In the Hours Before the Dawn

dark-before-dawnScripture Text:  Genesis 1:1-5a, 31a, 2:1-3

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good…Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. 

We’re never really sure what to do with this day.  Everything is so quiet, so unsettled.  Memories of the week before interrupt our quiet thoughts, filling our minds with regrets over things we would have done differently, places we would have said “yes”, places we would have said “no”, places that we would have stood, places that we would have stayed.  The Cross is empty and Jesus is gone, laid in the tomb–forever.  We know that we will have to go on but we’re not sure how to do that. This is a day when once again, we are covered in darkness.  The earth feels out of sorts, almost formless and empty once again.  And so we sit here in these hours before the dawn with no direction, no guide, no journey that we can see.

And, yet, God has done this before, this creating.  God takes a formless voice that is immersed in darkness and sweeps into it bringing Light.  God creates and we become.  God creates and the world begins to move.  God creates and everything is as it should be.  And then God rested.  This seventh day, this Sabbath, this day of rest, is not the low point of Creation but the veritable climax.  It is the edge of everything that will be, the veritable edge of Glory.  This is the day to sit without doing, to sit without trying to “fix” the world, without trying to “fix” ourselves, without even worrying what the future may hold, and let the peace of God sweep over us once again.  This is the day to sit in the silence and hear the voice that is beckoning us to a New Creation.  Whether we can see it or not, this is the day that we are standing on the edge of Glory.  It is not what we planned; it is not what we envisioned; it is new.  Creation is happening now–in the quiet, in the darkness.

So what do we do today in these hours before the dawn?  It’s hard for those of us that want to make the future right.  It’s hard for us in a place where it’s always been so easy, so protected, to live with both the memories of yesterday and the uncertain future of a world that seems to teeter even now on the brink of furthering its own demise.  This is a day filled with talk of bombs and crosses.  It is a world that only faith can redeem.  What do we do?  Nothing…just rest…and let God create you.  This is the moment of your re-creation.  God is walking in the darkness with you. It may not be what you imagined but it will be right.  The light is just over the darkened horizon.

The pilgrims sit on the steps of death.  Undanced, the music ends.  Only the children remember that tomorrow’s stars are not yet out.  (Ann Weems)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

In the Hours Before the Dawn

dark-before-dawnScripture Text:  Genesis 1:1-5a, 31a, 2:1-3

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good…Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. 

We’re never really sure what to do with this day.  Everything is so quiet, so unsettled.  Memories of the week before interrupt our quiet thoughts, filling our minds with regrets over things we would have done differently, places we would have said “yes”, places we would have said “no”, places that we would have stood, places that we would have stayed.  The Cross is empty and Jesus is gone, laid in the tomb–forever.  We know that we will have to go on but we’re not sure how to do that. This is a day when once again, we are covered in darkness.  The earth feels out of sorts, almost formless and empty once again.  And so we sit here in these hours before the dawn with no direction, no guide, no journey that we can see.

And, yet, God has done this before, this creating.  God takes a formless voice that is immersed in darkness and sweeps into it bringing Light.  God creates and we become.  God creates and the world begins to move.  God creates and everything is as it should be.  And then God rested.  This seventh day, this Sabbath, this day of rest, is not the low point of Creation but the veritable climax.  It is the edge of everything that will be, the veritable edge of Glory.  This is the day to sit without doing, to sit without trying to “fix” the world, without trying to “fix” ourselves, and let the peace of God sweep over us once again.  This is the day to sit in the silence and hear the voice that is beckoning us to a New Creation.  Whether we can see it or not, this is the day that we are standing on the edge of Glory.  It is not what we planned; it is not what we envisioned; it is new.  Creation is happening now–in the quiet, in the darkness.

So what do we do today in these hours before the dawn?  Nothing…just rest…and let God create you.

The pilgrims sit on the steps of death.  Undanced, the music ends.  Only the children remember that tomorrow’s stars are not yet out.  (Ann Weems)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Taking Care of Busyness (but not all!)

I just returned back to work today after a couple of days off.  It was wonderful!  It was what I guess they’re calling a “stay-cation”.  I just stayed at home and sort of “piddled”.  I got some (but not all) of the planting done, some (but not all) of the organizing done, some (but not all) of that “to do” list done,  In my “but not all” times, I wandered through shops that I kept saying I wanted to visit, sat on the porch, and walked the dog.  I bought an old concrete yard ornament that is a weather-beaten rabbit who has two (but not all!) of his ears.  The antique dealer sold him to me for $18.00 and he’s in my front flower bed in front of the porch.  His name is now Chester and he has a home (which is the reason that the dealer agreed to sell him so cheaply!).  And I went and bought fresh (I mean REALLY fresh) fruits and vegetables from a neighborhood market and then made up things that I could do with them.  And, to top it off, I lost weight!  Maybe “but not all” is a good thing on several levels!

We are a busy people!  To tell the truth, even my “stay-cation” was wrought with emails and calls that were “work related”.  But they were important–so important, in fact, that I need to check emails and messages while I’m doing my self-prescribed “piddling”!  So I was able set up some meetings and agreed to do another mentoring gig.  Really?  Am I THAT important?  No, not at all.  I think on some level I just don’t want to lag behind the world.  I’m letting the world and it’s busyness lead my life.  So what do you do?

I think you change the way you do things.  You alter the route of your life.  I was watching something on TV during my time off.  (Truthfully, I don’t know what because I just had it on in the midst of the “piddling”.  Again, I watched some (but not all)!)  Anyway, their was a test question asked as to whether one can improve his or her memory more by memorizing something or by changing one’s route to work or some other place.  Interestingly enough, the answer was by changing one’s route.  I think it’s because it makes us look at things differently.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t arrive at the place that we would have anyway; it just means that we got there a different way and probably paid more attention to what was along our path. Now don’t get me wrong.  I am a BIG ritual person.  That is not what gets us in trouble.  It’s not the ritual of it.  It’s the rote of it.  Look up “rote”.  One of the definitions is “from memory, without thought or meaning.”  “Without thought or meaning”?  That’s pretty scary.

