Thursday, June 01, 2017

Forward Abounding, Day by Day


[Photo by Michael Kendrick of a sculpture by Glenna Goodacre on the campus of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Montgomery, AL]

For a month I've been getting to know the author of meditations on Scripture assigned by the Book of Common Prayer for May in Forward Day by Day.  Only this morning, as the series ends, have I read her profile, though I could pick up themes in her life between the lines of her meditations.

Of the Farm
She lives on a small farm where much of the work depends on her own back and brain.  Pruning branches so that trees can bear fruit (Luke 6.43-44) is more than a metaphor for her: "I ponder what vines, diseases, and behaviors I have neglected to root out, cut back, weed out," and she challenges us moving forward to take a walk around home today to look for spots that need literal tending.

"Hard can be good, and easy can be bad," she writes in response to Paul's wonderful observation that, in Jesus, "all things hold together" (Col. 1.17)  She applies this to opposites in her life: "I both adored and struggled with motherhood, loved and resented my husband.  I respected and questioned the leadership in my church.  I was a believer, and I also doubted."

She highlights another admonition from Paul: "Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters" (Col 3.23).  She adds that "life works so much better when I act from a place of love and gratefulness rather than competition and comparison."  Amen.  My own teaching chores become much easier to bear when I take the long view:  I'm lucky to spend my days sharing my favorite things - literature, the arts, history - with kids who make me laugh.

"Baffled" in her youth by Jesus's impatience with the would-be follower who first must bury his father (Luke 9.59-60), this author hears the same tone in her own terse responses when her son gives excuses for not doing his chores.  She challenges us, "Do one thing today that you've been putting off.  No excuses.  No more delays. No whining."

Abounding
She  learns from watching children.  Paul's blessing that we may "abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15.13) makes her think of a "happy, energetic, enthusiastic 12-year-old leaping from place to place, with a spirit of joyful expectation, a full-bodied question of, 'What wonderful adventure is next?'"  Of course, that makes me think of dogs, too; either way, the image itself lifts my spirits.

She discovered this gem from the apocrypha: "The stars shone in their watches, and were glad; he called them, and they said, 'Here we are!' They shone with gladness for him who made them" (Baruch 3.34).  She admits,
Sometimes I consider God merely tolerant of me -- like a grumpy, long-suffering adult who tolerates the presence of children in Sunday morning services, out of a sense of obligation rather than love and delight."  She asks, "What if I saw God as a delighted creator?... What if I shone with gladness for the One who made me, allowing myself to shine brilliantly, answering God's call with, "Here I am!"

"Mybyself!"
Remembering her little sister in infancy, this author elevates from her family's lore two phrases that I'll remember.  "I hold my own hand!" the girl would say, pulling away from a grown-up's gentle grasp.  Other times, she'd cry, "Mybyself!"   The writer tells of these in response to Wisdom 6.17, "The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction."  She asks us, "Are you holding your own hand? How might you ask for help?"

Writing about Jesus as "anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain," (Heb 6.19), she gives a list of her worries:
I have a restless soul sometimes.  I feel restless about where my life is headed - the well-being of my children, the bottom line in my checking account, and my overall health.  Don't even ask about what sort of chicken coop we should build this summer, or whether to reach out to an old friend or let sleeping dogs lie.
I can identify with all that, if I substitute siding repair for the chicken coop.  She challenges us going forward to keep nearby a rock inscribed with one word for what "anchors" us.

On May 31st, "the Visitation," she points out how Mary, burdened by the loneliness of her experience, visited her cousin Elizabeth.   "So often...we isolate ourselves.  We fear that the worst is true - we are all alone and have been abandoned."  She challenges us to think bout the Elizabeths in our lives.

Thanks, Jerusalem Jackson Greer
The author is described as a "writer, speaker, and the parish life and family minister at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Conway, Arkansas."  Her web site is jerusalemgreer.com.

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