Sunday, February 26, 2012

February into March

We started today's session with this poem:
from Prayers for Hope and Comfort:
~Ann Kyle-Brown

February is neither here nor there.
Not holiday.
Not beginning of the school year.
Not New Year.
Not end.
Not ever,
"Finally! February is here!"

February just is.
It's a Tuesday kind of month.
A 10:15 in the morning kind of time
On a Tuesday
When one is 43.
Not 21.
Not 40.
Not celebratory.
Not married.
Not even engaged.
Not expecting a baby or a raise.
No deadlines looming.
No bulbs blooming yet.
Kind of wet,
An intermittent showers kind of time,
A chance of rain.

Not a chance of winning the lottery.
Not a chance of an unexpected trip to Spain.
No, just an "is" kind of time,
A just plain "is" kind of time,
Just plain.

And I wonder …

Because it is February
And there's time to wonder,
Because not tilling or sowing
Or weeding or reaping,
Just enough of sleeping and getting up
And working and going to bed,
To not be reading,
To not be well read,

… how February fits
Into the scheme of things
And how I fit into the scheme of it.
So think of that Great Schemer,
Our Dear Redeemer
And wonder …

… what did Jesus do in February?

The February before being
In the temple at thirteen.
The February before Canaan.
The February before Golgotha.
Or the February after for that matter,
Floating like a specter forever
Over all of us he loves.
What did Jesus do in February?

And it occurs
That maybe that was when He went to the desert.
He surely couldn't have lasted forty days in July.
Even a Son of God couldn't bear these mortal bones
Over the sandy exile of July.

And suddenly I cry,
Watching the rain falling methodic from the sky,
Adding to the gray lapping of the Bay.
For somehow I know that February is the desert and my job
To be busy avoiding temptation
And remembering why
I listen to the voice of God in the fog
And am stronger for it somehow in July.

Comments on fasting:
Several in our discussion today said that they thought about fasting from food, but did not. They couldn't quite see the purpose. Some did have some moments of fasting from things or from doing things, and that seemed more positive.

From Sue S.: My fast has not been a food one. I took to heart your suggestion to ask ourselves what habits or activities were getting in the way of our relation to God and what kind of a fast might help us spiritually. I didn't have to think for long. One of the habits I have fallen into that I like the least is playing video games when I think I need or deserve "down time". Sudoku, Solitaire, Spider - to name a few. I decided on a total "fast" from any sort of computer game. As a direct result, I have begun playing the piano again - and have done more reading - two things that are definitely feed the spirit more than video games. I have decided to continue the fast, at least through Lent, and then consider whether to remove all games from computer, IPad and IPhone.

From Nancy W.: I had to "fast" for fasting blood work tests, which meant not eating from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 a.m., so no evening snack, really. And when my doctor said that I needed to pay attention to my weight, I decided that perhaps I would continue that. What I noticed is how much my evening snacking is emotionally driven. I had a conversation with Nancy M. about how she's been dealing with some of her eating patterns—and those included snacking (or not)! I started reading Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth. Her central questions: how do we use food as a substitute for what is really important and central? How does food become a substitute for our longings and hopes, for God?

Some people have decided to be mindful during Lent by not eating meat, and some others thought that avoiding snacks or not eating meat seemed a more manageable kind of fast.

We discussed that fasting perhaps should include more prayer and mindfulness, and maybe the community element, is important.

We began a discussion about chapter 3, and decided that perhaps we could use some community support around mindfulness and chores, so we set up three small phone groups who will call one another with reminders and to offer support to clean or do chores mindfully. Contact Nancy W. for more info if you were not at this session, and she'll help you link up.

We closed today's session with this poem:

The Holy in the Ordinary
~Ann Weems

Holy is the time and holy is this place,
  and there are holy things that must be said.

Let us say to one another what our souls whisper …
  O Holy One, cast your tent among us;
  come into our ordinary lives and bless the living!

Forty days stretch before us,
  forty days of hungering after faithfulness,
    forty days of trying to understand the story,
and then, Holy Week …
O God, if every week were holy …

These forty days stretch before us,
  and those of us who believe
    yearn to feel Your presence,
    yearn to be Your people;
  and yet, the days fill with ordinary things
    with no time left
    for seeking the holy.

Spiritual contemplation is all right
  for those who have the time,
  but most of us have to make a living.

Most of us have to live in the real world
  where profanity splashes and blots out
    anything holy.

Where, O Holy One, can  we find You in this unholy mess?
  How, O God, can we find the holy in the ordinary?

March: Meeting Jesus in the kitchen … or not

We will be meeting in March, whether or not we have met Jesus in the kitchen through cleaning and chores. A doodle poll with choice of dates is going out via email.

If you want to read The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, here is a free e-book version.
My personal library also has these books of essays that I am browsing on this topic:

This seemed like a good bridge book from February's fasting:

In the first essay in this book, Wild Fruit, Patty Kirk writes that she does most of the chores because she likes to. "And, although these responsibilities often pile up and become onerous, gathering and preserving fruit is not just another chore. It is my reward."
"Berry-picking is my year's retreat—my 'thin place,' to use a Celtic Christian term from a book I'm reading for a place where one feels unusually aware of God's nearness. Every aspect of berry-picking has spiritual relevance for me. Nothing proves God's abundant love like the provision of huge blackberries among the brambles, arriving in such profusion that the birds and deer and June bugs and my family and friends and I combined can't begin to deplete them. … When I am picking berries, I am in communion with all creation and with God as at no other time."

What is your "thin place" and can you look for it in the somewhat ordinary places of your life? Can we find it in being mindful about every day chores?