Lent, Day 5: Ordinary

Day 5: Ordinary

When I thought about this word, the first thing that came to mind was Ordinary Time. As in the liturgical calendar. The season of Lent is not Ordinary! The Lenten season is purple, and a reflective, contemplative season.

The church altar cloths and my stole reflect the season of the year. This photo shows green, the color of Ordinary Time.

#LentenSnapshots2022

Day 24: Ceremonies and Rituals

December 21, 2021

Stonehenge, Winter Solstice, 2014

Day 24: Ceremonies and Rituals

This branch on the Tree of Contemplative Practices has a longer name – Ceremonies and Rituals based in spiritual or cultural traditions. Today (this evening) happens to be the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. My friend Nancy and I taped a quiet, reflective service I put up on my church’s Facebook page. Services similar to this one are called a Blue Christmas (or, Holiday) service or the Longest Night service.

This service is an alternative to the bright, “holly, jolly” false faces so many put on at this time of the year. The forced gaiety, the consumerism, the festivities many people just want to avoid. While I know many who look forward to this time of the year, there are others who just want this holiday season to blow away!

The Winter Solstice is another name for today, too. The Longest Night (or Shortest Day) of the year is either marked or celebrated in many cultures and ethnic rituals, going back to neolithic times. I am thinking of both Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland, structures erected long ago along site lines that mark the movements of the sun on the day of the Winter Solstice. The winter time, the famine months were to be dreaded, in centuries and millenia past. It was important for a community to keep track of the movements of the sun, in order to apportion out food over the coldest months of the year.

Yet, this is only part of the reason that the Blue Christmas (or Longest Night) service means so much to me. It is also a return of the Light. There will be more sunlight tomorrow, and more the next. We are lighting the darkness tonight. There is a reason that so many celebrations and commemorations in different cultures and religions feature light so prominently.

And, in more recent times, the Blue Christmas service is specifically an alternative service for those for whom the holidays are a difficult time. This year more than most, with the pandemic continuing, and with a diminishing of hope, griefs and losses of all kinds, and fear and anxiety running rampant. What a necessary thing, to have a Longest Night service available for those who are challenged by this time of the year.

May this Contemplative Practice be helpful to you or your loved ones. I hope so. I pray so. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )

Day 20: Storytelling

December 17, 2021

Day 20: Storytelling

Fine, skilled storytellers can capture people’s attention and imagination. I know – I’ve heard a few. Storytelling is an art I wish I had. Extemporaneously, off-the-cuff. I have seen others do it, and I am both wowed and envious, at the same time.

I was intrigued when I saw this entry on the Tree of Contemplative Practices, on the Relational branch. I suppose I had never thought of it before, but storytelling not only is an art, it can be a way to actively approach the Holy. A way to show not only relationship with one another (horizontally), but also relationship with God (vertically), too.

As I was reflecting on this topic (and entry on the Tree), I became sadly aware – again! – of my periodic aphasia. Yes, I had a major stroke when I was a teenager. Yes, it affected my whole right side, which I have regained control over. However, the stroke also caused considerable confusion in my speech center. I gradually, and painstakingly, relearned how to use certain neural pathways. For years, I would often stop in the middle of a sentence because I couldn’t grab hold of the word or phrase I had in my mind in order to communicate a thought. But gradually, this became less and less. It still happens, but not quite as much or as often.

Back to my storytelling story. In my late 20’s, I was serving as a youth pastor at an integrated Lutheran church in the Austin area. We had a large Vacation Bible School that summer, and I was the director of VBS. As I stood in front of between 30 and 40 primary and junior-aged children on the first morning, I realized I had not prepared for this. This opening segment of the daily program. (I had a toddler and a preschooler at that time. The toddler was plastered to my leg all week, I vividly recall.)

Imagine my joy and wonder as I started to relate the story of Jacob and Joseph from Genesis, and I found the words immediately accessible. No stumbling, and no aphasia. The children were excited at my story, at the gestures and different voices (for the different characters). I saved the day in that situation. (Yes, the children eagerly wanted me to continue with the story of Joseph for the next days!) And, I gained some courage, some insight into my expanding limits, and thankfulness that God did assist me.

I feel better about storytelling now, several decades later. I still get lost in the details, more often than not, but I do try to tell effective stories which aid in communicating about God and God’s will and ways.

Dear God, thanks for storytelling, which has been continuing for centuries, in many cultures and people-groups . Thank you for effective storytellers (of which I certain am not!). And help us all to be able to communicate clearly, in a winsome way. Even if our words are halting and our actions good-intentioned but somehow found wanting, Thank You for using us and our voices to communicate stories.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )