Author Archives: kathiinireland

Holy Ground

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The labyrinth at Glendalough

These past months have been intense and full. Some days I manage that well, and other days, honestly, I don’t. 

I decided to start work on a second Masters degree. And I’m currently less than three weeks away from going to the States for four months – which means preparing my house for someone else to stay, organizing the travel I will do while I am away, seeing people “one more time,” working out many details. That’s just part of it.

It is a well-established fact within my family that I am the worst at packing and throwing stuff away. 

I’m really good at a lot of things – parallel parking, growing carrots, baking cookies, teaching…

But there are dark corners of my house where things are hidden – and I need to face them. Someone else will be living here while I’m gone and I want it to be a welcoming, calming, usable space for her.

So. Sometimes I cry. 

Have I said enough? Do you understand?

All of that to say, that for the past few months I’ve been thinking about Moses. (I’m sure you see the connection there?)

Several months ago, a friend made this comment to me,  “When God met Moses at the burning bush, and asked him to remove his sandals… I can’t help but think that perhaps God wanted Moses to feel grounded and connected through the feeling of bare feet on soil.”*

(You can read the whole story in Exodus 3:1-4:13.)

These words have changed the whole story for me. And in these weeks of feeling a bit overwhelmed, I keep going back to it. 

Born into a society that wanted to kill him, Moses was saved by the courage of midwives who disobeyed the command of Pharaoh. Found on the water by Pharaoh’s daughter, he was sent back to his biological mother to be cared for until he was probably 3 or 4 years old.  Though his biological mother raised him, he was the adopted child of Pharaoh’s daughter and she paid for his care. 

Among the Hebrews, he was a person of privilege. Among the Egyptians, he was the adopted Hebrew child. As a grown man, he settled in the land of Midian, separated from the people of his heritage and the land that had been his home. He began a life there: an ordinary, everyday, working life, caring his father-in-law’s sheep.

On one of these ordinary days, “…the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not burned up.” (Exodus 3:1-2, NRSV)

Moses “turned aside to see.” God calls Moses by name, “Moses, Moses!” (This is called a “repetition of endearment.” In ancient Semitic culture, to speak a name twice was a way of expressing affection and friendship.[1]

God has come to speak to Moses, and Moses would have known that he was being addressed by someone who loved and cared for him.

“When the Lord saw that <Moses> had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!”  And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:4.5, NRSV)

I have heard this story many, many times. Moreover, I have heard different explanations for the instruction found in v. 5, that Moses must stop moving closer and take off his sandals.  These explanations have centered most often on God’s holiness, and Moses’ unworthiness, God’s power, and Moses’ weakness, and God’s purity and Moses’ impurity.  

But what if it was something more intimate?  What if God is inviting Moses into intimacy with God’s self; that in taking off his sandals Moses is invited to feel the presence of God in that place?

In the act of removing his shoes, the man who has always been an outsider is joined to God’s presence.  The physical touch of bare feet on the earth is grounding and personal and connects Moses to the burning bush that in that moment contains the physical manifestation of the presence of God.

Have you felt this?

I have experienced the intimacy of connection to God through the earth.  And these days I find myself needing to be grounded in creation. There have been other times that this connection has felt like the only real thing in the world; especially as I have walked through dark seasons of grief. 

I have sometimes been surprised by the joy of dirt on my hands and under my nails and the pleasure of preparing the earth for growing things.  I have felt my spirit filled and healed by the connection to God through the ground beneath my feet.  And sometimes, I just have to walk away from what overwhelms me and step out into fresh air and earth.

Whether you are standing barefoot on a hillside, lying in the grass watching clouds drift by, allowing sand to run through your fingers, or digging in the garden with bare hands, the feel of the earth is a form of communion with creation and Creator.  The sounds of the wind, or waves, or birdsong – or the sound of flames burning a bush that is not consumed – are potent means of connection to the One who speaks each one of us into being and sustains us.

A conversation that starts with the endearment (“Moses, Moses!”) will move naturally to an invitation to intimacy, presence, and constancy, involving all of the senses.

Moses removed his sandals, and he felt God’s presence and power. He heard the love, concern, and friendship in the voice of God and knew that his own life and spirit would be forever connected to this holy ground moment and the intimate friendship of God. 

At the end of Moses’ life, it was written, “Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” (Deuteronomy 34:10). 

