Welcome Wednesday. You are a gentle reminder to “make time to smell the roses.”
‘Make’ time not just ‘take’ time but make time to … work at our relationships with cherished family and friends … play and create … be intentional about our health: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual … wonder and ponder and be in awe.
In other words, may we make time this day, this Wednesday to “smell the roses” of all that life has to offer.
You have set before us many hours. What will we do with those hours?
Choices. There are choices to be made.
Some choices bring change … in our relationships … in our work environments … in our education … in our health … in our decisions
Some choices bring results in our attitude. … Will I see this day as a day to dread? … Will I see this day as a day to consider possibilities? … Will I see this day as a day to anticipate?
Will this day bring … joy to my heart? … peace to my soul? … life to my intellect?
It’s up to me. Each day.
This day I choose … Joy: work in the garden with the earth and seeds and the sunshine … Gratitude: deal with some paperwork so there’s a beginning sense of order in the “to be filed” box. … Creativity: play with with pen and ink and coloured markers for an hour or so.
These days, there seems to be a daily reminder that peace is elusive: news of the pandemic’s “numbers” rising quickly; its variant strains complicating matters; vaccine appointments slowing down in some areas; political goings-on; on top of difficult economic times; how/when/where to grieve the loss of a loved one; increasing sense of abuse happening in relationships; teachers, ferry workers, bus/transport drivers who see their jobs as ‘essential,’ but the government doesn’t see it that way, so they’re not on any vaccine list.
Peace is not just elusive for some. Peace is elusive for a growing number of people around the world and as a result, stress and mental health issues are on the rise.
While we sometimes experience ‘stress’ as “eustress” (from the Greek “eu” meaning “good”), according to the endocrinologist Hans Selye, eustress is the kind of stress that is healthy and gives a good, positive feeling.
However, more often than not, the stress that is experienced is “distress” (from the Latin prefix “dis” meaning “having a negative force”). Distress describes unpleasant/negative feelings or emotions that impact the level of functioning. Sometimes the stress is related to work. Sometimes the stress is related to relationships. Sometimes the stress is related to health or finances or lack thereof. Sometimes the stress is related to busyness or needing to be perfect or organized or … Sometimes the stress is related to grief. Sometimes the stress is related to fear … fear of the known … fear of the unknown. Sometimes the distress is a combination of several of the above.
S e r e n i t y. We want it. We want to exhale fear and inhale peace. P e a c e. We need it
But fear, busyness, worries, grief, physical pain, guilt, sleepless nights, and those everpresent “what-if’s” creep into our minds. And then there are the actions of bullies (at work, school, cyberspace), politicians, media, conspiracy theorists who further propel thoughts away from experiencing any sense of peace.
And yet … and yet … serenity and peace are available. We only need to be aware of them in the gift of our breath in the gift of words, spoken in the silence of hearts to one another, and to ourselves. Like these words, this prayer, this Celtic spirituality-based prayer this whispered hope … bring some semblance of peace this night.
Circle me. Keep protection near And danger afar. Circle me. Keep hope within. Keep doubt without. Circle me. Keep light near And darkness afar. Circle me. Keep peace within. Keep evil out. <adapted from the work of David Adam)
Blessings to you, my friends. And, peace. May the nourishment of the earth be yours, May the clarity of light be yours, May the fluency of the ocean be yours, May the protection of the ancestors be yours. <John O’Donohue>
It’s here! Finally! Finally we have come to the end of Lent, the end of Holy Week, and it is Easter! “Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”
As the little girl stuck out her tongue at the other little girl, she exclaimed “So there! I told you so! I was right! My mother said that the earth is round and if she said it’s round, then that proves it!”
Proof. We want proof that is tangible, reliable, trustworthy. This day, we want proof of the Resurrection. And especially, in this pandemic, we want proof!
The good news is the proof is here – all around us. Not in the physical resurrection appearance of Jesus, but in the hands and feet of Jesus’ followers today.
It’s in the selfless action of … those who staff the pharmacies, grocery stores, hardware stores, gas stations, car repair shops …. the truck drivers, ferry workers, school teachers … health care workers, first responders, funeral attendants, nursing home workers It’s in the creative ways people are discovering they can keep in touch, see one another and share through technology and still maintain social distancing.
It’s in the kindness of volunteers … picking up groceries for the elderly, self-isolating, quarantined and immunocompromised … sewing surgical caps and adapting their 3D printers to make face masks for hospital/medical staff … putting together meals for the homeless, for the shut-ins, lunches for school children, Food Banks
Proof of the Resurrection? Look around your community. 🙂 Christ is risen in you. Christ is risen in me. “Christ is risen!” “He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!”
