What started as a sharing of a photo and thought each day of Lent has devolved into the occasional post. Today’s word is “Thanks”.
This year I had the honor to participate in my third graveside service for a Veteran. This was for a long time and beloved member of our congregation. The ceremony in which representatives of our nation’s armed services express the thankfulness of a nation is very moving.
Almost three years ago one of our favorite hiking spots was devastated by fire. Today we went on a hike there and, thanks to recent rains, were treated to some beautiful scenery. I didn’t take any photos of all the wild flowers in bloom. But I found a perfect illustration of the theme of “restore”. There are some trees common there (unfortunately I don’t know what they are) and they burned in the fire. Black scarred trunks and branches adorn the landscape. But if you look a bit closer you can see the outer burned layer peeling away and new life beginning to show. This tree is farther along in its restoration than most of the others. Death and resurrection…in a tree…as we approach Holy Week.
As my word of the day for Lent has become a word every few days I have the ability to choose the words… Today’s word then is “remembrance”.
In the church calendar, November 1st is All Saints Day. At Our Redeemer we observe this day on the first Sunday of November. I know that many congregations light candles in remembrance of those members who died in the previous year. We do this too and it is always very moving for me as I say the name while lighting a candle. We also invite members of the congregation to share photos and light candles in remembrance of their loved ones. I’ve placed sand-filled trays in the shape of the cross as a reminder that we have the promise of new life through Jesus. It is always beautiful to see when all the candles are lit.
My son and I have decided that we will run/hike part of the Backbone Trail and La Jolla Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains this Saturday. The first time we did this hike was almost 5 years ago and we had just done the Backbone Trail portion (this is actually just the beginning portion of that long trail). Anyway, I vividly remember my first incursion here. As Matt and I hiked, I was huffing and puffing so much that I could barely talk. Then, much to my amazement, two women passed us while running and chatting.
For me, barely breathing at a slow walk, this was a major wake-up call. I decided right then that I had to get back into shape, to take a new path. I started running that very same week.If you can call huffing and puffing for 30 seconds, followed by walking for two minutes, running. I kept at it because it was actually easier than hiking up a hill. Slowly I made the transition from barely moving, to running marathons. That its taken me 5 years to get here is ok because I’ve realized the spiritual benefits of the physical exertion and that is far more beneficial than anything else. I’m looking forward to taking this path again on Saturday, noting that as I climb I’ll be huffing and puffing, but I’ll be going much faster!
When I think of the word, faithful, my first thought is influenced by the fact that I’m a pastor. For today though, I’m thinking of my pets. We were having a discussion at the church this morning about how our dogs (and cats and other animals) are part of our families. I then came home to the generous welcome of my three little dogs. It’s amazing that I can be gone for 10 minutes or 10 hours and they are always so happy to see me. Maybe we can learn from them about faithfulness.
This winter we are reminded of the awesome power of the ocean. The big waves are both beautiful and dangerous…like much of the power we encounter in nature. Some palm trees were no match for the waves earlier this winter. Lots of work has been done since to save the rest of the trees, and the shore.
The thing about disciplines is that they require discipline! I am attempting a Lenten discipline of posting a photo to illustrate a word each day while also adding some thoughts. My last post was March 1, so I need to work on that discipline. Today’s word is Spirit.
This morning I received a text message from a former church member and current friend. She is a former member because she now lives too far away to actually attend worship. This morning’s text led to a wonderful discussion about grace. Then later, as I thought about it, I realized I’m so thankful for the technology that allows me to be in meaningful contact with some who’s so far away. Of course face to face is good, but I’ve found that technology has allowed the fostering and growth of many different relationships. So today I show a photo of my phone as I express my thanks for the Holy Spirit working in our world in so many different ways.