Author: Marie Noelle Duquette

Life Near The Water

 When I told my friends I was moving from the Heartland to the barrier islands (to help a dying church), half asked what I had done to earn a call to Paradise, and the rest warned me that this was risky (or ill-advised) because the barrier islands were a place where at any time a hurricane could devastate an entire community.  I disregarded their concerns, but one persistent friend whispered to me as we said goodbye, “whatever you do, don’t live near the water.”

Stories of hurricanes were the first stories I heard when I arrived.  How Charley had come that August and stayed a full week, only to be followed by Frances and Ivan.  But how it was Jeanne, the 4th and last that year who changed the lives of folks in this Paradise for years.

The stories came out in bits and pieces, like the debris the people picked up for months after their electricity finally returned.

I remember it was so dark.  Even in the day.  Dark grey.  All the time.  For days.

I remember seeing 3 small boats, still tied to a dock — a dock that had left the shore.  The dock and the boats were floating down the river like a family taking a walk.

A man’s voice from the back, one who rarely speaks, offered:

 I remember the storms were relentless.  Just about the time one subsided, the next one hit.  We lost power for 9 days, got it back for two, then lost it for another 14.

I saw photos of the fellowship hall soon after I arrived;  the heaps of sheet rock littering the floor;  the dim light making the wreckage look like a sleeping giant.  I asked about the sanctuary.  Nell said, “I walked in to set up communion and the sanctuary was one big lake.”  She motioned at the pews.  “A lake. Right here.”

The memory is still strong enough that the stories are whispered– staccato-sentences spoken nervously as if the memory alone might summon a squall.

 *****

The water always wins.  I heard this many times.  And I wondered:  how do we reckon this truth against John’s account that…

16 When evening came, Jesus’ disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.19 When they had rowed about three or four miles,[d] they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I;[e] do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. (John 6)

I thought of Jesus, walking toward his quaking disciples, clinging to the sides of the boat.  I wondered if the darkness prevented them from realizing who he was.  I wondered how close they had been to the land, or if their arrival there so soon after Jesus said, Do Not Be Afraid was part of the miracle.  I wondered.

I thought of Matthew’s account of the resurrection.  How there had been an earthquake as Jesus gave up his spirit.  And of the centurion’s whispered account, that “surely this was the Son of God.”

*****

I thought about Noah and my struggle to understand the very concept that God would cause such a flood.  And I thought of the flood stories from various traditions and the scientific evidence that indeed, a huge flood had devastated the world even then.

I tried to suppress the nagging question, but it wouldn’t be stilled.  Rising up repeatedly like the fish I see jumping from the deep to check the weather above, it flipped through my mind:  Does God / control / the weather / or not?

I thought about the farmers praying for rain.  And the mosaic of people in New Orleans praying that the rain would stop.

I thought of the fire raging for weeks now in the cascade mountains, and the roads closed, and the people evacuated, and the beloved village of Holden threatened next, the 500+ firefighters working 24/7 and hanging onto hope that maybe the wind will cease, or maybe– it will rain.

And the question continued to tumble like clothes in a dryer, Does God / control / the weather / or not?

I remember the calm.  It was so quiet when it finally ended that I was afraid to speak.

I remember the telephone poles, snapped like toothpicks, lying everywhere.  All over the roads.

When the causeways opened, and I came home, there was a mattress from a baby’s crib on my front lawn.  I never did see the crib.

*****

I thought about the people I’ve served now for more than two years.  They live in a constant state of preparation.  They keep huge bottles of water on hand.  And generators.  And astronaut food.  And ice.

Some will not drink anything without a full glass of ice.

They stockpile provisions in the same way that the folks in the Midwest fill their garages with tire chains and sand bags and rock salt.

I think of Job, the classic example of bad things happening to a good man.  And how his friends tried to explain away his grief as punishment for something he must have done to offend God.  And how they were wrong.

And again, I thought of Jesus.  Jesus, changing water into wine, for the wedding would not have been a wedding without it.  Jesus, touching the untouchable, giving sight to the blind with his spit, giving freedom to the woman at the well.  And forgiving the unforgiveable.

Jesus, waking in the storm–to still it.  Jesus, walking on the water–to save.

I asked the children, what do you remember?

“My dad putting up the hurricane shutters;  they had alligators on them.”

