Cheasty Greenspace: A Place of Goodness and Grace

The detective called inquiring after whether or not we had found “anything” in the woods since the fatal shooting that occurred near Cheasty Greenspace/Mt.View on February 4, 2013.  While we have certainly unearthed some curious, and somewhat disturbing, artifacts during our forest restoration work parties (lined up pairs of shoes next to an axe, dismembered dolls, rosaries, and large singular bones to name a few), no, we had not found the weapon involved in this fatal incident.  He went on to inform us that a team of officers with metal detectors and a K-9 unit would be canvassing the area the following day.  Mind you, just a few months ago, there was the horrendous reality check that came along with 40 search and rescue volunteers and cadaver K-9 units looking for the remains of a young women in Cheasty/North, so I was already edgy about the resurfacing street-cred of our Rainier Valley forest.  However, I don’t think I was prepared for the potential emotional unraveling the impact of this dynamic in our beloved forest would have on me.

You see, we have been faithfully involved in the reclamation and restoration of this urban forest for the past six years.  We have hosted over 80 community work parties dedicated to the vision of reimagining this landscape as a safe and welcoming resource for our neighborhood.  We have written for, and received, grants that have funded our hope to build trails within this 10 acre woods that would connect neighbors, encourage walking to public transit, and provide local access to nature.  And the beauty that has resulted from this grand grassroots effort is as real and glorious as the noon-day sun!

What used to be a landscape filled with invasive plants, such as English ivy and Himalayan Blackberry,  and illicit behaviors, such as prostitution rings and illegal drug trades, has been replaced with the balance that true restoration brings.  Our native Northwest understory is thriving due to the absence of ivy.  Children now play in the forest, and their laughter mixes with the chatter of songbirds and the cries of our resident Red Tail Hawks.  The trails are a resource to neighboring youth organizations who now can bring their students into their own backyards to study, learn and just be in nature.  Our neighbors, who have worked literally shoulder to shoulder for years to see the effects of this hope-filled vision, have become a networked community of friends and families.  These woods have become apart of the vibrant, social fabric of our neighborhood.

And so my heart was heavy when I saw dozens of marked and unmarked police vehicles lined up against our trees.  My spirit sunk when I witnessed uniformed men, shoulder to shoulder, working their way through freshly budded Indian Plum, Trillium and Sword Fern.  Their presence conjured up the spirit of negativity that brooded over this place for so many years, the very spirit that we have worked so hard to drive away from this place.  I felt my repose unravel and give way to the erosive work of despair and hopelessness.  “You can never change these woods,” the line-up of police cars seemed to sneer. “These woods will always be the cover for dark deeds!  No vision for hope and help can change that!”

I awoke the next day to clouds over my head and heart, hardly able to utter a morning prayer, but with the imperative to get out of bed and prepare for our monthly work party we host.  Begrudgingly, I set out shovels, buckets and First Aid kit.  Grumbling, I laid out our registration table materials and sign up sheets.  Demoralized, I wondered if this slow and steady, long term effort to affect change in our little corner of the world was even worth it anymore.  Yup.  My little pet dark cloud was beginning to rain on me.

However, contrary to Saturday’s Seattle forecast (and my attitude), sun began to beam on South East Seattle and neighbors began to convene at our home to gather up tools and gloves, and log their dedicated time towards making a tangible difference.  And then Ed approached, scuffed toe-shoes ambling down our sidewalk, threadbare coated-arms raised in greeting and dusty top hat ready to blow away with the wind.  I presumed he was on his way past our home to visit one of our neighbors, who are involved in some unsavory practices…but he stopped.  Right in front of me.  And smiled.  Turns out, he was here for our work party, but his car ran out of gas and stalled in the middle of the street, just up from our main trail head into the woods.  Can I help, he asked?  My heart softened towards Ed; of course, I can help, but give me a minute to kickstart the volunteers and get the work party going.

