Consider: Always we begin again

Dear Friends,

Remember us?  You haven’t heard from Each Holy Hour in awhile, but here we are, back again in your inbox. The reason for EHH’s prolonged silence rests with me. This past year, I said “yes” to too many things. In addition to our family’s full time business, parenting three kids, and writing, I took a position as a middle school teacher and, shortly after that – as if life were not full enough already – my husband and a business partner opened a gym. In their own right, each of these commitments has merit. As additions to a family life already running near capacity, the extra time, energy, and stress, these added were far more than anticipated. By February, my husband and I were both working with no margin, every waking moment accounted for with some obligation, each night dropping, spent, into scant sleep. The refrigerator kept running out of food. The dog rued her change of fortune with deep, exasperated sighs. Slag piles of laundry accumulated at the bottom of the clothes chute. More times than I care to remember, my husband and I ran out of patience with one another. 
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Though I knew I was running on empty, when my church asked me to speak on the topic of seeking God’s presence for a Lenten program, I agreed. I prepared my talk, clipped on the mic, and began confidently. Halfway into my presentation, I repeated the question upon which I’d been asked to reflect: What does it look like for me to intentionally seek deeper intimacy with God?Suddenly my eyes began to smart. I could feel my mouth pull out of shape. I choked out the next sentences in a voice that hardly sounded like my own.

“Seeking deeper intimacy with God looks like all the things I’m notdoing. It looks like being outside. It looks like a device turned off. It looks like writing my way into a deeper and more nuanced experience of my life. It looks like cultivating real relationships beyond my comfort zone. It looks like ennobling my life by keeping my mind full of the beautiful language, imagery, and ideas of our sacred stories. It looks like asking hard questions of my life and seeking to align myself with their answers, however challenging that may be. I know all these things. And yet, here I am telling you I’m notdoing them.”

There’s a peculiar malady I’m affected by, perhaps its symptoms are familiar to you, in which I resist admitting I’m in over my head. Though my hair may be visibly graying, though I’m slugging down coffee by the liter, though I’m touchy at the slightest suggestion that the milk is getting low and I should have thought to pick up another gallon, to acknowledge how thin I’m stretched is to admit personal deficiency. At the Lenten talk, this confession came out sideways, quick hot tears that spoke far louder than my carefully crafted speech.

Today is the first day of the school year being finished, and with it my job. In a steady June rain, I took the dog for a run. Eager to be out, she galloped down the trail, sniffing clumps of yarrow and rooting at the base of cottonwood stumps. The rain beat evenly on the mosses, the fallen logs, the heifers in the field. It dripped off ponderosa needles and wild roses. It worked its way through my clothes and shoes, soaking me thoroughly. The dog tore through a puddle in the trail, displacing the pollen collected on its top. Dashed to the puddle’s edge, the pollen encircled it like an aureole, a halo as sure as any that shimmers around a saint’s head.  It reminded me that rain or shine, the world is filled with holy things. I don’t have to prove my worth, or earn my way to this grace. It just is.

Recently, I came across a quote from Buddhist writer Jack Kornfield. “In the end these things matter: how greatly you loved, how gently you lived, how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” It turns out that, though I loved teaching, and though the opportunity to extend my time at the school presented itself, I had to let it go. At this season, it isn’t meant for me. I don’t know that I let it go gracefully – rather fitfully and with considerable consternation. But, if I’ve learned one thing this year, it’s that I can’t hustle my way into loving greatly and living gently. I can’t say “yes” to every opportunity, even good ones, without losing things I treasure along the way – like you and the community we’ve built at Each Holy Hour. So, here we are.  As the Benedictines say about any contemplative journey, “Always we begin again.” 

Peace,

Lindsay

P.S. As always, we love your comments and interaction!

Consider: What’s Real

A few nights ago, my son shook my husband awake.
“Dad.”  He prodded Tim. “I can’t sleep.”  

Tim, fumbling for his glasses, peered at the clock.  “It’s nearly 1:30 in the morning.”

“Yeah, but how do we know what’s really real?”

At thirteen, my son’s casual dips into theoretical physics have begun to erode his trust in the knowable universe, at least in the wee hours of the morning. Corin and Tim, indulging their mutual interest in speculative questions, listened to an On Being interview with physicist, Brian Greene. The result of this intellectual pursuit was a nighttime foray into worry and wonder.      

How do we know what’s really real? This question has long bedeviled and beguiled our species. Surely most of us wonder: Is what we learn from our senses the whole truth? Is experience trustworthy? Is there something beyond the intricate majesty of neuronal firing? In general, we don’t seem satisfied with supposing the whole of existence is answered by the things we can measure, weigh, investigate, classify, and touch. Our species evidences unslaking interest in asking questions of our existence, in hollering into the space where knowledge’s trail goes cold. With the world’s estimated 4,200 religions, surely we are built for wonder.

In his book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis’ writes a small exchange that has long framed my thinking on what’s really real. The children whisked into Narnia meet a retired star named Ramandu. The practical and modernly-educated Eustace is mystified. “‘In our world,’ said Eustace, ‘a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.'” Ramandu’s response is simple but deep with ramifications. “Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.”

I still feel a thrill when I read these words. They are not a defense of some way of thinking, rather a rich intimation of a world deeper and more mysterious than our parsing knowledge can possibly account for. The writer of Ecclesiastes knew this well. He writes, “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

That eternity is what was pricking my son’s mind at 1:30 in the morning. It’s the thing called forth from me when I cast my eyes up to the silent, dazzling stars. It’s the perennial tug at the heart of the world’s 4,200 religions.

Here’s what I know: I don’t know what’s really real. But I trust in it. I trust that it’s so much more than I can see. I trust that it’s beautiful in its time. In the morning I poured Corin a cup of tea and we sat, elbow to elbow, at our solid table. Morning sunlight lit lacy steam rising from our mugs. “Hey buddy,” I said, pulling him into a one arm hug. “Love you.” This love is true, solid, a thing that reaches all the way to eternity.

Here’s to cultivating wonder,

Lindsay

P.S.  Kim and her family just visited us in Montana.  Some great moments of that visit are documented on The Backpage. Also we’re still sending postcards.  Email us at eachholyhour@gmail.com, if you’d like a little EHH in your real mailbox.