Ash Wednesday 2018

“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion – do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers — most of which are never even seen — don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Matthew 6:28-34 The Message

I Worried
(by Mary Oliver)

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, with the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not, how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

from Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

 

Yep. I. Needed. That.

Scott Sears, Ash Wednesday 2018

Ash Thursday

ashwednesdayThe imposition of ashes was yesterday – of course,
I know that much.
The calendar said so…
The liturgy dictated it…
I even carried out – despite a snow shriveled congregation huddled in a sanctuary being renovated – carpets removed, chalk lines on the floor and walls, electric lines dangling like tongues from the wall.

I thought about the dust swirling about us…
Of course, it was carpet fiber…
Of course, it was wood dust and plaster.
But perhaps, just perhaps, among the sixty year old carpet ripped from its resting place
there were the long ago deposited cells of saints now in glory.
It took my breath away, this thought, and tempted me to breathe deeper still.
We talked about that.
Listened to a reading about dust and ashes, ashes and dust.

And thirteen times
I dipped my index finger into the oily black mess
of burnt palm branches and
God only knows what else that settled from our place of worship.
(Yeah, I’m different that way…I use my thumb to push back stray hairs.)
I made the sign of the cross on foreheads.
I said the words, “You are dust, to dust you shall return.”
We prayed.
We sang.
We stared at the different crosses one pastor/artist could create on the canvass of skin.
We laughed and we left.

But today is “Ash Thursday” for me.
I look at that paintbrush which is my index finger
and I see it.
The ashes,
the dust
that has embedded itself deep into the quick of my finger.
Only a painful cut with the nail clippers will erase its presence.

Yet before I pull out the eraser,
I am reminded
that this is the first time,
the only first time,
that my Dad is among those saints remembered as dust, celebrated as ash.

He is embedded deep too.
Not just in the quick of my finger but somewhere quite deeper…
in the ganglia of my nerves…
in the composition of my cells…
in the foggy clarity of my memory…
in the power of my family system.
Cut off from the family – but present still.

I can cut out the ashes on my recognition of Ash Thursday,
almost as easily as I wiped the cross from my increasing forehead.
But some dust, some ash will remain deep.

Maybe that is why we were told not to look for the living among the dead –
We can easily find the dead among the living…
Look in a mirror…
Listen to a laugh…
Talk to a child…

It’s Ash Thursday for me…and I thank God I am happy for that!

A Feast for Crows

The black plastic creature half-sat on the yard but allowed its weighty bottom to take up residence on the asphalt.
It waited.
It waited alone for its predestined journey that that place we use for all of that we call useless.
But it did not wait alone.
A murder of crows pecked and ripped at it skin seeking nourishment from somewhere within.
The creature’s innards were inspected – then accepted, ingested or rejected yet again.

A feast for crows.

Not mine...really...but a great picture.

   

Perhaps. But so much plastic, so many barriers stood in the way of true feasting. It was nourishment, yes. But mere survival.

Day by day, by day, by day, I too picked through the leavings of the disciplines I dared to name spiritual.
I hungered. I hungered for the Creator of “All-That-Might-Be” feeding me through Word, music, prayer and yet hidden and protected beneath barriers of anxiety, filaments of failure and membranes of loss from days long past.
I ate to exist from this creature I called “daily disciplines”.
I ingested to exist but I would never take flight on these protected rations.

I knew there was a feast in there, somewhere, but like the murder with wings, famine prevailed.

Who kept those crows from their feast?
I confess it was me.
I was the one who fashioned the slouching, enticing, lying plastic creature.

Who kept me feeding on crumbs from the Table when somewhere near I inhaled and knew a Feast had been set?
I confess it was me.
I created the picker and ripper of Spirit.
I tied myself to my worries and plastered scars of loss on myself that were tougher, deeper, less wielding than even the thickest of plastic bags.

I think now the crows would desire hope.
They would hope for the power to name their nemesis and in so naming vanquish its power over them to keep them from the feast.
I think, if they could, the crows would hope.

For my part – I am thankful. Thankful hope is a gift given to me.

I thank the one who refused a drink – refused a drink as death swallowed him whole. And yet was the one who kept me alive through crumbs thrust from the Table over which he presides.

I have hope.
I can name my nemesis even/especially when it is me.
I can open the vessel of feeding by shedding the ties and the scars.
I have hope because one who once was bleeding was always, always feeding.

Let the feast begin again.
Music? Wine? Color? Scripture?
Or just this confession of words.
Holy manna for me – a feast for crows.

Trust?

#writing201 assignment for the day…”Trust” as an acrostic with internal rhyme…yep…this was a challenge!

 

Trust?

Constant posturing, self-need driven bickering
Only leaves us all bleeding, endlessly needing.
Misusing our Book as a hook – to injure other’s belief –
Marking those who are in and those shrouded with sin.

Unless the flood of our blood ceases, quickly decreases
No body will share, even dare to come needy.
I will be me and not part of we.
One trusting no one is perfectly done.
Never to sup, sip a cup filled with love.

 

As a member of and a leader within the United Methodist Church, when I hear the word trust it brings about many very positive images. However, our current denominational mood might well be seen by some as one of mistrust or lack of trust of one another. This saddens me. The most important part of this poem to me is the acrostic that calls us to something greater.