What Can I Give up For Lent? A Noneatarian Response*

Ash Wednesday this year is March 2nd, beginning the liturgical season of preparation for Easter, the season of Lent. Lent is the forty days of prayer and fasting observed by many faith traditions. The observance derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants. Priests and pastors recite either, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or, “Remember you are dust, and … Continue reading What Can I Give up For Lent? A Noneatarian Response*

Anna Waits {a #poem}

Light is coming she’d heard and read, and widowed, she had nothing calling her name but His across the years like an echo from The Garden so long ago. She’d been seeking (was He hiding?), steadfastly determined, for what else was her life but this–an always looking in the temple courts, trusting the doorway would be darkened some day when Light came into the room. (sharing from the Archives) Continue reading Anna Waits {a #poem}

Finding My Name~an Easter Week Story

When my mother was taken by cancer at the age of 55 and I was 33, there was no estate to divide, no money to deposit, no silver to share. After she was gone, I wasn’t saddened by the loss of anything tangible like an inheritance, but because there were questions I would never have answers to.

For instance, where did my name come from?

When my mother passed, I felt unsettled about this piece of my life. The older I got, my identity and family history became more and more important. I had never heard the background, the whys or whos of my name.  There was no connection to the past, no legacy left via family stories with the particulars. This left me feeling un-moored– although I’d been Jody as long as I could remember, certainly she had intentionally chosen the name Joanna, but why?

It never occurred to me to ask my her while she was alive.

My mother was Helen Elizabeth. Names matter; and I got neither name. I really would have liked Elizabeth, perhaps for a middle name. No, I was Joanna Lee–Where did ‘Joanna’ come from? And how did I become ‘Jody’? (Of course when I was little I was called by my ‘in trouble name’, “Joanna Lee!”)

The question remained, Who was I named after? So imagine my joy when several years after my mother died, I read the name ‘Joanna’ in the passage in Luke recalling Jesus’ resurrection story.  Continue reading “Finding My Name~an Easter Week Story”

Celestial Bodies {a #poem}

My weary eyes need reminders to view the galaxies aright. Focused on the sliver of moon, they forget an entire orb hides in the dark. I gaze at dull concrete, traipse around the observatory, past an entrance where God stands in the doorway beckoning me to peer, Galileo-like, past roofs, across trees, into velvet sky. As feet pause on sure ground, a whisper beckons to … Continue reading Celestial Bodies {a #poem}

How to Lent-Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us

Fountain, Audubon Park, New Orleans

The city of New Orleans has a singular reputation for laissez les bon temps rouler (“let the good times roll”) no matter what time of year. During Mardi Gras, though, the celebrations take on an over-the-top frenzy that is hard to match.

We lived in New Orleans in the 1970’s and saw this dress-up carnival cum Halloween celebration firsthand. Mardi Gras – French for ‘fat Tuesday– offers the citizens and umpty zillion of their best friends to dress up, dance and drink, throw candy and don beads. There are parades uptown, downtown, in the suburbs, everywhere.

I still have some beads from one of those parades. In New Orleans many of the folks live for Mardi Gras; its year ’round preparation and presence synonymous with their fair, old city. In theory, Mardi Gras is a day to indulge one’s senses, for the next day—Ash Wednesday —is to be marked by ashes and repentance.

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, the forty days of prayer and fasting observed by many faith traditions, and derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants. Priests or pastors recite either, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Lenten practices are intended to prepare our hearts to acknowledge the passion and death of Christ on the way to the celebration of Easter. But like the candy and costumes on Mardi Gras, the overwhelm of the world has overshadowed the meaning of Lent. Continue reading “How to Lent-Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us”

Seven Books for the Seasons

Did you know that woodchucks (aka the groundhog) and Jesus’ birthday have something in common? On the church calendar, February 2nd is Candlemas, the last Feast Day in the Christian year dated in reference to Christmas.

presbyterian calendar

This celebration of Candlemas marks the presentation of Jesus in the Temple 40 days after his birth (as Jewish custom required), and the purification ceremony of the Virgin Mary at the same time. (Luke 2:29-32). The word ‘Candlemas’ (or Candlemass) refers to the custom of blessing and distributing candles and carrying them in procession before the Mass celebrated in churches in many parts of the globe. The lighting of the candles is symbolic of Christ, the light of the world, as Simeon declared in the Luke passage above.

