Planting Seeds, Seeking Life: A Field Guide for Lenten Exploration 2011 Parkway United Church of Christ Winston-Salem, North Carolina We are ready for a new start this Lent. We stand in the promise that our sacrifice is acceptable to you, Holy One. Amen. This little field guide offers us some sustenance for our journey through Lent. The theme of planting certainly has Biblical roots. Our Hebrew Bible passage for the First Sunday of Lent calls for Adam to ―till and keep the Garden of Eden‖ though it gets complicated by desires for further wisdom. We quickly realize we cannot control the sun and the rain and the mysteries of life. There are images of planting by the water in Isaiah and Jeremiah as metaphors for the commonwealth of God. Jesus reveals in this Lenten cycle that he is spring of water in which we will never thirst again. There is the lament in Leviticus and Job about sowing and someone else – particularly enemies --harvesting, which Jesus longs to reconcile as he speaks to the disciples about the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 (Third Sunday in Lent): ―The reaper and the sower rejoice together.‖ In Psalm 126:5, the singer longs for Holiness to restore the fortunes to God’s people, that though they’ve sown in tears, they can reap in joy. Paul picks up a bit on this theme in the Third Sunday in Lent in Romans: our suffering is oddly a chance to boast, because in it we can still find hope in the reconciling Spirit. Many of you have offered images of the natural world – the amaryllis, milkweed and monarchs, the crashing symphony of spring. There is the careful sowing of parenthood and the seed planting through our involvement in service. We have psalm paraphrases and quotations. May it be fertilizer for your Lenten planting, observing, celebrating. Ash Wednesday, March 9, 2011 Psalm 51: 1-17 Focus verse: ―The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.‖ Every Ash Wednesday we are confronted by these harrowing words. One might immediately think of a classic child psychologist’s question: ―Do you want your child to grow up simply obedient or with a center of confidence and an ability to make good decisions?‖ I think of the Sunday morning many years ago when someone approached me after worship with tears in her eyes about the printed prayer of confession in worship that morning. ―I’m already feeling so broken in my life; why do I have to grovel before God some more when I come to worship?‖ There is also, however, the opposite disease we might observe of those never taking responsibility, never feeling remorse, letting all invitations to reconciliation bounce off well- honed Teflon images. The Psalmist wishes for restoration to joy and a sustained willing spirit (verse 12). Broken heartedness is an inevitable state of being at times, perhaps, as we seek to live a life of faith. We fall short. We miss the mark. We get overwhelmed by the suffering we observe, and even the way we participate in the institutional oppression of our times. Yet a broken heart and contrite spirit is a space, a season of a fresh start. It requires a recognition that we lean on Holy Presence for restoration. Our sacrifice for missing the mark in relationship isn’t high-wire performance to make up for it so much as confronting the place, the hurt, the emptiness inside of us and between us and realizing we are not god, but children of a merciful Creator inviting us to start anew. Ash is a compact signature of countless lives lived in the ecological cycle; it is the very ingredient for a new start. Beginning today, we ask for holiness to take brokenness and renew us in our journey for wholeness. Some Thoughts about Fasting What is Fasting? Historically, fasting from food (and sometimes liquid) has served as an invitation to humility and personal or national repentance. It serves as an invitation to inner preparedness from a difficult mission, as in the wilderness fasts of Moses (Deuteronomy 9:9) and Elijah (I Kings 19:8) and Jesus. Fasting not just from food Fasting could be abstaining from anything to which we realize we are overly attached, what can make us driven and obsessed. When we fast we realize our dependencies, addictions, attachments that often placate our anger or soothe our anxiety. We realize what we quickly use to substitute for relationship with God. Fasts could be from television, action movies, gossiping, video games, etc. Scriptural References on Fasting From Hebrew Scripture: ―Is not this the fast that I choose: to lose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?‖ (Isaiah 58:6) From the New Testament: ―And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who sees in secret will reward you.‖ (Matthew 6: 12-17) Why fast? There can be many reasons to fast. Sometimes we fast in order to remind ourselves of our dependence on God. Sometimes we fast to free ourselves from consuming things and refocus our attention, to see the gifts of God. Sometimes we fast in order to get in touch with social realities, particularly the fact that many go with growling stomachs without a choice. Some thoughts on fasting: Tilden Edwards: ―Fasting draws us toward simplicity. The relinquishment of immediate impulses to eat can have a way of reducing the grasping in my mind for all kinds of things. A fallout of this relinquishment…is a less violent mind, one content to just be calmly present without restlessly trying to consume more. Then there is room for God to rise lightly in consciousness and for the heaviness of ego to subside.