Tag Archives: rest

“Cultivation”…

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My life is full of a lot of very good things right now. After I count down from my husband and three vibrant children, there is an elementary school musical, my writing (that is just humming along), and my job. I count myself fortunate that I get to call my job, my ministry, too, and the stellar team of people who are my coworkers, my close friends.

You can find one of my coworker’s blog at aslanslibrary.wordpress.com. (Sarah, can you see me?)

She’s rather brilliant and we share an ambition for creating new beautiful things. If we can’t find something we like our mantra is “write our own”! Over Christmas we created our own Jesse Tree devotional. She wrote the words and I drew the icons to go on the twenty-four paper ornaments leading up to Christmas.

For Lent we are working on a prayer booklet. Praying together as a church, everything we do tries to cover the broad range between families and singles, children and adults. For adults, the booklet alone, for families we printed the prayers on dark purple strips of paper for children to make chains with over the forty days.

The cover of the prayer booklet has been a conundrum. I had contacted a friend that has some amazing stations of the cross prints, but he couldn’t scan them in time. Words alone would work. It would be fine. But I love images. And I had already staunchly stated that I would NOT be doing any artwork for it.

But, as I was proofreading our Children’s Ministry newsletter, I read Sarah’s beautiful words:

“Many of us find prayer difficult or downright discouraging: are we doing it right? How do you find time, anyway? It doesn’t feel like anything is happening! My children are wiggling, I’m distracted, and honestly it feels more productive to get up and empty the dishwasher. And yet: it is in prayer — the messy, uncomfortable, imperfect spaces we carve out and share with God — that the Creator of the universe settles in close and breathes new life into us. When we pray, we remember again that we are creatures, dependent on the one who made us. Prayer is the fertile ground out of which all of our action grows.”

Perhaps it was the word “carve” or the image of “fertile ground”, at any rate, I began to consider this print. I drew it over and over until I understood it. And then I managed to find a couple of hours in this crazy long weekend to carve it out.

Here is “Cultivation”. It is six layers of soil, like the six Sundays of Lent, laid out on top of each other in preparation for the new life of Eastertide. It is also the desert of Jesus’ forty days of prayer (see the five stones?) before the action of ministry. Together in Lent we will journey with Jesus to Jerusalem (see Jerusalem up there in the corner?) accompanying God’s “upside-down king — who says NO to power and glory, who helps lost people find their way home, who surrounds himself with people who are humble and unimportant” (more of Sarah’s words!) to claim a cross that looks nothing like the throne we would want or expect.

cultivation-print-image

Broad Places…

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Today this verse is resonating with me. Psalm 18:19 “He brought me out into a broad place…” The psalm talks about rescue. I have never been pursued by a hoard bent on my blood, as David was rescued from. But I do know the sensation of drowning in the details of my circumstances. I know the feeling of suffocating in the overwhelming hum of demands, fears, and anxieties. It’s amazing how each one, small enough on its own, works together to create my own hoard of personal daily demons. Even a house-mom needs rescue. Even a part-time working mom with three healthy babies enjoys the promise of broad places. I want to have these broad places inside me where my situation can’t touch them. I want to walk around with this expansiveness inside my chest.

This Morning…

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The beautiful San Francisco spring has sprung and this morning the weather was perfect. So, I hustled two babies through breakfast and into shoes. We were going to meet some friends at Crissy Field.

I drove past Lake St. and the elegant signs that forbid tour busses and vans over ten passengers from going further. I turned right on El Camino Del Mar where every house presents a lavish example of a particular style. The houses hide the view, but at the intersections the Golden Gate Bridge appears large and startlingly close. Then the houses stop halfway down a block where they meet the Presidio woods.

The road twists left as soon as its free of the confining lines of the neighborhood and in a breath we’re on the bluffs with the ocean’s arms open wide below us. All of the hills and ups and downs of the city are lost to the long flat line of blue horizon. The smell is salty and woodsy, the eucalyptus and cypress leave a tangy sensation in your nostrils. In the quiet moments when I stop at a cross walk the cacophony of bird noises breaks through.

The breeze is cool through the window, unchanging in temperature even as you slip from shadow to sun between the trees. Drawing a curving path through the Presidio I still have to follow the google map directions. The roads run into each other and stop, I have to make three turns to continue in the right direction.

We pass clusters of brick houses left over from the Presidio’s army post days. The yards are trim, sloping up from short stone walls. I find myself wondering as I always do what it would be like to live in one of these red brick houses with clean white trim and large square windows, to live in a forest at the edge of a city. The bikers and tour busses are scarce on a Friday morning at just past nine.

We turn left out of the Presidio onto the long flat road that demarcates the water’s edge. I make a wrong turn, of course, because I’ve only been there a zillion times and have to turn around. And then we arrive in the small parking strip tight up against a steep slope over hung with peeling eucalyptus fingering the breeze.

The Warming Hut is open, people emerge with their paper cups, all plastic pieces one hundred percent compostable. The dogs are off leash, the only law the responsible citizens of San Francisco tend to ignore. Trim people jog by and there are many mothers with babies like me. Fishing lines trail off the pier. Pelicans fly overhead like an arrow, of one mind pointing towards China Beach and their breakfast. We’ve seen them there in the mornings dropping suddenly from the sky, slapping the water in a feathered sort of belly flop. Apparently, all more graceful methods of catching fish have been proven less effective.

And as we walk down the sandy path we see that someone has plucked some order from the stony beach and tall rock pinnacles precariously balanced rise here and there in stiff salute. I’m told by my friend that it’s the work of a quiet old Asian man. The Chronicle did a piece on him. He said it was his zen.

The sun can only be friendly in the company of the breeze. It warms my right temple and winks at me over the rims of my sunglasses. I keep my sweatshirt on and take my shoes off. The bright red bridge consumes the view to my left, quite unaware that she is an icon. The sailboats go in and out under her like indecisive chicks. Alcatraz lies low over my daughter’s shoulder. Sometimes the waves get louder and I look up to catch the disappearing wake of a cargo tanker already distant. And the rounded shoulders of Marin across the bay tend to ignore me, as they always do, facing the sea, always out to the open sea.

And we play in the sand and make new friends and we run away from the waves and then we run into them and we get incredibly dirty and eat sandy cheese sticks anyway and squeal when the water insists on slurping the sand out from beneath our toes.

And I remind myself again that I live here in this beautiful place and I’m alive for this beautiful day and these are my beautiful people. And I think in recognizing it and going to all the trouble to write it down and describe it to you I have done something that works in this crazy long history of the world like gratitude. I hope so, anyway, because I am grateful.

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.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear…

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I don’t know if I remember ever having sung the second verse of this carol. It fell upon me quite suddenly last Sunday morning.

“It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold.
Peace on the earth goodwill to men from heaven’s all gracious King.
The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow,
Look now! For glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!

For lo! The days are hastening on, by prophets seen of old,
When with the ever circling years shall come the time foretold,
When peace shall over all the earth it’s ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song which now the angels sing.”

I, for one, am looking forward to doing the job of the angels and singing back to the heavens their song, when I’m at the end of the story and can look back on the breadth and the width of it with full knowing. I anticipate the sight of these mysterious ancient splendors flung over the earth and wonder not a little bit if they will be so strange or, rather, if they will be more familiar than I had ever thought. Ah, yes! This is what it was supposed to be like! This is what we were waiting for! This is right! This is why everything else felt so wrong!

So rest, you weary forms toiling along the climbing way, rest in this season and hear the promise in the angels’ song. It’s our song to learn. And one day we will sing it back.