgement!), and it’s hard not to pull out the goods just to be in the bask of the delight in their eyes and the baited breath of expectation when I offer them some.  But, discipline says, reason says, health says, this cannot be all that I eat, nor all that they eat.

img_3110

And so, the other day, when I found my little grandchild with her hand literally in the sugar jar, crystals all over her cheeks, and a cat-that-ate-the-canary look on her face–it helped me connect more dots, and take these 40 days of Lent to pray:

Thank you, kind Father,
Gardener, Provider, and Caregiver,
all-knowing Creator,
for making a way, through Jesus’ life, suffering and death,
His own 40-day fast from food,
to erase the pecan drippings off my sweater,
the white crystals off my granddaughter’s cheeks,
and the “KOGAE” crumbs from Adam and Eve,
and from all of humankind.
Amen

 

Childbirth

I find myself praying today for a friend’s imminent childbirth. Giving birth is such a thin place, where we join in creation and fall simultaneously. It’s a miraculous space: liminal—in-between. The father, mother, and child, pass through a limen—a doorway—from unknown to known and from known to unknown. There is a change in “I am-ness” to each participant—even for every sibling and every grandparent.

When my first grandchild was born, I stood at the head of the bed and experienced the miracle unfolding. I saw my dear daughter rock in pain with contractions and reach in joy for her new writhing, crying, little human-gift. I observed the furrowed brow, outstretched hand, and deep concern of my son-in-law at bedside; then the outrageous excitement of seeing the emergence from dark to light of his firstborn, Hazel—with a holy hush followed by one last push.

When my second grandchild, Julian, was born, I stayed at home with Hazel. It was a different kind of vigil—from far away. It was hard not being present and I was grateful to God and His sure presence with me and with my daughter simultaneously, and His constant bent-ear, listening for our intercessions and supplications. I wrestled with the thought that my daughter would need to struggle with pain, maybe blood, and difficulty for this birth, and I recalled the reason that the Bible gives to aid in answering all, no, most, of my questions.

The night before Julian’s entrance, I birthed the following thoughts. I pray they might help you or your loved one in grappling with, and entering past the veil into, this angel-filled, Trinity-immersed, Cloud of unknowing which we encounter at the emergence of every new life…if we have eyes to see.

Julian’s Exodus

And now

As we turn toward this event

This liminal passage—

A new life liminal passage—

We remember that You Lord, are a Parent

A Father and “Mother” to a boy, Adam and girl, Eve

Formed long ago in the womb of your garden,

“born” into your household.

And even before that

(really not before, but always)

Your only Son—begotten, not made—of one Being with You.

 

But there came a fall—

Jack and Jill tumbled

And pain in childbirth came,

Not the original plan,

But a consequence.

 

So now we embark on a new in-between space

One that, despite our knowledge and advancements, will likely bring some

Pain

Squeezing

Peril

Need

Perhaps groaning.

 

“Like the pains of childbirth,” we often say:

A groaning of earth in an Eve-like form.

 

We come here through remembering also that you overshadowed blessed Mary—

Dripping in Eve-ness—

To bring hope and healing

To bring back full joy and to ease the pain of Eden’s losses.

 

And with your Husband eyes[i]

And Father eyes

And Maternal eyes[ii]

You oversaw it all:

The angelic visitation,

The miraculous implantation,

The weaving together of God and man

Who would be Adam 2

Adam Jr.

Who would be Your precious, deeply-loved Son.

 

You watched the journey,

The uprooting,

The placenta pulling away

In the birthing room

That was a stable.

You sent shepherds and wise men for the baby shower.

You watched as the wet, crying and cooing boy emerged from the nine-month hiddenness.

You sent angels to say,

“Do not be afraid!”

You said, “My peace I give to you.”

And, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

 

 

And so we pray to You—

Who are a Father

And a Son

And have a maternal heart

And are a great Physician

And a Summoner of angels.

 

We look to You

To bring the Light –Da la Luz!

Of Your presence

Your face

Your touch

Your attention.

 

We ask for safety for all during labor and journey through the underwater tangles, the unknown, the Red Sea’s partings, little Julian’s exodus into this world.

 

We look to You.

We trust in Your great love,

In Your deep knowing—conocimiento—that is owned by a Parent’s heart and soul and body.

 

In Your Son Jesus’, name,

Amen


[i] Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is His bride.

