All posts by rosemales

Lamenting with you

While holding space for my own longing and grief this last week I’ve found myself also deeply aware of others lamenting in this season…
For the family of Duante Wright…
For the black community continually assaulted by racism and injustice in this country… 
For all those awaiting accountability for Derek Chauvin and the murder of George Floyd.. 
For the family of Adam Toledo…
For asian Americans and the injustice they’re enduring in this country…
For those fleeing their countries to the US borders hoping for a better life…
For friends who lost a baby last week… 
For friends remembering a sister lost to cancer…
For friends who lost a mother to cancer… 
For a friend whose daughter is right now dying of cancer… 
For couples struggling with infertility… 
For women who never got to fulfill their desires for a husband or children… 
For those waiting with longing to adopt… 
For birth mothers who make adoption plans for their beloved babies… 
For friends whose family members died by suicide… 
For friends whose marriages ended in divorce…
For beloved children whose families changed through divorce… 
For families separated by COVID…
Honestly the list goes on and on. Suffering is everywhere, the great equalizer. So many holding secret grief in their hearts; sadness, lament, unmet desires in their hearts. So I’m embracing our connectedness by holding space for all those suffering right now and am deeply grateful for a God who lovingly chooses solidarity with humanity’s anguish and pain.

The dark side of new life

A friend was telling me the other day that soon after an agave flowers, the plant dies. I noticed this one on a walk yesterday, and I was in awe of all the energy this plant must be giving to create the next generation. It reminded me of My Octopus Teacher, a Netflix doco following the life of an octopus through to her last days when she lays a nest full of eggs and gives into death (a tear-jerker for sure!). It got me wondering how many other animals and plants experience a self-sacrificing death in order to provide the beautiful gift of new life? 

It’s not lost one me that today is Good Friday, a day in the Christian church calendar where we remember the final moments of Jesus’s life and his crucifixion. A central example in the Christian faith of the way that death brings about new life, for after his death we will enter into Easter Sunday, when the church celebrates Jesus’ resurrection, and the new life which humanity and all of creation can and will experience as a result of his self-sacrificing death.

I can only imagine that Jesus’s death was an experience of profound suffering. Yet, just like we can’t have a next generation of agave plants, or octopuses without loss, we can’t have Christ’s resurrection without His death…and the waiting in the darkness and uncertainty of Easter Saturday in between. All that to say, willingly entering into suffering and death is ultimately a risk because we don’t know the final outcome. Does the plant know for sure that her seeds are going to produce healthy new seedlings? Does the octopus know for sure that her eggs are going to produce healthy, strong, baby octopuses? Did Jesus know for sure that his death was going to result in his resurrection and the redemption of the world he loved? With a story as familiar as this one is, it is easy to think that he surely knew the outcome, however considering the agony he felt in the Garden of Gethsemane sometimes I do find myself wondering what that “knowing” was like. Did he really know for sure or did he, to some extent, feel the risk? 

Whether you look at the agave, the octopus, or Christ, I sense that in the risk of surrendering to death there also exists a deep hope and expectation for new life. Death gives birth to new life. But lets be honest, we don’t always know what that new life will look like! Sure we can look at the agave plant and octopus and know that the new life to come will look similar to what came before, but more often than not in our own circumstances we have uncertainty as to what new life will look like as we enter into suffering and death. 

In my own life, being willing to surrender to the reality of infertility was a risk. Letting go of my dreams of being a mother, of having the family that I’d planned with my husband, and of imagining what our biological children would look like, was a deeply painful process. It was a death. There is no other way to describe it. There was no clear vision for what life on the other side would look like. It was an act of trust and hope in God alone, knowing that I had nothing within me to produce new life. And there was a lot of waiting!! Yet the new life which slowly grew, and continues to grow, is more beautiful than I could have ever expected. 

As you journey through this Good Friday, as you wait in the darkness of Easter Saturday, in what ways are you facing the reality of suffering and death in your life? It’s a risk to acknowledge these realities. It’s painful and vulnerable to face these realities. Maybe you’re not ready now, but when you are, consider the agave plant, the octopus, and most importantly Jesus who embraces death with you and for you so that you can experience new life. It is a risk, and the potential new life to come does not minimize the excruciating pain of suffering, but just know that you are not alone, and new life does await you on the other side. 

Acknowledging Our Irritations

A Liturgy for a Fleeting Irritation:
I bring to you Lord, my momentary irritation, 
that you might reveal the buried seed of it—not 
in the words or actions of another person, but
in the withered and hypocritical expectations 
of my own small heart. Uproot from this
impoverished soil all arrogance and insecurity that 
would prompt me to dismiss or distain others, 
judging them with a less generous measure that
I reckon when judging myself. 
Prune away the tangled growth
of my own unjustified irritations, Jesus, 
and graft to my heart instead your humility, 
   your compassion, 
   your patience, 
   your kindness, 
That I might bear good fruit in keeping 
with your grace.
Amen.
 
A liturgy from Every Moment Holy (Volume I) by Douglas Kaine McKelvey  

Embracing the Seasons

 

It’s springtime here in San Diego. We’ve had so much rain over the winter months which means now as the sun comes out and it starts warming up everything is bursting with color. The hills are green and lush, flowers are starting to bloom, and I swear even the sky is brighter shade of blue. Spring is not only the time for plants to emerge from dormancy after those long winter months, but the animals too — birds are chirping and butterflies are literally everywhere! Every time I go outside I get excited to see what new expression of life I will discover that day. It’s intoxicating.

I recently discovered that just like how every other living thing is impacted by seasons, humans experience seasons too. By that I don’t just mean the natural cycle of the year, but rather autumn, winter, spring and summer are real seasons experienced on our personal spiritual journeys’. I had heard the concept a few years back but it didn’t dawn on me until I was reading Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer that the metaphor of seasons can aptly describe our current lived experiences. Palmer writes:

“Seasons are a wise metaphor for the movement of life…The notion that our lives are like the eternal cycle of the seasons does not deny the struggle or the joy, the loss or the gain, the darkness or the light, but encourages us to embrace it all—and to find in all the opportunities for growth.”

Since making this discovery I have fully embraced the metaphor of seasons, finding it to be so helpful in giving words to those current lived experiences—both the inner life and outer circumstances—which sometimes make no sense. But more than that, the metaphor of the seasons validates our experiences, recognizing them all as necessary in our journey of transformation. We don’t have to fear the struggle of autumn or the desolation of winter, but acknowledge these times as just as crucial to our spiritual journey as the joy of spring and fruitfulness of summer.

Adele Albert Calhoun, in her book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us also explores the metaphor of seasons, giving description to what one might experience in each season:

Spring

Spring is the season of new life, new beginnings, new growth. Enthusiasm for the things of God accompanies spiritual springtimes. Desire for more of God breaks forth in a beautiful way. Calhoun suggests that the spiritual disciplines of worshiping in gratitude or celebration, hearing God’s word through the disciplines of bible study, devotional reading, meditation, and sharing our lives with others through practices of community or hospitality usually come easy during this season.

Summer

In the summer season of abundance the capacity and desire to give overflows. Serving others, working for justice, volunteering and engaging in outreach brings us life. During this season, the fruit of the Spirit of God seems tangible to us. We sense God’s love, joy, and peace in deeply satisfying ways. Again, practices that help us share our lives such as mentoring or service, as well as disciplines that help us incarnate God’s love, maybe through care for the earth, justice, or compassion are disciplines that help us partner with the flow of the Spirit in this season.

Autumn

Autumn is a season of transition standing between the bounty of summer and the barrenness of winter. This season is a mixed bag of harvest and loss. Sometimes, even as we reap the fruit of sharing our lives with others, we sense a weariness of soul and a desire to hibernate for a time. Calhoun suggests the spiritual discipline of prayer such as centering prayer or fixed-hour prayer can help us acknowledge the authentic realities of our lives and guide us to move more deeply into relationship with God in this season.

Winter

Winter is a season when the well runs dry and we feel we are running on empty. It is a demanding season when death’s victory seems to reign supreme; it’s cold, it’s dark, and everything goes quiet. It’s a time when we need to wait in hope even when all hope seems to be gone, but ultimately winter yields rich growth that flowers in other seasons. For this reason Calhoun recommends spiritual disciplines that will help us relinquish our agendas and open new spaces of our lives for God to show up. Silence, spiritual direction, examen, journaling and contemplation are all practices that can sustain us in this dry season.

As Spring starts to reveal itself in nature here in San Diego, I find myself experiencing the joy of a Spring season in my own life too. New life and joy and light bursting forth in abundance after a season of darkness and confusion brought on by the burnout of my master degree. In those first few months after graduation I felt the Spirit of God call me to hibernate and rest, a call to literally do nothing with my life but rest. As someone who finds her identity in doing and achieving, giving myself permission to stop was really difficult, and as I walked through this winter season I had to face many hidden doubts, questions, confusion, and temptations. Yet through it all I came to understand how necessary it was for me to stop and lie fallow, embracing practices of silence, spiritual direction, contemplation to help me see God’s work in my life when everything felt beyond hope. I learnt to accept the truth of Ecclesiastes 3:1 which says “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun.” And now, as I step into a springtime season I can look back on that winter will gratitude for all that it grew in me.

So dear reader, as you process your life and your own current lived experiences, may the metaphor of seasons be encouraging to you, may it bring meaning to both the joy and the sorrow, to the abundance and the death. And remember, there is a God who walks alongside you through it all, who sustains you through it all, and who allows the beautiful cycle of the seasons to manifest in your life deep growth and transformation.

How my puppy taught me about Love

IMG_5700
[a shameless photo of my beloved Honey-bun]
Recently, late at night, I was sitting out in my courtyard watching a beautiful fire burning away in our fire pit, flames licking up through the rich eucalyptus wood, and warming my skin as I snuggled with my four month old Vizsla puppy, Honey. Without conscious thought, I leaned toward her and with all the tenderness that my heart was feeling, whispered into her ear: I love you Honey, I love you so much, you are so precious to me. 

As I sat there in that moment, my heart bursting with affection and delight toward this little pup lying against my chest, I had a moment of clarity where I realised that this is exactly how God feels toward me, and though I may not be aware of it, he is constantly leaning in and whispering into my ear: I love you Rose, I love you so much, you are so precious to me. More than that, I realised that God is simultaneously whispering His declaration of love into the ear of every single person that exists in this moment.

Reflecting on this I thought back over the first few weeks of Honey’s life as she entered into our home: when we introduced her to her crate she would howl for 20 minutes straight every time we put her in there (to the point that our neighbour complained), she wakes us up multiple times a night to go to the toilet, she has pooped in our lounge room not once, not twice, but three times, and because she is in her teething stage, Honey has tried to chew our hands, our clothes, our shoes, our furniture, our books and pretty much anything she can wrap her little mouth around. And despite all this my heart burns with love for this little creature. I see how affectionate she is, how timid she is, how much she desires to please us, how much she relies on us for her survival. Honey has won my heart completely, in fact if I am really honest, before we even picked her up from the breeder’s farm I already loved her, and there is not a bone in my body that regrets choosing her to be a part of my family.

So it is for God when He looks at us human beings, these creatures of His creation that He made out of the burning love in His heart. Even before he created us and brought us into existence He loved us with and overwhelming love and there is nothing that we can do to diminish His love for us or make Him turn away from us. Even when we reject Him, when we choose to live life without Him in mind, when we try to love Him but fail miserably, when we fall abysmally short of loving our fellow human beings… in our brokenness, in our shame, and in our messiness, God’s love for us never fails. He continues to lean in and whisper into YOUR ear: I love you, you are so precious to me. If you want proof of this love just look to Jesus Christ. His life and death are a testament to how much God loves and delights in you. You are everything to Him, and for as long as you live He will never stop leaning in and whispering his declaration of love over you. Will you listen and accept his love?