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May 19 19

Henry V’s songs of glory

by davesandel

Henry V’s songs of glory

Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 19, 2019

The One who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

– From Revelation 21

We watched clips from favorite movies Friday night with Dianne and Laura. Dianne, herself a film-maker, brought Branagh’s Henry V.

Henry V was nicknamed the Warrior King. Shakespeare inspired him with some great speeches just before the biggest battles:

Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remembered-

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition;

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed

Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day …

*           *           *

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;

Then lend the eye a terrible aspect …

Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,

Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit

To his full height. On, on, you noblest English …

Dishonour not your mothers; now attest

That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.

Be copy now to men of grosser blood,

And teach them how to war …

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,

Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge

Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’


Later, after victory, Henry again claims God’s preference. So many dead Frenchmen, so few English. Act 4, Scene 8:

Here was a royal fellowship of death …

O God, thy arm was here,

and not to us but to thy arm alone

ascribe we all! …

Was ever known so great and little loss

on one part and on th’ other? Take it, God,

for it is none but thine …

God fought for us.


Yes, then and now, there will wars and rumors of wars. Jesus says, “Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” All these centuries of warriors and kings are but birth pangs of future glory.

Open up the door of faith (Acts 14). Paul’s preaching inspired multitudes, not to kill but bow down and pray. Patrick Doyle, composer for Kenneth Branagh’s production of Henry V, chose a beautiful choral rendition of the old Latin hymn Non nubis Domine, a time-tested prayer of thanksgiving and expression of humility to accompany the English search for their living among the dead. Such a noble form of humility, crowned with righteous blood.

Was Henry V a bad man or a hero? We only choose an opinion. King Henry chose to act. The glory of war might be a cheap substitute for the glory of God, but it’s powerful and it’s near and it’s satisfying.

The musical group Delirious? challenges our graspings onto glory. Dig deeper, they say, to find the glory of God in life, not death:

Open up the doors and let the music play

Let the streets resound with singing

Songs that bring you hope

Songs that bring you joy

Dancers who dance upon injustice

*           *           *

Lord, on this fine summer sunshine day in your midwestern United States, I keep hearing cries of muffled pain, perhaps smothered by careless captors. Why am I thinking of this today? The iris are blooming and beautiful, the dancers dance … upon injustice. You make all things new, you show us how to live this life, day by day by day in balance, joy, and strength, with confidence in you. I will not close my ears, I will not close my eyes, I will watch you open up the doors of faith. And I will rejoice!

Martin Smith, “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?”, from Cutting Edge 3 by Delirious?, 1995


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May 12 19


by davesandel


Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 12, 2019

A great multitude from every race stood before the throne, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. They will no longer hunger or thirst, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

– From Revelation 7

Sometimes the visions are wonderful. This one, for the apostle John, raised his eyes from the open pit mine where the prisoners worked. Instead of their misery and pain he watched the inhabitants of heaven bow down before the throne of God. And instead of his own dark cave dwelling, John reveled in the sun of God and wondered about his own white robe.

The work he did was inspired by the worship he led. I think that’s always intended to be the right path, from God to world, from motivation to accomplishment. It’s easy to mix that up, but so many of my moments in the world remind me again to start everything with, “Thank you, Jesus.”

Miles’ Saturday swimming lessons begin at 8:15. That’s no problem for him; he’s always up before 7. He will have some ‘nana, maybe a bit of ‘ocado, and perhaps a glass of orange juice. Then after the swimming there’s a stop at Central Donut for his sausage, cheese and egg biscuit or even a kolache or two.

The apostle was two once, as was Winston Churchill, as was I. We don’t know what Miles will be when he’s twelve, or twenty, or sixty-nine. As best we can, we give him space to grow, learn to follow God, learn to listen. Gibran’s brilliant light on the parents’ path: “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you, for life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

At the end of his 30-minute lesson the four kids in Miles’ class climb the slide and pour themselves into the water. Their teacher will catch them, if they need catching. Of course there are good days and there are not-as-good days. But always, the towel is soft. Clean-up is quick, and his swimming energy rolls over into laughter. Joy abounds.

Outside we settle into the car. But today the parking lot is filling with fire engines. At the other end of the strip mall a Salvation Army store’s on fire. The employees are standing under a tree. We aren’t going anywhere. That kolache can wait. We drive as close as we can and sit down on a concrete parking block. Just the right height for Miles, a little low for me.

