Saturday, February 28, 2009

Whiter than Snow

Come now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah:
though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow....

Love covers a multitude of sins.

What better image could be found to say how beautiful it is to be forgiven, to feel clean and new when you were not before?

(We had a more-than-metaphorical snow today!)

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Hymn to God the Father

by John Donne

WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two, but wallowed in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore ;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore ;
And having done that, Thou hast done ;
I fear no more.

If you are not familiar with this poem, be sure to note the pun using "done" and the last name of John Donne. I love his idea that God truly has us when we have come to the point of trusting Him completely.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ash Wednesday

I read yesterday of a priest who says that sin is not about realizing we are bad, but about not realizing how good we are. Unfortunately, his response and others like it are probably reactions to distorted ideas about sin and an absence of grace in some times and places. I've found most people who have what we call a Puritanistic outlook, or who are reacting to that outlook, are not very familiar with the whole of the Christian scripture.

But if I ever have any doubt about whether I am, on my own, fundamentally good, or fundamentally one who falls short of the glory of God (and thus a sinner), all it takes is the Litany of Penance to open my eyes to see myself in perspective.

The world would probably be a better place if everyone spent some time with this prayer daily, and with the forgiveness and the image of God put in words at the end.

Litany of Penitence

The Celebrant and People together, all kneeling

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

The Celebrant continues

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

The Bishop, if present, or the Priest, stands and, facing the people, says

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn
from their wickedness and live, has given power and
commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to
his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of
their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly
repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel.

Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his
Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on
this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure
and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, February 23, 2009


This postacard photo is worth enlarging. It is the prayer garden of Saint Claire, in Assisi. It's in the buildings that St. Francis originally used and then gave to Claire for her community and their work.

For the past four and a half years, I kept this postcard on the panel in front of my desk at work, so that whenever needed, I could focus on this beautiful scene and forget for a moment that I was in an office with no window.

Well, now I am using three different offices. And they all have windows. I am so thankful for the windows, for the light. But I do miss having my own space.

I'm a very space-oriented person, as people who come to my house or office tend to notice. I have a real need to make the area I'm in comfortable and beautiful and grounding. When I've had to work in truly ugly spaces, I've tended to get more headaches, feel tired more, feel discouraged, etc.

So, now I am working in places with windows. And they aren't ugly. But they aren't the way I would do them. And since I'm in three places, even if I might be allowed to add some of my personal touches, it will be different in every place. So there isn't that sense of continuity, of "this is my space."

Especially in counseling this matters to me, because as I experience my work, I am creating a place where people come to feel safe, to open up, to connect with me and with themselves. I have tried hard (when I had my own office) to make that space safe and welcoming and peaceful for them. It's important to me, too, because after some sessions I feel exhausted, or sad, or confused; and I need a safe, grounding place for myself to regroup and get ready for the next encounter.

Right now I don't feel like I have that.

It's going to be a big adjustment.

But I'm thinking this little postcard might be my biggest help in the transition. I can carry it everywhere with me, and set it somewhere, no matter which office I'm in. It isn't as if Assisi has changed, so even though I'm nowhere near Assisi, it just may become my grounding space. Things oould be worse than that!

(And I realize I haven't mentioned on the blog that I do now have a place to work; I am employed. This is a huge blessing, and I am deeply grateful for the way it has worked out. It is no small thing in the current economic situation to have made a transition this quickly to a new workplace, and I realize that.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Feeling Sheepish

Believe it or not, one of my goals for this year was to find someone who had sheep and actually spend some time around sheep.

I've always loved sheep in the abstract, often calling them my favorite animal. I've thought someday I would like to have a few, when we someday have land for them to live on. (Definitely not the case in our current situation.)

I didn't know just how I was going to go about approaching this idea, but it was on the list in my head of things to do since I have a bit more time free these days.

Well, today my dream came true, and I didn't even have to search. I was talking with my friend Amy on the phone, and she told me about a friend of theirs who has sheep. Two lambs (both rams) were born recently and the mother died in the birthing, so she and her daughters were lamb-sitting yesterday.

I told her about my dream, and today I was able to go out with Rachel and step into another world for a while.

Less than an hour from my front door lives a woman who has sheep, horses, donkeys, parrots, and, not so surprisingly, dogs. I heard there may be an iguana as well, but I didn't ask to see it.

It was an enchanted afternoon with these five-day-old marvels of creation. Behold the lambs....

In their little box in the kitchen.

We took them outside to stretch and nibble.

Rachel's jacket was just right. (I was holding the white one but didn't get a picture. My sweater still has a distinct aroma about it, though.)

The others wouldn't come near; this is as close as I could get.

Then back in. Have you ever seen a lamb with a broom and a refrigerator in the scene?

You can barely see a donkey in the back. I was amazed at how the horse sniffed and sniffed the lambs.

This very friendly, very strong dog greeted us at the gate and hardly left our side. And never touched the lambs, except to sniff them a bit.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Precocious Daffodils

Today at lunchtime I went to Overton Park to eat my sandwich. I saw blooming daffodils! A couple of bunches of them.

I really wonder how those little things make it through days of temperatures going from the teens to the sixties within 24 hours, and stay alive through it all, and then bloom!

They were quite a surprise. Makes me want to get over to the Botanic Garden and see what's blooming there.

In our yard, the daffodils are just a few inches out of the ground, not yet close to blooming.

The flowering quince, however, showed two little buds opening yesterday.

It amazes me every year, this rebirth that we call spring. Or primavera. Or proljece. Whatever the language, the thing itself is a wonder. (Or una meraviglia. Or cuda.)