Lenten Journal, Day 22
Today is the 20th weekday in Lent … the season is half over!
I thought I would write some poetry, but it just turned into a limerick.
Christianity is not about pie in the sky by and by
It’s not about getting a ticket to heaven when you die
There’re no guarantees
when you fall on your knees
That a voice will answer when you ask “What?” or “When?” or “Why?”
No guarantees. That’s life. There is a Lenten guarantee, however. It ends with Resurrection.
Lenten Journal, Day 21
God, I’m depressed. “My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.”
Going through Lent without the regular support of a faith community while also recovering from major orthopedic surgery and observing the state of American politics and the state of American Christianity really has me in a blue funk and I can feel the “black dog” prowling around in the fog. It’s too much. Maybe this retirement thing, or the surgery, or both were bad decisions. “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?”
I’m pretty certain that checking the New York Times and the Washington Post, Facebook and Twitter is occasionally a bad idea, maybe frequently a bad idea.
Lenten Journal, Day 20
Sigh . . . . it’s detachment time again!
This Lent, my first as a retired priest, is certainly focusing my attention on not focusing my attention, which is just a cute way to say “Detachment.” The need to “let go” is hitting me squarely between the eyes.
I’m feeling very much like a stubborn donkey.
Lenten Journal, Day 18 – Third Sunday in Lent
Friday (day before yesterday), I wrote about “acedia,” the deadly sin of spiritual torpor or procrastination, of not caring. It got me to thinking about “not caring.”
One of the things about parish ministry that surprised me early in my ordained career was the need to make decisions about things in which I had absolutely no interest. What color should we paint the ladies’ restroom? I don’t care. What should we have on the menu for so-and-so’s reception? I don’t care. Should there be just instrumental music or some sing-along carols before the Christmas service? I don’t care.
I learned, though, that “I don’t care” was not the right answer. I learned that “I don’t care” wasn’t heard as “I have no preference and am completely and dispassionately disinterested and indifferent; you may do as you wish and I will not be concerned in any way.”
“I don’t care” was heard as “You’d best leave my church and never come back.”
Lenten Journal, Day 13
I had a first-in-the-morning appointment at the digestive disease medical office today, a pre-screening for the colonoscopy I have scheduled in two weeks. Weight, blood pressure, review of medications, instructions on which medications to discontinue ahead of the procedure, medical history review, that sort of thing … and, of course, the preparation instructions for the day before.
I can’t really think of anything more appropriate for Lent than colonoscopy prep, can you?
OK, I’m being facetious.
Lenten Journal, Day 11 – Second Sunday in Lent
It has been a busy St. Patrick’s Day although Evelyn and I did nothing in the nature of Irish celebration other than pick up some deli corned beef and Swiss cheese for lunch sandwiches and in the evening meet friends for Mexican food. Margaritas are green; they count, right? We went to church where we heard a sermon about God’s faithfulness, stopped at the store to by that corned beef, and came home to do the things married people do on a Sunday afternoon. By which I mean laundry and housekeeping.
Yesterday, I listened to an NPR interview with a musician promoting her art at Austin’s South by Southwest Festival. In the course of the interview, while she was talking about making a political witness through her art, she said, “There are so many things I don’t want to believe….”
Lenten Journal, Day 6
“… rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same.”
A few days ago, a fellow priest complained about the difficulty of saying these words from the “traditional language” service of Holy Communion in the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer, especially early in the morning (which is about the only time they are said in most parishes anymore, if they are said at all). I responded with the snarky remark that if my colleague had grown up with them, rather than being a “convert” from another Christian tradition (as he is), they would not be difficult at all.
I did not grow up with them myself, but I did hear them at least three times each week during the academic terms of my high school years. A non-Episcopalian, I was enrolled in an Episcopal Church affiliated boarding school more than a thousand miles from home. Like all the students of that school, I was required to attend chapel which most days followed the liturgy of one of the Daily Offices but twice each week was a celebration of the Eucharist. Then on Sundays, unless one was attending church off campus, there was another mandatory service of Holy Communion.
Lenten Journal, Day 3
I have a morning ritual; I suppose everyone does. I get up in the darkness of 5 a.m. and carefully, quietly walk down the stairs from our bedroom to the den and kitchen (a combined “great room” as our house is laid out). I turn on the coffee maker which has been set up the night before, then I sit down in my recliner to await its task completion. My dog, Archbishop Dudley, a black cocker spaniel, rouses himself (he sleeps in the den) and comes to me; I lift him onto my lap and the two of us fall asleep.
When the coffee maker wakes me with its signal that the brew is ready, I put the dog to floor, slip a coat onto me and a leash onto him, and go for a short walk around our cul-de-sac. The dog does what he must and we return home; he gets his breakfast and I get my first cup of coffee along with a handful of pills. While I drink it, I read scan my online subscriptions of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and (occasionally) the Los Angeles Times, and read a few news reports and op-ed pieces. Then I check out Facebook.
Lent Journal, Day 2
Yesterday afternoon the dog and I went for a walk in the snow. I should clarify: we went for a walk while the snow was falling and we walked on the sidewalk. The snow was that sort of big, fluffy-flake variety that my wife calls “snow globe snow.” As it coated the sidewalk, the path had the appearance of the first layer of blown-in insulation in an attic, a cottony, almost-fibrous, semi-transparent white coating laid over the concrete.
I was wearing a pair of slip-on canvas shoes with a textured sole, the sort that leaves very distinct patterned footprints in such snow or on the damp sand of undisturbed beaches. We’ve had several such snow falls this year and I’ve noticed that when the snow continues to fall and covers up those footprints, they harden. Later, when my neighbor or I get out our snow blowers and snow shovels and clear the sidewalk, those footprints left in the first snow fall remain, like the white-on-white pattern of an expensive dress shirt, evidence that someone has walked this way before.
Where to begin?
I’ve decided to spend at least one hour each morning on the task of writing. That’s the advice given all aspiring writers, “Just do it. Set aside time and discipline yourself to do it. Write whatever comes to mind.” So here I am, coffee cup at my side, fingers on the keyboard of my laptop, sitting at the kitchen table. I would prefer to use a paper and pen, but the arthritis in my hands simply does not allow me to actually write much anymore. I can “type” so much faster and more accurately than I can scrawl now (and auto-correct, as much as I hate it on my phone, is a great aide in my word processing application).
The furnace is on. It’s snowing outside and the Weather.com app on my phone said it was 21ºF when last I looked. There was a weather notice of a burst of snowfall moving through the area limiting visibility and making roads dangerously slick.
Anyway, the furnace is on and I can hear the rush of air through the registers. Normally, I never pay attention to this; I don’t even notice it. It is simply background white noise. This morning, however, it seems to be abnormally loud, very noticeable. If I were still in the preaching business, I might make myself a note about the furnace background noise, a reminder that it could be used a sermon illustration. I don’t know what biblical text or theological idea it might illustrate, but that’s the nature of sermon illustrations, isn’t it? You don’t know how you will use them until you do. File this one under “background noise” for now and move on.