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Mar 18 18

The dying of the night

by davesandel

The dying of the night

Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 18, 2018

All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

– From Jeremiah 31

Jesus knows his farming. A grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, and “if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternity. And where I am, there also will my servant be” (John 12).

Jesus invites. “Come with me to that promised land.” But Jesus’ song is not a siren song; it may be true but it does not seduce. And although American preachers load up the front end of salvation with abundance and blessing, Jesus does not. “Come and die with me,” he says.

What Jesus says is what he would have me repeat. “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

Here is an important point. This “hour” is not the hour of resurrection but the hour of death. It is in dying that Jesus, along with his fabled grain of wheat, bears fruit. What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief to bear.

It will forever be strange to us that in spite of our salvation we shoulder loads of grief all through life. And the more we allow ourselves to be the Body of Christ, we bear each other’s burdens and weep with those who weep. There is no end to suffering. The poor you will always have with you.

Jesus would not offer his easy yoke if we did not already carry heavy ones. But I struggle to understand what yoke on earth he is talking about. It’s not the easy yoke of comfort, because my comfort always comes at the expense of someone somewhere. “Structural” sin always involves me, as my eyes turn inward and turn away.

“But you will not always have me.” And “believe on the one that God has sent.” And “I am the resurrection and the life.” And maybe most important, “Whoever loves his life will lose it.” Jesus himself shines into my life and illuminates the darkest corners, shows me the nature of my sin and then invites me to follow him into the way of life. God gives me more than enough.

A loving theology can lead me toward the love of God. Poetry does as good a job or more, and here’s a part of a poem by Welshman R. S. Thomas (more here):

Enough we have been given wings

and a needle in the mind

to respond to His bleak north.

There are times even at the Pole

when He, too, pauses in his withdrawal,

so that it is light there all night long

Advent is a time of waiting in the darkness. And Lent? We wait now too, wait to watch the Lord under his crown of thorns stumbling down Jerusalem streets toward his death. But we need not get ahead of ourselves. Sunday’s coming, but not before Friday, and not before today.

Lord, you hold the sun close and then release it, and it rises. Without fanfare and silently, the darkness fades in the dawning of the light. And this is your way in me too, Lord, as you rise up and wash away my sin. Remove the darkness from me. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

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Mar 17 18

Cutthroat crowds

by davesandel

Cutthroat crowds

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will be spoken no more.

– From Jeremiah 11

Jonah’s final friend was a big fish. Elijah was sure there was “no one left.” Jeremiah had one or two faithful friends, but he was left alone even in the Exile. At least Jesus had a dozen disciples, along with the “adoring crowds.”

But mass mentality will have its way, and Jesus knowing this, cried out to the people, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.

“And you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37).

Jonah, Elijah and Jeremiah might gather under a broom tree in heaven to gossip about Jesus. At this point it looks like he will join them soon. Jeremiah tries his own words out on Jesus: “God seduced you and you were seduced.” Look at you now.

Elijah, faithful to God, brooked no resistance from Queen Jezebel, but she stood her ground even when God burned up her priests in Elijah’s call-down-fire from heaven. She chased him and he ran into the desert. He was alone.

The crowds rejoiced in his words, and then ridiculed him. He was a hero and then he was a snake. Finally even the finger of God pointed at him. Accused? Singled out? Alone. “There is no one left.”

Jesus, is this your story too? Are you Elijah after all? Should you follow that well-known trail of tears and return to the desert? Could you wait there for God’s food and God’s rest and God’s word?

Jonah’s bitterness tempts Jesus almost beyond endurance. “I know you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in kindness, one who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live … please Lord, it IS right for me to be so angry, even unto death!”

While Jesus prays beneath the olive tree in Gethsemane, his ancestors woolgather under the broom tree in heaven. They are pretty sure they know what Jesus should do. Jesus listens to their words. He wonders where God has gone off to when he needs him more than ever. His disciples keep falling asleep. The desert beckons. Jesus weeps.

