I don’t know about you, but I could use an out right now.
An out from more bad news – let’s start there – but also, while I’ve got your attention, I would like an out from cold weather, and from COVID, from loneliness, from fear, from difficult, often angry, conversations about race and politics and masks and even neighbors clearing ice (or not) from their sidewalks.
I would like to go somewhere else, to run away from all of my problems, to escape.
(This is probably a very natural feeling for a Chicagoan in February, even before you add in a pandemic and a war abroad).
And it’s an easy impulse to indulge, at least in some ways – I can pull out my phone, starting scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, do some online shopping, plan a trip. I can be anywhere but here mentally, even if not always physically.
While it’s important to take breaks from all of this stress, to find things to celebrate and ways to rest and connect with others, this constant impulse to be anywhere but here is also an unhelpful one. It doesn’t call us to root deeply in a place, to work to find solutions to its problems, to give witness to the pain and suffering and also the success and joy of people in that place. To look for God there.
When we are always somewhere else, we are not present to the place we’re actually in, and it suffers as a result of our indifference. We suffer too.
That’s why I am particularly excited for our WCC reading project this Lent, an unassuming little book called Backyard Pilgrim by Matt Canlis. A very small group of you will remember this book from our Fall 2020 Sunday School study, but I can’t wait to share it with more of you.
This forty-day journey invites us to be intentionally, thoughtfully rooted exactly where we are; in the words of the introduction, “It is the discipline of saying ‘Here I am’ to the place where you already live.”
In one 15 minute walk per day, the journey challenges us to recognize that there is holy ground all around us – that God is active and present in the very places where we might not think to look. In the places we hardly see because they are so familiar to us, and the places we might even want to escape from to be somewhere else.
The book brings us on a journey through scripture, through the story of God and humanity, asking each other the questions: where are you? who are you? And it leads us on that journey through 40 days, making it a perfect and thoughtful accompaniment to our Lenten walk.
I hope you will join us on the path. Books are available now in the church office, or online here.