The Importance of Ordinary Time

“Ordinary Human Arms”  by Marianne Larsen
we put our arms around each other  / a pair of ordinary tax-paying human arms  
not to rest them  / but to harden them  / a pair of ordinary concrete-accustomed 
and marketed human arms  / a pair of ordinarily hugging  / human arms  
we put them around each other  / they are health-insured and ordinarily dressed  
a pair of ordinary love-interpreting  / human arms  / how strong they are  
sovereign, independent –  / no matter where  / no matter what the hour  
no matter what the season  / suddenly and for all time  / human arms  
without speculation  / we put them around each other  
as if to show that their powerlessness  / doesn’t exist

After the celebration of Pentecost, which is the Church’s birthday, we enter into the liturgical season known as Ordinary Time.  That is where we are now.  And actually, the bulk of the Church Year is considered Ordinary Time.  There are no major celebrations during this time.  No holidays.  No big preparations, anticipation, expectation.  Just ordinary people going about their ordinary business on ordinary days with their ordinary families and their ordinary lives.  But that’s just it.  Its “ordinariness” makes it extraordinary.  Possibilities abound on regular-ole, ordinary days.  The church blossoms and grows in ordinary time.  This is when the real work of the church is done.  The church learns how to be the church in ordinary times—when we are just going about our ordinary business.  Our everyday, ordinary actions reveal the most about who we are and what we believe.  It’s not the Christmas gifts we exchange or the parties we throw or the Easter meals we prepare.  It’s how we put our ordinary human arms to work.  It’s how we spend our time and energy and resources on a regular and consistent basis that make a difference in the world.  So as we continue through this season, let us be mindful of the blessings and opportunities in our midst.  They might seem ordinary, but they aren’t.

See you in church,

Spirituality Matters

It doesn’t have to be / the blue iris.  It could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few / small stones; just
pay attention, then patch / a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate.  This isn’t / a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which / another voice may speak.

    —Mary Oliver

At this year’s CCNC-N Annual Gathering, I was asked to lead the regional conversation on Spiritual Practices.  I was delighted to do it, and I want to share with you some of that conversation:

Spirituality matters.  Frankly, I believe your spirituality changes the world—whether you do it deliberately or not.  Because your spirituality is how you connect with the world—with Creation—with one another—with the Holy and Divine all around us.  Some of us do this connecting intentionally—attempting to cultivate that active relationship with everything in and around us.  And some of us do it unintentionally—either engaging practices that connect us with the Sacred but not necessarily articulating it in that way OR struggling to find intentional ways to nurture a relationship with the Divine OR walking through our lives unaware that everything we do and say is an expression of our spiritual connection with the world.

And of course, at different times in our lives, each one of us does each one of these things.  And sometimes, we do them simultaneously.  Spirituality is not an either/or, black/white exercise.  Spirituality—whether intentional or unintentional—attempts to focus us both inward and outward, head and heart, experiential and rational, centering within ourselves and involving us in social action.  Spirituality is not all about sitting quietly and navel gazing.  To be effective and relevant, it must draw us outside of ourselves.  And to be grounded and authentic, it must take us inside ourselves and start the transformation there.

So, there is a reason it is called “spiritual practice.”  It is like learning a new language, dribbling a basketball, or getting in physical shape.  It doesn’t happen overnight, and getting better at it requires dedication and consistency.  It requires repetition, openness, and building upon the lessons we’ve already learned.  It requires practice.

Before Clivie was born, I had a regular yoga practice.  I did all kinds of yoga, but I especially liked Bikram yoga—the kind you do in hot, sauna-like conditions.  But since he was born, for the past year and a half, I have hardly done any yoga.  I thought I would have to give up this important spiritual practice of mine until I realized I could incorporate my new reality as a mama into it. We are all on a journey.  We are all cultivating some kind of relationship with the Sacred.  And Clivie is a part of that for me now.  So, lately, I have been putting on a yoga DVD, and letting him practice and roll around on the floor with me.  To be sure, it is a new kind of practice.  But it is still nurturing my relationship with the Divine.  Like Mary Oliver says, I am learning that it doesn’t have to be the blue iris after all.  It could be weeds.  Or a few small stones. . . .