Feast of Mary Magdalene

 

 

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Andrea del Sarto, Pieta with Saints  (1523)

Feast Day: Saint Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene has always held a special place of honor in my expressions of faith.  She is, quintessentially, the misunderstood woman.  Her strength and her stories have been the subject of theological exploration as well as mystical speculation, and I suspect much of that is intertwined with our cultural comfort with women’s leadership in spiritual traditions.  Tonight, though, I post this tribute to one particular attribute of Mary Magdalene, in the  midst of her wholeness, which resonates with me: she is a griever, a mourner, a leader in the care and keeping of the sacred space of the tomb in which the body of Jesus was placed after his death on the cross.

It takes strength and leadership to be a mourner, and to lead the way of the grieving to pay respects and share their feelings of loss.  I celebrate this gift on her feast day, and share the following prayer as I close my day in stillness and reflection.  Thank you, Mary Magdalene, for the small points of light you shed on the paths of the grieving.  It is no surprise to me at all that you were the first to see the first light of the dawning resurrection.

Good Jesus, Saint Mary Magdalene was one of the women who assisted you and the apostles during your public ministry. She cried with the Blessed Mother and Saint John at the foot of your cross, and she helped to bury your dead body. For serving you with such devotion, she was the first to see you resurrected. I ask her to pray for me when I have opportunities to assist others as they approach death or grieve the death of loved ones. Inspire me, O God, in giving them your comfort, in helping them accept salvation, and in guiding the survivors to release their loved ones into your arms.

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Dancing with Oppression

I have been immersed in oppression today. Oppression overflowed on my Facebook news feed, and filled the airwaves of NPR. I had a few brushes with people feeling oppressed before I could even get about the work of my day which, for a large part of it, involved working on the syllabus for the undergraduate course on Oppressed Groups that I will be teaching in the Fall.

While I was working on the syllabus for that class, adding in Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed as recommended reading, I began to think not about oppression itself, but about our relationship with it. My own relationship with it, specifically. I wondered how the world might be different if we willingly danced with oppression, instead of avoiding it. Touched it. Looked it in its proverbial eyes and realized that we might be moving together to the same beat. Its uncomfortable, I know. But, as Friere pointed out time and again across his career…if we are not schooled and educated by oppression, we will never be liberated from it nor can we liberate anyone else.

So, I decided dancing with oppression would be my writing theme today. This exercise is about immersion, not rhetoric. No sides will be taken. We will simply immerse. And dance.

Let’s just go for the gusto with our first dance and begin in Gaza. My Facebook news feed has some strong voices pointing out many important points on both sides of the conflict. But, mostly, those points come down to how the other side is misconstruing the violence. Consider, for just a moment, that everyone in this situation is both oppressed, and an oppressor. Let’s dance with the possibility that everyone is actually correct, and deep hurt that cuts through history, spirituality, culture and philosophy does exist. It exists for Israelis and Palestinians; it exists for Muslims and Jews and Christians, each group in their own way with their own history of being both oppressed and oppressor. The dance of oppressor and oppressed wages on and people die. Every day, real human beings die. Human beings…who at the deepest core of my professional ethics, and my baptismal covenant to preserve the dignity and worth of every human being…are killed. When I dance with this oppression, I could be staring death in the eye. But, there is even in Gaza a glimmer of hope. I give you this music to dance to tonight, from an Israeli-Palestinian group of youth seeking only to see the humanity in each other. This, title translated, is their video “When Pigs Fly”:

Heartbeat: Bukra Fi Mishmish (Arabic for “when pigs fly” or for when the impossible happens)

Let’s move a little closer to my home, to a dance I still travel in my own heart. I have lost people I love dearly to AIDS, and I have both HIV+ and HIV- people whom I love who have been hit hard by the oppression of a label. It is still too easy for us to oppress those who (we assume) have some control over their health status. It is easy to internalize this oppression and allow it to stand in the way of one’s own sense of integrity, dignity, and life. So, our second dance tonight will be with our own status. Do you know if you are HIV+ or HIV-? Are you making assumptions about yourself, your partner, or people around you based on looks or actions or a perceived category to which it might seem she or he belongs? We are going to dance a difference dance, one that is unconditional, and asks us to step aside from this oppression and move to a common health goal of disease prevention and treatment, instead of oppression and silence:

UNICEF’s Show Your Love Campaign: Katy Perry ” Unconditionally”

One last dance for tonight. There is no one of us, not one, who has not danced with oppression in our lives. Maybe we were the lead, maybe the follower, or maybe circles were danced around us. One truth remains: we can all change. We are capable of growth, and a divine light of human dignity shines in each and every one of us. So, draw a breathe as we dance together. How can I change? How can each of us contribute to undoing injustice, and bringing a small point of light into our individual corners of the world. Think on that for this last dance tonight.