We’re almost at Easter! But, not yet. We have one more day to go.
Today. Holy Saturday … the precipice between yesterday’s tragedy of Good Friday and tomorrow’s triumph of Easter Sunday.
Holy Saturday might be likened to a “Morning-After” situation.
The “Morning-After” when the worst thing that could possibly have happened, happened. Like … ~ When you received the devastating medical diagnosis ~ When you were fired ~ When you realized you had to self-isolate for 14 days because of COVID19 and couldn’t do your own shopping, get your hair cut, your nails done, play a couple of rounds of golf, visit your grandchildren/children/parents/grandchildren/friends ~ When your spouse confessed to cheating ~ When you were at a great party and woke up with a doozy of a headache and learned that you had driven your car the previous night and had injured or killed someone ~ When the nightmare of yesterday was real – your beloved spouse or child or parent died and you realize it actually happened and was not just a bad dream ~ When you discovered your dreams about a special job or school or retirement were shattered. ~ When you discovered a fire had ravaged your home and there was nothing left – no photos, no computer, no important documents, no clothes, no furniture, nothing
We likely all have a story we can relate to when we were beyond-beyond comprehension. And if we can’t think of anything in the past, for many, living this COVID19 life, each day, is our ‘Morning-After’ … a time that is really difficult to see beyond the escalating virus and … the day when our life came to a standstill.
Our Holy Saturday morning experience is similar to the disciples when they couldn’t see beyond the tomb of Jesus, when they couldn’t see beyond the reality of His crucifixion and death.
The Holy Saturday of long ago and the Holy Saturday of today have similarities. So we wait. We keep Vigil. And sometime, between tonight’s sunset on Holy Saturday and tomorrow’s sunrise on Easter Sunday, we observe the Great Vigil of Easter.
The liturgy of the Great Vigil of Easter begins in darkness. Then a fire is lit and symbolically brought into the sanctuary/home by a candle.
As the service of prayerful watching continues, Scripture is read, prayers are offered, the Exsultet is sung, holy Baptism or the Renewal of Baptismal vows happens and the first celebration of Holy Communion begins the glorious Season of Easter … with light throughout the room/sanctuary along with joyful music, colourful flowers, great smiles and the exuberant shouting of “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” by all who are present.
A sense of unbridled joy fills hearts as the wilderness of Lent, the Cross, the empty tomb and the great passover moves us from death to life.
In these COVID19 days, when images of death fill the airwaves and people are confined to their homes to avoid contracting or spreading the virulent virus, and we can’t be with others to share the good news that “Christ is risen,” or our Jewish friends cannot be with their loved ones to celebrate Passover, what then?
Why not do what we did at 7:00 pm each night at the beginning of the pandemic — give thanks and celebrate our front line COVID19 workers who are staffing hospitals and ambulances, working in essential stores and truck and pharmacies and medical offices etc.?
Let’s sing out loud in our homes, our streets. Let’s bang our pots and pans. Let’s joyfully proclaim Easter is here! Passover is here! The Great Vigil of Easter is over! We are not alone.
We WILL get through this pandemic and its virulent strains together!
It’s Friday in Holy Week … known as Good Friday. When you woke up this morning, did you say “TGIF – Thank God it’s Friday!” as many did on Fridays before COVID19 because they were grateful Friday had come and they were looking forward to the weekend?
This Friday isn’t just “any” Friday. It’s different. It’s Friday in Holy Week. A Friday that many refer to as “Good Friday.”
But what can be “good” about a day when Jesus the man, raw from the lashes of a whip, was laid out, arms stretched and bound with ropes to the rough surface of a wooden cross beam, wrists pierced with sharp spikes, feet nailed on a wooden beam, his exhausted body craving release from his suffering, his spirit grieving by the rejection and betrayal of others?
Before COVID19 entered the world, relatively few Christians observed Good Friday by participating in a church service. And now that most churches are still closed, many still cannot do that.
It would be a lot easier to forget the relevance of this day in general and also in light of what is happening around us during the pandemic because many would say that there’s little or nothing “good” about this day.
That word “good” is perhaps a misnomer.
Some Germans refer to today as ‘karfreitag,’ (the ‘kar’ being an obsolete ancestor of ‘mourning’) and some parts of the world call this “Mourning Friday” putting attention on the disciples who grieved and mourned.
Some follow the belief that this day was originally called “God Friday,” hypothesizing that today is “good” because Jesus was demonstrating his love for humanity by offering his life.
