Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Beauty makes us feel more alive ...

I just took a walk through our neighborhood with my dog, Stella.

The sun is shining in a blue sky. The birds are singing. The crusty, dirt-tinged mounds of snow and ice are gradually melting, revealing trash and brown grass and the once-hidden sidewalks.

I listened to a podcast of an interview of an Irish poet named John O'Donohue and something I heard struck me:

"Beauty," he said, "is that which, when we encounter it, leaves us feeling more alive."

What a thoughtful, lovely definition. What a stark contrast to most definitions of beauty which too often feel shallow and unobtainable and reserved for those who can pay.

As I walked, I asked myself, "What makes you feel alive, Alice?"

The answers were easy: The spring sun on my face. The cool wind in my hair. My old, faithful dog trotting happily next to me. My mom's kind, aging face. My friends' compassion. The pile of books on my chair.

I made a small resolution to seek beauty at every turn, realizing God gifts beauty to us to bring life to our souls. It can be found anywhere. It is never reserved solely for the well-off.

The apostle Paul knew this. He writes to the church at Philippi:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

If you can, get outside sometime this week. It will make you feel more alive. Spring is making its grand entrance. Beauty is everywhere for those who have eyes to see.

 

Lent means spring ...

Did you know that Lent means spring?

Literally, the word Lent comes from the Old English word "lencten" which means spring.

Aha! Now we are talking!

This has been a brutal winter in the Midwest, to put it mildly. Frigid, icy, snowy, isolating, mind-numbing.

Long.

The yearning for spring is palpable.

It is not only my body that yearns for spring, my soul does, too.

I have been pretty numb lately. Walking around in a stupor. Stumbling through my routines, steeling myself against the frigid air. Walking with my eyes down, watching for the ever-present ice, blinded to much of what happens all around me by my incessant need to get warm.

I need spring. I need Lent.

What if Lent could be a kind of spring for me this year? For you?

What if ... as I watch the spring sun shine through my windows revealing all the dirt I've allowed to build up in the darkness of winter, I also watch for God's gentle light to reveal that which needs to be swept out of my soul?

What if ... as I yearn for the first balmy breezes of spring to remind me that the earth will soon burst into bloom, I also yearn for the winds of the Spirit to bring new life to my winter-weary self?

What if ... as I anticipate the early thunderstorms that wash the gritty streets and sidewalks clean,  I also anticipate the rivers of living water Jesus promises me right in the gritty mess of my daily existence?

What if Lent could be a kind of spring for me this year?

For you?

Grace ...

How to Recognize Grace  (A poem by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre)

It takes you by surprise

It comes in odd packages

It sometimes looks like loss

Or mistakes

It acts like rain

Or like a seed

It's both reliable and unpredictable

It's not what you were aiming at

Or what you thought you deserved

It supplies what you need

Not necessarily what you want

It grows you up

And lets you be a child

It reminds you you're not in control

And that not being in control is a form of freedom

The only thing is that we don't see it ...

Some words from Thomas Merton on this snowy winter's day:

Life is this simple:

We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent

and God is shining through it all the time.

This is not just a fable or a nice story.

It is true.

If we abandon ourselves to God

and forget ourselves,

we see it sometimes

and we see it maybe frequently.

God shows Godself everywhere,

In everything,

In people and in things and in nature and in events.

It becomes very obvious that God is everywhere and

in everything and we cannot be without God.

It is impossible.

The only thing is that we don't see it.