We know the rest of the story. What we don’t know is what it’s like to sweat drops of blood. Jesus turned away from every easy way every time, and because he did, we get to sing the Song.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Lord, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble on the day after the night after the day a couple weeks before your life blows out like a dead-wick candle, and then beyond all hope burns bright again, brighter than anyone ever dreamed. By that light we live, Jesus, by that light we live.

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Mar 16 18

How can we keep from singing?

by davesandel

How can we keep from singing

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those whose spirit is crushed. He watches over all his bones; not one of them shall be broken.

– From Psalm 34

Like flash-backs and flash-forwards in the TV show “This is Us,” my life like yours runs and runs away, rushes toward me and off again in faces and scenes, stories of sorrow and joy, memories that rise like hot summer waves of heat above my two-lane highways, above my closely cropped lawns, that rise and burn the ancient sidewalks along the edges of it all.

In late night autumn darkness we drove through Pennsylvania woods near Kutztown. Dodds had landed his balloon “Nimbus Secondus” safely again, his two young kids asleep in our cars, and it would not be long till we got to his friend’s two-story, red-brown house with beds and couches for all of us.

Folk festival food and beer filled us up. With Dodds and Sue’s five-year-old son Justin sleeping in the back, my friend David and I rode in the balloon van behind two cars full of all our families. Our conversation lightened the night. This was fifty years ago and we were in college, and David had no idea what he was going to do next. We were talking about that while the moon shone down and I drove around one curve after another and down a long hill toward the next left curve, and I pushed on the brakes and they did nothing to slow the van, and David said, “You have to slow down,” and I said, “The brakes aren’t working.”

I think I felt calm. I think I was giving up something.

The van skidded around part of the curve but not all of it, and we flew off the road into the trees, into a large tree suddenly right there and the Ford van’s front windshield smashed into the tree, and now the van was stopped, stopped cold. Still.

My face pressed on the broken windshield. The steering wheel held me in, but David’s door fell open and he fell out. He stepped on Justin’s arm, and he reached down, and he picked up Justin who had been thrown forward from the back seat and his head hit the visor above the windshield, and he flew out the open door. Face down in a pool of water. David picked him up, and he did not drown.

There were sounds again then, shattered stillness. My wife screamed my name, and we found our way through wet grass up to the highway. Silent unremitting highway holds us all in the moonlight, and I am yelling at the sky. Angry! Screaming at the stars.

But there are no bodies, only the same people who started out on this trip home, and nobody seems hurt, not on the outside, not so far. But I feel so guilty and so helpless, and what for just a moment I had given up, I feel myself taking up again.

Dodds went to Wisconsin’s Octoberfest in LaCrosse the next year, and we went there with him. He taught philosophy for a few more years at Valpo and later flew a balloon over the North Pole. Justin had no more than a bruised spleen, as it turned out. Neither David nor I had a scratch.

Eventually I felt grateful, maybe even that night as we ate soup and finally fell asleep. I remember the soup, and I remember my wife’s scream from what seemed a long ways away, and in those moments I know I was loved.

Lord, the psalm sings out, and it’s your voice that does the singing – oh! there is so much joy in all those notes. Now I can stop screaming, Lord and sing along, sing about the great great joy of being held by you.

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Mar 15 18

At the foot of the mountain

by davesandel

At the foot of the mountain

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once to your people. They have become depraved.” … Jesus said, “The Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.

– From Exodus 32 and John 5

Moses has been gone too long. Is he dead? He walked away in silence not just one week, but five weeks ago. Where is our leader? Where is God?

“No one was cooking. No one was eating. The universe had gone through convulsions. Heaven and earth had collided. Aaron felt their agitation as a storm that was about to break. He could scarcely breathe. All the laws were gone. Bloody passions soon would destroy this people right where they sat, at the foot of the mountain” (The Book of God by Walter Wangerin, Jr., p. 140).

Desperate for something their eyes could see, they crafted a golden calf, offered sacrifices at its altar and prepared a feast. Their agitation eased and once again they felt joy. But this was not the way of the Lord, who chose them but would not appear to them, except in pillars of cloud and fire.

