remain

remain


My neighbor’s remaining place

As several states have begun to reopen over the last week, I have started to see photos across social media of people returning to shopping, appointments, etc.
I have felt an initial twinge when I witness these images. My thoughts buzz with
“I wanna do that too.” Perhaps because we have been at this sheltering time for longer than a couple of weeks, the feeling was short-lived. Don’t get me wrong, I would welcome fewer restrictions but I feel settled in waiting until it is deemed safer. There is also a corner of my mind and heart that doesn’t want to rush back into a “business as usual” mindset. I don’t want to go back to being consumed with consuming.
Which has caused me to think a lot about the word “remain”. 

remain: verb

  • to be a part not destroyed, taken, or used up
  • to be something yet to be shown, done, or treated (it remains to be seen)
  • to stay in the same place or with the same person or group
  • To continue to exist especially after similar or related people or things have ceased to exist
  • to continue unchanged

This word couldn’t be more fitting for this current passage of time. 

When I first began to think about the word remain and its definitions, my thoughts centered around what does it mean to stay in the same place with the same people?
I pondered what does it look like to remain when the world and future remain to be seen? But now, my thoughts rush towards what does it mean to be people who remain while others are released? After all those questions, the bottom line is simply how do we remain, day after day, no matter what anyone is doing to the left or the right?

The Benedictine monks take a vow of stability. This word stability means to be firm, to stand fast, to endure, to persevere, and to be rooted. It is the action of staying put, remaining steadfast, and faithful to the situation in which God has placed. It is persistently sticking with a situation, with people, and with God. Monastic stability is a commitment to a place and a group of people in the belief that this place and these people will help them to find God. 

We may have not taken a vow but this stretched out time has given the gift of stability. It takes new eyes and perspective to find it. 

This month marks 27 years of living in our home. This is actually time, not COVID-19 time!  Carl and I have often looked at our decision to “stay put” on the same street in the same house as practicing stability. We have made an intentional decision to stay and remain nestled among this particular set of people whether they leave or stay. It’s felt like a unique opportunity to firmly plant ourselves along our avenue. We only have to look at the maple tree we planted during our first year. It possesses deep roots and continues to reach up and out as a visual reminder of our  nearly three decades of dwelling.  There are so many stories and memories we share about the time in this house on this street. Oh, the dramatic happenings along this block I could tell you about but the ones which stand out are the births, deaths, feuds, and forgiveness. It’s part of the history that grows from remaining. 

This crisis is becoming a part of our individual and collective histories. Think of the conversations to be had while we remain together. The opportunity to linger longer over words instead of rushing off to the next obligation is precious. As home time has lengthened, hopefully, the guards surrounding our hearts have been lowered. Maybe what used to occupy our time has now dimmed, ceased, or proven unsatisfactory. So, we continue to remain in our homes because no matter how challenging, we believe it is for the good and that good things are on the horizon even if it isn’t visible.

I planted three peonies a few springs ago. I scroll Instagram and see photos of peonies heavy-laden with blossoms. I can almost smell the scent. Then I wander to the three places mine are planted and see healthy plants but not a bud in sight. What should I do? Should I dig and throw them in the compost? No, I will wait and allow them to remain and bloom at the appointed time despite my impatience and longing.  I believe the wait  will bring greater joy than today, it’s a hard-fought for hope.  When I am tempted to not securely believe this sentiment,  I look to the right where poppies planted years ago are covered in deep orange crepe paper-like flowers. The year before a strong breeze sent the petals of one solitary flower into orbit. 

What has bloomed in your life during this time?

What blooms are you waiting for? 

What seeds could be planted in spite of  hard soil and wait for a harvest?

Stay.

Remain. 

*****


May we be people who remain despite all unseen and unknown.

May we see this time of staying put as a gift to draw closer to one another.

May we grow deeper roots with the people who surround us.

May we reach out to others if we live alone and seek solidarity in remaining.

May we keep our eyes on where we are planted and not across the fence.

And may we know it is not too late to decide what will remain in us and what
can be released from us once
restrictions are lifted.


Benedictine stability resource

messengers

messengers

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We had a rough week. 

It wasn’t related to the Coronavirus, but yet it was. The parameters established, although critical, can make situations more challenging and ladle stress on top of what already resided. The details aren’t important because I am confident at this crisis point, we can all fill in the blank regarding a hard circumstance compounded because of new limitations.

Today is better.