‖ Marjorie Thompson: ―The discipline of fasting has to do with the critical dynamic of accepting those limits that are life-restoring.‖ Archbishop Oscar Romero: ―Lenten fasting is not the same thing in those lands where people eat well, as is a Lent among our Third World peoples, undernourished as they are, living in a perpetual Lent, always fasting. For those who eat well, Lent is a call to austerity, a call to give away in order to share with those in need.‖ Lent 1: A Place to Plant Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 Psalm 32 Romans 5:12-19 Matthew 4: 1-11 ―We cannot do great things. We can only do little things with great love.‖ - Mother Teresa (Each of the quotations included were offered by Ana Tampanna) ―Eden‖ means delight. There is satisfaction there. But we all know about wandering eyes: how much greener things are over there. If only we could attain something deeper, wiser, fuller, more spiritual, then we could really be the disciples Jesus asks us to be. Jesus responds to the devil in this week’s passage each with a word of Torah. He plants himself in the soil of the Word that comes from the mouth of God. Sure, there will always be very studious, seemingly sacrificial temptations that will proof-text their ways into our hearts. It’s easy to use the faith tradition to endorse virtually anything. Yet, we may just have to receive the invitation to sink roots right where we are, discerning through the whole of the sacred texts, finding dialogue partners in community, counting on a ―free gift‖ of life for us. Psalm 1 (Paraphrased) Each of the psalm paraphrases included are written by Fred Kurkowski The person who fills both mind and heart with the presence and power of God, ...ah, that person will have more zest for living than those who live as if they had no conscience, who look for happiness in places of questionable morality or who amuse themselves with outrageous opinions and distortions of beauty and truth. What's more, the person who follows the ways of God will only grow stronger, much like a tree with deep roots and plenty of moisture and sunlight, which bears fruit year after year after year. The fad-follower, the opinion-craver, the truth-twister – each of these will end up with nothing. When life's end comes, there will be little to remember of such a person. But the person who knows the presence of God will be remembered with joy by both God and God's people. Planting Seeds… by Pat Eisenach Sitting in my sunroom on one of our unusually warm February days, I happened to glance over at the southwest corner of the room, the sunniest spot in the house. Laying on a makeshift table (a board atop 2 sawhorses) were 3 trays filled with potting soil and seeds; seeds of Asclepias curassavica, tropical milkweed, that I had gathered last fall from my garden and had recently planted. For the past five years I have grown several types of milkweed in my butterfly garden for Monarch butterflies. The Monarch lays her eggs on milkweed and it is the only food source for the caterpillar. Most people know that Monarch butterflies migrate an incredible distance. During the summer each generation of butterfly lives from 4-6 weeks. However the last generation is different. As fall begins, the final generation migrates from as far north as Canada and as far east as Piedmont North Carolina to a protected pine forest in the mountains of central Mexico, up to 2,800 miles. They over-winter there, and in the early spring begin their migration north. The generation that left the northern climes in the fall live long enough to make it back to the southern part of the US to lay their eggs and start the cycle all over. They live from 6 to 8 months! Unfortunately the Monarch caterpillar’s food source is dwindling and the Monarch butterfly is endangered. Wild stands of milkweed are being killed off by spraying and mowing of roadside ditches and open fields. Will the few milkweed plants that I grow and give away to others make much difference? I’m not really sure, but still I will plant the seeds, hoping to contribute in a small way to continuing the wonderful cycle of life of the Monarch for many generations to come. Lent 2: Curiosity and Confusion: Will Anything Grow Here? Genesis 12:1-4a Psalm 121 Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 John 3:1-17 "I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot......and missed. And I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why.............. I succeed." - Michael Jordon If last week’s kernel of truth might have been, ―Blossom where you’re planted,‖ this week’s might be ―Don’t Grow Stagnate‖ This is a week of risky journeys. Abram and Sara are sent out to a new place, and only after they accept the call get a promise. Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus under cover of darkness and leaves scratching his head. The pilgrims in the psalm are making their way to worship, a re-enactment of Exodus out of bondage. Lent, at its historic, liturgical core, is a time to get ready for baptism or renewal of baptism. We get dunked under – we die little deaths in triplicate – at the waters of baptism so that we might be ―born from above‖. Only by going down, down, down, does the Spirit of Life rise up. Planting is hopeful burial into a journey that we aren’t in charge of. We await the Keeper who neither slumbers nor sleeps, who in the words of Paul this week ―gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.‖ Psalm 5 (Paraphrased) Listen to me, O Lord, listen to me. Though my grammar may be poor and my voice may be indistinct, I must speak to you. I cry out to You, for even though I am in agony, I still know that You are my God, and so I worship You... and watch. Although my world seems to have fallen into the hands of wicked and ruthless persons, I know that You do not accept that condition. Your very presence brings hope that the evil may be overcome. The braggart, the deceiver, the one who loves violence--all these are an offense to You. I have chosen Your way for myself. When I come to worship I will do so in honesty and sincerity. My prayer is that You will help me to live the upright life, and walk the straight and narrow path, for your glory. Their way of dealing with life is distasteful in every way. I’m convinced that they will have to suffer the consequences of their deceit. Guilt will catch up with them. Their doom is sure. But the fate of the people who love You is quite the opposite. Those who turn to You find joy worth singing about; the joy of forgiveness and the joy of your protection. For You have more in store for them than the shadows of deceit and the burdens of guilt. Blessings are there for your people–for You protect them with Your continuing love. An Offering by Vicki Schwartz All my life, I've always enjoyed 'planting the seeds' , not only in a garden, but for numerous volunteer projects - I like to organize events, get something new started, solve the problem by being part of the solution. Then after I feel the event is well rooted and can stand on its own, I like to pass the 'trowel' so to speak to others - let others have their say and tend the garden as they want to. This to me is how things continue to grow, blossom and live on long after I have left. So, I pass on for your meditation the following quote from William James: The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. From Pat VanCleve My favorite prayer from a Parents magazine when our kids were small: Teach me, Father, when I pray Not to ask for more But rather let me give my thanks For what is at my door For food, for drink, for sunny skies above, For home, for friends, for peace, for joy. But most of all for Love. Amen. Lent 3: Water! We need Water! Exodus 17:1-7 Psalm 95 Romans 5:1-11 John 4:5-42 I have so much to do today, that I must meditate twice as long. - Mahatma Ghandi Hearts are made supple by the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit. The Provider gives water in the wilderness even to those who test and quarrel. Jesus reveals the spring of water that satisfies without bounds. He reveals to a Samaritan woman and he doesn’t even need a bucket. The water that comes doesn’t depend on our faithfulness. The water that Jesus offers doesn’t depend on your place of worship or your moral credentials. Oh, if we all could just leave the jar with which we came to the well, to run off and giving testimony to truly living water with our lives. But sans such a response, the Word says, ―Go ahead a push back with your doubts and questions. Go ahead and deny the source of life with all your bravado and dismay. I’m still here, watering the seeds planted long before your birth. You can come and get a drink anytime.‖ Psalm 2 (Paraphrased) Why do people sometimes try to do everything they can to destroy life, deface beauty, avoid truth? Impressed by their own claims to power, they’re tantalized by the thought that they might be able to rebel against God. They deceive themselves into thinking that God's ways imprison them, and that freedom is to be found in their rejection of God. God, with patient love, must surely laugh at such a foolish notion. Some holy anger will be understandable, because after all that God has done, so many of us still haven't caught on to the truth about where the prison is, and what freedom's all about. My mission is to declare what I have learned; that both you and I are God's own children; that the world will continue to move inexorably toward the future which God has begun to shape; that those who think they hold the future in their own hands will end up with something like a potter's mistake: a shattered dream. So if you’re wise, your task is to focus on God and not on yourself. Use your power as a means for knowing, worshiping, and serving God. Don't destroy your freedom by thinking that you can get along without