So Jesus is right when he says, “You have never heard his voice nor seen his form.” Only a select few prophets heard his voice, and no one had seen his form, until the incarnation. Until Jesus brought both voice and form to the descendants of those at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

Still, how could they believe? Their ancestors were killed for worshipping something their hands could touch and their eyes could see. The problem was they did not realize they had made another idol from their rules and traditions.

God’s plan all along, through what Moses called the Law, was to teach his people to live together in integrity and compassion from the inside out. But like God himself, all of this is invisible, and that has been always too much for mankind. We must see, put more shape on God’s gift so we can see.

Improve it.

Ten commandments turned to hundreds and in anger Jesus cried out, “The sabbath was MADE FOR MAN, not man for the sabbath.”

But how then do I live with mystery, with the inescapable fact that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts, and his ways are higher than my ways? Jesus brings the simple answer, which cannot be proved except by trying: “Believe in the one whom he has sent.”

His mother Mary walked straight into the mystery with that famous permission she granted God, “May it be done unto me according to your word.”

She did not create countless questions that were beside that point and then insist on answers which could only mislead and provide false security.

There are ways to pray surrender, to act on Jesus’ call. The “Welcoming Prayer” suggests that in welcoming God we let go of security, approval, control, and even the need for change. These goals have become our golden calves. Even as God wants us to welcome Jesus and wait for him, we lose faith and we panic. Buoyed by the shallow testimony and praise we give each other, we rush headlong toward something we can craft for ourselves, something we can see.

But this is not the way. On this path we ask wrong questions and we settle for false answers.

As much as I can turn away from this, my face will turn up to the infinite unseeable sky. And the simple words of Jesus will echo across my soul.

Believe in the one whom he has sent.

Lord, welcome, welcome, welcome. And I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment because I know it is for my healing. I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations and conditions. I let go of my desire for security. I let go of my desire for approval. I let go of my desire for control. I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself. I open to your love and presence, God, to the healing action and grace within. (prayer of Mary Mrozowki, 1925-1993)

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Mar 14 18

Happiness runs in a circular motion

by davesandel

Happiness runs in a circular motion

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Thus says the Lord, “Say to the prisoners: ‘Come out!’ Say to those in darkness: ‘Show yourselves!’ Along the way you will find pasture on every bare height. You shall not hunger or thirst, and the scorching wind and sun will not strike you. I will lead you and guide you beside springs of water. I will cut a road through all my mountains. I will not forget you. I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

– From Isaiah 49

Even if I could see God’s hand, I could not read his palm. His thoughts are not my thoughts, his ways are not my ways. I can never see the big picture from far enough away. I can, however, trust his words to be good and true. There is a time free from sorrow and suffering, a time of happiness.

Is this good, is this true? Is this too good to be true? Ron Rolheiser looks ahead to the Incarnation and says, “In Jesus birth, something fundamental has changed. Yes, it is too good to be true. What a marvelous description of the incarnation” (Holy Longing, p. 92).

Still we shy away, reluctant even to define happiness, let alone take the risk of claiming it. In her masterpiece, All Passion Spent, Vida Sackville-West writes about happiness.

They would say she had been happy. But what was happiness? Had she been happy? That was a strange, clicking word to have coined – meaning something definite to the whole English-speaking race, a strange clicking word with its short vowel and its spitting double p’s, and its pert tilted y at the end, to express in two syllables a whole summary of life. Happy. But one was happy at one moment, unhappy two minutes later, and neither for any good reason; so what did it mean? – p. 167-168

They would say?” Does anyone know what makes someone else happy? Some of us think we do, and thereby run the risk of making someone else miserable. I need to earn the right to be heard in anyone else’s life, and even then I must speak softly.

Reinhold Niebuhr surely was thinking of Jesus’ beatitudes in his famous Serenity Prayer, when he prayed to have “reasonable happiness in this world, and supreme happiness with you in the next.”

Those beatitudes surprised his listeners: “Happy are … the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for my sake.” Great is your reward in heaven.

