Ash Wednesday Surprise!


Our God is full of delightful surprises!

Most recently, I have experienced this through my ‘Christmas’ cactus.

For years, it was a reluctant bloomer. I was lucky to see a single bloom or maybe 2 during the whole season.

However, 4 or 5 years ago after my move to Dallas, it started blooming like crazy around the second Sunday of Advent and continuing through the first of the year.

Such a treat!

Last year during Lent, it started blooming like crazy through Easter – just as its own joke.

A rogue cactus bloomer – both during Advent/Christmas (expected) and Lent/Easter (unexpected).

I was wondering if this was a one off last year, but find that there are several blooms with one that burst open Ash Wednesday.

So fun!

Space-Time as a Spiritual Practice

I am a part of a small group through my church. Every week we are focusing on a new spiritual practice. This week we get two practices – silence and awareness of creation! Both of these practices help to open us to experiencing the goodness of God. They also involve becoming aware of both place (space) and time. The scientist in me is delighted to find space-time as a part of the learning for this week!

Silence involves slowing down and becoming quiet – learning to be present in the present moment. Not an easy endeavor, but one that helps finite beings reconnect with the infinity that is God.

Awareness of creation opens our eyes to the beauty that surrounds us. Our sight becomes dulled because we take for granted that which used to amaze the child in us. We look but we don’t see. We listen but we don’t hear. We have lost our connection to place.

Plant yourself in space this week and then open your eyes and ears to the wonders of God’s marvelous creation. Macrina Weiderkehr says, “When I pause, blessings appear.” May it be so for you this week! Amen.

My Orchid Redemption

While waiting for my prescriptions today, I wondered over to the flower section at Market Street and found a perfectly lovely orchid calling my name. I immediately put said orchid in my cart, and, since I had plenty of time, set out to find the store’s Plant Lady in order to obtain care instructions. You see this was not my first orchid, and my previous orchid is, alas, no longer of this world. As anyone who has experienced it can attest – orchid loss is never easy, particularly when it is one’s first! That said, as you can imagine, I have been hesitant to take up with another orchid. The memory of its loss coupled with my nagging guilt that somehow the demise of this delicate orchid was my fault (or most likely directly the fault of my green watering can which most likely, ironically, delivered the fatal ‘life-giving’ H2O). ((I can barely write about it!)). Yes, I must confess that based on today’s conversation with the all-knowing Plant Lady, I am afraid that I drowned my poor dear orchid!!! (((How many ‘Hail Mary’s’ must one say for the unknowing drowning of one’s orchid?! My intentions were good, but … oh my!!!)))

At this point in the conversation, I started to hand the orchid back to Plant Lady and thus, spare this new orchid a tragic end. While still imparting orchid wisdom, the Plant Lady took the proffered unknowing orchid from my hands. However, much to my surprise, the Plant Lady misinterpreted my relinquishing gesture, placed the orchid in a box and began placing paper around it to protect it for transport. Yes, the Plant Lady – bless her heart – still believed in my orchid ability – even knowing full well my abysmal orchid track record! Amazing! Today I met the Plant Lady of second chances!!

I am hopeful that this new orchid (I think I will name it Orchid 2) will survive my care!! I am truly, truly committed to being less zealous in my watering!


“Above all, remember that the meaning of life

is to live it as if it were a work of art.

You’re not a machine.

When you’re young start working on this great work of art called

your own existence!”

~Abraham Joshua Heschel


For we are his masterpieces, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:10)

