Category Archives: Theology and Faith

When Easter is (and isn’t) about Hope

[Hope] is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart;
it transcends the world that is immediately experienced,
and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.
(Václav Havel, Disturbing the Peace)

tulips

A parishioner approaches me during coffee hour. We hug for a long time and I tell her I’m so sorry. She’s just lost a dear friend to a long battle with lung cancer. Although I don’t know her friend, we have been talking and praying about her journey with treatment during our regular women’s Bible study group, and the loss feels deeply sad for all of us.

“I just don’t think it was her time to go,” she says. “It doesn’t make any sense.” A person so full of strength and positivity, a single mother living (and now dying) far from her family, leaving behind a nine-year-old daughter. I’m struck by her words, especially now, in the midst of Holy Week.

I tell her that sometimes Easter doesn’t come three days after death, sometimes healing and new life takes much longer. I tell her some years, Easter Sunday rolls around only to find us still stuck in the middle of waiting, still stuck in the darkness of the tomb. Sometimes Easter isn’t about the fulfillment of hope; it’s about the reminder that hope can still be possible.

And she nods. She already knows.

Wishing you deep peace, friends, wherever this Holy Week finds your heart.

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Filed under Lectionary Reflections, Lent 2015, Theology and Faith

The Many Voices of the Spirit

Pumpkin in Woods

The wind was ferocious today,
howling around me as I stood among the boulders in the woods.
It pulled my voice away from me as I called to the dog.
It pushed the trees into each other,
crowding them together as they bent and chattered.
The wind demanded, not to be attended to (for what does the wind need of me)
but to be witnessed.

I thought of the Spirit, which Jesus said blows where it chooses,
blows with mystery, blows to be heard.
And I remembered that the Spirit wind speaks in many ways:
sometimes a whisper, so subtle it could be missed by distracted ears,
sometimes a roar, so impenetrable it cannot be avoided.

So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit, Jesus tells the faithful questioner.
They are coming from who-knows-where, going to who-knows-where,
endlessly liminal, always in between.
And I wonder: am I like that?
Even if I, too, also a faithful questioner, must ask again and again
How can these things be?
Even then am I also spirit-born and wind-blown?

I cannot always decipher the meanings of the Spirit’s many voices,
to translate the language of its whispers and roars.
But I can promise to stay right here, in the middle of the in-between,
to hear and bear witness.

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Filed under Lent, My Faith Journey, Spirituality

What is most deeply true

Lagging in the middle

Any runner will tell you: it’s a mental sport.

You train hard to be in good shape, but even the most fit runner knows that it’s easy to get psyched out — not just by competition, but by yourself.

When I run, I’m always strongest at the beginning at the end. It’s the middle of my run, no matter the distance, that lags the most.

I start to worry that I don’t have what it takes to keep up my pace. I calculate and re-calculate split times in my head, trying to figure out what benchmarks I need to be hitting.

And all that anxiety and self-doubt slows me down.

That’s the irony. It helps to stay focused, but it doesn’t help to fret.

Don’t listen to your head

My brother, also a runner, sometimes does time trials with me. He stands at the finish line, watch in hand, and encourages me to hit my goals as I come around for each lap. Sometimes he’ll even run a few of those middle laps, the lagging ones, right behind me to keep me on pace.

“Listen to your body,” he tells me, “not your head.”

And I do.

Underneath the mental chatter about whether or not I can keep this up for another 10 minutes is the quiet, steady truth of what my body is really capable of. I often find that my mind has been telling me I can’t maintain a pace that actually feels fine for my body.

When I stop checking in with my fear and start checking in with my capacity, something inside me settles down. Those are the times I’m able to run more smoothly and easily.

The truest love story

I think often about how our spiritual lives follow the same pattern: when we get caught up in stories of self-doubt, we often slow ourselves down. We can cover over what is most deeply true about us: that we are created, redeemed, whole, and beautiful.

That we are, each of us, children of God. That we are immeasurably and abundantly loved.

That we have been given a spirit of power, not fear. That we are set free.

So, if you find yourself lagging in the middle, distracted by stories your mind is telling you about whether or not you have what it takes to keep going: stop checking in with your fear, and start checking in with your capacity.

Don’t listen to your head. Listen instead to the ever-present truth:

Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:37-39)

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Filed under Theology and Faith