This past week when I was feeling a bit fragile and shaky, I paid particular attention to the words  read and heard. There seemed to be a repetition of words as well as harmony of theme.  I would have missed the impact of these words if I hadn’t decided to slow down, shunning stress and anxiety.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe what some might call a coincidence is simply a messenger or an invitation to pay attention. 

Over the years, I have practiced lectio divina which means divine or spiritual reading. Now before these Latin words cause you to glaze over, think of these two words as describing the posture you could take while listening to a friend. 

Imagine a friend sharing a piece of wisdom or insight. You listen and mull the words over in your mind. This is possible because you have made time, no hurrying or rushing to the next appointment.  You ask your friend to utter the words again and once again you listen, lingering over the words to see if they take on any new meaning. Without fear of redundancy or seeing rolling eyes, you ask your dear friend to say the words once more, because these are good words.  Your friend smiles, speaks the words aloud and now the conversation begins.

In lectio divina, you are the one who speaks the words aloud. You are the one who mulls and reflects and turns the words and phrases upside down until you are right side up. You are the one who initiates conversation with your Maker.

So many spoken words surround us on a given day. News reports, bad news, phone calls, words during a meeting, kids bickering over the remote control, or simply the people in your home talking loudly. 

How often do you read aloud, softly, and slowly?

When was the last time you heard words spoken over yourself, in your voice?

 What if you paused and considered what these particular words could teach or guide you on this particular day?

What if instead of reading words quickly and moving to the next task, you allowed yourself to linger over words over, over, and over again? 

How many epiphanies have been missed because of refusing to slow down and sit with words?

 Perhaps you might exit the time of lectio divina with a lighter heart, a new resolve, or with renewed hope. 

My invitation to you is to try lectio divina. 

I will guide you.  

Last week, I kept stumbling across two scriptures and a very well-known prayer. I heard the verses on podcasts and read them in books. The prayer was repeatedly posted by attendees in the chatbox of my Weight Watchers virtual meeting. Go figure.
I tend to rush over passages I know quite well. But when I read the words out loud and without hurrying, I uncover unmined gems.

Below I have included the prayer and the two scriptures I found great comfort in this past week.

Choose one.

Following these three options, I adapted the practice of lectio divina for you and have provided additional resources at the end of this post.

 

/1/

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

 

/2/

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 6-7 (NLT)


/3/

That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:25-34 (NLT)

*****

  • Find a quiet place. I realize this could be a challenge during this time. 
  • If you desire, a pen and journal can be helpful to have on hand to jot down any thoughts which arise. 
  • Take a few breaths as you anticipate the gift of this invitation. 

 

Read the passage slowly and aloud.

What words or phrases stand out?
What do you sense God is saying to you through these words or phrases?

Take a moment to listen.

 

Read slowly and aloud a second time.

From those words and phrases, is there an invitation God is extending to you?
How do these words or phrases apply to your life right now?

Take a moment to listen.

 

Read slowly and aloud for a final time.

Journal your thoughts, questions, concerns, resistance, desire to change directions, or simply speak these words and have a conversation with God.
What do you need from God?
What can you thank Him for?
What are you grateful for?

 

Well done, friend. 

You can practice with any passage of your choosing. I hope you will.

Keep listening.

*****

May we experience familiar words in new and fresh ways this week.
May the loss of familiar ways draw us closer to God who longs to settle our spirits.
May we breathe and allow our spoken voice to bring new revelation or gentle comfort.
May we slow down and give ourselves permission to be soothed by our Maker.

 

More about lectio divina.

I have used this journal over the years.

This book.

 

seeds of hope

seeds of hope

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Note: This is not the post I wrote earlier last week for today. Who knows, I might post that particular post sometime during the week. These are some of the words that began to percolate when my head hit my pillow last Friday night/early Saturday morning depending on how you look at the time after midnight. It seems audacious to write a pep talk when we are perhaps on the precipice of some very dark days in our history. It also feels hard as those of the Christian faith begin to mark Holy Week leading up to Easter. But my heart began to race as laid on my pillow and then rose to scribble some words in the dark before I returned to my covers. 

*****

A few posts ago, I mentioned my intention to plant nasturtiums along our fence line.

Later on, I realized I hadn’t explained the significance.

There are have been markers in my life, you could call them signposts in nature which have been instructive as well as given me hope, especially during times of trial.

Ladybugs have been one, dragonflies are another and of the flowering variety, nasturtiums.