[ii] Many places in the Bible God is portrayed as having motherly affection and care:

God: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” Is. 66:13

God: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?  Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” Is. 49:15

God: “For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept myself still and restrained myself, now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant.”  Is. 42:14

Jesus said, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matt. 23:37 and Luke 13:34

Fearless Love

Today, on Valentine’s Day, I picked up an old “Magnolia Journal” which I have carried around in my book bag for nearly a year without taking the time to read. A big quote page drew me in. It asked: “If fear wasn’t part of the equation, how would your life look different?” The article, a short half page, was written by Chip Gaines. It’s no surprise that he would be encouraging the world to risk failure. In his funny antics he does it on most every episode of Fixer Upper—jumping off of precipices, bursting through walls, trying for the impossible basketball shot or attempting to pick up too-heavy objects. He lets his failures be fun and entertaining.

For me living from the “fear triad” of the Enneagram, “Failure” is a terrifying word—something to be avoided at all costs.  Something primal in me tells me, though I wouldn’t usually acknowledge it, that if I fail in an attempt, I am the failure.  Of course, I know that isn’t correct, but it is my default modus operandi as I approach life.

“Fear-less”[i] is the name of Chip’s article and, as a wordsmith, I love the twist of turning an adjective into a verb-adverb and thus to receive a subtle shift in paradigm.  This is exemplified again in Chip’s statement: “The courage to take your shot is half the battle.  The other half?  Viewing failure as a teacher and not an enemy.”

Risk, courage, and potential failure arise continually.  Valentine’s Day is a day of risk:

Sending a Valentine

Asking for a date

Saying “Yes” to an invitation to a date

Saying no to an invite

Getting married

Not getting married

Loving anyone

Not loving anyone

Setting Boundaries

Holding on

Letting go

Initiating a Friendship

Watching the winter Olympics I’m always amazed at the number of courageous athletes.  Really what they’re doing over and over and over is risking failure.  Of all the competitors, what are the odds of getting the gold?  And even for the medal winners, they are up on the podium only because they’ve allowed failure to teach them through multiple previous failed attempts at their sport.

Now my rational mind immediately can bring up exceptions to fearlessness such as when the consequences of failure are grave.  As mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal pointed out in his “wager” that it is staggeringly more risky not to believe in God than to believe in him: “I would have far more fear of being mistaken and of finding that the Christian religion was true, than of not being mistaken in believing it true.”[ii]  This is not the kind of fearlessness I choose to embrace.

On the other hand, yearly, monthly, daily I make decisions not to risk.  I choose “safe” often over living life to the fullest, over fearing the possibility of failure, and in doing so I miss opportunities, adventure, and even life lessons.  I know that:

            The sun still shines—after I fail.

            People still love me—after I fail.

            I love myself—after I fail.

            God loves me—after I fail.

I really like the book of Proverbs of the Bible.  I’m re-reading it now in The Message[iii] and seeing passages with new eyes, hearing with new ears.  Proverbs comes right up to us and tells us to Fear!  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom….” (Proverbs 9:10, NIV) The Message puts it this way: “Skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of-God….”  But the same book of Proverbs also tells us to be bold and risk everything to find wisdom.  “Sell everything and buy Wisdom.  Forage for Understanding…Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom!”  As Blaise Pascal alluded to—there is big risk in not choosing God.  The God of love, peace, grace, and mercy gives us a choice.  Fear of God or Denial of God.  “Lady Wisdom” asks to be our filter—our first filter on whether to risk or what to risk.  The fear-of-God need be our main fear— “bowing down to God”; “paying attention” to God: “Lady Wisdom will be your close friend, and Brother Knowledge your pleasant companion.  Good Sense will scout ahead for danger.  Insight will keep an eye out for you.  They’ll keep you from making wrong turns….”  They’ll keep you from risking what shouldn’t be risked.  “Carelessness kills; complacency is murder.  First pay attention to me, and then relax.  Now you can take it easy—you’re in good hands.”[iv] 

For some of us predisposed to fear, we hear the first part of that verse but forget the 2nd.  We—I—forget the part about, “then relax.  Now you can take it easy—you’re in good hands.”

Living life is taking risks. Living, abiding in, dwelling in safety by choosing to climb up into the lap, the embrace, the love of God, frees us to relax–frees us to walk forward fearlessly toward joy and peace, beauty, fun and adventure, and yes, even walk forward through failure and loss—because we can choose not to ever risk letting go of the One who is Love and the Love will not let go of us.[v]


[i] Magnolia Journal, A Look at Risk, Summer 2021, page 116-117

[ii] Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 241

[iii] God, Eugene Peterson, The Message, translation of The Bible

[iv] Excerpts from The Message, Proverbs

[v] Romans 8:35-39