Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lent: Cleaning

This is my week to clean the middle building of our church. We are an urban church -- Ktizo United Church of Christ -- with an awesome mission and a meagre budget.  It means that once a month, it's my turn to vacuum stained ruby red carpet, clean toilets, empty wastebaskets, wipe mirrors, dust and mop the tile floor. Then remember how to sit the alarm when I leave with two bags of trash, one of which I'll take home to my house for the recycle bin.

Ken has helped me at least two other times. He cleans the toilets. The sinks. The floor. The mirror.  When I clean alone, I give the restrooms a quick swipe. He labors. Scrubbing. Polishing. Taking such care with a room we all frequent but where we seldom choose to linger.

I don't come to this monthly task with a servant's heart.  But it is Lent, so I'm curious to see what might happen.  Since I am trying to notice the small things and savor them, I anticipate something will be revealed.

But I'm too consumed with my aching back to notice little gems of joy. I dwell on how I find myself adjusting my gait in anticipation of twinges of pain that can come at random. I am no longer free and fluid with my movements. I remember when I tackled moving towering cabinets, sofas, lifting heavy boxes with brazen confidence. I long for that abandon. Instead I am careful now. And noisy. I groan. And I complain shamelessly to a man whose debilitating back pain confines him to a motorized wheelchair or a scooter. He uses two canes and props himself up on shaky legs and tired arms when he scrubs sinks and toilets.

We finish cleaning. And I pause to admire our handiwork. The bathrooms sparkle. There is less lint on the carpet. I imagine people coming into the space and registering someone has come before them and made the space neat and tidy. Someone has cared. I think that's important.

I announce that I am too tired to go to the movie. Ken says the obvious: what's so taxing about sitting in a movie eating popcorn. I talk about the stress of finding a parking spot. Loading and unloading the scooter. Making our way to the ticket counter. Standing in line for the popcorn. It's too much. "I can understand why it's easy to gain weight when you hurt," I say. "Eating gratifies and it distracts." And then I tell him how gracious he is. That if it was me in his position, it would be awful. All I would do is complain. Ken never complains. He says, "No you wouldn't. I just sit the pain aside and don't think about it." He assumes I would do the same thing. I know he's wrong.

And that's my Lenten gift for the day. The Israelites couldn't hear Moses' reassurance straight from God that they would be free. That He hadn't forsaken them (See They (the Israelites) were broken, dispirited, tired. What enslaves me? What am I too dispirited, broken to hear, to be consoled and buoyed by?

Here's a prayer (see My prayer:

Here is a prayer by Ted Loder

O God,
let something essential happen to me,
someting more than interesting
or entertaining,
or thoughtful.

O God,
let something essential happen to me,
something awesome,
something real.
Speak to my condition, Lord,
and change me somewhere inside where it matters....
Let something happen in me
which is my real self.  God. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lent begins

Lent began last night with nine women around my table drinking wine, sharing a meal and talking about The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty  by Vendela Vida. It was my Book Club. Actually, the splinter club of My Book Club.

One of us had ashes on her forehead. The other Catholics talked about their mothers' faith. Going to sleep holding their rosaries. Lots of talk about mothers and rosaries as if the clutching of a rosary was absurd and not endearing. Sixty-plus-year-old women still needing to note the absurdities of our mothers.  Maybe it was the wine.

I want to note the small, often unnoticed things of nature, relationships, moments that grace a day. My day. And write about them. And the one that comes to mind is my remembrance of the conversation last night about rosaries and mothers.  One of my friends there recently lost her husband.  He died from ALS. A harrowing year watching this once virile, life force of a human decline in lightening speed from a disease from which there is no cure only the sureness of death. I sensed our quiet as we heard the laughter as each person tried to top the other about her mother's grip on the prayer beads Catholic women hold in their hands.  I felt our shared sadness listening to this from a group of women who I admire, enjoy.

I imagined the sweet solace and comfort those older women, closer to death than we now assume ourselves, seeking from those familiar beads and the words long encrypted in their souls.

This Lenten season I too seek the comfort and reassurance of a ritual that connects me to God and thus to myself.