Tag Archives: obedience

Leaning into Lent and Dancing All the Way

Photo by Sheila Creighton Imagery of Lighthttp://imageryoflight.wordpress.com/

Photo by Sheila Creighton
Imagery of Light

Epiphany has drawn to a close and now we are leaning into lent, a word, which originally meant spring and referred to lengthening days. Most of us are weary of this harsh winter. Before we turn to lent, here is a final word from Epiphany, not unlike the long goodbye we are getting from winter this year.

One of the reasons I love Epiphany is because the word, epiphany, is euphonious, which means pleasant to the ear and fun to say aloud. Epiphany sounds like a soft whisper or a rabbit sneezing. There are qualities of this waning liturgical season, which offer good preparation for Ash Wednesday and the journey to the cross.

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart for They Shall See God

generous span in midwinter,
the season of showings,
promises to the swift and clear-eyed
no less than a glimpse of Divinity
high tailing round the corners of our lives.

Now that the trees and earth are bare,
the God we hunger for will dance naked
for those bold enough to believe
in incarnation.

God will dance wild
and free over the frozen land,
while we shiver in our veils
longing to see with faces
bare of illusion
bare of pretense
bare of guile
aching to see
with hearts stripped and clean,
as the maple whose slim limbs slice space
in great chaste swaths,
ordering emptiness,
chalking off a place on the floor of heaven
for God to trip the light fantastic
and leave us all blinded
by a graceful shimmy
rubbing our eyes, amazed.

Oh dancing God
create in us clean hearts
pure hearts
hearts scoured
slick and smooth
as a copper pot
that we may not miss one grande jeté
that we may see

Twenty five ago I published the first issue of Holy Ground – A Quarterly Reflection on the Contemplative Life. Back then we called it Making Haqqodesh (Hebrew for the holy ground), I had just established The Sanctuary and thought a newsletter would be helpful as a way to stay in touch with the group of people supporting this new venture in ministry. I wrote the poem above for the front page of that issue. During this year, as we celebrate our 25th Anniversary, I will post excerpts from some of those early issues of Holy Ground from time to time

Here is a bit more from the first issue:

Our deep hunger for God calls out, hollows out, spaces in our hearts, in our lives, and in creation for a sacred meeting with the One who made us and is making us. Our willingness to go down into the emptiness and the out of the way places on the far side of the wilderness thrusts us and our need before burning bushes, where we behold our God and receive our mission.

One of our board members, Catherine Jantsch Butel offered this definition of holy ground:

Holy ground is that burning reality which can only be apprehended – which breaks into really – the present moment (mine or another’s) and which, surprisingly, disorders, reorders, rearranges, resynthesizes all my previous arrangement of Reality.

In twenty five years I have never come across a better definition.

In those early years before the resurgence of interest in spirituality, before the establishment of hundreds of training programs and curriculum in spiritual formation and spiritual guidance, and before the internet I had few models for the kind of ministry I wanted to do and faced many doubts. Yet I always found encouragement and support. Here are a few memories:

Riding across the Kansas prairie with a friend who was also a minister, who after listening to me hem and haw for sixty miles, blurted out, “Loretta, what is it going to take for you to decide that God is calling you to do this?”
Then she handed me a check for fifty dollars.

Preparing for the first gathering of Evening Prayers held in our dining room in my home, I nervously asked my friend, Cathy, “Do you think I am just being crazy?” Cathy looked me in the eyes and said, “No. Loretta, you are not being crazy. You are just being obedient.”

I also encountered warning. A priest asked, “How do you handle failure? These places always fail you know.” I was reminded that to be faithful to the gospel, the Sanctuary must stand in opposition to the world and that holy ground is conceived through the cross of suffering and surrendered love.

Murray Rogers, Episcopal priest and founder of contemplative communities in India and Hong Kong told me, “I am very suspicious of spiritual manipulation. These things take time, you know. You can’t hurry holiness.” He counseled trusting the Spirit, simplicity, and waiting for doors to open.

As you prepare your hearts for lent, what do you need for the journey ahead? The words of counsel I was given twenty five years ago offer me a useful guide for what to carry with me this lent. These are my prayer for your journey:

• An honest friend who will help you discern God’s will for you and offer tangible support.

