Grounded by the bare copper cross (Lent)

Candle and copper cross

I have a vivid memory of being shocked when I was 11 or 12 years old. We’d just shampooed the livingroom carpet, and it was evening. In my bare feet, in the dark, I shuffled across the wet carpet to a lamp. I fumbled with the switch, but the light didn’t come on. Maybe there wasn’t a bulb in the socket? I felt around under the lampshade to check, and when my finger went into that empty light socket—wow. In recent years my husband Gene has done a lot of electrical work on our house, and he’s told me about the role of ground wires. Copper conducts electricity beautifully, so it’s often used for all the wiring in a house, including the ground wires. Let’s say a live wire comes loose in a lamp and the wire is touching the metal of the light socket. And now let’s say someone sticks […]

Read More

Bigger. And more interesting.

Psalm 63:6 On my bed I remember you— I think of you through the watches of the night. I have a medical test coming up, and last night I lay awake spinning out possibilities. I’m not God, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t possess the facts. Even so, I want to believe I can figure it out. So on my bed I remembered me— I thought of me through the watches of the night. It didn’t feel good, though. Each fantastical, self-absorbed thought was delicious, but made my heart sicker. It reminded me of a time when I ate my way through several boxes of Screaming Yellow Zonkers. ← Not helpful. But as I was crunching away on my anxious thoughts, I remembered Psalm 63:6, and it sounded like healthy food. Antipanic medicine for my soul. I made an effort to do what the psalmist had done, to remember […]

Read More

"I think he’s hiding," she said

Isaiah 45:15a You are a God who hides yourself. I boarded the shuttle to work last Monday with a cloud over my head. A lot’s been going on. The bus was almost full. I sat in the second row behind the driver, next to a young woman whose laptop was open on her knees, its screen touching the back of the seat in front of her. I crammed my work backpack next to hers, under my feet. I made room for her elbow so that she could type, then lost myself in my phone’s browser. About 45 minutes into the ride, she began to rummage on the floor, as if surprised. Did she lose something? I looked down. To my astonishment, a Golden Lab was resting his head on my left foot. He was very quiet. He moved nothing but his big brown eyes, looking from one to the other […]

Read More

Redemptive sadness

I spent three nights last month at Mercy Center in Burlingame, California. The Mercy Center has several walking paths that were created years ago by Father Thomas Hand, S.J. One of the paths, called the Water Way, leads you down a slope and into an area shadowed by trees, then along a dark creek that is criss-crossed with fallen branches and tree trunks. This depiction of the Tenth Station of the Cross is nailed to a post at one end of the Water Way. At this point in the story, Christ’s clothes are taken from him: one last humiliation before death. I am struck by the sadness in each man’s face, and by the way in which Christ is clasping the man’s hand. I don’t believe that redemptive violence is part of the Christian story.* Instead, I believe that God willingly entered into our suffering to be with us, because […]

Read More

No, it’s not about comfort.

John 11:1–45 v. 37: But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” It’s the fifth Sunday in Lent, and the first anniversary of my dad’s death. The story of Lazarus’s death and resurrection (or resuscitation?) was very alive to me during March of last year. Here is an excerpt from my journal. March 15, 2007 The heading for this section in my bible is “Jesus Comforts the Sisters.” I just crossed it out. I don’t think your deepest intention and hope for them here is that they be comforted. Comfort is so little compared to whatever it is you’re really driving at in your interactions with them. No, you are not bringing COMFORT to the sisters—COMFORT would have been showing up a week earlier and sparing them Lazarus’s death scene, embalming, burial, and their own grieving, […]

Read More

Lent and repentance

Psalm 51:6 Behold, You desire truth in the inner being; make me therefore to know wisdom in my inmost heart. In The People’s Companion to the Breviary, Psalm 51 comes up not only on days like Ash Wednesday, but every Friday morning, rain or shine. The Carmelites of Indianapolis, who created the People’s Companion, phrase verse 6 like this: “For you desire truth in my innermost being; teach me wisdom in the depths of my heart.” I have prayed this prayer many, many times. As I figure it, because God desires truth in my innermost being, God is willing to teach me wisdom. This is a prayer I would expect God to answer. Am I any closer to an answer? I don’t know, but I do continue to see my need to make the request. To see and act on deep truths that are revealed by growing self-awareness and awakeness—this […]

Read More