Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Little Feathers: It's Not About the Boots...Or Is It?

Little Feathers: It's Not About the Boots...Or Is It?: An allegory for writing a story. I carefully select my boots for a long hike. I know how important they are. The entire adventure hangs on...

It's Not About the Boots...Or Is It?

An allegory for writing a story.

I carefully select my boots for a long hike. I know how important they are. The entire adventure hangs on their fit and suitability to the terrain. I walk around the little carpeted area in the outdoor store (never buy your boots for a long hike at Walmart) and they feel good. Okay, they feel good enough. Out we go.

Evidently, the little carpeted area at the store is no substitute for steep hills. I sit down on a craggy rock beside the trail and re-lace. Tight enough to hold my heel in place, but not tight enough to cut off circulation. It ain't rocket science.

The trail gets rocky, which introduces an unstable, side-slipping action for my boots. Luckily for me, I had the foresight to bring some band-aids and mole skin. Maybe not enough foresight to break the boots in really well before the hike. Off they come. Another craggy rock by the side of the trail. This rock has pitch on it, which as we know, will never, ever come off my pants. I resist the impulse to rub at the pitch, because, as we know, it doesn't come off hands very easily either. Off come the boots. Aghhh. Blisters already. Moleskin is a wonderful invention that is supposed to be used before the blister to keep the irritated area from rising up in protest with oozy badness. Well, moleskin will just have to go on top of the blister. And maybe if I stuff just a little kleenex in the toe...

All around me, the mountains rise, the clouds build into breath-taking thunderheads. Little wildflowers wink from the strip of grass beside the trail. It would be wonderful, if only I could keep my mind off my blasted feet!

Who made these boots anyway? Some sadist, no doubt. They probably left the nails holding on the soles just high enough to make some poor hiker want to jump off that cliff. Or at least, sit on another craggy rock and eat lunch at 10am because walking until noon is just too painful to consider.
Whose idea was it to go on this stupid hike, anyway? Thoughts of my comfortable house fill my mind. Not my fabulous bathtub--though I love it so, it would kill my feet to hit hot water. No bath, but maybe a nice little bucket of ice water for the poor extremities, and a good book to take my mind off the hike.
Okay, I never said I could make it the whole way in one day. I'll just head back and try again with another pair of boots. After my feet heal. After all, good boots are everything.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Little Feathers: Sunday's Coming

Little Feathers: Sunday's Coming: There is a great message by Tony Campolo about an old preacher who built the most amazing sermon ever on the phrase, "It's Friday. ...

Sunday's Coming

There is a great message by Tony Campolo about an old preacher who built the most amazing sermon ever on the phrase, "It's Friday. But Sunday's Coming". The phrase has been running through my mind for days now. It is a very Lenten concept.

In my faith tradition, Friday represents the dark day when it appears that God has turned his back on the world. The day when grief and loss seems too heavy, too hard to endure. Of course, the image comes from the day Jesus died and all the world thought he was gone forever, a tragic ending to a promising life.  In the two millenia since then, Friday has come to every soul who walks this earth. For some who can't see that Sunday is coming, Friday sets in with a vengeance and steals their will to live. For many, Friday drags on, sapping their energy, raiding their stores of resilience and leaving them broken. But the message that Tony Campolo reminds us of, is that broken is a not a permanent condition. Broken is not the last word.

I know many who are grieving right now. Maybe it is the time my life, but I know so many who are struggling hard to keep their heads above water.  For all of us living in Friday, for all of us putting one foot in front of the other, taking another breath because that is what the body demands, I pray that the light of hope will ease the way. It is hope that feeds the human spirit. It is Friday, but Sunday's coming.

All the world waits in the pain of sorrow for the day when there will be no more sadness. Thankfully, we don't have to wish for the end of the world, for the end of time, to experience Sunday. Sunday comes in little snatches, little glimmers of the promise. Sunday comes in the laughter of a child, the eyes of our dog, the hug from a loved one. Sunday comes in glorious music, poetry, and art. It comes in the kind word from a stranger, the willing hands of a caregiver.