Lesson #1: It always amazes me what kind of help shows up in a minute. The momentary pause before immediately responding to a need that you know you can meet is almost an invitation to allow those around you to participate in an assistance that is easy to presume only you can do.  All that to say, when I was able to finally direct my attention back towards Ed, Neighbor Mike had already fixed him up with a five-gallon gas container and a Seattle Parks worker was ready in the wings to tow his truck to safety.  I felt a sun beam penetrate my hopeless haze.  This community that has been created through a hope for the common good, without question, took care of a stranger in our midst.  My heart tried to soar with the pride for my ‘hood, but quite honestly, I figured I would never see Ed again and that sense of being “had” was enough to tether my fragile mood.

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I followed the last volunteers up into the woods and was mentally making a game plan for the variety of ferns we would be planting (grown by spores from a forest friend), and how we would disperse the five cubic yards of mulch, when I was called out of my reverie by the beating of a drum.  The repeated rhythm was coming from the trail head where we would be working for the bulk of our work party.  I crested the trail into view of the forest’s entrance and there was Ed, top hat and all, sitting on a stone, surrounded by a medley of musical instruments and a growing number of children.  Ed smiled at me and proceeded to play music for the duration of our work party.  Trombones, clarinets, bongos, tamborines, all were enlisted to lift the spirits of the volunteers and provide a special joy for the children.  Oh, forgot to mention the unique detail that we were the host-site for a local preschool co-op parent group who wanted to participate in a local Earth Month volunteer opportunity.  We had dozens of preschoolers running around the woods on Saturday.  And it would be important to note, too, that the sun shone during our entire work party.  Sunshine.  Children.  Music.  Ed.  My heart was unfettered and finally flew.

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Now, some who knew of these back to back unique and unplanned occurrences probably could just attribute it to the Wheel of Fortune, for that would explain such a social spectrum in Cheasty Greenspace.  However, I’m one who is always interested in the quiet cadences of God and what one would call a coincidence, I’m eager to see the synchronicity.  Essentially, this means that when you really need something, and often when you really want something, it is there.  Furthermore, the ancient practice of pilgrimage maintains that help, and the divine answer, are most often found in the company of a stranger.  Pilgrimage is this radical practice that turns upside down the ways of the world; in each other and in the strays and strangers en route, pilgrims meet-not the paupers-but the princes.  In the gestures and greetings in gravely roadside places, prayers are answered, and what you are in need of is given.  In this nontraditional way of journey-living, the road taken to a better place is one where divisions are bridged: race, status, and gender are irrelevant.  I would further go on to say that this mode of being also exists in Nature.  For in the woods, all are recipients of the goodness and grace inherent in nature.  All are apart of the greater community of things.  And to a degree, all become Kings.

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Lesson #2: Rough, worn edges and the grime of a harder-than-mine-life under the fingernails are trumpets heralding the presence of a stranger who has the potential to deliver great gifts, should we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.  Ed transformed my day and realigned my hope-filled vision for Cheasty Greenspace.  He was a vehicle of grace to me and his music was like incense, cleansing and purifying the bullet-weary woodland air.

Following the work party, volunteers (including Ed!) gathered under the large tent we had set up in our drive way.  As the expected rains began to pour down, we shared meager cookies and rich laughter together.  The rains were washing away the sundry steps of the officers and were watering our newly planted ferns.  And we, we were an intimate community of Kings, believing and working together, shoulder to shoulder, for a better place. 

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Michaelmas-Dragons and Delight

Michaelmas chalk drawing-BWS 6th graders

Michaelmas is a relatively new seasonal celebration for my family.  While I’ve always grown up with an attunement to the season’s shifts from Summer’s boisterous bounty to Autumn’s slow and silent movement towards interior living, this special feast day and its long-time celebrations were not known to me. However, its themes of harvest and community, threat and injustice and, ultimately, a light that vanquishes all are ones with which I deeply resonate.

