Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Don't Junk Up The Place! (Chapel A Day 2014 Day 5)

I smiled as my feet pounded the pavement. It was good to be back out running, after days of pretty but cold weather.. or warm but rainy weather.

I smiled as I put my earbuds in and began to listen to music that pumped me up. I smiled as I put one foot in front of the other on my 5 mile route which included pavement and beautiful white beach sand.

About halfway into my run, I stopped smiling. Strewn along my usual route, I came upon discarded beer cans and a broken wine bottle. I ran past cigarette butts tossed on the streets and in the sand. I veered around smashed fruit in the middle of the road. It wasn't a lot of litter, but then again... any litter is too much litter.

It took me back to the "chapel" of Day 5's Lenten Journey.
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The Cross of Pensacola Beach. It stands high above the sands as you wind westward toward Ft. Pickens. According to the website visitpensacolabeach.com, the cross commemorates the first Christian mass held in the United States. It's been a fixture on Pensacola Beach since 1959. Hurricanes have come... and gone... dunes have been flattened, boats upended... houses destroyed.. but the beach cross...and the dune on which it is anchored... still stand.

I wasn't really sure why I was drawn to the outdoor sanctuary of Day 5. It took a morning run on Day 6 to help me figure it out and be able to write about it.

This beach is so very precious to those of us who have been blessed to grow up on.. or to grow up a sand dollar's throw from. Vacation season on this beach, and many other beaches, has begun.Disclaimer:  I AM NOT BLAMING THE UNUSUAL AMOUNT OF LITTER I ENCOUNTERED ON VISITORS! The timing may be coincidental. But, it got me to thinking.

© 2014 Drexel Gilbert Enterprises, Inc.
We beach-lovers and beach-dwellers love visitors. We love sharing our slice of Paradise with teenagers, families and college students. We love watching folks from the frozen north stand at the surf and watch a sunrise or sunset.. or frolicking dolphins.. or surfers... or sand crabs. 

We only ask that visitors and residents alike treat this beautiful place with respect while they are here.. and clean up after themselves. Like the beach cross, we want the beauty of this beach to be around as long as "forever" may be. We want it to be pretty for those who come after us.

It made me think about Planet Earth. 

You know.. I bet the One who created this beach.. and everything else on this planet wants us to stop junkin' up the place. I bet He wants us to respect his creation  for as long as we are here.. and to clean up after ourselves in order to keep things pretty for those who come after us. 

By the way, the visitpensacolabeach.com website also has this to say about the cross "There is no scientific explanation as to why the dune and the cross have been spared so many times. According to several residents, the answer will never come from science but instead can be found from within."
© 2014 Drexel Gilbert Enterprises, Inc


On my return path on the day's run, I came across a random grocery bag drifting across the street. Well, how about that? God had just provided me with a way to put action to my feelings! After all, you can put a lot of discarded beer cans and cigarette butts in one of those bags. Coincidence? Nah. How do I know that? The answer comes from within.

I stooped, I scooped...and, I smiled.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Run For Your Life! (Chapel A Day 2014 Day 4)

"Run for your life!" the little boy called as he dashed toward the street and away from an angry, swarming mass of yellow jackets. Their underground nest had been stirred up by the little boy's father who was working in the lawn with an electric hedge trimmer. 

If you read this blog very often, you'll understand why this perfectly average--- but thankfully NOT every day event--- got me to thinkin.'

My grandmother had a saying. "Be careful! You're about to stir up a hornet's nest!" Usually, I heard her say that when her church-lady girlfriends were over eating pound cake and drinking coffee. But, I thought of my grandmother---and the somewhat dramatic little boy---on Day 4 of this Lenten journey. I was attending a spiritual seminar at Christ Episcopal Church in Pensacola. The speaker's topic was Julian of Norwich... considered by many to be one of the most important Christian mystics. On what seemed to be her deathbed in 1373, Julian said she had 16 visions of Jesus Christ. She recovered and wrote about those visions.

In some ways... Julian stirred up a hornet's nest.

Her visions resulted in views about suffering, Hell, grace, forgiveness, and God's mercy that were not necessarily in line with the "official" theology of the times. Seemingly unafraid of the backlash that might result...

She. Wrote. About. Them. 

And people still read about them more than 600 years later.

