Archive for February, 2018

Lent: Ask

amywink February 28th, 2018

“Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds.
To everyone who knocks, the door is opened.”
Luke 11: 9-10

Sometimes I wonder,
astonished, just what
was being asked
so deeply
when I arrived?
Not out of arrogance,
but often sheer surprise
at being drawn
unquestioning
toward this moment
of recognition.

And just as often
I think on
what I was
asking, deeply,
truly, asking
to have received
this peace,
this door opened
by a prayer I didn’t
fully know
I was praying,
yet was answered
all the same.

Lent: Trust

amywink February 27th, 2018

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Trust

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.” Teilhard de Chardin

I am thinking of myself
about to be seven,
standing alone
in a black velvet dress,
trimmed in lace,
standing on the
caliche drive
between home
and church,
accompanied
only by a cat.

I am in a pensive, shy
pose, tucking my head
unlike in other photos
I have of myself at the time,
where I am shining
with happiness,
surrounded by animals,
laughing, bold.

Many things are
about to happen,
beautiful and terrible,
but here, in
this photograph,
is a moment in
her beginning,
between home
and church,
in the year
she began
to pay attention,
in the year
she began
to write.

Lent: The Poet in Sunday School

amywink February 26th, 2018

We are discussing
Moses and the
scholarly dissection
of the meaning
of his name,
which may be either
“pulled from the water”
or “son of no one”
and the implications
of such naming on
the boy at court.

But I wonder if
someone might
have told him
otherwise, looking
at this different
child, refining
those words
to tell him
instead
that his name meant
“born of water”
because you are
born from water
and the water will
always remember you.

And I wonder how
he might have
thought differently
about who he was,
born of water,
nourished by water,
how we might think
differently about
this child of water,
who we are asked
to always remember,
and the poetry that
God has written
with his story.

Lent: Who Are You?

amywink February 25th, 2018

And Jesus said, “Come.”
Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!”
Matthew 14: 29-30

This question was in my Disciple workbook last week: “Who are you?” I laughed and I found myself thinking instead about who I used to be and where I had gone, what had happened, how I was returning. Partly, I was thinking about this because I found myself doing something that I would not have imagined myself doing, leading a discussion on Adam Hamilton’s Moses for my church, in a group of people I barely knew, at the home of people I did not know, and, perhaps most remarkably, I had volunteered to do it. I didn’t have any fear of doing it, thankfully. I was just surprised that I was doing it, though it seems (from the outside) that it would be an easy thing for me to do, after all, I’m a professor, right? It did not seem very remarkable, not like walking on water. There wasn’t even any wind.

And it went well. I enjoyed the deep conversation, the lively banter and laughter, and I loved guiding the tumultuous conversation toward the ideas we needed to think about. Because I was doing the thing I am meant to be doing, and I knew it. Here was part of the who that I am. But I had forgotten her, not the teacher, not the educator, but the person who could go into a group of strangers, who could step out onto that dangerous water and walk without thinking of the wind.

I talked with my friend Caroline about this later, exploring who we used to be, what had happened to make us less likely to step out of our quiet, reserved places–the damage that had been done. I used to read my papers at conferences with other scholars. I answered questions about my work. I engaged in rigorous debate. I used to be able to read my poetry in front of a crowd of strangers. I used to be daring in a very different way until I could simply no longer afford it (the cost or the criticism) and I withdrew from that public life. I had plenty to manage in my private life, the caring for my parents, the caring for myself. I’d had enough. I had other work to do. I turned to other work.

The hardest part of that work is completed now and I am moving in new directions. I am sometimes startled by where I am going, how I am moving. “I never approach people,” I told someone this fall. And yet now I am always approaching. I am moving, shifting, growing. I am also returning to the person I used to be, the person I forgot but who has also always endured.

Lent: Act of Faith, Act of Presence

amywink February 24th, 2018

“For those who are authentically called to this profession, spiritual profits are enough.” John Gardner

Today is the 12th day of my Lenten practice of writing every day. I am not a writer who has ever written every day, as is often suggested as a good practice. Writers write, so write every day, create a habit in your writing so you do not have to wait for inspiration. Just keep writing; the ideas will come eventually. Just keep writing; it doesn’t matter if you don’t have an idea.

This has not worked for me. It may work for some. For me, it can flip a dangerous switch and I fall into rote production, paying more attention to the end result than the practice–I have written words today. I have achieved the goal. Check. Done. — I lose the reverence for the writing. I become more agitated and anxious, thinking of too much of the end result. Thinking too much of the outside, the external, the product. Thinking of what looks like writing, but is not writing; what looks like faith, but is not faith.

This is not how I am a writer. I lose the joy, the peace. I turn and walk away from the beautiful contemplative conversation with God.

I came perilously close to that turn on Wednesday and at the moment, I thought, “Oh, you should quit. What were you thinking?” I could have easily chosen some other Lent practice, something more recognizable like fasting, a something I could have given up–chocolate, Facebook, tv, clutter, rehearsing past events–because there are plenty of suggestions out there.

But I didn’t want to quit. I had thought about this very carefully and chosen this practice partly because it was difficult. I’d never been so intentional before (a daily practice) and because it seemed to represent the exact thing Lent is supposed to do, turn us toward God. When I am writing, I am most at peace, always in the presence of God.

Instead, I had to turn again and in so doing, confront the other thing we are supposed to do during Lent, the practice of self-examination. As a person who is a high achiever (though I forget), and a person who is also self-aware, I recognize this razor’s edge between internal and external motivation. I know my external motivator is an idea of unachievable perfection on which I will slice myself open if I come too close. And I have come close many times. I used to describe myself as not competitive, but now I know myself to be dangerously competitive, the kind of competitive that turns a joyful practice into the always impossible, the certain failure. It is the kind of competitive that destroys, the kind of competitive that decides to make things harder and harder so as if to prove my own worthlessness. It is an important thing to know about myself. It is an important thing from which to turn.

So, I turned. I opened a conversation. I listened. I wrote. I wrote as an act of faith, an act of presence. My practice changed and I remembered what I have always known about my writing, what I have always tried to practice, that I love the work of writing. That is enough. I owe this more reverent practice to my reader, so that I, imperfect, may reveal what is beautiful in this flawed and difficult world.

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