Nasturtiums seeds are hard and wrinkly, I think they resemble little brains.
The seeds can be large or small, in various hues of brown. A seed packet might suggest nicking or sanding the seeds with a file or even soaking them in water for quicker germination.  They can be planted in full sun or part shade. They grow best in poor soil, in fact, if heavily fertilized, the seeds will produce mainly leaves and few flowers. They can endure outside attacks as I can attest as one summer, an animal developed the habit of digging up the plants during the night. Each morning after plenty of sighing,  I would pat the roots back into their patches of the earth. In spite of this harsh treatment, the plants flourished and continued to bloom into the winter. They are a species that welcomes neglect to bring forth beauty to the eye as well as a peppery taste to the tongue.

We come in all shapes and sizes, beliefs and ideals, hopes and dreams, burdens and concerns yet we are united by this time of crisis.

I don’t know what each one of you has already faced or will in the days and weeks to come. 

What I do know is that each one of us is resilient. 

We are resilient people.

We can be like the nasturtium seed.

We can thrive in the midst of the worst possible conditions.

We can let our only hardness be that we are not easily crushed by the weight of trials but continue to retain the softness of our hearts.

May this time of isolation refine us by sanding off our rough exteriors and exposing our empathy and generosity. 

Burying a seed into the ground is an act of faith coupled with hope. It’s easy to feel buried behind our windows and doors and masks and gloves. 

We can feel hidden and alone.

We lose track of days and wonder if anything is happening for the better.

It is the same when visiting a planted plot of land, there is a longing for signs and evidence of growth. It requires hope to believe there is movement when it can’t be witnessed by the eyes.

Sometimes the only visible signs are weeds. And just when growth is seen, creatures tread upon the earth desiring to tear at the fragile leaves or unearth and destroy the roots

Be resilient.

You were made for this time, some days the sun will shine brightly and other days are full-on shady.

You can endure, no matter the weather.

Bury your seed, your life, as a hope,  your offering in solidarity with the world.

Get cozy in your home soil.

Look to the right and the left and see the other seeds dug down deep beside you. Seeds are always meant to be spaced apart for maximum yield. 

We are waiting in shielded sight together.

No matter what threatens your peace, keep clinging to the earth.

Keep assuming the position.

Let’s wait for the day together when our roots are made strong, reaching deeper than we believed and our blooms erupt in glorious color at the appointed time.

I am waiting and watching with you.

 
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tables

tables

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system:

  • an organized set of doctrines, ideas, or principles usually intended to explain the arrangement or working of a systematic whole 
  • an organized or established procedure 
  • harmonious arrangement or pattern

There are systems in place which govern our lives.

We may not be aware of how many established systems ground us.

Many are not of our choosing like the traffic system full of

stop lights and rules of the road.

Others we decide how we would like to arrange our

time and space:

make the bed or don’t,

drink coffee or endeavor to  be caffeine-free,

partake in daily breakfast or obey stomach

pangs by mid-morning,

exercise regularly or not.

These daily tasks are part of a routine, a pattern

which makes up a life system helping to

bring order and rhythm to our moments.

On Saturday Carl and I sat across from one another at our table.

He had showered after his Saturday morning basketball game,

Caleb had bid farewell to a sleepover pal and I slept as long as possible

and made the bed 🙂

We sat with cups of coffee and tea.

I tend to need more stuff and scattered before me were

a Bible, a study, a journal,

a few other books and lots of pens.

Carl had the huge book you see pictured above.

theology: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience;
especially :  the study of God and of God’s relation to the world

We have sat at this table hundreds of times.

We have consumed countless meals but regularly

we have come to this

table to spend time in God’s word,

to be anchored in our faith,

to find guidance,

comfort,

to learn lessons

and to seek truth.

When I snapped this picture, Carl was unaware because

he was immersed.

He was recalling and recounting his theology.

He was allowing himself to sit before God and

gather his system of beliefs at eye level.

Because some days hope seems a farther reach

than a week ago.

A week has passed since Carl’s sister Vickie died

so swiftly and without a whisper of warning.

We sat at the table to recover our systems and cling

to our theology.

The system we have surrendered our lives to is belief

in God,

the Creator,

the Sustainer of life

and the glue who tightly adheres all our crumbling bits.

We have learned to keep our hearts and ears open this week

and discovered abiding comfort.

It’s been found in the “crowd sourcing” of Facebook.

We’ve seen it in the way family and friends love us in their

own special blend of thoughtfulness.

The pages of Scriptures where we landed

these past days have encouraged us that one day Christ will

wipe away every tear and there will be

no more death,

no more caskets,

no more sickness

and no more crying.