God pours himself into each of us. When I remember this I can quiet my pride, avarice, and fear. Out of this gratitude I get into the “flow” of giving, sharing, helping, and doing for others. Happy I am. Call on the new day.

Your promises are so sweet and rich, Lord. Always there is sorrow and suffering, but so also there is always joy. And you are happy to have us eat the dessert first sometimes. So I want to just take big bites and not worry about indigestion. You are merciful and good forever.

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Mar 13 18

The shape of water

by davesandel

The shape of water

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The angel brought me to the temple entrance, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold. He measured off a thousand cubits and had me wade; the water was up to my waist. Once more he measured off a thousand, but there was now a river through which I could not wade. The water had risen so high it had become a river that could not be crossed except by swimming.

– From Ezekiel 47

There is so little to be said, so a slight, mute girl might say it all with her hands. It’s the angel that has the good news. This water brings life, this water brings fruit, this water brings healing to the wounded and the broken-hearted. All “shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary.” Is this sweet miracle water for us too?

But what mere water could ever bring forth life? Life is no miracle but just a sperm and egg shoved together without ceremony.

There is no excuse for evil, which seems to live without substance alongside the good. Evil does not stop showing itself. On the sabbath Jesus meets a man crippled for years and offers him healing, but the man does not recognize his good fortune. His predicament is much more clear to him than Jesus’ fresh possibility.

Jesus calls him anyway: “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” But no cripple is allowed to rise, take up his mat and walk on the sabbath! And Jesus knows it.

But Jesus brings the essence of Ezekiel’s river right into Jerusalem. “Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live. Fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their fruit shall serve for food and their leaves for medicine.” Nothing’s gonna stop it. There is a great display of leaping and laughing and praising God.

And Jesus brings so much more. Come and see, taste and see, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Stand for awhile beside the river. Pluck fruit from these trees. Remember all the ways that the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. Hold the fruit in your hands, and eat it. Find out what sweetness and healing God has for you today.

You share this bounty with me, Lord, you stretch out your hands and offer it for me to eat. So I take bite after bite, all your juices flow inside me, all your love blossoms in my heart, and even your breath fills my lungs. It is so good to be alive with you.

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Mar 12 18

Let there be peace on earth

by davesandel

Let there be peace on earth

Monday, March 12, 2018

Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind.

– From Isaiah 65

Andi, Aki and Miles are in Japan this week visiting their family and introducing Miles. Yesterday he was sixteen months old; and he’s walking, understanding lots of words, laughing, eating with a spoon. Plus he’s learning Japanese as well as English. What better place to do more of that than Japan with people who love him?

We have photo albums of people holding us when we were babies, playing with us when we were sixteen months old or so. Margaret and I traveled shorter distances in Kentucky and Indiana and Illinois, but that was far enough, I guess. Everyone smiled a lot when we were in their arms. I’m sure it will be that way for Miles, too, and he’ll have the pictures to prove it. They are worth a thousand words.

I think these photos change how I see my past. Those were the good old days. But world history focuses far more on wars than on treaties, on deaths than births. My own brain’s chemistry requires six positives to balance one negative experience. Cameras might not click in the midst of crisis, but our brains are more alert than ever.

Our bodies remember everything. We stiffen and harden physically in the wake of trauma, repression and stress. We often die earlier than we thought we should. Isaiah’s prophecy goes on to promise all his listeners a good old age, when they “shall live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.”

“They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).

We have not brought about this sea change. The evil we have lived with all our human lives on earth has not lost traction. Genocides are far more frequent. Human morality seems to be devolving. Isaiah wrote these words almost three thousand years ago. How many more generations before the wolf lies down with the lamb? No wonder we wonder whether God exists.

But a hopeful seed sprouts inside my doubt when I read the phrase in the Apostles’ Creed, “He descended into hell.” Jesus told us in his “strong man” parable that “when someone stronger attacks and overpowers the strong man, he takes away his armor and divides up his plunder.”

