Wednesday, February 22, 2023

A Meaningful Lent

Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Included in one of the readings for Ash Wednesday, these particular verses set me thinking about past Lenten disciplines that helped me focus on collecting treasure in heaven, the practices that had staying power with me and helped me know myself and God better.

One year I took on the practice of writing a poem each day. That practice helped me to pay attention, both to what was happening around me and to what was happening within me. After all, I needed something to write a poem about. I found the practice so helpful in paying attention that I adopted for this year, to help me live into the word that is guiding me in 2023.

Another year, I worked through a Lenten book called Simplifying the Soul. What made this practice significant is that some of the exercises it suggested revealed to me attachments of which I was not aware. I learned a lot about myself working through that book. 

Years when I gave up chocolate or desserts or similar things did not have the lasting effect that these practices had. However, the year I let someone talk me into giving up coffee I found myself resentful. I learned that year not to allow anyone else to determine what my Lenten discipline should be!

The year that likely was the hardest, and yet the most transformational, was the year my practice was to not defend, justify, or explain myself when my words or actions were misconstrued. My then-husband frequently accused me of motives that had never crossed my mind, and when I would try to clarify my actions to him, things would escalate. Choosing this discipline for Lent meant I absorbed the accusations and twisting of my motives. It was so hard. 

Our natural response is to want to be understood, to be seen for who we are. To keep quiet reminded me of Isaiah 53:7: He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

As hard as the practice was, there was less conflict in our home because I chose to keep silent. Additionally, keeping silent allowed me to see more clearly that his behavior wasn’t simple misconstruing of my actions but a form of verbal abuse. Because I wasn’t allowing myself to be drawn into an argument, I came to recognize something I hadn’t previously.

Obviously, not every Lenten discipline has had the impact that these three did. But taking the time to consider how I want to grow, how I want to be made different beyond the season of Lent, is, for me, laying up treasure in heaven. So I give careful consideration each year to the Lenten practice I will adopt, knowing this season of Lent is a chance for God to create a clean heart in me.

I invite you to pray and consider carefully how your Lenten discipline can help you lay up treasure in heaven. Blessings on your Lenten journey.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

At Home

Jesus answered, “Whoever loves me will keep my word. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14:23

I look around my home, how it reflects me,
the books, the artwork, the colors, the plants,
the open windows that let me see out and invite light inside,
the memories and people represented in items displayed,
the love that fills this space and fills me too.
It is good to be home, to let myself be expressed here.

I wonder what God thinks as God looks around within me?
I hope that what God sees stirs such fondness as I feel,
looking around my home.
Since God created me, I believe God does look with fondness
at God’s home within me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Hold Life Lightly

Seasons teach us to hold life lightly.
Everything dies, yet birth comes
in equal measure, if not more abundantly.
We have to wait years for apples
after planting the tree, watching
summer leaves die and fall,
winter’s bareness too, before spring’s 
buds. All the time, the tree grows.
Winter’s death no hindrance, but
necessity for strength to bear fruit.
Even the fallen apples, uneaten,
carry new life within them.
Everything dies and is born.
Hold it all tenderly, lightly.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Santa Monica Sunday Afternoon

Breeze, shade, sand, sun.
You are here in gull’s cries,
palm trees, undulating ocean,
blue cloudless sky.

But just as much present
in the scraps of music, 
sounds of conversation, people
moving in every direction.

I am here,
taking it all in, no agenda
but presence, which is prayer, is it not?
A slice of time on Santa Monica beach,
an act of worship because you are here.