Sunday, April 2, Lent Calendar* Invite: (several days worth of thoughts) leading to… Attend Palm Sunday worship. Practice the spiritual discipline of rest by curling up with a book or magazine.
I remember walking barefoot into the lake water. My footsteps stirred up the sand and dirt and muck. But then I stood perfectly still. The sediment began to settle. As the water became still and clear, I spotted things like minnows and shiny rocks.
Today I have a mason jar in which I put rocks, sand, dirt, and water. On the jar’s lid, I wrote “Psalm 46:10.” Sometimes when I begin Bible class with the students at Ascension Lutheran School, I shake up the jar. Then I tell them to silently watch as I hold the jar perfectly still and the sediment settles and the water clears. I invite them to settle their bodies and whatever is swirling in their minds so they can be ready to hear, to learn, to see something of God.
In many ways this past week, my life has been like a jar of shaken lake water. There has been a lot on my plate. We are entering Holy Week, so that means as a pastor, I am simply going to be busy. This year not only I am serving a school campus, but also filling in on Sundays for a church whose pastor recently moved to Minnesota. Also on my plate has been leading our annual tomato plant sale and farmers market project at the school where I pastor. For the past ten years, students have grown hundreds of plants each spring season and sold them to support their nature program. It’s a huge project. I have been tending the seedlings and the children for almost two months now - in an unusually cold, cloudy, and rainy season. We have had to move dozens of plant trays inside every night and then outside in the morning; my body feels it! This past Friday was our big day - the actual farmers market day. Students were full of enthusiasm, hundreds of parents and grandparents and others visited their stands as well as the petting zoo. It was a day full of festivity and delight.
But not everything was festive last week, like another school shooting. What I had originally written as a Lenten post for last Tuesday no longer seemed to be the right words as our country heard the news of Coventry School in Tennessee. That small private school sounded quite similar to the one that I serve and my heart broke. The Lent invite for last Tuesday was to “pray for those suffering in poverty or injustice.” All I could think about was that our children are living in an unjust world. Schools should be safe places for them. My thoughts were swirling like splashing lake water.
I took those thoughts and circle-prayed last Wednesday, as the Lent calendar invited us to do. For several years now, my husband and I “circle-pray” the Ascension campus every week. We go to each building on campus and pray for the various ministries. As we circle we also take note of the neighborhood around us and pray for those who live right next door to us. We also pray for a tent of protection over the whole campus. We do this even when we are tired, even when it seems mundane, even when we wonder if prayers are working. At the end of the day, I believe there really is something about being faithful in prayer.
Prayer helps my swirling thoughts. So does cleaning up. Last Thursday’s Lent calendar invitation was to clean a space of your house and ponder how that connects to our spiritual lives. I didn’t do it. It has been hard to have a tidy house these days. I looked at my kitchen floor at one point last week and noted you could eat off of it - not because it was clean, but because there was food on it. My desire was for a sparkly kitchen, but something had to give and one of those things was cleaning. But then came a surprise. When I awoke one morning last week, the kitchen did, indeed, sparkle. It was like fairies had shown up in the night. The fairy turned out to be my 16-year-old daughter. Waking up to that clean space was a gift. It had an effect on my “messy” mind that was overly full of thinking about all the things that I had to do.
Yesterday, the Saturday invitation for Lent was to do something kind for someone instead of playing an April Fool's Day trick. All I could muster to do, as I was so tired, and had about two dozen home and school and church and things to do, was to give my dog groomer an extra generous tip for making our sweet Nicki not look like a stray.
What I knew that I most needed to do yesterday was to find some time to rest… mentally, physically, and spiritually. The Lenten rhythm of Sundays have been invitations to worship and rest. Both practices are so essential for life. Worship connects us to God. It is a reminder that everything we have and all the we are flows from the Giver of Life. Worship reminds us that we are not alone. We have community. We have the presence of the Living Christ. It was Jesus who invited us to find rest in him. So yesterday, I did do some resting. I will rest again this afternoon. I will shake that jar of lake water and watch it settle. I will sit in the silence and settle my own heart and body. It is in such rest that things begin to calm and I can see more clearly. It is from that quiet place that I will begin this very holy week. I invite you to rest as well. Let the sediment settle. When you do, you will be able to more clearly see things that God wants you to see as you journey through this week to Easter Sunday. May you be blessed.