I’ll be doing it again toward the end of this week. It’s a spiritual practice I’ve engaged in during the Holy Week over the past 10 years. Here is how the Holy Spirit broke through to encourage me to try something new in order to experience the Divine.
The year was 2007. I was at seminary, studying Buddhism and other Asian faiths in my Engaging World Religions class. I had received an email from Rev. Janet Manuel from The Philippines. She had defended her thesis and made it home to her little girl after having studied in Seoul, Korea, many months. My China/Korea immersion group was planning a seminary chapel service. And I had just seen the movie Into Great Silence about the devotion of the monks at the French monastery that is believed to be the most ascetic in the world.
All of that took me back to my time in China and Korea. And I remembered that Korean Methodists take fasting and praying very seriously. During Holy Week, most Korean Methodists fast for three days, from Good Friday to Easter. Driving home from seminary, I thought about Lent being a season of reflection, and our preparation to receive God’s message of hope and gift of new life. That’s when God spoke to me, saying, “But you haven’t thoroughly prepared yourself yet. You’re not ready to savor the gift.”
I invite you to join me as I begin my three-day fast, beginning immediately after receiving the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday. If you’ve never fasted, or shouldn’t for medical reasons, consider limiting yourself from 6 PM Saturday until Easter morning. Then we can look forward to breaking our fasts together as we feast at the Lord’s table Easter morning. In the hours between, I will be drinking juices and water, worshiping, preparing, and praying for each of you as you make your personal journey from Jerusalem to Gethsemane to Golgotha to the tomb, and finally to the empty tomb and our risen Lord. Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
Tuesday was a day of mixed news. Mr. Pat had another MRI last Thursday, and Tuesday was the day for consultations with his neurosurgeon and two oncologists. His neurosurgeon showed us the scans from last week and from two months ago. Stable! No new growth! He seemed very pleased with Mr. Pat's activities and abilities and offered some tips for the sleeping and not sleeping. Good news.
From there, we went to the cancer center. Labs first, then consults. The not so good news is that all of Pat's numbers are down ... to be expected after chemo ... but his platelets are too low to continue the chemo at this time. He was to start his next cycle Tuesday night. Not a problem, they said. They would check again next week, and if all is good he could start then.
But wait! He will be gone next week to see the grandkids. That means this cycle will be delayed two weeks. Darn it. That changes this planner’s calendar … and extends treatment into October. Oh, well. It probably won’t be the only change in the next six months.
On the bright side, Pat will probably feel better while he's on vacation than if he was just coming off of chemo. I am glad the grandkids will be able to spend some good time with their grandpa.
I found it interesting that last Monday we were reminded during Bible study of The Prayer of Saint Patrick. Just before St. Patrick’s Day, which is also Mr. Pat’s birthday. So glad, Lord, your timing is perfect.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.
Loving God, thanks for the reminder that in this moment … in each moment … by the Spirit, Christ is with us here. Amen.(TFWS #2266)
Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
Ohmygosh! Are you kidding me? The season of Lent is at the halfway mark? Where, oh, where has the time gone?
If I am honest, I know exactly where the time has gone. There has been the usual. Kids ROCK, Confirmation, and sermon and worship prep each week. Spiritual reading (a portion of one book or another) daily. Quotidian (can you tell it’s my favorite new word) household chores like doing dishes and washing clothes. Some routine is good, right?
There have been add-ons. Enriching Lenten services with ecumenical brothers and sisters on Sunday nights. Enlivening Bible studies with fellow disciples on Monday nights. Sewing Day and making homemade ice cream to celebrate the plethora of March birthdays in our extended family. Yes, this requires more preparation on my part, but the time preparing and participating is rewarding and well-spent.
There has been the unexpected. A conversation about a wedding in the fall. Funerals. Connecting with some important women in my life and young people with musical gifts at a delightful UMW Guest Day. Many more prayers emailed to me than in past years, prompted by our Conference’s emailed daily devotional. Facebook messages from longtime friends that prompt future get-togethers. Mood swings, mine and my spouse’s, prompted by who knows what.
Thank you, God, that whether I’ve been keeping up with my daily devotions or not, and whether I’ve given up anything or taken up anything new for Lent, you are there. Thank you, God, that whether or not I’ve been engaged in a Bible study, whether or not I’ve worshiped or reflected on a regular basis what it means to live for you, you are here. Even when I am not intentional about seeking you, knowing you, or being in a committed relationship with you, O God, you are still working in my life to reveal yourself. And to strengthen. To encourage. To restore our hope that there is a new day coming. In the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, may it be so.
Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
One of the best things we did as empty-nesters was sell our boat and install a spa on our back deck. Being on the lake or in the hot tub has been important to us in our lives. Perhaps because he is a Pisces and I am a Cancer, in the astrological scheme of things. Water has provided us a way of connecting with those important in our lives after a day, or week, of work. Water has made a way for us to relax later in the day. Or to start our days with fewer aches and pains!
I’m not sure how the events of yesterday came about, but I joked afterwards that the next time my husband asks me if I want to get in the hot tub, I will have to think longer about it before answering.
I am reading The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work,” a delightful book by Kathleen Norris. Maybe her mention of acedia, winter doldrums, and the newness of spring, or reading her poem on “Housecleaning” had something to do with it.
The day before, because the weather was so nice and it seemed we hadn’t been in the hot tub for a month, I said to my spouse, “I’m getting in. Did you want to join me?” It was a lovely 20 minutes or so of conversation, pulsating jets, and sipping of Irish Breakfast Tea.
Yesterday was all of that as well. And more! Maybe the floaty things were there the day before and we hadn’t noticed. We spent the next three hours cleaning the hot tub … filters, jets, cover, and water. But the time spent wasn’t really that bad. Oddly enough, it was enjoyable. Creativity emerges from doing the ordinary.
Monday night’s Bible study of John had us looking at two of Jesus’ miraculous signs: turning water into wine and healing the blind beggar. Maybe I was thinking about the question, what does Christ call you to do in order to receive new life and healing? Maybe I was remembering Jesus’ mother’s instruction, “Do whatever he tells you,” or Jesus’ instruction to the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam.
But sitting in my life-size aquarium, dip net in hand, I caught TONS of jelly fish, large and small, and had a blast! Washing. Celebrating. Healing. Wholeness. New life!
Grace and peace … --Pastor Pat
Pastor Pat Norris
Something to Ponder is by Pastor Pat and is printed on the back of the bulletin each week.