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Jun 9 19

Purify my heart

by davesandel

This is the last of this year’s Lent and Easter devotions. Thank you for sharing them with me. God bless the coming weeks of what many churches call “ordinary time.” I hope to begin sending devotions again on the first Sunday of Advent, which falls on December 1, 2019.

 

Purify my heart

Pentecost Sunday, June 9, 2019

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house. Then there appeared to them tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest on each. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.

– From Acts 2

It’s been fifty days. On this special Sunday, it is good to change the pronouns in the story of Pentecost: WE were all in one place together … there appeared to US tongues of fire … WE were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Come and join me. Imagine yourself into the story.

I’m in the corner there, in this upper room, sitting on the floor, half asleep, when all this starts and all this happens, and I jump up and we are shouting and laughing and praising God. I feel sweet tickles in my throat and my eyes fly wide open.

Jesus leans down and sits in front of me, cross-legged, like he does. I don’t think about where he came from; I just sit down with him. “So what do you think, David my son?”

And he continues, “What’s your body saying? How do you feel?’’

His trinity of questions settles on me. Fired by the Spirit and sitting with Jesus, I feel brilliant and pure. I know how true all this is. In the world there is always a bit of light torn by a bit of darkness. Here there is no shadow. My body rests.

What do I think? I remember two scenes from childhood.

*           *           *

In the Logan County country I mowed the lawn around our house, right up to the west side of the blacktop road. Briggs and Stratton roared to life and I pushed the mower round and round. No one could hear me, I guess, as I talked to myself about the world I created, cleaned, and claimed. I walked through it tall and strong with every sharp turn and sweep through the grass. This land was my land. The good earth and everything in it rejoiced in my dominion and received with joy the blessing I bestowed.

Later I discovered the sanctity of all life, so much more than just my own. But at the time, full of myself, I thought nothing of wounding, scaring, killing tiny creatures below the mower blade. Just as when I played the board game Risk, my only job was to dominate the world. That’s how you win! And the destruction which winning required felt pretty good, actually. I had no idea that this “light” brought with it so much dark.

When the mowing was done I burned our trash. In the country our burn barrel sat outside the back door, not far from clotheslines and garden. Holes rusted through the sides of that old barrel. I piled in the paper and the rest. With great anticipation I lit a kitchen match. Touched a piece of newspaper. The paper burst into flame and hypnotized me.

Again a world waited to be claimed. Sparks flew. Heat blew toward me off the barrel’s top. In time the fire dug into the pile. I stared at the rusty holes. Lowdown trash sat safe and still and unexpecting, and then suddenly it transformed into red, searing flame bright and hot. Unstoppable. A single wooden match did all that. And it was me that did the striking.

In just one afternoon, I created two worlds, and destroyed them. Only later did I hear the words from the Bhagavad Gita, the same ones Robert Oppenheimer heard, helpless in the fact of the atomic bomb he helped create: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

*           *           *

“This tongue of fire, Jesus, will it burn me up? Are you making me pure flame so I no longer know myself, no longer know?”

Jesus smiled. Like he does. He reminded me to notice how I felt, listen to what my body said. If my questions removed me from the moment, I could let my questions go. I felt suspended in thin air without them, but then I felt the heat on my head, the warmth in my hands, and that quiet, gentle tickle in my throat. I wanted to pull the cord on my mental mower and take charge again. But no, not really. That mower had no power here. Jesus was filling me with a far better gift.

“I want to touch hurting people and love them with your healing hands, Jesus.”

“And when you do, we are all twice blessed,” he said. “The quality of mercy is not strained; it drops as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.” Jesus knew all of Shakespeare’s best lines.

This reaching out, Lord, never knowing what will happen next, fills all my soul. Your brimming spirit pours over me when we embrace, and I’m covered, soaked, drenched and dripping with all this laughter, all this joy. I’ll have what you’re having, Jesus. Oh my God, I just can’t stop smiling.

On July 16, 1945 near Los Alamos, New Mexico, Robert Oppenheimer watched the Trinity nuclear test, the first successful detonation of an atomic bomb. “A few people laughed,” he said, “a few people cried, most of us were silent.” Oppenheimer remembered this famous 32nd verse of the Bhagavad Gita. Two years later, in the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer grieved. “In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humour, no overstatements can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin, and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.”

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I, 1600, first performed in 1605

http://www.davesandel.net/category/lent-easter-devotions-2019/

http://www.christiancounselingservice.com/archived_devotions.php?article_id=1812

 

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Jun 2 19

A distant mirror

by davesandel

A distant mirror

Seventh Sunday of Easter, June 2, 2019

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let the one who is thirsty come, and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

– From Revelation 22

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all God’s people. And so … the Bible ends, with neither a bang nor a whimper but an invitation, a promise and a blessing. And there are moments when I accept the invitation, stand on the promise, and bask in the blessing.

But the key word here for me is “moments.” They come and go. Nighttime smoke curls around them, mirrors confuse my vision, and suddenly other moments rise. The grease of daily life congeals around me, the heaviness of Damocles falls flat down on my chest, and my oxygen escapes, and I can’t breathe.

I notice that the metaphors for this misery are close at hand. When has the human race, when have I, failed to complain and assume the worst? I might be a closet-complainer, but the words teem, bacterially, just below the surface, in their own petri dish of silence and fear.

So, in self-defense I open my mouth, shout out songs of praise, lift up words of affirmation and loudly claim the freedom found in God’s invitation, his promise, and his blessing. A cynic might call this a valiant attempt to Fake It Till You Make It. Well, yes, but it’s so much more than that. I get to decide, with my heart and mind and gut, which reality I’ll express today.

James Joyce has the priest say, “Time is, time was, but time shall be no more.” The words that accompany my self-awareness might be good or true or beautiful or not, but above all they fade away along with me. Unto dust they will return. Why not give them gusto while I can?