Tracy Chapman will send us out on this dance together, spinning our small points of light in our lives and communities…

Tracy Chapman, “Change”

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Christ as a Light

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Canticle (Prayer of St. Patrick)

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
(Source: http://www.northumbriacommunity.org)

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Amish Country

When I was growing up, we spent many family vacations traveling to “Amish country” in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Our little pull behind trailer would follow our van to a KOA campground where our little 12 x 20 space of the earth would be home for a week. The first night was always exciting; we would build a campfire, cook a meal from among the week-planned cans and assorted fresh produce we had brought with us. If I was lucky, there would be s’mores or at least some marshmallows skewered on sticks. The days (and meals) admittedly began to drag on a bit as the week went on, but it was still a change in pace, and a break from routine.

Looking back as an adult, I find it ironic that my already simple, country, religious family would go even more deeply into a simpler, more rural and even stricter religious community to vacation. Those trips defined my childhood and youth, though, with perhaps an amusement park tacked on in one direction or the other. The only two city trips we ever made were later, when I was in high school: Toronto and Montreal. Then, it truly did feel like we went to visit a new world. Visiting Amish country felt in many ways like spending time with a more intensified version of our current life.

So what did I learn from my family’s time in Amish country?

First, I learned that the Amish are no more or no less happy than any of the rest of us. I didn’t see constantly gleeful children, nor horribly sad ones. I saw a lot of children working at chores, or walking around “just being” (which is what my daughter professes to do, too). Some adults generally groused about weather or chores, some spoke cheerfully of things they enjoyed. A general pragmatism prevailed in Amish country that was very similar to the farming life that was all around me. I suspect that was part of the draw for my family’s visits, actually. I remain unconvinced that simplicity itself makes us happier. I believed then, and I believe now, that its a much more complex equation than that.

I learned that community really does matter. I actually have seen most of a building structure emerge in a week with everyone pitching in to help. It is pretty amazing. There is a sense of mutual support that is palpable, I will admit.

The Amish taught me immediately about something that would mark my career: the role of insiders, and outsiders. It is crystal clear in Amish country who the outsiders are: everyone else. It doesn’t matter how many bonnets we buy or cinnamon rolls and churned butter we consume: we are all outsiders. You can be liked, trusted, befriended, or merely tolerated: you will still be an outsider. Even at a young age, I felt this profoundly. What I liked was that no one among the Amish was trying to convince me to be Amish. They were who they were, and we were who we were. That was enough for them. It was the rest of us trying to be like the Amish, without really wanting to be the Amish that made me a bit nutty. It was refreshingly peaceful to just be the outsider, and to know that was perfectly OK.

I do think, on some days, that it would be an improvement to have only one color of clothing to launder. Boring, but easier. I respect the practical wisdom in that communal decision.

One day, my family and I took an Amish horse and buggy ride. I had to sit in front with the driver and I was so anxious I could have crawled out of my skin. It was like I had a flash in that seat of how not Amish I was, and how not Amish I would ever be. I could also feel, like a sixth sense cutting through me, that it wasn’t that the Amish chose to be Amish. It was that they were born Amish and chose to remain Amish, and deferred finding out or questioning what all the other options were. The Amish life was good, because it was what life offered. Nonresistance, the hallmark of their anabaptist faith tradition, also applied to their life choices. I knew I was not cut from that blue cloth.

When our day with the Amish finished, we would come back to the campground, sit around the campfire eating s’mores and I would ponder, as I watched the embers flicker, exactly who I was meant to be. That question has never ended for me: who am I, and how do I move through this world being my truest self? My answer keeps changing, as I am exposed to the diversity of human experience. I love that I have the privilege to keep knowing more about the diversity of this amazing world, to ask the questions of my mind and my soul, to keep my intellectual curiosity flowing and my spiritual quest continuing.

