Taize, March 2017

I tucked the candle and its paper drip guard

in the hymnal rack of the pew in front of me

til we sang “Christ Jesus, light of our hearts, we praise you”

and a young girl made her way down the aisle,

lighting the tapers of those at each row’s end.

My friend Beth’s candle burst into flame

and I leaned mine to meet its glowing tip.

My wick, too, sparked to brightness,

burning fast, flame high, wax flowing.

My weary mind fixated on the flame and flow,

And the shrinking of my candle.

The candle—me.

Around me people sang in Spanish:

Nada te turbe/nada te espante/

quien a Dios tiene nada le falta/

nada te turbe/nada te espante/

solo Dios basta.

I translated bits in my mind,

but mostly watched the wax drip, drip, drip.

Melting, lessened, reduced.

Reduced.

Lower, lower it burned.

Then, same song, English words:

Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten.

Those who seek God will never go wanting.

Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten.

God alone fills us.

I remembered the Spanish: solo Dios basta

Basta—enough.

We filed to the front,

placed our candles in sand-filled bowls at the foot of the cross,

returned to our seats.

From there I could not see the candles,

But their collective glow lit up the Christ painted on the cross.

Another song began

and the cross was lifted from among the candles

Placed in front of them, flat on the ground.

Come forward, we were invited.

Come to the cross.

The line was long.

I watched the candles.

Many had burned down to nubs,

their flames low in the sand.

Others still stood tall.

My turn.

In the flames’ flicker, the painted face and hands

of the Christ on the cross seemed to move.

When I knelt, put my hand on his,

I almost expected them to clasp together.

Around me voices rose.

The final line washed over me.

Love and do not fear.

quiet, confident STRENGTH

rockI have been thinking about strength lately (which tells you I’ve been needing some 😉 ).

The word brings to mind the Strengthsfinder book I was required to read for work back in the early 2000s. Its premise was that we spend too much time focusing on and improving our weaknesses and not enough on discovering and capitalizing on our strengths. It included a test that identified a person’s top five strengths. I took it and was told to “lean into” the strengths it told me I had.

Not bad advice, though I don’t remember now what my test results were. I do remember thinking that if I really leaned into my strengths and ignored my weaknesses, it would mossprobably result in my losing my job.

That’s not the strength I need right now.

“Strength” also makes me think of the Rocky movies, which my husband introduced our younger children to during our stay-cation spring break. They were hooked by the first one and quickly watched 2, 3, and 4 on consecutive nights (he convinced them #5 was simply too cheesy). I watched bits of them with the crew but was eventually asked not to because I kept cringing at hard blows and delivering lectures about the violence of fighting sports. “Strength” in Rocky is physical, of course, but it is also human determination and grit and perseverance.

Again, not helpful right now.

Then, a couple days ago, I read the prayer “For Quiet Confidence” in the Book of Common Prayer. I’ve prayed it a lot in the past few months, but this time I noticed the theme of strength in it. It speaks of a strength that is available even when we are bone- and soul-tired, when both the Rocky and Strengthsfinder kinds of strength are simply useless, when we’ve come to the hard-but-blessed realization that we must look completely outside ourselves.

The prayer, drawn from Scripture, tells me my strength is found

in returning,

in rest,

in quietness,

in confidence in the God of the universe,

in stillness,

in the presence of the Lord,

in the might of the Spirit,

in knowing who God is and

in knowing his unfailing love for us.

O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray you, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let me let you

dry flower 5Normal morning, but my boys’ running around/picking at each other/roughhousing scraped my nerves way more than usual, and I shot sparks like a cat whose fur has been rubbed backwards. “Can’t you take it outside?” I grumped. They subdued—momentarily. Then it all repeated, and I hollered, and they finally settled—sort of.
But my nerves were still prickling, and I could tell it wasn’t going to take much to set me off again, so after rough pecks on my boys’ cheeks and gruff reminders: “I still love you even when you’re driving me crazy, even when I fuss,” I pulled out Jesus Calling (the kids’ version) and read it aloud to all of us.
I could have stopped after the verse: “Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you,” but the second paragraph amped up the lesson with this: “…you may be tempted to go it alone. But that is when you are in the greatest danger. The evil one is waiting for you to let your guard down, to step away from My protection. Ask My Spirit to help you every step of the way—during hard times and easy
times.”
The kids’ ride pulled up as I read the last sentence, and they rushed out the door, and I turned to all the tasks that must get done this morning before I can sit and read and write—the other tasks that must get done before I pick up dry flower 2the kids from school and another sort of tasks begin.
I’d forgotten the lesson already. I hadn’t given it even a second to soak in, to penetrate my mood and my heart.
I zoomed from fridge to stove to sink, moving quickly, my thoughts zooming as well till I suddenly realized where my thoughts had gone.
I was bringing up little ways I felt slighted by people in my life. I was revving up to have a good old pity party, a time of “woe is me” while my physical movements would only get faster and I’d be left feeling worn out but also itchy.
Does anyone else do that?
The Spirit brought me up short—I know it sure wasn’t me—and I recognized what I was doing. Still I resisted.
Then this phrase jumped into my mind. “Let me let you rest.”
“Let me let you”?
dry flower 4The phrase stopped me. I got the first part: “Let me…” Yes, I was being stubborn. I needed to stop and let the Holy Spirit do Spirit work in my soul.
But the second part? “…let you”?
I left the kitchen, looked up “let,” and found these definitions:allow to, permit to, give permission to, give leave to, authorize to, sanction to, grant the right to, license to, empower to,enable to, entitle to.”
I bolded the ones above that made my shoulders and my will relax.
Let me let you rest.
The tasks still await me. But though my hands may be busy, my heart can be still.
I have been allowed, permitted, granted the right, empowered, enabled, and entitled to rest in the Presence of Christ.