A bit of light history may be in order:

The festival of Michaelmas occurs on September 29, and is a traditional Celtic holiday associated with the autumn equinox.   As long, sun-filled days, turned to slanting shadows, the legends of St Michael–principal of angelic warriors, protector against night’s darkness, and the Archangel who fought against Satan and his evil angels–were told around the bounty of harvest as a way of distilling the fear associated with the coming cold winter months.  It was believed that negative forces were stronger in darkness and so families would require stronger defences during the later months of the year.  The epic heavenly battle against Lucifer and his dominions would be retold with light-filled swords slaying ghastly dragons, similar motifs as found in the tales of St. George and the Dragon.  This story and celebration would encourage the “looking-to” for protection (the looking-to a good harvest, strong community, and faith in God), the “looking-for” collective and individual strengths and the “looking-back” with thanksgiving and praise.

While this festival has agrarian and pre-Christian roots, I greatly appreciate the challenge that it still holds for us today.  I have been reaping the benefit of bounty a plenty this summer: berries, plums, tomatoes and herbs have piled themselves on our sun-drenched kitchen counter these warm months.  But as my family and I enjoy this harvest, I am mindful of the lack that is present in the lives of so many today around the world.  We all know and feel the tension that exists between our reaping while another is weeping and herein lies the proverbial dragon that makes this story of Michael a needed one, even in our one-stop-shop lives.

Dragon chalk drawing-BWS 6th graders

Dragons do exist and they lie in wait everywhere in all forms of injustice; these are the dark nights of the soul where despair lurks and preys, making victims of those without a voice to be heard.  In our bounty, in our blessing, we are called to wield our swords of light on behalf of those who desperately need advocacy and speak for those who may not be able to even scream as the beast aims to gobble them up.  We summon courage, we look-to the source of Love and Light and demand that our sword be as bright and bold as Michael’s so that we can vanquish the dragons of this world, living forward with the possibilities of peace and justice, the possibilities of bounty, for all.

The traditions around the Michaelmas festival all come with delicious community sharing, this being the acknowledgement and celebration of the cyclical nature of the gifts of the earth, and the gifts of God.  So, while we gather to celebrate the harvest of the summer season and come together in strength of numbers to combat the darkness of the coming season, we are also already raising food and drink in praise of the battle already won, the dragon already defeated.

We celebrated Michaelmas yesterday at Bright Water School, where our children attend, which included feasting on Dragon Bread.  This was a great-tasting metaphor for this valiant legend that calls us to come together to fight the challenges of darkness and oppression that combat our earth and its communities, and collectively feast on the good things given us!

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Reflections: As you move into the darker, quieter months of Autumn and Winter, what interior light invigorates and inspires you?  Where do you draw strength for the courage to fight the dragons of your life? *** There is injustice that surrounds us in all our elements-from the earth, to the water, to our air, to all the creatures that live and breath here. For whom can you advocate in your community during these approaching seasons? *** It is important to look back on our journeys and offer thanksgiving for the battles already won!  Can you share a “dragon-vanquished” story with someone in your community?

O Michael Militant,
Thou king of the angels, Shield thy people
With the power of the thy sword,
Shield thy people
With the power of thy sword.
Spread thy wing over sea and land,
East and west,
And shield us from the foe,
East and west,
And shield us from the foe.

Brighten thy feast
From heaven above;
Be with us in the pilgrimage
And in the twistings of the fight;
Be with us in the pilgrimage
And in the twistings of the fight.

Thou chief of chiefs,
Thou chief of the needy,
Be with us in the journey
And in the gleam of the river;
Be with us in the journey
And in the gleam of the river.
Thou chief of chiefs.

