“I don’t do color,” I have heard myself say. It’s not that I don’t like color. I love color! I just don’t have any sense of what looks good. When I am out and about I sometimes see that I am not alone. Now this morning I briefly toyed with the idea of wearing a purple tie. I left it in my closet, not because it would not be right for today, but because I have no sense of style.
Today is the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, the final day of Mardi Gras and the day when tradition dictates all fat should be consumed in the house in preparation for the season of Lent. While I am a Methodist I have not always been one and so I realize that for many the word ‘Lent’ is simply a misspelling of that stuff that gets on your sweater. However, in many churches Lent is the solemn season for fasting and introspection lasting about six weeks on the liturgical calendar. I am comfortable with observing this season and also with not observing it. The ‘liturgical color’ of the season is purple (hence the idea for my tie).
We live in a day when communication seems to have broken down all over the world. From Kiev to Moscow, from the board room to the ball room, from the state capital to the nation’s capital we are divided. Much of this division has to do not with what we want but with HOW we want it. Democrats and Republicans, Pentecostals, Catholics, Baptists and Methodists, Russians and Ukrainians, all want the same things. We want to live in peace in this world and in the next. What we differ on is HOW to get there.
So while I will be observing an Ash Wednesday service this evening as the traditional beginning of the season of Lent I recognize that what matters is not so much HOW or even WHEN we in humility ask God to search our hearts but that we do. The Scripture says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts: And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-4). If you have not asked this of God, no matter what your tradition, this might be a good time to begin.
Snow Four orioles, three pairs of cardinals, and assorted tufted titmice and sparrows are enjoying breakfast in the snow. It didn’t take long for the neighborhood children to try making snowballs and pull out their sleds either. Even the news reporters who … Continue reading →
Walking our dog after the rain had swept through I noticed, caught in the shrubs along the drainage ditch plastic shopping bags caught in their branches. Looking more closely I realized that most of them had been there for some time, dirty, tattered, deteriorating from sun, mud, wind and rain. They have no value.
Later in the day after paying for my purchase the sales clerk placed in another plastic bag not unlike those along the ditch back. That bag placed on the seat of my car continued to serve a purpose. That bag contained something important and was needed until the contents were safely home.
With a new year has come the ever renewed resolution to take better care of our bodies. In some ways our bodies are like those plastic bags. Their real value is not in the bag but in what they contain. Our bodies are NOT us. Our bodies DO serve the purpose of containing “us”, holding us, keeping us alive in this world and able to do what we were put here to do.
Sooner or later, these bodies fulfill their responsibility and are set aside. We call this death, passing away, or just “passing”. We may spend a moment looking at them but then they begin the same journey as those abandoned bags along the bank.
Resolutions to work on our bodies are important. But infinitely more important is the care of our souls, the contents of “the bag”. Feed the body. Feed the soul.
It was their 50th wedding anniversary. After all the guests and family had left and the house was empty again Gertrude turned to Henry.
“Henry, how come you don’t tell me you love me anymore?” Gertie, 50 years ago today I told you I loved you! If I change my mind you’ll be the first to know!”
That doesn’t get it!
We need reminders. It’s not that we forget, but little things: misunderstood words, half heard comments, the look that meant something else, and soon we begin to wonder if we are still loved. So we need reminders- many and often- lest we descend into a pit of doubt and despair.
One reminder I have on my desk looks like wood but it feels like a rock. It is both. Over 225 million years ago a tree fell. It was covered with sand and mud. Over time, as water seeped in, the minerals in the mud and sand replaced the wood and it became a rock. It still looks like wood.
When I look at it I am reminded that when God’s Spirit lives inside us and we turn our lives over to Him, He replaces us!
We still look the same on the outside but on the inside the change is enormous. “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community…” (Galatians 5:19-21)
Little by little, in turning our lives over to Him, different things begin to appear in us. “…affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity, Willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” (Galatians 5:22-13)
Some days you may feel more like wood, others more like rock. As we let God change us from the inside out some days we are more aware of our godliness and on others more aware of our humanity. But every time you catch a glimpse of God in yourself or anothers, rejoice!