We had 3 first days of school because every time we started, we’d have to stay home for a week then start again!

I asked them, where is God in a hurricane?  Hadley, not yet in middle school answered first, “Right there with you”, she said, motioning to the space next to me on the floor.

*****

Now that I’ve been here two years, you who called this place home long before I arrived are helping me understand that the two camps of friends I left behind were both right.

I remember that the fire station put on its sign, even before we had the electricity back, “It’s Still Paradise.”

Melbourne Beach is a place where people went 3 full weeks with no ice and only canned food, living on their lawns because they couldn’t breathe in their homes, and feeding their babies spoonfuls of peanut butter because the storms sucker-punched this island and had them on their knees where they groped along in the dark until one by one they found one another.

I remember sharing a can opener up and down the block because the electric ones didn’t work.

I remember a man who had lost his dog.  He was devastated.  Everyone was looking for the dog.  Finally, a guy spotted the pup in Turkey Creek, which was flooded and filled with alligator, to save the dog.  And he did.

I remember trying to get the tarps on the roof of the church and we just couldn’t do it.  A man showed up and with very little effort, in no time at all, he had them all in place.  Then he was gone.  No one got his name.  We never saw him again.

I remember that whoever came by when we had food, we fed.  And people walking the streets day and night looking for ways they could help one another.  We hauled trash and carried bricks and washed laundry for weeks.

It took forever before I got over being able to go to a gas station and have them actually have gas.  I kept looking for the bags covering the pumps. 

I ignored my friend’s advice.  My home is a condo right on the ocean.  Everything metal rusts in time and a fine film of salt covers my counters, my car, my skin.  And, the sound of the waves can still my anxious mind in minutes.  A walk where the water meets the sand centers my soul in a way I can’t fully understand.  I stop to sip my coffee and watch the sunrise on the water and again, I imagine Jesus.

Jesus walking on the water, salt spray stinging his face, he comes, stilling the storm.

The waves hit my legs and I turn toward home thinking of these resilient people who live near water.  It is a choice of bravery and faith:  we will not be afraid.  They know the importance of hope, even in paradise.  And together, we hold onto the words of promise that are far greater than any doubt:

“And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

                                                                                    –Matthew 28:21

Defining Moments

Dr. Rudolph Featherstone was our professor of African Theology at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in 2002.  A self-proclaimed, “janitor for Jesus,” his words were as prophetic as they were memorable.  From him I learned the words to Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing, because he routinely sang as he walked the halls at Trinity.  It was one of the ways we could find him.

“There are defining moments in every community,” he told us.  “Defining moments of crisis, after which the community must decide whether they will draw nearer one another and become stronger — or break apart.”

I worked on our term project in that class with my sister in Christ, The Rev. Imani Dodley.  With dreads down her back and tattoos illustrating her sable skin, we traced the intertwining history of our faith, our heritage, and our futures.

Our children played together — Hakeem, Adam, Maisha, and Chase.  She scolded my son when he got mouthy;  I wrote her daughter words of hope in a time of trouble.  She whispered reassurance to mine;  I prayed hers through agony.

Our theme for the project was the same theme that was used at the Youth Gathering in 2000.

Ubuntu, a sub-Saharan African word meaning humanity, was introduced to more than 40,000 youth ages 14-17 at the Youth Gathering of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) three years ago in St. Louis.  Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a keynote speaker at the event, spoke then about humanity and people’s relationships with both God and neighbor. – See more at: http://www.elca.org/News-and-Events/4938#sthash.za9eSMAx.dpuf

downloadThis morning I woke up to the news that 9 black people, including the dynamic pastor and state senator, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, had been killed in the beautiful Emanuel AME church — the oldest church in the South.  Recently, Pinckney had backed a bill to have police wear body cameras in an effort to bring more truth to the controversial crimes of police brutality against blacks.

Also upon waking, InstaGram showed me a photo my son had taken at a Needtobreathe concert last night in Columbus, Ohio.  The hashtag, #Brother, suggested this was the song the primarily white audience was singing when the white gunman was shooting black people, gathered for bible study and prayer in this holy space named Emanuel, which means, God With Us.

The irony and tragedy of what unfolded while I slept overwhelms me.  When my tears subside, I am reminded of the words I heard just last week in Miller Chapel at Princeton Theological Seminary.