God. That is the dead-end street. The people who come to God with sincerity and commitment will be wonderfully blessed! --from "Born Again" by Dr. Marcus Borg submitted by David Martin The journey of Lent is about being born again by participating in the death and resurrection of Jesus, about that journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. The journey of Lent with its climax in Good Friday and Easter is about embarking on the way of Jesus on that path of mortality and transformation that is at the very center of the Christian life. When you think of it, which of us does not yearn for this? Who of us does not yearn for a fuller connection to life? Who does not yearn for an identity that releases us from anxiety and self-preoccupation? To be born again, it seems to me, corresponds to our deepest yearning. May we this Lent experience that internal transformation that is at the center of the Christian life. May we experience being born again. From the Parkway Church Archives… Here is a pastoral letter from Paul B. Robinson, former Parkway minister inviting offerings for One Great Hour of Sharing. Its message is relevant for us today: ―Traditionally Lent throughout the Christian Church has been a tie for reflecting, fasting, and charity. In the United Church of Christ, it has also been a time for the all-church offering, ONE GREAT HOUR OF SHARING… In this time of recession/depression, of set-backs and cut- backs, we must see to it that it is not a time for holding back. We may no longer have a surplus, but we can share our substance. According to the information we have received we – you and I – have, and can again this year, make miracles happen. We cannot do this without sharing our substance, perhaps without sacrificing some of our substance. ― One Great Hour of Sharing will be received until the end of March. Lent 4: Sunshine 1 Samuel 16:1-13 Psalm 23 Ephesians 5:8-14 John 9:1-41 People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is Out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a Light from within." –Elisabeth Kubler-Ross The days lengthen and the soil warms. It’s a time of keen observations of the changes of the season. It’s one thing to enjoy the growth of a bed of blossoming life by a cursory tour. It’s another thing to see as one who daily monitors the same space. Perhaps this is the metaphor for spiritual seeing. We are asked to see more like God sees. Samuel is asked to anoint the one not seen by mortals, but to know that Yahweh looks on hearts. A blind man has his eyes opened by spittle and mud even as the ones who proclaim their ability to see are seemingly blind. Though the valleys are so often dangerous, the places out of bondage rife with pitfalls, the Word invites us to see what still shines on us. Jesus says, ―don’t blame the blind guy’s parents and don’t him, this is an opportunity to see the glory of God.‖ This is no Pollyanna dribble. Many will be camped around us pointing fingers. Still, there is an anointing that surprises in the dangerous places. Still, a table of sunshine harvest is set at the corner of doubt and blame. Psalm 12 (Paraphrased) Help me, Lord. It seems that there's no one else around who I can trust. Why is it that way? The gossipers, the scandal-mongers, the flatterers, the slippery-tongued con artists are all around me. With phony compassion and imitation sincerity they think that they can charm me into trusting them. They deserve to lose their power of speech, those hypocrites. They think that they can convince anyone of anything by their skill with weasel words. But in the mean time the poor are starving. While they're filling the air with their sweet talk, truly needy people are groaning in anguish. You're not fooled by the silver-tongued mouthpieces, God; I know you hear the groans of the oppressed more than their pretentious eloquence. And when You speak; ah, the words are filled with power and truth; with promises that shine like true silver. So speak, Lord, above the din of the arrogant ones. Speak the Word we need to know, in which we can trust, which shall save us. From Nelson Mandela’s Inaugural speech, 1994 "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." From the Parkway Church Archives from ―A Book of Prayer‖ Commission on Evangelism and Devotional Life, Congregational Christian Churches MORNING We thank thee, O Father, for this new day which thou art giving us, and for all it is bringing to remind us of thy love. May this food strengthen us for all duties and may our lives this day be for thy glory and honor. NOON We thank thee, Lord, for noontide rest and these new tokens of thy loving care. Be with us in all that we have yet to do. EVENING Our Father, bless to us our evening meal. Forgive all that thou hast seen amiss in us today, in thought or word or deed. And have us this night in thy holy keeping. For Christ’s sake. Lent 5: Winds of Hope Ezekiel 37:1-14 Psalm 130 Romans 8:6-11 John 11:1-45 ―Real change, when it comes, stems principally from attitudinal shifts in the population at large. Rare indeed is the legal victory—in court or legislature—that is not a careful by-product of an emerging social consensus…legal change is most frequently a delayed response to changes in the agenda of the people.