Yesterday I did something that a couple of years ago would have seemed idiotic to me – I found myself meditating while rubbingg a pebble in my hand. While I was having my morning devotions I had felt God nudge me to pick up one of the pebbles I gathered when Tom & I visited Coupeville shortly after his son, Clint’s death last year. The stone I chose was a mottled yellow and brown stone, rough with irregular striations running through it – not a particularly attractive stone and I almost put it back, but somehow I knew that was the one I was to use. I called it my “stone of remembrance” and put it alongside another beautiful stone I had picked up on the island of Iona in Scotland last year that I call my “stone of God’s faithfulness.”
To make it look more attractive I rubbed the stone with oil which it soaked in like thirsty soil. It seemed to come to life. As I looked at it I noticed an interesting pattern of light and dark intertwined through it and I was reminded that all of life is a pattern of light and dark, of good and evil intertwined. I thought back over some of the more painful memories in my life and reflected on the fact that I have often tried to either ignore or to completely get rid of the dark places in my life.
In my reflection from Henri Nouwen this morning he talked about bringing our pains home to our adult lives. “…you have to incorporate your pain into your self and let it bear fruit in your heart and the hearts of others… Taking up your cross means first of all befriending your wonds and letting themreveal to you your own truth.”
My stone of remembrance reminds me again that the wounds of my past, the challenges I continue to struggle with during this Lenten season are all an integral part of my life – after his resurrection Christ was identified by his scars, and so are we. Our scars are the result of our willingness to “take up our cross” and walk with Christ toward Jerusalem. They are the result of our willingness to bring our pain into the open so that we can find healing. Only then can we become the people Godintends us to be and only then can we be made whole.
This morning I noticed that my stone of remembrance was dry and unattractive again while the stone from Iona, my stone of God’s faithfulness still shone with the oil I had rubbed on it yesterday. As I again rubbed oil into the remembrance stone I reflected on how the molding of our own lives requires the constant application of God’s annointing oil to shine while the faithfulness of God shines without our doing anything. Amazing what we can learn from a rough and unattractive stone.
I had planned to produce another video for meditation this week (and still might before the end of the week) but as I looked through my photos I was so impacted by this painting I photographed in the Bible Chapel Sheffield Tasmania that I decided instead to use it as a tool for meditation. Perhaps you would like touse it too during next week when we are focusing on world hunger as part of the Lenten challenge. Print out the photo, read through Isaiah 58: 6-9 each morning and see how it impacts you.
Preparing for the Mutunga challenge has reinforced once again the priorities I need to have in my life. Preparing our menu for the $2/ day challenge has made me realize the privilege of choice that we have. This was brought home when I talked to Donna Carter in Calgary a couple of days ago & she told me about a discussion she had with a pastor in Haiti. He told her that in Haiti most people live on $1 per day. “Is that really enough to live on?” she asked him. “No” he responded “but it is enough not to die.”
It is so easy for me when when we are a little short on money to want to restrict my giving to mission organizations. My selfishness could mean that a poor family in Africa does not have enough to live on this week. Generosity is an important part of what God calls all of us to. I am reminded of this every time I go out to harvest from my garden (last week we pulled 14 lb of “left over” carrots before we got the garden beds ready for spring planting.) Our God is a generous God and wants us to share with others abundantly out of that generosity. As it has been for me I hope that taking the Mutunga challenge this next week will reinforce the importance of this for you too.
Last night I was watching a new Koolaid ad. Now I am not a Koolaid fan even at the best of times but this new ad for individual servings of Koolaid really impacted me. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not going to go out and buy some Koolaid in fact quite the reverse. What impacted me was the wastefulness and the selfishnes of individual servings – not just of Koolaid but of literally everything we are offered in our supermarkets – we can buy anything in individual servings from breakfast cereals to evening meals. And all of these encourage us to think only about ourselves.
I think I have been particularly overwhelmed by this because we are getting ready for the Mutunga $2 challenge next week and it has struck me that when we share meals together we can usually do it more cheaply then when we only think about ourselves. More than that when we prepare our food from scratch (which is also cheaper) we usually make more than we need. I find this is particularly true when I make a pot of soup. I usually make a big enough pot to feed an army and so if I don’t want it to spoil we need to share it with others … which usually means having friends over… something I would recommend to any of us.
