Barefoot & Preaching is a syndicated monthly column in The Catholic Register.
Photo Credit: Jessica Harrington
Thanks is a word and a way of being. It seeks out the gift in what is. It assumes there is a gift to be seen here. In the hardest seasons of my life, thanks has been a ladder out of darkness. A therapist once reminded me through my tears that what we focus on is magnified. When we actively practice gratitude, the gifts of the present become easier to see.
We are walking through the strangest of days, living in a state of prolonged grief, change, and fatigue. Though the measure and kind vary between us, challenges are a shared reality right now. The first letter to the Thessalonians instructs us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (5:18). Alongside another friend writing about gratitude in difficulty, this thanksgiving, I am challenging myself to practice this more actively.
And so, A Pandemic Litany of Thanks:
Thank you, Creator of All, for the chaos that formed the world. For disruptions and destruction that interrupt the way things had been and create empty space for something desperately needed and new. For discomfort and what it reveals about my wounded heart and deepest fears. For walks and wind and painted skies. I am grateful for the undoing and remaking at work in the world right now.
Thank you, Lover of the Broken, for the ways hearts are aching. For longing to wrap our arms around people far away. For the revelations in relationships, for collapsing under the weight of it all and finding the floor, for the relief that comes when I quit pretending I can do it all. For flowers wilted in the frost. I am grateful that my heart withstands the breaking and the ways you stitch me back together.
I thank you, God of Mercy, for unmet expectations, failures in the best laid plans, and opportunities to apologize. For care in weakness, love in confusion, hope in knowing that neither my nor others’ worst is the measure of our worth. For exhausted compassion, one more deep breath, a well of patience beyond my own to try again. For the sound of dead leaves beneath my feet. I am grateful for waves of mercy to wash over me.
Thank you, Spirit of Wisdom, for perspectives different from my own. For information overload, scientific research, and critical thinking. For the invitation to listen deeply to people, for the grace to set boundaries and stop taking more in, for the reminder to be kind especially when I do not understand. I am grateful that learning lasts a lifetime, and maybe even into eternity. For fog. May I come to see clearly what is confusing my spirit these days.
Thank you, Warrior of Justice, for the cracks in the comfort of some built on the backs of others. For the courage of those who cry out, the shame that follows an accurate accusation, the long road of struggle for freedom for all. For call outs and call ins, repentance and conversion, amends and atoning. For thunderstorms and the smell after the rain. I am grateful for the hard work of being reconciled.
I thank you, Abundant Giver, that there are gifts in situations I would have avoided, circumstances I did not ask for, and realities I do not like. For people who irritate and accuse me, for experiences that make me call on and receive the help of others, for a life that challenges me beyond the edges of my current capacity. For rocks beneath my feet and the sting of a cold lake. I can give thanks for the gifts of being stretched, being assisted and carried, for constant growth. I am grateful that it is possible to receive and even appreciate gifts I did not ask for.
Thank you, Healer of Wounds, for masks and vaccinations, distancing and outside air, health care workers and leaders. For errors in judgement, sacrifices necessary and not, humanity on display. For the struggle of trying to stay together while we stay apart. For tears of anger, frustration, defeat. For a sun that keeps on rising. I am grateful that you have promised to be with us in the mess.
May I open my hands and my heart to whatever gifts you pour out to be opened here. May I see what is possible in the ugly and unbelievable. And may giving thanks in all circumstances be a conduit to the fullness of grace you have promised us, amen.
Image by Pezibear from Pixabay Longing is a place I visit frequently, passing through on the way to somewhere else. The floor is worn at the entrance way and in front of the window, where walking gently back and forth has left its mark. The chair...
Shoveling for hours, I dug mostly for more space inside myself.
The God who has held me for every moment of my existence does not offer a heady salvation from a massive throne on a far off judgement day; the Spirit pours the saving into creation and wraps itself around me in every moment.
And all these awkward stages in life and in creation are part of the miracle of being alive. They are neither better nor worse than seedling or mature stages of growth. Where did I learn to judge the awkward as bad, the uncomfortable as awful, the exposed as wrong?
I am learning to practice falling the way I practice guitar: to learn to recognize the notes and to trace my fingers over them until they feel familiar.
Delivered in memory of Abbie Speir at the Court of Queen's Bench in Regina, Saskatchewan on July 23, 2020, at the Sentencing Hearing for Kevin Obina Okafor. So often, in the days since you took Abbie’s life, Kevin, people have said that they cannot imagine what it is...
Photo Credit: Marc Perrault Honest is hard. There is nothing like a season of physical distancing to remind me of that truth. We have joined in the effort to protect the vulnerable by staying home and away from other households, drawing the six of us into closer...
Space is not a word I associated with love for most of my life. I grew up longing for the freedom of stretching further away from the intimacy of my family and small, Saskatchewan town. I sat in the farm house window sill in my bedroom, staring up at the expansive,...
The thing is, there is no happily ever after. There is only ever happy moments, gifts for receiving in the midst of whatever is right now. I am undone fairly often when the illusion of happily ever after falls apart – again.
My feelings come in waves, both fleeting and relentless. They find their way to the fault lines of life’s previous earthquakes.
On Being Barefoot…
Before the burning bush, God asks Moses to take off his sandals, to notice and reverence that he walks on holy land. This holy land continues to burn before me, before us, signaling God’s presence before we arrived rather than because we did. This life we are living was holy before we existed in it. This land and creation we call home is the first book of revelation, God’s love letter to us, bearing witness to the Creator of it all.Our lives and the moments that make them up are the stuff of sainthood, our invitations to participate in Divine life to be swallowed up and fulfilled by God. At the grocery store, in the false solitude of our cars and commutes, in our laundry rooms, and over text messages. My shoes run the risk of “protecting” me from the sacredness of this naked moment. And how I love shoes, and how my sensitive toes resist the prickles of grass and the mess of sand. But barefoot is how my spirituality works, daring to live an embodied and earthy love of Jesus who took on flesh. I’m wandering through this life, yearning to let go of my shoes, to walk reverently and with deep attention to what passes under my feet and to what isn’t yet my path. Barefoot is how I write, how I speak, how I work. Experience shored up against an insatiable thirst for knowledge; direct honesty honed by sensitivity; and vulnerability chained to a commitment to competency. And an unapologetically barefoot tendency to speak it as I feel it, which leads me to…
I’m a preacher without a pulpit, with words that burn until they are spoken ~ aloud or on a page.
My ministry is one of colliding words and ideas, reaching out to find a connection with God’s amazing people.
The world seems to me to be spilling over with grace and we seem to be people who, all too quickly forget that all of this is pure gift.
When I’m driving, eating, visiting, resting, cleaning, working, playing, and almost everything else, I’m frequently stunned by the pure miracle of what simply is.
It’s not all promised joy and ease, but it is all presenced and remembered by the One who gives it. And I can’t stop talking about it, proclaiming it, preaching this good news that we have not been forgotten or forsaken in any moment of this life.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, my words seem to be given to encourage and inspire. In a world where women and girls are still too-often silenced or secondary, I’m barefoot and preaching because my soul won’t rest any other way. If my words can be a gift to you, then that is a gift for me.