What does that have to do with a groundhog? An old, old rhyme translated from the Scottish tells us:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter will not come again.

So, if the weather is ‘fair and bright’ on Candlemas day, you can expect more winter weather. If the day brings ‘cloud and rain’, then the weather in the weeks ahead should improve.  And there you have it: another only-in-America observance involving a groundhog predicting the weather with roots in the Christian calendar, anchored in the life of Christ.

But this post isn’t about Christmas or candles or woodchucks–it’s about reading around the Church Year, anchored not only in the life of Christ but our own lives throughout the seasons, months and days in God’s creation.

Here are seven books currently gracing my bookshelves which have accompanied me in my own cycles through the seasons according to Creation and the birth of Christ. These include poetry and essays by writers from the 1800’s–George MacDonald–through the 1950’s and into the present day, all as rich and varied as their authors.

THE CHURCH YEAR

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Candlemas  Malcolm Guite

They came, as called, according to the Law.

Though they were poor and had to keep things simple,

They moved in grace, in quietness, in awe,

For God was coming with them to His temple.

Amidst the outer court’s commercial bustle

They’d waited hours, enduring shouts and shoves,

Buyers and sellers, sensing one more hustle,

Had made a killing on the two young doves.

They come at last with us to Candlemas

And keep the day the prophecies came true

We glimpse with them, amidst our busyness,

The peace that Simeon and Anna knew.

For Candlemas still keeps His kindled light,

Against the dark our Saviour’s face is bright.

Malcolm Guite is a poet and priest at Girton College, Cambridge in the U.K. These two vocations dovetail in Sounding the Seasons, making church feasts liturgy accessible to readers who may be less familiar with the church calendar. Guite’s sonnets begin with the season of Advent and read through to the Feast of Christ the King on November 11th. As an Evangelical still learning about the Christian way of marking time, I especially like the Index with Scripture references Guite uses, as well as the correlation to the liturgical calendar.

Continue reading “Seven Books for the Seasons”

A Slow Walk into the New Year

It’s New Year’s Eve as I sit here in my Seattle dining room, typing with a view to the sky. Things are quiet; only the chimes noising their song outside my window as the gray and muted horizon frames the day. It’s time to be pensive and think deep thoughts, I suppose. Here are some of mine as we end not only this year, but … Continue reading A Slow Walk into the New Year

What’s in a Name? Only Everything {an Advent Post}

There can be no manner of doubt a name is more easily remembered when its meaning is understood.  –A.J. Macself, from the Foreword, “Plant Names Simplified” I forgot to plant my amaryllis bulb the week of All Hallow’s Eve. I wrote about the practice in my Christmas season book, how planting a crinkly, brown bulb with antenna-like roots can be a lesson in patience and … Continue reading What’s in a Name? Only Everything {an Advent Post}

Five Favorite Things About Fall

There are so many reasons I love this time of year–it’s hard to choose, but here are my top five: Pumpkins Who knew there were white pumpkins and bumpy pumpkins and sorta-blue pumpkins and well, all manner of heirloom squash family members?? God’s creativity abounds in the gourd department, no? The displays at Trader Joe’s and elsewhere are a delight for the eyes. (But no … Continue reading Five Favorite Things About Fall

Worry & Wonder–Holy Week

“Only in those moments of vivid experience that made her come alive was she at home in her own country.”    –Marianne in Green Dolphin Country, Elizabeth Goudge, Hodder & Stoughton, 1944 Friend T and I were chatting on Instagram the other day about my favorite author (see above). There’s no writer I can recall whose stories have deepened my vision of the Gospel and … Continue reading Worry & Wonder–Holy Week