The fire trucks keep coming. There are six trucks, and two chiefs, who pull next to each other in their red station wagons. The ladder truck backs into place. The ladder extends. Four firemen climb the ladder to get on the roof. They carry their axes. Everyone wears the protective gear we saw downtown just two days before, boots and helmets and heavy coats and pants held up with wide black suspenders. The gear is heavy, but these are strong men and women, and they know how to do their work.

An hour passes. They begin to pack up the trucks. The ladder comes down. A firefighter comes over to Miles and a few other kids and makes sure they all have fire badges. Miles is very proud. He will wear his badge to church tomorrow. And he’ll be watching the videos we took for weeks to come.

Gibran writes, “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. And even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

I imagine the firefighters, wearing their white robes and bowing down before the throne. I imagine Miles joining them, at all the ages he will be. Can we claim this for ourselves, for God to come with his soft, sweet towel and dry us off, wipe away every tear from every eye?

Of course we can.

Lord, as I write tonight, I think I have the flu. Maybe it’s mostly over, but today I spent a lot of time in the bathroom. My body aches. I’ve been sleeping, sort of, far too long. I’m not sure I want to eat much, but I’m very glad for water. This is a good time for me to imagine your soft cloth, wiping away my tears. Thank you.


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May 5 19

Yet in thy dark streets

by davesandel

Yet in thy dark streets

Third Sunday of Easter, May 5, 2019

Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep. When you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.

– From John 21

Visions of Peter’s life swept before his eyes. Jesus’ words opened a path for Peter to recover from his fear and betrayal and reclaim the courage and intense loyalty Jesus saw in him from the beginning of their friendship. But his earthly life would end. His body might weaken and his mind waver, and “someone else” would lead him where he did not want to go. He would be the rock of the church, but still. From dust he came, and to dust he would return.

This is our path. And Jesus tells not just what to expect, but how to live as we walk the path. We are NOT expected to live forever. And we are NOT expected to make a priority of polishing our dignities or padding our pockets or cushioning our seats, beds … lives, so we don’t feel the bumps.

Jesus’ priority for Peter is simple. “Feed my sheep.” Three times comes this echoing call of Christ, “Feed my sheep.” Simon, do you love me? David, do you love me? And another question like unto the first: David, just what is it that you will die for?

Remember those moments when Jesus “breathed” on his friends and they received his Spirit? They would speak in tongues and perform miracles, but as Paul understood rightly, all those gifts fell into place behind the gift of charity. They are clashing gongs compared to love, which sends its sweet harmonies across the universe. With this, God is pleased.

It takes awhile to learn these things. David Brooks calls this later half of life “the second mountain.” On the first mountain I’m preoccupied with growing my crops and building better barns for them. But when the cyclone comes and all’s destroyed, and I fall from the mountain into a valley not of my own making, then I’m broken. Who’s to blame? When I shake my fist at the universe and scream, there’s only a lonely echo.

Brooks follows a familiar spiritual path as he notices that sometimes, in the silence beyond the screams, my heart breaks OPEN.

The basement of your soul is much deeper than you knew. Some people look into the hidden depths of themselves and they realize that success won’t fill those spaces. Only a spiritual life and unconditional love from family and friends will do. They realize how lucky they are. They are down in the valley, but they’re about to be dragged on an adventure that will leave them transformed.

 Two thousand years later, Jesus’ words ring true. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” As he speaks to his disciples in Mark 10, he moves on to touch blind Bartimaeus. “What do you want me to do for you,” he says.

His sight’s restored, and Bartimaeus “followed Jesus along the road.” And in those dark streets shineth, the everlasting light.

My blindness is deep, but Jesus’ healing is deeper still.

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee, O Lord. Let the joy of your morning break my heart open. Fill me with joy, even as I taste the dust of your earth and know how much a part of it I am, we are, all of us together.

David Brooks, The Second Mountain, 2019, and The New York Times, The Moral Peril of Meritocracy,” April 6, 2019

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Apr 28 19


by davesandel

There are several Sundays left in the Easter season, and then comes Pentecost. I’ll send devotions on each of those Sundays, but not on the weekdays. So the next devotion will be on Sunday, May 5. I hope you have a great week!


Second Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2018

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

– From John 20

Time flies. At midnight here, it’s 7 a.m. in Amsterdam. Miles will be asleep, but his parents will board the plane that brings them to the plane that brings them home. Perhaps he’ll be sleeping again when they arrive, at 2 p.m. in Austin.

