“There is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant.”
—Job 14: 7-9 (NIV)
Welcome back to Bread and Honey! Thank you for your patience. This has been an exciting and busy time as I am working on a new book (more to come!) and I am deep in the process of ordination. Fall has always been a welcome invitation to reset priorities and begin anew for me! Every September of my childhood, my mom would gather my five sisters and me into the Suburban for the much-anticipated back-to-school shopping run. We would head to Ford’s Drug’s on Main Street in Spartanburg, South Carolina to purchase new binders, notebooks, paper, pencils, and sharpeners. Either implied or stated, we all knew it meant we had a fresh start. God is always offering us chances to begin again in our spiritual lives. Father Thomas Keating said, “It is never too late to start the spiritual journey or start over, and it is worth starting over any number of times.”
There is a story about an abbot who loses his keys. His young monks find him on his hands and knees outside his house looking for the missing keys in every blade of grass. They join his search. The sun blazed and after a couple of hours with no luck a clever monk pipes up, “Master, have you any idea where you might have lost your keys?” He sits back in the dirt, rubs the dust off his shins, and smiles, “Of course,” he replies. “They have always been inside the house!” I think we make the spiritual life much harder than it needs to be. We easily fall prey to distraction, looking outward for the holy keys when our souls have known from the start what is rich, true and sacred. As declared in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “God has set eternity in our hearts.”
I know something of what it takes to live a soulful life—one experienced as deep, rich, and meaningful. The “keys” for me are regular, intimate, bear-my-soul conversations with God, daily quiet time in nature away from the hustle and bustle, church on Sunday to hear scripture, sing hymns and take communion in a thriving and faithful community, breaking bread with my family and friends around the table, sharing highs and lows, joys and concerns, reading the Bible and other books by spiritual thinkers, and actively extending love and care to my neighbors. Easily, I can lose myself to the busyness of my external life, so caught up in the going from here to there, that without even noticing, my spiritual life finds it is on the back burner, low on my priority list. This is a crazy busy season of hockey and flag football games, college applications and dance auditions, teaching my kindergartner how to read and tie his shoes, church work and creative writing. I welcome a metaphorical trip to Ford’s Drug’s for a reset, a fresh start, a remapping of perspectives from the material and earthbound to the sacred.
If you were to walk into my house, you would giggle and gasp at the jumbo-size calendar on the dining room table. It is almost as big as my six-year-old. The calendar tells the story of our lives (6 kids, 2 adults, even the dogs!). There isn’t a free square inch on the page till December 31st. It makes my heart clench just looking at it. Soccer practices, ballet classes, guitar lessons, hockey tournaments, pet appointments, football games, weekend college trips, book deadlines, and David’s work trips are graffitied in red, blue, green and black-ink. What you will not find on the calendar (sadly!) is scheduled time for spiritual activity. And that is probably why the calendar gives me heart palpitations instead of peace.
Even though I work in the church, I struggle with carving out time to nurture and grow my own spiritual life. The result is a more harried, less inspired, exponentially worried, hope diminished version of Farrell. I need daily “peace-giving” activities on my calendar. Annie Dillard in her book, The Writing Life, says, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our life.” Let’s all amend our schedules.
This summer, I rediscovered the “There is hope for a tree” scripture from the Book of Job. My favorite line is, “at the mere scent of water (the tree) will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.” It’s true! The soul is nurtured by the smallest gestures. I am working really hard to carve out time every single day for my spirit. I’d like each day to have some kind of divine significance, especially as I can not know the status of my “hourglass.” A thirty-minute walk or jog at Radnor Lake to take my fill on quiet and beauty. Reading my new devotional before I go to bed. Talking to my mom and sisters on the phone. A meet-cute for tea, overnight oats, and prayers with my “God Squad” on Monday mornings. Reading Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible while waiting in the school pick-up line. Listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Indigo Girls, or Hillsong in the kitchen while I am fixing dinner. Praying with my kids. Taking a container of soup to a church member who just lost her spouse and chatting on her porch.
I am threading every single day with something sacred.
To experience our daily lives as holy requires incredible intentionality! A more sacred existence requires a slowing down and a softening of ourselves. We need quiet, because the soul is listening for a different wavelength, subtle and nourishing, that runs below the blaring noise of our material world. The soul relishes any opportunity to have a deeper experience with another human being, in the natural world, especially engaged in a heart-to-heart with God.
One activity for the soul a day is a worthy goal. Expect a more sacred existence.
As I begin my fifteenth year writing this blog, more than ever, I want to be aware of and respond to that soul-deep tug calling me to live a sacred existence, one soul-directed, and love-focused. Thank you for joining me once again on the journey!
Holy and Loving God,
It is time to begin again.
A fresh start.
Help me to soften my edges and widen my heart.
I don’t want to miss You
or the miraculous.
My goal is to cross paths with You
Nothing compares to when my soul is peaceful
Give me a holy nudge when I fall off course.
Have I told You today, I love you?
Let me show you!