Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Value of Staying in One Place

We moved to Fishers, Indiana, in 1996, when Mike was appointed pastor of the Fishers United Methodist Church. Since the parsonage was occupied by the youth minister, we needed to purchase our first house. We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of our move. I've never lived in one place for that length of time.

Growing up, I moved six times before I was eleven and attended four different schools between kindergarten and sixth grade. Mike and I moved five times during forty-one years of marriage. Staying in one place has been a long-time desire for me since moving frequently was disruptive and unpleasant.

I made connections with friends when I was young, but relocating a few years later felt like my heart was ripped out. Moving as an adult was equally wrenching as we developed meaningful friendships with people in each church Mike pastored. These people welcomed us with love, celebrated our joys, and sat with us in sorrow.

This past Lent, I found a way to "stay put," so to speak, with a series of stories recorded in Matthew (18:10-14) and Luke (15:1-31) - the lessons of the lost; the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. I focused on the parable of the lost sheep using a method of studying scripture called Lectio Divina or Holy Reading. This ancient way of staying with scripture involves four steps:

    1. Read the scripture. Listen to God's word. Find a word or phrase that speaks to you.
    2. Read the scripture again. Ask, "What is God saying to me?"
    3. Read the scripture a third time. Open your heart to respond to God. What do you want to say to
    4. Read the scripture a final time. Surrender to God's presence. Rest in God.

Lectio Divina is a way to "settle into" scripture and discover what God might reveal.

I read the story of the lost sheep every morning during Lent. I discovered that this story is really about the joy that comes when something that is lost is found.

In both Matthew's and Luke's record of Jesus' words, I "found" this sequence: something is lost (sheep, coin, son), someone (shepherd, woman, father) spends time looking and searching, and then when the sheep, coin and son are found, the good news is shared followed by celebration.

These three words - look, find, rejoice - offer a model for how to seek God every day. In "looking" we become aware of what is around us; as we find God in various ways, we discover how God comes to us and what God gives us; finally, we "rejoice" and give thanks to God for revealing to us that which was hidden, often sharing our discoveries with others.

As I grew mindful of what I might find each day, rather than dwelling on what is lost in my life, my perspective changed. For example during the last few weeks of Lent, I found,

     1. A new walking path thanks to my friend, Donna, who included me in an afternoon trek;
     2. A squirrel with a mouthful of dried leaves and sticks on its way to build a nest;
     3. New ways to rest with scripture and life (look, find, rejoice);
     4. An insight into the meaning of Maundy Thursday;
     5. An article in a magazine that retrieved a lost memory (about my high school charm bracelet);
     6. A patch of green grass in the woods behind our house signaling that spring is coming soon.

Moving created instability when I was growing up, forcing me to say good-bye and start over again. Each time we left a church as an adult, I experienced similar feelings of sadness and regret. All I wanted was to settle in and stay put. I realize now thanks to this Lenten practice of Lectio Divina sending me deeper into the scripture, I could move again if I had to - I don't want to, but I could because I have finally found a way of "staying put" that I can carry with me anywhere in the world.

Prayer: Compassionate and merciful God, our grounding in You is sometimes the only stability in our lives when we relocated or find ourselves in challenging circumstances. Sink us deeply into You as we "look" for you, as we note our "findings," and as we "rejoice" in Your revealing. Amen.

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