Today’s readings: Psalm 33, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Luke 20:9-18
An excerpt from Kate Braestrup in her book “Beginner’s Grace:” Grace, prayer or blessing: These are moments to pause and make room in life for clarity, attention and gratitude. The problem is that a lamentably inattentive person like me needs some sort of external reminder when it comes to spiritual practice, and my community doesn’t offer the traditional ones. No muezzin ascends to his tower to send a call to prayer echoing over gently smoking chimneys of my Maine community. Nor do great bells peal or even tinkle. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about finding ‘bells of mindfulness’ in daily life – phenomena that you are likely to encounter that can trigger a moment of conscious attention, suck as a ringing telephone or the brake lights of a car in front of you, which Thay, or teacher, as he is called, sees as the eyes of Buddha, signaling you to be aware.”
Kate goes on to outline some of her “bells of mindfulness” such as meals, bedtime, exercising (which is not her favorite thing), and other moments in time. This little tidbit of reminder is a good one during advent….to take just a moment to pause and to be aware of those things around us that show us grace, need prayer or are blessings are important.
Yesterday morning I loaded up the pup into the car. By the way, his name is Rudy and I think it’s sticking. Anyway, I loaded Rudy up into the car with his little sweater on because I have become that sort of person and we headed to OHSU. I was going to visit a man from the church I serve who is extremely sick. He has dealt with so much for so many years. For a little while, no one knew why and he continued to get weaker. By the time he made it to OHSU, he had collapsed but finally was in the right place. They are figuring it all out and he is improving. Thanks be to God! So I was going to check in, hang out, talk Beaver football, and just be. While Rudy and I made the trek, I listened to NPR. There was a conversation about the kid who try to bomb Pioneer Square with a fake bomb. He had been attending OSU and suddenly I was right there since I have lived there the past four years. I realized this was a bell and used much of our driving time as prayer to his community, to him, and to those who are dealing with shock and fear. My heart goes to the Corvallis community and especially my Muslim brothers and sisters there. I had become friends with those in the community. I know that some of my closest colleagues are planning a candlelight vigil to support the mosque. I am with them in deep spirit. Bell of mindfulness.
We got to OHSU and I wanted to park down below the hill so I could ride the tram. I love the tram! Who doesn’t? I parked the car, told Rudy I would be back (because I am now that person…sigh) in an hour and headed towards the tram. I bumped into a woman crying in the elevator…a very talkative woman. So we talked and although it took a bit more time than I thought I had, we worked our way up the elevator and parted ways. Bell of mindfulness.
I got on the tram and as we ascended, my breath was taken away. There were dark clouds but just above the mountain range. The mountains came into view perfectly with light surrounding them. I used my time in awe of God and prayer for the man I was about to see. Super huge bell of mindfulness!
When I arrived I met this man’s wife, we washed up and went in the room. A bit of conversation and razzing (if you know him, you know how this goes), a bit of an update and he was whisked away for a CT. His wife and I were able to stay and chat for another half of an hour until I had to go. We spent time catching up and just be-ing with one another. What a gift! Sweet bell of mindfulness.
On my way back down on the tram, eager to get back to a puppy who needed a walk before hitting the road, I wanted to embrace the blessing of where I was, seeing what I did, and being able to be in people’s lives. I remembered Braestrup’s techniques. This is where grace, prayer and blessing lie. I listened to a kiddo who was soooo excited to be on the tram seeing all that he could see. His awe was our prayer on the tram. His dad asked him to calm down and I couldn’t help myself and said, “Oh no, please be that excited! It’s pretty exciting up here!” Beautiful bell of mindfulness.
Today I encourage you to take a moment and see where God is. Perhaps you need the brake light or the tram ride to do so. Perhaps you will pause before a meal to give thanks. Perhaps today you will spend some time right now to be in prayer. Advent helps us out with that. This season highlights that the world is different. Paul, in his letter to Thessolonica again, reminds us that we are witnesses to people doing the work of God. Perhaps you will take a moment to see where people are doing the work of God and saying a prayer for them. Luke, in our gospel passage, knows that Jesus was doing the work of God. In this seemingly horrible parable, Luke is telling us that there is much to be done in the meantime. That God is working even though it may appear as though God will be defeated. But we know better. We know that God is about to show up in the world in amazing ways even in our deepest sadness, dearest loss, or a little bit of fear.
Bell of mindfulness.
God, help us to pause today and reflect on where you are working. May we see moments today as blessings and moments of mindfulness. May we be witnesses to what people are doing in the world with your movement. May we be able to see the mountains through the darkness and connection through our pain. Amen.