Ash Wednesday Musings


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I wish I was preaching today, but I’m not.  Today my friend and my colleague is preaching, and it is an honor to hear his word.  I wish I were preaching though because on this day I feel so glad to be alive.  Yes, on this day, the day we remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return, I feel the sweet joy of life.

I think that is really what this day is about.  The sweet joy of life.  Many folks see it as a dreadful reminder of our immortality; they see it as being symbolic of doom.  But I don’t believe that is what it’s about; I believe it is a reminder to “seize the day,” to seize the moment, because our moments are limited; but right now is a gift.

We are stardust; we are billion year old carbon, and out of that dust God formed us, gave us breath, gave us senses, and gave us life.  If that is not a miracle, then I don’t know what is.  My tomorrow is not guaranteed.  That is part of the deal.  I don’t know how long I have to enjoy this life.  But today reminds me that I have today; I have this moment, and it is up to me to make the most of it.

In this moment I able to see the sun outside my window glinting on the snow.  I am able to hear the sweet sound of water dripping from the eaves.  I am able to touch my friends, and to feel the warm embrace of those to whom I belong.  I am able to smell the warm animal smell of my dog, and I am able to taste the goodness of the fruit of the earth.  Do I notice those things?  Do I delight in them?  Or are my thoughts elsewhere?

My life is precious to me, and I believe that I will miss it when I am no longer of this form.  One day my body will return to the dust that it came from, and those who love me will mourn my passing.  But I have a deep and abiding trust that death is a doorway to something else; something better.  I trust that our being is not a mistake or a random hiccup in the universe, and I trust that when I leave the earthly home of my body, my consciousness will return to my heavenly source.

If I were preaching today that would be my message, but I’m not preaching.  So I’ll just share these thoughts with you instead.  Blessings on your Ash Wednesday!

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The Grace of Dark


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Romans 7: 14-15

For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin.  I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 

I have a never-ending fascination with light.  All it takes is one tiny splash of sunlight on something and I can’t stop staring at it.  If I have my camera handy, time ceases to exist as I capture whatever is being graced by the light for as long as the moment will allow.  I especially love it when I encounter a single leaf in the woods touched by a tiny ray of sunlight – I’ll often wonder, now why did that leaf get picked out of all the other leaves?

But – and this is interesting – I am only spellbound by light that is illuminating something that would otherwise be dark.  I am not in love with light for the sake of light, and more light is never better.  A sunny day can be made up of a lot of harsh glare, and in that case the light loses a significant part of its appeal.  So what this tells me is that the best light is light that is defined by darkness, and when shadow and light work together, that is the sweet spot.

We struggle to do better, and to be better people.  Yet sometimes we go dark.  Sometimes we go really, really dark; and it’s scary and perplexing.  We don’t want to do the things we’re doing, but we seem powerless to stop.  We spiral out of control, and like Paul we question, why is this happening?

For me it’s helpful to think of that single leaf in the woods receiving its very own ray of sunshine.  We don’t know why everything goes dark around us sometimes, but I do know that catching a ray of light is about the most grace-filled thing that can happen; and after all is said and done, the confusion of the darkness is worth the grace of the light.

A Brief Lingering…


 

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Here we are in that small little window between Christmas and the New Year.  We have just realized the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams in the incarnate God, and for the moment anyway, we have laid to rest our waiting and longing.  This is a strange time of year.  It is as if we are all in suspended animation just waiting for someone to come along and press the play button again.   It’s the time of year when we get to do things we don’t normally do, but it is also the time of year when we cannot many things that we need to do.  Well, regardless of where we are or what we are doing or not doing, we are all lingering together in that same holding pattern between the old and the new, the realized and the unrealized, the now and the not yet.

God is with us, and now what are we going to do about it?  Isn’t this a good time to ask that question?  This is a time of new beginnings and clean slates.  This is a time for pondering just exactly what it is that I intend to do with this one wild and precious life that I have been given.  This is that brief period when I stand in the open doorway between the old and the new and I can actually visualize the possibilities that lay spread out before me.  Yes, I know this is something that can be done any time, but right now, we are in the same holding pattern together and somehow that seems to give possibility the magic dust it needs to spread its wings and fly.  We have inhaled the love of the Christmas season together and now, together, we are waiting to exhale ourselves into the New Year.  What will this look like?  Where can we exhale our gratitude for the grace and the mercy that we have been shown?  I don’t know yet, but I am excited to find out…and I am excited to find out with you.  Happy New Year everyone, and may the peace of Christ be with you throughout the entire year!