Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mid-Lent Check-in

Mid-Lent I like to take my spiritual pulse.  How am I doing? Sufficient silence, prayer and giving up/taking on? All in all I've experienced some peace-filled moments and clarity: other times I've been distracted by the daily squirrels. Squirrel! (Looks elsewhere). 
Thus I came across this wonderful reflection by Joan Chittister. Why is it the emptying IS harder than filling? 

Once upon a time,” an ancient story tells, “the master had a visitor who came to inquire about Zen. But instead of listening, the visitor kept talking about his own concerns and giving his own thoughts. After a while, the master served tea. He poured tea into his visitor’s cup until it was full and then he kept on pouring. Finally the visitor could not bear it any longer. ‘Don’t you see that my cup is full?’ he said. ‘It’s not possible to get anymore in.’ ‘Just so,’ the master said, stopping at last. ‘And like this cup you are filled with your own ideas. How can you expect me to give you Zen unless you first empty your cup?’”
A monastic Lent is the process of emptying our cups. Lent is the time for trimming the soul and scraping the sludge off a life turned slipshod. Lent is about taking stock of time, even religious time. Lent is about exercising the control that enables us to say no to ourselves so that when life turns hard of its own accord we have the spiritual stamina to say yes to its twists and turns with faith and hope. . . . Lent is the time to make new efforts to be what we say we want to be.
From The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages by Joan Chittister (Crossroad, 1996).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Son's Poem

Judy Wilson in Hartford Thanksgiving Day 2007

The Cane

I saw your cane near the door in the umbrella stand
                                                                                         sticking out
reminding me that you were here.

I had not thought of you that day, or for the last week for that matter. 
Is that bad?
Or has life moved on – with and without you?

That cane with the jaguar print was your style statement.
You leaned on it in your last years.

Where are you mom?
With God? Lord I hope.
With me and us? Yes, still.

Three years have gone by since you left us. You live on still.
In beaches. In noodles. In worry -- mine mostly.  
And when I arrive too early for a departing flight.

I saw your cane.
Do you see me?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Swimming through Lent

Among the various spiritual practices that form my Lenten discipline, this year I am reading my way through a small compilation of the writings of twentieth century Anglican mystic Evelyn Underhill. As dated as some of her minor references come across, a true mystic speaks both to her time and beyond time.  In Lent we are called to pray with a fresh voice: Underhill offers us an analogy that goes to heart of the matter. She writes, “the fish swims in the ocean but does not create it, neither does the Christian at prayer create the life of prayer but enters into it and is invigorated by it.” 

As we enter into Lent today on Ash Wednesday, our first decision really is whether we are going to accept this annual opportunity to listen, dig, swim, pause and be silent in God’s presence. Underhill writes: “Lent is a good moment for such a spiritual stocktaking; a pause, a retreat from life’s busy surface to its solemn deeps. There we can consider our possessions; and discriminate between the necessary stores which have been issued to us, and must be treasured and kept in good order, and the odds and ends which we have accumulated ourselves.”  I suggest that to go-to “giving up-taking on” formula of the season can be expanded to things beyond practices and food.

Lent is one of the more counter-cultural things we can do in a society that demands constant consumer spending and activity to prop-up a post-manufacturing based economy. Even a rational effort to save money for a rainy day or pay off credit card debts is said to routinely threaten growth. We text, tweet, post, email, DVR, and blog our way through these times in the face of a God who says be still and know me. Lent is yearly off-ramp for all of us.

So if you and I fellow fish take on this task of preparing ourselves for the outpouring of grace and hope that is the Easter feast, then let’s be prepared to swim upstream, alone at times and enter unknown and deep waters. There will be find the One who made us and who calls us into everlasting relationship.

Let Lent begin!