Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow;
they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you,
even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed
like one of these.

—Matthew 6:28-29


Contents

Consider the Lilies     1

Please Turn     2

Reflections     4

Inescapable     5

Bitter Cold     7

Snow Separates     9

Excavating Joy     10

Winter Tomatoes     12

To Flame     14

Changing Seasons     15

Among the Trees     17

Beyond Passing Seasons     19

An Unfolding     20

The Blessing     22

Resurrection Naturally     23

Waiting     24

Rich Earth     25

For Now     26

Sacred Places     27

Monuments     29

Balance at the Water’s Edge     30

Late Summer Rain     31

Arrival of Hope     33

Communion with Earth and Sky     34

Vespers     36

Reinforcements     37

Journey Inward     39

Life Hangs a Wire     41

Silent Looking     43

Bitter Grapes     45

The Rangeway     46

At the Margin     48

Making Sacred     49

A Seasonal Haggadah     50

To Look     51

Enough Said     52

About the Author 53

Unitarian Universalist Meditation Manuals 54


Consider the Lilies


It is not newness we seek

but the fresh return of the eternal.

He said, the truth is not hidden in mountains, it is not far off,

it is in your hand, your heart, your mouth.

“So do it,” he said.

He spoke in parables, mostly about money
and the truth it can’t buy.

Consider the mustard seed, he said,

how it grows into the largest shrub.

From it, he said,

know your true wealth and power.

Consider the birds that nest in the shrub, he said,

how they sing in the spring.

From them, he said,

know your true heart’s song.

Consider the lilies, he said,

and don’t worry. The truth is at hand.

With the seed and the lilies

nothing new arrives,

and even the mockingbird

sings songs that other birds once knew.

Nothing arrives with newness.

All is waiting to be reborn.

Please Turn


When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called out to him from the bush.

—Exodus 3:4

Moses turned and the world changed. First he heard a voice, then he saw the most common of things, a bush. But the bush was burning without being consumed. The messenger, the angel in the bush, spoke. Moses turned and then God said, “Take off your sandals, you are on holy ground.” Moses was shocked. How could he have known that his simple turning would do so much, would make such a difference? Again God spoke to him, saying “I am here in the seasons of your life, in the generations of your people. All you have to do is turn to me.”

It was too much for Moses to bear, too much to look at the presence of all that had come before him. So he hid his face. But, having found someone who would turn, God spoke, hoping Moses would listen. “Serve the people,” God said, “Free the oppressed and enslaved and I will be with you. I am who I am. I am where I am. I am here.”

Moses was confronted with a problem familiar to all of us who know we stand on holy ground. If we decide to turn, much will be expected of us, again and again. We will be asked to free the enslaved, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless.

Midwives and nurses know to turn the newborn’s face to the mother’s face so that eyes meet eyes. In this way a bond between generations is made, and the child begins to know its role and place in the changing seasons.

So much depends on turning and facing that which calls to us, knowing that we are standing on the holy ground of being.

Reflections


We have gathered,

bearing our presence,

carrying our countenance.

Like mirrors we reflect

all we have suffered,

all we have celebrated,

all we have collected from life

before arriving here.

Darkness of winter,

rebirth of spring,

abundance of autumn:

they are with us.

We make this space sacred

by all this

and by our resolve

to project onto the pathway of tomorrow

our best reflections.

Inescapable


Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

—Psalms 139:8

Haven’t we always known that the Spirit lives in water,

awakening, cleansing, washing away

what clings to the wings of morning?

Haven’t we gone alone into the empty garden, like Jesus,

to talk with someone we cannot see

but only feel and touch with our hearts?

Haven’t we pondered the Spirit that arrives

with a child,

resides in a mountain,

rests in a sea?

What is it we have seen riding on the back of the wind,

rustling grasses, blowing leaves,

touching everyone all over—again?

Why do we flee from the Spirit,

hide from its longing to travel with us?

From water, from mountain, from sea,

from the rush of the wind,

the Spirit of Life calls:

I have known you from the beginning,

tested your resilience,

applauded your compassion.

