My Labyrinth Walk

Tonight I walked a labyrinth.

I first learned about labyrinths in seminary, and have wanted to walk one for years, and yet somehow I never have.

Tonight our pastor explained that some people like to view the labyrinth journey as one towards self-awareness, towards an inner understanding and union with God within. The journey towards the center can be viewed as a walk of petition, seeking guidance and accompaniment from God. The journey outward can be a walk of praise and thanksgiving, celebrating God’s presence in your life.

So I started in, full of expectation and hope for the spiritual awareness that was surely to arise deep within me…. and nothing happened. Step by step I trod, waiting expectantly for the awareness of the Spirit, for some divine revelation, for some knowledge of what I was going to get out of this experience. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

I felt crowded. My personal space was invaded by quite a few women like me who also wanted to walk the labyrinth, meaning that through the twists and turns we were often turning sideways to avoid collisions, breathing in each other’s perfume, staring at each other’s bare feet.

Sometimes I don’t like people very much, which is quite ironic for a pastor. I’m an introvert. I often view spiritual activities as solitary activities. I wanted very much to find peaceful union and contemplation with God on my own on my labyrinth journey, and yet here were all these other people, walking and breathing and thinking and existing around me. It was very distracting.

So I started praying. God, help me discover what you want me to find. I focused on repeating the prayer a few times. A few steps later, a clear answer resonated within me. Seek me. Seek me. Seek me. With each step, I felt thus instructed.

So I started seeking. And suddenly, the Spirit was there. I could feel God in the soles of my feet as I strode across the canvas of the transportable labyrinth. I could sense God in the pleasant smell of the oil diffuser placed delicately out of the way. I could feel God in the gentle rhythm of my bones with each step I took. My body became aware of God’s presence, but my mind was still rejecting the bodies of the women around me.

Seek me. Seek me. Seek me.

I kept walking.

I don’t know how it happened, but by the time I was about to enter the center of the labyrinth, a realization hit me with heart-sinking shame: the bodies around me were not distractions from God. The bodies around me were God. God incarnate, the imago dei, all around me. It was as if Jesus himself suddenly appeared to me on my way to Emmaus, and I was shocked to learn he had been there all the while. And I had vainly and selfishly tried to push him away.

My sisters and I gathered in the center, forming a wordless circle, breathing in union, existing with God together.

And on the journey out, as I began walking, I felt a clear resonating mantra: The ground of your being is found on the journey.

I didn’t even know I was seeking the ground of my being. But I felt such immense relief in knowing where to find it.

You see, I’ve been feeling rootless lately. I’ve been in discernment regarding my call to ministry, and I’ve had trouble seeing a clear picture of the future. I’ve been reaching and yearning for a certainty, an end point, something I can look at and cling to and say, “This is my purpose in the world.” So God’s response on that labyrinthine journey was to tell me to look around at God’s glory in the present moment, to let tomorrow take care of itself, and to remember I do not walk alone.

May it ever be so.

Amen.

 

Change

The aged tea tastes the same
today as yesterday – with a squeeze
of honey. But the tulips
now, those are bit more wilted.

More open, yes, but drooping,
the fresh clear water of last
week grown murky. Slimy.

I am older, happier, sadder, fatter
than this time last year. And
the day broke cold and rainy
this morning. But
the tea tastes the same.

I’ve Got The Joy… Somewhere by Steve Parris

Check out the Hipster Ginger’s guest blogger today. Steve writes about searching for joy and it certainly brought some joy into my own mundane day today.

THE HIPSTER GINGER

THIS IS NOT A DRILL MY DAD WROTE A BLOG POST.

This might be my favorite thing that has ever happened. Guys. My dad is seriously incredible and I am so incredibly honored/blessed/lucky to have him as my dad, mentor, and constant source of love and support. I am so excited to share his wisdom with you.