You are invited to take off your sandals and stand on holy ground in the presence of God. Hear God call your name. Twice. Allow yourself to feel the connection to the Creator through creation. Allow that connection to inform and form your relationship with God for the rest of your days.

You are standing on holy ground.

That’s what I would have said ...


[1] Stuart, D. K. Exodus (Vol. 2). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006, p. 113-114.

*This brilliant, original thought came from my friend, Kate Bowen-Evans, MTh.

The Image of a Mother

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Our very own mother, Mary – and a seasick Kathi. 💚

 

Mary sits on the roof of the busy household, with her face toward the sun in the cool of the morning.

 

This is John’s house, where she was led after she saw her first-born son taken down from the cross.

 

She hears the women working below, and she wants to be helpful, but she knows that this is not really her house, and her heart is tired.

 

Her hands are bent from many years of hard work, raising children, preparing meals, cleaning and mending.

 

When she was young, she sometimes helped Joseph in his shop, with baby Jesus swaddled against her body; and later, playing on the floor. 

 

And now she is old and her first-born child is dead.

 

She wonders what it was all for. She wonders what the angel meant when he said,

 

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.

The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,

and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever;

his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:32)

 

“I didn’t need you to be a king,” she whispers.

 

She closes her eyes against the memory of the sword being thrust into the side of her beloved son. She cannot get the sight and sound of that out of her head.

 

She thinks back many years, to the old man in the temple, Simeon, and his words,

 

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,

and to be a sign that will be spoken against,

so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.

And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Luke 2:34, 35

 

And a sword will pierce your own soul too.

 

She feels as if the sword that went into Jesus’ side has been thrust into her heart. And it is there still.

 

She can hear the other women in the household moving about their daily tasks. They are kind, and they are gentle with her, but she knows they are also afraid.

 

John hasn’t been home since he brought her to his house. He and the other disciples are hiding somewhere in Jerusalem.

 

Mary knows that the women in the house are whispering, and wondering, and praying that their sons, husbands, fathers, won’t be next.

 

She bows her head and prays that too.

 

And with her eyes closed she feels a change in the light. A shadow has come over her face.

 

She senses that someone is there.

 

Thinking it is one of the women come to check on her, she whispers, “I’m alright. I don’t need anything.”

 

A hand touches her head and she hears a voice say softly, “Ima” (Mother).

 

She squeezes her eyes shut more tightly. She is afraid to open them and discover that there is no one there.

 

But this man kneels before her and puts his hands on either side of her face. She reaches up and covers his hands with hers.

 

She knows these hands.

 

She touches his face.  She feels the wounds – the marks from the thorns, the bare chin where his beard was plucked out.

 

But she knows this face. She pulls his head to her chest and rocks and weeps. She holds him like she did when he was a boy.

 

She opens her eyes as he pulls back a little. His face is marred, but in it she sees joy. She sees all the mischief and kindness, compassion and resolve that were always part of him.

 

Again, he says, “Ima.”  There is a smile in his eyes and he takes her hands in his.

 

How can this be?

 

“Ima,” he says, “I am well. I am healed and whole. And I am blessed to be your son. Thank you. Thank you for believing the promise. Thank you for every time you picked me up when I fell, and tended to my skinned knees and torn clothes.  Thank you for loving me so.”

 

Jesus stands and pulls Mary to her feet. He embraces his mother one more time.

 

“Ima, I wanted to see you first. You were the first to know me on earth, to see me and hold me, and you are the first now. I must go to my disciples, and soon I will return to my Father.  I will send my Spirit and you will know that I am with you always.”

 

Jesus kisses her head and steps back. And he is gone.

 

He is gone. But he is not dead anymore.  

She whispers to the empty space where he just stood,

“I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:38

 

Mary lifts her face to the sun again and says,

 

“My soul glorifies the Lord
  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

Luke 1:46-55

 

Mary feels lighter. She misses her son still, but she thinks she might like a little something to eat, after all. And she turns and enters the house.

 

Inhale: The image of a mother

 Exhale: Is also the image of God.

 

That’s what I would have said…

Two are Better Than One

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Feet in the Aegean Sea with my “cord of three strands”

On March 31st I signed up for a “Virtual Challenge” – to walk 300km in three months to raise money for breast cancer research.

I wasn’t sure if I could do it (I’m still not entirely sure – but I am doing it).

So I’ve been walking a lot the last few weeks.