Thou chief of angels
Spread thy wing
Over sea and land,
For thine is their fullness,
Thine is their fullness,
Thine own is their fullness,
Thine own is their fullness.
Amen

-Celtic Prayer

Labyrinth: The Darkest Wood

“Meg suddenly finds herself alone in complete darkness. She has no idea what is happening to her. She seems to have vanished into nothingness. She is lost in a void. Then she hears Charles Wallace saying that they have had quite a trip. Calvin reappears too. Meg finds herself in a sunlit field, where everything is golden with light. There is an atmosphere of peace and joy. …They arrive on a mountain peak, from where they can see a moon of Uriel. As the sun sets, they see a faint shadow of darkness that seems to have a life of its own. The stars come out, but the dark shadow remains. Meg feels how terrible the shadow is,
and is afraid.”
Madeline L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time


Afraid of the dark
.  How many of us have known that feeling, either as a child in a dark bedroom,  or running up an ink-black stairwell, always fearing that someone is coming up quickly behind you to grab at your ankles and pull.  Or, even having to take the trash out on a dark night-that skip of the heart, that dread is real and rarely do we dally there.  Meg’s fear in A Wrinkle of Time is one based on the immediacy and darkness of evil.  But even in her quest to journey to, and confront, this ominous presence, she is brought to a place of self-knowing and light; a kind of self-knowledge to which we can only arrive when we have journeyed through alien lands.

What we call these alien lands in our life may have many names and metaphors, but common themes, however, hinge on the images of wilderness and woods, deserts and darkness.  The journey through these themes is often equated to a pilgrimage.  Phil Cousineau describes sojourns such as this as “a transformative journey to a sacred center full of darkness, hardships and peril.”  We are brought through the wilderness-through the labyrinth, which is often the long way around-to our sacred destinations, to our places of divine answers and self-knowledge and understanding. If we are to arrive at the heart of our pilgrimage, sometimes this means we must enter that dark wood and go into that lightless labyrinth.  But we mustn’t believe that we are destined to be lost there.  Darkness is just part of the trip.  This is the typical point of panic and precariousness. For when are we ever really encouraged to BE in the dark? You know, to be okay with it?  At night there are street lights everywhere.  In our homes we likely have night lights in the hallways. We are never completely in the dark.  But to be well with it is to allow it to be a holy-dark and to surrender to it enables us to journey to the real light.

Dante spoke truly of this journey in the following passage from The Inferno:

Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself
In dark woods, the right road lost. To tell
About those woods is hard—so tangled and rough
And savage that thinking of it now, I feel
The old fear stirring: death is hardly more bitter.
And yet, to treat the good I found there as well
I’ll tell what I saw…. (Canto I)

Traveling through times of darkness will ultimately bring us to that sacred center – full of light and joy.  While darkness is not the whole of the story, as pilgrimages often have vistas of beauty and happiness, it is often the part of the story left untold.  Parker Palmer writes prolifically about these obscure seasons and offers a mandate that we share with others about our journeys. He wisely recognizes that in telling what we saw in our dark woods, we cross an essential threshold into a place of selfhood and regenerative new life.  Furthermore, there is a sense that to tell the whole of one’s story-to illuminate one’s life journey– can actually help to keep us out of the darkness.

I need to tell my truth, my story, for another reason. Many of you today are journeying through the wilderness and traveling without the knowledge of company or solidarity.  That kind of isolation can eclipse all hopes in ever leaving the labyrinth.  Those of us who have gone before you would be false if we withheld the shadowy parts of our own lives.  We have the power to provide community and comprehension for others when we share authentically about our own story.

The tale of my journey through barren wilderness is no more or less important than anyone else’s.  Mine is simply mine, and therefore the only context from which I can speak.  My dark night began when I was a university student. I was sexually assaulted by someone I knew and called a friend. The darkness of that particular night became that of an endless, starless season. I became pregnant as a result of the rape. Horrified doesn’t even begin to touch the emotional state in which this realization spun me.  For so many varied and vulnerable reasons, my overwhelming shock hunkered into my deepest, softest places and alone, in quiet confusion, I made the decision to terminate the pregnancy. I soundlessly screamed against a God who could allow this to happen to me.  I reticently raised my fists at systems that seemed to condone such manifestations of mysogony and misappropriations of power.  I was in shock. I was in denial.  I felt I like was dumped at the trailhead of a trek for which I would never in a lifetime have signed up.  But like it or not, my life was taking me into the darkness of a journey that called me to wrestle with dark angels and beg me to ask this question: toward what newness is God calling me?