A few notes to keep in mind when talking to or reading Steve Parris. First, “Jiminy Cricket” is his way of swearing around small children, which is hilarious to me because using a character that tells you to let your conscious be your guide as a substitute for a bad word seems counter intuitive but it is actually brilliant. Second, he wrote the word asshole, I did not! Third, my dad is, well, like me in that he’s a bit verbose. But please please please read the whole thing. This guy is incredible…

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Meeting the Pioneer Woman

I came across The Pioneer Woman while I was in college. A few of my sorority sisters were obsessed with her, and I quickly learned why. “An accidental country girl,” the famous blogger was charming, humorously self-deprecating, humble, and honest in her writing, recipes, and photography. When she got her own Food Network show in 2011, I quickly became a regular watcher. She once spoke to my soul while making a pie crust on the show; it came out less than perfect and she said, “It’s not ugly. It’s just rustic. That’s what I always say if something’s not perfect. Now it’s rustic!” Oh Ree, this rustic girl sure needed to hear that!

I bought her book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime a few years ago. I admit rather shamefully I’ve never really used it. It sits in a place of privilege on my piano because it’s just so pretty.

0331171843

Last week, her new children’s book, Little Ree, came out. Of course I wanted a copy for my daughter. I was at Parnassus Books with Scarlett a few weeks ago for Saturday story time, and I learned The Pioneer Woman herself, Ree Drummond, would be coming for a book signing! I was so thrilled because as anyone who watches Ree on Food Network or reads any of her stuff will know, she seems like the best friend you don’t have yet. She is my imaginary best friend. I just knew she would meet me and quickly invite me and Scarlett to the ranch to come and play with the cows, chow down on some cowboy grub, and then bring a potluck dish to church Sunday morning.

Anyway, fantasies aside, the evening of the book signing came, and my little heart just pitter-pattered all day. When Scarlett and I arrived a full hour early, the place wasn’t yet overly crowded. But as women and children began trickling in, all hoping for a photo with the star, it soon became somewhat suffocating. But your favorite introvert toughed it out. I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to have dreams meet reality for a split second just because of an anxiety-inducing crowd. Be proud of me.

When I finally got to the front of the line, and the beautiful divine creature stood before me, I suddenly became so nervous. She’s so much taller than I thought she’d be! And we’re wearing almost the same shirt! And Scarlett is pitching a fit! And oh my gosh, where’s my camera, is it ready? I was fan-girling so hard. And here are the results.

 

Have you ever seen such a cheesy grin? I want so share our 15 seconds of conversation so it will be forever printed in my memory.

Me: Hi Ree! (desperately trying to contain squeals.)
PW: Hello, let’s get a picture real quick.
Parnassus staffer: Um, Ree, over here.
PW: Oh, sorry, I was busy looking at the baby!
Me: She has that effect. This is Scarlett.
PW: Oh, beautiful, like Gone with the Wind?
Me: Smiling and nodding like a moron.
PW: So is that why you named her that? From the movie?
Me: Oh. No, I don’t really know. I was so drugged up when she came out, my husband just said, “She looks like a Scarlett,” and I said, “Okay.”
PW: Oh my! Well that could have gone in a totally different direction!
Me: (as I’m getting shuffled off the platform out of the way for the next folks) Uh-huh, haha, garble blah blah words.

I was shaking for a good 10 minutes after this encounter. It was glorious.

And that’s the story of how Ree and I met. The story of how we go on to become best friends is yet to come.

Solus

But when we are able to recognize the poles between which we move and develop a sensitivity for this inner field of tension, then we no longer have to feel lost and can begin to discern the direction in which we want to move.” – Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

i am alone
and yet

connected to the thread

i am mine
and yet

all creation bears my name

and yours is emblazoned upon my heart

I stand in the crowd of harried shoppers,
solitaries searching among racks
of half priced post-Christmas sales for
the satisfaction of
the deep craving of
a lonely heart,

and I consider restlessness – an ache
to attach to another through
a tether of goods to
consume the prey and
fill the empty void of need.

Dread of eternal isolation, the hum
mmmmmmming louder each moment.
Retreat retreat retreating from loneliness,
companionship quiets the ever impending

-for a time-

Being with myself, I
am converted to a new way:
alone in the crowd. My
restful inner necessity has nothing to say
in this moment.
Loneliness becomes solitude
The quiet inner center need not
say a thing
but rejoices
in the unity
of the crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

Renewal

An urge awakens my bladder from peaceful winter slumber. I roll onto my side, hoping a change in position will lessen the pressure enough to fall back asleep without having to slip out of my warm cocoon of blankets. A few heartbeats later it is clear there will be no more comfort until I’m relieved.