During a break in the seminar, I headed here..
to the little chapel attached to the church. I knelt at the altar and prayed. And, I wondered whether I feel strongly enough about something to risk talking, or writing, about it---even if it might stir up a hornet's nest? Do you?

Sometimes, we back away from standing up for our faith, principles, values, ethics or just plain ol' likes and dislikes because of fear. We fear people will make fun, or ostracize, or challenge, or think we are NUTS!

But, maybe, like Julian, we should consider trying to determine what's really important in life to us.. and how, by sharing that, we might make a positive difference in someone else's life. I do not believe that means you have license to force your views on others, or be theological or social bullies, or substitute fanaticism for forthrightness. But, having a belief and taking a stand for that belief are good things.

So, here's the rub. I don't agree with everything Julian of Norwich wrote. Some of her views are way different than mine. Some of the seminar speaker's interpretations of her views and visions are wayyyyyyyyyy different than mine. 

But, that's ok.

641 years after she had those visions, Julian of Norwich stirred up a hornet's nest in my heart and my mind and sent me on a search for deeper answers about the things I believe. She inspired me to be stronger in what I believe and smarter in the way I communicate those beliefs. 

The little boy who dashed into the street that day was running AWAY from the hornet's nest. Julian has inspired me to run TOWARD it. Who knows? I might just be...

Runnin' for my life.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Got Gas? (Chapel A Day 2014 Day 3)

I was worn out from working at my demanding job, raising two amazing----and over-the-top energetic---daughters, running a household and volunteering at my church and the girls' schools. I LOVED it! But... I was DRAINED. And.... I couldn't figure out how to get un-drained---physically and emotionally.

Then someone told me about a speaker she'd heard who addressed "running out of gas." He'd said something like this: People are like cars. They run hard and well and with little help when they are well fueled. When they run out of gas, they sputter, limp to the side of the road and stop. And, guess what? They cannot gas themselves up. Someone has to do it for them.

Interesting. How many of us try to gas ourselves up when we run out of fuel? Perhaps we try get going again with caffeine, food, alcohol, relationships...  Maybe what we need is for someone to take us to the filling station.

I thought about this on Day 3 of my Chapel A Day 2014 Lenten journey. I'm sacrificing an hour a day in spiritual reflection. My goal is to do this in a different chapel, or church, or synagogue, or outdoor "sanctuary" every day of Lent until Easter. This day found me in the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel in downtown Pensacola.  I'm not Catholic, but I often find myself sitting in the back row of a daily Mass kneeling and praying and,... well, filling up.

This time, there was something different. At the end of the service, the parishioners were invited to remain for the Stations of the Cross... a way of retracing the steps of Jesus from His conviction to His crucifixion to His burial through structured prayer. I'd never done this. I thought it might be a good idea to try. So, I did.

It was very moving... spiritually and literally. With the aid of plaques depicting 14 stops, or stations, along this journey.. and with the structured prayers.. we moved around the church... one station to the next. We prayed and sang in unison. Some cried. Some smiled. All, it occurred to me, were filling up.

You out of gas? There's a book.. or a devotional.. or a speaker.. or a Sunday School class.. or a retreat.. or a time apart for prayer.. or a church that's just waiting to fill you up. 

Let them. 

Because, if you don't... there are destructive habits, people and circumstances that are also waiting to fill you up. 

Don't let them.

Got gas? Well, how about finding a "Station" where you can fill up with Premium Grade A fuel? 

Your bill's already been paid.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Push to Open (Chapel A Day 2014 Day 2)

If  you didn't know it was a little chapel... you might think it's just an extension of the beautiful church it sits alongside. That's what I thought, until a friend told me about the chapel that sits next to Christ the King church in Daphne, AL. It is open 24/7.

I stopped in on Day 2 of my Lenten journey. The chapel is beautiful and peaceful. I spent the first few moments taking it all in. Then I prayed, and read some from my favorite devotional. I felt that there was a reason I should have stepped into this chapel on this day. As often happens during these chapel visits, however, the "word" on why I was here... wasn't coming to me easily.

So, I sat.

I looked around. On the wall are depictions of the seven stations of the cross- a pictorial escort of Christ's journey from the Garden of Gethsemane to Golgotha. I studied each one, and as always, was moved by the telling of the story that changed history.

But... that's not why I was here.