He sleeps a lot because he plays a lot! When he’s awake, he’s very very awake. When he sleeps, he sleeps just like a rock. I want some of that endless enthusiasm for everything again.

As it got dark, and the traffic slowed, I went out to get some milk. The weather’s warm, and with the window opened, I listened in the quiet neighborhood to an owl, to a few children playing for a few more minutes, to a tired man washing his car. The tires hummed along the street, and I felt glad to be alive.

Miles goes to bed at 7:30. At 7:40 his nightlight changes color, from green to red, and one lullaby, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” begins to play. It plays for a couple of hours. When I sit with him, I set my Insight Timer for twenty minutes and sing along. “Up above the sky so high, like a diamond in the sky …” In my quiet voice I pray for Miles and sing to him, and sometimes make up a story. Although tonight I fell asleep, and the three gongs at the end of the twenty minutes woke me up.

Sometimes I sit and listen to a priest and his choir recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. In the Roman Catholic Church, today is the Sunday of Divine Mercy. In Poland during the 1930s, Sr. Maria Faustina wrote what became a very famous diary. Her conversations with Jesus have become precious to millions. In one of them Jesus says, “My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of my tender mercy are open.”

The Chaplet is a simple prayer: “For the sake of his sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

It is good for me to end the day with quiet prayers.

Sr. Maria died a year before the “terrible, terrible war” which she predicted broke out. She was only thirty-three. That is, of course, the age of Jesus when he died.

Lord, my prayers are so simple. I love these words that Sr. Maria shared with us: Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. For the sake of his sorrowful Pasion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Yes, Lord. Thank you, Jesus.

Sr. Maria Faustina, Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, #669, 1981

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Apr 27 19

Austin Fire Station #1

by davesandel

Austin Fire Station #1

Saturday in the Octave of Easter, April 27, 2019

Jesus said to his disciples, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

– From Mark 16

On Thursday we took the train downtown and walked with Miles about a block to Austin Fire Station #1. It was a beautiful day, and the firemen were cleaning their trucks. Miles wore his red helmet and fireman’s jacket, and carried his own ax. He was quite the man.

One of the firemen said, “Underneath we all look just like him.” Miles was shy at first, around those strong young men wearing Austin Fire t-shirts. But one of them, Wil, has two young boys of his own, and he took Miles around to all the trucks. When Wil put on his own firefighting suit, Miles loosened up. He pushed the button that turned on the lights. He touched the big ax that Wil used, and Wil touched his. He got up inside the truck and played with their computer.

Best of all, he sprayed water out of one hose on the truck, and the big handle was just like the one he has at home. He has to use both hands to handle it, but when he doesn’t aim it at himself (or us), the water sprays just like he was fighting off a fire.

The firemen respond to lots of calls that aren’t fires. They go out to every auto accident, and in downtown Austin, as in every city, there are calls each day for medical emergencies of homeless people. Those guys don’t just carry water; they carry hope. Seeing firemen coming to my rescue has lifted my spirits more than once.

On the train we sat across from a vice president of Metro-Rail talking to the internet about the people on the train today. He wants to get the Metro message out.

After leaving the fire station we sat waiting for our return train and talked awhile to a street comedian, who had a fighting cock resting on the right shoulder of his trenchcoat. The chicken was quiet; his keeper was friendly, admitting that all his humor was “fowl.”

“Go into all the world,” Jesus said. In just these few square miles of a Texas city, the world’s so rich. “Preach the gospel to every creature.” Get the good news out. In every way on every day, spread joy. Say “Yes! Thank you, Jesus.” Offer hope, learn to laugh, laugh with others. Pray without ceasing, even in the dark of night. When we’re here for each other, God is in our midst.

He puts out all our fires.

It was a fine morning on a beautiful day, Lord, and we felt happy and glad to be alive. It’s not always like this, and even this evening I’m tired and sore. Show me how to get a bit above all these experiences, Lord, just to be with you, to know your strength and find my own, to love and give and share and offer hope.


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Apr 26 19

Like a diamond in the sky

by davesandel

Like a diamond in the sky

Friday in the Octave of Easter, April 26, 2019

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

– From John 21

Simon could have gone anywhere, but he chose to visit his mom. Jesus had not been seen in over two weeks. The stories and even his own experiences, of Jesus’ reappearing after being buried, after being crucified, after being beaten and trapped by the Sanhedrin, after Peter’s own betrayal … those resurrection stories were wearing thin.