This assault brought me to my knees, my spirit to the ground. I felt alone and alienated in my pain, and completely unknowable in my experience.  This isolation later contributed to factors that diagnosed me with clinical depression.  Wise counsel helped me understand that instead of perceiving these attacks as being crushed by the enemy, I could see this rather as an invited time of being laid down on the ground, a place where it would be safe to curl up and cry, but to ultimately stand up tall again as well.  I had to discover the ground of my own truth, my own nature, my own mix of darkness and light.  This wilderness journey, this labyrinth, wasn’t leading me to hell, but was journeying me towards God.

Now here are where the paradoxes of our faith come into play.

Now, clearly I don’t believe that God willed and allowed me to basely suffer at the hands of that man. That happened because our world is fallen in nature.  Nor do I believe that God wanted me to have an abortion and become depressed.  There is deep and distracting theology around both those points; here is not the place to delve into either.  However, what I do believe is that God inhabits the perilous places in our pilgrimage.  The Bible often uses darkness as a metaphor for sin and the absence of God.  On the other hand, there are references to darkness being a place where God dwells and seems to take comfort.  In Psalm 18:11, the Psalmist describes it this way: “God makes darkness his hiding place, the covering around Him, the dark rain clouds of the sky.”  The image of the Creator of the Universe shrouded in darkness with images of distended, dark rain clouds is not our normal frame of reference; the Psalmist’s perspective, though, has sufficiency and solidarity all over it.  God in the dark.  God living your darkness. Therefore, darkness can feel strangely nurturing, swollen with the mystery of becoming.  All of life first incubates in darkness.  New development follows and life begins.  Darkness indeed is a necessary condition for development.  Whenever a new life begins and grows, darkness is crucial to that processes.  Whether it is the caterpillar and the chrysalis, the seed and the soil, the wee one in the womb, or the true self and the soul.  There is always a time of waiting. In. The. Dark.

In John’s Gospel, there is a story of when Jesus tells a high ranking Pharisee named Nicodemus that in order to see the kingdom of God, he must be born again.  This did not mean reentering his mother’s womb; rather, Christ was talking about a spiritual transformation.  As Christians, we often just focus on the-life-everlasting after the rebirth and forget to recognize the inherent (and necessary) gestation period.  Sue Monk Kidd describes this as a time of “incubating darkness.”  I believe that Jesus selected this strongly feminine metaphor not just so we could grasp the power of new life but also to engage in the implications of the womb that precede every birth. If we want to enter the kingdom of God, we will have to enter a place of waiting, of darkness and of incubation. We will have to walk the wilderness. Julian of Norwich wrote that “our wounds become the womb.” This touching image points us to the awareness that transformation hinges on the ability for us to turn our wounds into a fertile place where life is birthed-the womb.

Gustav Klimt 1909

I have now been out of these dark woods for many years now.  That devastating time in the desert slowly began to change to seasons of oasis; the shadowy woods became my own personal Tree of Life.  I now have a loving, supportive husband and three beautiful children who daily teach me so much about life, our world and how to live well into it.  And I have a life that would not be what it is had I not sojourned through that dark, wild forest. The wound of that trespass so many years ago is now the site of great life and fertility.  The darkness of that decision and depression has given way to new perspectives on life and the Christ-light.  My threshold for empathizing with another’s story and listening without judgement has increased in depth and breadth because of that journey.  There is a great sense of light in my life these days and this certainly isn’t to say that I won’t once again travel in the hard, rocky places.  It is simply that I have such a clearer understanding that out of death, comes life.  We only know light because of the darkness.  I walk in the woods now and I witness a fallen tree on the forest floor and I smile and understand a little bit more; for this wizened wood has now become a nurse log, a fertile place which will provide life, and company, for a gazillion little creatures for a long, long time.

