running with abandon into the arms of sacramental living...

Somewhere along the way I lost my prayer beads. 

They have been MIA for at least a month. During a lovely frenzy of cleaning through papers and weird debris in my study, however, I found them buried under a stack of long paid-off bills, outdated worship bulletins and other junk. How like the Lenten journey is finding this treasure under all my garbage?

Funny how these quotidian parables pop up at just the right time if you are rested and paying attention. Last night, I was reading Springsteen's autobiography and just happened to check my phone. As I was about to shut it off for the night I saw a post from one of my oldest and dearest friends who was watching a Buffalo Springfield reunion clip on You Tube. I had just dog-eared a page in my book that made me think of him and our early days as guitar players - and here was another spontaneous connection of love and gratitude. I had to hit send! As the Master wrote:  "I didn't want to just meet the Beatles. I wanted to BE the Beatles!"

As a part of our downsizing in semi-retirement we've cleared out the basement of probably 500 books. (I'll be doing this again in my upstairs study later today.) What a treat to rediscover not only favorite texts saturated with sweet memories - D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf along with Leonard Cohen and Kerouac - but notes from my children, inscriptions in Christmas books and even a few lyric sheets from my rock and roll band days in high school. I haven't thought about this tune since 1970 but hearing the Blues Magoos do it again filled me with thanksgiving all over again.

Sure there's a ton of nostalgia hanging around the junk and clutter in my house - goes with the territory, right? But without giving in too deeply to the trap of sentimentality, some of these unexpected treasures strike me as real life relics and icons that reconnect me to "that great cloud of witnesses." I don't subscribe to the false dichotomy between sacred and secular; rather, I experience many of these small items as a tangible connection to love shared then, now and forever. Just as I see the face of my Lord in the wounded neighbor in need, so too with the ordinary relics of love in my home. In an anonymous Biblical text once ascribed to St. Paul faith is described like this:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith - that is, trusting God's love beyond the obvious - small gifts, music, books and prayer beads link me to a love that does not stop. In my affection for such paraphernalia, I know I'm breaking ranks with my Reformed tradition and running with abandon into the arms of the sacramental church. Give me candles, incense, Eucharist and embodied acts of justice and compassion over abstract dogma and obtuse sermons any day! For some reason beyond my comprehension, my affinity for this path is ripening with vigor even at this early date in Lent. So let me return thanks to God and see what else awaits.


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