At least, a lot for ME.

I have surprised myself. And this feels important.

My family is too well acquainted with cancer.  Three of my four siblings have had cancer. That’s three too many.

And one of them, our youngest sister, died two years ago. That is definitely one too many.

For months after Lori died, I would feel the grief swell inside of me until I was compelled to walk out the door. I just couldn’t sit with it. And I couldn’t DO ANYTHING to change it – the whole horrible truth of it.

I needed to be where I could breath and move and look at the sky. 

I would stand up and walk out the door and leave everything as it was – sometimes the television on, or wet laundry in a pile on the floor next to the drying rack, or a half finished meal.

I’d like to be walking with my sister. I’ll always be walking with my sister.

I can walk because three years ago (nearly) I got a new knee, and my sisters came to help me (I had a lot of helpful friends too!).

So when I heard about this challenge I thought – maybe I can do that.  Maybe I can walk 300km to raise money for breast cancer research. It seemed like a suitable and meaningful thing to do.

In 26 days I’ve walked 97 km (60 miles).  No one is more surprised than me.

I’ve learned something important…

Two are better than one, 

because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down, 

one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

…A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10, 12b

As I walked along the seafront with a friend a week ago, I commented that when we walk together I am less aware of how far we are going – or that my body is tired and sore…

She said that this true for her as well, and she has been walking more since I began this challenge.

Two are better than one. 

One day, not long ago, I was out walking by myself. I came to a crossroads, tired in my body and soul. I had the choice of taking a turn that would make the way back to my house just a little longer or going there directly. 

I needed the distance, but I wanted to be done.

And in that moment I received a text from a friend thousands of miles away. It said, “Keep walking!

I shook my head, and took the turn and walked a little farther (Is she tracking me?).

Two are better than one… If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, apart from signing up for the challenge, is that I told people I had signed up for the challenge.

And people sponsored me.  financially. some surprising people sponsored me financially. It is a fundraiser, after all…  and said they were proud of me. 

I think I am good alone. I think that I will be fine and I can sign up for a challenge and give it a try – and if I can’t do it, no one needs to know.

What if it is too hard? What if my knee hurts? or my back? and it just sounds like I’m making excuses? 

What if I disappoint people?

I’m good alone. I can do it. Or not do it. (And maybe I can’t do it and no one has to know.)

I started the challenge a month late, so I was already 100km behind. I did the math and I knew how far I had to go every day to catch up. 

And the first day I did it. And I wanted to vomit. And every part of my body hurt.

And the second day I did it. And I slept more hours than I usually do… 

And then I decided to ask for help. I asked if there were some people who would be willing to walk some extra kilometers over the next two months, and make up the distance that I was behind.

And I committed to do all 300 kilometres in 3 months, which would take me a month beyond the end of the challenge.

I think I’ll reach my first 100 kilometres tomorrow. What?

Tonight I came home and got two messages from two women who have encouraged me all along. One offered 3.2 kms that she walked today.  Another friend offered 4 kms.

So far these friends (and a few others) have helped me walk 180.7 kms.  They have gifted me 83.5 kms to add to my total.

Two are better than one. And a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

The thing is, I had to let them. I had to say, “I’m doing this and I think I need help.”

I feel like I was saying, “I am hopeful and afraid to hope. I feel fragile and inadequate and I need you.” And of course, I ended that implied, vulnerable declaration with, ”but if you can’t help, that’s okay! I’ll be fine!”

Because, you know, I’m good alone. I am contained and I am capable. I am independent. I am strong.

And sometimes I need help (more often than I would like). And there are lovely people around me who love me, and answer when I call. 

They walk with me – figuratively, and literally. And the walk is easier because of it.

I think many of us want to be that “two” for someone else. But we don’t want to need  that “two” for ourselves. 

But pity the one who falls and has no one to help them up.

Open your heart to the “entwining” of friends who will walk with you.  That’s what I’m learning.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

And tomorrow I will reach my first 100k, completed in just under four weeks. I don’t think I would have persevered alone. That is “a good return” for our labour.

Inhale: You have made known to me the path of life.

Exhale: I do not walk it alone.

Psalm 16:11

That’s what I would have said…

Sitting with Martha and Mary

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As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 

But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing.

She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” 

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” 

Luke 10:38-42

I’ve been sitting with Mary and Martha. They sit facing me, each holding one of my hands. Their faces are serene and kind. They are older, in my mind’s eye, than these stories.

