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

   

Just An Ordinary Day

Today we begin Ordinary Time.  We made it through Lent and Eastertide and the spirit-filled days of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday.  And now we begin that long stretch of time until Advent.  It holds few “high holy” days, with the exception of All Saints Day and, for our church, the Blessing of the Animals. (Maynard is laying right below me on the floor, so I had to say that!)  It’s just ordinary, everyday time.  And this beginning Sunday is just an ordinary day.  Thanks be to God!

I love Ordinary Time.  It’s a chance to breathe in all that Spirit that has been swirling around us the last few weeks.  It’s a chance to soak in what has happened, a chance to sort of “catch up” with ourselves.  There is a story of a nineteenth century explorer who journeyed to Africa and hired some of the villagers to help him navigate the continent.  For the first three days, they walked at an incredible pace and took few breaks.  He was pleased with how quickly they were moving.  On the fourth day, though, they wouldn’t move at all.  He was angry, to say the least.  After all, he was paying them to do this!  When he asked them what in the world they thought they were doing, they told him that it was time to stop, to rest.  It was time to let their souls catch up with their bodies.

I love that story.  I think I need to hear it about every fourth day (or at least every seventh!).  That’s why we need Ordinary Time.  All this ascending and Spirit pouring into us can wear a person out.  So, rather than filling us until our head explodes, God gives us the gift of time to breathe it all in and change our lives to fit our new way of being.

Today we read what is possibly one of the most difficult passages in the Bible.  The story of the Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14), taken at face value, is disconcerting, disenchanting, and downright shocking.  Read in this way, neither Abraham nor God really comes out looking that good.  After all, what kind of parent would kill his own son?  (Hmmm…I’ll leave that one for later!)  And what kind of God would expect someone to pass some sort of test as proof of faith.  I used to hate this story.

But…breathe…let it sit…let it become a part of you.  First of all, we need to realize that our English translation is limited by the English language.  There are two meanings for the word “test”.  One denotes testing to discern whether or not standards are being met, to separate right from wrong.  (You went there, didn’t you?)  The other is a sort of experiment.  Think of a chemical test in which an entity is pushed beyond itself, a test in which something actually becomes something else.  If God was “testing” Abraham, perhaps it was so that Abraham would emerge changed, a new being.  The point was not whether or not Abraham passed but whether or not Abraham transformed.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow claims that the best contemporary midrash to the Aqedah comes from Esther Ticktin.  She says that the “strongest imperatives of Torah are to rear children and to break idols.  What happens when we turn our children into idols?  We must break our idolization of them—kill the image of of them we have erected…This is what God asked of Abraham:  Lift him up to me:  But Abraham had so totally made Isaac into his idol that he couldn’t fathom how to do it without killing him.  The lifted knife was the breaking of the idol.”  That was all God wanted—for Abraham to break the cast of any idols that he might have set between himself and God.  God wanted Abraham to realize once and for all his own faith to trust in what God was doing in his life.

Maybe the point of the story is not whether Abraham got it right or wrong.  I mean, when it was all said and done, who really cares anyway?  God shows us over and over again that there is always another chance to see things in a different way. Ordinary Time is the time that we are given to break idols, to shift our perspective, to finally get it.  This story does not include such drama as burning bushes or parting seas or even stones rolled away.  There is no dramatic wind or fire pouring down from the heavens.  What finally comes to Abraham is “wait”…”listen”…”think about what you’re doing”.  Maybe Abraham finally questions all that he knew about God and saw God in a way that he’d never seen God before.

God never spoke to Abraham again.  Abraham lived the rest of his days in Ordinary Time, just breathing in all that God had provided.

Have a wonderfully ordinary day!

Grace and Peace, 

Shelli   

Extra-Ordinary Time

This is the LONGEST Epiphany Season. Ordinary Time seems to drone on and on and on.  Well, it is not your imagination.  The way the calendar falls, this is truly the longest Epiphany season we could ever have.  The cavern between the “high holy” seasons this year is indeed deep and wide, a veritable ocean of ordinary time.  The Lectionary has us reading the Sermon on the Mount.  You know, for the first time, I’ve noticed how much the word “you” is used in that discourse.  Oh, surely he means “you” as in those around him–the disciples, the religious elite, and the passers-by–you know, those to whom he was speaking.  Well, one thing about long seasons is that you have more time to ponder meaning.  And this pondering has become a bit uncomfortable.  Because if we truly enter the story the way we’re called to do.  If the Holy Scriptures become the Word, the very essence of God, rather than merely a dusty narrative composed over a couple of thousand years, then, sadly and uncomfortably, we become “you”.

Jesus is speaking to us or the Scriptures mean nothing; Jesus is wanting us to listen and to hear or he wouldn’t have bothered saying it at all.  So in this ordinary time, we become the passersby, perhaps turn into the religious elite, and if all goes well, if we really bother to stop and listen and hear, then we, too, become the disciples.  You see, Jesus over and over again uses the ordinary, the every day, and the expected to frame what he wants to say.  He uses the rules that we societies have created and the roles that its members play.  And then he goes beyond where we are, calling us to a greater and greater existence, calling us to be better than even we could have imagined, calling us to live fully into that image of God in which we have been created.  And this time between times, this ordinary season, becomes something extra [ordinary].  Yes, this is the LONGEST Epiphany Season…call it the most Extraordinary Time ever.

So finally listen and hear the call to be extra-ordinary…

Shelli                                                                                 

It was easy to love God in all that was beautiful.  The lessons of deeper knowledge, though, instructed me to embrace God in all things. 

                                                                       (St. Francis of Assisi)

Grace and Peace,

Unseasoned

It’s been awhile since I posted a blog. Perhaps I just needed some “down time”, as we all do. Perhaps all of the high season-high church-high energy escapades of Advent and Christmastide got the best of me. It happens to us all.

So now we find ourselves at the beginning of one of the “ordinary times” in our liturgical life. Perhaps, just like most of us, the church year needed some “down time”. But, contrary to what some may think, this is not “dead time”–anything but. In fact, it is during these periods of relative dormancy that we, like all living things, grow, gathering the nutrients for the seeds of faith to sprout.

When I started this blog, I named it “Seasonings”. If someone just found it in a Google search, they might think it had to do with cooking. Well, maybe in a way. After all, any good cook knows that it’s all in the “seasonings”, in what you add to it, in the flavors that you choose to enhance what is already there. I mean, really, admit it, with the exception of bread pudding (a somewhat cumbersome project when done right), most foods pretty much make themselves. But the flavor comes in what the cook adds. What the dish becomes has to do with the seasonings. And, like a good cook, we people of faith know that we have been given all the ingredients that we need. At our core, we’ve been given life and gifts and resources by a God who loves us more than we can even fathom, by a God that has much bigger things for us planned than we dare to imagine. And it is up to us to add the seasonings, those things through which our own flavor comes to be.

This Season of Epiphany is a “down time”–a “low season” if you will. But, really, after all of those highly seasoned and rich foods of Christmas, how many of us were ready for just some good old macaroni and cheese. It’s called comfort food. But as we bask in the comfort of this low and ordinary season, we will find our epiphanies. We will find who we are. We will find that core that we’ve been given. And we will prepare for the seasonings to come. As for me, my spice cabinet is full, I have several live herb plants hanging on even through the relatively mild Texas winter, and I have six kinds of pepper and three kinds of salt ready for anything!

So go forth and season your soul!

Grace and Peace,

Shelli