Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

Year A

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Fixed Hearts

March 29, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Paintbox. If you're new to the site, you can learn more by visiting the about page. Each week you'll find links to interdisciplinary lessons followed by my collecting question for the week and then my personal reflection.

This week, I’ve experienced, along with all of you, the pull of the winds and torrents of our present storm and pondered where and how to anchor my heart.



Arts & Architecture

#SongsOfComfort: Dvořák – "Going Home”

Yo Yo Ma

Yo Yo Ma on Facebook

The first of Yo Yo Ma's songs of comfort offered to the world in this season of global crisis.


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Arts & Architecture

Starry Night Sky

Marika Stanway

Small boat tipped in unknown location under a starry sky.

Take in the image.

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Arts & Architecture

Ruthless school choir stages direct assault on human heart, performs canceled concert remotely

Allison Shoemaker

Great Job Internet Av Club

High school choir performs "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" remotely after their concert is canceled due to Covid-19 pandemic.


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What helps you fix your heart amid the “swift and varied changes of this world” in these days of global pandemic?


Lord, the one whom you love is ill. John 11:3b

This. Right here. That we are in. It is a swirling, tumultuous storm. Things are moving faster than our hearts can go.

In today’s gospel, Mary and Martha send a message to the one they trust, their teacher Jesus, about the one they love, their brother Lazarus. “Lord, the one whom you love is ill.”

Now, like the sisters, we have sent our message. Lord, the one whom you love is ill. It is a rather urgent and evident plea. Yet, as he did when Mary and Martha sent word, he is staying, for what seems an eternity, where he was when he got our message. Somewhere other than here, with us. He does not come immediately. And we wait. While the storm rages within us and around us. We wait.

And while we wait, each of us wonders, “Who among those I love will fall ill? Who will die? Will it be me? Or you, upon whom my life so depends?”

And we ask ourselves, “What will be lost while I wait? My security? My safety? My hopes? My long awaited rites of passage? My much anticipated adventures? My well tended goals?”

And we consider…“When will the storm subside? Will it be days? Or weeks? Or months? Or longer still?”

And we realize, “I need to order more food, more items we might need, in case supplies get cut off.” And then, we realize, "I have food. I have shelter. Others do not."

The Spirit of God asks us, “Can these bones live?” Why ask us? We have no idea. “O Lord, you know.”

We have not yet inhaled new breath. Sinew to sinew, bone to bone, flesh to flesh…the magical dance has not happened in our seeing. We do not know the answer to your question, O Lord. Our questions now are basic ones, born of our fear, our isolation, our weariness, our dread of this strange, undesired land we have come to.

Even so, we laugh, we find humor and playfulness in these days. Balm to our souls. We find creativity, too, and lost gifts. There is goodness, to be sure. Yet, underneath what gives us hope and joy, there is inescapable fear, and a slow aching exhaustion.

“Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely. You know. Only you know.” These words are a bit too close to home. In the quiet moments when we have paused the social media, the phone calls, the funny memes, the lifesaving humor, we know this is true. Deep in the night, or in the still of midday, there is this recognition: we are in uncharted territory.

In the face of this unknown place, the psalmist expresses the only action we know to take. My soul waits for the Lord. Waiting.

We do have choice, though, in how we wait. We can wait, if we choose, not giving in to every chaotic torrent from the storm. We can wait, instead, in a different way. We can fix our hearts in the middle of it all. Still acting, still making space for our human anxieties. But then gently returning to center, while being kind to ourselves when we succumb to the chaos. Knowing that in rest and returning is our strength.

In the torrent raging around you, look again. Find the still point. This. Right here. Not just the storm, but what lies at dead center. Where your essence, your love is lying in the balance. Fix your hearts here. In this place that matters most. Right here.

Art can help. In today’s arts and architecture lessons, listen to Yo Yo Ma. Look at the starry night sky. Listen to the High School Chamber Singers who were supposed to perform at the Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) Choral Festival and perform here, remotely, instead. Fix your heart.

It is to this place, where your heart is fixed, that Jesus comes. Not somewhere apart from the storm, but at its center. Where everything, where everyone most dear to you lies in the balance.

To the tomb where your hope is lost. Where your love is buried. Where your bones are dried up. Where you are cut off completely. Here, he comes. Here, he weeps. Here, he accompanies you.

There is more to the story of what happens in this place. But let us not move faster than our hearts can go.

For now, it is enough to be in the place where what matters most to you lies in the balance. This. Right here. Fix your heart here.