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(c) 2021

This morning I returned to the river—more in need than last Sunday morning. The river, she greeted me with the peace I so crave. The air was crisp, the skies blue, the snow white, and the birds plentiful.

As I got out of my car, I saw heads swivel and look up. I could hear the “oohs” as a bald eagle flew off into the distance.

I started off at a pace I couldn’t maintain, trying to beat back this winter of my loss. But to persevere, I needed to slow down. Soon after I crossed the bridge, I encountered a hawk perched in a tree above me, closer than I have ever been to what I consider my spirit animal—and a sign of continued protections. I stopped for a moment and thanked the hawk for its beauty, presence, and proximity.

Despite the barren season in which I find myself, as my feet again renewed their journey, I sensed the approach of spring.

God’s peace to all trapped within a landscape that appears empty of hope—may renewal arrive when you least expect it.

Kazoo and Furgus, (c) 2021

Furgus—who had surgery on his right knee on January 18—returned for another checkup on Wednesday. Recovery is going as planned, but there’s still another four weeks to go before he’s released from restrictions. And that’s pretty hard news for a guy who loves snowstorms like the one that happened that day. The good news for him is that we live in Colorado and there’s a reasonable chance we’ll still get some snow in late March and April (and—that’s where I’m going to stop—for now).

Furgus is a sweet boy—unless you’re a squirrel or the kind of malefactor who walks your dog on the sidewalk in front of our house. Even the squirrels and said malefactors are catching a break from Furgus this winter. But, don’t worry—he’ll be back, barking at the fence as soon as allowed.

For now, Furgus spends his days snuggled up with Kazoo, who turned one two weeks ago. Lazy days, but filled with much love from his admiring brephew (Furgus is genetically Kazoo’s uncle, but lives as his brother—or Bruncle Furgus, as he’s called here).

Like Furgus and Kazoo, I’m finding it hard to be patient waiting for better days. But, if we can’t get out much, at least we all have each other here, which includes my husband Sherman—as well occasional visits from our kids and their dogs.

These are the dog days here—which is a pretty decent way to wait out a pandemic, if that’s what you have to do.

Looking west from the Museum of Nature and Science in Denver’s City Park. 2021

One way for me to stay centered is to be grateful for the beauty I experience in my life. Today was a bluebird-blue day here in the Denver area—complete with temperatures above 60 degrees. In February. The day before it’s supposed to snow again.

Even though I had to stop working early to go to a dentist appointment, I didn’t want to miss out on a chance to run in a skort and tank top today. Enough so that I sat down at my computer early so I didn’t have to give up a running break before leaving to get clean teeth.

No pictures of this perfectly extraordinary ordinary day—but I do have one from January that came with a view—a particularly Denver kind of view as seen from the Museum of Nature and Science in City Park. We are blessed with memorable views here in our town.

While the view I saw today was of my own neighborhood, what I spied in the west was even better than what I saw in the photo I am sharing—the mountaintops are much whiter than they were a month ago. It’s been snowing in the high country all month—and that’s a thing of beauty, both for our eyes and for reducing drought conditions.

Wherever you are, enjoy your view!

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

My prayer today is that my words will be heard as a message of love, not as an incitement to fight. As of today, our country has lost over half a million souls to a virus. Yes, God is sovereign—and, yes, He also sends help through human means. I am confused that some of most faithful people I know believe that God can’t be behind the science or behind government leaders’ attempts to put protections in place for our society.

What if all these restrictions aren’t part of some evil plot to lessen our faith, but are God-given methods for us to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves?

God created the whole world. And that means He created people who are driven to help others through our current challenges, whether that’s through doing research, applying their knowledge to understanding and abating this novel coronavirus, caring for others in medical situations, leading government policies that help reduce the risks, or lifting up others by speaking God’s truths.

God doesn’t want us to live in fear during these times, but to trust in Him. But what if trusting Him means performing simple acts that help mitigate our chances of infecting others with this disease—that while not dangerous to many—is deadly to some? And that it also means trusting Him enough to refrain from declarations—such as “only” a small percentage of people die from this—that minimize the risk of harm to a great number of people.

God is in control here, but we still can choose to control what we can control. When Jesus went out into the wilderness, Satan sought to tempt him. Though Satan suggested he throw himself from up high, Jesus replied that it was not right to test God. Wearing masks over our noses and mouths or following social distancing doesn’t show a lack of faith—instead, we show respect for God by not testing him.

And when those behaviors protect so many other than ourselves, I don’t quite understand the fight. I really don’t.

I pray we are turning the corner on this—and I pray you all stay well. As for me, I will do what I can to protect myself—and anyone who might be around me.

Sunday mornings used to be time to sit in a pew, so I never made it to my running club’s Sunday morning runs at the river. But now I can run and do church—well, by “going” to church at home while sitting in my own chair instead of a pew—and by not needing to change out of my running clothes.

I have to go down to the river as we live on the hill above the South Platte valley. I started attending the now socially-distanced and masked Sunday runs in July when, even early, the river was alive with action—of the human, canine, and avian kinds. Being by the river and the birds was soothing even as the trails were full of activity.

But as the weather turned colder and certain birds flew off to warmer spaces, peace became the river’s language. Fewer humans and dogs ventured out during the chilly morning hours, but more ducks and Canada geese claimed the waters.