They have been friends of Jesus… and I can see this in their faces. Joy and sorrow. Peace and pain. It is all there.

They hold my hands and look into my eyes and I feel that here are the two parts of who I am. 

(I know this may sound a little strange. I’m in the midst of an Ignatian Prayer Retreat. I am guided each week through scripture and encouraged to try different prayer practices.  One of these is the “Application of the Senses” – to immerse myself in the scene, to talk to the individuals present, to imagine the sounds and smells, to PRAY with the participants of the story… and so I sit with Martha and Mary.)

Jesus came to their house and was like no one they had ever known. They had heard him and heard of him, and he came to their house, with his whole crowd.

Martha sprang into action. She wanted to esteem Jesus with the best meal and experience she could create, even as he honoured them by coming into their home.

Mary had never heard anyone speak like Jesus. She knew that Martha wanted her help, but she couldn’t tear herself away. She wanted to hear the conversation. She didn’t want to miss any part of it. She sat at Jesus feet, in the position of a disciple, and Jesus did not send her away.

In the story, Martha comes to Jesus “worried and upset about many things”. I expect Martha has been trying to get Mary’s attention.

She has dropped subtle and less subtle hints.  She has sighed loudly, and banged a few pots. She has asked pointed questions like, “Mary, where did you put that thing that I need and could you come and show me?” 

She taps her foot… She sends her youngest in to ask Aunt Mary to count the guests so that she can know just how many guests to set the table for (and how very much work there is to do).

And Mary, fully aware of what her sister is “doing”, remains at Jesus feet… hanging on every word.

“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I sit, looking into the faces of Martha and Mary. They each have hold of one of my hands. As I read this story they look slightly amused, smiling and joyous, gracious and forgiving.

They are able to laugh at their younger selves. They are able to remember those women, with affection.

They have learned to be generous and gracious with each other.

And I see myself in both of them.

I get up in the morning and think, “I need to pray. I need to write. I need to prepare a sermon. I need to think of ways to celebrate Easter when we cannot meet together. I need to connect with people and encourage them.”

And I look up and the sun hits the shelf in front of me and I think, “I need to dust that. I need to vacuum the hallway. I need to clear off the kitchen counter and clean all the way to the back. I need to hang up the laundry that is sitting in the washer. I need to clear up the pile of stuff on the guest bed…”

And – “I should write thank you notes. I should write a newsletter. I should do something about my social work credentials. I should study more…”

I want to paint the garden fence.

I am Mary. I want to sit and walk and talk with Jesus.

I am Martha. How can I sit down and enjoy contemplation if the kitchen isn’t clean? If the sunlight shows me the dust on the furniture?

These women smile at me, and at one another. They say to me, “It’s okay.”

Martha has learned to sit down at the table and enjoy the conversation. She has learned that when the conversation ends, she can go into the kitchen and clean up – and Mary will go with her.

Mary loves Martha. And she knows that cleaning the kitchen means that Martha will be able to sleep, and wake up in the morning feeling peaceful and quiet in her soul – without resentment.  

Mary accepts that for Martha, a sink full of dishes is noisy.  The dishes will shout at Martha until they are washed.

Mary doesn’t say to Martha “The dishes will still be there in the morning…” As if that is a consolation… as if that is a reason to relax.

Martha doesn’t say to Mary “You aren’t doing anything important. Come and help me!” As if thoughtful pursuits have no value, no power to feed the soul.

We know more about Mary and Martha than this story. We know that their brother was sick, and they sent for Jesus. And Jesus – who loved their brother – stayed where he was for two more days.

Lazarus died. They grieved for him. They buried him.

When Jesus finally came, Lazarus had been in the grave four days.

Mary and Martha both asked Jesus “Where were you? If you had been here our brother would not have died!” (John 11: 21 and 32)

Jesus wept.

He wept for “the one that he loved” who had died. He wept for his friends who were grieving. He wept because his soul was “troubled”.  They still did not understand that He came to bring life

And Jesus called Lazarus out of the cave, out of death.

Jesus said to Martha,

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

 John 11:25-27

Martha and Mary hold my hands and say to me, “It’s okay.”

They have learned the secret of what is important. They have learned that there is more to the story.

They have learned that even in the face of death, Jesus came to bring life.