Today, on a summer day that reminds me of those days in Amish country, I realize that I have followed the kind of meandering path that a wandering and questioning spirit like I am needs to walk in this lifetime. For me, wandering isn’t necessarily to the ends of the earth, but into the depths and diversity of what makes us human. I would probably be the one to sneak a peek under the lid from Pandora’s box, or pick and eat the fruit from the mythical tree of the knowledge of good and evil with or without the encouragement of a slithering reptile. I admit it…if it’s there, then it calls to me to be explored. The small points of light that I have found are in places that some people would rather not even care to know existed, and God has met me there. That inquisitiveness of my spirit is as blessed by Divine Presence as is the simplicity of other people of other faiths and walks of life whose faith would preclude them from even waiting to know. What gets in the way on any path we tread is doubt, second-guessing, and needing to make ourselves feel we are in the “right” by boxing others into the “wrong.”

Visiting Amish country sent me a clear message: we don’t need to all be Amish. We simply need to be true to who we are. That is the lesson that remains with me, along with an occasional craving for shoo-fly pie.

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Rainy Night

At the risk of sounding like Eddie Rabbitt, I do really love a rainy night. This is especially true when rain comes at the end of a streak of hot and humid, seemingly endless summer days in the south. I am sitting with my back door open and listening to the rain fall, smelling the freshness of cleansed air and feeling coolness against my skin. Such a welcome relief after a few days of heat. I can practically hear the ground taking gulps.

Water has rushed down around me in recent days, like torrents of emotion. This continues to be an intense time, with many friends and loved ones for whom I am holding deep emotion in the midst of life’s challenges. But, on nights like this I remember that the same water that cascades like an emotional avalanche also nourishes and cleanses. I don’t think that is an accident; there is a reason that water is essential for our life. I believe that applies to our souls, not just our bodies. Rain releases; rain replenishes.

I was thinking about rain tonight, and in my meanderings came across a poem that I hadn’t read before. I am sharing it because it resonates with my own thoughts tonight…and his imagery here draws me in:

Rain

By Kazim Ali

With thick strokes of ink the sky fills with rain.
Pretending to run for cover but secretly praying for more rain.

Over the echo of the water, I hear a voice saying my name.
No one in the city moves under the quick sightless rain.

The pages of my notebook soak, then curl. I’ve written:
“Yogis opened their mouths for hours to drink the rain.”

The sky is a bowl of dark water, rinsing your face.
The window trembles; liquid glass could shatter into rain.

I am a dark bowl, waiting to be filled.
If I open my mouth now, I could drown in the rain.

I hurry home as though someone is there waiting for me.
The night collapses into your skin. I am the rain.

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Super moon

I am writing outside tonight, enjoying the faint breeze on a warm, southern summer night. I have been awaiting tonight’s supermoon to make an appearance just over the tree line, beckoning me as always.

As I sit and wait, I begin thinking back to last year’s first supermoon. I spent that night serendipitously in the tower of a retreat house, spread out on the floor of the meditation room which had a full-circle window view of the mountains surrounding. The moon was my companion from one horizon to the other as I spent a night lost somewhere between deep meditation and dream-filled sleep. If, in all of my life, I could have planned a place to be for a spiritual experience it would be in that particular set of circumstances. But, I had planned none of it. It just presented to me as a gift of Divine Presence at a time when I was unfolding into a new calling in my life. I went back just now and read the blog entry that I wrote just after that experience. I could close my eyes and viscerally return to that time, which admittedly still does feel like half dream and half reality. An intense contemplative experience can be that way, as I have come to learn more fully in the year since. That will be with me for a lifetime.

Tonight’s supermoon now seems to rise in the sky with a delightfully cool breeze wafting through the warm air. I close my eyes and breathe it in, as I sit in the best possible place to view the moon…which right now happens to be on the wooden boards of my back patio. I am situated between one large planter overflowing with pink and orange lantana in the center of trailing vinca and a climbing mandevilla that shows off its prolific pink blossoms as it reaches out to join a lattice of jasmine; the flowers are still vibrant even here in the moonlight. The luminous moon moves through the branches of a crepe myrtle as it rises into the night sky. It truly is glorious here in the night air, with my own little patch of nature-in-the-city to keep me company.

My mind wanders as I contemplate the moon. Light in the darkness…I know that is what draws me in. The moon is richly symbolic in so many ways, but that is the message that imprints time and again on my spirit. I write so often here about life and loss; hope in the midst of despair; grace and growth emerging from our brokenness. The moon is a symbol to me of these truths and juxtapositions that I hold in my soul. They are divine gifts, and I feel both grateful and responsible for their movement through me as I journey through this life. The full moon always reminds me of this, pulling me fully into the depths of that calling.

