In Search of Abundance

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In another post I told the story of this photo, 

On my walk along the lake I spotted a maple leaf, dried to death by the intense summer heat, stunning in its aridity.  Unable to ignore its call, I snatched it up and carried it home to await the muse.

It called to me again as this season of Lent commenced, but I wasn’t prepared to receive its unexpected power.  The liturgical artists from my spiritual home, Seattle Mennonite Church, extended an invitation for us to engage our lenten theme, Parables of Abundance: “We are interested in creating a visual piece that reflects both the abundance we experience in trying to live with less, as well as our feelings of vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.” We are invited to bring our image or our written piece to the sanctuary to create a rich collage of our experiences of abundance.

As the photographer, I instinctively positioned the leaf one way and have only seen it from that direction.  Until now. I decided to let the photo speak to me from all four possible positions.  I invite you to do the same.  You have my permission to position it as the spirit urges.

 

Lenten Meditation One

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“Marked By The Burning”

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At the beginning of this season of Lent we are reminded by Matthew’s Jesus that “unless [we] change and become like little children, [we] will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 18:2

With little children what you see is what you get. They are open, trusting and straightforward. If there is a proverbial elephant in the room they will point it out and “call it by its true name.” (Thich Nhat Hanh). If we are called to emulate this quality then surely, now is an apt time to do it. We must get to the truth of our identity, know ourselves as flawed, but renewed and reclaimed in our flaws. We are changed.

Gandhi said that we should “be the change we want to see in the world.” By changing attitudes and behaviors that kill spirit to ones that give life to it, we become antidotes for the evil dominating our world. This Lent the enduring question for me will be, “What gives me life?”

Breathing in life
I celebrate life.

Breathing out negativity
I release its hold on me.

Breathing in life
I send it I to the world.

Breathing out negativity
I release its hold on the world.

May it be so. Amen.

Now this from Jan Richardson

Blessing the Dust
For Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze

in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons
http://paintedprayerbook.com/2016/02/08/ash-wednesday-a-blessing-in-the-ashes/

Good Friday: Belong To The Truth

michelangelo's resurrected Jesus

“….I came into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”  John 18: 37

(Note:  I have faith in Jesus as a great prophet who loved his religious tradition.  At the same time, I abhor acts of violence against Jews perpetrated by hateful and ignorant Christians who label all Jewish people as “Christ-Killers.”  This Good Friday I will be repenting the recent killing of three people at two Jewish community centers near Kansas City, Kansas USA, and I will ask for conversion of heart for all of God’s people.)

Michelangelo’s resurrected Jesus leaps out of the tomb just as he tumbled out of Mary’s womb:  a clean and unhindered human.  This Friday many will hear the evangelist John tell the story of his passion once again. Jesus stands before Pilate and Caiaphas in the eye of a storm powered by fear.  The power of truth lives in the spaces between his scant words:  “I am.”  “YOU say that I am a king.”  “Why ask?”  “I testify to the truth.”  “I thirst.”  “It is finished.”

At the end he substitutes the vulnerable silence of the manger for the strength in his few words truth.  As we read Jesus’ responses, we can feel power emanate from his truth that is contemplated and lived.  His experience is not unlike Martin Luther’s, “Here I stand, for I cannot do otherwise,” or Thomas a Becket’s “It is not given me to win you over, Henry; it is simply given me to say no.”  Jesus is the unmoved mover, speaking sparingly but powerfully from the eye of the storm:  “Here is the truth.  I know it because I live it.”  It proves to be too much for the power mongers.

And what of us?  How does the witness of Jesus speak to us from John’s gospel on this Good Friday?  Love truth. Seek it.  Preach it.  Preach it from the spaces between our eloquent words, where human traffickers and immigration officials, and yes, even legislators, will be confounded by its power.  Only when we recognize truth, live it and preach it, does it belong to us and we to it.

John 19-19:42  New Revised Standard Version: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+18%3A1-19%3A42&version=NRSV

Photo Credit:  “The Risen Christ”  Michelangelo ca. 1513 black chalk drawing Collection The British Musiem, London, England

 

Death, The Great Midwife

Meadowdale Beach County Park Eckart Tolle on Death

 

 

As we move through the rituals of Holy Week this meditation from Eckhart Tolle in Stillness Speaks is a rich companion.

“When you walk into a forest that has not been tamed and interfered with by humans, you will not only see abundant life all around you, but you will also encounter fallen trees and decaying trunks, rotting leaves and decomposing matter at every step.  Wherever you look, you will find death as well as life.

Upon closer scrutiny, however, you will discover that the decomposing tree trunk and rotting leaves not only give birth to new life, but are full of life themselves.  Microorganisms are at work.  Molecules are rearranging themselves.  So death isn’t to be found anywhere.  There is only the metamorphosis of life forms.  What can you learn from this…?

If you can learn to accept and even welcome the endings in your life, you may find that the feeling of emptiness that initially felt uncomfortable turns into a sense of spaciousness that is deeply peaceful.

By learning to die daily in this way, you open yourself to Life….

Whenever death occurs, whenever a life form dissolves, God, the formless and unmanifested, shines through the opening left by the dissolving form.  That is why the most sacred thing in life is death.  That is why the peace of God can come to you through the contemplation and acceptance of death.”

 

Photo:  Meadowlake Beach County Park, Lynnwood WA USA