Tuesday, February 24, 2015

today I will begin

It happens every Lent, usually right in the beginning.  Something to get me distracted.  Something to make me think it is all about me, not all about God.  Feelings try to take the driver's seat to get me off track. 

And I get discouraged.  I see only the failures and shortcomings, of myself and others. 

But realizing my lack of power, control and perfection is really the first step in lent.  Its the first step towards the cross and resurrection.  If I could do this perfectly, there would be no space for God to work.  When I admit that I fail, it opens myself up wide for grace to come in. 

So, I look at today and see where I fell short of the mark.  And I thank God.  I thank him that my messing up is all part of the deal.  And I ask for grace to love others when they mess up. 

Then I go to bed and in the morning I begin a new day.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The best fast

The best fast is to endure everything that God sends your way.   -  St.  Anatoliy of Optina

As I make my shopping list that includes lots of black beans and lentils, this quote struck me.  Almost every year I plan for the things I know are part of lent- prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  But there are always things life throws at me that I couldn't have anticipated.  Discouragements, heartbreak and failures.  Things that I cause and things caused by others but that affect me.

In short, I often feel under attack during the first few weeks of lent.  I feel everything trying to pull my focus away from God.

But God is not absent in these times.  The things that way me down are not burdens he is blind to.  He is with me in the struggle of asceticism, in the difficulty of repentance.  

Endure.  He gives me strength to endure.  I will not have all the answers, I will not respond every time with grace and humility.  But whatever comes my way, I can endure and keep going. 

In the end, I may very well look spiritually like this woman:

But God is like those sweet people surrounding me.  Wheelchair ready, any aid I need is there.  Even if it isnt ready, I keep going.  I endure, and eventually I get there.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lenten meditation #1- Lent is like a new toothbrush

A few years ago our dentist demanded that we get one of those fancy sonic toothbrushes.  The kind that are crazy expensive with replacable heads.  This was quite a jump from our usual dollar store toothbrushes but with the dental problems we each have, we decided it was worth it.

The first time I used the sonic toothbrush, it felt like I was brushing my teeth for the first time ever.  I hadn't realized how the traditional low tech toothbrush left so much gook on my teeth until I felt the smooth surface of my newly cleaned teeth.  Wow.

Now, we are still cheapskates.  We use the replaceable heads for way longer than we are supposed to and I am always searching for a bargain on them.  The last set I bought was a store brand and they worked differently, but we still used them (too cheap to take them back).  We have probably used them for a year and last week I ordered a new set from online.

Night and Day.  Using the new toothbrush heads was crazy.  I didnt realize how weak the other brushes were until I used the new ones.  It was that squeaky clean feeling again that I had had the first time.  Awesome.  Made me wish I had switched a year ago. 

Lent is the deep clean of our hearts.  I get hung up on the fasting, the church services, teaching my children all I want them to learn.  But when it comes down to it, we are letting God get in there and do the hard work of wearing off the accumulated layers of gook in our hearts.  Its not like I gamble and shoplift and pillage the rest of the year.  But I forget, I get lazy, I give into the weaknesses of my human nature. 

Like plaque on the teeth, it doesn't get built up in one day and it doesn't go away in one brushing.  Lent is a journey, a process.  It takes us through valleys and darkness and makes us stand in front of the mirror and see ourselves as we really are.  Which isn't always a pretty sight.

But it eventually takes us up to the mountain.  We become the "people of the cross" as we face our Savior and receive the spirit of humility and brokeness that is our only way to the resurrection. 

We will get there, so lets get started. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

a good thing to do in February

When you are sick of the gray skies, the brown grass and the cold temps. . . read a seed catalog. 

It is balm for the soul.  Especially if you are reading the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog.  When the bleak midwinter is closing in, you will find an open window, a breeze of sweet spring air coming through.  A dream will emerge.  A yellow green dream that promises fruit, sustenance and provision.  It is there, you can find it to get you through the gray, cold days. 

here are some snippets:

. . . grown in southern Illinois since at least the 1930's, including by friends of  Abraham Lincolns parents.

. . . An excellent keeper, a beet developed before the days of refridgerators.

. . .  A fully savoyed or crinkle variety

. . . Mortgage Lifter by Radiator Charlie (named because the sale of this popular tomato helped pay his house off)

. . . Aunt Lou's Underground Railroad (brought to Ohio by a runaway slave)

. . . produces an abundance of large, fat, tender, fluted pods.

. . . Drunken Woman.   Gorgeous bright green leaves with ruffled- almost fringed- edges in deep bronze. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

a St. Euphrosynus day

Im not even sure how to pronounce his name, but his story is great.  I won't retell it in detail, but you can read it all here

His icon sits by my kitchen sink because this monk and I have some things in common.  We both have logged a lot of hours in the kitchen.  We both are indispensible yet often invisible to those around us.  We both try to live a life that glorifies God.

But, yesterday was one of those days when I felt at the end of myself.  The baby didn't nap well, which becomes an avalanche of fussiness (for both of us).  By the end of the day I am wrung out like an old mop.

Just from the effort of loving my loved ones.

St. Euphronsynus carried a bit of vision of paradise with him all the time.  Chopping onions, washing dishes, wiping counters.  All the time praying, all the time seeing what we often are blind to.  We are with God, we are walking with God right now.  We are in paradise.  Not a "do this so you can go to heaven" kind of theology, but a right here, right now kind of presence of God with us.   Life fulfilled.

So the older monk's vision of Euphronsynus in paradise was just a window opening to what was already happening.  

His days of cooking, cleaning, mundane tasks were all an overflow of his love of God for those around him.  That's paradise.

St. Euphrosynus, pray for me.