Holy Saturday

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The whole of life feels like the waiting. Sealed in this tomb, locked in darkness. Light is the stuff of legends, flits across the mind the way a bird lights on a tree limb. Scripture tells us, “For all creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” (Romans 8:19) I feel the sharp intake of breath, the stiffening of awaited release.

Resurrection Day is the already-here-but-yet-to-come day; the day we search our hearts for every bit of light that is hope. The work of the cross is done but still working within us.

If the God who revealed life to us, and whose only desire is to bring us to life, loved us so much that he wanted to experience with us the total absurdity of death, then—yes, then there must be hope; then there must be something more than death; then there must be a promise that is not fulfilled inour short existence in this world; then leaving behind the ones you love, the flowers and the trees, the mountains and the oceans, the beauty of art and music, and all the exuberant gifts of life cannot be just the destruction and cruel end of all things; then indeed we have to wait for the third day.”~ Henri Nouwen

There must be hope. And so we wait.

Holy Wednesday: Surrender

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This week I have been watching the red buds on the Maple tree unfurl slowly, like the fingers of a fist opening up, one by one. And I think, isn’t this what Lent is? Opening the hand this way? My morning reading is about pride and theologian John Stott says, “The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.”

Holy week has never been so busy and full of questions and worry. We are weighing out options for the future and sometimes it feels like this one decisioneverything rides on this.

I have to keep reminding myself that there are no guarantees, that I am not God, and God will use even the grandest mistake for his glory. Sometimes this lack of control feels like being between a rock and a hard place. Sometimes it feels exhilaratingly like freedom. I am still being shaped and molded and so I am not ashamed to say that the former feels more familiar.

But I am taking my cue from the Maple. Watching the slow unfurling become a thing of utter beauty.

I wanted to share this interview with you, friends. It was done in late February but just recently released by Armstrong Cable, a regional company that conducts interviews with local authors. Speaking of pride, do you know how difficult it is to watch oneself on a screen? I made a million mistakes in the way I said things, the way I held myself. But I offer this humble before you and give thanks for the opportunity. (subscribers, if you’d like to watch the video, click on over here or watch it on YouTube.)

Playdates with God: Give Yourself Away

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To choose the little people, the little joys, the little sorrows and to trust that it is there that God will come close—that is the hard way of Jesus. … Something in me always wants to turn the way of Jesus into a way that is honorable in the eyes of the world. I always want the little way to become the big way. But Jesus’ movement toward the places the world wants to move away from cannot be made into a success story.” ~Henri Nouwen

Palm Sunday comes crashing in with all its raucous celebration and we have been caught up in the noise of life. I read every version of the triumphal entry to prepare for my sermon but the days are the thickest text. I know how important it is to withdraw to a quiet place when life thrums like a bass drum in my ears. But I am still learning to turn this knowledge into action—to heed the still, small voice that beckons me away from the triumphal parade into the olive grove.

When I step away from my schedule, my obligations, my worries, my deadlines—this is when God comes close.

The greatest joy for me lately comes when I read aloud to the children in Mrs. Crum’s third grade class and Mrs. Ashworth’s kindergarten. When I drive out to their little school, it feels like a tiny retreat—like I am driving into a different world. Those kids welcome me with hugs and smiles and for a time, the little way is the biggest of all ways. My heart swells for them. And when I am reading them a story? What a gift to see how their faces reflect the story back to me.

Beauty is tucked away in the places the world forgets.

Here are the books we read this week.

With the third graders:

What do You do With an Idea? Written by Kobi Yamada, Illustrated by Mae Besom. Oh, how I love this book, which celebrates the thinker and encourages entrepreneurship and creativity. Having fought with my own ideas and dreams for so long, I think this is an excellent book for grown-ups too. This book stimulated conversation about ideas that changed the world. We talked about the Wright brothers and space travel and all kinds of good stuff.

How to Be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps) by Jessica Hagy. This is really a book for teens so I have to edit it a little (For example, one of the suggestions is talk to strangers. I skipped over that one). We read one step each time I visit the classroom and it’s been fun to watch the kids’ reactions.

More than Anything Else story by Marie Bradby, pictures by Chris K. Soentpiet. This is one of my all time favorite books to share with kids. It’s the story of Booker T. Washington’s dream to learn to read. We talked about what it would be like if they weren’t allowed or able to go to school and how their worlds would change if they couldn’t read. The kids got it. It was awesome.

With the kindergartners:

Unlovable by Dan Yaccarino. This story about a cute pug-faced dog was one of Jeffrey’s favorites when he was younger. My copy is falling apart but the kids didn’t mind. They loved this sweet story that makes us think about the way we treat others.

My Little Artist by Donna Green. This is a sweet story but I mainly wanted the kids to see the illustrations, which are beautiful, intricate watercolors. We talked about the hard work that goes into becoming a good artist and how that applies to most everything in life.

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. Yes, they begged me to read this one again. In fact, they insist I read it every time I come. They would have me read it twice if I allowed it. It’s such a silly book and they all have most parts of it memorized by now. It’s so fun to watch how excited they get as we approach the silliest parts.

