Lenten Practice

I usually post a short reflection each day through Lent; this year, however, I’ll be posting it on the Community of the Incarnation blog. So if you, or others you know, would like to have a gentle reminder each day, please pass on the URL: cotikc.wordpress.com. Thank you. You’re welcome to join and welcome to unsubscribe once Lent is over.

In his book, Blessings in Disguise, Alec Guinness told the story of standing in line on Ash Wednesday, waiting for ashes. A small boy stood in front of him with an old man in front of the boy. Behind Guinness stood a young woman. And as each received the ashes, he or she heard, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.”

While in our community we prefer to use “Turn from your darkness and move to the light,” I appreciate the thought behind “Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.”

We are all components of the earth; our very bodies are made of the same elements. Though we’re all different from each other, we share, in common, earth, air, water, fire. Lent reminds us that we have a common bond.

So in this first day of Lent, pray that you remember you are not alone in your struggles and hurts. Pray to remember we have a common bond with the Earth and with all the people, animals, plants that inhabit this earth.

When you receive your ashes, be aware of all those around you who are also being challenged to grow and change. We have that common bond: the bond that says we are one; the need for each of us to change.

Enter Spring

A Black Hole may have swallowed me these past couple of weeks. It’s hard to tell for sure though since spring is throwing itself pretty forcefully in all directions, sucking up oxygen and energy.

While not completely understood, certainly by me, Black Holes absorb everything around them with a gravitational pull that allows nothing to escape. Sluuuurrrp. Gone. And Spring. Well. It explodes out rather than in – the opposite really from a gravitational pull into nothing.

And yes, the photo is my spring garden. I’m inordinately proud of having a plot of Texas  Bluebonnets – true, no Indian Paintbrush, but the red tulips will have to do.

It doesn’t feel like Lent anymore. It just feels like living.

It’s not that nothing is getting done. Along with spring exploding all around a big box arrived from Spring Hill Nursery with more plants that needed planting in wet ground right away.

So while my body was physically, although slowly, planting and bending and doing, my head was pretty empty of thinking or words. A Black Hole head and a Spring body??? Well. Something like that.

My Lenten discipline to avoid abruptness has survived mostly because I was sick for a couple of weeks and even after couldn’t move very fast anyway, but my head and my Lenten reflections? Gone. Pulled into a gravational field that will not give them back.

So how’s your nine-day-old springtime going? And your Lenten resolve? Did you lose March, too? And where did it go to?

Maybe Cancun.

The Work of Our Hands (and minds)

Friday of the Third Week of Lent


This morning, reading the first reading, a passage from Hosea,

I was stopped by the “our god…” Yep. A small “g” god.

 We shall no more say, “our god,” to the work of our hands.

Not an error of the Lectionary editors, the small g god had a meaning quite different from the one I normally think of. And I realized the worry I woke with this morning was that small g.

Yesterday, the day before, way too many of the days, are filled with unexpected or expected dashing. Expected or unexpected (and often unexpected) news of one sort or another. None of them are earth shattering for the most part, but taken together, it’s a lot.

And yet, as I sat with those words “our god” with the small g, picking apart the “oh, my gosh!” feelings I woke with, I realized that in actuality, things were pretty much okay. Yes, there’s a lot going on and yes, there are pieces that will need attention, but worrying about them rather than simply doing what I need to do makes them my “god” – that pesky god with a small g.

What god are you creating from the work of your hands? What are you putting foremost in your life? Is it time to give up that god?

With those questions to myself, I am called back to spiritual awareness, to the breath moving in and out of my body, to peace.


The Paradox

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

In today’s Deuteronomy reading, Moses says to the people, “Today I have set before you life and  prosperity, death and doom.”

In Luke, Jesus says, “What profit does he show who gains the whole world and destroys himself in the process?”

In both readings, we’re given the paradox of life: abundance and death. Both are present all the time, and yet we humans prefer the blind flight into abundance and are shocked by the sudden stop when our flight is blocked.

It’s hard to keep life and death in our consciousness at the same time. That’s why Lent is so valuable: for a short period of time, we force ourselves into conscious behavior when we abstain from something, whether that something is food or drink or a behavior.

What paradox are you facing today? Maybe it’s as simple as knowing a springtime day promises while still feeling the chill of winter at your fingertips or toes; maybe it’s a longing for that usual mid-morning coffee you have decided to forego; maybe you are looking at your tendency to worry and choosing not to.

Name the paradox; look at it. Where is your balance point in living them both, today?


Me and Job and E-mail

Woe Is Me!

“Woe is me,” says Job. In fact, throughout 42 chapters, except for 12 verses at the beginning of chapter 1 and 6 verses at the end of chapter 42, Job woes loudly to anyone who will listen, including God, who finally thunders back and essentially says, who are you, anyway, to whine so much.

A passage from Job was the first reading from the Sunday Lectionary this week; in the second reading, a passage from Mark, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. The readings from this time of year usually have to do with healings.

I’ve always liked the idea of Job even if 42 chapters of woe gets a little tedious. We’ve all taken turns of being Job, I expect, as we whine and complain why me, why isn’t my life moving forward, why does my boss treat me so badly, etc etc. We don’t often end up with our bodies covered in boils, as Job did, but sometimes it feels that way.

We’re two and a half weeks from Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent and the questions posed in this post-Lenten period deserve reflection: how do I heal? who am I and how do I fit into my environment? what am I supposed to be doing in my life? how do I live in order to have meaning in my life? how do I live the realities of pain and suffering?

I’d had two days of mental exhaustion and suffering by Sunday morning: the email address I consider my professional address and which has been with me through all of AT&Ts many changes from dial-up to dsl to absorbing sbcglobal to u-verse wireless disappeared. The loss occupied many hours and several technicians. By late Friday night, after being told twice that a tech person had come to the end of his/her second tier competence and couldn’t retrieve the address even though they could see it, and not only that but there was no one above them to refer to, I went to bed feeling dislocated–friends and colleagues across the various countries where I’d lived had that address. I was adrift with no electronic identity and no connection to web site/blog/ social media/or the world. A very odd feeling.

Thankfully, Saturday, after more calls and more tech people, I finally found a young man who considered his job an adventure and dug through the bowels of cyber language to pull the address forward again. I was once more connected. I was not alone. I was brought back into community and healed.

And of course, I wasn’t alone, ever, but helplessness in the face of trial often feels very alone. I could physically survive losing an email address, even an address that I’d had for some fifteen years, but still, the helplessness and loss felt real.

Life is about loss. Loss is the way of the world. Why me is a valid question but in truth, questions are not essential to living. The courage and faith to live a meaningful life is what’s essential, and “faith” whatever else it is, is an adventure.

What’s essential is the way we live with one another. Meaning comes through relationships and community. Not through stuff, we all know meaning doesn’t come through stuff, and yet that’s often what we accumulate. The people Jesus heals return to participation in a community: Peter’s mother-in-law gets up and serves food; the lepers return to the temple; the broken return to the family; the demons banished. How many demons are you carrying around in your head?

Perhaps this Lenten season, instead of “giving up” something that you will only take back, you might want to consider what you need to “give up” in order to heal. Anger? Judgment? Financial fears? Self-pity? Resentment?

What needs healing in your life?