Posts Tagged ‘desert’

Pay Attention

desert-streamSee, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. [Isaiah 43:19]
First, while visiting my friend, Mary, who has pancreatic cancer, she introduced me to a wonderful song called, “Pay Attention” by the Miserable Offenders (funny name for a group). Then last week, I went to a Chamber luncheon, I ran into our Chief of Police and her parting words to me were the same, “Pay attention.” For the Chief, the message was about danger in our midst, for my friend the message was awareness and sensitivity to the wonder of life (because life is fleeting).
Now, in this scripture passage, I hear the same message again, “do you not perceive it?” Pay attention!
You see, God is doing that “new thing” every day. All around me, there is something to see, to hear, to feel, to touch, to taste. Each day is a wonder. Each moment is a gift. Oh, I worry and kvetch without really looking, without understanding.
To trust God with my life, to surrender my will completely, then I must respond with a “yes” to every experience, both difficult and easy. Naturally, I’m speaking of circumstances that are outside of my control (that includes other people). Our children come to us in a variety of versions, some are smart and quick, others are quirky, while still others are broken. But each child is still a gift and part of my journey, part of whole. The weather, the illness, the accident, the villain, or the animal, whatever, I cannot know ahead of time their impacts on my life, but when those moments happen, can I embrace the pain and the sorrow, knowing them as part of the paradoxes of life?
And even when I do choose, when I do “control” the times and then, perhaps, suffer regret, isn’t it time to let go of those disappointments? After all, it’s done. The minutes are still passing. And the “new thing” or the “new way” is still to come, maybe like a flash flood in the desert.
It’s the fractured dreams that are often the hardest to release. Those dreams of childhood or even our early twenties, when we imagined our success and notoriety, our personal paparazzi, our brilliance. I know I focused more on the results and the fruit that could have been instead of the process, the gifts I had to give. And so I kept plowing the old field, not realizing and not noticing the field beyond, the path beside, the hanging vines.
But all that being said, I am paying attention now. Right now. In this moment, this day. I see.

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What is the take away for doing something 40 days? Whether it’s in fasting or in temptation, there’s something here about forty days that should be considered, should be pursued. It’s a whole lot of waiting: more than five weeks of consideration. I wonder what would happen if I waited (prayed, contemplated, meditated) forty days before I initiated a plan or a major decision?

Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12-13a; Luke 4:1-2a
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.

There are other scriptural examples of 40 days: the flood (Genesis 7:17); Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:18; 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9); Spies in the Promised Land (Numbers 13:25); Goliath’s challenges (I Samuel 17:16); Elijah’s flight and fast (I Kings 19:18); Jonah warns Nineveh (Jona 3:4); Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection (Acts 1:3).

All of these 40 day increments are wrapped up with important events, usually before something major would happen.

So, let me put this in perspective (for myself, if nothing else). If I claimed this 40 day waiting period starting today, that would mean on Friday, September 14th, I could begin: I would know whether to go forward or not. If I seriously pursued my quest for those 40 days, I would know. It’s like a promise, I think.

Don’t misunderstand me. I get it that this period should be led of the Spirit and yet, I have a feeling. If I laid out my heart’s desire, my plan before God and then repeated my request each day, I believe I would have an answer. I would also have a bit of a struggle along the way. Based on the stories, a truly authentic 40 days is laden with challenges. Satan (or however you want to call that negative voice/power in our lives) tempted Jesus the whole time just like Goliath tempted the Israelites. Goliath mocked them and taunted them: Dare you! Double dare you to come out here and fight me (on his terms of course). Satan does the same thing. The forty day challenge puts the entire experience on God’s terms.

Apparently, 40 days are just long enough. They take the person just beyond that point we can do it on our own. Forty days include the extra mile.

What do I really want to know? What game-changing decision do I want to contemplate? What would be the best news ever?

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Michelangelo's Pieta

Since the Sundays in Lent are generally excluded from most Lenten rituals, I decided to do something a little different on Sundays as well. I looked up the Lectionary for today, Year B. A Lectionary (a list of scripture readings appointed for a given day or occasion) is generally used by denominations that follow the church calendar such as Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or Episcopalians. Judaism also has a lectionary of Torah readings.

Today, the readings are from Genesis 9:8-17 (Old Testament); Psalm 25:1-10 (Psalm, usually read responsively); I Peter 3:18-22 (New Testament); and Mark 1:9-15 (One of the Gospels).

The phrase that captured my imagination is from I Peter 3:18b “He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”

It is through the transformation that Jesus endured from his 40 days in the desert to his death and resurrection that his Christ-ness is revealed to Human and the Holy Spirit is given to Earth to dwell with us and in us. It is the ultimate integration of the covenant God made with Noah for the sake of all life on earth which he signed with a rainbow. Jesus began his three year ministry after his trial in the desert; his first message was straightforward: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” [Mark 1:15] Christ=Kingdom of God.

And lastly, I had a secondary serendipitous experience. For the last 6 months or so, I have started my morning devotion time with a single scripture, to prepare my heart and mind. This is what I wrote on the top of every page: “Guide me in your truth and teach me for you are my God and Savior and my trust is You.” [Psalm 25:5] To find the same passage in today’s Lectionary confirmed the rightness of choice and serene presence, as though, I too was being made alive in the Spirit.

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