And so today I ask this: let the Christ-life incubate within the darkness of your wilderness.  Share your dark journey with a safe-someone else, for it is in sharing our story that we invite others to be light, to be grace, to be hope, and to be Christ to us; thereby bringing us out of the darkness or simply being there to illuminate it.

 

The Pilgrim’s Path: Surprise in the Similar

I’ve been walking in our neighborhood’s woods for years now.  What started out as hopeful curiosity in a forest behind our house, led me down a path towards becoming a Forest Steward- trained in local flora and fauna, urban forest restoration and community activism. I wanted a trail upon which to walk my dog; I found homeless encampments.  I wanted a place in which to refresh and recreate; I found prostitution base camps.  I wanted a place in which to be quiet and still; I found needles and sex toys.  The sacred place I wanted didn’t even seem like a possibile hope; the English Ivy and Himalayan Blackberry covered the promise of this land with its dark invasiveness.

In 2007 we commenced our commitment to hosting monthly volunteer work parties for our neighborhood.  We believed that the fear, filth and felonious behaviors could be combatted to reveal the great gift Earth is always offering us: LIFE!  In the context of these first-Saturday-of-the-month gatherings, we began the slow, inglorious effort of hand removing the ivy and blackberry.  We became master garbage collectors and bore witness to the very real social tensions of encampments being told [repeatedly] to vacate.  We became versed in our City’s shelter programs and at which pier personal affects can be collected.  We canvassed the neighborhood looking for support and interest in changing something that was into something unimaginably better.  We were committed to the long-term work of restoration and transformation.  We wanted to transform this urban soil into a sanctuary.

The work of bringing down heaven to earth is no easy task.  And it always takes time…and a lot of it.  This is the epic work of pilgrimages and journeys, deserts and dreams.  There is always such fanfare and exhilaration when one picks up the walking stick and marks, and crosses into, the beginning of the journey.  The vision of the destination is so clear, so lucid–it seems you could just reach across a short breadth of time and realize every desired detail.  But soon you find your arm is tired from being extended for so long…for so very long.  Your hand clutches that walking stick with a deepened sense of understanding that this stick is with you to uphold and offer stability when the road gets longer, instead of shorter.  For sacred destinations always require time and long processes; the meaningful meanderings are necessary to bring you to that place where you are able to see and hear with a clarity that simply doesn’t exist at the beginning.

We have hosted over 75 work parties in our 10 acre parcel of urban forest in the last six years.  We have painstakingly picked up invasive plants and planted more than 1500 trees and shrubs.  We have written for and received grants to fund an urban forest trail system to connect neighbors and neighborhoods.  I have sat in Council members chambers in City Hall sharing our story of forest transformation and restoration.  The heaven that I thought was just one-shovel full away has taking me years to begin to see.  I have leaned on that shovel-and on the arms and hearts of committed neighbors and friends-in fatigue and frustration, wanting so badly to be done and to realize the destination for which I had set out for…so very long ago.

I long for free social weekends and open evenings not requiring correspondance with local organizations. …And then I have to make the choice–the choice we all have to make on our journeys.  When we have been on the road for a bit of time, the enchantments and sparkles of roadside attractions become great.  They call for us to stop, rest and even consider them a favored substitute over the sacred destination.  We can choose this…or we can look to the “imaginative, active encounter with the place” (P. Cousineau).  At this point in the journey, we must look all the harder and request for a renewed power of vision.

I went up into the woods this week and came across a beautiful, seemingly-spontaneously-built, road side alter of rock, wood and fern at the trail head into the woods.  I was startled and stunned by its presence.  Everything about its quiet appearance shouted reminders to me of what these woods once held.  For at one time-at this very spot, I had uncovered over 200 hypodermic needles…and now there was just this free, intentional, beauty.  This organic gathering was a blessed statement of how far along the journey we had come to seeing this forest as a place of community refreshment, a place of collective comfort.  We certainly aren’t there yet–the destination is still a long way off.  But the meaning that is being collected along the whole long way is going to make this little piece of heaven one helluva place!