But if that is so, why die in such a brutal manner? Why die so young? Why not take on the sinfulness of all humanity on a deathbed after a long fruitful life of showing and teaching people the way to God?
Maybe there is yet another way to understand why today is known as Good Friday. In early modern English, the meaning of ‘good’ had the sense of ‘holy.’ So perhaps the ‘good” is an archaic form of holy?
We actually don’t know the answer. It’s all conjecture.
Good Friday is unresolved. It’s a tragic and terrible day. And the pandemic makes it even more terrible and tragic.
Regardless of what we call this day, it is a day when we face reality head-on … when we are fully conscious that the Christian walk is seldom easy and at the same time are aware of Grace in God’s unconditional love.
Titus Brandsma was a university President in the Netherlands during WW11. Arrested by the Nazis, placed in a concentration camp, isolated in an old dog kennel, tortured daily, his guards amused themselves by ordering him to bark like a dog when they passed by him. Eventually Titus died from the torture.
What the Nazis didn’t know was that Brandsma kept a diary during that time, writing between the lines of print in an old prayerbook. It was there that his poem to Jesus was found: “The lovely way that you once walked has made me sorrow-wise. Your love has turned to brightest light this night-like way of mine. Stay with me Jesus, only stay. I shall not fear if, reaching out my hand, I feel that You are near.”
Good Friday is a day when we remind ourselves that in the Christian understanding of hope, nothing – not even death – can overwhelm the love God has for us.
This day is not an ending. It is a holy day of a new beginning.
Maundy Thursday. It’s today. – a day that shocks in its intensity. Jesus, the beloved rabbi is about to be betrayed. Not by an enemy but betrayed by a follower, a friend, a disciple, someone who said he loved Jesus.
Even though we recoil at the word ‘betrayal,’ if we were honest, betrayal by Judas of his friend, his mentor, his rabbi, betrayal didn’t end “back then.”
When we allow fondness for wealth or fame to overwhelm our call to be persons of justice and mercy If we name ourselves Christian, yet think unloving thoughts about another When we are selfish and put our wants before the needs of others Have we betrayed God?
When we refuse to be uplifted, enabled, and transformed by the wisdom or experience of another When we only see how right we are and ignore the learning that comes in acknowledging that we have made a mistake Have we betrayed the Creator?
When we will not accept God’s support and grace, strengthening us for the tasks we have been asked to undertake, or the new ministry roles we are challenged to experience Have we betrayed the Beloved Rabbi?
When we, who say we love God, have answered ‘yes’ to any of the above is our connection to Judas tangible?
Today, known as Maundy Thursday, is a day to feel the pain and shock of Judas’ betrayal. Today is a day to consider moments in our own lives when we have betrayed the trust of others. Today can also be a day to receive a redemptive blessing when we are willing to name our own betrayals.
As disciples of Jesus, this day offers an opportunity to honestly look at the betrayals that emerge from within us and confront the moments ~ when we have betrayed God ~ when we have not forgiven another those times ~ we acknowledge we dislike another ~ or when we speak or think unkindly of another betraying our common humanity by our words or thoughts or tweets or texts.
On this day, with less than twenty-four hours left on earth, the man Jesus gathered the disciples away from the crowds in a ritual of gathering for a meal, so familiar to them, yet this time, is so very different.
As Jesus rises from his place, ties a towel around his waist, surely the disciples looked at each other and asked themselves “What is he doing?”
And then they see and understand. He washes their feet. He gives them his final teaching: the commandment (mandatum – from which we get the name Maundy Thursday) … to love one another.
Jesus gave a way of remembering Him with a simple ritual: “Sit at table. Take bread. Break it. Share it. Pour out wine. Share it. Feed one another. Love one another. When you do that, you remember Me. When I’m gone and you feel lost, uncertain of my presence Do this and remember Me.”
If churches weren’t closed because of the pandemic, many around the world would gather this day for a simple service of worship that might include foot washing, sharing of bread and wine and even stripping of the Altar as a reminder that living the Life of Love Jesus lived, led him to be stripped and taken away.
Loving one another as Jesus loved long ago, and as Jesus loves today, through us leads us to be ‘stripped’ of the unimportant things in life and bring us closer to the One who loves us unconditionally.
On this holy Maundy Thursday, may we receive the story of Jesus in a spirit of humility and draw closer to one another and to the One who loves, unconditionally. Amen.
The Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) begins tomorrow with Maundy Thursday. The Triduum is comprised of three days where symbols of death and life are dramatic and poignant reminders of the fragility of life and can be a unique opportunity for Anglicans/Episcopalians – for anyone – to join religious traditions around the world who continue to use some form of prayer beads as part of their prayer life.