My mind travels again, and I am young. I am spending a summer night “camping out” at the farm where my Gramma and Aunt Joyce live. My parents have bought a tiny camper and we will set off for our first actual camping soon. But, that summer night, we were parked in Gramma’s big back yard just practicing. I am just a few weeks into my sixth year. I walk along the yard, next to the barn. I notice that the moonflowers in my Aunt’s garden have just started to open as twilight falls and the moon rises over the open fields and rolling hills of upstate New York. Each moon flower untwists, magically, as night falls. I am pulled in, even then, to the nature and spirit that surrounds me. I caught a glimpse of that, even in my childhood wonder.

The moon rises higher, and I can move to a civilized patio chair now and sit back in contemplation, open to what speaks to my soul tonight. The night is for stillness…let us be still in the presence of God. Words from Night Prayer in A New Zealand Prayerbook fill my thoughts. I smile as I realize how appropriate it is that I recently began a study of Compline, which has been my nightly closing prayer for the past year. Rich with images of darkness, light, and Divine Presence…I am reminded that this, too, is an expression of who I am in the spiritual, religious, and vocational threads of my life that continually weave together.

Beckoning moon, always reminding me of who I am at my core. I bask tonight in the light of a supermoon, and listen for the still, small voice carried on the breeze that speaks so fluently and directly to my soul.

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Lord, it is night.
The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God.
It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done; let it be.
The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.
The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.
The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.
In your name we pray.
Amen.
-from Night Prayer, A New Zealand Prayerbook

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Moon Window

“At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.
Close the language-door
and open the love-window.
The moon won’t use the door,
only the window.”

― Rumi

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Life and Loss

My heart has been heavy this week. A friend and colleague of mine suffered a tragedy many of us would find unimaginable, the sudden death of her 20 year old son during a routine, fun-filled Fourth of July weekend at the lake when he fell from a rope swing onto some rocks. The story has been in the news, but my friend has been in my heart and in my thoughts. Constantly.

I have spent my career walking beside grief. I carry stories with me that people have shared in the quiet confines of a counseling office. I carry the range of emotions that flow during loss, from those who are in stunned shock to those who are completely saturated with the intensity of emotions from cumulative losses. I have learned more from these encounters than I have imparted wisdom, of that I am sure. There are no magic words, or simple solutions, or magic tricks. Grief is painful, hard work.

What I do know about loss…and life…is that we don’t have to go through it alone. We don’t have to pretend that we have “risen above” or that somehow we are stronger for not feeling or pretending not to feel. We are born into hands that guide us, and arms that carry us. We learn from the community that raises us, the people who teach us, the friends who support us, and the wise ones who mentor us. We keep learning, and keep leaning, and keep struggling for independence. But, at the end of the day what we need in both life and in loss is each other.

At today’s standing room only service, I stood in the back. I was surrounded by the twenty-something friends and classmates of my friend’s son. An usher asked at one point if some of us wanted to sit in some seats along the side. The younger classmates turned to me (which reminded me of my own age) but I declined. I wanted to be with them, these young and carefree spirits many of whom were for the first time realizing that their generation is not immune to loss. I felt their tears, and gave a few hugs and touched their hands at the passing of the peace. Mostly, I prayed. I prayed for my friend, of course. I prayed for those (like myself) for whom this death resurfaces our own losses and fears. I prayed for those around me for whom life and loss were touching in a way that they had not experienced before. I prayed for the life and loss of this beautiful young adult to have lasting meaning to those of us gathered to be together in person or in thought, saying goodbye.

I know those prayers were heard. Divine Presence is with us in life, and Divine Presence is with us in loss.

Now, I sit at home in my favorite space. I write as I sit with my screen door open to my back yard on a drizzling, rainy summer afternoon. A breeze wafts across my cheek, and I am aware of Spirit. I can hear the coo of my mourning doves. My daughter interrupts my writing to show me a non-sensical YouTube video. Today, I don’t mind at all. I don’t even roll my eyes like I sometimes do. I pause and turn my attention to her. I watch her satirical fake video, “How to Confuse an Idiot” which when I try to push play…predictably…does not. She laughs, and I laugh. I feel Spirit here, too, in the everyday moments of life and parenting that take on renewed meaning. Life is re-prioritized when we confront loss. It reminds us of the importance of fleeting moments of everyday relationship. It compels us to connect and embrace those we love, right here and right now. I realize, as she skips off to pop herself some popcorn, that I have been changed by this loss. I am so grateful for this moment, this daily ordinary small point of light that brightens my life.

