Contemplative Life

Thankful For Soggy Messes

A Japanese red maple graces the front of our home. We planted it about 20 years ago. It provides wonderful shade while in leaf and lately has been home to a family of doves. It does however have the bad habit of dripping a sticky resin onto our cars. In the Fall its leaves turn a brilliant red, which this year was outstandingly beautiful against the brilliant blue sky. Stand just right and you can see the blue through both the red leaf canopy and the green of the neighboring white pine and American holly.

And then comes the big dump. To me, this signals the entrance of Winter with its shedding of the old and its preparation for renewal in Spring. This year the big dump occurred Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Unlike some previous years, though, a pre-Thanksgiving Day storm left a soggy mess instead of the more usual red leaf carpet. The mess required cleanup and removal before its effects spread into and throughout my house.

The Synoptic Gospels all record the event of the Transfiguration. If only we can remain in the presence of Glory we think. But, we can’t and we don’t. All three Gospels also record the obvious: the descent and reentry of Jesus and the three disciples into their world: a world in need of good news, healing, and deliverance, as evidenced by their immediate confrontation with the unclean spirit in the boy. This deliverance required prayer and faith to accomplish. There is work yet to be done.  

This year, as I reflect on what I am thankful for, my thoughts keep returning to the soggy mess. I have received wonderful blessings this year. Many of them were followed by their opposite in nature as if to challenge the blessing. I first noticed this in my prayer life as the Lord allowed me to see that a common feature of my prayer is inviting the Holy Spirit to be present and touch my spirit. Reentry into life around me brings its challenges. The pattern is invitation to the Holy Spirit, colloquy and silence in his presence, and then response. We see this in Luke 21:15 where Jesus promises to give us words and wisdom in the context of challenge to the name of Jesus. 

This pattern of blessing and challenge is bringing me in turn into a pattern of invitation and waiting. Prayer and faith must precede response.  All too often my failure to wait results in yielding to temptation. Lord have mercy. I believe; help my unbelief. And so I begin yet again.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the soggy messes in my life, the blessings they represent and the cleanup the Lord is doing in me.

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