And so they have learned to be gentle with each other. And are teaching me…

And I don’t have to choose to be one or the other. I can integrate Martha, and my need to wash the dishes before I go to bed so that I can breathe in the morning…

And I can integrate Mary, and my need to listen to the Holy Spirit in the sounds of the garden, and colours in nature, and to ALWAYS have flowers in my house.

I can look into their faces and see what they have learned – that there is always more to the story. There is always “four days in the grave and Jesus comes and weeps, and calls forth life from death”.

The meal is important, and the chores are important… and I will get to those.  And sitting at Jesus’ feet is important. And walking out the door into the daylight is important. Hanging up the laundry is important.

And all of those “many things” are important… and I will get to them. Or not. And Martha and Mary tell me that this is okay.

And I will be gracious with myself. And I will laugh at myself. And I will do the one more thing, and trust that Jesus will come and bring life, even when I don’t expect it.

Both of these women are part of me (and you).  And they teach me that my story doesn’t end with this day.

Look into their eyes. They are older and wiser than they were when we met them. They have seen death and life. They have learned to love their differences – and to live with them.

And they knew Jesus. And knowing Jesus changed them in beautiful ways.

I can see it in their faces.

Sit with them a while, and you will see it too.

Inhale: All shall be well and all shall be well…

Exhale: And all manner of thing shall be well…

(Julian of Norwich)

That’s what I would have said…

Sabbath

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Where Sabbath happens for me…

Then Jesus said,

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,

and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you.

Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy to bear,

and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

In the first book of the Bible we read the story of Creation. We learn that after completing the work of Creation in six days, God rested on the seventh day. (Genesis 1 and 2)

The Torah phrases it like this, “On the seventh day God finished the work… and ceased from all the work… and God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God ceased from all the work of creation…”

On the seventh day God finished the work… the ancient rabbis interpreted that to mean that on the seventh day, God created “rest”… the final work of creation.

The Hebrew word that is used here is menuchah, and “rest” is an inadequate translation. It is so much more. It is a “rest of love freely given…of truth and sincerity… of peace and tranquility, quietude and safety.”1

Shabbat menuchah – A Sabbath (rest) of rest (love freely given, truth and sincerity, peace and tranquility, quietude and safety).

I’d like some of that.

On the seventh day God set aside an entire day to stop working (creating), and to delight in creation (which includes ME… God delights in me). 

On the seventh day I am invited to delight in my own life, and in my own place in creation, and above all – to delight in the Creator.

This rhythm of Sabbath rest is built into creation.

The rhythm of day into night and night into morning…

The rhythm of seasons… the awakening and growth of Spring and Summer into the the rest of Autumn and Winter.

The tidal rhythms of the sea and the sun and moon…

Even the rhythms of our own bodies – cycles and aging and the perceptible rest of the heart between beats, and the lungs between each breath.

Sabbath comes as delight and restoration and renewing. 

Or if we fail to rest then Sabbath is forced through sickness and fatigue.

This year has for many of us, disrupted our usual rhythms.

For some this may have been a good change – pointing out ways that we had stretched ourselves unnecessarily – by living busy lives.

For others, these changes have been more difficult than you could ever have imagined, requiring more of you physically, emotionally, mentally, even spiritually, than you thought you could endure.

I don’t want these words to feel heavy. 

I don’t want this teaching to feel like “here is another thing that I should be doing, and I’m not doing it – or I’m not doing it right, or I’m not doing it well”. 

Because Sabbath, if it is Sabbath, is restorative and relieving and holy.  Sabbath reminds us that God can carry and uphold all of creation without our help, for this day.

Then Jesus said,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,

for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Sabbath is not meant to be burdensome. It is meant to break into the rhythm of our week and disrupt it, yes, but to disrupt it with relief, release, restoration, rest, joy,  and delight. 

Sabbath interrupts us, and prioritizes our lives into an order that puts God first.

It is not something we earn.  It is not the same as a day off, which is often spent running around completing the things we didn’t have time to do on other days.

In fact, Sabbath has nothing to do with us at all. It is a gift from God that breaks into our lives whether we are ready for it or not. 

We can live without Sabbath for a time. Ultimately, a life without Sabbath rest will lead to exhaustion, illness, stress, discord – and a forced rest.

Sabbath that is restorative may take some planning. 

Throughout the Old and New Testaments we read the words “It was the day of preparation…” Preparation for what?  Preparing for Sabbath.