As we enter into holy week, why not give yourself away? Spend some time with others, meeting a need in your community. Maybe you could clean out your closet and give away unused items to a local clothes pantry, or visit a nursing home with Easter baskets to give away. Jesus always made time for those in need, no matter what pressing issues were on hand.

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

Laura Boggess

 

West Virginia Morning: Friday, First Week of Lent

Image 2-27-15 at 10.24 AMThis week, dawn breaks earlier and I am day-blind, staring out the window at the snow-crusted meadow, unable to see anything beyond my sight.

I have had few words.

The goings-on around here have been all consuming and worry, palpable. I’ve beaten my plow into sword; hold my spear at the ready. That which I used to sow is my weapon, and I am on offense now. I practice speaking truth out loud, let promises shine into the darkness of my heart. Romans 8 has been my floodwall and I whisper over and over you are working all things together, Lord. All. Things. Even this.

We’ve been holding hands more, praying together as our bodies touch, inviting God into this fear. When I don’t know what to do, I try loving better. It is Lent and I am feeling unfocused and undisciplined in this, my quiet season. If I cannot be present to those I rub shoulders with every day, what good are my words anyway? And yet I struggle with the fear that when I fall silent on the page I will disappear.

I’ve been sitting with this fear this week, letting it lead me deeper into the heart of God. And you know what? I’m still here. I’m still here and feeling a little surprised by the wide gap between what I think will bring the happy and what actually does. Things like, grating fresh ginger for a new recipe, or walking on top of frozen snow, surprising a friend with a bouquet of flowers for her birthday (I don’t feel like I’m 88 years old, she said) and listening to her tell some of her story, or watching an animated short and giggling with my loves.

There is so much beauty in this broken world. Every square ince is covered and bathed in the glory of God’s amazing grace.

Ash Wednesday: The Most Honest of Days

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Snow drifts down like white ash and covers a world bent with sorrow this morning. Today, we step into the season of Lent; Ash Wednesday is the day we acknowledge our humanity—that I was made from dust and to dust I will return. It is a time of repentance, a time to acknowledge our frailty—both in sin and mortality—and turn. The ashes crossed on our foreheads serve to remind of the broken debris of this life and that to live for Christ, we must die with him.

Our little valley has been buried under snow these past days, a gift from winter storm Octavia. School has been closed all week and special services at church have been cancelled. We are sheltering in. That means no Ash Wednesday service tonight, no imposition of ashes, no prayer of repentance to whisper together this evening.

A while back my pastor asked me if I would like to help plan and participate in our Ash Wednesday service. Together, we laid out the bulletin. Last week, we smoked up the church parlor as we burned last year’s Palm Sunday palms into ashes. I’ve been reading Sara Miles’s book City of God: Faith in the Streets to open my heart to the beauty of the tradition of the ashes. It’s the story of her experiences carrying ashes out of the church and into the streets, sharing this sacred ritual with her neighbors and the broken people in the diverse neighborhood where she lives. I haven’t finished the book yet, but her candor and her tender heart for God’s people convicts me.

This morning, I finish up chapter nine, which has Miles and a group of volunteers—laypersons and ordained clergy alike—gathering to prepare for their outdoor “Ashes to Go” service. One volunteer is Vera, who Miles learns had an older sister who killed herself on Ash Wednesday a few years ago.

“That year,” said Vera, “there was a really early Easter. It was such an offense. I couldn’t bear it: how could Lent be just like the blink of an eye, when Lent is the world we live in?”

Lent is the world we live in.

“Ash Wednesday is like a homecoming for me,” Vera continued. “It’s the most honest of days. It’s a mystery, a sitting-with. A sitting with the dark. It is bearing witness to the dark.”

Today, on this most honest of days, I weep for the brokenness of our world. We live in the world of the ashes, a world where innocents are murdered in the name of religion, a world where brother lifts hand against brother and snuffs out the most sacred of all gifts, life. I have not watched the video. I cannot bear to look at the stills of those orange-clad figures kneeling by the sea. The images have burned a hole in my memory, imprinting all the pain and sorrow and injustice that this world offers.

Yes, Lent is the world we live in. In the early days Lent was a time of preparation for babtism. And isn’t this a baptism of sorts? This full immersion in the broken, the sorrow, the anguish that is this hurting world? There is no escaping the injustice and the ugliness that claims us.

We are lost without Easter. We are lost without the grace of God.

Miles says, “And the only way out of it, on Ash Wednesday as on any day, is repentance. Not feeling bad, but changing. Not pouring ashes on your head in a fit of self-loathing, but allowing Jesus to gently spit into a handkerchief and scrub off your face.”

Change. Transformation. This is what belonging to Jesus means. That our hearts of stone will be made into soft clay. The Book of Common Prayer begins the Ash Wednesday liturgy with a prayer, and it seems a fitting way to end here. For no words of mine could ever capture the great weight we carry as citizens of heaven.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have
made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and
make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily
lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission
and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.