I have searched for you

and known you.

You are wondrously made.

Bitter Cold


At the edge of the woods,

on the coldest night of the year,

the trees echoed the agony in my heart for

all those who suffer and are not comforted,

are hungry and are not fed.

A bitter cold filled the spaces between trees like

the dark matter between stars.

Above the frozen wood even the bright-eyed moon

shone indifferently.

Then, in a chorus of flat and sharp tones,

the trees played a requiem on brittle wood winds.

Captured by all I could not do,

I stopped and listened.

Blankets! Where are the blankets

to wrap the trunks?

The coat sleeves! Where are the coat sleeves

that I might tuck the frozen limbs into?

I don’t even have enough remnants of wool

to shelter the buds,

the millions of buds.

Unable to help,

unable to bear the sound of this tortured wood,

I turned away and walked toward the warm

yellow window light of home and prayed:

Spirit of Life, God of Compassion, born in

the darkness between all that matters,

grant these loved ones mercy

from the cold, relentless winds.

And me?

Grant me wisdom beyond understanding.

Snow Separates


Snow separates trees, neatly dividing the hard from the soft, the vertical from the horizontal, the round from the flat. Cold divides too. Creatures burrow, nest, and cuddle, removing themselves from it. Some distinctions are clearer in February than in July. The mushy margins of the pond have turned crisp, hardening against the shore. The silent, blended green of leaves is now a webby network of barren, creaking branches. The tree, with its back to the moon, stretches clear shadows on the snow and crosses the meadow at mid-night.

We, too, often find ourselves separated. Cold things—arguments, assertions, and accusations—direct us into familiar certainties. We nestle well with our own kind. All this is good, natural, and necessary. Winter gives us permission to define where we stand, where we rest, where we burrow, or where we nest. This is being human.

But there is more to winter than separation. There is more than the contrasts that separate warm bodies. Waiting just beyond winter is the thaw point so necessary for the spring of human understanding.

In February, above the arctic circle, it is said, the sun stays out just long enough for brown algae to begin to grow. In the warmer months this algae will help bring life to the frozen winter sea. Winter is the time when miracles of growth and unity take shape.

To Flame


All that we need is here now.

From the ages of the earth

we have gathered energies

in wood, coal, oil,

and other remnants of life.

And the air, it is here too,

and it need not be pure.

All is ready,

here,

in the dark.

Will you strike yourself

against life’s hard surfaces

and let the flame out,

or let it be born from your giving,

let it be eternally released

to spread the light?

Waiting


Too long have we sat in darkness.

Too long have we waited for your touch,

your fingers to caress

wrinkled brows smooth.

When will you lead us to the balm in Gilead,

to the elixir that renews,

to the shaman who can draw out the sickness that grows

in your absence?

And if not you, then who?

Will she rise from the earth and

break the frozen ground of spring

that holds us down, motionless?

Will he rise from the simplicity of death

and fulfill the promise you gave him?

How long must we wait?

Yet while we wait you have already arrived.

You have brought with you

the balm,

the elixir,

the shaman,

mother earth,

your only son,

and released them

into our deepest longing.

At the Margin


At the margin of a newly cut field,

where every blade still stands secure,

where every bud is fearless now,

a lily

turns to the dawn

and opens.

Here, in the kingdom of the living,

danger has passed,

and clustered buds,

moist and swollen,

choose their day.

We too grow at the margins,

where our fear of cutting is faced,

where we accept our lowly place,

where we explode in the dawn,

with the brilliance

of a flower.


About the Author

After a career in community ministry as a radio broadcaster and social activist, Stephen Shick entered parish ministry in 1997 and currently serves the Universalist Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson, Massachusetts. He is author of Be the Change and Just Congregations and his social and religious writings have appeared in a variety of publications, including How We Are CalledThe Communion Book, and UU World. Shick has three children—Sarah, Dora, and Michael—and lives with his partner, Jo Ann, in Lexington, Massachusetts.

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