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The Practice of Waking Up to God…

During Lent 2010, I read “An Altar in the World” by Barbara Brown Taylor. I read one or two chapters each week and wrote my reactions to what I read after each chapter. This entry is from Week 1 and is about Chapter 1 (The Practice of Waking Up) and Chapter 2 (The Pracitice of Paying Attention). Those two chapters are very connected for me.

Chapter 1: The Practice of Waking Up to God
“X marks the spot.” . . . the reason that so many of us cannot see the big red X that marks the spot is that we are standing on it.

I seem to always be rushing forward, or slogging forward at least, instead of reveling in the present moment. “X marks the spot” will be a good practice to use this Lent. I see so much of God around me when I actually look. I am blessed to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The sun and the water greet me every day, and small angels surround me. I am warm and comfortable and full. I long for nothing concrete. But I yearn for God, and often I miss the connection because I don’t see God in everything around me unless I remember to see that “X marks the spot.”

Chapter 2: The Practice of Paying Attention: I am sometimes, no – often – so impatient that I forget to notice what is happening around me. I am in such a hurry that I get mad, even at things like having to wait while the toilet refills so I can flush it a second time—and be on my way. To where? It seems it doesn’t matter. Any place but here.

X marks the spot. God marks the spot. I am on the X. I am the spot.

Today I saw a close-up photograph of my hand — displayed on a huge screen — and I wanted to look away as fast as I could. Instead of noticing the beauty in the personalized artwork of my fingernails, manicured especially for me by my Dominican Republic friend, LaSandra, I saw the thousand wrinkles and spots and veins of an ugly old hand. Barbara Brown Taylor asks us to look with reverence at everything –including at at our own hand. Just now, I thought …

Did I make that hand? Did I make those spots? Did I cause the wrinkles that come with the joy of old age? I didn’t, of course. God made those things, and for Love. It is up to me to revere them. I worked hard to get to this part of my life; I partnered with God, one way or another. I didn’t make my hand, but I can revere it as the amazingly complex thing that it is. 1,000 bones or more? Or fewer? But many. Skin and hardness in my nails, a wonder as the wrinkles cover even new skin. Wrinkles on my knuckles that look like smushed and lopsided faces. A map of rings on the back of my hand that I can make smooth with motion, revealing the very blood lines that course through my hand and keep me alive. Skin so loose it reminds me of a young baby who has not grown into her skin yet.

Not yet fully grown – this old hand. If God is in everything, and everything is in God, then God is in my hand. God is my wrinkled skin and is the history of my spots.

Rather than disdain how my hand looks, rather than run away from how I look as an old-handed woman, I need to pay attention and remember that I did not create this hand. It is a marvel how long it has lasted, how much it can do, how it is connected to my heart. How my hand is not alone in my body, but a living symbol of what God creates and what is possible.