Saturday, September 10, 2022

Harvest Moon Reflections

When did Christianity become so disconnected from the Earth? So separate from the rhythms of nature that bring us back to the place of wonder and humility as we find again the brilliance of life rising out of the water?

We headed to the shore this evening to watch the moonrise. I hated the resurgence of the mosquitos, which considerably dampened my experience (but since they have been fairly absent for most of the summer...No, I will not give these minute terrors any excuses as I sit here, suffering from literally 20 bites on my legs. Believe me, I counted them as I slathered on the Benadryl cream.)

A few of us gathered on the beach eagerly awaiting the rising of the moon, trying to guess where it would appear, all the while trying to prevent my children from splashing in the water (in their PJs) or making sand angels. It felt like a holy space, the anticipation of the slow rising of light and the delight in discovering the hazy red glow of the Harvest Moon before us. 

I knew God was there, though there was no Invocation (but for the casual conversations as our eyes scanned the horizon). There was no Prayer of Confession, except, perhaps, for the realization that there are forces at work far larger than us - that even though I don't see the moon (yet), the moon sees me even through the clouds and grants forgiveness for ever doubting its presence. There was no Proclamation of the Word or sermon but for the silent rising that declared the constant presence of a God that bears silent witness to all that is carried in the shadowed places and meets it all with love and grace. There was no Benediction but for the laughter of tired children running back to the car, somehow unscathed by mosquito bites but also sandy as all get out.

How much have we lost by not acknowledging and celebrating these small, sacred moments? Not as a substitute for the larger gathering of the Body of Christ (because, as one of my new favorite quotes from Rev. Lillian Daniel states, "Any idiot can find God alone in the sunset. It takes a certain maturity to find God in the person sitting next to you who not only voted for the wrong political party but has a baby who is crying while you’re trying to listen to the sermon.”) but as equally deserving of notice and attention - a kind of worship that draws us back to creation and our utter reliance upon the very rhythms that mark time and season.

There's something about the island that allows us to come back to that space, that invites us to remember how much we are governed by forces beyond our control, not in a spirit of determinism, but in one that is a give and take of action and response, of movement and stillness, of high tide - and low tide. Certain streams of Christianity would have us think that we (in partnership of God, of course!) are the makers of our own future - that any future we so desire and aspire to is one within the will of God. 

Watching the moon rise, seeing the tide come in, feeling the sun slowly warm the sand, reminds us just how much we are not able to control our lives. 

I'm not sure where I'm going with all of this, except this evening, as I watched the moon climb higher in the sky, as I noticed other people share on social media their own rituals this particular moonrise, I feel the desire to dig deep and acknowledge the ways God is made known in Jesus who walks alongside us, is made known in the works fashioned and sustained by God's own heart, is made known in the gathered body on Sunday mornings and on Saturday nights to watch the glorious moon rise above the water.

I'll Stay Here With You

Right now, my youngest is going through a bit of an unpredictable phase when it comes to sleep. There are nights (and naps) where she will consent to being placed in her bed and will let me walk out of the room. There are other times when she wants to be held. On occasion, I have to pick her up and place her in bed 10 times before she'll stay. Sometimes, the only way for her to calm her body enough for sleep is for me to lie down with her and tuck her in once she's drowsy enough.

(No doubt I'll get parent-shamed for not keeping to a consistent bedtime routine. We've tried routines; they only work until they don't anymore...and our routine up until the actual bed is remarkably predictable).

A week ago, I put Genevieve in her crib upstairs for a nap. She wanted to be held, but I said that I couldn't do that right now, but that I'd stay with her while she fell asleep. 

Hearing myself say that phrase - it caught my attention. "I'll stay here with you." 

I had a conversation over Labor Day weekend with my husband's aunt and uncle who have been up in Maine visiting for the past few weeks. Part of their life's journey have included the death of a child and an MS diagnosis. As we were talking one afternoon, she shared a bit about what it was like in those spaces, to have so many relationships renegotiated because other people didn't know how to deal with what they were going through. They didn't know what to say, or didn't want to burden them with their problems because "yours are so much worse," or they simply drifted away. Over time, relationships sifted out and his aunt shared about the wonderful circle of friends she has now who embrace her for all of who she is.

We all have our share of burdens. So many people I know are carrying heavy loads right now, whether it's feeling the state of the world, supporting hurting communities, navigating personal struggles, or some combination of the three. Oftentimes we don't know how to show up in the lives of our friends and neighbors who are in the thick of it. Pain makes us uncomfortable, so we try to fix it or share uplifting platitudes or put some distance between us and our friend. We somehow think that if we can't make what's happening in our friend's life better, what use do we have?