“Angels and demons have been ushered into the souls of people on the back of words.”

“Despair is running rampant through our world.”

“We need writers to interject words of hope and light to take on despair.”

A colleague urges us to preach boldly in the face of this latest tragedy.  He reminds us that we were not given a spirit of fear but of power.

I flash to sitting in the theater with my youngest son and his sweetheart just weeks before their high school graduation.  We are watching Les Miserable.  They are singing “the blood of the martyrs will water the meadows of France.”

I am compelled to write.  To try to bring words of hope and light to take on the demon of despair.

And yet, my tears blur my vision as I type.  And I must now pack to attend the gathering of clergy in Orlando where I will raise the bread for all to remind those gathered the words of Jesus:  “This is my body, broken for you … my blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins.”

And in this space between knowing and doing, I pray:  that the defining moment in our lives is now.  June 18, 2015.

That the choice we make in this defining moment is to come together.

That words of hope will sustain us;  that words of truth will guide us;  that God Almighty who brought Jesus back from the dead, will be with us as we cry together and work for a better tomorrow.

For all.

Lord, have mercy.

Learning to float

I am at the Frederick Buechner Writing Workshop at Princeton.  I came hoping to whittle away at the block standing between my mind and the blank page.  I came because Buechner’s writing has fueled my faith in the same way that my morning cup of Jamaican Me Crazy and bowl of Protein Cheerios fuels my body to go into the world.  I came because Barbara Brown Taylor is one of the teachers, and I revere her writing.

Reverence:  to stand in awe of.  I am sitting in a leather chair at the Princeton Library, looking out an octagon-shaped window.  The silence in a great library is like a sound itself.  It fills my ears, and washes over my bare arms, and whispers turning pages and books reshelving.

I am here because my mind and heart have reached capacity.  I need to make room within them.  Writing is the way I empty myself of the pictures that pinch my heart and push between my shoulders and knot my internal organs that are best left unknotted.  For me, writing is as important to my overall health as whole grains and uninterrupted sleep and sunshine.

I am here to remember and recover who I am for somehow I have become a writer who cannot seem to make herself write.

Barbara Brown Taylor began her lecture this morning by describing what it was like to teach women inmates to write their memoir.  I consider how I might long to write if I were in prison.  Like a morphine-drip, I imagine the process of writing might free me from the pain of my circumstances.  I wonder if the ominous locks and cement blocks surrounding me would discourage any kind of block from rising up between my mind and the blank page.

Now, Taylor gives us a writing prompt, which she calls, “a provocation.”

“Who taught you to swim in the water? You have 10 minutes to write, then read what you have written to the person next to you.”

I write:

I can see myself, maybe I was 7?  9?  My pink bathing suit bottoms a bit too snug;  the top too loose, lying like a 5-point star on top of the body-temperature water.  My back, taut like a cello string, droplets on my face;  eyelashes touching to form triangles. My smile, open-mouthed, wanting to drink in the very sky for all its perfect blueness, fluffy clouds framing the space between.

I don’t really remember the learning — it seemed I was always able to swim, to float, to fearlessly leap into the deep, to hold my breath the entire length of the pool.  I spent entire summers submerged.

And yet, my father’s hands, I either remember or imagine, so near yet not quite touching, under my neck and the small of my back.  And his voice, or rather his laugh– the laughter of his joyful pride.  As wide as my smile.

I am seatedPatricia Raybon next to Patricia Raybon, an award-winning author and journalist whose books I bought yesterday.  The act of writing in our journals, side by side, seems to have dissolved the unknown space between us.  We easily, willingly, read to one another, sharing mutual joy, revering what we have made in so little space and time.

Last night, Taylor said, “Writing as a spiritual practice is to be more interested in making, than breaking.”

And yet, we cannot make, until we break the block we writers sense is leaden and opaque and without handles.

Still, her one provocation seemed to change the substance of my block from lead into something like a sugar cube.  I imagine this porous cube barely concealing a large pile of words, which, when assembled in the right order, describe the thing that is under them.

What is under the words, is water.  Water — something I love.  Something I would burn my feet in hot sand to get to.  What is in the water, is other writers who know what it is to take heavy things we carry within and have them break through our very skin to become words on a page that create what others can now see, and touch, and hear.