In a way, my pre-church runs by the river have become part of the liturgy that is my church worship in these winter days of 2020/2021. With the now later start of the group runs, I have little time once finished before I must jump in my car and drive the ten minutes back to my home up the hill.

I take that peace—like the river—into my corporate worship—or what counts for corporate worshipping these days. Even if we aren’t all together as physical bodies, I feel the pull of the congregation as I see the familiar faces of the pastors and other leaders in our sacred space.

One day I will return to the good old way of in-person worship with my church community, but, for now, I appreciate going down to the river with my (running) sisters and learning new ways to pray.

Last weekend brought about dangerous temperatures for running outside, but skipping my run gave me extra time to get ready to run—especially since members of my running club had additional discounts last week at Runners Roost Lakewood.

Today I stepped out wearing my new purchases: visor, support gear (!), and shoes! Although the afternoon’s weather is already turning as the next storm arrives, on my travels this morning, I felt a balmy breeze caressing my neck. I haven’t seen so many people out in weeks—it’s as if we all know to appreciate the current conditions more after last week’s frigid temperatures (short-lived for us)—as well as the horrid conditions that have lasted longer for others.

As always, I was grateful that I was able to get out. Even if some runs are harder than others, running teaches you is that you can do tough things—and get to a better place. Last year I battled heel pain—in previous years it’s been my back or my hip—it really is always something for me. And as much as it seems these pandemic days will never pass, running tells me otherwise.

Stepping out is one activity that helps me on my Lenten journey—or through any time in my life that feels like it might as well be Lent. Thank God for running—especially now.

What a great metaphor—this puzzle that I’m really sorry I insisted we buy. Sometimes you think you know what you want, but it doesn’t turn out to work out as well as you’d expected. Nothing like working on this puzzle to humble me.

All I can do is string puzzle pieces together—I can’t even figure out where to put them. But, luckily, I am not working on this puzzle alone. It’s good to have a partner who can pick up where I leave off.

Lots of lessons in this puzzle. How very appropriate for Lent.

How do I calm my raging heart—on any given day, but especially in times such as these when my activities and comings and goings have been pared down in this time period when we await abatement from the virus’ relentless effect on daily life?

Since March 16, 2020—when I came home to work—and the week when everything on my normally busy calendar was erased, my main solace has been time spent in exercise. First, solitary running, and then, bit by bit, electronic classes—both with my regular local fitness teacher and classmates and with sources beyond my neighborhood. And, from time to time, I have ventured out to run close—but not too close—with others.

Still, what was immediately stripped from my life last March was singing in community in my choir and church. The night of March 11, I was engaged in the risky business of going to a Lenten church service (complete with communion!) and singing in choir practice. By the Sunday that followed, church had been reduced to my laptop screen. While my spiritual needs are often met by connecting to the messages from the ministers and other leaders, it’s not quite the same singing harmony by myself along with the sounds projected from the few people allowed in the sanctuary.

My voice has become husky with disuse. Of course, I can sing by myself at home, but with my naturally limited range, I don’t have much of a voice for singing melody. My strength lies in singing harmony. I can—and occasionally do—sing harmony along with music I play for myself. But I miss singing in church—with other people. Almost every Sunday since I was 10 (give or take several during college and in my early 20s) until March 15 of 2020, I have been singing harmony from the hymn book—with others.

So, I asked myself, what can I do to sing, even if I can’t sing in the way I want to sing? Well, for Lent, I’ve broken out my copy of Bach’s St. John’s Passion, and I plan to sing along with Cyber Bass or YouTube. Tonight, I gave that scratchy old voice of mine permission to sing out—badly or not. To tell the truth, I had an easier time singing the notes than I did singing the German words. Sure, I might have scared the puppy a little bit (in all fairness—he’s scared of most everything the first time he experiences it!), but not the older dog, who heard me practice those songs often throughout Lent 2015.

And, you know what? My darkened heart—along with my lowered voice—felt a little bit lighter for singing harmony—even with the tinny background sounds coming from my laptop.

Isn’t it time I stopped keeping myself from singing?

As March 2021 approaches, we’ve been hitting landmarks that continue to remind us of what we didn’t know at this time last year. And how unaware we were that we were living through the end of an era. Oh, we were getting some pretty good hints by Ash Wednesday of 2020, but it seems that most of us just didn’t get what was going on or what was coming.

I’m not even sure how to pray this Ash Wednesday. What is appropriate when over 2.4 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19, including over 488,000 of my fellow Americans? As a people, we are diminished by the loss of so many. Grief tears at our hearts. If there were any doubts that from ashes we came and to ashes we will return, 2020 put a whole new emphasis on that statement of mortality.

Yet in this time of great loss and fear surrounding physical health, I am especially reminded of how human I am otherwise. Even as I am so grateful that I live and breathe, I am aware that my heart has hardened so much in this past year. Yes, I am sad at all we have lost—especially those people I’ve lost (not due to COVID). But when I sat down to write tonight, I was confronted with how angry I am. All. The. Time.

And not just angry, but also unforgiving toward those who do not approach the pandemic the way I do. More so lately as one in my own circle has been engaged in battle with this deadly virus.

This Lent I will sit with this anger and my God—and try to hear a way back to loving others.

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