Thursday, October 14, 2021
To say the past almost two years have been trying is an understatement. We were living life, and then...
It all stopped. During the pandemic, so much slowed down, even stopped. The mundane events of life, like going to the grocery store, suddenly became filled with anxiety and worry for many of us. Daily routines that included meeting friends for coffee, going to the movies or concerts, and even going anywhere disappeared.
But life sped up, too. The numbers of our neighbors who became sick and died moved quickly from a few dozen to thousands and now to hundreds of thousands. We quickly shifted to online work, learning, and life. The emotional toll of this sudden and slow shift is being realized, and I suspect we are going to experience a grief crisis in this country. And no, I'm not really sure what that looks like.
This had not been my experience with writing. In the past, I have written that awful first draft reasonably quickly, then revisited it and edited and edited some more. No such steady flow of words this time. Covid, life, or maybe just having written for so many decades meant a change that felt uncomfortable and unsteady as I wrote.
Which, quite honestly, is where I as a minister and as a human feel most days in this not-quite post-pandemic world - uncomfortable and unsteady. But I still get up and pray. I still write, waiting for the stubborn words to surface so they can be engraved on the page. I still serve my congregation, and I still, always, ride horses. In all these things, I find moments of peace and certainty. They are not consistent, but they are there.
Perhaps that is how we endure, how we hope - to remember the things that steady us when the world is crumbling, to take the moments when they come and treasure them, and to know that storms do pass.
Weeping does spend the night, and joy does come in the morning.
Love reminds us that we do have experience and imaginations and skills as we navigate the next few months and years in the midst of all that continues to change. I've learned, as I wrote the words, slowly and annoyingly piecemeal, that hope is not only the thing with wings, the hope is the thing with hooves that grounds me, reminds me to be present, and tells me to trust God is with me, with us, in this change.
Hope continues to tell the story, word by word.
God, Grace, and Horses will be released in January 2022 from Paraclete Press.
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Given the reality of Coronavirus, many of us can't safely gather to mark Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. For those who would like to mark the day with prayer and reflection, I offer this at-home form of Ash Wednesday prayers. Gather with your household (pets included). Create holy space, perhaps at your dinner table or in a quiet corner of your home. Light a candle. Sit in silence for a few moments. Enter the silence and solemnness of Lent. You may also use the service in the Book of Common Prayer beginning on page 264.
We are invited, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us keep silence before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.
After a period of silence, pray the Litany of Penance. If you are with a group, you may replace “I” with “we.”
On this day, Almighty God, I remember that I am dust, and to dust I shall return.
I have had uncharitable thoughts about others. I have expressed prejudice and contempt toward other children of God, especially those who differ from me. I have not loved those I consider my enemy.
I have sinned against God, my neighbor, and myself by thought, word, and deed and in what I have done, and in what I have left undone.
For these sins, for these shortcomings, and for my lack of love, grace, and faith, I confess to you. Merciful God, and ask your restoration and forgiveness.
After a time of silence, offer the following prayer:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses. Wash me through and through from my wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin For I know my transgressions only too well, and my sin is ever before me. Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.
Almighty God, you manifest your servants the signs of your presence: Send forth upon all your servants the Spirit of your love, that in companionship with one another, your abounding grace, faith, and forgiveness may increase among us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Solemn Prayer and Dismissal
Grant, most merciful Lord, to all your faithful people pardon and peace, that we may be cleansed from all our sins, and serve you with a quiet mind and faithful heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.