Since the earliest of times, people have used pebbles, a string of knots, or beads on a cord to keep track of their prayers offered to God. Anglican Prayer Bead necklaces (33 beads were created in the mid 1980s to help bring people into contemplative / meditation prayer and more intentionally be in the presence of the Holy One. Touching the fingers on each bead, is intentional. It is intended to help keep one’s mind from wandering and the rhythm of the prayers helps lead one into stillness.
Some background for those unfamiliar with Anglican Prayer Bead Necklaces. There are “names” for the thirty-three (representing the number of years of Jesus’ earthly life) beads which comprise the Anglican Prayer Bead necklace: “Weeks” – twenty eight beads divided into four groups of seven … seven to represent the seven days of the week. “Cruciform” – four beads between each ‘week’ helping to form an invisible Cross. “Invitatory” – the bead between the cruciform bead and the cross/medallion which acts as a call to worship and an invitation to a time of focused prayer. Some people add a bead above the Invitatory bead (the “Resurrection” bead) as a reminder that Christ lives on.
Praying the Anglican Prayer Bead necklace is often done ~ in an unhurried pace, followed by a period of silence with time for reflection and listening. ~ by praying around the circle of beads three times (representing the Trinity) ~ by using whatever prayers you choose for the beads in the Weeks, the four beads making the Cruciform, the bead between the Cruciform bead and the medallion/Cross … or simply by holding the beads/necklace in your hands as you pray.
How to pray using the Prayer Beads ~ no particular ‘format’ but some suggestions: Isaiah 41: 10-13 (at the beginning – holding the Cross/medallion); Isaiah 40: 29-31 (Cruciform beads); Matthew 11:28 (Weeks beads); Psalm 27: 1,3 (at the Cross) ; Psalm 29:11; the Lord’s Prayer; the Prayer of St. Francis; the prayer of Dame Julian of Norwich.
Over the years, many Anglican Prayer Bead necklaces have made their way from my home to others. I have found that in the making of them, yet another opportunity presents itself for me to enter into a contemplative mode. If you’d like to make your own, here are some simple steps: ~ Tape the end of thin, bendable wire or dental floss, cord or bead-making string ~ Choose twenty-eight beads that are similar to one another ~ String seven of those beads onto the wire, dental floss, string, using ‘spacers’ (ultra small beads) between the Weeks beads (number you use is optional as they are not counted as part of the Prayer Beads ~ Choose four different (a big larger helps) beads for the Crucifer beads ~ String one of the Cruciform beads onto the wire, floss, string ~ Continue the bead pattern of Weeks (spacers-optional), Cruciform ~ Choose a separate bead (the Invitatory bead – and spacer if desired) ~ String the Invitatory bead ~ Add a Cross, medallion, final bead. ~ Close off the necklace with jewellery endings or knot the two ends together
May this Triduum be a holy and meaningful moment in your spiritual journey as you consider the integration of Anglican Prayer Beads in your spiritual practice.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ An aside: separate reflections for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, (and when Easter arrives, for Easter Sunday and throughout the Season of Easter) will be available in the morning of their respective day. See the links below.
We’ve come to Wednesday in Holy Week. Not an easy week, any year, but somehow, this year, another year of living with a pandemic, even more difficult for many.
Some people of deep faith are asking the ‘Where is God?’ questions and beginning to question Jesus’ presence in their lives.
There is good news: Whether we experience it or not … Jesus is with us … God cares … Spirit gives courage to get through the moments of each difficult day. One moment at a time, Holy Presence is “just checking in.”
<The following story by an unknown author (which I’ve adapted and retitled) is a gentle reminder that no matter what, the Creator is with us …”just checking in.” *************** A minister passing through the old church at noon, noticed a man coming down the aisle. The man hadn’t shaved in a while; his shirt was torn and shabby; his coat was worn and frayed. He knelt, bowed his head, then rose and silently walked away. In the days that followed, the minister noticed this man kneeling, just for a moment, a lunch pail in his lap. The minister’s curiosity grew. He introduced himself and then asked “What are you doing here?”
The old man said he was a factory worker. Lunch was only half an hour and lunchtime was his prayer time for finding strength and power. “I stay only a moment because the factory’s far away.As I kneel here talking to God, this is kinda what I say: “I just came by to tell you, God, how happy I have been since we found each other’s friendship. I don’t know much of how to pray, but I think about you every day. So, Jesus, this is Ben, just checking in today.”