I studied the statues of Jesus and Mary. I thought about their relationship as mother and son.. and as woman and Savior. As always... both relationships boggled my mind. 

But.. that's not why I was here.

Okay, then.. what?????? Whhhaaatttt??? I (very prayerfully and respectfully) thought.

I was on the very back row, sitting in a pew against the wall. I glanced over to my left and this caught my eye.

Really, Drexel? All of the beautiful, spiritual, thought-provoking and spirit-stirring items in this chapel and you land on the "Push to Open" button?


"Push to Open." The words are wheelchair level...about 24 inches below a depiction of Jesus...pushing his way toward His destiny Pushing through the throngs of people lining the dusty streets...some jeering, some weeping, some simply dazed. Pushing through the closed minds of those who would put him to death, so that He could open the door to life... for the world.

"Push to Open."

I sat for a few moments with my eyes closed, imagining the scene as it played out all of those centuries ago. When I opened my eyes, I looked back at the button. This time, the word "PUSH" did not stand out to me. This time, the word "OPEN" jumped out. 

It occurred to me that He is done with the pushing part. He never was a pushy guy to begin with. Nope. No more pushing. Now, it's up to us to open...to open the way, by opening the door.

"Push to Open." Try it. You never know Who might be waiting on the other side.

You're In My Seat (Chapel A Day 2014 Day 1)

"You're in my seat," said the young woman, her jaw set, her eyes steely, her arms crossed across her chest and clutching her textbook.

I looked up and replied, "I'm sorry?"

"That's my seat. I picked it yesterday. It's MY SEAT."

"Well, alrighty, then," I thought.  I had missed the first day of class and obviously had missed the fact that...

This. Was. Her. Seat.

So, I smiled, got  up.. and took my seat... to another seat.

I thought about the classroom encounter as I sat in the sanctuary of my church awaiting the start of the Ash Wednesday service. The church was filling up almost to capacity. Worshipers were streaming in, some confidently striding to what most certainly was "their seat" but upon arriving at said pew, discovered that on this crowded night, "their seat" had been hijacked by another. 

C'mon, admit it. You do the same thing. Your name may not be on the pew, but it might as well be. And, if you stroll in late one Sunday and find someone else's seat is parked in your seat, you are tempted to stand there---stare--- and say, 

"You're. In. My. Seat."

Tonight, I entered the church not from the front doors, but from a side door, opposite from where I usually sit. I was one of the first ones to arrive. I stood for a moment, breathed in the air of the 200 year old church, settled my thoughts... and opened my eyes.

"Wait," I thought, "Something is different." At first, I couldn't put my finger on it. Then, as I slowly looked around me, I focused in on this.

I knew this stained glass window was here. I walk beneath it after receiving communion at the altar every Sunday. You know...  as I head back to MY SEAT on MY side of the church. But, when I sit in MY SEAT each Sunday... on the opposite side of where I stood tonight... this is the wall I primarily see.

It's not a bad sight.. not bad at all...

But, I kind of liked the new view, as well. Which caused me to ponder... What would happen if we vowed to re-seat our seat every now and then? 

What if, during this season of Lent, we went out of our way to look at the people, our surroundings and even our circumstances from a different point of view? What if we asked God to open our eyes to what HE wants us to see.. or where HE wants us to "sit?" What if there's something, or someone, beautiful out there that we pass by every day, but we never see.. because we don't want to switch seats? What if there is someone on the opposite side of the room.. ,the sanctuary.. the community.. or your family... who needs us to get out of our seat.. and come sit with them? What if we once or twice took the deliberate step of giving up OUR SEAT (or meal, or clothes, or time, or money) to someone who needs it more than we do.. or to someone who simply needs a new view? 

What if... 

As I made my way to MY SEAT... on MY side of the sanctuary, the place began to quickly fill. I sat in my pew, and turned my eyes forward to another stained glass window. This one:

I look at it every Sunday. Tonight, on Ash Wednesday, my eyes were drawn to the open arms of Jesus, who gave up HIS SEAT. He spent 40 days in a sacrificial posture before taking a journey that would give us all the opportunity to see...and live...in a whole new way. As I locked eyes with the eyes in the painting, I could almost hear Him say:

"Welcome to My house. By the way, you're in My seat. And, I am so glad about that."