Tag Archives: Restored

Finding Joy and Wonder

Lent 2012
Path of Restoration

by the Rev. Mary Earle           

 Some years ago, when I began work as an associate rector at the Church of Reconciliation in San Antonio, I inherited a prayer desk that had seen better days.  The pad on the kneeler was ragged, and the stuffing was gone.  The wood had been painted over many times.  I was on the verge of relegating it to the youth room when the sexton, a feisty redhead named Linda, offered to take the prayer desk home and see what her husband could do with it.  He loved working with old wood, she  said, and had a heart for this kind of restoration.

            Weeks later, she knocked on the door of my office.  She’d brought back the prayer desk.  Her husband had carefully removed all of the layers of old paint.  He’d discovered that underneath all of that grime and grit was sturdy oak.  He had stripped off the last layer of old varnish and then lovingly sanded the wood.  Clear varnish, applied with care and attention, now allowed the natural beauty of the oak to shine through.

            Linda had made a new pad for the kneeler; it was a beautiful cotton print, simple in design and evocative of altar hangings.  She’d made sure there was sufficient padding for my sore knee.

            When she handed it to me, she said, “It’s been fully restored, and made beautiful all over again.”

            As I write these words, my forehead is adorned with a cross of ashes.  Every Ash Wednesday, I recall the prayer desk.  I remember all those layers that obscured the inherent beauty of the oak.  I remember the painstaking effort involved to remove the gunk so I could see the beauty of the wood, shining through again.

            This Lenten journey, in the words of one traditional Gaelic prayer, reminds us that we are “fashioned for joy.”  For all sorts of reasons, we discover that we, too, are covered over with layers of gunk and grime.  Our innate beauty, the beauty bestowed when the living God brought us forth in God’s own image, gets obscured and hidden.  Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and self-denial are intended to allow the Holy Spirit, through this sacramental life, to return us to that first beauty, and to begin transforming us into the divine likeness. 

            We cannot do this by ourselves.  And we cannot allow it to happen merely by being grim, earnest and zealous.  The Celtic Christian tradition has bequeathed to us a living sense of robust confidence in Jesus’ willingness to heal us and make us whole.  From those prayers, both ancient and contemporary, we remember to sing, “Be Thou my vision,” and to enter these 40 days trusting in the abounding mercy of the God who keeps us in being at every moment.

            I am drawn to the Celtic Christian tradition because of its willingness to look sin and evil straight in the face, name them, and forsake them.  John Philip Newell hands on a story from his mentor, Noel Dermot O’Donoghue, an Irish scholar and Roman Catholic priest.  O’Donoghue was presiding at a baptism in the west of Ireland.  When he asked the gathered faithful if they were willing to renounce the devil and all his works, they responded with joy, “We do, the dirty bastard!” 

            Their exuberance overflowed.  The congregation was not mumbling their response, wondering when the service would be over.  They took the vow to heart, knowing that they and the baby being baptized were fashioned for the “gift of joy and wonder” in all of God’s works.

            The living God and the God of the living desires deep restoration for each person, and for the entire created order.  This Lenten season offers us space and time to remember, to give up our habitual busyness that leads to forgetting and addictive self-importance.   As we let go of those habits and behaviors that lead us away from our deep identity in Christ, we will need to encourage one another along the way.  We will need to name the good, as Archbishop Tutu as pointed out.  We need to remember and invite the restoration God so desires to work in us through Jesus.

            In the words of one of Newell’s prayers,

            “In the morning light, O God,
            may I glimpse again your image deep within me
            the threads of eternal glory
            woven into the fabric of every man and woman.

            Again may I catch sight of the mystery of the human soul
            fashioned in your likeness
            deeper than knowing
            more enduring than time.

            And in glimpsing these threads of light
            amidst the weakness and distortions of my life
            let me be recalled to the strength and beauty deep in my soul

            Let me be recalled
            to the strength and beauty of your image in every living thing.”

(from Celtic Benediction, by John Philip Newell, Eerdmans, 2000)

The Rev. Mary Earle is author of several books and is writer-in-residence at The Work+Shop in San Antonio TX.