Sharing is so important and yet everything within our modern culture encourages us to think only of ourselves. Maybe the next time we see this new Koolaid ad we should all go out and make a pot of soup to share!
In my book GodSpace I wrote that Jesus spent more time forming community than he did in ministry and I was reminded of that this week as we had the opportunity to enjoy many different types of community which have all made this a very busy but enjoyable week. Lent is not the only rhythm governing my life at the moment.
Last weekend those of us who live in the Mustard Seed House spent a day working in the garden. Even Gabriel (age 2 months) was out enjoying the sunshine.
On Monday night we all attended a conversation with Rudy Carrasco which gave opportunity to enjoy another form of community as we grappled with issues of multiculturalism.
Later that night Tom dashed out to the airport to pick up Shane Claiborne who spent a couple of days with us. Tuesday morning we invited some of his friends to breakfast.
Today (Saturday) I spent time with friends who were with me on board the Mercy Ship Anastasis. Though we had not seen each other for many years the deep bonds formed through the close community we shared on the ship meant that we came together as though we had never been apart.
I must confess that at times I felt a little resentful at how much time some of these community activities took as it meant work seemed to suffer and of course we all know that work is really the most important thing in life… at least that’s what I used to think.
Over the last few years, I have realized that placing priority on getting the job done rather than on forming community is a very middle-class Western value that has little to do with God’s kingdom values. God seems to be more concerned about relationships and community than about tasks. Maybe one of the spiritual disciplines I need to learn during Lent this year is the importance of spending time with people forming community. Seems simple but I find it very challenging
Here is a great quote about Ash Wednesday from Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God.
The imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday is nothing if not bold – a dark and undeniable slash across your forehead, a bold proclamation of death and resurrection all at once. You forget that it is on your forehead and you walk out of church, out into the world, a living reminder that Christ died for us… The cross on our foreheads is meant to be a dramatic reminder to ourselves – and it is that. When Milind looks at me and says, “Remember that you are dust and to dust, you shall return,” I know what God did for me. He not only created me, he then poured out his grace upon me in the blood of his son. Me, a bunch of dust! But the cross also stimulates other people’s questions. It provides an unmistakable opportunity – even obligation – to witness.
Lent does not begin until next Wednesday but I feel that I have been living in the presence of it for the last month as I have developed the materials that we are making available through Mustard Seed Associates. As I worked on the booklet I found myself becoming more and more angry at the trivial ways in which most people treat this season. If I speak to one more person who intends to give up chocolate, alcohol, TV or internet surfing I will probably react in a very unChristian way. And the ads for diet aids that flood our TV screens at this time of year (at least in the Northern hemisphere) don’t really help. Though I realize these can be very real addictions for some people in Western cultures, they also seem incredibly trivial when compared to the suffering of so many in our world.
The scary thing about developing these materials is that I now feel responsible to carry through on everything I have suggested to others and that is probably as difficult for me to do as it is for anyone else. I too like to take shortcuts and not follow Christ’s teachings seriously – especially when it means giving up my comforts even for a day or two. It is amazing our easily I make excuses & trivialize the commitment that God asks of us. One of the reasons I have started making the videos for reflection that are appearing on this blog is because I find that having visual images like these helps me to enter more deeply into the gospel story and enables me to grab hold of my responsibility.
I started by uploading some of my photos from refugee camps and images of poverty as a screen saver but as my photo banks grew that didn’t seem as important. Then I started to write liturgies – not like we read in church (though sometimes they do look a little like a church service) but more as responsive readings that help me (and hopefully others) to connect their faith to their everyday life and to the world around them. The videos seemed like a logical next step melding together my love of photography with my liturgies. These videos help me to remember why I do what I do. As I work on them for different seasons of the year they also draw me back to a profound comment by Robert Webber who says that for Christians the rhythm of the year is meant to be governed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus not by the civil and national holidays of our countries or by the dictates of the consumer culture in which we live. Life with Jesus is life with a very different rhythm.