St. Teresa of Avila: image of life of prayer

  • When we get serious about our spiritual journeys, we expend a great deal of effort. We are obsessed with trying harder. Teresa imagined a field that needed watering (our spiritual state in need of nurture). In the first stage of spiritual growth, it is as if we are dragging a heavy oaken bucket, dipping it into a well, hauling the water up, bucket by bucket, and watering the field. This represents the condition where we try desperately to please God, to obey the rules, to get it right for God.
  • In the second stage, our prayer and progress lead us to notice a stream running beside the field. All we have to do is drag the oaken bucket through the water and haul it to the field and water it. A little easier, but we still control the pace through our own efforts. That is, we decide what tasks and projects we will undertake, what the content of our prayer will be, how we will nurture our spiritual lives and be pleasing to God.
  • In the third stage, we become aware of a gate at the end of the field that opens to an irrigation system. All we have to do is fling the gate open, and the water comes pouring into water the field. It seems that God meets us with grace so nurturing and powerful that we have only to open ourselves to it. Our faith journey becomes not so much what we can do for God, but what God can do through us, for us, in us.
  • In the final stage, we merely stand in the rain. When I first internalized the image of standing in a cleansing rain, immersed in the saving love of God through no effort of my own, I was overcome with the realization that Divine Love didn’t require my effort. It was not dependent on my deserving. It was truly, profoundly, eternally unconditional.

(as summarized by Linda Douty)

Lenten Gardening 2010

My Backyard Garden - Dallas

One of my key activities in early spring is cleaning out my flowerbeds and the flowerpots in my deck garden. I cut back dead plants and clear out the dead leaves on my perennials. I clear out the areas that will need to be replanted removing dead plants and beginning the preparation of the soil to receive new plants and flowers. I prune rose bushes, the butterfly bush and shrubs to make room for new growth. Spring is a time of preparation and dreaming about what is to come. It is my favorite time of year in my garden!

This year it has been extra cold here in Texas. We had close to a foot of snow a week ago, so my yearly gardening rituals have been delayed. As often is the case, the delay has heightened the yearning to begin this activity. The garden is calling me! Come on spring!

I was reminded during Ash Wednesday worship this week that if you take the word ‘Lent’ back to its roots it means simply ‘spring’. I know spring! Clearing, cleaning, pruning, and hauling off debris. Hard work, yes, but work full of promise, buoyed by occasional glimpses of the first signs of emerging growth. Growth indiscernible, until you are on your knees and carefully removing last years’ dead and decaying debris.

It struck me that as much as I love the Lenten work of my garden, I have never been a big fan of Lent in my faith journey. It is just something I tend to pass through on my way to Holy Week. Truthfully, I am more of an Advent pondering and waiting person.

Lent on the other hard is work! Yes, Lent is the spring time in our lives of faith – it is a time of clearing dead and rotting parts of our lives: dreams that have withered and no longer fit, half hearted spiritual practices, angers and resentments that slowly eat away the life in us, and disappointments that have taken root and that threaten to choke out new life. Lent is a reality check on any saccharine sweet notions of the faith that we may be harboring. Lent is not for the faint of heart.

At its most effective, Lent requires us to be tough in our assessments – if it is not growing it must be cut back or removed entirely.  Even if it is something that has grown amazingly in the past, Lent is the time for pruning it back. Pruning is counterintuitive in its effect. We cut a plant’s limbs back significantly in order to bring the limbs back to closer to the central core, and while it might seem that this would mean we would end up with a smaller, less healthy plant at end of the summer, the opposite is actually true! Not pruning stunts the growth and health of the bush. Go figure! This is true in our spiritual lives as well.

The work of Lent in our gardens and in our lives is work done ahead of the growth, hoping that this work might even speed the emergence of life from its dormant state. (Dare we hope!) So this Lent the question I am asking myself is: what in my life needs to be cleared out, pruned and hauled off to make room for growth and more importantly God?


Advent Reflection ~by Mary Earle at

(link to read the whole reflection – it is great!)

Grant me O God the capacity to wait in hope, to allow your own loving-kindness to grow in me, for the life of your world. Amen.

Active Waiting

In Finding My Way Home: Pathways to Life and the Spirit, Henri Nouwen, the late spiritual guide, writes:

Most of us consider waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state determined by events totally out of our hands. The bus is late? We cannot do anything about it, so we have to sit there and just wait. It is not difficult to understand the irritation people feel when somebody says, “Just wait.” Words like that push us into passivity.

But there is none of this passivity in Scripture. Those who are waiting are waiting very actively. They know that what they are waiting for is growing from the ground on which they are standing. Right here is a secret for us about waiting. If we wait in the conviction that a seed has been planted and that something has already begun, it changes the way we wait. Active waiting implies being fully present to the moment with the conviction that something is happening where we are and that we want to be present to it.