The old phrase, "This, too, shall pass" has been on my mind for a while. But I'm replacing it with the more active, "It's Friday. But Sunday's coming." Waiting for something to pass is too powerless. Too passive. But living out Friday in the hope of Sunday, that is something I can use my muscles on. Something I can choose with more guts than grim determination. Hope does that. It makes Friday a blessed day. Not one to be wasted or wished away. It may be a work day, but it is just two days from Sunday. It may be a day when the sun does not shine, but it can still be lived with hope. Grief is real. Hardship and suffering are real. Death is real. Hope is eternal, springing again and again from the ashes of Friday. It may be Friday now, but Sunday's coming!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Little Feathers: Giving It Up for Lent

Little Feathers: Giving It Up for Lent: I'm telling myself that I am giving it up for Lent. I know in my heart that I can't manage it, even for those forty days. So, maybe ...

Giving It Up for Lent

I'm telling myself that I am giving it up for Lent. I know in my heart that I can't manage it, even for those forty days. So, maybe I will be honest and say that for forty days I'm going to make an effort at seeing it for what it is. I'd like to just give it up. I really would.

Lent is about introspection. It is about rigorous honesty, confession, making amends, taking stock of my spiritual life. It is about recognizing that I can't be perfect, I can't earn God's love because I can never, even for forty days, give up the human condition of self centeredness. It is about remembering that I am created from the dust of the earth, and just as surely, just as naturally, I will return to the earth. The forty days of Lent are representative of many things, and one of them is the wandering of the Children of God in the wilderness after they left Egypt. Another is the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness where he was tempted to be fully human, to give in to the cravings of the body for food, the mind for political power, and the spirit for heavenly adoration.

Like the children of Israel, I cave to temptation. I want to know where I'm going, for heaven's sake! I want to believe I'm in control of my own life. I can get whiny when I am anxious about the future. And I fail to see the manna from heaven that is laid all around me, looking past it for something else I think I need. Every now and then I hear myself, and shake my head at my ingratitude. I guess I need Lent more often than once a year for forty days.

When I was a child listening to the stories of Jesus saying no to Satan, I never wondered, even once, if Jesus would cave and take the bread, or power, or glory. He was Jesus. I should be like him. I wanted to be like him. I embraced the 'What Would Jesus Do'. Man, I wanted to be above the petty character flaws of society. I wanted to think I could live without hurting others or disappointing myself. That is a set up for failure if ever there was one. And I missed the point of the story.

If I could be like Jesus, I would not need the grace of forgiveness. I would not be driven to my knees, where it seems I must go to finally look up, away from my own spiritual bellybutton. I have a respected friend who says we have to love our own darkness. That we can't move beyond the stagnation that builds up once we realize just how short we fall of perfection without accepting our weakness as part of the person God created. It would be like the old, baffling notion that we should consider our minds as Godly (worthy) and our bodies as worldly (unworthy). Somehow, in a little wrinkle of logic, believing that I can be above sin is the most self centered idea of all.

If accepting my imperfection can be a Lenten discipline, what would that look like? Could I give up, just for forty days, the striving, aching, longing to be better, which comes with constant disappointment when I fail? Could I instead surrender my self will in an effort to seek God's will? And do I have to do it perfectly?

Ah, see there? I couldn't manage it, even for one blog. Good thing there is grace. Even during Lent, Sundays are excluded from the introspective journey. Martin Luther said that Sundays are "little Easters". Reminders that, no matter how far short I fall of being like Jesus, grief is not the end of the story. There is a balm in Gilead, and I can't manufacture it myself, and I can't earn it. But I can let it wash over me. I can bask in the perfect love. Acceptance goes beyond grim acknowledgement. It goes all the way to freedom.