Friday, February 20, 2015
As I made a turn I noticed that the sinking sun had begun to illuminate portions of the labyrinth. It was magical. I laughed out loud with delight and immediately grabbed my phone to try to capture the moment. Such beauty. The snow sparkled and glittered, and the setting sun cast a glow that started out golden and then turned rosy. I kept walking until I got to the center where I turned to face the setting sun. I sang the first verse of "In the Bleak Midwinter" but couldn't remember all the words. It was so very cold; my breath steamed through the purple fleece scarf that covered my mouth. It was so very lovely, snow and path and light. By the time I left the center, after having turned to each of the four directions, the sun's glow had left the labyrinth. No more magic light. My feet were really starting to hurt with the cold. I thought about the people who have to stay outside tonight and said a prayer that they might find warmth. It took me over an hour to warm up once I got back home. I can't imagine having to stay out in that all night.
I am so grateful for the walk tonight. I have walked labyrinths all over the country, but I've never walked one in the snow. It was a gift of winter. Seems like I've had a few of those this year as I try to embrace this season that has for so long been my nemesis. Normally this time of year I just feel small and huddled, but the picture I took below shows a very tall me. Brené Brown has a mantra, "Show up and let myself be seen." I'm trying to learn to do just that.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
|Open door = strong blast of frigid air!|
Those were my low moments today. But my high was when a student who is part of another campus ministry group felt comfortable enough to come up, sit down in the cold, and ask me, "What is Lent?" She had heard of it but didn't really know what it meant, and some of her friends had gone about campus yesterday with ashes on their foreheads and were talking about the things they were giving up for Lent and asking her what she was giving up. Not understanding what Lent was, she wasn't sure how to participate.
|David Student Union and Plaza with mound of snow|
It might have been better if I could have observed some simplicity in my answer. I have read so many blog posts about Lent and Ash Wednesday in the past few days that I was like a sitting fountain of information. I hope I didn't overwhelm her. I talked about Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the wilderness and the ancient Israelites wandering for in the wilderness. I discussed what the ashes mean and how Sundays are always feast days. I talked about giving up and taking on and letting go and above all choosing some sort of practice or discipline that is meaningful and draws one closer to God. She asked questions and I gave answers. I was so excited that I think I may have babbled on a bit. But I was so excited! Someone who had heard about Lent and wasn't quite sure what it all meant and wasn't scared to ask questions. We even talked about Palm Sunday and how hard it was to imagine the crowds shifting from "Hosanna!" to "Crucify him!"
I was grateful to be asked a question that I could answer with confidence. And while we were talking, I didn't notice the cold! We also had a new person show up for Eucharist today. She's been wanting to come since last semester. Unfortunately the prayer station sign has taken a beating in the strong winds and blew over for the second time today. The small "How may I pray for you?" piece is starting to come apart. I may need to take up wood working for Lent.
All in all, a good day at the Prayer Station. Maybe sitting in the cold will be my Lenten discipline - though I feel certain than a warm spring day in the Plaza would draw me closer to God!
|Chapel in the snow|
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Today is Shrove Tuesday, traditionally celebrated with the "Feast of Pancakes" or other rich and fatty foods, a sort of celebration or "get rid of the sweets and fat" ritual before the fasting that begins the next day. But tonight, churches all over Hampton Roads have canceled their pancake suppers due to unsafe road conditions. Facebook indicates that many are grieving the loss. Since it is Shrove Tuesday, I have a confession to make. I don't really like pancakes. They're okay, and I eat them when I have to, but they're really not my thing. Now if was Waffle Supper, I might be feeling the loss, but pancake supper, well, I can take it or leave it. (Sorry pancake grievers!)
The truth is that having a snow day on the day before Ash Wednesday feels like taking a deep breath right before Lent begins. I slept late, took time for meditation, spiritual reading, and journaling, and then I headed out for a walk in the snow. Time with God in the creation. Though I don't love winter, there is something very special about walking in the snow after it has just fallen. With the sun out, the snow glittered and sparkled. I went slowly, partly because it was difficult to walk, cutting the first tracks through the snow, but also because I was trying to pay attention to what I was seeing, to breathe deeply and notice the world around me, to inhabit my body and get out of my head just a bit. As I walked through the neighborhood I saw that very few people had been out. I was the first to venture down to the iced over pond at the back of the neighborhood and the first to walk around it. I almost didn't go because I didn't want to mess up the pristine snow with my tracks, but it was so beautiful, I couldn't help myself. A few tiny bird tracks appeared along the side of the path, but otherwise there was no evidence of other living creatures. It wasn't quiet like I remember from walking in the snow in my childhood - too many sounds from nearby roads, probably snow plows and other equipment. Still, it was crisp and cold and full of beauty.
