Quiet time and the stomach flu...

Since my father's unexpected death just one month ago, I've been
trying to get back into the swing of things at church. Mostly this hasn't been difficult - I love this faith community and they are very, very supportive of me - but I still find I am overwhelmed with attending to the practical details of day-to-day ministry. I am on top of Sunday worship - and a variety of big events coming down the pike in the next few months - but getting back into the groove with pastoral visits, hospital calls, ministry team meetings, etc. is taking me longer to connect with than I first thought.

Coming back from a lunch meeting yesterday, I quipped to a colleague and friend, "I am still finding it hard to get back on top of some of the details that I had to let go of during the past two months." She smiled and said, "It has only been a few weeks; be kind to yourself." To which I smiled sadly and replied, "Yeah I'm still working on that one." Seems that has been true for 40+ years, yes? And then, to add insult to injury, I came down with a wicked stomach bug last night that has derailed my plans for today. It is humbling to note how the body conspires with the soul to help me claim quiet time for grief.

The Psalm for this Sunday is 123 that Robert Alter renders like this:

To YOU I lift up my eyes,
     O dweller in the heavens.
Look, like the eyes of slaves to their masters,
     like the eyes of a slavegirl to her mistress,
so are our eyes to the Lord our God
     until He grants us grace.
Grant us grace, Lord, grant us grace,
     for we are sorely sated with scorn.
Sorely has our being been sated
     with the contempt of the smug,
          the scorn of the haughty.

His notes include some pearls of great wisdom.  First, this is a humble and inclusive psalm - both male and female slaves are part of the supplicants - who cast their eyes to the heights. "Everyone in this community, man and woman, looks urgently to God for a sign of grace." Second, the people's hearts yearn for grace; some translations call it mercy, and this has its place, but grace cuts deeper. And third, the wounded and praying ones have been treated with contempt by the smug and haughty so that "we are sorely sated with scorn."

To borrow an insight from Jung, when my own smug and haughty inner tyrants conspire to judge my wounded and grieving soul, what I yearn for most is God's grace. Jung was reflecting on Matthew 25 - the parable of the sheep and the goats - wherein he noted that sometimes the hungry, thirsty, naked, lonely and confused strangers that we neglect are within our very selves. So when the Lord's beloved reply: "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” The king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."

There are a few meetings I must attend tonight, but most of today has been given over to rest. Sometimes it seems that the quiet time for grace I need requires a stomach flu so that I can slow down and simply be...

photo credits:  Dianne De Mott and Growing Bolder


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