A Stealth Version of Lent

The season of Lent slipped in quietly last week while folks around here were distracted by monumental snows and plummeting temperatures. Ash Wednesday was cancelled—the whole week was cancelled. Snow and ice along the streets are now the color of the ashes we didn’t wear. Surviving the weather felt like enough of a Lenten practice, and people joked about wanting to give up winter for Lent. This week the snow has melted enough to reveal the tips of daffodil fronds, but Easter still feels a long way away.


Maple Shadow and Robin on Snow 2015-02-28


But in spite of this stealth version of Lent, somehow a Lenten practice found me. Or rather, a constellation of practices both inner- and outer-directed. They balance each other. Some fill the well for me. Some are ways for me bring water to others.

I’ve been reading some excellent books, practicing meditation and doing “morning pages.” Complementing those inward disciplines are some outer commitments I’ve made. Through them I’ve been meeting some wonderful people, doing meaningful work at my church, and leading a group through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.

I can’t take credit for arranging this rare balance; I’m simply grateful for it. Lately I’ve been trying to notice and respond to what life/God/the universe is putting in front of me, and what is arising within. “Synchronicity” is another way of describing this sense of things coming together. I think Paul refers to the same experience in Romans, when he talks about all things working together for good. Being open to the question of how God is working in and through my life seems to be leading to a place of balance and wholeness. At least for now.

There is much to be concerned about in the wider world. But in the midst of it all, my hope is to continue paying attention to the work that is mine to do.

What are you noticing these days?




Don’t Do What I Do

I’ve been trying for two days to write a post about maintenance vs. creativity. I wanted to look at how the endless chores of maintaining a life are necessary, even as they consume the energy needed for creative work. A paradox. I struggled unsuccessfully with the writing, but phone calls, paperwork, appointments, meetings, shopping, cooking, and laundry I’ve done.

I wanted a spiritual approach to making peace with what’s required of our limited time and energy. I wanted to offer some wisdom about the legitimate need for order, valuing the effort without being a slave to it. But I have no mastery of this subject.

I have not learned how to balance tending the details and rising above them. Instead, I keep riding this pendulum. I push away to-do’s that need attention until they’re so thick I can’t move. Then I set aside everything else to focus on the neglected tasks, desperate to be free of chaos and disorder. Only then can I turn my attention to the work I’d rather do, and the cycle repeats.

I’d like this blog to offer something of value, but in this case I can only say don’t do what I do. I don’t even want to do what I do. I know that maintenance and vision doesn’t have to be either/or; we call that a false dichotomy. Stacks of mail won’t obliterate creativity. Errands can’t negate a fulfilling life. But balance is elusive. Quite simply, I want to be freed from disorder and from the work of putting things in order. But I live in the inherent conflict of these desires.

Maybe the totality of my life will average out to be balanced—orderly enough with a glimmer of creativity. But I keep swinging past the sweet spot, overdoing it one way or the other.

Lord, have mercy.