reluctant pastor

Someone sent me an invitation. Actually, it was a challenge; to spend 5 minutes a day giving my full attention to God.  5 minutes seemed like a doable period of time and since the challenger suggested having that “God time” while taking a walk, I headed out on the trail with my dog, confident that we would encounter someone or something that would lead us in the right direction.

As anyone who tries to pay attention knows, 5 minutes, whether walking or reading or sitting in silence is actually an interminably long time. But if you believe that God yearns to be with us as much and even more than we yearn to hang out with God,  you won’t be surprised that God showed up just as we got on the trail.

otherwise trail

The first thing that got my attention was a tree, cracked and leaning toward the trail. The break did not seem deadly but it was clear to me that while today the trail was a clear path, it might have been otherwise and someday it will be. I thought about Jane Kenyon’s powerful poem Otherwise and how she too went woods walking with her dog one day.

I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.
At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.

Later in the afternoon I got a voicemail from our town librarian. She was asking if I had any words of advice to pass back to a woman who has landed in our town and was searching for a place to lay her head. My first thought was to skip over the message and walk on in my day. Have a cup of coffee. Enjoy the view of the river. Or maybe take a nap. Sometimes I cannot bear what must be borne.

And then I remembered the snapped but not fallen tree next to the trail and  how this morning I was able to walk on with my dog without worry about the tree crashing down on us. And how it could have been otherwise. I remembered that Jane Kenyon ends her poem, like this:

But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

I heard in the voicemail that it was “otherwise” for someone today. I walked to the library and found that the woman had walked away from the library and into town. Out of sight but not out of mind for me or the librarians. We talked about resources that might make a difference if she comes back. An overnight shelter. A bus ride to get there. One of the librarians thought she could drive her to the shelter. None of us said what we all knew; that these resources, it they were even available, might not be right or enough.

Then I walked home and thought about the invitation I received this morning and how all day long God was searching my heart. I thought about how easy it is to walk on, or delete messages, or turn on another trail, one that looks safe and clear. How hard it is to pay attention. Even for 5 uncomfortable minutes.

Today I brushed up against a cracked tree and heard a word that stayed with me and called me back and reminded me that I have chosen to live in a community that is small enough to know who the pastor is and who the librarians are and that we are all called to be responsive. The truth is that I am sometimes a very reluctant pastor. The Good News is that God abides in me and keeps inviting me even when I shy away.

It is getting dark. I wonder. Where is that woman spending the night?

 

laughing out loud

laughing man for blog

A friend of mine said recently that the Christ seed that was planted in my heart a long long time ago has taken root and is pushing its way upward.

Here is one example of that “pushy Jesus.” In our “Listening to the Gospel” group  this week I had an almost but not quite out of body experience. I heard Jesus knocking on the door of my study where 5 of us were sitting in a circle. He was not content to knock. He walked right in and I started laughing.

I laughed because all that I could imagine was the 5 of us saying what other people say to Jesus when he shows up unexpectedly. “Not in our neighborhood. Not in our circle. Not in our church. You are not what we expected and besides, you are messing up our meditation. Your knocking is way too loud.”

Who wants to see Jesus with scarred up hands and feet and a hungry belly? Who wants to hear that he is not interested in talking about the pearly gates and how the people we love are waiting for us in heaven. He is still stuck on “welcome the stranger” and “repent and forgive.” No wonder the disciples, then and now, find ourselves more comfortable in our own circles, with the door closed, grieving the past. The present manifestation of Jesus in the world has always been shocking and  more than inconvenient.

Easter came this year on April Fool’s Day and each week of Eastertide the resurrection story gets funnier and funnier. This week it is something like this “Knock knock. Who’s there? It is I Jesus. Jesus who? Jesus who won’t stop knocking. Knock knock. Who’s there? It is us friends. Friends who? Friends who show up even when we’re scared to live.”

Resurrection is the experience of shifting from being scared to live to opening the door when someone knocks and busts in to surprise us. Resurrection is going where Spirit goes and finding that where we are, Spirit is.