Perhaps what I need to remember is that the block is neither cement nor lead.  It is like sugar, easily dissolved in water.

Note to self:  I have always known how to swim.

Treading Lightly

My friend sent me this photo recently.  These are the shoes of a large group of volunteers who helped one of our youth at Advent complete his Eagle Scout Project:  adding paving stones and benches and flowered landscaping between an old building and a new one that we have yet to occupy.  My friend was deeply moved by the respect shown by this gesture — a gesture that was not required, but nonetheless was made by all the workers before they entered the building for lunch.

IMG_0294 (1)

It has me thinking about other times in which we are moved from within to do something small, the net effect of which might be noteworthy enough to photograph.  I think about these times as holy ground.  Indeed this very blog is named after that story in Exodus 3 in which Moses takes his shoes off to be in the presence of God.  They are moments we do not expect to witness that simultaneously restore our faith in one another.

There is a woman who uses a walker at our Sunday evening service at the beach. Our long-haired guitar player, Charles, has taken to helping adjust her walker so that it is easier for her to come forward during communion.  He does it quietly, from the line that is forming, and motions for her to go first.

There is an 80-something veteran in my condos who faithfully raises and lowers an American Flag above our community deck at sunrise and sunset every single day — and he does it by the book:  saluting, reverently.  He keeps track of the precise time it was raised and lowered with an old pocket watch, noting the times in a small worn journal. Anyone out there when he does this, without being told, remains still until he is done.

There is a 3-year-old at our preschool who was nearly 3 months premature and so has had to do some catch-up developmentally.  Recently, a woman approached our director to see if we would take her young child who had some similar challenges.  The woman was shaken, in tears, as she explained that the preschool nearest him would not take him because of his disability.  While touring our facility, our little one who was born premature ran up to her on the playground, took her hand, guided her across the playground to a balance beam on which he was sitting, and had her sit next to him.  He continued to hold her hand as they sat together quietly.

I know these moments of compassion and respect may seem insignificant in a world filled with both unspeakable tragedies and heroic humanitarian actions.

And yet, they are noteworthy, I think, because people of every age, in homes by the ocean and fields by the farm;  in schoolyards and rehabilitation centers;  in church basements and in desperate city neighborhoods, do them every single day with no prompting from outside themselves.  They are noteworthy because they make us stop and notice and like drops of water that eventually fill a rain barrel, they have the ability to restore hope in our weary souls which seem to take a beating all too often.

They are noteworthy because they do not depend on knowledge, experience, or money.  They spring from the heart.  The heart — that part of our being onto which God has not just written, but carved the divine commandment, so that we might not forget it.  The commandment is not a law that divides us in fear;   It is an invitation that draws us toward peace.  And the invitation is simply:  Love One Another.

We do it most easily when we don’t over-think it.  We do it best in fact, when we sense a need and respond without thinking. And whether we are the doer, the receiver, or the witness, these moments of holy ground are as restorative to us as a walk on the beach.

Shoes optional.

Same Same

I am blessed to be a pastor at Advent Lutheran Church in Melbourne FL, which is one church with two locations.  The Suntree location (on the west side of the causeway) has a glorious pipe-organIMG_0014

which is used for mid-week concerts attended by hundreds.  It is also played well by one of three organists at our four worship services that occur there every Saturday and Sunday.  The floors of the sanctuary are white tile with periodic impressions of sea shells.  The space invites formality;  processions on high holy days are majestic and beautiful to behold.  The space is pristine and invites prayers spoken in unison and more practiced participation.

The second location is in a small neighborhood of Melbourne Beach (on the east side of the causeway).   The sanctuary at the beach is equally beautiful, with 10 stunning stained-glass windows that depict key moments from the life of Jesus, the sacraments of the church, and symbols of our faith.  The windows, as well as the sanctuary and extended facility, are worn from having been rebuilt with limited funds after two hurricanes in 2004.  Instead of tile floors, the beach has older blue carpeting.  It is a space in which one senses both years of pleading with God and a stoic resilience from the faithful.

Stained Glass at Advent Grace, Melbourne Beach, FL
Stained Glass at Advent Grace, Melbourne Beach, FL

Both locations have their strengths, their beauty, their history.  Both locations host preschools during the week with 40+ children.  Both locations weekly draw faithful believers, visitors, guests, and skeptics.

