Matt. 26:38b Then he said to them, “….Stay here and keep watch with me.” My friend Sue Ann works as a chaplain with SpiritCare Ministry to Seniors. She conducts lovely, gentle worship services at long-term care centers, plus she does visitation and pastoral counseling. SpiritCare recruits volunteers to do things like play the piano, help with communion, and spend time with residents. I’ve helped Sue Ann at three homes now, and helping turned out to be simpler and less scary than I’d feared. I can help just by singing loudly, or just by slowing down to really look at and see the beauty of the person I am speaking to. These things don’t cost me much—in fact, they bring me joy. I’m grateful for the structure that Sue Ann’s ministry provides, because it makes it easy and possible for me to do what would otherwise be too much for me. […]
The Methodist covenant prayer I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing: I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, You are mine and I am yours. So little depends on me, really. What a relief. If I were nothing, had nothing, produced nothing, God’s great dream might be just as well (or better) served as if I were full and productive. It’s a relief to think that it’s okay for me to be what I am: Limited.
Psalm 63:7 I sing in the shadow of your wings. Sometimes it’s done in a shadow, in obscurity. Not standing on a box in the middle of downtown. Heh – I love that.
Psalm 63:2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Where? Where do you see God? Where are you when you get those fleeting glimpses of the real thing? Outdoors? Tucking a child into bed? Whispering a prayer of gratitude? Reading a great book? Petting a dog? Singing in church? Find those symbols and observances and savor them. Call them what they are. We need all the refilling we can get. Last weekend, probably very early in the morning on Holy Saturday, a doe gave birth to twin fawns outside our livingroom window. Here she is with one of them.
Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. When I look down into myself, I see that the bottom of the well is continuously in need of refilling. I’m tired, thirsty, empty—and I need contact with the real thing. The routines of religion buy me nothing if they don’t connect me with the source of relief. God does not need me to do religious things; the need actually goes the other way. I need contact with the living, refilling God (source of all life) or my soul will dry up and die. Religious observances exist to help me get that contact. As soon as the symbols and practices of faith leave us empty, we have to extend them, reinterpret them, deepen them, even replace them. […]
Luke 1:29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. This evening I parked in the garage behind the YMCA, walked to the elevator, and pushed the call button. The doors opened and a tall woman stepped out. I only saw her for a few seconds as she passed, but in those few seconds….. Unlike most others who step out of the elevator in the parking garage behind the YMCA, this woman was looking up, and right at me. Her face was lit with unselfconscious recognition, as if she had been hoping it would be me when those doors opened. She smiled right into my face, beautifully, kindly, as she quickly stepped past me and out into the garage. I moved inside the elevator, the doors closed, and the moment was over. But what I felt in those seconds of anonymous encounter was … love. Recognition. […]
Romans 13:11 The hour has come for you to wake up. It is the first Sunday of Advent. We begin our vigil, waiting for the light. Sometimes I feel ambivalent about the coming of the light. When the light comes, justice will come; when justice comes, I might be found on the wrong side of the equation. In what ways do I oppress others with hardly a conscious thought? In what ways do I need to wake up to my own subtle ways of using and injuring others? Today I have a new thought about the coming of the light and another reason to feel ambivalent: Not all of us want to be in the light at all, and it’s not because we purchase clothes made in sweat shops, or whatever else I was alluding to in the paragraph above. Much closer to home, in our emotional lives and our […]
Matthew 25:16 Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master’s investment. This morning at St. Cuthbert’s, Pamela offered each household a fifty dollar bill from the church’s discretionary fund. Is she insane? Instructions: This is God’s fifty dollars. Use it to invest in God’s kingdom. In ninety days, tell the church what you made of it. This is a poor church. A small church. But that fifty-dollar bill began to enrich and enlarge my ideas about God the moment I touched it. My first thought was an earnest desire to make something of it and come back next week with a hundred-dollar bill to put in the offering plate. So far so good. I left church and drove downtown to the YMCA. I packed my wallet in my gym bag to take into the building with me, where I planned to spend a quarter to store […]
Luke 1:35 … and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. On the surface, fame; deeper down, obscurity. The angel has just told Mary that she will be famous, and she wonders how this will come about, given her empty state. The angel’s answer? Among other things, Mary will be overshadowed. Overshadowed. Light will be blocked. God’s proximity will throw Mary into darkness. In Isaiah 45:7, God says, “I cause light to shine. I also create darkness.” The author comments in verse 15, “You are a God who hides yourself.” This is a puzzling God, alright, whose love for me does not always involve enlightening me or saving me from the terrors of the night. God is not always driven to self-revelation. God is not afraid of darkness, is not anxious to make it go away as fast as possible, and in fact even creates it. And God […]
Acts 2:1–4 The flames separated and settled on each of them…. Ten years ago at this time I was on a retreat at Our Lady of Solitude in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. During most of my three and a half weeks at OLS, the only other retreatant was an abbess on sabbatical from her convent in India. She and I spent much of each day together in silence in the chapel. One day she looked at me knowingly and pointed to the now flowering ocotillo plant outside the chapel window. “It’s almost Pentecost,” she said. “Those flowers remind me of flames.” The anticipation of Pentecost in the middle of one of the hardest years of my life. Spring in the desert during an El Niño year. Flowers like flames. The director of OLS when I was there, Sister Therese Sedlock, has since passed away, and OLS is now the […]