Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tulip Thursday and Brother Toby on To Lent or Not Lent?

Tulip Thursday, that's what I am calling today. I received these gorgeous #tulips as a thank you gift a couple of weeks ago. Feb. 7th to be exact. The tulip flowers died last week but I took the picture and am meditating on them as metaphors for life, love, and death. The flowers bloomed in what passes for winter in sunny California. The bright red tulips were full of life, glorious and radiant in their beauty. Still, I remembered why I don't like to grow tulips; they need a lot of care and I don't have that luxury to give, I often think to myself. The bulbs have to be dug out of the ground and kept chilled during rest of the year if the plants are to bloom again. Even then they don't bloom with human care only but need the divine spark of life too.

Yesterday a friend sent me Brother Toby's essay To Lent or Not to Lent. It has inspired me to do Lent a little differently yet again. I didn't want to give up something (meat) or add anything (more time with God). Now, I know what to do. I am going to slow down. That is, I will "do the little things in life." That is, take the time to smell the roses and care for the tulip bulbs too :). Here is the text of Brother Toby's To Lent or Not Lent? May you be as inspired as I was.

To Lent or Not to Lent

Ash Wednesday comes along next week. A person doesn't have to be an ardent secularists to want to ignore the whole concept of Lent. For those who consider themselves “Recovering Catholics” (or any other denomination) “Lent” may have been experienced in very negative terms — giving up this, and giving up that. Certainly for people my age this period of springtime was presented in penitential terms. Maybe there are other ways of looking at these days.
Forget dour rituals in gloomy churches and step outside. There is something very special about the buds swelling on bare trees and then bursting into blossom — a reminder that there is a touch of being forever young and fresh within every living thing — including me and you.
I like the attitude behind what is sometimes called “Buddhist Lent.” It takes place in the weeks of rain during which Buddhist monks and other contemplative folk take shelter and reflect. When they venture outside they are very careful not to step on young plants. It is as if all new growth, human and in nature is sacred.
Oh, but there is a problem. We live in a society that is overscheduled, overcommitted, overextended — and we like it that way! If a moment opens up in our lives it does not present a peaceful opportunity for reflection or awareness but rather a space to be filled. And we do that by checking our digital devices. Look on the sidewalks. Not very many of us can be found strolling along mindful of the experiences in nature or in society that are unfolding. A Silicon Valley psychologist suggests that we have an absolute fear of slowing down. And I will admit that I feel this anxiety in myself — when in doubt check my iPhone, otherwise I could miss something or even more serious I could be bored!
Coming up in a couple of weeks is the feast day of the 6th Century saint, David of Wales. The story is his mother was unwed, probably a nun who had been raped by invaders.  She gave birth on a cliff during a violent storm. David’s life continued to be rough which makes his last words to his followers all the more touching to me. He told them to remember to “Do the little things in life.”
How about a 2015 Lent which consisted of (1) giving up the fear of missing something and (2) doing the little things in life? Yes I can hear —“What you mean by that? The terms are ambiguous!“ You're right but let's think about it. Just don't look it up on Google!
There is that helpful line in Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God …”
Brother Toby
Starcross Monastic Community,
Starcross Monastic Community
34500 Annapolis Road
Annapolis, California 95412

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