I think this means that when “he descended into hell” Jesus Christ did the work we cannot do. The powers of Sin, Death and the Devil have been destroyed. But with the Lord a thousand years are like a day. In the mean time, here we are, and evil is right here with us, and … we are waiting, Lord. Our children are waiting. How long?

The days of sadness and death are not over, Lord. We weep for those destroyed by evil. If you’ve done the work, will you let us see? You give us glimpses, yes you do. But I forget and then again I’m caught in bitterness and fear. Forgive me, Lord. Let me know that your weeping is more than mine. I want to look into the mystery and trust the cloud, trust that you are stronger than death, trust that you are good, trust that we belong to you.

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Mar 11 18

God so loves the world

by davesandel

God so loves the world

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 11, 2018

God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

– From John 3

My friend told me a story, and I thought of Chris and Marc and Andrea and their questions.

“Daddy, will everybody make it to heaven?”

His dad knew better than to answer this question directly. He said, “It all comes down to two numbers, 3 and 16. Then they read the verse together. And Simon was left with a sense of well-being. God loved him, and he could love God. He believed.

I wonder what his next question will be.

“Daddy, what does it mean to believe?”

“How do I know I believe?”

“What happens after I believe?”

Or even, “Do you have to believe just when you die, or all the time, or sometimes? Sometimes I don’t think I believe. What then?”

I don’t know if Simon will ask those questions, but I do. Sixty-five years since I’ve sat on my daddy’s lap, and these are some of the questions I have about this verse. I’m pretty sure that my dad would have said, “Don’t let your thoughts get so complicated, Dave.”

Why should I need to know God’s mind? His thoughts are higher than mine. He created the whole shebang, and I am just a tiny particle of sand in the seashore. Can I just let well enough alone and believe?

In Holy Longing Ron Rolheiser echoes John Shea when he writes about “undergoing” the presence of Jesus Christ rather than simply worshipping or imitating him. The Incarnation was not just a thirty-three year period of Jesus walking on earth. The Incarnation continues, because we are now the Body of Christ.

So when we say “I believe,” we acknowledge ourselves as the Body of Christ. And in that Body we must “undergo” our own suffering and our own death: the death of our youth, the death of our wholeness, the death of our dreams, the death of our honeymoons, the death of certainties we have about God and church … this is not a complete list, but you get the idea.

Death precedes resurrection. One will not happen without the other. Less theologically, you can say that God strips us naked so he can wash us clean and clothe us with holiness.

Jesus asked many of the people who pleaded with him for healing. “Do you believe?”

What else would you say, but “Yes!”

The words “No, Lord” have zero traction. But “Yes, Lord” carries me right into heaven, right now, in the only moment that matters.

This one.

Yes, Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. For me most of the time those phrases run together. I wish they didn’t but they do. I am so thankful that you don’t care. You know how you feel about me, regardless of how I feel about you. You know who I am, even when I have no idea who you are. You made me, I did not make you. That is what you help me remember day by day. Night after night. Fear by fear. You are here.

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Mar 10 18

Bonfire of the vanities

by davesandel

Bonfire of the vanities

Saturday, March 10, 2018

It is the Lord who has struck us, but he will bind our wounds. He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up to live in his presence. Let us know, let us strive to know the Lord. As certain as the dawn is his coming. He will come to us like the rain.

– From Hosea 6

“The God who consigns human beings to condemnation is the same God who gives himself up to a violent death to save those same human beings, ‘for God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all’ (Rom 11:32 – Rutledge, The Crucifixion, p. 412-413)

God’s violence is different from ours. Before spanking me my dad would say, “This hurts me more than it hurts you,” I didn’t believe him. But God says the same thing, and I do believe him.

Hosea points out the jerkiness of our experience with God, or at least our experience with life. But is God capricious? Does God change like Illinois weather? Is he careless with his kids?

Someone said, “God strips us naked before he clothes us.” Not a gentle passing, this. Rutledge points to Flannery O’Connor, a southern writer of fiction who spent time reading Thomas Aquinas every night before bed. She “designed her stories with violence specifically to illustrate the invading action of God in delivering his children. God’s ‘violence’ is begun, carried out, and completed in the love of God.”

