Stacks of carefully selected clothing are piled neatly on top of the bed this morning - a couple pair of jeans, several pairs of socks, a pair of sweats, my favorite flannel pajamas, several t-shirts, one sweatshirt and two sweaters. Along with the clothing, there are stacks of books everywhere. A large bag in the car already holds about twenty books that I pulled from my office shelves yesterday afternoon. Sitting in front of me is a stack that includes Thomas Merton's "Book of Hours," Colon and Field's "Singled Out," Escamilla's "Longing for Enough in a Culture of More," Braestrup's "Here if You Need Me," Gawande's "The Checklist Manifesto," Miles "Jesus Freak," Cohen's "My Jesus Year," and Okrant's "Living Oprah." The later two will be read and compared, with the thinking of how differently we can pattern our days. The others will be read for both enjoyment and mental stimulation while always keeping an eye out for the possible sermon series to feed myself and the people who gather for worship at Mount Vernon Place.
After a trip to the gym this morning and lunch with my beloved friend and God-daughter in Reston, I'll continue along the road journeying West until I arrive at what has become my favorite part of Lent - five days at Holy Cross Abbey, a monastery sustained by brothers who make creamed honey and fruitcakes as well as hosting weary disciples longing for rest.
It is at this place that I return to the Lord not with a few moments of the day but with everything that I have for a few days. I allow the noise of a stream to invigorate me instead of the sounds of NPR or the Today Show. I allow my updates to come from the pages of scripture instead of from logging onto Facebook a half-a-dozen times a day. I allow my sustenance to come from simple meals consumed in silence instead of from what is boxed and frozen in my work refrigerator or easy to cook for my husband and me after returning home from a long day. I allow my mind to be filled with good things - with creative thoughts for the sermon series that will happen in the year ahead, with wonder of how the Lord is working in my life, with words of praise and thanksgiving for all God has done, with the prayers of the Psalmists spoken from memory by the brothers who gather for prayer several times a day. I'll long for the end of the day, when the abbot will sprinkle me with holy water once more, bidding goodnight with a tangible reality of God's presence in the darkness. I'll allow my fingertips to touch the holy water each time I walk into the chapel for prayer, remembering my baptism each time.
In the next five days, I'll take long walks with no particular end in sight. I'll go to bed early and rise early on some days and later on other days. I'll read scripture, journal often, and find myself staring at a wooden cross in my room where Jesus is still hanging, pondering the meaning and significance of it all, realizing that the moment on the cross and especially the triumph over the grave are the most amazing acts in all of history. I'll seek guidance and direction from God for how I am called to continue to lead the people I have been called to serve. I'll pray for the needs of others. I'll go to the bookstore and stock up on cards that can be mailed in the months ahead. I'll allow my mind to turn to praise, to wonder, to confession, to gratitude, to direction, to the future.
This week is the week in which I most am able to return to the Lord, allowing God to really search me and me to really search for God.
I'm ready. I'm ready to return to the Lord with not just a part - but with all my heart. Thanks be to God.