In A Distant Mirror Barbara Tuchman writes of the 14th century, and our own. “After the experiences of the terrible 20th century, we have greater fellow-feeling for a distraught age whose rules were breaking down under the pressure of adverse and violent events. We recognize with a painful twinge the marks of a period of anguish when there is no sense of an assured future.”

In his own way the philosopher-mathematician Pascal made the better wager, in his mind, to assume the best. Let God be God and don’t struggle to replace him or remove him. After all, one day “time shall be no more.”

*           *           *

Perhaps you’ve attended a graduation this month. We did, in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, and applauded Michael Adler as he crossed his high school stage toward the next particular part in his own brief moment of time. In his card we wrote to him, “We remember you as a toddler, Michael, knowing things beyond your years, full of laughter, filling those around you with your joy. Follow your dreams, they are yours and no one else’s.”

These are words worth saying, as are the words that end the Bible, as are words of praise and worship, as are words of joy and blessing, good and true and beautiful.

Joyce ends the story of his coming of age with a prayer, “Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead.” At retreats, at the beginning of the day in the breaking of the night’s Great Silence, we often say, “Open my lips, and my mouth shall pour forth thy praise” (Psalm 51:15).

These are the words of the Lord.

Just saying.

Now is the time to celebrate, Lord. This, the last week of Easter, and then we fall into weeks and weeks of Ordinary Time. Get me up, and give me words to praise you, with my body and my mouth. How sweet it is to be loved by you. How hungry I am to eat the right apple this time, and live with you forever.

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Chapter 3, p. 113 and then again on p. 123, 1916

Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Foreword, p. xiv, 1978

James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist, Chapter 5, p. 253

http://www.davesandel.net/category/lent-easter-devotions-2019/

http://www.christiancounselingservice.com/archived_devotions.php?article_id=1811

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May 26 19

Desert dwelling

by davesandel

Desert dwelling

Sixth Sunday of Easter. May 26, 2019

I saw no temple in the city for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.

– From Revelation 21

Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

How strange it would be were the sun not to rise. That’s not happened, though; the sun is far more reliable than the metronome of our lives and deaths. We don’t predict much about ourselves, but we can rely on the sun, the light of the world.

We seem strong with our neon and fluorescence, our LEDs and terrible bare bulbs dangling from the ceiling. Blare bright, these spotlights on my eyes, till I can’t stand it anymore, Edison’s fancy blessing to us all. I walk outside, to sit beneath the stars.

*           *           *

Deep in some desert at midnight, I rest with Jesus in the darkness of a nomad’s tent. Robes cover our legs, pulled up underneath us. I put my arms around my knees and look with wonder at the glowing man across from me.

There is no temple here, just the man, just the “Lamb.” The sun might rise and the moon might shine, but this is deeper light, Source Light, nothing like the neon of the city we just left, and really … like nothing even in the sky.

This glory light fills my senses. That sparkle in the eyes of Jesus, such a sight to see, he’s my friend, he’s my father, his joy fills my soul. All my cells breathe in the oxygen of God, and it tastes, this Light, like tangerines. How gently it combines with orange in my nose. The soft, wind-blown whispers of his light edge around me like Chopin. Those quiet, almost silent songs.

A ragged song rises from the edges of the tent. “Put your arms around me like a circle round the sun. You know I love ya, Mama, when the easy ridin’s done. You don’t believe I love you, look at the fool I’ve been, you don’t believe I’m sinkin’, look at the hole I’m in.”

Jesus smiles. He remembers when he sang that same old song in Gethsemane, and his father smiled too. “Do not be afraid, my son. I delight in you. You are mine.”

“I’m stealin’.” I hear the chorus ring louder in the dark tent, in God’s light, in the glory of our communion. “Stealin’, pretty Mama don’t you tell on me, ‘cause I’m stealin’ back to my same old used to be.”

Being here in this quiet in the desert dark with you, peace gathers around me. O Lord, you breathe your breath on me and your Spirit rises around us. We are home together. Soon we’ll go out again and explore, bless and be blessed, share and share alike. Lead me, Jesus.

Will Shade, “Stealin’,” 1921, Southern Music Recording Company. Recorded by the Memphis Jug Band in 1928, then Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Arlo Guthrie and others. Not exactly a spiritual, not exactly a prayer, but it sounds like one to me.

http://www.davesandel.net/category/lent-easter-devotions-2019/

http://www.christiancounselingservice.com/archived_devotions.php?article_id=1810

 

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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

http://www.davesandel.net/category/lent-easter-devotions-2019/

http://www.christiancounselingservice.com/archived_devotions.php?article_id=1809

 

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May 12 19

Courage

by davesandel

Courageous

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.

http://www.davesandel.net/category/lent-easter-devotions-2019/

http://www.christiancounselingservice.com/archived_devotions.php?article_id=1808

 

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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

http://www.davesandel.net/category/lent-easter-devotions-2019/

http://www.christiancounselingservice.com/archived_devotions.php?article_id=1805

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Apr 28 19

Jetstream

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!

Jetstream

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

http://www.davesandel.net/category/lent-easter-devotions-2019/

http://www.christiancounselingservice.com/archived_devotions.php?article_id=1804

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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.

http://www.davesandel.net/category/lent-easter-devotions-2019/

http://www.christiancounselingservice.com/archived_devotions.php?article_id=1803

 

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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

http://www.davesandel.net/category/lent-easter-devotions-2019/

http://www.christiancounselingservice.com/archived_devotions.php?article_id=1802

 

 

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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

http://www.davesandel.net/category/lent-easter-devotions-2019/

http://www.christiancounselingservice.com/archived_devotions.php?article_id=1801

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