Ash Wednesday

I collected stories about how faith kept people moving forward and put them together as a devotional for this Lenten season.
You can download the entire devotional here:

From Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis+
Northside Episcopal Church

At five-years-old my child fell in love with chess. At six in COVIDtide, I concluded I was soon to lose him. I could no more play chess than I could fly a space shuttle, and the latter seemed more attainable. I was vanquished; convinced that by second grade he would be done with me for good. I should have liked to die.

And then he taught me to play.

Waking life can be an egoistic haunt.  Was I truly defeated, or was I lazy?  I had never played chess.  I had never been taught.  I had never invested in learning.  The prophetic voice was deafening.  “If kindergarteners everywhere can learn to play chess, why the ____ can’t you?!”  No doubt the words of the LORD. Oh, the stories mere mortals can tell.

“I am congenitally incapable of playing chess.”

What a laugh. What a ruse. What a defensive posture that liked to hold me back personally and keep me from diving more deeply into life with my child.  And oh, how this chess challenge would move me forward.

Forward is the very nature of chess.  No matter what direction a certain piece moves, an overall effort is being forwarded.Sometimes we send pieces out as forwards, not that the piece in motion would head toward a finish line. Rather, we send it out as a simultaneous way-maker for the taking of a king and disruption of our opponent’s anticipation of our plan.

To play at all is to play competitively which requires the characteristic of being forward.Since the goal is the sacking of the one with the highest power, there can be no ambivalence.

And yet as saturated as chess is with forwardness, chess is soaked with mystery.

The game is riddled with moves that are in plain sight to one while remaining veiled to another until the moment the move is made.Such apparitions are breathtaking every time.

If we stay in the chess game, we are always advancing in the same way that submitting to mystery always moves us forward to God.Even as we move spiritually deeper, upward toward the heavens, in a profound spiral or not at all.  What appears to be certain defeat in chess can later turn up opportunity.  Similarly, when in liturgical life we face the ash of death, we accept the possibility of a new arising.

In my case the opportunity to experience the profound inner workings of my six-year-old’s mind and to submit to his priestly command of mystery was a most worthy sacrifice of my time. Had it occurred to me that sacrificing my life could take the form of simply playing the game with my boy, then I would not have been so silly. Had I not been so silly, I would not have been subject to the veil. And being subject to the veil is an essential characteristic of a mere mortal in the capable hands of God.

Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis+
Northside Episcopal Church
Houston, TX

If you want to download the devotional, here’s the link:

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