‖ - Sandra Day O'Conner Vacant lots to community gardens. Railways to greenways. Ghost towns to sanctuaries. Broken spirits to healing presence. The community of exile, the land of despairing people, receives the Spirit’s renewal. Jesus calls out to those gathered around Lazarus, ―Unbind him and let him go.‖ What are the ways we are asked to unbind that which wraps our community in the cloth of death? The founder of the yoga healing ministry among the world’s prostitutes often says, ―Give me addicts and prostitutes any day, because that’s where I’ll see the courage of Spirit, the presence of God rising.‖ Out of the depths we cry, we wait, we align ourselves with a great power to redeem. Breezes of Spirit are pollinating for a harvest of renewal. Psalm 11 (Paraphrased) My help is in God. I've been getting a lot of bad advice lately. Some people have been telling me it's time to give up, to run away, because it's a lost cause that I've been fighting for. All my strength has eroded away from underneath my feet, they say, and even though my cause is right, my enemies are too much for me. But I won't do that, for God is in this world yet--and the cause for which I am struggling is rooted in godly standards. God still gets involved in human affairs, and still has standards to be met. Violence and wickedness are rejected. My enemies will not triumph; they shall know the agony and emptiness of defeat. For the Lord has the final say--and those who base their lives upon the word of the Lord shall know his smile. From Betsy Clausen This is a poem by my late sister Barbara Dennis. I think it fits well with the theme of this Lenten season, Planting Seeds, Seeking Life. In many ways Barbara and I saw the world through the same lens. We shared a deep, abiding love of nature which gave us both profound experiences of peace and joy. I believe new beginnings are possible. We see this every year with the coming of spring. Hope and love abide, and these can comfort and sustain us as we continue on our way. Spring By Barbara Dennis I’ve burst the bonds of Winter’s shroud… And stand naked and pale In a gently smiling sun For it is Spring! The glorious crashing symphony Of life Sounds fortissimo All around me I am as one with God And creation For it is Spring! The veil has lifted Briefly from the glass And I see a bright And shining heaven For it is Spring! One thing that drew me to Parkway Church was its strong message that we must be good stewards of this beautiful earth, that our children and theirs can have the same experiences of nature with which we have been blessed. Holy Week Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 31:9-16 Philippians 2:5-11 Matthew 26:14-27:66 Jesus is grieved and agitated in the garden of Gethsemane. Three times he moves back and forth between slumbering friends and a place of conversation. ―Let this cup pass‖ and ―Your will be done‖ could be the conflicted voices of this conversation. At first, by the third time, one thinks the tension will somehow get resolved. But it doesn’t. Even in the last utterance on the cross in Matthew, he cries out, ―Why have you forsaken me?‖ Like a Cohen Brothers movie, that tension is never tied up. Sure, the centurion announces upon earthquake and rock splitting, ―Truly this is the Son of God.‖ And Jesus ends the gospel with the great commission on a mountain in Galilee as the Resurrected One. Still, there is a taste of conflict in our mouths through to the end. There is no need for him to drink the gall on the cross. His tongue is already pooled with its taste. In some ways, so is ours this week. It’s not for us to resolve. It’s for us to journey to Jerusalem and then back to Galilee changed so we can continue to sow seeds, to celebrate with reapers, and to enter life restored. A story submitted by Fred Kurkowski Let me tell you a story. I wish I could give credit to the story’s author, but I just don’t know who it is. It's a sequel to the "Footprints" story. You know "Footprints": walking on the beach, two sets of footprints, me and my Lord, one set disappeared, I was confused, and the Lord said "That's when I carried you". Nice story. The sequel says this: I was walking along the beach much later in life. I had grown wiser, and my faith had deepened. I looked back and saw the places where there were two sets of footprints, and also noted those other parts of the journey where I had been carried. And there were times when the two sets of footprints were on top of each other, those were times when I learned to walk in Christ's way. And there were even some glorious times when the only set of footprints was my own, for it was because Christ was within me, filling me with love and grace. I carried Him on the journey. But there were some strange places on the pathway, where the sand was kicked, where ruts and gouges interrupted the surface, where a wide area of the beach was disrupted. I questioned my Lord, "What happened here?" And the answer came with a loving laugh: "Don't you remember, my child, that's when we danced." Thursday, April 21 Maundy Thursday Mark 14:12-72 Focus verses: ―He took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ―Take; this is my body.