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May 29 23

My eyes are watching God

by davesandel

Monday, May 29, 2023

Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church

 (click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

My eyes are watching God

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother Mary, his mother’s sister Mary, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” And he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother.”

Since meeting Dr. Liu on Thursday last week, several more important appointments are on my calendar, and they will keep us in Austin till at least the end of June, which kind of breaks my heart. But my heart is the part of me getting all the attention, so I won’t complain too loud.

I’ll be having a heart catheterization on June 12. It’s at a civilized time -9 am – but I still have to be there at 6 am, with an overnight bag just in case I have to spend the night.

Then on the afternoon of June 14 I’ll be meeting a surgery team to hear their recommendations and what the risks are of whatever they think I should do. Perhaps their preferred treatment will be what is abbreviated as TAVR, a minimally invasive way of replacing my heart’s aortic valve. Or something else. Wait and see.

And before that I may also have a CT angiogram. All of these procedures and tests seem miraculous to me, and I am thankful for every one of them.

Until I had these appointments (on Friday afternoon), I was irritable, nervous, on pins and needles. I prayed, but I still felt about the same. Then a little while later, when Norma the nurse called and helped me get all this set up, I felt my whole body relax.

Although I don’t always feel particularly obedient, I love the feeling, passive as it might be, of being put in the hands of others who are experts at what they do. I think it’s like being in the hands of God, and letting go. I remember awhile back reading Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Thurston. Big hurricane in the Everglades, 1928.

Night was striding across nothingness with the whole round world in his hands. A big burst of thunder and lightning trampled over the roof of the house. Motor looked up in his angel-looking way and said, “Big Massa draw him chair upstairs.”

“Ole Massa is doing His work now. Us oughta keep quiet.” They huddled closer and stared at the door. Six eyes were questioning God.

Through the screaming wind they heard things crashing and things hurtling and dashing, and a baby rabbit, terror ridden, squirmed through a hole in the floor and squatted off there in the shadows against the wall.

Talking to her husband, Janie appreciated him in their dark stormy shanty.

We been tuhgether round two years. If you kin see de light at daybreak, you don’t keer if you die at dusk. It’s so many people never seen de light at all. Ah wuz fumblin’ round and God opened de door.

And the storm did not stop, and the lights went all the way out, and everyone sat in company. Janie leaned against her husband, Tea Cake.

Their eyes strained against crude walls, their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God. (p. 158-159)

No more doubts and no more questions. Like the panicked rabbit, I will huddle in the shadows against the wall, and rest. God’s great warm hands hold me. God’s strong arms lift me. I breathe deep.

Then one of these days, God’s life becomes my life.

When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

 (Genesis 3, Acts 1, Psalm 87, John 19

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May 28 23


by davesandel

Sunday May 28, 2023

Pentecost Sunday

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)


We took long Saturday afternoon naps. But neither of us need the sleep as much as we need a big wind to blow us out and about. Important relationships are foundering. Even though our various semi-emergencies are not atypical for 73 year olds, our health awaits our attention and gives us … pause.

We are headed for Port Aransas on the Gulf of Mexico tomorrow morning for four days, and we might be excited and happy. Marc is flying down from Champaign and joining us. It will be great to talk together. We will sit or walk on the beach and listen to the crashing waves. We’ll watch Miles and Jasper run and skip while we walk, and build sand castles and find shells and strange creatures, and test themselves against the waves. There will be a little fishing. The sun will rise each day at 6:33 am. By the time we leave the waxing moon will be nearly full.

And we have games and puzzles. If there are thunderstorms, we’ll have plenty to do in our air B&B, no stairs to climb, and plenty of room for all nine of us.

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 their entire house.

Yeah! That’s what we need. My theology is more poetry and pictures than logic, and I imagine God is constantly blowing through us, sending us reeling, lacing us with generous bolts of lightning in the Holy Spirit. If that’s true, then my resistance inside must also be fearsome. It’s good to call that spiritual warfare, but I feel more like a pacifist these days. There’s a great, great joy in Jesus, waiting for me to be still and silent enough to know it.

There appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, enabled by the Spirit.

Someone suggested that Ruah (the wind of the Spirit) poured through the people in that house and empowered them to listen and understand the languages of everyone from every country gathered for the Jewish holiday. As they listened and understood, the strangers no longer felt strange, their very languages were accommodated by the disciples, by the Holy Spirit, by God. Welcome! Tell us anything you want to share. We are your brothers and sisters.

The crowd was astounded and amazed. How does each of us hear them in our native languages? We hear them speaking in our tongues of the mighty acts of God!

I think of Aelred of Rievaulx, abbot and monk around 1150 A.D., and the invitation he extended to those who wanted to speak to him:

Here we are, you and I,

 and I hope a third, Christ, is in our midst.

 There is no one now to disturb us;

 there is no one to break in upon our friendly chat,

no man’s prattle or noise of any kind

will creep into this pleasant solitude.

Come now, beloved, open your heart,

and pour into these friendly ears whatsoever you will

 and let us accept gracefully the boon

of this place, time, and leisure.

In our small piece of God’s world, we’ll be leaving one place and arriving in another. Who knows what will happen along the way? The waves are crashing against the beach. We can watch God take our problems and pain, and change us.

When you send forth your spirit, we are created, and you renew the face of the earth. Lord, send your Spirit!

 (Acts 2, Psalm 104, 1 Corinthians 12, Veni Sancte Spiritus, John 20)

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May 27 23

How to become a friend

by davesandel

Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter, Mass in the Morning, May 27, 2023

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

How to become a friend

Paul remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Margaret and I both appreciate having a friend we can call or visit whenever we want or need to. I talked to my friend Shannon about my imminent surgery last night. It was difficult for us to connect, we tried several times over the afternoon, but we persevered. Our conversation was not long but it was precious to me. I need someone who will listen to me unload my pain and my fear.

I am grateful too for a few others, who may not be easy to get hold of, but who will always listen. Some of them also pray.

We could work our lives away, and invest too little time in friends, and then wish we had. Work is meant to be joyful, Ron Rolheiser says, but it is not meant to take up all our time.

We have to spend most of our waking lives working. That should tell us something, namely that work must be the major avenue through which God wants us to journey toward the deeper things. Work requires our concentration, and God does not demand our conscious attention all this time.

God is the ground of our being, and of our work, and of our relationships. We know and experience God through these things, not only in conscious thought and prayer. We participate with God in building this world – by growing things, building things, creating things, cleaning things, painting things, writing things, raising children, teaching others, consoling others and struggling with others. In these ways we get to know God, toiling in partnership with him.

I am thankful that so much of my work has let me actively pursue relationships. Margaret too has built deep and lasting bonds with our kids and their families as well as many friends over the years. We find God everywhere in our talk and time with other people, in spite of our deep inadequacies. And we are more grateful for children than for anyone:

It is children who lead us to the truth. We are not worthy to educate even one of them. Our lips are unclean; our dedication is not wholehearted. Our truthfulness is partial; our love divided. Our kindness is not without motives. We ourselves are not yet free of lovelessness, possessiveness, and selfishness. Only sages and saints – only those who stand as children before God – are really fit to live and work with children.

And yet, here we are. And here are our children, all grown up and now rearing their own small images of God. Hermann Hesse reminds us that “with just a little witty skepticism we can kill a good deal of the future in a child or young person.” Our culture is soaked with disrespect and irreverence, but beneath it the children (all of us) cry out for a chance to love and be loved.

These children will learn the art of friendship themselves, partly at least from us, and live their lives well, working, praying, and listening to each other not for their own sake, but for the sake of others.

When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.”