The Call

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Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16                                    ——————–

Next week the season of Lent begins. For some this may cause frantic binges on all things containing caffeine, sugar and/or alcohol.  For others, this may hardly incite a passive, acknowledging nod and yet still for others, this may cause a response of libertarian piety for all those unsophisticated souls who still fast to prepare for the great feast of Easter.  In a culture whose calendars are captained by smart phones and apps, it is increasingly rare for us to be moved by a season beyond predictable greeting cards and holiday decor.  These seasons-be they spiritual, soulful or secular-have a much needed purpose in our lives; they punctuate our plain places with celebration and solidarity.  They break open our schedules and routines and bring us together; we gather in community and communion around these seasons, which testify to our lives, to our journeys and where we are headed.

Lent itself is a journey that invites us to awaken to a deep disturbance-to acknowledge that Ordinary Time has become just that-ordinary-and out of this hum-drumness emerges a question and a yearning.  There is something that calls us to look towards an end, a destination of a soulful sojourn that reengages us with Holy Ground, which spurs faith onward.  This needn’t be a time of temperance, but of transformation.  There is an invitation here to see these upcoming weeks as a pilgrimage, that something, some PLACE is calling to us, beseeching us to look deeper, GO deeper and be altered by the process.  This is a call that summons us to the hidden life, the life of the spirit.

Your life is calling you to leave home-that which is ordinary, that which has become so very normal and so very expected-this season. Your spirit needs you to heed, to really begin listening for the reason behind this journey (and lucky us, one that happens annually!).  It is time to acknowledge your surrender to the Spirit, who will “lead you into unpredictable adventures of the soul.” (Sarah York, Pilgrims Heart, 5).  It is time to pack your bags!  However, I would speculate that the ritualistic forgoing of certain foods or habits isn’t that which will heighten this experience; just like when you pack for that flight that weighs your luggage, or when you load up your backpack for a trek in the backcountry, you want to travel lightly.  Absolutely take note of that which you carry in this season right now, and you may find that to lighten your load you may want to practice simplicity in some areas.  This practice begins to awaken the ‘pilgrim mood’ in you; it summons the inner-sojourner who is readying for the road, always listening, always watching, always waiting for signs and signals from the One who is calling you.

The call of the season is upon us.  The journey pilgrimage towards engaging The Passion is nigh-this is the time to center in and listen.  Don’t be dismayed if you don’t hear anything or connect with something right away; that will cry out loud as you campaign away from convention and common places. This is a quiet time. This is a time to begin with focusing on what you love and what is difficult for you.  These will be what you carry with you as you cross the threshold and journey into Lent next week.

We set out as seekers after answers, or even peace, that we cannot find at home so believe that a change of scene may be easier than a change of heart.  But as we set out to travel the interior roads of discovery, we discover how quickly travel can turn to travail and how really, there is no forward motion unless we’ve yielded to the hard, steep, dark places.  Our annual calendar calls forth the need for a journey that will stretch us, that will bring us to our knees, that will bring us closer to the Creator of it ALL.  U2’s Bono sang the truth well when he piped, “If you want to kiss the sky, you’ve got to learn how to kneel*.”

The ancient path is calling us to come.  The road is ready.  And there is sky, and all the stars that sparkle within, that will watch over our every step and be there to greet us at our arrival.  And we will be kneeling together, and helping one another up, along the whole journey.

Where there is no way, no path, no road made plain,                                                       May there be wise ones who inspire you to see where the way could begin.                        -Jan Richardson

*”Mysterious Ways” as written by Adam Clayton, Dave Evans, Paul David Hewson, Larry Mullen, Angelique Kidjo