As I headed back up the hill I bumped into a friend I haven't seen in a long time walking her dogs, Bella and Rugby. They were adorable as they romped in the snow. My friend offered to let me use her snow shovel, so I wandered back to her house to pick it up. We chatted a bit and then I got to work shoveling out my driveway. Fortunately the snow hadn't packed down yet and was still light enough to remove with ease, though I am unaccustomed to the work and will have sore shoulders, I'm sure. I worked up a sweat. 31 degrees in the sun felt warm after my long walk yesterday in 18 degrees. When I returned the shovel, I was invited in for a cup of tea and some conversation. When do I ever have time for that? It was lovely to sit and chat and sip some spicy pumpkin tea with my friends while Rugby tried to chew my hand and jump in my lap.
In the afternoon I made an early dinner to share with Jan, and we made plans for upcoming meetings. It was all very relaxed. Now I know that I could have filled this time with a million things I need to do: cleaning, sermon prep, various work projects, taxes, did I mention cleaning? Instead I just tried to be present to the gift of the day, to breathe and ignore the occasional moments of anxiety and head chatter that said, "You need to make the most of this time. You need to get stuff done!" In my journal this morning I wrote, "There is enough time." What if I believed that every day?
There are many things I can do to honor the season of Lent that starts tomorrow. Maybe one is to practice being present and telling myself that there is enough time, to talk back to the voices in my head that say there will never be enough, and to take time just to be with God. Taking a deep breath before the season starts feels good and right. Snow interrupts my life like Jesus does; often in inconvenient ways. And yet, there is also an invitation. Stop. Look. Listen. Be.
Thursday, February 12, 2015
|Noon at the Plaza|
|Less than 2 hours later|
At about 6:30 yesterday morning I awakened to a text, followed by a phone call, followed by an email, all telling me that CNU was on lock-down and that everyone needed to stay inside. A man had been seen on campus carrying a handgun. Scary. I figured most of the students were safe, tucked in their beds, although now they might be awake from the alerts coming into their phones. I waited a little while and then texted the Canterbury students. Sure enough, they were all in their rooms and seemed to be okay. 8 a.m. classes were canceled, but before 9:00 we got the all clear.
The story was on the news, and I learned today that nearby schools had stepped up security as they waited to hear what was going on at CNU. The only thing I could imagine was that someone had simply been walking across campus going from point A to point B while carrying a gun. Seemed unlikely, but I didn't have a better explanation. I kept CNU in my prayers all day, praying for safety and relief from fear, praying that the person wasn't hidden away somewhere waiting to do harm.
Later in the afternoon we received an email: "CNU police investigation has determined that the individual suspected of carrying a gun on campus this morning was actually a CNU employee who was carrying a broken piece of equipment that was mistaken for a handgun." Relief. There hadn't been a gun after all. Some were irritated that the alert had happened at all. Others were just grateful - better safe than sorry. The potential storm clouds dissipated. CNU was back to normal. Only a few hours had elapsed.
What a difference a few hours can make whether the storm is rolling in or out. There's that old saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes." Seems to be true for metaphorical weather as well. Sometimes it's hard watching the storm roll in, wanting to hold on to those sunny blue skies. But the only way for it to move on through is for it to move on through. Likewise, it can be so hard in the midst of the storm to remember what clear skies look like. They will return. We never know when the weather's going to change.
Tonight the wind is still and the snow has ended, leaving the grass looking like it's been frosted with icing. The temperature is dropping into the teens. Clear skies have returned but no warmth remains. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.
Thursday, February 5, 2015
|View of the central area of the DSU.|
I had a prayer request for a young person with stage IV cancer and another for a young person who has died. I ache for what these young people are enduring.
|Me in my "old school" sweater.|
Some of the students who drop by to chat are a part of CRU, the new name for Campus Crusade. They think it's so cool that someone would sit in public and pray for the school. They talk about the Holy Spirit a lot. When I told one student about our Diocesan Council meeting this weekend, he said, "Oh, so will you be praying and worshiping a lot and just blessing the year?" Well, yeah, but it's also more like a business meeting. Turns out some of the students are headed down to North Carolina this weekend for a prayer and worship event. I thought about how different our experiences will be. One student was excitedly anticipating time with God and the blowing of the Holy Spirit. I told him we'd have to reconvene next week and compare notes. Maybe our keynoter, Diana Butler Bass, will have some Holy Spirit up her sleeve this weekend!
|View of doors to my right leading to the Great Lawn|
As I sit at the prayer station, I try not to underestimate the value of a smile. It may not always win elections, but it can do a lot to offer hospitality, to set someone at ease, to light up a person's day, to cheer someone up. As I smile at the passers by, I try to imagine warmth and love and peace going out into the campus. Maybe the smile will help them find the courage when they need to request a prayer or talk about something important. Until then, I'll keep smiling at each and everyone. Like I've been doing for a long time. Old school.