The minister told Ben that he was welcome to pray there any time. “It’s time to go. And, thanks,” Ben said, as he hurried to the door. The minister knelt at the altar.
His heart warmed with love, and as the tears flowed down his cheeks, the minister repeated old Ben’s prayer: “I just came by to tell you, God, how happy I have been since we found each other’s friendship. I don’t know much of how to pray, but I think about you every day. So, Jesus, this is just me, just checking in today.”
One day, the minister noticed that old Ben hadn’t come to the church in several days. As more days passed and still no Ben, he began to worry. He asked about him at the factor and learned that Ben was ill and in hospital. He learned that the week Ben was with there, changes happened in the ward. His smiles and joy were contagious.
The head nurse couldn’t understand why Ben could be so glad when no flowers, calls or cards came, not even one visitor until the minister appeared. The minister stayed by Ben’s bed, voicing the nurse’s concern.
Looking surprised, old Ben spoke up and with a winsome smile “The nurse is wrong. She couldn’t know, He’s been here all the while and every day at noon, sits right down, takes my hand, leans over and says to me:‘I just came by to tell you, Ben, how happy I have been since we found this friendship. I think about you always, and I love to hear you pray. And so Ben, this is Jesus, just checking in today.’
On this Wednesday of Holy Week, may we have a “Ben-Faith” … a faith that is simple and profound … a faith that is trusting and hope-filled … a faith that is filled with joy and gratitude for the unconditional love of all and because each day, … the Creator is “just checking in” with us.
It is Tuesday in Holy Week. As the world continues to deal with the pandemic, those who walk this Holy Path in this holiest of holy weeks seek to make time to reflect, pray, consider Jesus’ activities on this day.
What was Jesus doing on Tuesday in Holy Week? Some say that this was the day that Jesus told the story of the fig tree (Luke 13:1-9) which goes like this: Once upon a time, there was a fig tree that did not bear fruit. For three years, the owner looked for figs, but there were none to be found. Finally, in frustration, the owner called the gardener and told him to cut the tree down. “Why should this tree go on using up good space and nutrients? It’s a waste of resources. Let’s get rid of it and plant another tree that will bear fruit.” The gardener was more patient. “Don’t cut it down just yet,” he said. “Give it just one more year. I will give it water, dig around it and fertilize it. Then we shall see if it will bear fruit. Give the tree another chance.”
On this Tuesday in Holy Week, perhaps we might reflect (in our thoughts, our Journal, our prayers) how we’re like the fig tree owner – more willing to write people off than give them ‘another chance’ – more ready to swing at the base of any trunk/person we don’t find to our liking – more ready to bring him/her crashing down to the ground by our negative thoughts, unkind comments, gossip, rather than give them ‘another chance’?
And not just “how” but, “how often.”
Some might say that those actions/reactions are part of our human nature. Perhaps so – initially . But do they have to be part of us forever? Do we have to be like the fig tree owner for the rest of our lives? Can we change? Do we want to change? Are we willing to change? If the answer to any of those questions is “I am open to changing” then we don’t have to be like the fig tree owner for the rest of our lives.
On this Tuesday in Holy Week, perhaps a particular rayer? “Creator, thank you for your constant presence in our lives. May you encourage us to be gentle with ourselves, and one another, in our words, our actions, our thoughts. May we choose to place the ax aside and nurture the tree so the production of the fruit of the Spirit (“for the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, thoughtfulness, gentleness, self control” – Galatians chapter 5) can be manifest in this world. May we remember that you continually give us ‘another chance’, and may we receive your encouragement to give others ‘another chance’. Amen.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Comments are most welcome. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A Soulistry reflection on each day in Holy Week will be available in the “SoulistryChurchYear” group on Facebook and on the Soulistry blog (www.soulistry.com/blog). You are welcome to subscribe to the Soulistry reflections (www.soulistry.com) and as reflections are added, they will automatically come into your inbox.
We have come to Monday in Holy Week. Many continue to be alone because of the pandemic. Alone with their thoughts. Alone with their questions. Alone. If anyone understands what ‘being alone’ means, especially this week, it surely must be the man called Jesus.
We’re living in a pandemic. The cloud of difficult days is becoming more and more of a reality for many people Personally. A frightening reality. The man Jesus, knew about frightening realities.
May this week be a time to reflect on what ‘being alone’ is … for ourselves … for others and what it must have been like for the man known as Jesus.
This day and every day may we know who we are and Whose we are and the Love that surrounds us.
THIS DAY AND EVERY DAY may you be blessed with release from pain physical emotional spiritual.
