Returning Home

Returning HomeScripture Text:  Joel 2: 12-13

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

By my count, this is the 30th day (27th without the Sundays) of Lent.  We are coming closer.  Our journey’s footprint is beginning to narrow, honing in on our destination.  Things are beginning to change.  You can feel it in the air.  If you listen, really listen, you can hear the voices growing louder.  There’s a part of us that wants to go back, perhaps hide away until it is all over but we know that’s not the way it works.  The journey with all of its twists and turns are part of life.  We speak of going out into the world, of “broadening” our mission, often with a sense of leaving home behind.  But Lent teaches us something different.  Our journey’s map is one of widening circles as we gather the world in and, yet, the point of it, the center, tends to become a little clearer with each step.  We begin to sense the center of all these circles.  We begin to feel at home.

I have several times had the wonderful gift of sharing final journeys.  It is a time of remembering, yes, but it is more.  In the last few years of my grandmother’s life, she seemed to be gathering her memories around her, trying to recap them, trying to capture what was important so that she could leave it behind intact.  Maybe that’s what we should do when things begin to change.  Rather than walking blindly and fearlessly into the unknown as if we have some sort of prideful martyr complex, maybe we are called to gather what we have learned, those whom we have loved, those memories that are part of us, and claim them.  God calls us forward on this journey to leave behind things like material items and things to which we hold to our detriment, things that are not ours to hold.  God calls us forward not to leave our selves behind but to claim the real self that we are.  And those memories, those things we have learned, those we have loved are part of our real self.  They are part of God’s way of returning us to God.

Ann Danielson said that “home is where your story begins“.  I don’t think that’s limited to the place that you were born, the place in which you began.  Home is not meant to be a place.  It is meant to be a way of being.  Maybe that means that each new beginning, each time our story begins, is home.  Our journey is not one of going to a place we do not know but one of returning, returning to who we are called to be, returning to God.  That is what Lent teaches us.  It is a season of reflection and introspection.  It is a season of gathering and pruning, of knowing which things we are called to release and what we are called to hold.  Lent is the season when we reset our journey once again so that it is calibrated with our story, so that the journey is one both of returning home and being home.  It is a journey of returning and re-turning.  Lent is a season when we finally know what it means to be home, to know what claims us, to know what give us life.

Our true home is in the present moment.  The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment. Peace is all around us–in the world and in nature–and within us–in our bodies and our spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

On this 30th day of Lent, as the pathway begins to turn, remember from where you’ve come.  Gather what is important, what is part of you, those things you need to claim.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

The Dwelling Place

Open HouseScripture Passage: Psalm 27:4

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. (KJV)

The Psalmist gives us great comfort, this idea of dwelling with God forever.  It is our hope; it is our promise; it is what our faith is all about.  So what does it mean to “dwell”?  One definition is to “stay” or to “reside in permanent residence.”  That is usually the way we think of this notion–to live with God, to stay with God forever.  For us, a “dwelling” is something permanent, a structure that protects us and gives us shelter.  It is the place where we can go when life gets to be too much and when we need rest and sustenance.  It is the place where we can hide ourselves away and heal.  It is the place that feels like home.

IMG_0033[2]But dwellings also wall us off from the rest of the world, setting up boundaries of what is “mine” and what is “yours”.   They allow us to ignore the needs and the lives of those who are not within our walls.  I used to live in an older neighborhood in Houston.  Once filled with a few older Victorian homes and lots of small 1920’s bungalows (I had one of those), it eventually became a victim of the so-called “McMansion” syndrome as bungalow after bungalow was torn down so that a sprawling three-story (or even four-story) Victorian wannabe can take over the entire lot.  Sadly, when I sold my lovely historic bungalow this past September, it was immediately torn down to make room for “more” dwelling.  It still bothers me.  Is it appropriate to grieve for a house?  See, beyond mere protection and shelter, the dwelling has creeped beyond its own boundaries and taken on an identity all its own.

Is this how we read these words now, as if we have somehow taken up residence with God and God’s sprawling house?  Is that what it means to dwell with God, to stay, to hide, take move into a permanent structure (perhaps with other like-minded children of God)?  But there is another meaning of the word “dwell”.  It is also defined as “to linger over” or “ponder”. So what, then, would it mean to spend all the days of one’s life pondering God, lingering with God?  I don’t think God calls us to stay with God but rather to be with God.  The walls of dwellings sound to me far too limiting of a limitless God. (Which is the reason that the image of Christ becomes the new Temple, the new Dwelling.)  But this dwelling that we have somehow conjured up in our minds is not where God lives but rather where we want God to be, the place where we envision pulling God into our notion of who God is.  But to be, to be with God, means to go where God is, which means we have to open one’s mind and heart and soul to being the very image of God, to being the dwelling of God.

Once again, it requires us to make room, to clear our lives of the “stuff” that we have accumulated and to perhaps open the doors and windows and let the fresh air and light in.  God IS our sustenance, our shelter, even, at times, our protector.  But God does not wall us off from the rest of the world.  We are called to go forth, to be God’s image in the world.  We are called to ponder, to linger over, to become.  Doesn’t that sound a little familiar?  Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2: 19, NRSV)  And then, if you remember, she became the very dwelling of the Godself, the God-bearer, the one that birthed God into the world.  We are not called to stay with God; we are called to be with God, to be a dwelling place for God with God in God.  We are called to be the God-bearers.  It is home, the place where we can truly rest our souls.

My ego is like a fortress.  I have built its walls stone by stone to hold out the invasion of the love of God.  But I have stayed here long enough.  There is light over the barriers.  O my God…I let go of the past, I withdraw my grasping hand from the future, and in the great silence of this moment, I alertly rest my soul.  (Howard Thurman)

On this Lenten journey, what does it mean for you to dwell in God, to ponder?  What does it mean to become a dwelling place for God?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Returning Home

Returning HomeScripture Text:  Joel 2: 12-13

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

By my count, this is the 28th day of Lent.  We are coming closer.  Our journey’s footprint is beginning to narrow, honing in on our destination.  Things are beginning to change.  You can feel it in the air.  If you listen, really listen, you can hear the voices growing louder.  There’s a part of us that wants to go back, perhaps hide away until it is all over but we know that’s not the way it works.  The journey with all of its twists and turns are part of life.  We speak of going out into the world, of “broadening” our mission, often with a sense of leaving home behind.  But Lent teaches us something different.  Our journey’s map is one of widening circles as we gather the world in and, yet, the point of it, the center, tends to become a little clearer with each step.  We begin to sense the center of all these circles.  We begin to feel at home.

I have several times had the wonderful gift of sharing final journeys.  It is a time of remembering, yes, but it is more.  In the last few years of my grandmother’s life, she seemed to be gathering her memories around her, trying to recap them, trying to capture what was important so that she could leave it behind intact.  Maybe that’s what we should do when things begin to change.  Rather than walking blindly and fearlessly into the unknown as if we have some sort of prideful martyr complex, maybe we are called to gather what we have learned, those whom we have loved, those memories that are part of us, and claim them.  God calls us forward on this journey to leave behind things like material items and things to which we hold to our detriment, things that are not ours to hold.  God calls us forward not to leave our selves behind but to claim the real self that we are.  And those memories, those things we have learned, those we have loved are part of our real self.  They are part of God’s way of returning us to God.

Ann Danielson said that “home is where your story begins“.  I don’t think that’s limited to the place that you were born, the place in which you began.  Home is not meant to be a place.  It is meant to be a way of being.  Maybe that means that each new beginning, each time our story begins, is home.  Our journey is not one of going to a place we do not know but one of returning, returning to who we are called to be, returning to God.  That is what Lent teaches us.  It is a season of reflection and introspection.  It is a season of gathering and pruning, of knowing which things we are called to release and what we are called to hold.  Lent is the season when we reset our journey once again so that it is calibrated with our story, so that the journey is one both of returning home and being home.  It is a journey of returning and re-turning.  Lent is a season when we finally know what it means to be home, to know what claims us, to know what give us life.

Our true home is in the present moment.  The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment. Peace is all around us–in the world and in nature–and within us–in our bodies and our spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

On this 28th day of Lent, as the pathway begins to turn, remember from where you’ve come.  Gather what is important, what is part of you, those things you need to claim.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

The Dwelling Place

Open HouseScripture Passage: Psalm 27:4

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. (KJV)

The Psalmist gives us great comfort, this idea of dwelling with God forever.  It is our hope; it is our promise; it is what our faith is all about.  So what does it mean to “dwell”?  One definition is to “stay” or to “reside in permanent residence.”  That is usually the way we think of this notion–to live with God, to stay with God forever.  For us, a “dwelling” is something permanent, a structure that protects us and gives us shelter.  It is the place where we can go when life gets to be too much and when we need rest and sustenance.  It is the place where we can hide ourselves away and heal.  It is the place that feels like home. 

But dwellings also wall us off from the rest of the world, setting up boundaries of what is “mine” and what is “yours”.   They allow us to ignore the needs and the lives of those who are not within our walls.  I live in an older neighborhood in Houston.  Once filled with a few older Victorian homes and lots of small 1920’s bungalows (I have one of those), it is now becoming a victim of the so-called “McMansion” syndrome as bungalow after bungalow is torn down so that a sprawling three-story (or even four-story) Victorian wannabe can take over the entire lot.  So, beyond mere protection and shelter, the dwelling has creeped beyond its own boundaries and taken on an identity all its own.