Jesus could not have died a more violent death. Ripped apart by a vicious whipping and then crucified with nails pounded through his feet and hands, within a very short time he could no longer breathe out, but only in. His lungs and heart collapsed. He descended into hell.

This was Jesus-God up there dying, substituting himself for me. And this oblivion meant that God the Father was separated from God the Son in a way that makes no emotional, metaphysical, theological or physical sense. Like the centurion we are left mouthing simple phrases still profound. “Truly this was the Son of God.” What else can we say?

In her story “Revelation,” Flannery O’Connor watches as old Ruby Turpin’s eyes are opened. Jesus will not let her go. Always Ruby has held her Pharisee’s head high, but in a moment of emotional and physical violence she falls, folds into herself, and discovers the humbled prayer of the tax collector (Luke 18).

“She bent her head slowly and gazed, as if through the very heart of mystery, down into the pig parlor at the hogs. They appeared to pant with a secret life. A visionary light settled in her eyes. A vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven, whole companies of white-trash, battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting, clapping, and leaping like frogs. Bringing up the end were the people like herself. They marched behind the others with great dignity. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.”

Lord, you are always good but you never promised to be safe. Where did I ever get the idea that you were safe? Your touch is gentle but firm as you shape me, mold me and make me into the child of God you know I am. This is the life I live, the life you give me every day.

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Mar 9 18

Pushing in, settling down

by davesandel

Pushing in, settling down

Friday, March 9, 2018

You have collapsed through your guilt.

– From Hosea 14

I have the same essential dream over and over. I am with friends in a city. We are headed for something important and fun. But then we get separated. The city becomes more and more of a maze. I am frightened, I am lost.

My vehicle becomes an enemy rather than friend, and every turn I make takes me deeper into places I can’t get out of. I’m either abandoned by others or abandoning them. They need me, and I need them, and we cannot connect.

Lately I have been free from this dream, but I expect it will return. This is no fun. Just writing these words kicks my adrenalin into another gear.

Waking up is a relief, but I am nightmarishly empty and exhausted, ridden with guilt. Hosea calls it “collapsed.” This is no way to start a day. Still, I am comforted by the fact that this all happened in a dream, while my body was “resting.” I have learned to stretch, yawn, take a shower, and open my eyes. Much of the hard emotional work was done last night; now I can pray to receive joy in the morning.

On the other hand, the dream points to two things in my life that are waking realities. I do need others, and they need me, and we often do not connect. I lose myself in work or play, or others do, and together we lose chance after chance for face time.

And secondly, I am “collapsing” physically. My strength is diminishing. Jon Burras calls this “hydrogen bonding,” and over time it changes my body. Muscle fascia dry out and start to resemble beef jerky. I become stiff and then sore. It’s more important than ever to move and stretch, and it’s harder than ever to get started.

But my waking life is NOT a nightmare. I often feel intimate with God, as long as I don’t too carefully define that. I meet with a friend for lunch, and I go to my stretching rock. Every day I read the Psalms. Yoga, Feldenkrais, massage and conversation are just one decision away. And I must remember in my moments of self-pity, how can I be found if I have not been lost?

Hosea’s listeners cry out, “We shall say no more ‘Our god’ to the work of our hands.” God’s response is to “love them freely” and turn his wrath away. He will be like dew on their new grass. In this aftermath of collapse, even as I recall the nightmare, I can “dwell in his shade and blossom like the vine.” My fear and loneliness fade in his presence.

I learn to live with this mingling of pleasure and pain, expectation and fulfillment. When I settle down there is really nothing to get over or push away, crave or clutch too close.

Jesus says, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” That’s just he means to say.

 Lord, there is this settling down I always want to do with you. I want to rest, sit, close my eyes, be still. After the stretching comes the quiet. After the conversation comes the silence. You are in all of it, but I lose myself so often and want to get back to being with you. Maybe in the middle of the crowd, maybe alone sitting on my bed, but I want to be with you.

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