Yes, I know my prayers were heard.

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Being With

I started musing on the theme of “being with” on small points of light a few days ago, as I reflected on my recent time at the Wild Goose Festival. My thoughts were jarred listening to Sara Miles give a talk, as I sat with my tween daughter. I was unable to fix the worries she had raised to me earlier that day, nor to resolve the unsettledness in my own spirit having heard and taken in what she had shared with me. All I could do was be with her, and she with me, as we navigated the changes and chances of life together.

Although I don’t have the text of her talk, you can get the general idea of the content by reading this post from Sara Miles. What struck me was how her portrayal of “with” as a theological construct mirrors the talks I give in my own academic circles about community based participatory research (CBPR) as an ideological and methodological construct. I fully embrace CBPR in my academic scholarship. I have invested my own energy in conducting research, writing, and teaching research methods which facilitate partnerships with community. I do not conduct research “on” or “for” or “to.” I research with. It is hard work, it takes a long time…and it changes everyone, including me. Just like ministry. Just like God. As I sat, listening, I could feel my vocational paths being with each other, too.

This theme of “being with” has permeated my soul and remains with me. As I contemplate this theme, two simple moments of “being with” stand out as illustrations, offering small points of light for the journey:

Being With: Giving to Receive

My daughter was three months old the first time I packed her up into my car and drove the 2 1/2 hours south from our comfortable house in a mid-west city into the rural community where I housed the Women’s Wellness Initiative. My vision, when this project began, was to offer a resource of mental health support to women residing in one of the poorest and resource scarce regions of the United States. I quickly learned the year prior that I wasn’t going to accomplish a damn thing trying to do something “for” these women. As a doctoral student, I was learning a lesson that was far more valuable: how to engage with individuals and community to co-create change. So, I scrapped my prior research, abandoned all hope of this project leading to a dissertation (I found other data and other questions for that) and began the process of setting off in a new direction to learn how to research with.

Arriving at the community center, I situated my daughter in a cloth sling around my business attire and filtered in to this room of community leaders I had not met in person before. They knew each other, and they knew people who knew people who knew me. They were willing to give this a shot: to help co-create a program supporting new mothers. And here I was…a new mother, just like them. Maybe that should have occurred to me, but it didn’t. I just didn’t have a sitter for the length of this day, and I was trying to keep breast feeding, and I wasn’t ready to let my baby out of my sight. Again, as I should have realized, just like every person there. What I met when I walked in was a room full of women who immediately wanted to meet the bundle of baby I carried…and then maybe, perhaps, me. Within five minutes someone whom I didn’t even know wanted to hold her, and subsequently took her off into the crowd to meet all the other expectant and new moms. I felt maternal detachment ripping through me like a knife. And yet, I chose trust.

Then, something happened. Someone else showed me their precious little baby, and another woman began to ask questions about infant care. Someone else shared her stories of loss, and how much faith it took for her to try to get pregnant again. Toddlers played with the sling I was wearing and we compared notes on how we managed sleepless nights. I hadn’t even passed out an agenda, or explained who I was. We were simply being with…these other new moms and I…being with our common challenges and joys and fears. That first day, where my traditional research mentoring would suggest we accomplished nothing, was the day I accomplished everything. I learned the value of being with.

Being With: Receiving to Give

A few weeks ago, at Wild Goose, I had gone from a mountaintop of joy to feeling defeated and depleted. I started my morning sitting in the back of the crowd at the main stage, keeping myself in the shade and at what I thought was a safe distance from the evangelical preacher on the agenda. Intellectually, I know that spirituality and faith are expressed in many forms. But, spirtually, I am still recovering from a painful past. I found myself trying to hide the tears that were welling up. My throat had started to close off from pent up emotion as I tried to be present…but ended up suffering…through the preacher’s passionate sermon and alter call. I was right with his content…a call to justice, the use of power to overcome oppression. But, the re-experience of this charismatic delivery was oppressing me, raising old baggage and internal messages from the spiritual pain inflicted on me in my own childhood. I was sitting alone, trying to focus cognitively on the knowledge that others were moved, inspired, and fulfilled by the message and the messenger. But, that was not the case for me. I realized that even among a group of people that I had earlier described as “my tribe” I was not feeling at home. Far, far from it. The cracks of my brokenness were palpable as the inner child in me recoiled unconsciously. I finally walked away, seizing the opportunity to leave and collect myself at the peaceful flow of a river, the rising of morning fog that gave me time to be still, to breathe, to feel unconditional belovedness at the core of my soul again. I had come back to the group just in time for closing Eucharist, but I knew I was fragile, at best.