Food was prepared. The house was prepared. The schedule was cleared. Friends and family were invited to feast.  

People thought about what needed to be done on that day of Preparation, so that they would be able to enjoy a day without any responsibility or expectation to create.

But whether or not the preparations were complete, Sabbath happened. 

We have the freedom to Sabbath on any day. We have the freedom to take it as we are able – an afternoon, an evening.

We stop our work (as much as we are able – and I know that children make that more of a planning challenge!). 

We do things that are restorative… which looks different for each of us. 

I like to work in the garden. I know that is NOT restful for everyone. Some people like to play football or climb the Sugarloaf. I feel certain that would not be restful for me. Some people take naps! I don’t take naps…

We sit down to a meal with friends or family. We talk and eat and enjoy the company of loved ones while children run around like wild things.

It is a practice that may take practice. Start where you are able…

Let yourself delight in creation without feeling the need to add to it. Allow God to carry the universe without your help. And while we delight in God, God is also delighting in us.

Let this rest deepen your joy.

Then Jesus said,

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.

I’ll show you how to take a real rest.

Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.

Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace… I love that.

Inhale: Lord, I am weary.

Exhale: In You I find rest for my soul.

That’s what I would have said…

1 https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/shabbat-rest-and-renewal/

Undernourished Enthusiasm

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one year ago I was here…

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Johnny: Big things are coming your way, sweetheart. Don’t you worry.

Moira: Okay. I don’t. Worry is but undernourished enthusiasm.  (Schitt’s Creek, Season 6, episode 13)

I don’t really know what that means.  But it makes me laugh.

It’s been a year.  On February 21, 2020, “Patient 1” was admitted to hospital in Italy.  He was a 38 year old marathon runner, and he couldn’t breath.

Three weeks later the Irish government closed the schools, and shortly thereafter, everything else.

You remember, I’m sure…

Our enthusiasm has been decidedly undernourished for the past year.

We worry about loved ones we cannot see or visit. 

We worry about children in school. 

We worry about children out of school.

We worry about loss of income, and local businesses closing.

We worry about mental health and isolation.

We worry about the person in the queue behind us who is standing too close.

Did I leave something out? Of course I did…

Worry has a way of taking us out of the present moment.  It transports us into an imagined future that undoubtedly will bring disaster.

Worry wants us to miss what is right in front of us.  THIS moment. The one you are living, and the only one you actually CAN live.

And in these times, we are overwhelmed. 

We’ve just had our week of mid-term break, and tomorrow (or probably “today” when you read this) home schooling starts again.

And Jesus says, 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:25-29)

It feels like it is easy to say, “do not worry about your life”.  It is harder to just STOP.

What we can do is notice those moments that are right in front of us – the lilies of the field, and the birds of the air, and laughter, and the love of others, and sunshine and longer days.

Lift up your head.

Worry imagines a future of scarcity. 

Look for moments of abundance – and lean into them. 

Nourish the enthusiasm.  (smile)

Inhale: But you, Lord, are a shield around me,

Exhale: my glory, the one who lifts my head.

Psalm 3:3

That’s what I would have said…

Gather

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a handpainted card that arrived in the post this week… xx

One of the darkly comical notes for 2020 is that in January I had been considering a “word of the year” (something I’d only done once before).

I said to a friend that I was thinking of the word “gather”, but I wasn’t sure if that was a realistic word for me.

I am an introvert. 

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Ordinary Time

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Ordinary days in ordinary time…

Last week I had in my mind to write something about “Epiphany”.  It was rolling around in my brain… a moment of great revelation! 

The church celebrates Epiphany on January 6th. It is traditionally, the day that Christ made himself known to the Gentiles, demonstrating the deep truth that Christ has come for everyone.

The true light “that gives light to everyone” has come into the world. And “… to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (1 John 1:9-12)

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A Prayer for the New Year

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A pathway for the year ahead…

I have an old book called, A Diary of Private Prayer, by a man called John Baillie. In the very first prayer, for First Day: Morning there is this line: “For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life… I praise and worship Thee, O Lord”.

The poetry of that line struck me, and has stayed with me for years. For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life… I praise and worship Thee, O Lord.

…the great and mysterious opportunity of my life…

In Genesis 12:1 Abram is given this instruction, “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land that I will show you.”  That is all the information he had. And Abram did it – not knowing where God would take him.

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