Tag Archives: Holy Week

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 my appreciation for the beauty of language quite like Elizabeth Goudge.

But my heart is also quieted today, a heaviness at the back of my bones, weighted down by worry for the world and the myriad of ways we are messing it up. I’m afraid to read the headlines (we’ve canceled our daily paper) and when the news scrolls across my computer screen I click through to a different page. There is it the present reality of war and famine afar and the deranged antics and societal injustice at home. Big heavy sigh.

It seems foolish and insensitive to trivialize the trials of this day and age by attending to other simple joys: the gentle breezes waving fir branches outside my window or the way a chickadee alights on a bird feeder, the bright burst of daffodils against the grey. But the mundane holds a bit of miracle this week before Easter. Indeed, the miracles are there in all our days if we but look.

Attending to the richness of words in a good story is another way to pushback the unseen edges of this cool, gray day, much like reveling in the bright color of the salmon-y pink blossoms of quince bush in my back yard. (this is a friend’s clematis by the way, not my quince.)

Remarking on such simple joys may seem frivolous to some. Blossoms, books, birds.

But it’s not frivolous, no. For one, noticing the glorious passages in a good book can call us to remember that beyond the bleak and gray of the day in front of us there is Easter on the other side. For, if an author does it correctly, resurrection will show up in the language and in-between the lines of a good story.

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“All good stories lead to God,” my friend Laura opines. I’m inclined to agree.

But really, why discuss the finer merits of a passage of literature when these are such somber, serious times? Shouldn’t we be d o i n g something?” Well, yes these are somber, serious times. It is Holy Week after all, the days we dwell on Christ’s passion prior to His resurrection.

But often the wisest recourse we have is to remember to fill up our own souls with the staying power of beauty and truth.

So, I give you this, in addition to the joy of remarkable, inspirational language, there are also the right-in-front-of-us gifts: days of new sunrises, friends and family nearby to laugh and pray with, the morning’s hot coffee in a special mug, a favorite book on my lap.

These are also days when the word of God holds out hope, our very breath and life. The one and only Good Book.

When we have the companionship of others on this journey–always with its terrors and triumphs–we can often find a common denominator to lift us up and keep us in place with the anchor of a well-loved book. A favorite line or passage in a poem or paragraph, the sing-song of dialogue that makes us laugh, an author’s way with language as she paints a picture of a season’s wonder and discovery. Together we remember there is beauty above the here and now. We remind each other, “Let me tell you about something I read….you’ve got to hear this.”

When we share the good news of a great story, lines that comfort, encourage and inspire we are partners of a piece of small joy, if even for a moment.

My prayer this week and in the weeks ahead is that you would find a good story to sink yourself into (alongside the Source of all good stories, The Book of Books, of course.)

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The promise of Easter is the power to change how we see the world through God’s eyes. There is victory on the horizon, whether it’s right now or in the not yet.

May you find a good story to anchor your life, not because you want to escape this world but because in its pages you might find what you’ve been missing.

And if you need a place to start for recommendations–good fiction and Christian non-fiction, Sarah Clarkson (aka ‘BookGirl’) has her recommendations here.


Tell me what you’ve been reading~I’d love to hear in the Comments. Maybe I could read over your shoulder?

 

 

How to Lent-Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us

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. It is also somewhat hard to believe unless one is actually there in person to witness the city’s crazy times.

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 think I still have some beads (certainly none of the candy) from one of those parades. I also have snapshots of folks in the crowds during one bawdy celebration—I’ve never seen so many grown-ups in costume. 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 (on February 13th) is a day to indulge one’s senses, for the next day—Ash Wednesday—is to be one marked by ashes and repentance.

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, the forty days of prayer and fasting observed by many faith traditions. The juxtaposition of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday is a bit of a conundrum this year since they fall on the same day. Lenten practices are intended to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Easter, but like the candy and costumes on Mardi Gras, the overwhelm of the world has overshadowed the meaning of Lent. All that Valentine’s candy doesn’t help.

When I was growing up, Easter Sunday meant See’s candy eggs and Easter baskets and new dresses, complete with hats and gloves. My siblings and I probably went to church for the occasion–obviously, look at these cute photos–but my memories of that holiday have much more to do with fashion, not my faith.

When I became a Christian in the 70’s, the reflective period of Lent was not included in our non-denominational worship. I missed out on those early church practices that take us from the darkness of Good Friday to the light and glory hallelujah of Easter. But it is good to remember that joyous Sunday comes at a cost—the death and burial of Jesus—on our behalf.

So, how are we to Lent? (I realize Lent is a noun, not a verb. I borrowed that from my friend Seth Haines.)

It is good for us to sit in the dark sometimes while we contemplate the light of Jesus that has come into the world. It is also good for us to contemplate our own dark places. Where have we let sin creep in? Those shortcuts we use to circumvent God’s work in our lives? I often fall into the trap of meeting my needs my way, attempting to satisfy God-breathed longings with works and ways of my own devising. I’m thankful when the Holy Spirit reminds me of that.

What else can we do?

Sitting in silence while we seek the Holy Spirit’s still, small voice and dedicate ourselves to listen is a first step. Be aware of God showing you what practices you can leave or lay down to turn your focus back to God. Fasting and prayer can also be part of the equation.

But fasting doesn’t  have to be from physical food. Consider those soul-filling ‘foods’ that have taken the place of God’s presence. Is there something getting in the way of hearing Him? Fast from the noise of social media—my frequent nemesis. (My word for the year is ‘listen’, the same letters in the word ‘silent’, as a friend pointed out.)

Put down your phone and take a walk.

Go outside, sit on your deck, look out the window.

(Talking to myself here.)

Put off, lay aside, turn off–all are ways to deny our flesh, that Christianese phrase for fasting. But the beauty of fasting is the welcoming way those spiritual practices create space for God to to be the One who feeds us and fills us.

When Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day coincide (collide?) with each other next week, how about this? “…celebrate your love by committing to a season of intentional preparation for your Love of loves.” -Seth Haines

When you sign or send or see a paper or candy heart, think about giving your heart to God, wholly and completely. Just like He gave to us.

That’s how to live in the season of Lent.

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*You can read Seth’s thoughts in their entirety here