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Archive for February, 2010

Haiti is on our minds a lot. Or, should be. Frankly, if you’re away from the news for very long, it’s hard to be reminded. And with the Olympics, Tiger Wood’s confessions, wars and rumors of wars (and that just between the two political parties), Haiti has been pushed out of the news, for the most part. It has been a little over a month. I guess it’s not “new” enough for the news now. Still, we know that things are not all better there. We know that with tens of thousands of deaths, things will not be “normal” for at least this generation. Who will give enduring attention and care in the long-term, when the media pays no attention and does not care? That is a role for the Church. While acknowledging that this massive evidence of the impermanence of property and life and way of life is overwhelming for us as individuals, we do not confront impermanence alone.

I am reading Henri Nouwen’s book, Compassion. He says, “The Christian Community mediates between the suffering of the world and our individual responses to this suffering. Since the Christian community is the living presence of the mediating Christ, it enables us to be fully aware of the painful condition of the human family without being paralyzed by this awareness…In the Christian community, we can know about hunger, oppression, torture and the nuclear threat without giving into a fatalistic resignation and without withdrawing into a preoccupation of personal survival. In the Christian community, we can fully recognize the condition of our society without panicking.” (p. 55f)

This statue covers the front of St. Ann’s pulpit. It is a Haitian sculpture, placed there to be a silent reminder to keep Haiti in our prayers and acts. Many faces, some tortured, look up to the face of Jesus. What else can they do? They look to Jesus. They wait for Jesus’ hands and feet to give aid, presence and assurance.

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Not Gone With the Wind

On Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, Susan and I attended St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, TN with her brother, Mark. He’s been a member there since last Easter. The church service began with a long litany led by the choir as they processed around the congregation. It was a Lenten litany of confession and intercession.

The sanctuary is somewhat small with individual chairs so they space is multi-use. It is a very old church, founded in the 1880’s. The original sanctuary had Tiffany stained glass windows, two of which are incorporated in this newer building. They were salvaged from the remnants of a destructive tornado that hit Nashville in 1998. It flattened the sanctuary. In its place, there is now the foundation of brick that outlines the original structure. In the place of the building is a labyrinth. Carved in stone are the words of the then-rector, “God was not in the tornado, but is in our response to the tornado”. In spite of the experience of impermanence of a sanctuary, the church lives – indeed, it thrives. There was a resurrection.

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More new businesses fail than succeed. So, it takes a good deal of courage to invest all your time, energy and money to attain inventory, cut a ribbon and open the door. The first dollar is often framed in hopes that it is the first of many, many, many more. Odds are, though, you won’t get out before going out of business.

I saw this banner in celebratory colors over the door of a store  in Lillington, NC, “Store Closing Sale”. It struck me as somehow ironic that the adjacent store is called New to You – obviously a store selling slightly used things, or maybe recently purchased items from a neighboring business that limped into impermanence.

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Wall chairs

I can imagine the excitement the first day they were brought into the dining room, the first time to sit at the table, the scolding a child got for bumping into the new chair to give it its first nick. How many dining rooms did this furniture go through before being hung on the wall in an antique store warehouse?

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Dirty Snow

From a strip mall parking lot. It looked so beautiful coming down. Poetry in motion, literally. But snow is also used poetically to remind us of impermanence. It is here today and, sometimes, gone today. We’ve had a lot of snow this year, much more than usual. Soon,  it will all be gone. Even this dirty pile.

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Through a convergence of events and experiences, none of which seemed connected at first, I have decided what I will do for Lent 2010. Here are the events:

I have a web page that I don’t do enough with. I like reading other’s web pages, especially if they include pictures. I do not know how to add pictures to my web page.

I like words in small portions. I like poems, pithy paragraphs and jokes.

I like photography. Sometimes it really is true that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes a photograph says what no words can.

I’ve been working on General Assembly workshops. LeAnne Spruill is going to do a workshop at the General Assembly on using arts to teach theology.

This week, Kathy Naish showed a group of us something she created to be used for meditation at the upcoming Spiritual Formation Retreat. It is a glass vase filled with rocks – grains of sand at the bottom, then pebbles, then larger stones, then even larger rocks at the top. We talked about how the image of these rocks in a vase could be interpreted. We also talked about what to call this thing. An image? An icon? How can we promote listening for God in the “landscapes of the soul” through such images without making the image a god? Are icons okay?

Steve Cothran has as his facebook status the Lenten reminder, “Remember…. From dust you came, and to dust you shall return.”

I like walking labyrinths. It is an exercise that helps me to center and to listen, to look back and reflect and to look ahead and ponder. It is a time I feel like I am walking with God.

I have been thinking the last couple of days about Lent and about what I want to, or should, give up. In the past, I have given up chocolate, soft drinks, all sweets. One year, I gave up speeding. What will I give up this year?

I was thinking about the purpose of Lent – and wondering if this year rather than give up something I should add something. I thought of how the labyrinth is not a regular exercise for me, but how it has always been meaningful for me when I walk it. I decided that I will walk a labyrinth at least one day during each week of Lent. Because I travel a good bit, I hope to find a different labyrinth each week.

When I woke this morning, I asked God what I should do for Lent. This is when the convergence of thoughts and experiences happened. What I will do is take a picture each day and post it to my blog. It will have with the Lenten theme of impermanence. I may or may not make a comment on the photograph. I will choose a photograph to ponder as a I walk the labyrinth.

As I prepared for the day, I thought, “I am not a photographer and I don’t have the best camera.” But the assurance came to me that for this 40 days it is not important that I be a great photographer, but an astute observer.

So that is what I’m doing for Lent.

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