Simon felt like a little boy again. He walked in his old front door, saw his mother fixing dinner, and went straight to her and hugged her. She hugged him. They wept together. “Can’t you stay the night?” she said. Simon nodded yes.

She tucked him in, even though he was a very big man. He cried again and then again. “I need a Kleenex, Mama.”

“They haven’t been invented yet,” she said, and handed him a clean cloth. “Here, wipe your nose.”

She sang him a little song. “I’ll love you forever,” she said. “I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” She closed the curtain on his old bedroom. Simon’s stuffed animals were in bed with him, and his ragged blankee covered them up. Foxy and Bunny, and good old Furball, all sat there in silence while he talked to them. And finally, feeling a tiny bit better, Simon Peter fell asleep.

Something woke him happy in the morning. His dreams were not vivid and vicious like they had been. He helped his mom make bread. He washed some clothes, even some of hers. He rested in the afternoon, and with his mood still bright said goodbye. As night approached he found six of his friends.

“I am going fishing,” he told them. They worried about him; he had kept so much to himself. “We’ll come too,” they said. “Let’s go catch some fish.”

I think Jesus visited Simon in his sleepy boy dreams. He visited him when his mother prayed for her son. He visited him, and Simon caught his breath, smiled a little, and trusted God again. He was like his old self. Enthusiastic about everything, he jumped in the boat and said, “Come on!”

There’s a lot more to this story, you know. Those seven fishermen caught exactly zero fish that night. But as the sun rose they saw someone waving from the shore, asking about their catch.

“Try the other side of the boat!” the stranger shouted.

“Oh, sure,” they said, but cast the net out anyway. And immediately it filled with fish. Then Simon Peter jumped out of the boat and soaked himself leaping and laughing, swimming to Jesus, who was just getting a fire started. Together those eight friends cooked and ate a few of the marvelous, miraculous, Jesus-touched fish, and then Jesus and Peter had the Talk.

So much love in this story, right? Simon’s mom loves him, and he loves Jesus, and Jesus loves them both. Jesus loves all those friends, all night fishing in the boat. He loves us too. Sometimes he’ll help us catch fish, and eat them with us on the shore, fire burning, stars still shining in the sky, just before dawn.

This is your world, Lord Jesus, and to my listening ear, all nature sings and around me rings the music of the spheres. We are your children, no less than the birds and fishes, and whether or not it is clear to us, no doubt your universe is unfolding as it should. So I choose to be at peace with you, and thank you once again today for this beautiful world.

“Enthusiastic,” from the Greek “En-theos,” inspired or possessed by a God



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Apr 25 19

Forty five days

by davesandel

Forty five days

Thursday in the Octave of Easter, April 25, 2019

The crippled man who had been cured clung to Peter and John.

– From Acts 3

How thankful can a person be!

At the beginning of Lent our pastor preached about gratitude. He likened our experience in the human family to members of a 12 step group, and suggested that we can choose right now to be grateful every day.

So as of now, I’m forty-five days grateful! And the man crippled from birth and healed, I hope his days of gratitude never stopped.

Other than a few days after Jesus was arrested, Peter always had something to say. He spoke now, as the crowd gathered in amazement to celebrate with their friend, walking for the first time in his life. Peter really laid into them:

You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked that a murderer be released to you! The author of life, you put to death.

But God raised him from the dead.

There are many ways to look at this miracle. In the pre-Easter Austin Chronicle, I found a light-hearted take on Easter food events:

Whether you’re celebrating a certain someone’s reincarnation or just looking to get a little sloppy on a Sunday morning, we have a handful of Easter brunch offerings. Hit the carving station, sip a mimosa, and maybe lift your glasses to Jesus, if that’s your thing.

Then there’s G. K. Chesterton, quite often light-hearted but not about this:

(This is) the most monstrous, the most material, and therefore the most miraculous of miracles.  It is specially connected with the most startling sort of dogma, which the Modernist can least accept; the Resurrection of the Body.

But my favorite comes from John Updike, and his Easter morning poem written early in his writing life for a local Lutheran church festival (it won first prize):

Make no mistake: if He rose at all

it was as His body;

if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules

reknit, the amino acids rekindle,

the Church will fall …


Let us not mock God with metaphor,

analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;

making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the

faded credulity of earlier ages:

let us walk through the door.