Knock knock. Who’s there? All of us. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ is here again.

a slip of a thing

lilacs

I love the slow and steady walk to spring

the buds that refuse to curl up and die

the slip of a thing

the settlers tucked away in their wagons

carrying them across the hills

to a place that did not remind them of home

and that would accept a lilac

sturdy and willing to bloom

wherever it is planted.

Thank you

for that which travels

and settles

and resists

the urge

to turn back.

 

through your eyes

 

adolescent-beauty-black-and-white-532363Waking in the early hours

pitch black sky

birds silent

the dream world

still in charge.

I remembered You

last night at the community meal

looking through my eyes.

O that precious aching world!

Your gaze lingered.

My gaze imbued then

with grace.

Who is God already looking at

even as I roll back to sleep?

Is there anything to eat here?

feeding

I came home for lunch today, hungry and tired after a long Holy Week and Easter weekend. Needing to sit in my chair by the window, to gaze out and rest, finding in the stillness, the nourishment and the silence that I needed. The yard was full of birds – goldfinches, juncos, sparrows, a cardinal, and a woodpecker perched on the suet pole.

What a crew we are. Me, the birds, the busy world. The Christ himself must have been tired and hungry after his long sojourn below and his bursting forth again. No wonder in at least one of the stories he asked ” Is there anything to eat here?” And another time he must have needed a big break from the hard work of living because he pleaded with the women, “Do not hold on to me.”

Isaiah, speaking for God to the Israelites, called on them to stop their rushing and running and to return to the still small voice. He said “In returning and in rest you shall find salvation. In quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” Such good direction. So hard to follow. As the story goes on to say “But you refused and said “No! We will flee upon swift steeds therefore your pursuers shall be swift.”

Even for those of us inclined to rest and quietness. Even for those of us who trust that in returning something good will be waiting for us. It is hard to come home. For lunch. To sit. To find ourselves mirrored in the creatures who hunger and thirst and are fed.

O God I find comfort today in knowing that You have provided more than a moment for me to be still and be fed. Help me turn away from the steeds and the deeds that swiftly position themselves in front of me luring me to leap on them and race. Thank you Jesus for coming back. Surely you knew that we need help slowing the pace. Amen.

life goes on

bird house gone by

Maundy Thursday drags me

out of the field

into a room

where he bends

toward us

and I see

it is we

fully loved

who will break

and take

and pass

the bread

astonished

at how

life goes on

 

 

lent to be spent

donkey

This week all that I could think about when I was reflecting on the news and on the texts for Palm Sunday was a phrase I read that said “Life is lent to be spent.”

I enjoyed the play on words with the season of Lent. But even more than that joke I am drawn to the truth that our lives are given to us. We do not create them. We do not have much of a hold on them. Our lives are lent to us for a short or long time. We are not asked to hoard the days and years or keep ourselves pristine or strive to be the best little life ever lived. Our lives are lent to be spent fully and gracefully and messily as Jesus spent his life for the sake of the world.

He rides into Jerusalem in a rag tag parade – the king on a donkey. The animal patiently carries him one slow step at a time. The peasants, because who else would care about a donkey riding king, threw all that they had; cloaks, branches, earthy symbols of protection on the ground, the same hard earth that we imagine Jesus being born into.

At the other end of town, a big ol’ parade with horses and soldiers and the Emperor’s men stake out the city, showing by force that the Emperor is the Son of God; not that backwater upstart. The sound is deafening, or deadening. which is the point.

Jesus rides into Jerusalem. He has a good look around and then rides out. It is already late. There is a supper to attend and a disciple to betray him and an arrest to happen.

Lent is almost over. Processions and marches are happening around the world; for Palm Sunday and for a safe and just world. My heart is cracking open as I watch our young ones, whose lives have just begun, spend them so passionately and with so much hope.

This week some of us are rushing to Easter Sunday and others of us are lingering close to the cross. All of us are here only because of the grace of God who revealed God’s very self to me in this spent and life-giving form of Jesus, riding on a donkey long ago and today.