Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cross: An Unavoidable Affliction

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross , scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12 :2 NIV

Early Christians knew without doubt all facets of the life of Christ stemmed from one reality…one central reality: the cross. Jesus was born to confront the cross; Jesus died on the cross to bring us to fullness of life; Jesus rose to defeat the cross; Jesus embodied what the role of the cross was to be in the life of us all. –Joan Chittister , The Liturgical Year

{This is a vintage blog from 2010, but I came across it while preparing for a time of contemplating the cross with some girlfriends. It was a timely word for today.}

Visions of families gathered around the table eating delicacies both savory and sweet. Piles of presents wrapped and placed under our Christmas trees so neat. And just for good measure we remember the babe in the manger, where farm animals are said to eat. Why would one want to leave this scene and to mention the cross? Because if we keep saying that Jesus is the greatest gift without the mention of this greatest affliction, we should count it great loss.

Every adventure has its dark moments, and it seems every year that I contemplate the advent of our Savior, the “little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay,” that it is not long before the images of passion week come into my readings or my mind. And as I was reading about the liturgical year, the author reminded me that while on Christmas we will worship the newborn King, every other day after this is marching us straight to the cross. The pinnacle of our experience of Jesus as our Savior.

To think on these things may be sobering, but they also bring about a mysterious hope. The cross was the unavoidable affliction that Jesus faced for us, yet He triumphed over it. Our hope is found in His resurrection. The hope of this season—a new birth—leads us to the wonderful news that we have access to new life ourselves.

The quest to follow the liturgical year for me is not just a religious checklist, but a desire to know the life of Jesus more fully and a willingnessto take up the cross in order to follow Him wherever this life leads.

I want to leave you with a link to a very old poem that you may like to read and use in your contemplations of the Cross. The narrator of the poem has a vision of the cross, in which the cross is adorned with jewels. Further into his dream, the cross takes on a voice and from its perspective tells what the crucifixion was like. I like the creativity of this poem and how the cross knew that Jesus willingly took His place on the cross. I would love to hear your thoughts on this poem, if you have a moment. The link takes you to a translation of the poem, it was originally written in Old English. Here it is: The Dream of the Rood (Rood means cross).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More Nests

Ordinary: The Regular or Customary Condition or Course of Things

Last Sunrise of 2011

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13 NIV

"Ordinary Time comes from the term ordinal and means “counted time.” You might call it the “season between the seasons”—the weeks between the main events on the church calendar (like Lent, Pentecost and Advent)."
Sarah Arthur

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12 KJV

Each year I not only follow the calendar on the wall, but also I try to observe the church calendar or the liturgical year. It is Ordinary Time and it has been since January 7th. This time will continue until Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.

My life has been quite out of the ordinary this year. On the first day of Ordinary Time, our two grown sons moved into an apartment together, leaving our nest empty. Within a week, the nest was full again with the liveliness of four young children. My sister and her kids stayed with us, while arrangements were being made for the kids to enroll in school. Two Saturdays after we had moved the boys, we moved my mom, my sister and the kids into a house right around the corner.

I haven’t had any time to experience ordinary life, until this week. May I grumble for a moment…I don’t like regular days. I yearn for excitement, purpose and activity. It is hard for me to rest. At the beginning of Ordinary Time, I proclaimed a sort of Sabbath rest for myself and so far my observation of this rest has been a little off or at least different than I had imagined.

It helps to know that Ordinary Time is not just to be suffered through; it is to be numbered and counted. It is the time to look forward to the next feast. I like how Peter and John were considered ordinary. Their ordinariness was marked by the miracle of Jesus healing presence in their action and words. They were with Jesus.

While it is good to look forward to feasts, I am reminded to enjoy the moments of daily resting in the Presence of Jesus. It seemed easier to contemplate Him in the manger. Now I ask myself, will I contemplate His journey to the cross with just as much awe? To walk with Him through these seemingly ordinary days, while looking for glimpses of His mysterious presence and workings in this world and in my soul, this is the aim of Ordinary Time.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Nest: A Place of Rest, Retreat or Lodging

How lovely is your dwelling place,

O LORD Almighty!

My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.

Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young —
a place near your altar,
O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

Ps 84:1-3 NIV

My nest emptied on Saturday. And yet those two birds have stopped by to pick up some things they left behind or just to say hello or to leave a hug. More birds have flocked to this retreat. Young birds with hungry tummies that I enjoy feeding from my store of food. Milk and juice and sandwiches with fruit and veggie sticks and hot cocoa with sweet treats. Breakfast, lunch and dinner today! What a glorious time of gathering in, playing or watching a film or creating something special to remind us of today.

Words exchanged. Hopes kindled. Thoughts mulled over. Meals served. All these moments in a nest make it a cozy and welcome lodging. I am glad to be home. I embrace winter, even the wind-chilled arctic cold breezing through the house as I remind the young birds to close the door behind them. My bares toes freezing, but my heart melting because my nest isn’t empty after all.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fallow: The Tilling of Land without Sowing it for a Season

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . .” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

"A field that has rested gives a bountiful harvest." Ovid.

I am not a farmer, but the idea of a fallow field intrigues me. There is purpose to leaving a field fallow. In its simplest sense fallow means plowed land, but why it is plowed seems to be of some importance. It is not plowed for planting, but for resting.

Christmastide ended on January 6th with the celebration of the Feast of Epiphany. We have now entered Ordinary Time. Winter beckons. A season of rest appeals to me. Usually, I lament the passing of winter, chafing for spring, longing for summer and harvest time. But this year I am content, there is a deep yearning for Sabbath. Not hibernating, but recuperating, allowing my soul time and space to breathe. This is my season to prepare for cultivation and growth, so that in the summer I may flourish and in autumn reap a bountiful harvest.

Today, January 9, 2012, I am declaring for myself a season of simplicity, frugality and tenacity of purpose. In forty-five days, the season of Lent will arrive. During these days, I intend to stay home more, to drive less, to invite friends over for coffee in my kitchen, instead of Starbucks, as well as to read, reflect and blog. I am proclaiming a sabbatical of sorts, not a pilgrimage to the monastery, but a cloistering in my home and my heart in order to prepare my provisions to take possession of the next season of life (Joshua 1:10-11).

My nest is empty, my English degree is complete, my words are published, my life is wide open for New Frontiers. New Frontiers will be a God initiated movement toward authenticity in my own life, which I hope will overflow and inspire the same for others. It may look like a blog site with daily thoughts or coffee on Thursday mornings in my kitchen or collage art or a day retreat or another book. This frontier of my life has yet to be explored and documented.

As you feel drawn into the adventure of living, won’t you join me on this journey of knowing God and sharing His grace with others?

For now this initiative will look like a fallow field. No growth, just resting and waiting for spring planting. In the meantime, the weeds will be frozen out and the soil will soak up the winter moisture.

In coming days, I desire to blog about God, words and other interesting topics. Stay attentive to Nourishment for the Soul. A place to feed on words, as we embrace the solace of Winter.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Near: In a Close or Intimate Manner

What joy for those you choose to bring near,
those who live in your holy courts.
What festivities await us
inside your holy Temple.
(Psalm 65:4 NLT)

“Happy You Near” (quote on a mailbox in our neighborhood, they have a magnetic message board attached to it. I love reading the quotes on the way to walk with my friends.)

We are nearing the end of Christmastide. In three days, the feast of Epiphany will be celebrated. The time when the church remembers that the Magi came from afar to be near a miracle. Their journey intrigues me. They studied the stars and by faith followed a significant star across many miles to confirm a prophecy.

Two short paragraphs in Matthew’s gospel recount the visit of the wise men. The details are sparse. He doesn’t say how long it took them to get to Jerusalem, just that they were from the east and had travelled there. They were looking for a king and wanted to worship him. They found a king ruling who said he wanted to worship this king as well, but he was not telling the truth. He was jealous of this newborn king, so insanely jealous that he slaughters many children to secure his own future. This tragic event darkens the retelling of Jesus’ birth. I can never justify or explain this adequately to myself.

So instead I focus on the pageantry and majesty of an entourage of learned men and their caravan of camels loaded with provisions for their journey. Marveling at their faith, their perseverance and their generosity as they arrive to venerate the baby king, to worship with what they have and to draw near to one promised to save all mankind from their sins.

It’s just the beginning. As this year unfolds, I want to draw near to the one who came to save. To bring my questions and ponder why pain and joy coincide over and over again. I may never make sense of the paradox of a baby becoming a king or a king dying on a cross for His subjects, but I do know I want to experience, understand and worship Him with all the faith, perseverance and generosity of the Magi.