So I’ve been gone from the blog for a couple of weeks. I was sick for a week, and then I was recovering for a week, and trying to catch up on school work and whatnot.
Taking a short break from school/work/blogs/housework/gardening was very interesting. It was a forced break, and frankly, it’s only been a couple of months of busyness, so it wasn’t like I was really ready for a break, or in dire need of one. If anything, it felt like I was slipping backward into the previous sluggishness. I worried a bit that when I was well again, I would stay on the couch.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. I knew I was well not only by no longer needing medicine to breathe, but when I was back to lying in bed at night with zillions of ideas racing through my head. In the short week that I’d been sick, I had fallen asleep easily and quickly, with nary a wild idea or thought startling me awake. I didn’t realize it, naturally, because I was sick, and thankful for being able to sleep. That first night when the idea swarm came back was a revelation in how my brain works these days. So many ideas. So many things I want to do in the garden, in my sewing room, for school, for work, for the blogs, cooking, with friends, for friends…
One of the many ideas that came to me during the last couple of days was how to organize my blogs so that I can plan ahead a bit better, and still cover all the ideas that I keep having. Because it’s Lent, I’m reading a daily Lenten Meditation program put out by the Episcopal Relief & Development folks. I’m not really Episcopalian anymore, at least not in good standing with any particular congregation, but I still find some spiritual connection with the teachings of the church in relation to social justice issues. So, I stay on the email lists and read the literature I get. Who knows, maybe I’m keeping my big toe in the door and will go back to church some day. Or maybe not.
I don’t intend to blog daily, although the meditations are daily. Instead, I hope to set aside one day a week to put my thoughts into words here, looking back on the previous week’s meditations and trying to find a common thread.
“We are invited to journey inward to encounter and confront all that separates us from God. It is also a time to journey outward to encounter and confront all that causes pain, damage and separation from others.”
Shannon Ferguson Kelly (Ash Wednesday, Feb 22)
I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that Lent comes (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere) just in the last months before Spring. When I lived in Michigan and Kansas, the months of February and March were sometimes the hardest to get through. So dark and dismal. But the perfect opportunity to go inside, literally and figuratively. Here in Northern California, it’s not quite that stark, although under normal conditions we’d be getting tired of rain by this point in the year. Sadly, there hasn’t been much rain to speak of, and it feels a lot more like continual spring than winter. In a way, that’s nice, but in another, it’s been a bit disorienting. And disappointing. I look forward to this time of year for doing the internal work that is so important. I think of the dark days of winter as a time of renewal, self-examination, and re-dedication to my goals. The great irony being that by spending this time turned inward, it makes me more open to the needs of others. By spending time alone, I feel more connected when I do reach out to others.
“Hearing Jesus talk about his healing work reminds me of the extravagant nature of his ministry. Jesus is not doing anything in small measure. This is not a man who holds anything back. I don’t imagine he ever looked at the task in front of him and said, ‘The job is so huge, I don’t know where to start—maybe I’ll just go back to bed.’ I have.”
Margaret Trezevant (Feb 23)
This is really quite inspirational, and just what I needed to hear right now. There are so many important social issues that I feel are too big to really tackle. It’s overwhelming and I sometimes feel like I’m just a drop in the ocean. But, as Mother Teresa said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Start somewhere. Do something. Do not stand by and allow the injustice to go on undocumented. Even if all you can manage is a small rant in a tiny corner of the Internet — a very small drop in a very large ocean — it is still worth the time and energy.
“The eggs represented the entire village’s wealth for that day. It was everything they had, and they wanted to share it with me—truly a living theology of abundance in a place of scarcity.
“How can we do any less?”
Robert W. Radtke (Feb 24)
This story may been a bit more explaining. Basically, he had been traveling around Ghana, helping villages with mosquito nets, and when he was done, the community gathered together to thank him. They had wanted to give him a gift, and wished they could afford to give him an elephant, which is a very extravagant gift, and one they could not afford. Instead, they gathered all the eggs in the village and gave them to him. What a remarkable story about them giving what they still could not truly afford to give, to express their gratitude.
I know I would give that much and more for my loved ones. Would I do the same for others? Am I truly expressing my gratitude for all the blessings I have been given, all the help, all the friendships, all the kindness? How can I be more mindful about what I receive so easily?
“Through his life and teaching, Jesus invited and continues to invite his disciples to be healed and take individual responsibility in helping create beloved communities.”
Prince Singh (Feb 25)
The thought about community has been a central focus in my life recently. I have witnessed several examples of rudeness and hurtfulness, as well as selfishness and lack of awareness. Some are not even intended to be hurtful, but seemingly the offenders sincerely believe they are doing the right thing. And yet, their actions have hurt someone else. When I have brought this to their attention, they become defensive, as humans are prone to do (myself included).
I know I cannot fix all the things that are wrong in the world, but in the sphere of my influence, I am committed to creating a safe space for everyone. Part of that involves speaking up for those who may be too intimidated or ignored. Part of that involves examining my own actions and making changes when I find something wrong. And part of it involves approaching each interaction with kindness and compassion, even when confronting someone. It is my responsibility to myself to establish strong boundaries and to make my expectations for behavior clear.
“Repeat the following as your prayer mantra today: I am a beloved child of God, with whom God is well pleased.”
Eric H. F. Law (Feb 26)
We all are. Which, in a way, makes us all siblings. Even the people we disagree with. Sometimes this is the hardest thing to remember. It’s easier to dismiss people who hold opinions that are in conflict with our own. If we are truly all beloved children of God, then even the rude, hurtful people are too. And as such, even when we disagree, we have to use kindness and respect in our disagreement.
“May you understand work as vocation—an endeavor to which you are called by God. May you may come to know that God’s dream for you doesn’t include exhaustion, stress-related illness, pressure to produce due to unreasonable demands or loss of time with those you love. Give yourself a break.”
Gay Clark Jennings (Feb 27)
Well, the “give yourself a break” part doesn’t necessarily apply to my life right now. But the idea that my goals and projects are a vocation is something worth remembering. A calling doesn’t necessarily mean a Big Time Career. It can be something as simple as being a good friend, a good gardener, a good step-parent, a good student. This is the biblical way of saying, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”
The second half of that goes back to the idea of kindness, which is one I have spent a lot of time thinking about over the years. We always apply the term kindness when we talk about how we interact with others. But it’s just as important, if not more so, to be kind to ourselves.