‖ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ―This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.‖ The Passover Seder brings into the present that it is not only fore bearers who were liberated by God. It enacts the way God pull us this day into liberation from bondage. And so it is with the Passover meal of Jesus that we re-enact at table regularly. We participate in the experience of Jesus at table. We enter into the risky zone of participating in a movement from cross to resurrection when we eat some bread and sip from the cup. We participate in the death of our own ideas about religious respectability and await God’s new claim on us as individuals and as community. Like those first Exodus people who took the lamb and bread as food for the journey, we take the experience of looking into one another’s eyes at table into our continuing journey to know divinity in our co-travelers, in creation, in our own bodies and dreams. Friday, April 22 Good Friday Mark 15: 1-41 Focus verse: ―And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.‖ ―Lion of my heart, tear me open that I may learn to love again.‖ Rumi Life drains from Jesus’ drooping corpse. Instantly, the veil that separates the Holiest of the Holies at the temple is ripped open. Uh Oh! The place where there is the highest concentration of the presence of YHWH -- according to Jewish tradition -- is suddenly exposed to the sullying elements of the wider world! Suddenly the realm of the high priests is accessible to all the world. ―Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus,‖ Paul writes from prison. Sacred and profane get mixed together. Heaven and earth become one. Insider and outsider dosido. Alamen left to the Temple Mount! The stone which the builders rejected is becoming the head of the corner. We never wish for pain, crisis, suffering. When it comes, not only are we disoriented; the very categories of our lives get all jumbled up. Boundaries tear. And sometimes….sometimes… in the tearing something is opened and the words of God’s steadfast covenant fall into our hearts and are absorbed into the very blood of our intentions, our healing, our relationships. Where is there rending in your life? Might there be way holiness is also mending in that very rending? Saturday, April 23 Holy Saturday The Amaryllis by Gayle G. Moore FINALLY! The long, slender stalk erupted in stunning red blossoms! As I observed it in the early morning sunlight, I smiled. My diligence had paid off! After spending the summer and fall outside in fresh air, sunlight, and nourishing rain, this gorgeous plant had finally given birth to its inner beauty. Before bringing the amaryllis inside for the winter, I had pulled away the browning leaves and lifeless layers of translucent material from the bulb, chosen the appropriate type of container, making sure the pot was just deep enough for the roots but wide enough for air and sustenance to circulate around the bulb, and then carefully repotted it, all the while following closely the directions at hand. Meanwhile, I watched attentively for any signs of new growth. I had purchased quality growing material, watered the amaryllis only when needed, placed it in the kitchen window to catch the morning brightness and long rays of the early sun, and then I waited. Those long cold winter days played just outside the window. Rain. Snow. Wind. Ice. Darkness. And still I waited. On my way to the kitchen one morning, I thought I noticed a bit of green at one side of the bulb. Rushing to the window, I smiled at the new leaf beginning to form and shoot up through the dirt. My excitement grew as well, as I watched this new wonder develop and take its own measure each day. First the leaves and then the new bulb. Taller and taller it grew. It was going to be a beauty! In the stillness of this morning, I see the flower in all its glory and I am reminded again of Lent. Just like this beautiful amaryllis, I too am just an ordinary bulb. From God’s heart I have been planted in my station on Earth. In order to grow as God expects, I must first peel away the dead layers of my own life – the selfishness, the sin, the pride, the anger, the darkness of my own soul. I must throw away the translucence of my own designs and look for God’s designs instead. I must dig around in the dirt of my own life until I am rid of all the obstacles that keep me from being the kind of person I’m meant to be. I must seek God in the dirt of my inner-most being and allow the nourishing rain of God’s love to wash away the dead and decaying material and lead me into wholeness. Only then will my heart become a thing of beauty. The season of Lent always reminds me that it takes a lot of work to be a child of God. As I warm in the sun at the kitchen window this morning, I marvel at this extraordinary amaryllis, and I know in my heart that there is Hope for me.
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