I stood at the edge of the crowd, my eyes and throat still burning, and began to say the familiar and comforting words opening Holy Eucharist. I sang a response and heard a lovely voice beside me. I turned to smile at an older woman, worshipping alone. She held out her hand, and I happily joined my hand with hers as my partner in worship. We joined with each other in voice, in prayer, in communion. Others joined with us, too. The palpable healing of that “worship with” was a divine gift, a simple but powerful healing moment that reflected God with us, God with me: patient, persistent, unconditional. All from the simple gift of an outstretched hand, an invitation to worship with, received with an open heart into which light could pour freely through the cracks of my brokenness. I was reminded how valuable the gifts of healing are, and in what simple forms this gift presents itself when our hearts are open, when we are willing to receive the gift of being with.

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Road Trip

My family and I have been on the road this holiday weekend, and I am gearing up for our 13 hour drive back home tomorrow. The road trip has become a way of life for us, after relocating several states away from both sides of our extended families. This time, we have been on the midwest circuit of family and friends, catching up on the ins and outs of daily life and taking in the growth spurts of our children. The time has been relaxed; road trips to places you have lived previously are not for tourism or sightseeing. They are best experienced, in my opinion, as times to arrive and be present and reconnect. I am truly grateful we have been able to do exactly that.

But tonight, I am thinking about the road trip itself.

My first road trips were our family’s summer vacations in a small, pull-along camper. I don’t know how we fit…there was barely enough room for three of us to stand up at once. My father always drove, and my mother always painstakingly navigated those pre-GPS days where the AAA travel guide was of epic importance. I was young, and we would flop a mattress onto the floor of the van and I would ride there with my dolls and animals (I am never quite sure how we survived the 1970′s with our safety violations!). But, I couldn’t sleep for the sheer joy of catching the signs marking states through which we would travel, or seeing mountains or a new landscape for the first time. Road trips still hold that fascination for me, and the expanse of road and sky and scenery keep me both focused, and simultaneously adrift in my thoughts.

On our family road trips now, my spouse and I tend to switch off driving. We have a few rules and rituals that have emerged. First, there are the ritual Panera breakfast stopping points in each direction. Then, there are the characteristic landmarks along the way at which we all take note, and check our progress. Most importantly, we have an unwritten rule that being behind the wheel earns control of the music selection in the car; passengers not appreciating the driver’s selection are free to wear earplugs or headphones and tune in to their own devices. I have a steady line up of show tunes and female singer-songwriters awaiting my shift. I drive, and I listen. This year, I also realized that road trips are yet another time when I seem particularly attuned to Divine Presence.

Road trips, especially those along familiar stretches of highway where I have lived, are like a labyrinth weaving a pilgrimage throughout my life. I have travelled these roads in multiple directions, journeying to places in anticipation and in reflection. At times, I double back along familiar sections, and on others I realize a moment of truth and newness, or I take in a sight that has gone previously unnoticed. Small points of light appear in fragments of memory, or glimpses of inspiration. Driving here, I had flashes of past experience that took on a new meaning, and I even had a glimpse of a new twist on something familiar that I allowed to play out in my mind as a way to blend my vocational paths in the near future. Although road weariness does inevitably begin to take a toll after a while, a road trip that goes well never seems quite as long to me as the hours that pass on the clock. I am grateful when that is the experience (and I try to be patient and hopeful when it isn’t.)

So, early tomorrow morning I will head back East with some coffee and music and family vacation memories. My mind will wander (especially in the passenger’s seat) and when I am driving, I will sing to my Rent soundtrack or perhaps some Dar Williams and make my daughter groan in the back seat as she turns up her iPod playlist. Maybe I will gain some new inspiration, or relive an old memory. Or two, or three. What I do know for certain is that our Sunday drive back toward home will have small points of light abounding, with each curve along prairie roads and mountain passageways marking our spiraling passage through this asphalt labyrinth that is part of our journey of life.

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