(One day.)

We heard words declared from a video describe the

sounds of the cries of death in a hospital.

We remembered.

(God knew.)

Last Sunday we exchanged our church seats for ones in a hospital

but this week we resumed our  pew dwelling  and these were the

first words uttered by our pastor:

“This week, you might be facing a scary time.

It could be the day before a memorial service or a graveside service…”

God knew sitting in pews could never protect us from last Sunday.

But He promised to remain no matter where we sat,

be it a table,

a pew

or even a hospital.

So we rose from our pew

and sidled up to the Table filled with the knowledge that

Jesus bore all our sufferings.

We chew and sip at the Table’s edge because He

is acquainted with sorrow and joins us in our aches

and pains.

Each table has become a place where God hears the

splash of tears upon our cheeks and dispatches

His comfort and often it is through others.

We all have systems.

Whatever system you have in place,

I hope it is effective when life quakes.

I am realizing it is very simple,

there is belief and disbelief and each

is a theology.

Whatever your theology,

I pray it brings comfort

and hope in any season.

This week has shown me when

hard events come we still brush our teeth (good thing),

we make our beds,

we make French toast, steal an extra

piece of bacon, pet the dog and

clean up our messes.

Mostly.

We also hug and kiss a little more.

We say I love you and catch ourselves when

we realize our system has been to rush past

each other in a blur so instead

we stop,

capture one another’s eyes

to affirm our affections

and glory in our mutual comfort.

 

spiritual teachers

spiritual teachers

 

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During our conversation, it became apparent my daughters differ in their preference of

reading the same book repeatedly.

I was reminded of the books I have read daily or year after year.

The stack above is a collection of books that have accompanied

me during the morning hours and remained steadfast through

the ever-changing landscape of life.

Just like a faithful friend, they encourage, remind and provide

a foundation of strength to keep standing.

There are several more I could place on the honorable mention

list, some might even be your favorites but besides

my Bibles, these have been my truest guides.

(A tiny sliver of me feels so vulnerable sharing these
books. Perhaps because they are a window to this delicate
and fierce walk of faith.)

Daily Light: A common thread of scriptures for the morning and the evening.
One of two devotional I have given the most to loved ones.

Jesus Calling: This is my number two gift devotional. I started reading
this devotional a long time before it became so popular. I loved that it
always seemed to express what I needed to read.
(If you are curious to know my #3 gift, it would be Blessing for the Evening.
It would make my stack, but I don’t own it. Isn’t that wild?) 🙂

Let Go: This might be a strange choice, how a slim book of letters
written by a 17th century French Archbishop would find its way
into my hands but I am thankful it did. This book is tough and
tender. It has this beautiful sunset on the cover but don’t be fooled.
Sometimes we need our teachers to be gentle, sometimes we
need a little shaking. It’s all about surrender.

My Utmost For His Highest: I started reading this devotional
in high school. A friend raved about it so I eventually bought
a copy of the original version and I couldn’t understand it.
Later in college, they came out with a contemporary version
and it was much more to my comprehension. This probably
explains why my friend went on to become an emergency
room doctor and I did not. I do read the original from time to
time and understand it more, it only takes me two readings now 😉
Timeless wisdom.

Seeking God’s Face: This one makes me sigh. For years,
I have wanted to follow a lectionary or a listing of daily scriptures
to read based on the church calendar. No matter which one
I would choose, I was confused. I never knew if I was
reading in the correct place. It drove my perfectionist heart
crazy. Enter this wonderful book made for non-emergency
room doctors tee hee. Here’s a picture.

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See the box? For the next 12 years (heh) I will know my place!
That’s a very good thing.

31 Days of Praise/Prayer: There are times in life when words are distant,
prayer seems futile and difficult. I alternated between these two volumes as
they taught me how to prayer through the scriptures and to keep clinging
to His promises.

How To Study The Bible For Yourself: The pages of this book are yellowed
by age. There is so much wisdom in this small book. I return to it time
and again to be reminded of the many ways to study the Word of God.

Venite: I have written about this book several times. It is now out of print
but used copies can be found. I was raised in church and over my 50 years,
have been apart of so many church traditions and experiences.I am so
grateful for this fact. I also know that I love tradition.
The pastor of the church we now attend always says we are a storied
people steeped in the story of God. I adore this and it is the very reason
I reached back to grasp the old ways. This prayer
book helped me rediscover parts of my church upbringing I had abandoned.
I found it at a time when I was very much in a wilderness and physically
stopping to pray throughout my day and night changed my life.
It changed my heart and drenched me with peace and hope.
I know it sounds trite or cliché but truly I felt my soul fly home
when I began to pray the hours.
There is something so sacred about uttering words that have been
said by countless seekers over centuries.