This day and every day, may you be blessed with an abiding sense of love a Love that envelopes and casts out fear of the unknown.
This day and every day, may you be blessed by the ability to breathe in Ruach, healing, sanctifying, renewing and be blessed by a precious peace that passes understanding.
This day and every day, may grace surround, undergird, and infill you.
And may this day and every day in Holy Week bring a blessing that touches your life in ways you can’t even begin to ask or understand.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Comments are most welcome. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The image is a photo of some flower pins I have been making as gifts for friends as a sign and symbol of Love. They were made using pieces of felt with baby pearls in the middle of the flower.
A Soulistry reflection on each day in Holy Week will be available in the “SoulistryChurchYear” group on Facebook and on the Soulistry blog (www.soulistry.com/blog). You are welcome to subscribe to the Soulistry reflections (www.soulistry.com) and as reflections are added, they will come into your inbox. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
For millions of people around the world, the week that begins today, on Palm Sunday, is known as Holy Week.
It is the last week of the Season of Lent in the western world – the final seven days before Easter.
Beginning with today (Palm Sunday), Holy Week includes other unique days with special liturgies and observances. While Holy Week’s Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are not as well known as are Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, each day of the coming week, Soulistry will offer a reflection as part of the Holy Week observance. This week, for Christians who observe Holy Week, is the most difficult time in their religious observance because it was the most difficult week in Jesus’ life.
Like last year, this week has another layer of difficulty.
It’s not just Holy Week.
It’s Holy Week happening in the midst of a pandemic.
It’s been said that “where there is no vision the people perish.”
The people at the time of Jesus needed a vision – a vision of hope.
The people of today’s time need a vision too.
May this Weaving Prayer become a vision for hope for all those who are observing Holy Week
and those who are not, but who also need a vision.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ WEAVING PRAYER Weave, O Holy One,
our differing threads of opinions
our global fear
our various political strands
our diverse liturgical expressions
our different ways of looking at the world
into a sacred tapestry
so that we will be empowered to hope and vision where Love
not fear, not ego, not pursuit of power, not idolization of money
are the centre of decisions, thoughts, actions and conversations
Great Weaver of us all
when we find ourselves regretting
… the past
when we are uncertain of
… the present
when we are fearful of
… the future
May this day and coming Holy Week be one of hope
My this day and coming Holy Week be one of gentle reflection
not listening to the fear mongers.
May this day and coming Holy Week be one of inner response
not letting statistics cloud our vision of hope.
And may this day and coming Holy Week be one of deepening of the Spirit
around the world.
May this day, Palm Sunday, O Great Weaver
encourage us to not focus on the underside of the Tapestry
where our knottedness,
and tattered threads can be seen.
Rather, may we envision the entire Tapestry of community
a tapestry of differing colours, customs, abilities, religions, languages, and ages,
as we all work together, globally, during this pandemic
towards a vision of love, peace, respect and kindness for this world.
Amen. So be it. Amen.
<The word “amen” simple means “So be it.”>
Your comments are most welcome
A Soulistry reflection on each day in Holy Week will be available in the “SoulistryChurchYear” group on Facebook and on the Soulistry blog (www.soulistry.com/blog). You are welcome to subscribe to the Soulistry reflections (www.soulistry.com) and as reflections are added, they will come into your inbox.
The celebration of Passover begins this night. To my Jewish friends, may the miracle of Passover live in your hearts forever. Chag Pesach Sameach! Tomorrow, known as Palm Sunday, Christians will be marking Holy Week.
As Jewish people mark the beginning of Pesach/Passover which begins with a Seder (a special meal with various rituals), the youngest Jewish child present will ask the same question which has been asked for centuries by Jewish people in times of despair, in times of joy, in times of knowing, in times of unknowing: “Why is this night different from other nights?” “Ma nishtanah ha-laylah ha-ze mi kol ha-leylot?” And then the same child will then ask the Four Questions which emerge from that first question.
Each of the answers to those questions will explain why something is done differently this night. Why is there no leavened bread, only matzoh? Why are only bitter herbs eaten this night? Why are the vegetables dipped twice, not once, in salt water? Why is eating done, reclining on one elbow?
The same answers will come each year on this night … matzoh because there was no time for the dough to rise … bitter herbs as a reminder of the bitterness of slavery … vegetables dipped in twice as a reminder of tears shed … eating while reclining on one elbow to symbolize freedom.
I reflected on the Season of Lent for western Christians that is drawing to a close, and Passover that is about to begin for Jewish people this night. I found myself wondering …“Can Passover and Holy Week be teachers for people not ascribing to Judaism – Christianity? If so, what?” As I thought about it, some answers began to emerge.