Over Lent, the church I serve worked through Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie's book Good Enough. Reading these devotionals and listening to several episodes of Kate Bowler's Podcast Everything Happens have reinforced this idea that the impulse to fix or "help" those who are hurting needs to take a back seat to presence. Support doesn't always look like the "everything will turn out OK" lines we're taught to say - support more often looks like "I'll stay here with you. I see your hurt. I see your pain. I don't know what to say, but I will be here with you. I will bear witness in this season."

Isn't that the beauty of being human together? It for sure is about the joyful moments, it is also about the moments we sit with one another in the ashes. There's beauty in the hard places where we stay raw to the hurts and wounds of those around us. 

God stays here with us - so we can stay here with each other.

Friday, September 02, 2022

Finding Lost Things and Other Talents

A few weeks.ago or so , I went to my favorite beach with the kids. We had a morning to kill before heading off-island in the afternoon to run some errands. (I still marvel from time to time that I live in a place where it's so easy to pop off to the beach for an hour or two and not have it be a Whole Ordeal).

The kids immediately wandered off (mostly to dig in the muddy low tide sand) while I set about to my favorite activity (pictured here). Sea glass, sea pottery - all sorts of treasures - wash up regularly on this beach.

Eventually my meanderings took me over to a section of a beach where a friend and her family, along with an islander armed with a metal detector, were combing a particular section of sand and seaweed. A men's wedding ring had been lost the night before, and what had been thought to have been safely tucked away  in a shoe, turned out not to have been the case. A Facebook plea to the community had turned up some help with the search. (One of the folks looking for the lost ring gave me the lovely floral sea pottery piece that I'm holding near the tips of my fingers; it looks like it had once belonged to a teacup).

As I continued my own wanderings (eyes sharpened to keep watch for a white gold metal band), I immediately thought of the Parable of the Lost Coin, where a woman turns her house inside out to find one of her lost silver coins, and when it is found, invites her community to rejoice with her.

It led me to thinking about how we all have our roles and ways of being as it relates to the unfolding of God's kingdom - like in 1 Corinthians, where Paul talks about planting the seed of the gospel among them and talks about Apollo watering that seed (and the growth coming from God). Toss in this beautiful modern remix of 1 Corinthians 12 from enfleshed and there are so many ways to witness and embody God's hopes and dreams for this world. (Of course, I also thought about Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, when Chief Engineer Hemmer tells Uhura what his purpose in life is: it is to fix what is broken. Layers of meaning there.)

Finding what is lost. Fixing what is broken. Planting seeds of hope. Practicing resurrection. Communication across barriers. Nourishing others. How wonderful would it be if we could all distill our purposes down to a short, single phrase? Our purposes get incarnated in a thousand different ways over the course of our lifetimes, and even then, we may find that purpose changing and shifting and intersecting each other.

In my household, I joke that I am the Finder of Things. I have an uncanny ability in recovering That Which Is Needed (be it a treasured stuffie, Ben's winter hat, the One Specific Lego, etc). Granted, this is something that I do for the other people in my house; I can only sometimes find That Which Is Needed For Myself. I have a visual memory and somehow my brain just passively notices and stores all these things so that I can locate the car key or the wallet or the phone when required. When looking for a particular quote in a book, more often than not I remember where on the page it's situated.

A couple months ago, I was talking with my spiritual director, filling him in on bits and pieces of what my life looks like right now and the time of transition I'm in as we look to inhabit our Very Much Still In-Process place on Fire House Road. I shared a bit of the story and how this property held so many special memories for folks on the island and how glad so many folks were that we'd taken it on as a project. I joked that that was kind of our Modus Operandi as a couple - the vocational bent of our shared life has been about bringing dead places back to life. He responded sharing that it wasn't just bringing it back to life, but a resurrected, new life. 

That's what we do in this kingdom life. I know others who are Nourishers, Practicers of Radical Hospitality, Revealers of Beauty, Truth-Tellers, Fishers of People. Each brings their purpose into everything they do; it's just part of who they are, as easy as breathing. It doesn't matter if they are pastoring a congregation, farming the land, restoring and renovating a house, retired, or serving lunches at a school. It's not about what they are paid to do; it's a part of who they are.

The ring, blessedly, was found on the path leading back to the main road. There was much rejoicing (which I got to share in.) Surely prayer made a difference; what also made a difference was the volunteer efforts of one man who used his gifts (and a metal detector) to Find What Was Lost, this bringing joy and relief to a family who needed it in that moment. There was a high degree of confidence in his efforts, as during the search he had shared the stories of all the other items he had found for others who had lost them.

We all have our purposes - our parts to play. What is yours?