Monday, February 25, 2008

A way through the woods

A way through the woods
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
Thanks to our wonderful friend Brenda, who came and loved on Maggie and Seth all day yesterday, Rebecca and I were able to go on an afternoon hike at Lake Houston Park. It was a stunningly beautiful day, and we enjoyed a 7 mile hike in (for us) a new park about 45 minutes north of us. We enjoyed the quiet of the piney woods, broken only by the keening cries of a pair of red tail hawks, the caws of a crow, a few frogs and the occasional grunt of a Harley downshifting off in the distance somewhere. We spotted raccoon and deer tracks, and left plenty of our own on one particularly muddy stretch. It was a much needed and life-giving afternoon - with the delight of having another place to explore in the future

Monday, February 18, 2008

Anonymous beauty

Unknown, beautiful plant
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
We found this plant in a pot under a bush when we moved in 3 years ago. Rebecca planted it in the bed around the magnolia tree, and 3 years later it has spread and puts out these stunning 12" blooms every February. We have no idea what it is - but would love to find out, if anyone recognizes it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

"...praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out."
As I read the texts I had chosen for Mercy Street's observance of Ash Wednesday, I thought of the Eleventh Step of Alcoholics Anonymous. In Luke 4 we read the account of the temptation of Jesus that follows his 40 wilderness days and nights, one of the traditional texts read at the beginning of Lent. As Jesus begins his long journey to the cross, the deceiver tempts him to choose an easier, softer way. At one point he quotes scripture in an attempt to lure Jesus into a highly visible and dramatic public act: "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from [the pinnacle of the temple]; for it is written, 'He will give His angels charge to guard you...on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone."

Angels show up again in Mark's far more sparse account of Jesus' time in the wilderness: "And he was in the wilderness 40 days being tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to him."

Our third reading was also from Luke's gospel, chapter 22 - Jesus' temptation at the end of his long journey. As he kneels in the garden, the posture of surrender, and asks his Father to take this bitter cup from him, he states "yet not my will, but yours be done." And then an angel shows up once more, "...strengthening him. And being in agony he was praying fervently." And then at some point he rose from prayer. Just like that. The wrestling was over, the agony passed. As he rouses his friends Jesus repeats his exhortation, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation."

I was drawn to the angels in these narratives, or, more specifically, the role they play. In the garden, the angel strengthens Jesus to continue praying for God's will to be done. In the desert, the angels minister to Jesus in the midst of temptation. How different from the role the silken words of the deceiver portray - rather than strengthening Jesus in the very midst of the struggle, these angels will miraculously enable Jesus to avoid the struggle, so that he won't even stub a toe, let alone sweat in agony as he wrestles with temptation.

Which angels are we inclined to ask God to send? 'Guardian angels' to protect us, to deliver us from temptation (so that we do not have to wrestle between self-will and God's will)? Or, as I do indeed wrestle with my will, as I struggle to surrender, do I look for the angel that will strengthen me to keep struggling - not deliver me from the struggle? Do we pray to be delivered from temptation, or do we pray "only for the knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out?"