First – we can learn to ask questions. ~ While I’m not Jewish, I love the tradition of having a child begin the Passover Seder with a question. Children love to ask questions (oh wow, do they ever!), but as we grow older, many stop asking questions and take what others believe to be their truth. Not asking questions has sometimes led to broken relationships, wars, illness, political uncertainty and even death. Why don’t we ask more questions? Curiosity is a wonderful attribute! ~ When I had questions, the teachers at the non-Christian-affiliated church my family attended, said “All answers are in our two books. Look there.” I did. I didn’t see answers. I saw more questions. The teachers gave the same response every time, year after year, after year. When I was fifteen, I spoke with my parents, telling them that I wanted to leave the church. “Why?” they asked. I told them that not only wasn’t I finding the answers I was seeking (in the two books), I was not being allowed to question at all. I believed that God had given me a brain to use, and told my parents that because I wasn’t allowed to question anything in the church because all of the answers were in one of the two books, I believed that I was refusing a gift from God: my intellect. My parents agreed. I was given permission to leave that religion.
I am a life-long learner. I have never stopped asking questions. I hope I never will. I ask questions of religion, history, the Bible, politics, God, the environment, the pandemic. I ask questions of myself. I ask questions to political leaders, social media journalists. Sometimes I get answers. Sometimes my questions lead me to more questions. And sometimes, my questions lead me to answers.
But without the questions …
Second – we can learn to face life’s challenges. ~ The Christian Season of Lent and the Jewish observance of Passover speak of people long ago who faced challenges. As difficult as they were then, those challenges were profound teachers. ~ Today, each of us faces challenges in our lives. As difficult as they are for us, they too can be profound teachers. Facing challenge – not always easy, but a profound way to learn about life, ourselves, God, this world where we live.
Third – we can learn to take action. ~ The life and story of Jesus became a motivator of action for ‘love of neighbour’ by people who followed Jesus. That story continues to motivate people today into a broad action of advocacy. Action. ~ The Israelites left Egypt in such haste that they could not wait for their bread dough to rise and so they took action with the dough they had and created unleavened bread – the matzoh – which sustained them. Action.
Fourth – we can learn to share. Whether it’s food for the body with a meal or food for the soul with wisdom, the story of Jesus (the sharing of loaves and fishes) and the story of a wide table open to all at a Passover Seder are gentle reminders of the importance of sharing what we have with others.
Fifth – we can learn to be grateful. ~ Life is a gift. ~ Religious teachings undergird the importance of having an attitude of gratitude and not take our precious life for granted.
May we be willing to learn from other religions and other peoples. To adherents of Judaism: Chag Pesach Sameach! To adherents of Christianity: May this be a blessed Holy Week.
A Facebook friend posted this comment: “Today I will stop giving so generously and freely
… I close my heart.” I was sad.
Guard her heart?
But close her heart?
There will always be people who will do what they can (consciously / unconsciously)
… to take us down.
There will always be people who don’t like us
… not everyone will like us.
But, that’s not a reason to close our heart.
Maybe the reason some people don’t like us is because of our religion.
Maybe it’s because of our gender or sexual preference or language or skin colour or …
Maybe it’s our choice of partner/spouse.
Maybe it’s our personality, or our clothing, or our food choices, or our history, or …
Maybe it’s because of who we support politically.
It could be any number of things.
The bottom line is that not everyone will like us.
Sometimes, we are
… Just … Not … Liked.
No identifiable reason.
When I learned that stark reality,
I also learned that ‘others not liking me’ is not my problem.
It’s their problem.
In that discovery, came another learning.
As long as I do my best each day.
As long as I love and take care of myself, I can be myself
and in so doing, life can become more gentle, more fun, more enjoyable and more loving.
I never want to close my heart.
The consequences of such a decision are too tragic to consider.
What about you?
Have you ever thought of closing your heart?
Sadly, in today’s political and pandemic climate,
more and more are echoing the words “I close my heart”
and it seems that as hearts are closing,
minds are closing even more
bringing beyond-difficult consequences
for our world.
I hope you have not closed your heart,
but … if you have,
I hope that you realize that as long as you do your best each day,
as long as you love and take care of yourself, you can be yourself.
And in so doing, life can become more gentle,
more fun, more enjoyable and more loving.
May we follow the lead of our pet friends …
they never close their hearts.
When I first walked in front of this tree, I kept on walking. Then I turned back to see if what I thought I saw, I really did see. I took its photo just to be certain. But there it was … a face within! Not carved by human design, but carved by Nature. And complete with hair, albeit green!