One thing we have learned since these two churches merged into one a year and a half ago is that we could not overlay the the practices that made worship flow well at the Suntree campus, onto the Beach campus.  The contexts, the cultures, the space … nearly every single element related to worship cried out for choices in prayers, hymns, and styles that would be consistent with the space and the population itself.

What I am pondering today is this:  we are intentionally trying to be inclusive at both locations.  Our preschools are discussing how we can best serve children with disabilities.  Our technical teams are trained to provide headsets to help those who need them, hear.  Our leadership is routinely considering how we can best build a community in which multiple-generations worship, serve, learn, and play together.  Our musicians are being asked to expand their repertoire to include selections of global music.

And yet, we have 6 services every single weekend between these two locations, and the services each have a “personality”   that draws people with strong preferences about what worship ought to be like.  If you want to hear the choir, you attend 9:00 at the beach or 11:00 at Suntree.  If you prefer to be led by a band, you attend 9:30 at Suntree or 6:00 at the beach.  If you want to come in flip-flops, you hit the beach.  If you would never dream of showing up at church without a coat and tie, you come to 8:00 at Suntree.

And so my puzzling is this:  how do we live into the full inclusion of all people…when the content of our worship is organized to appeal to those who are like-minded in the way they prefer to worship?

I have long been a proponent of something called blended worship — which has a really bad reputation.  Many church musicians say that blended worship lacks authenticity; like a person who reinvents themselves daily, it doesn’t quite seem to know what it is.

I contend that blended can mean simply, diverse.  I know it can be done well.  I also know it requires more thought, more planning, more practice on the part of the musicians.  It demands flexibility, cooperation, and imagination.  It is not done lightly.  And maybe that’s the problem.  Because the numerous people who plan, prepare, and lead these six services only have so much energy and time to do so.  And many are already giving more than a pastor could ever expect a volunteer to give.

Our 6:00 Sunday night worship at the beach is the closest thing I believe we have right now to blended worship.  Eight to eighty-year-olds attend.  Our band, Non-Fiction, (guitar / bass / drums / keyboard / vocals) has played simultaneously with our organist.  We have sung songs by both Skillet and Martin Luther in the same service.  Numerous visitors attend weekly, and return.

It makes me wonder:  does inclusivity demand diversity within the service as evidence that our desire to draw all people is sincere?  If “blended” worship has a bad name, what might we call this new thing that is emerging and drawing new believers?  How can we help such a diverse population seek to encounter God together when our worship organizes itself around individual preferences?  Does mixing styles within one hour dilute the whole?

In thinking about this, I did some research on specific conventions people attend:  Trekkie conventions, magician conventions, boredom conventions (yes, really…check it out: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703395904576025482554838642)

It’s amusing, the amount of resources people will invest to attend a convention with people who are a lot like themselves.

I guess my struggle today is this:  if our shared interest is gathering to worship the God of all people, how can we create worship that speaks to the diversity of human experience, interest, and preference.  Perhaps it has something to do with how willing we are to set aside our own preferences sometimes, to hear and see God through the lens of our neighbor.

[Note:  I invite your input on this topic at pastorduquette@gmail.com / please make your subject line:  Same Same]

Moment of Zen

Jon Stewart announced last night that he will be leaving The Daily Show some time this year.  This news, from the man from whom I’ve gotten my news for at least 15 years, made me so sad, I ran to YouTube and began watching clips of Stewart’s Top 10 Best Moments on The Daily Show.  I only got through two because the one from 9-11 made me cry.  Again.

Jon Stewart, my favorite male comedian, a Jew who makes fun of himself, the right, and the left, is like that.  He makes me think.  He makes me laugh.  He makes me cry.  And he’s leaving.

Aw, Jon.

I went to The Daily Show site and began reading the comments of loyal fans from around the globe as they processed Stewart’s announcement.  Possibly my favorite was from a woman who wrote, “Can we at least talk about this?  Is it something I’ve done?  I can change…”

Thousands “Liked” that comment.