Reach her at mcearle48@gmail.com or leave a comment  below. For a list of Mary’s books, visit http://marycearle.org/

Art: “Puddle in the Park” by Terry Gay Puckett.  Puckett is one of several artists from around the Diocese of West Texas whose work is part of a special exhibit, “Lent through the Eyes of the Artist,” that will hang at Cathedral House Gallery at the Bishop Jones Center in San Antonio until mid-April. The opening wine-and-cheese reception is Sunday, Feb 26, 4 to 6 p.m. The public is invited free of charge.

The gallery is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The address is 111 Torcido, San Antonio TX 78209. For more information, contact Marjorie George at marjorie.george@dwtx.org or 210-857-5387.

           

           

Down the Garden Path

Lent 2012
Path of  Restoration

by Marjorie George

Is it going to freeze again (or maybe, ever again)? I ask myself that question while surveying my backyard and planning for the annual spring makeover, 2012 edition. Is it safe to start putting plants into the ground? The TV weathermen are hedging.

Even as I implore Mother Spring – who continues to toy with us — to reveal her plans, I know that this year is different. This year there will be no hydrangeas; no orchids; no delicate, frilly, does-well-in-zone-5 (that would be Connecticut) plants. I am throwing in the trowel. After the decimating drought of the last several summers, my backyard is going native Texan – columbine, Turk’s cap, and Mexican bush sage will own the day.

This idea is not original to me: on the air and in magazines and newspapers, I am hearing and reading that it’s becoming smart to go back to our roots, so to speak. “Plant Native” is the rallying cry.  Needs continual watering? Gotta go. Can’t stand 106 degrees for three weeks straight? Outta here. Doesn’t embrace the searing afternoon sun, facing west? Nope.

I see now that my backyard was not happy being forced into something it was never intended to be. No amount of pushing that round root ball into a square hole in the ground worked. I actually broke laws trying, sneaking water when no one was looking. Still the plants shriveled.

And just so, our souls are shriveling as we force them to accept what is so anathema to them. I’ve learned that plants that are not native to an area are called “exotics.” Such an alluring word; we mean it as “attractively out of the ordinary.” Its first meaning, however, is “originating in or characteristic of a foreign country.”  In how many ways do I push my soul to live a tortured existence apart from its place of origin?

I don’t even have to hire geologists and archeologists to find my birthplace; it’s there in Genesis 1, right up front: “So God created humankind in his image; in the image of God he created them” (1:27). And then he said, “Wow, that’s really good!”

And we, because we think ourselves so very wise and clever, sought to improve on the basic model. But here’s the thing: in our bumbling and stumbling and climbing over each other and renaming our needs, we moved away from God’s desires for us. And I don’t much like it here in this foreign land. I’ve been trying to live in places and in ways God never intended, and it’s not so good any longer.

Our ReflectionsOnline series for Lent 2012 will explore the path of restoration – how do we get back to that “good” in which God created us? How can we once again become those who were created in the image of God? What obstacles must we overcome, and what gifts has God provided us with to make the journey? How do we look at the soil of our lives and rid ourselves of those exotics that have crept in and are masquerading as native?

Several writers from across the diocese will contribute to our Lenten online reflections and provide us with some guidance — some sunshine and some rain, perhaps a little compost – for the journey. We hope you will add your thoughts and comments as more fodder for all of us. Our reflections begin on Ash Wednesday, February 22.

You can receive our online reflections in your e-mail inbox by subscribing in the box on the right. And please invite others to join us.

Marjorie George

Marjorie George is editor of ReflectionsOnline and Reflections magazine, published by the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. Reach Marjorie at marjorie.george@dwx.org or comment below.

Art: “Pensive” by E. Gordon West.  West is one of several artists from around the Diocese of West Texas whose work is part of a special exhibit, “Lent through the Eyes of the Artist,” that will hang at Cathedral House Gallery at the Bishop Jones Center in San Antonio until mid-April. The opening wine-and-cheese reception is Sunday, Feb 26, 4 to 6 p.m. The public is invited free of charge.

Of this piece, West says, “Lent is a time of reflection. This piece depicts a single individual in a relaxed position gazing out to a glorious sunset.  He has to be filled with the wonderment of God’s creations.”

The gallery is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The address is 111 Torcido, San Antonio TX 78209. For more information, contact Marjorie George at marjorie.george@dwtx.org or 210-857-5387.