Once again, I was aware of the connectedness of all Creation.
To ignore our forests, our waterways or to ‘use’ them for financial gain in the short term rather than to treasure them for the long term is to ignore a precious gift we have been given.
May all who dwell on planet Earth, treat the sanctity of the created order with gentleness and loving respect. May we never forget the need for growth in forests to breathe clean air. May policy decision-makers be guided by need, rather than greed.
On this International Day of Forests, created by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, thank you ‘Face in a Tree” for your poignant reminder.
Just as you need us to survive, we need you to survive and thrive.
St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) is a day that brings forth ‘the wearing of the green and stories of leprechauns. It also brings gentle reminders of Celtic spirituality which seems to transcend institutionalized religion and encourages people to consider aspects of the essence of life … like the Ancient Celtic Prayer for Peace and Sleep.
As many know, sleep can be the elusive pimpernel of the night. Night time, for many, seems to be a time when … minds seem to worry about more things … pain seems to hurt more acutely … grief seems to be more intense.
And this past year, even more so, with … COVID-19 spreading its tentacles in every continent … more people in self-isolation … growing numbers of people denied entry into particular countries … anxiety about the increasing number of COVID “strains” … questions about accessibility of vaccines
We need to sleep. We need to sleep well.
This night before St. Patrick’s Day, let us welcome this adaptation of the Ancient Celtic Prayer for Sleep into our consciousness … as a prayer … as a wish … as a hope.
****************************** May the peace of the tallest mountain and the peace of the smallest stone be our peace. May the stillness of the stars watch over us. And may the everlasting music of the wave lull us to rest.” ************************** My friends, May we all sleep well this night. May all sleep well in the nights-to-come. And may all awaken in the morning experiencing peace in heart and mind and body. Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Comments are always welcome. 🙂 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Learning Some things are easy to learn. Some things are not so easy to learn Some days the learning is huge. Some days it is subtle.
Some days the learning is about … what I believe … who I am … things I need to work on. Some days the learning is about others who are hurtful or loving or kind or mean-spirited or generous or resentful or kind or angry or how gracious and compassionate people can be.
Some days the learning involves a new approach to technology, art, gardening, writing, music or even a new checkerboard move. Some days the learning is about politics, history, literature, religion, cultures, language. And some days it’s a combination of things.
Each night before I go to bed, I ask myself “What have you learned today?” Usually, the answer comes swiftly followed by a silent prayer of gratitude for the lesson.
But when a difficult moment happened and I experienced betrayal … a promise had been made … then broken … and then lied about … and it hurt … what did I learn from that?
The more I thought about it … the more I thought about it. And I found it difficult to forget … difficult to let it go … difficult to move on.
When I went to bed that night, I asked myself “What have you learned today?” But there was no answer and I didn’t sleep well that night. I got up in the wee hours, made a cup of crystal tea and in the stillness and asked the question again: “What have you learned today?”
The answer came quickly. “Forgiveness. You could have learned about the importance of forgiveness.”
I could have but … questions began to surface … was the individual apologetic? … was betrayal acknowledged? … did I want to forgive? I knew the honest answer was the same each time: “No.” and I could feel the hurt rising again. I knew I needed to review the questions again, so I began with the last question: “Do I want to forgive?”
*Want* to forgive?
When I experience betrayal or someone gossiping, making assumptions about my character, or experience cruelty, injustice, downright meanness, the word ‘forgiveness’ enters my thoughts and I try to move in that direction. But sometimes, it takes me a long time. A. Very. Long. Time.
I understand forgiveness to be integral in spiritual and personal growth, so I work on it. Not for the sake of the other, but for my sake. Maybe that’s why forgiveness is called soul-work.
It’s ‘work,’ alright. Hard work.
I wish forgiveness came easily. I wish I didn’t have to experience some lessons over and over and over again. And yet because I know that the end result can be personal growth, I persist.
Two situations this past year were challenging. One situation was two-part and the first part only took a few days for me to forgive. But then it happened again – the second part of the same situation with the same person who, once again, apologized and promised to not let it happen again. I found myself back in the lesson-mode again, trying to determine the advisability of trusting that person again and of trying to forgive. It took me a little longer but gratefully, I was able to forgive that person again.
But the second situation, took a long time to move into a state of forgiveness. A full year. 🙁
Eventually, I was able to forgive – not for the sake of the other, but for the sake of my own soul.
It’s true … learning about and then entering into a posture of forgiveness is soul work. And it’s worth it.