When I was in seminary, my esteemed Homiletics Professor, The Rev. Dr. Hank Langknecht, on our last day of class, presented us with a list of recommendations we should consider doing on an ongoing basis to keep our preaching fresh.  The list included:

  1. Read Fiction (which I did …then didn’t…then did again) … and
  2. Figure out a system for organizing your sermons so you can keep track of the stories you’ve used  (which I really should do) and
  3. Watch The Daily Show.  Which I did, and do.  It did everything Hank said it would do and more.

It helped me hold in balance this cry that seems to rise up all too often from people everywhere in the United States.  The cry screams:  “Panic! About THIS! Because THIS is so horrific that NOTHING else is important or worthy of praise.”

And given the news stories of late, it’s easy to understand why so many, myself included at times, have been seduced by that cry.  And yet, it is a seduction from which I’ve always managed to break free, in part, because Stewart is funny.  He keeps it light.  He has perfected irony.  His facial expressions alone are a language which has inspired my study of rhetoric.

The Daily Show, Hank told us, would enable us to get a bunch of things done at once:

  1. We would know what’s going on with big current news events.
  2. We would think about the news after the show ended and ponder relevant connections between the news and the Good News
  3. We would be entertained…we would laugh and equally important, receiving the news would not suck the life out of us.

And he was right.  On every count.

When my son Adam turned 18, he was already a fan of Stewart.  I wanted to take him to see The Daily Show for his birthday, but you had to be 21 to be admitted.  So we went to Hyde Park for steaks instead.

When he turned 21, we went to see Robin Williams Live — a decision I’ve not once regretted.

Now, I’m wondering if I might be able to get tickets for Adam’s 26th birthday in March — before Jon leaves the show.

Because saying goodbye to my favorite anchorman is going to be one of those things that marks a new age of my life … and the life of my children.

There are moments in life when you know you are experiencing something for the last time.  Sometimes, those moments make you cry.  Sometimes, they make you get to your feet and applaud.   And sometimes you just can’t help but do both.

As I’m sure we will for the last Daily Show hosted by Jon Stewart, whose coverage of the news changed the way we receive it.  And whose artistry weaving together the serious and the insane, has made me a better preacher.

Who knew, I could be so inspired, by a Jew?  Apparently, the man who taught me to preach.

http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/8x3wxa/moment-of-zen—jon-s-announcement

Wrestling

26 “Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.‘” –Genesis 32:26 NRSV (See vs. 22-32 for entire story)

One of the blessings I received during my recent health challenge is my renewed commitment to routines that are life-giving.  I am far more intentional and dedicated to daily actions that restore my body, mind, and spirit.

This intentional caring for my body, mind, and soul, every single day, is a new thing for me.  I have had seasons in which I’ve focused on one or two of those three, but I cannot remember a time when I was so invested in the daily care of all three.  I have always been interested in the body, mind, and spirit connection and I’ve observed that when one of these three is being ignored, the other two seem to falter, as if the three are yoked together.  Pain has taught me that all three must receive exercise, nourishment, and rest.   As John Green so honestly wrote in The Fault In Our Stars:  “That’s the thing about pain:  It demands to be felt.”

This morning, in the time I was nurturing my spirit, I found a Jewish bedtime ritual which is based on the Genesis story of Jacob wrestling with an angel until daybreak and refusing to let the angel go until the angel blesses him:

“We’re Godwrestlers. We give ourselves to the holy work of wrestling with God, wrestling with Torah, wrestling with the world’s imperfections. And that wrestling is itself a kind of redemption. It lifts us out of a state of passive receptivity. When we wrestle with God and with Torah and with injustice in the world, we are transformed.” —Vayechi:  A BLESSING AT BED TIME by Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt

The story of Jacob wrestling with the angel until daybreak is one with which I have always identified.  Many things plague us in the still of the night:  physical pain, mental anguish, the unrest of our spirit for those things left undone.

This Jewish bedtime ritual invites us to consider all the things with which we wrestle as holy.  It suggests that in thepinned you again wrestling, whenever we engage with one another, there is connection.  And uncomfortable though it might be, our wrestling with God deepens our relationship, and can lead us to a deeper understanding.

As I continue establishing and honoring daily routines that often feel like wrestling matches, I invite you to join me in viewing these disciplines from a new angle.  The process of attending to one’s body, mind, and spirit, is a kind of holy wrestling.  Like any form of exercise, it can strengthen us for the work to which we are called, and leave us with blessings we dare not imagine.