Is this how we read these words now, as if we have somehow taken up residence with God and God’s sprawling house?  Is that what it means to dwell with God, to stay, to hide, take move into a permanent structure (perhaps with other like-minded children of God)?  But there is another meaning of the word “dwell”.  It is also defined as “to linger over” or “ponder”.  So what, then, would it mean to spend all the days of one’s life pondering God, lingering with God?  I don’t think God calls us to stay with God but rather to be with God.  The walls of dwellings sound to me far too limiting of a limitless God. (Which is the reason that the image of Christ becomes the new Temple, the new Dwelling.)  But this dwelling that we have somehow conjured up in our minds is not where God lives but rather where we want God to be, the place where we envision pulling God into our notion of who God is.  But to be, to be with God, means to go where God is, to open one’s mind and heart and soul to being the very image of God, to being the dwelling of God.

Once again, it requires us to make room, to clear our lives of the “stuff” that we have accumulated and to perhaps open the doors and windows and let the fresh air and light in.  God IS our sustenance, our shelter, even, at times, our protector.  But God does not wall us off from the rest of the world.  We are called to go forth, to be God’s image in the world.  We are called to ponder, to linger over, to become.  Doesn’t that sound a little familiar?  Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2: 19, NRSV)  And then, if you remember, she became the very dwelling of the Godself, the God-bearer, the one that birthed God into the world.  We are not called to stay with God; we are called to be with God, to be a dwelling place for God with God in God.  We are called to be the God-bearers.  It is home, the place where we can truly rest our souls.

My ego is like a fortress.  I have built its walls stone by stone to hold out the invasion of the love of God.  But I have stayed here long enough.  There is light over the barriers.  O my God…I let go of the past, I withdraw my grasping hand from the future, and in the great silence of this moment, I alertly rest my soul.  (Howard Thurman)

On this Lenten journey, what does it mean for you to dwell in God, to ponder?  What does it mean to become a dwelling place for God?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Searching for Home

 

Modern-Day Bethlehem and the West Bank wall
Modern-Day Bethlehem and the West Bank wall

Passage for Reflection:  Ruth 1:16b

“Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

What does “home” mean to you? Is it the place that keeps you safe?  Is it the place that encourages you to grow, to pursue your dreams, to become better than you are?  Is it the place to which you return or the place that you’re trying to find?  Is it the place you know or the place where you are known?  Robert Frost said that “home is the place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” (Personally, that sounds a lot like grace to me!)  Emily Dickinson said “where thou art, that is home.”  Ann Danielson said that “home is where your story begins.”  So when did home turn into something that we protect, something that we “own”, something that we use to close the doors and shut out the world?  When did home become something that keeps us where we are?  When did home become our stopping point?

These words of Ruth’s are not, as popular culture’s wedding traditions often assume, about a married or a marrying couple.  They are a daughter-in-law’s words to her mother.  And perhaps buried deep within their meaning is something even more.  They are also the words of a displaced, homeless wanderer desperately searching for home.  They are the words of one who lives in poverty and exile who is looking for a new story, a new life.  They are the words that begin a journey to Bethlehem.  So, Ruth, the Moabite, the foreigner, the one who really does not belong in the story travels with Naomi in search of a home.  And she becomes a part of the story, a story that also happens in Bethlehem.  Generations later, the Gospel writer known as Matthew will name Ruth as the ancestor of Jesus.

We will read the story of Jesus’ birth in a few weeks and we will bemoan the fact that there was no room for him, no home for him to begin his life on this earth.  Maybe that was the point.  Maybe it was because the world as it was, a world full of homelessness and poverty, a world full of empires vying for control, a world full of those who would shut the doors of their homes to others, was never really going to be home.  There was never really room for Jesus in this world the way it was.  And he lived a little more than three decades, we are told, wandering, never really settled, in search of a home.

Maybe that is what this season of Advent with of its stories of exiles and wild men in the wilderness, stories of misfits and rebels that are searching for a place to belong, a place that makes sense, a place that fits with the vision that they have been shown, teaches us.  (Good grief, ANOTHER Advent lesson?!?)  13th and 14th century theologian Meister Eckhart once said that “God is at home; it is we who have gone out for a walk.” Maybe, then, home is not the place where we hide under the covers all warm and toasty; maybe it is not the place to which we return but rather the place to which we are drawn.  Our faith journey is an incredible act of searching for home.  It is not the place that makes us comfortable but the place that gives us meaning, the place that makes us real, the place that makes us become who God calls us to be.  That vision that God holds for us is not one that draws us into the unknown but rather one that brings us home.  “Home is where your story begins.”  It begins now.  Have you ever thought that Advent is not about making room for Christ in the midst of what you know but rather following Christ in search of God’s vision of Home, not a home in some far off place in your next life, but home with God even now?  Advent is not about making room for God in your life but rather following God into the life in which God has made room for you.  But sometimes, like Ruth, you have to leave what you know behind.

Reflection:  What does “home” mean to you?  What places do you need to leave behind to search for home?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli