Carrots, Lent, and New Life

In Minnesota, winter has been easier than usual this year, but despite that, last week the gray skies got to me a few days. I was sick of everything, and for no particular reason. I read about how people in the days before electric light slept long hours in the winter–and I thought, that’s me: I want to crawl into a cocoon and sleep until spring.

Then the weekend came, and we were out of carrots for making lunches, when I remembered something tucked away in the coldest part of our basement. I brought it up to the kitchen, opened up the box, and suddenly their was a lovely burst of the scent of … are you ready for this? ….  SOIL!

Box from cold, dark storage
Box from cold, dark storage

Before I lived in the Upper Midwest, I did not realize what a treasure this is… In the March/April thaw, one of the most pleasant fragrances, often at an unconscious level, is the scent of the soil drifting on the warmer spring wind. The ground is no longer completely frozen, and this scent of soil brings to mind thoughts of gardens and flowers and mowing and sweet corn–and the heart skips a beat with excitement.

Soil: catch the scent in winter!
Soil: catch the scent in winter!

However, there was something else, there, too. Something we had packed away in the sandy soil last October. We dug out these messy-looking cylinders, scrubbed them up, and voila! Fresh carrots!

Yummy carrots!
Yummy carrots!

We think of winter as a time when “nothing is happening” in that soil, when everything is “dead”… and indeed, there is a lot of death happening–but not all is lost. The soil is rejuvenating itself.

Ancient peoples in northern climes must have been in awe of spring returning, a kind of miracle of sun and warmth. The seeds sprout and the cycle of life circles around again.

It’s no wonder Lent, Passover, and Easter are celebrated at this time of year. Indeed the word “Lent” means “springtime”… and all those Easter eggs, baby bunnies and lambs are symbolic of life renewing itself, once again, in the springtime.

Our souls, indeed our whole persons, undergo many transitions and “spring times” in life. We seek inner growth and deeper healing from old wounds. We may deepen current relationships even as we form new relationships. We search for new meaning and fresh ways of loving and serving others.

Will you pray with me?

O God,

When the darkness of winter is on us,
inspire us to hope in your springtime.
When the snow becomes drab and muddy,
remind us that new life is just around the corner.
When our hearts are “old” and “dusty,”
plant your seeds of love and
bring us to life once again.
This we pray in the name of Jesus
and in the communion of the Holy Spirit, 

Amen! 

 

 

A Prayer Poem for Pentecost

Today is the Feast of Pentecost in many Christian churches. Here is a poem-prayer I wrote this morning as I was thinking about Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I invite you to spend some time praying and pondering this sacred mystery with me.

Holy Spirit--stained glass window--Julie McCarty--Spiritual Drawing Board

A Rainy Day Pentecost Prayer

On this day of Pentecost, a cloudy sky dimly shines through the window
while I sit here, sipping my cup of tea,
gentle raindrops falling on a wood
of bright green leaves.
No tongues of fire
or windy skies,
but that is
how it is
sometimes.
God comes
not only
Raindrops on puddle--Julie McCarty--Spiritual Drawing Boardin excitement
and special
effects, but
also in a
drop,
in the quiet,
to still our souls
and remind us
that the Divine,
the Holy Spirit,
is Holy Presence,
truly “God-with-Us”
in Spirit form–everywhere–
both near and far
and high and low
and deep within my heart,
and your heart, and the hearts
of people living on the other side
of the globe–maybe even of the universe.
Yes, Lord, pour out your Spirit afresh on us,
on all of us, renewing our lives and the earth,
raining down on us like raindrops, soaking deep
into the soil of the earth and the soil of our souls.
May this rain of the Spirit bring new life, an ever-growing
communion and holiness within and among us, more and more each day.

Flower with raindrops--Julie McCarty--Spiritual Drawing Board

What I did this summer

Oct 2014 Lunar eclipse--photo by Julie McCarty

You have made the moon to mark the seasons; 
the sun knows its time for setting. . . .
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
(from Psalm 104: 19, 24)

When I was growing up, “What I did this summer” was the standard theme for writing assignments when we returned to school. Since this summer, I haven’t been blogging here, so I thought I’d fill you in on what I’ve been doing.

Minnesotans love to be outdoors in the summer (especially after this past winter!), and I am no exception. The summer here is filled with all the outdoor work on the home and garden that you can’t do the rest of the year. More importantly, we Minnesotans just like to enjoy being outside in the summer. So I spent lots of time nurturing my vegetable garden, taking long walks to practice nature photography, and enjoying time with summer visitors from out of state.

Veggies from garden--Julie McCarty

(click on photos to enlarge)

In September, my husband Terry and I spent two weeks exploring Manitoba, Canada and Thunder Bay, Ontario. We enjoyed hiking and practicing photography in the wheat fields, zoo, Riding Mountain National Park, and Whiteshell Provincial Park.  I hope to write more about that enjoyable and soul-nourishing trip sometime in the future.

Manitoba entrance

One of the highlights of this summer was digging deeper into my volunteer coordinator role of another blog called “Easter Prays / Easter Praise!” This reflection blog is a joint effort of many people from our church, Easter Lutheran.  I’m so blessed with what others are sharing: personal reflections, original prayers, tips on praying and spiritual practices, and stories of God’s work in our everyday lives.

This week, Terry brought in the last of our garden: carrots. (Carrots can survive longer into the fall, as they are protected deep in the ground.) With the turning over of the garden soil, my mind turns indoors and inwards, in anticipation of winter… to the writer side of me… and the newly developing artist studio in my basement…and all the potential those reflective, creative activities hold. My mind also returns to this blog and the plan to post reflections more frequently again

So, as the last few leaves scurry across our lawn, I wish you a happy November (the beginning of autumn, perhaps, for some of you), filled with every blessing from above.

Until next time, Amen!  

Nature, creativity, and Creator God

I hope all of you are enjoying summer this year.  Here’s a photo I took of a monarch butterfly who kept flitting around the sandy beach.  I had fun adding the quote about Creator God.

Butterfly on sandy beach with Apollonius saying--Julie McCarty

Creativity often benefits from a playful attitude. In order to be creative, one has to let go of the critical self (writers call this “inner critic”), at least in the beginning, lest the new creation be crushed even before it’s out of the cocoon. It often helps to approach a new project with the spirit of childhood play.

I wonder if God would have created us, if his divine mind was filled with worries and fearful “what ifs” … What if they sin too much? What if the humans hate me? What if they hurt each other–or kill each other? What if NO ONE returns to the Garden of Eden (heaven) to be with me?

The creative energy just doesn’t flow with this sort of thinking. If God had been tangled up in nervous “what-ifs,” we might not even EXIST at all.

When I say this, of course, I’m really preaching to myself. In order to be creative, one has to silence the inner critic–at least in the initial stages. The inner critic can suggest improvements later, when it is time to edit or improve the work in progress.

May God bless you with a creative and re-creating summer…May your inner critic take a vacation so you can create something beautiful–be it sermons, recipes, vacations, work projects, art, photos, or simple messages on greeting cards. . . And may all you plan and create be filled with the wisdom, love, and Spirit of the Ultimate Creator.

Until next time, Amen!

(For more spiritual nuggets, visit Spiritual Drawing Board on Facebook.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 1–Delight in pondering the ways of God

If your town is like mine, it has been a very cold, icy, snowy winter. This week my hubby is shoveling snow–off the roof!  (We have to prevent “ice dams” that could cause water to seep inside the house.)

At times like this, it’s nourishing to feast one’s eyes on the green in this picture:

Tree beside stream--photo by Julie McCarty

(click on photo to enlarge)

I was reminded of this photo while reading Psalm 1 this morning (sorry, the margins aren’t what I wanted):

Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
        planted by streams of water,
        which yield their fruit in its season. . .  (NRSV)

In my prayer journal, I have found it sometimes helps to paraphrase or adapt bible verses for our day and age. When I put something in my own words, it forces me to think about it more deeply. (As a straight paraphrase, one would stick to the text, considering what the author intended. As a prayerful meditation, one can be a little creative.) 

In my case, I reworked the words for my own Christ-centered beliefs. I have respect for the psalms just as they were written, and I know that not everyone will agree with how I have rephrased it. However, that’s one nice thing about a prayer journal: you can explore ideas without worrying so much about what others might think.

Green tree--photo by Julie McCartyHere’s how I adapted this passage:

Blessed is she who delights
in the way of Christ,
pondering it day and night.
She is like a tree
planted beside a stream,
drinking in the waters of the Spirit,
bearing fruit, with God’s help,
in due time.  

I encourage you to try this way of praying. Study a bible passage and then rewrite it in your own words–just for yourself. Seek to really listen to God’s word–and apply it to your own life.

Whatever way you like to pray, may the good Lord bless you this day, with the nutritious waters of the divine Spirit–and the renewed hope that spring is just around the corner.

Until next time, Amen! 

Feast of the Transfiguration

Today is the Feast of Christ’s Transfiguration:

Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up a mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. (Read more in Luke 9:28b-36)

 Transfiguration photo 2--by Julie McCarty --Spiritual Drawing Board

Until next time, Amen!

P.S. Yes, it’s okay to share these posts with friends. See also Facebook page “Spiritual Drawing Board By Julie McCarty” for more social media sharing.

Experiencing God’s Artwork at Lake Superior

Praise God, sun and moon,
Praise God, all you shining stars!
Praise God, you highest heavens,
   and you waters above the heavens!
Praise the Lord from the earth,
   you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost, 
   stormy wind fulfilling God’s command! *

Minnesotans have many ways of dealing with long winters, and one of them is to bundle up, get out of the house, and just ENJOY the weather. There is skiing, sledding, ice skating, snowshoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and pond hockey. 

On a recent weekend, my husband Terry and I drove north to Duluth for a long weekend, with the hope of doing a little outdoor activity. We brought all our gear for winter hiking and our cameras to practice our new hobby, nature photography. On a bright sunny day, we headed out for a drive along the lake shore.

A Lake Superior Morning

Little did we realize the awesome sight we were about to see. While hiking in a state park overlooking the frozen Lake Superior, we heard a sound we could not  comprehend. It reminded us a little of rain, but not quite.

Following the unusual sound, we hiked about a quarter-mile, up a little hill and along an icy cliff. Peering carefully over the edge, we saw it:  large, clear ice pieces, shaped like panes of glass, floating and bumping against the rocky shoreline. Some pieces were even piled against the shore, their jagged edges pointing to the sky.

(click to enlarge)

You can see and hear this sparkling ice for yourself, by clicking on this video Terry posted on YouTube, “North Shore Superior – March 2013”:

I often feel God’s presence in a special way in nature. It’s not that I hear words or see a vision. The beauty of God’s creation sometimes exhilarates me, and other times hushes my soul. I feel awe walking in the midst of God’s creation. I delight in the vast beauty of places such as Lake Superior. 

And that awe or delight is often a prayer without words–at least that’s how I experience it. It feels like a special type of prayer that glorifies God deep within.  

Ice like glass panes--Lake Superior

It’s not so easy to explain this kind of prayer in words. But perhaps if you have experienced a similar feeling in the great outdoors, you will understand.

Until next time, Amen!

*From Psalm 148:3-4, 7-8.