Consider the Lilies
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.
Consider the Lilies 1
Please Turn 2
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
Rich Earth 25
For Now 26
Sacred Places 27
Balance at the Water’s Edge 30
Late Summer Rain 31
Arrival of Hope 33
Communion with Earth and Sky 34
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.
When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called out to him from the bush.
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.
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.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
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.
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
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.
Grant me wisdom beyond understanding.
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.
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,
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?
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
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,
turns to the dawn
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 Called, The 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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