I wrote Robert Benson who
compiled this book to thank him and to share how
unaware my soul was missing
something until I started praying the hours.
(His letter response is a very cherished possession.)
I wish I always stopped my busyness to pray throughout
the day but when I remember
to pause, I am remade breath by breath.

Whispers of Hope: I bought this book in 2005 at a Beth Moore
conference in Spokane, Washington. I am so happy that she has
updated and recently re-released it.
(Although for those of us with large handwriting, I wish
they had kept the book the same size…oh well.)
Each day is a scripture reading,some thoughts from Beth
and spaces to write out prayers.
I can fan through the pages and see the multitude of prayers
required during that time frame. Some answered and
some remain. I wonder if all of them had been answered would
I still have the need to pray. As I let my eyes roam over those
needs still not resolved, I can’t ignore the reality of seeing His hand.
I know that He has drawn me closer to Himself.
I have changed in the midst of each hardship.
It is more than hindsight allowing me to see more clearly.
It is the prayers of 2005 and the God who was more than equal to
those cries, He is the same God who walked me through
the aching years that would follow.
He knew when I poured my ink prayers onto paper
that more hardship would come and He would remain.
He still remains.

What books bring you comfort?

This post is apart of the 31 days…yet again series
about books. You can find the entire series here.

 

 

i no longer wear a watch

i no longer wear a watch

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The path to church last week was a series of closed streets, on-ramps and detours.

The need to assemble sometimes outweighs being late.

After the third re-routing, let’s be honest,

I started scouting for diners,

ready to trade in worship for feasting.

We were able to exhale once

Caleb was deposited to his class and

the four of us took our places in a nose bleed

worthy upper balcony pew.

We missed the first songs, testimony,

announcements and sitting where we had

become accustomed.

It took many twists and turns to sit in those seats.

We all have our own faith journeys.

I glance from time to time to sneak a peek

at my two daughters

and think of Caleb in the next building.

From the moment each one was laid in my arms,

I have been consumed with loving them beyond reason

and without end.

The loving part is not a challenge.

It’s every other part of the equation which proves difficult.

I have wanted to teach them every possible lesson for

every possible scenario.

I have wanted them to love each other deeply and count

it all joy to be brother and sisters,

well, at least most of the time.

I have wanted them to unearth their passions

and breath deeply into their dreams.

I have hoped hard that they would one day believe Carl

and I had been the parents they needed

and somehow forget

each misstep.

Far above anything, I have wanted them to love

God because His love for them defies reason and

has always been and always will remain.

I have held so tightly to these hopes like they were

wishes upon a dandelion fully in seed.

I have witnessed gentle and violent breezes send

the seeds spiraling into orbit.

At times I have tried to be God, with everything

that Helen could muster, I tried to line up these

three people’s lives to align the way I viewed

as just, right and acceptable.

Yet sitting there in that sky-high pew, my hands

release their choke hold on these three beloveds

of my heart and soul.

There will be detours and road blocks in this life,

in their lives,

in my life.

There will be sections of life when roads are

closed for repair.

The tarnished and scratched watch I have worn

displaying my timetable

has now been relinquished to my Maker,

to their Maker.

I have found Him trustworthy.

I have found Him without equal,

flawless in character.

90 minutes pass and we are cramming into what was once

my grandfather’s Buick navigating our way home.

A question is lobbed in Caleb’s direction about his time in class.

He chatters about God providing manna in the wilderness and

water from a rock to satisfy the Israelite’s hunger and thirst.

We all nod and uh-huh as we had heard the same

moments earlier.

A shared experience.

We had all known wilderness

and hunger

and thirst.

We had all journeyed on different pathways

yet as one family.

We all nod and uh-huh that God has been

faithful to provide manna every day

for every hunger pain.

He has provided water to satisfy

our penetrating thirsts.

He has never taken a break

from His post watching our flock.

Every road we traverse,

I can trust He is there,

watching,

patiently waiting

and possessing hope.

A bucket full of hope

large enough to empty

its contents over me,

displacing my fears and

worst case scenarios.

I drop my timepiece in His hands

and open my mouth

to shout but the sound is only

released in a whisper,

“They are all yours.

You can keep time.”

He assures me,

a hushed prayer is

His delight.