• Obedience to God regardless of what others might think of you.

• Acceptance of failure and suffering as part of the journey of transformation.

• Simplicity and patient trust in God.

• And a pure heart, a heart scoured slick and smooth as a copper pot, that you may follow your dancing Lord all the way to Easter morning!

May this season offer you richness, astonishment, and a few graceful shimmies, as Christ transforms you from one degree of glory to another.


ballet slippers2

Help us celebrate Twenty Five years! Check out our new website, The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer Let us know what you think. What would help you in deepening your faith and peace? How we can improve and best serve you for the next twenty five years?

Well,  maybe not twenty five, but so far I have had no signs from God to stop this foolishness.

Elijah and the Gentle Leader

I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love… Hosea 11:4 (NIV)

Elijah - foot at 11 weeksI got a new pup, a black lab with some golden retriever mixed in. His name is Elijah. We are in love. Thank God. Learning each other’s rhythms and limits in fits and starts, shouts and barks, foot stamping and puppy pouts, we are pulling at the restraints of the discipline, which all relationships require.  Without the love, we would never make it.

When people see Elijah they say, “Oh, how cute!” Then on taking a closer look, they shake their heads and add with pity, “He’s going to be a big dog.” I try not to shudder. The little prophet dog is mostly feet, knobbly knees, long legs, and a single minded purpose to chew. My last dog died at sixteen years. He had long given up gnawing at things and people.

Elijah has all the approved chewing materials. We go to puppy training. At the advice of friends,  I got a training halter device which requires a degree in dog mechanics and six arms to put on your puppy. In spite of liberal use of hotdog bits, it didn’t go at all like the video showed. Obviously the demonstration dog had been drugged.

The device comes in a box resplendent with marketing genius, Immediate gentle control. “My pup was changed in a mere ten minutes.” The nose loop encircles your dog’s muzzle in the same way as a pack leader gently, but firmly grasps a subordinate’s muzzle in his mouth. This is a clear signal that You are his leader!  My dog is still working to pick up that clear signal.

Elijah detests this device with a passion. However, I confound him by offering the tastiest treats I can find, when I put it on and when I remove it. I rubbed hotdog juice all over the part that goes around his nose. When we walk, he turns summersaults over the grass trying to shake it off, or writhes on the ground like a snake. Then he will flop prone in the street with a huge sigh and pout. Despite the period of adjustment for us both, things are improving. Once he gets over his hissy fit, he trots along in fine fashion being the dog of my dreams. 

 Gentle Leader

Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. (Psalm 32: 8-10 NIV)

The amusing name for this device is Gentle Leader Head Collar. This cracks me up. I got the giggles thinking about it in church this week. I had this picture of God struggling to put such a halter on us, while we flop about in our lives, straining to get loose from the constraints of our own realities. Our genetics, life experiences, choices, and environments wrap around our snouts and bind our movement. Such discipline may gentle us into surrender to the truth of who we are. We may come to accept the conditions placed upon us by our journey and the reality that we are not the leader of the pack, or we may toss ourselves in summersaults, whining, and wriggling against our limits.

“Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourself unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary (2 Chronicles 30:8),” I say to Elijah, who is trying to chew the darn thing off his head. The Hebrew scriptures frequently compare the people of Israel to oxen with stiff necks who will not submit to the yoke, or a horse who will not follow without bit and bridle. The notion of discipline and surrender to the Leader of the Pack appears also in Paul’s writings. In fact it is often the prophets, including Elijah’s namesake, who serve as God’s harnesses to restrain an unruly rebellious nation.Elijah 3 months 2

If Elijah could see the positive benefits of his Gentle Leader, he might not put us through such a struggle. His resistance only increases his discomfort. Being conformed to the harness requires repetition, discipline, love, and a good deal of faith in the Leader on both our parts. The way to Elijah’s abundance is a counter intuitive surrender to what feels at first as terribly confining. Not a bad prescription for the spiritual life.


More about prayer –

Contact Loretta –
lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary

Follow on Twitter