Thoughts and Prayers for April

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 In her memoir Iona Dreaming, Claire Marcus Cooper writes: “when something pulls at my attention, it is likely to hold an important message. Stand firm as we do, the trees seem to say. We are resting now – no leaves, no growth It’s a time to hibernate and recoup; without the times of non-doing, we would not be able to form buds in the spring and draw our sap to feed summer growth. Let yourself rest and be. You are gathering strength for a new role that awaits you.”    since these past 2 months have been just such a time of non-doing for me, it is easy to see why those words are  so meaningful. As I watch the greening of my garden from my window and porch, it is as if I feel the blush of an inward greening, urging me to welcome what is to come.
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Just before the green begins there is the hint of green
a blush of color, and the red buds thicken
the ends of the maple’s branches and everything
is poised before the start of a new world,
which is really the same world
just moving forward from bud
to flower to blossom to fruit
to harvest to sweet sleep, and the roots
await the next signal, every signal
every call a miracle and the switchboard
is lighting up and the operators are
standing by in the pledge drive we’ve
all been listening to: Go make the call.

“April Prayer” by Stuart Kestenbaum, from Prayers & Run-On Sentences

Remember

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“Judas, Peter”

because we are all
betrayers, taking
silver and eating
body and blood and asking
(guilty) is it I and hearing
him say yes
it would be simple for us all
to rush out
and hang ourselves
but if we find grace
to cry and wait
after the voice of morning
has crowed in our ears
clearly enough
to break our hearts
he will be there
to ask us each again
do you love me?
—Luci Shaw,

 

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Telling the Easter Story

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As Palm Sunday approaches, signaling the beginning of Holy Week, I am drawn to the beauty and symbolism in the flower of this garden vine, which trails over the fence at my son’s home.

In the woods of East Texas where I spent my childhood, it grows wild and is often called maypop, but I love the imagery in the name given to the flower by priests in the late 16th century when it was found growing in what is now Latin America – Espino de Cristo, (Christ’s Thorms.)  Now named Passion Flower, the colors may range from white or pale lavender to purple, but each part of the flower can be used to tell the story of the crucifixion. Simply gazing at  the flower’s perfect shape and hidden mystery can be a reflection and retelling of the story.

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Flowering

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Art of the Day: Van Gogh, Sprig of Flowering Almond in a Glass, March 1888. Oil on canvas, 24.5 x 19.5 cm. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.

greening

leafing

budding

flowering

resurrection

Walking

“Solvitur ambulando – It is solved by walking
— often attributed to St. Augustine

Prayer Garden

Prayer Garden

Walking is something I am doing very differently for the present.  I am entering my fifth week of either non or partial weight bearing for one side, and have  as many weeks to go  plus months ahead for therapy. I am thankful repair was possible, for good medical direction, and help from my husband, our family and friends.. I am learning or choosing different ways to be and do. Since walking the  labyrinth in our church’s prayer garden is not an option for me , I can use this finger labyrinth given to me by a good friend.

IMG_1934Today I realized that since we have had so many days of cold, rainy weather, I most likely would not have been out there in the prayer garden with my umbrella anyway, and I smiled. As I trace my finger along the spirals into the center of this little pewter labyrinth I can pause to look out at my own garden and be grateful for all the different ways open to us to recognize God’s presence.  I put my thoughts if not my feet on this path inward, then outward,

Not everything, of course, is solved by walking. But a good deal is. And if it isn’t solved, it is reorganized, refreshed, or revitalized so that new responses are possible. Walking changes perspective. It offers a path that moves us forward, literally and figuratively.”

Carolyn Scott Kortge, author of Healing Walks for Hard Times, and The Spirited Walker

Windows

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View from a windowr in our living room

Because our local temperatures have mirrored the widespread hanging on of Winter, I am even more grateful than usual for the warmth of my home and plenty of books to read. But I know that 29 degrees and wind and rain are minor compared to severe cold,snow and ice elsewhere, I am also grateful I don’t need to shovel snow and drive in those hazardous conditions. I know that Spring is around the corner – but I was still smiling in surprise when I saw this redbud tree in full bloom as my husband drove me to the surgery center 2 weeks ago.  When we returned this week so I could have sutures removed, I asked him to go the same way so I could look for the tree. There it was, on a corner where we could stop for a quick photograph.

I am thankful for windows, and for vision to see through them to beyond my immediate surroundings. But these would not be enough if I did not pay attention to them. At this very moment, I am in a room with windows but the blinds are closed. By paying attention, I hear not just one but many birds warbling and calling. It is still and there is no sound of rain beating down or wind tossing branches so I know the storm that ushered in this latest cold front has moved on. I am reminded again that being aware and giving attention to my surroundings  provide windows and views as well. And I am aware of stirrings within me. There  are also seasons of the soul.  I welcome Springtime..

IMG_1920 (2)View from the car window

Seed Time

100_0146I am not going to be heading out to the garden to prepare the soil for receiving new plants and seeds. For the time being I need to be an armchair gardener. I will miss digging and planting, and will need to accept the help of my husband and other helpers if the sprouting, growing, and flowering I so enjoy each Spring gets started.

In these weeks of being still and refraining from  things to do,  I choose a different way of fasting and focusing for Lent. This means tending a different garden  – the garden of my soul. It is here that I will prune and dig out roots of unhealthy habits to make room for new growth. As welcome as the new plants outside will be, and as much as we will enjoy watching their growth and benefit from later harvest, even more important and welcome will be the results that can come from tending my interior garden.

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Hold On

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Suppose your whole world seems to rock on its foundations. Hold on steadily, let it rock, and when the rocking is over, the picture will have reassembled itself into something much nearer to your heart’s desire.     -From The Seven Day Mental Diet by Emmet Fox

Since my recent injury and then  surgery day before yesterday, I have been holding on  – to my husband’s loving and steady arms, the strength of my sons, our family, friends, and church, and, always, the eternal Grace in which I am bathed.. The picture has not been reassembled so much as it has been brought into focus. This camera lens has sharpened and clarified all the pieces. I am dearly loved, well cared for..basking in Light, healing.

My Lenten journey has begun.

Matter of the Heart

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Last month I opened my small 2015 calendar book and began entering appointments and commitments already made.  I like that part of beginning a new year with fresh calendar pages. It is popular now to do this calendar recording on phones and other electronic devices, but I like handwriting little reminders of place and time. By the first week of
February, I already had a number of dates marked with plans leading up to Lent and Easter, a happy time and typically a very busy time for our family.

And then, a week ago, I ruptured an Achillles tendon and began the changes which would clear almost everything already on the calendar and replace commitments for choir and handbells and meetings with appointments for doctors, an MRI, and surgery. I was not only in severe pain, but crestfallen, disappointed.  Of course I did not welcome this interrruption and the extra work it creates for my husband and our busy family, but I realized that I was not only reacting to the physical discomfort and  limitation, I needed some heart work. The weeks ahead of surgery and limited mobility closely parallel the weeks of Lent, Perhaps I could consider this time of being still and healing in that light.

At the suggestion of my friend and pastor, I have registered for an online Lenten retreat which begins a few days after my repair surgery which considers the questions: Why am I here? What is mine to do? Who am I called to be? And what can I contribute and offer to the world?   It is a matter of the heart. I have put it on my calendar.

If you should be interested in learning more:

http://www.shalem.org/index.php/shalem-programs/open-hands-willing-hearts-online