Stumbling to the bathroom in the night preceding the longest night of the year, I consider the surrounding lack of darkness. The lights from the cell phone chargers, perpetually plugged in; the cable box and router, blinking somberly at me from the dresser; the dull yellow street lamp light pouring in through our thin curtains. The light follows me to the toilet where the sweet relief smells of dehydration.

Eyes closed, elbows on knees, I imagine the day ahead. I’ve requested four hours off in the morning for spiritual renewal. Oh how I need renewal. The rush of being a pastor preparing for Christmas Eve has warranted the need for stillness and contemplation.

I imagine the ritual of hot coffee, flavored with peppermint. I try to place my journal in my mind’s eye to limit fruitless searching when the daylight comes. I imagine myself in prayerful posture, immersed in scripture, journaling my every insight in a positively pious picture of perfect devotion. But even my daydreaming is quickly dashed by images of changing diapers, scolding overly affectionate dogs, wiping up flung oatmeal from every surface imaginable, and generally keeping the baby from killing herself.

Crawling back into my nest my internal clock alerts me that I won’t be there long. There’s no need to glance at the blue of my cell phone, faithfully charging on my nightstand, to tell me the time. I can feel the stirrings of my baby in my bones from across the house. I can sense her slight bodily rousing, the small rustlings of 10 month old slumber coming to a close. I know without a doubt the time is 4:30.

I’ve just closed my eyes against the inevitable and snuggled up to the warm back of my partner when I begin to hear them, the murmurs of my daughter slowly becoming aware of her alone-ness. She is not afraid. She is simply speaking to the darkness of her nursery as if it’s a friend. The mumbles filter through the monitor at my side, a comfort and a sleep deterrent. The long night is over.

I sigh away my warmth and dreams and rise to the chilly house, blue with the early dawn. I enter her nursery and am greeted with a toothy grin as my toddler (toddler?) stands in her crib, ready to greet the day. My arms instinctively wrap around her as I pull her close, breathing her in. She smells of sweet sleep and her own deep natural musk that I can’t describe but could identify anywhere.

We begin our morning ritual of rocking and talking as she points to everything and nothing, saying “Da. Dat. Da,” over and over, revealing her kingdom to me with the abandon of perfect trust. While my body continues to ache for rest, my spirit is renewed.

And I realize motherhood is my daily devotion.

Thanksgiving Prayer for Standing Rock

God of the oppressed, God of the opposed, God of the losing side,

To the God who chooses the side of the lonely, the God who takes up the hopeless cause,

To the God who reveals yourself in the face of the neighbor,

To you we pray.

When your people say no to profit and yes to people, you are there. (We are your people, not your profit)

When your people say no to oil and yes to clean water, you are there. (We were born in water, not oil)

When your people say no to empire and yes to community, you are there. (We are neighbors, not subjects)

When your people dance and pray for transformation while rubber bullets rain down upon their skin, you are there. When arrests are made and people removed, and more begin to show up, like the multiplying fish and loaves, like the properly invested talents, like the pruned vine, you are there.When the dogs come snarling and biting, when the buffalo come stampeding, when the wind rises and the sun sets, you are there. When it is freezing and your people shiver in the face of the water cannon and stand firm, you are there.

When it seems hopeless you are there.

God, on this Thanksgiving Day, as millions gather around tables and symbolically proclaim unity and mutual respect with those unlike us, we pray you would make those symbolic gestures reality. When we celebrate the false historical narrative of Euro-Native relations around our Thanksgiving tables, remind us of the genocide perpetrated against Native peoples and connect that with what is happening in Standing Rock. Call us to action, to send prayers and aid, to call representatives and join the movement in voice and solidarity.

We ask that you would continue to strengthen those protecting their life’s water. Send your Spirit to dwell on Standing Rock. Transform the hearts of those more interested in profit than in human life and dignity. Only you can.

With gratitude and thanksgiving we pray to you now God, and we celebrate your miracles and blessings. We are thankful that you remain steadfast in your love of your people.

Amen.