From the viewpoint on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem, you can easily see the vastness of the Judean Desert to the north and west. Leaving before dawn, we left Jerusalem for Wadi Qelt, a short drive from the heart of the city. The stark change in scenery is impressive, changing from a vegetative, mountainous, urban landscape to a yellow, rocky, desert scene almost instantly. A riverine gulch in the West Bank, once perhaps used to travel between Jericho and Jerusalem by individuals such as King David, Wadi Qelt eventually runs into the Jordan River near Jericho and the Dead Sea.
Stumbling out of the bus, we followed a dirt path up the hillside in silence. We gathered for a brief prayer and a reading of Psalm 23. Given almost an hour for our own time of prayer and reflection, we scattered to find our own ways to await the sunrise and listen for God, the air still cool. For those who climbed up to the top of the hillside, far in the distance was Jericho to the west, the oldest city in the world dating back 10,000 years, almost 900 feet below sea level. In July, there was no water running into the Jordan – no green pastures, no still waters, only valleys of shadow. And while this is a small desert in comparison to many others in the world, being in the midst of it was truly humbling.
Today is the feast day of Julian of Norwich. I’m not a big “saint” fan (sports or religious) and I do not pray to any saints or ask that they intercede for me. But Julian is one who captured my imagination years ago. The Reverend Peter Holroyd (whom I invited to do a Lenten study on environmental spirituality in a church where I was serving about 20 years ago) handed each of us a hazelnut as we began. He shared that he always carried one in his pocket; a reminder that such a tiny thing has so much possibility and that we, too, are seeds of possibility. The hazelnut is often used as a symbol of Julian.
Born about 1343, the time in which Julian lived was one of upheaval: the Black Plague, the Hundred Years War, and the crisis of church authority due to a long papal schism. The people of Europe were full of anxiety and concerned about personal salvation. The yearning for a personal, experiential faith spawned a growth in Christian mysticism, including those who were not living in religious communities. Many mystical classics were written by lay people living as solitaries (recluses), sharing their experiences of the divine. Such was Julian. We do not know much about her, including her real name. The name Julian was given to her because St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, England is where she lived and worked. Nearly dying as a child, she had visions (shewings) in which she experienced Jesus. Most of her writings are all that we know of her. You can read more about her (as well as some intergenerational activities to do regarding her) in my forthcoming book Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God with the Saints coming in July 2019.
Last week I took two days off to spend time with my
just-turned-four-year-old granddaughter. The best I can describe it was two
days of wild imagination. We decorated an Easter tree with tiny bunnies, eggs,
and chicks that I got out of storage, spent an afternoon at a playground
followed by ice cream, visited Grampa at work, read books, and pretended a
whole lot. Tea parties, colorful scarves, hide and seek, and discussing all the
Disney princesses filled our days.
“The leader does not offer answers but offers space for children to wonder”
resonated with me in a new way. He describes Godly Play as a
“face-to-face and intimate art”
and while we are
“all designed to create meaning, . . . the art of wondering is forgotten.”
As a grandmother (and editor of faith formation resources),
I hope our churches (and families) continue to wonder with children. By giving
children a safe space to explore creation, God, and our sacred stories, we are
helping them enter the mystery of all that God intended for us – we are beloved
children. By giving myself real time off to just “be” with Mackenzie, I too was
renewed and reopened to the possibilities that only our imaginations and wonder
Another initiative that was launched at the 79th General Convention was a “call” from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry for The Episcopal Church to follow “The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life.” Since that day of its launch, social media has been abuzz with people asking about resources and how to engage with this rule of life. I was blessed to be on the early track of this launch, having been invited by Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Creation (the pillars of The Jesus Movement) to join a group of Christian formation leaders in the Episcopal Church to flesh out how this might become a reality and a formation tool for growing disciples. As those of you who are Christian formation folk, you know that when you are given a challenge under a deadline and put in a room of like-minded folks amazing things can happen. With various individuals adding input and encouragement from across the Church, The Way of Love was launched. Continue reading “The Way of Love” for Families→
There are plenty of great ideas created by others for delving deeper into the meaning of Lent and making a space at home and church for reflecting on this penitential season. Here are some of my favorites!
Lent in a Bag by Shawn Schreiner and Vicki Garvey involves distributing small bags (cloth, paper, or ziplock bags) with symbols of the season to assist individuals and families in practicing Lent at home. In addition to the items, you can include instructions, and reflections (on purple paper of course) to go with each item.
Lenten Giving Calendar for 2015 from Jenifer Gamber offers a colorful poster to download and print (free!). Jenifer shares, this Lenten Giving Calendar is an opportunity to practice the act of giving. Each day the calendar invites you to acknowledge and give thanks for God’s abundance in your life and return that abundance in gratitude as a gift of pennies, nickels, and quarters to others. This Lent, let’s clean house, replacing habits that keep us from new life in Christ to a practice of gratitude and giving. Continue reading More Links for Lent→