Right now in Austin the rain is coming down in sheets. A few minutes ago lightning struck so close, it exploded. Thunder broke down the doors (so to speak); I was sitting outside and jumped up and ran indoors. I love storms. This one scared me for just a second, and then I remembered how grateful I am for this thunder and lightning that I can see.

And grateful that what I CAN see and hear and feel and almost taste … sends me back to feel the screams of fear on Golgotha as dark-sky thunder marked the moment Jesus passed. And to the path the Marys took at dawn, to the unheard sound as the stone was rolled away, to the sight of beings, bright and not quite human sitting by the cave, to the gentle footfall of the gardener.

No, that is not the gardener. This is Jesus. Magnetic, miraculous, marvelous Jesus, risen from the dead.

Every day I’m grateful. Every day we’re invited to walk with him through the door.

Lord God how thankful can a person be? Make me more and more and more. I want to be fruitful, and multiply and be a good steward of all that you have for me.

Austin Chronicle, April 19, 2019, p. 37

G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas, The Dumb Ox, Chapter 1, “On Two Friars,” p. 12, 1933

John Updike, “Seven Stanzas on Easter,” 1960

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Apr 24 19

Intimate events

by davesandel

Intimate events

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter, April 24, 2019

On the road to Emmaus while he was with them at table, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished from their sight.

– From Luke 24

A man crippled from birth was carried to the gate of temple each day to beg for alms. When he saw Peter and John, he asked for alms. But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” He paid attention to them.

– From Acts 3

So what did Peter do? “Silver and gold have I none,” he said. “But such as I have, I give thee. In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk!”

The man’s muscles had been atrophied and worthless, but they suddenly became strong. He had never learned how to walk, but now, within minutes he was “leaping and laughing and praising God.” Jesus Christ reappeared in power. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

For a day or two in California, I was homeless. I slept in a shelter and worried someone would steal my stuff. I guess everyone worries someone will steal their stuff. We saw several people today, at intersections of the endless Austin highway, holding signs, asking for help.

One of my best friends, an excellent musician, preferred playing on the street for tips to playing anywhere else. He always brought toy instruments to play for the kids, and for the kids to play. He had a long beard and a strange cap, and he had so much fun. When he did play the blues in bars, he wrote new verses about Jesus, which he sang in his gravelly voice to anyone who listened.

Roy Weece, campus minister at the University of Missouri, used to say that we’re all beggars, sharing our crusts of bread. Some of us have discovered Jesus, been touched, like poet John Blase, by “this defiant publisher of love, loosed upon our world.” For we who have been touched, like Peter and John, “such as we have, we give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ …”

Like the rest of us, my crippling disease from birth has been sin, perhaps less visible than wasted muscles, but far more vicious, tenacious, ugly. But this disease is daily healed, as I know Jesus and remember how to pray, trusting God with all my days.

This is the joy of my life and all this Easter week I celebrate. I rejoice with all the folks in those Bible stories, along with Henri Nouwen, who wrote once on a day just like today:

I heard you call Mary Magdalene by her name and heard how you called from the shore of the lake to your friends to throw out their nets. I also saw you entering the closed room where your disciples were gathered in fear. I saw you appearing on the mountain and at the outskirts of the village.

 How intimate these events really are. They are like special favors to dear friends. They were not done to impress or overwhelm anyone, but simply to show that your love is stronger than death.

 And as our friend Henri went on to pray,

O Lord, I know now that it is in silence, in a quiet moment, in a forgotten corner that you will meet me, call me by name and speak to me a word of peace. It is in my stillest hour that you become the risen Lord to me.

John, April 14, 2019

Henri Nouwen, written on Easter Sunday, April 15, 1979. Excerpt from A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, 1981

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Apr 23 19

Do not bury hope

by davesandel

Do not bury hope

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter, April 23, 2019

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the womb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

– From John 20

After awhile, I just can’t answer that question. What else is there to do? Tears just don’t stop. I don’t even remember quite why I’m crying. I’m just exhausted.

But Mary’s morning was about to be filled with joy. Her “tomb mentality,” as Pope Francis called it, was shattered by a single sound from the stranger, perhaps the gardener? He said, “Mary.”

Jesus cared for her. He smiled, called her by name, told her what was happening to him, and asked her to go and tell the others. Do something, Mary. You no longer need to weep.