You know, we’ve seen this theme before.  Think about it.  The Scriptures are big on wildernesses.  There are lots of accounts of people just wandering around until they found where they were supposed to be.  Maybe the point is not that they were lost but that they had found a different route!  I think ritual connects and points us to God.  But being open to changing the way that we walk may allow us to see the God who walks with us along the way. 

So, here’s what I think.  I don’t think iPhones are bad.  I don’t think ritual is bad.  I don’t think work and staying busy is bad.  I don’t even think that one’s inability to say “no” once in awhile (but not all) is really all that bad.  It’s the WAY we do it.  Each of our lives is a work of art-in-process.  Each step is a brushstroke filling the canvas with color and texture.  And eventually, that bright white light that you see is the blending of all of those colors.  White is the most brilliant color of all.  Without color, without contrast, the world is dark.

So, how do we take care of busyness?  Maybe it’s only a matter of loosening it up enough to follow a different route.  Maybe some (but not all) busyness isn’t all that bad.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

…Robert Frost

Have a wonderfully busy week…just drive around a different block once in awhile!
Grace and Peace,
Shelli

   

The Rest

Genesis 2: 1-4a

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

worlds God rested.  Those are the words that we tend to concentrate on in this Scripture, as if God, weary from all the creating just laid down and took a little nap.  The truth is, the point of it all is not that God rested; the point is the rest…

The seventh day is the climax of Creation.  It’s the point where it all comes together, where all of those scenes that have been   painstakingly shot in semi-chronological order but in different places and different lights and different hues are suddenly are spliced together into some semblance of order.  God does not just create rest; God creates it all.  God pieces it into order, into the way it should be and then hallows it, inviting reflection and thanksgiving…and eternity.  The heavens and the earth and all that they contain and all that they are do not rest from Creation but rather are all invited into the rest—the rest of Creation when it continues on.

The truth is that nothing really existed before the seventh day.  Oh sure, there were archetypes and rehearsals and things that carried some semblance of the final product.  But this…this is everything.  The Sabbath, the day of rest, the day of the rest…asks that we stop and look and continue on into eternity.

In this Eastertide, we celebrate the ultimate Sabbath, we celebrate the Holy Rest.  That third day gave us a glimpse of what God is doing.  And God continues to recreate all of Creation until everything has had a third day, until everything has seen the rest of the story.

Holy Shabbat…

Shelli

Looking Through

We are accustomed to thinking of Lent as a journey–a journey of penitence and perspectives, of crosses and crossings, of giving up and giving over.  But in those times that we dare to stand still, to really think about things, to really contemplate the place to which we’ve walked, what then?  Then Lent is a space through which we look beyond–beyond Lent, beyond the cross, beyond ourselves, beyond to what it is that we will become once this season has ended.

We 21st century journeyers not only want to know where we’re going; we also want to get there–fast!.  We are not really programmed to just stand still and look through something.  We’d rather keep moving, even though some of the steps along this road are painful.  At least when we’re moving, we have some sense of control, some sense that we can change things–if we only keep moving.  But when we stop–when we stand still–it is as if all the control leaves us.  We stand, exposed to the elements, vulnerable to others who are comfortably and successfully moving through life, and suddenly acutely, and often painfully, aware of our own place on the journey.

And yet, part of Lent and part of life is indeed about standing still.  A journey is seldom completed with constant motion.  We are just not made for that. (You can look up that seventh day concept when you have time!) Sometimes we are meant to move; sometimes we are meant to stand still and savor what God has shown us.  Behold!  There is the cross.  There you are.  And if you stand still long enough, you will be able to look through and see where you are headed.  We are not called to walk blindly into the unknown, never looking, never questioning, never contemplating where we are or where we’re going or where we’ve been; we are called to journey toward that which God has illumined in our lives.  So stop–stand still–and look through it all.  Behold!  And then start walking again…

Grace and Peace on the Journey–the walking and the standing,

Shelli

Picture:  Capernaum, Israel (February, 2010)   

Free to Receive

The first step in being ready to receive is to open oneself to what is being given. This means that we have to prepare ourselves, ridding ourselves of our pre-conceived illusions of what we are going to get. Freeing ourselves to receive is a way of entering a true Sabbath, a resting, a pure openness to receive what one is blessed to receive. It probably seems odd to talk about Sabbath rest in the middle of Advent. But the Sabbath in its purest sense is but a taste of the world to come. So what, then, are we looking toward in this Advent season? The Advent season is a looking toward the ultimate Sabbath, the coming of God into Creation as it enters its very fullness, its very perfection, the very essence of what it is supposed to be.

The birth of Christ was the beginning, a taste of the world to come, the point at which we realized that the world was not meant to look like what we had planned. Our Advent journey prepares us to rebirth Christ in our own lives, it prepares us to taste once again what is to come, and to inch that much closer to the world that God envisions. But to do that we have to rid ourselves of our own illusions, we have to enter a Sabbath way of thinking, a Sabbath way of receiving God in whatever way God chooses to come. If we are not open to God’s coming, if we are not purely and wholly free of ourselves and ready to receive God into our lives, we will be looking for God to come into that place for which we have so carefully prepared and made ready and God, in perfect God-wisdom, will instead come through the back door of our hearts and settle in the dark grottos of our lives where only those who are poor in Spirit and humble in life and who crave the light with all their being will see. So, open your life to all of your life, because that is when God comes.

So go forth and be free to receive!

Grace and Peace,
Shelli