Tag Archives: devotional

Two Illustrations from Nature…

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It is the weekend my Dad died nine years ago. It is the week a dear friend died one year ago. A coworker just had a miscarriage. A close friend is going through a divorce.

Illustration number one: This week I was at a work retreat up the coast. There was pine, dry grass, and dirt that acts like chalk on your shoes. The sunrise was obscured by a heavy fog being blown over the hill. As I climbed the hill I stepped into a copse of pine. I turned my head into the breeze to catch the wind in my ears and I caught another sound. It was so loud I looked around for what could cause this “pat pat pat”. Droplets had formed on the tip of every needle of every pine. I thought of the fog, how like grief, heavy, pervasive, and obscuring the view at three feet. And I thought of the trees, every day reaching out and into; by will and persistence making tangible something good and life-giving, watering themselves.

Illustration number two: Today we drove down the coast. We stopped just south of Linda Mar at a battery held aloft still by a truculent chunk of granite. High above the water and rocks, the walkway around seemed to drop out of sight with a certainty that made me hold my three-year-old’s hand tighter. Surely it would mean death to ever step past that edge. And yet, as we walked closer, we were surprised to find slopes, not gentle, but like many things in life, surprisingly survivable.

 

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Land’s End Landscape…

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I have been coming to Land’s End Trail of mornings. I sit on a bench in the chill and mist and watch the grey ocean spread beneath me like the dull side of a piece of aluminum foil crumpled and pressed smooth. It rolls out to the wide Pacific on my left, and on my right under the bridge and between the fingertips of reclining landmasses. My nose threatens to run and my shoe grinds a bit of sandy dirt as I settle.

The fog is thick and heavy just above the water, a single stanchion of the Golden Gate Bridge visible as if I am under Lady San Francisco’s skirts catching a glimpse of a sacred ankle. The shoulders of Marin are a curve more sensual today, the tops and less modest tips hugged by the lacy undergarment of fog.

Two lights, one standing on the last rock before the ocean, the other midway between that and the bridge blink on and off slowly, conserving energy for their eternal task. A fog horn sounds from somewhere, its own little joke, since visibility is perfect on the water. Small dots of light scratch white lines into the grey past the point. If the law would have these craft leave their lights on until an hour or two past sunrise it would be hard to know by the filtered light exactly when that was. A single fishing boat is in front of me, a red light at the top of its mast, deciding to rest inside the arms of the bay, comfortable to sit here with me.

To my right I can see where the ocean is making the shore, the never-ending group project of seven seas. Black rocks and blurs of darker textures spill across the sand here and there as it curves to meet the red bridge. The bridge swallows it all into its width or expectorates it, possibly the initial seed of fruit from which the earth springs forth. The road to the top is a perfect Bob Ross zig of paint scraped between the darker green of Presidio trees and descending speckle of beach shrubs. The road looks from this angle to curve straight down to the bridge, but I know it disappears over the hill, taking a turn and under a damp stone underpass before drawing its line of red light to join the others who for some reason are leaving the city at this hour.

Behind me to my left the grit trail runs straight disappearing abruptly into the cypress forests, standing on long stems, all looking like they have been treacherously betrayed by their hair product and a sudden gust of wind. Small dark birds bounce or zip, its hard to tell, across the path. And I can hear the incessant hiccough of a sprinkler on the golf course. I cannot tell if the smell of humidity is coming from there or from above. Occasional strings of birds indistinguishable from each other at this height fly low across the water until they complete a picture of a zipper with their reflection, unzipping and zipping as they ever alter altitude. The much larger pelicans fly closer so that I can make out colors and single indignant feathers.

I dab at my nose and shift my weight on the wooden bench to the other buttock. I wonder how long I’ve been sitting here. It’s grown warmer maybe; but I’ve gotten colder as my blood has cooled down from walking.

The lights are going out on the cars driving over the hill. My fishing boat has turned off its red light and is pulling out into open water. Lady San francisco has hiked up her skirts past her knees, and the view is a bowl in front of me, so much, with rivulets spilling out to the west and east and into my lap.

Week 3: The Baptism…

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So far, this Lenten activity is going over gangbusters with the kids. They ask about it often throughout the week. I mean, I’m definitely finding ways to improve it. And when I put that dish of sand down things can get rather out of hand. However, I’m really liking it for us.

Here’s where you can find the previous activities:
Ash Wednesday
Week 1: The Nativity
Week 2: Jesus in the Temple

Happy and Holy Lent to you all!

3/8 Lent Week 3: Jesus’ Baptism

Where to find it:
A Child’s First Bible: p.170
Jesus Storybook Bible: p.200 “Heaven breaks through”
Bible: Matthew 3:13-17

Reading:
Today is the third Sunday of Lent. Today we read about Jesus’ baptism. When God was preparing his rescue plan he sent prophets to tell his people that Jesus was coming. When Jesus was born he sent angels to tell the shepherds and a star to tell the wise men. God even sent John the Baptist to tell the world that he was finally here. And when Jesus was baptized God himself sent a dove and with his own voice told the people that Jesus was his son. By getting baptized Jesus was telling the whole world he was following God’s plan.

Lent box activity:
Have a family member place the token for week 3 in the sand. It can be a clear marble, a decorative glass stone, a small dove figurine, or a piece of foil cut into a teardrop shape to represent the waters of baptism.

Beginning questions:
Who does God say Jesus is?
Does God want us to know his plan?

More questions:
Have you ever told the world that you were following God?
When did your parents get baptized?
Did anything change for your parents after they were baptized?

Family question:
What is a behavior or habit in our family that changes or stops if we remember that we are new creations washed clean? Name calling? Yelling? Impatience? Unkindness? Busyness?

Family activity:
This week decide as a family on one behavior that needs to be washed out of your family, whining, arguing, unkindness, hitting, complaining, negativity, or sarcasm, for example. Decide together to eradicate this behavior by remembering and reminding each other that you are new creations in Christ.

Family Prayer:
“Saving Father, we thank you for your great power to redeem. We remember the way that you claimed your son Jesus at his baptism and we thank you for claiming us, too. We ask that you would give us the strength to claim you every day and live as those new creations washed clean. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

From Ashes to Ashes…

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With one thumb they draw the dark line of ash down and say, “Remember from ashes you have come.”

And with the same thumb they draw a dark line of ash across and say, “And to ashes you shall return.”

Because really, any way you look at it, up, down, left, right, horizontal or vertical, I was nothing and will be nothing.

But then all that ash that’s condemning me to miserable remembrance ends up being a cross on my forehead. Because there is one place where I am something, at the cross.

I came from nothing, receive eternal life, and return to nothing.

Jesus came from heaven and the beginning of creation, found condemnation and death, and returned to heaven at God’s right hand.

What a beautiful mystery is the interchanged middles of those two stories.

And what could be simpler than one line across another, touching each other at one point?

But some of the most beautiful things are simple.

Dirty Rags…

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So, laundry is a thing that takes up more of my mental energy since moving to the city.

The washer downstairs is ridiculously old and holds half of a normal load. And the dryer can’t dry a load completely. But it’s the most convenient.

Then, last week, it broke again. For the whole week, the washer sat filled with greasy grey water. The sight of that water every day for a week made me vow off the convenience of the washer downstairs.

So, today I bundled all of the laundry I could fit into my two laundry body bags and had my husband drop me off at the laundromat.

Now, I probably don’t do as much as I could for the environment, but one thing I do is to use cloths for everything. We have cloth napkins, kitchen cloths, and lots and lots of rags. I don’t buy paper towels or paper napkins.

All this to say, my laundry can be pretty gross. The dirty cleaning rags sit in a bucket under the sink. And my kids know where the clean ones are in the bathroom so they often trundle through after, say, they miss the potty, or spill some milk, and toss them in the bucket.

By the time the bucket gets filled it usually smells and has a few weeks worth of bathroom rags in there.

My kitchen rags can be worse because they’re usually wetter. They sit in a separate receptacle with the dirty napkins and can be demoted to cleaning rags at any time. I run a very strict caste system. My kitchen rags live in fear.

The kids laundry, also, is nothing to sniff too closely. I witnessed enough poop smears on the underwear today to initiate a little family meeting to discuss wiping strategies. And I know I have mentioned before that if I manage to get to the bottom of the kids’ hamper I usually discover a gross something at the bottom. Today it was an entire outfit that had hot chocolate spilled all over it.

So, I felt rather disgusting and rather disgusted after loading all of it into the washers. And I sat and waited to put it all in the dryers.

The front loading washers at the laundromat are a joy to watch. They do such a better job than the washer in our building. It’s so comforting to watch the sudsing and the rigorous tumbling.

To be sure, getting clothes clean has always been a rather violent task, the pounding on the rocks, the crushing them through the wringer. And this is a violence I approve of.

Shouldn’t I approve, therefore, of such violent methods in my own life, the tumble and toss of getting clean. And all our sins are as dirty rags, certainly an analogy that the women would have understood. Lord knows I need to be slapped against the rock to remember who I am.

Lord save me from the apathy of the ancient top-loader in my garage!

There is joy in coming clean.

I take the clothes out of the dryer and they smell so fresh and feel so light. And with pleasant surprise I realize they don’t fit as well in my bags. They take up more space. They are more.

As it sometimes happens, you don’t see how dirty things were, how weighed down. It’s like after confession when you are light and clean again and realize, “Oh, I was heavy with it!”