If you aren't mindful

A summer solstice.  Longest day of the year.  It is a nod to the light.  Marking the beginning of summer.  We've had plenty of summer already - 12 days this year in the 90s, and it's the middle of June.  This is far from normal.  But so typical Chicago - a city of extremes.

We celebrated the solstice with a beautiful green salad from the summer's first lettuce.

I spent a few days in Michigan last week.  I came home with a bag full of some of the state's select cherries.  Every farm and orchard mentioned how horrible this year's crop has been.  I was saddened to hear how they've all been struggling in this strange spring and summer season.  I was reminded of how incredibly dependent we are on the earth's rhythms, at the mercy of nature's movements and perhaps the result of our abuse and neglect of it all.

A friend was reminding me today of the need to pay close attention.  We should be keenly aware of the people and things and events in our days and respond relevantly.  Lately I have been moving through days and weeks with little to no expectation.  I, more or less, walk, see, and do the same things.  As a result, I think I have made a habit of responding the same, regardless, and expecting nothing of myself or anyone else.  

This, friends, is a great sadness.  And a great shame.

I fear I've missed out on a great deal.  I refuse to accept this as what just is.  I am drawing on the spirit deep within me to fight this sense of apathy, because I believe we were created to see and feel and sense distinctly, acting uniquely.  Yet, I imagine this is something that happens to humanity all the time.  We are creatures of habit, and most of us fear what we do not know.  

But, someone lead me recently to this realization:  I like the freedom of the unknown as much as I fear it.

There is a great deal of my faith and spirituality that I do not fully understand.  If I consider my Creator, he must be much greater than my reality or reasoning, otherwise he would not inspire such awe.

I've been re-reading Donald Miller's book, Blue Like Jazz, wanting to refresh my memory before seeing the film recently released.  In his chapter on worship, he closes with these words:

"At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay.  And wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow.  I don't think there is any better worship than wonder."

Wonder.  I've been talking about it a lot, but I don't think I've been paying enough attention to even experience it.  If you aren't mindful, you will miss that sense of marvel.

So today, I wonder at this:  the sun's ability to set at 8:30pm.
And maybe this:


More than a means to an end

We had a couple of unbearably hot days last week, and it made me think of Rio.  The heat in the favela is oppressive.  Perhaps matching the poverty of the people.  

I recently ran across a few reflections I had written in Brasil.  I got caught up in reading  my musings from the slums...

I am in the last month of my journey in Rio.  Which is ridiculously hard to believe.  Our days seem to be getting fuller, longer, and hotter.  Several weeks ago we hiked to Cristo Redentor, the very famous Christ statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro.  The hike up to the Christ is ridiculously grueling, probably the most difficult hike I´ve ever done, which seemed fitting.  It seemed right, that there would be this arduous journey up to the statue, symbolic perhaps of our own journey.  After much time and much sweating, we made it to the top and I at long last saw the Christ, arms outstretched to this beloved city plagued with poverty, violence, and oppression.  Like many things in life, the statue seemed so much smaller in person, but perhaps this is another example of how the journey is so much more than a means to an end.  Perhaps the journey is the thing afterall.

I am learning what it is to live with simplicity and compassion and grace.  I am learning to live flexibly, moving with the Spirit.  I am learning the life of a pilgrim, a long-time traveller.  I am learning what it is to wait patiently, about "the wonder of waiting, the tingle of anticipation and the deepening of longing, the hope of imagining the improbable."  I am learning what the difference is between doing and being and that being is so much better.  I am learning that "the One who calls you is faithful." 

I had forgotten.  I'd forgotten so much of what I learned about the journey, about the power of presence, about living simply.  I think I've been so caught up in all of my doing that I have missed out on the being that is so central to a life of grace.  And if the One who calls you is faithful, than why do I spend so much of my days in doubt?

I've been thinking a lot about joy and wholeness. About what it is to live a life of worth. Not worth in the sense of merit or excellence but worth:  Am I living a life worthy of the grace that's been given me?  Do I find value in the everyday?  Am I seeking to live with purpose and awe?

I'm wondering what kind of story my life is telling.

Someone asked me the other day where I see myself in five years.  I answered honestly: I don't know.  I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but I've never been one for planning far in advance.  I envy the clarity and ambition of those who do.  And I imagine part of living a great story is knowing the plot, but some of my best paintings and essays are the ones that caught me by surprise.   I fear that if I press on with a five year goal, I will miss the being along the way that may just change my course for the better.  

"The wonder of waiting, the tingle of anticipation and the deepening of longing, the hope of imagining the improbable."