The Easter season is longer than Lent. Suffering and death give way to the relentless joy of the risen Jesus. At Saturday’s Vigil, Pope Francis reminded all of us, himself included, that “Easter is the feast of tombstones taken away, rocks rolled aside.”

See what wondrous love the Father has for us. Look up at the angels, look up at Jesus.

But there are many mirrors in my life. I look forward and I look back, and always there I am. As I see myself, I look again, and finally there is no one else to see. Whether in days of happiness or listless indifference, I’m alone.

This is not the way of God, not the way of Jesus.

“Do not bury hope!” the pope cried out. Emily Dickinson wrote, “We never know how high we are, till we are called to rise.” Francis continued:

The Lord calls us to get up, to rise at his word, to look up and to realize that we were made for heaven, not for earth, for the heights of life and not for the depths of death. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

 Do not fear, then. The Lord loves your life! Let us raise our eyes to the risen Jesus. His gaze fills us with hope, for it tells us we are loved unfailingly, and that however much we make a mess of things, his love remains unchanged.

 I’ve walked many labyrinths. Some are large and some are small. On some I must take mincing steps to stay on the trail. Others invite me to step out and stretch my legs. They might be made of stone, or green grass, or gravel. A labyrinth invites me to relax and reflect on my current “mess of things.”

As I reach the center, there is God’s love waiting for me unchanged, unchanging. I track my way back out to the “real world,” and God’s love goes with me, on my shoulders, in my hair. Jesus steps along in front, sometimes looking back to smile.

How I love his eyes.

In these days of presence, Jesus, I want to be with you all the way, to see myself as you see me, and trust you to see me true. I’ll throw away my cracked and ancient pocket mirror, and jump for joy.

Gerard O’Connell, “Do Not Bury Hope,” from America Magazine, April 20, 2019

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Apr 22 19

Lessons learning

by davesandel

Lessons learning

Monday in the Octave of Easter, April 22, 2019

I saw the Lord before me. You have made known to me the paths of life.

– From Psalm 16 (referenced in Acts 2)

In the forty days till Jesus’ ascension he has much to teach his newly strengthened brothers. His disciples will soon be making disciples of their own. The healing of Jesus will be multiplied by 12 and 12 again. As yet they have no idea, but he did prepare them: “They will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).

I watch Miles learning, for better or for worse, from whatever we do and say. And I think how I learned, too, and still do:

One. There is a vast difference between controlling someone and caring for them. I err on the control side every day, but sometimes I catch myself and remember what it means to care. Then I remember what to do. Then I do it. Mostly, that means letting my friend or family show me how, instead of getting ahead of them.

Two. Margaret says, “Look at me.” That way I’m more likely to be listening. And she says, “Use your words.” Actually, she says that to little kids, but I’m really not so old myself. My thoughts fill up my mind, need space, and I need to share them. Listen well, and speak clearly.

Three. Eat everything on your plate. I was a little boy then, and I learned about the starving children. I couldn’t see those other kids, but at least I could appreciate the food I’d been given. A much better lesson comes from Michael Pollan, himself a dad and foodie: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” His definition of “food” is rigorous, at least to most of us. I’m still working on NOT always eating everything on my plate.

Four. Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” begins: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs …” In panic moments I am learning to create some space. Breathe, take in the oxygen. Be still (and know that God is God) and be quiet. Let the spike of adrenalin close my mouth while it opens my eyes, ears, hands, and lungs. But don’t take too long with this. Something still needs to be done.

Five. Go to church every single Sunday. The folks at church are just like me, and Jesus loves them all. I’ve learned to say hello, and ask, “What’s brought you joy this week?” And then I get to ask myself. Also, when I’m there, sing the songs. Sing a little louder. This “worship breathing” brings joy into my soul.

Six. Sure, save the best for last. Start the day with simple words. “Lord, thank you for this day.” End the day, just the same. Every prayer during the day? Start with “Thank you.” My gratitude grows with this expression.

God’s grace and wisdom covers all my moments, all my thoughts, every decision right or wrong, and especially every time I look into another’s eyes. God’s peace transcends my wisdom, my knowledge, my mistakes, my sins, my creativity, my achievements and my failures.

How can I not be thankful?

My heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope. You have made known to me the paths of life, and you will fill me with joy in your presence. You have risen, Lord. You have risen indeed.

Michael Pollan, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, 2009

Rudyard Kipling, “If,” written in 1895 and published in Rewards and Fairies, 1910

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