(Acts 28, Psalm 11, John 16, John 21)

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May 26 23

God’s waiting room

by davesandel

Friday, May 26, 2023

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

God’s waiting room

I made no delay. Paul’s accusers stood around him with issues about their own religion and about a certain Jesus who had died, but who Paul claimed to be alive. I asked if Paul were willing to go to Jerusalem to stand trial, but Paul appealed that he be held in custody for the Emperor’s decision. So I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.

There is much waiting in the active spiritual life. Listening to God’s voice inside him, Paul went to Jerusalem, after which matters mostly were taken out of his hands. He was arrested and taken to Caesarea, where he spent two years waiting. In a prison ship he went to Crete and then Malta, where he spent three months of the winter. After a shipwreck he arrived in Rome, where he spent at least two more years imprisoned in a private house.

But Paul was not silent in these waiting times. Never was he silent. So I wonder to myself if he was waiting after all. Waiting for what? My friend Sheryl’s dad, who is 90, told her he does what needs to be done each day, and then he is thankful. I guess he could be waiting to die, but it doesn’t sound that way.

Do I need a plan for my own future? I get older, and those plans are subject to change more than ever. I was told yesterday that I will be waiting in Austin for an aortic valve replacement rather than leaving for Illinois in a week. All it took, a month ago, was for my doctor in Urbana listening to my lungs to hear an unexpected, new murmuring sound in my heart, and that started the medical ball rolling. I was already feeling better. I could easily have skipped that appointment.

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.

So can I relax as matters are taken out of my hands? I’d like to keep my eyes open and my ears alert during each day’s life, and that should be easier if I don’t have so much already planned and figured out.

In the large clinic waiting room yesterday nearly everyone was a baby boomer. Our most physically active days are behind us. We carried canes, some of our bodies shook, a few of us carried oxygen tanks. Most of us were pretending to feel better than we did. Wanting to be anywhere else.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

I remembered the locker room in high school after a PE class or a cross country meet, self-consciously naked, unable not to compare myself to the guys around me. I wasn’t very good at the locker room gig. And I realized that I also have no idea how to “do” a waiting room like this, or a surgical procedure like this, or its aftermath. I certainly have no idea how to die.

But neither do any of these other folks. Margaret didn’t, two years ago. My mom, and her mom, and my dad, my Aunt Mary … none of them had any idea. And those kids in high school? They were clueless, just like me.

So I plan to just keep my eyes and ears open. This is a fascinating time of life, and I want to learn how to do what needs to be done each day, and then be thankful.

(Acts 25, Psalm 103, John 14, John 21)

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May 25 23

Let us not mock God with metaphor

by davesandel

Thursday, May 25, 2023

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Let us not mock God with metaphor

Wednesday morning. 6:50 a.m.

Miss Molina said, “Lay down on your side, close to the edge of the table, and put your arm under this pillow. And I’ll take care of everything else.” Then she did. Forty-seven minutes later all the pictures were taken, the echocardiogram was complete, and today we’ll hear about from Dr. Liu about what she found. Dr. Liu has been our cardiologist since Margaret was in the hospital in 2021. When we see him it feels like old home week.

I know he has presided over deaths, healings, rebirths and maybe a resurrection or two. Those doctors see everything, even though they might not talk about it much. We’re nearing the end of the Easter season, the season of resurrection, and there is still so much to think about, say, and pray about how we follow Jesus into his mystery.

On trial before Sadducees and Pharisees, Paul said, “I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees, and I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.”

Like Margaret and I, spiritual director and author Judy Cannato was born in 1949. But she died in 2011 from a rare form of cancer. Here’s some of what she had to say

Jesus engaged death with every bit of consciousness and freedom that were his, and what we all discovered as a result is that death – while inevitable, while altering our dreams and causing us to let go of everything – does not have the final word.

There is always – always – resurrection. And when we engage in a lifetime of death and resurrections as Jesus did, we become ever more empowered to do the work God asks us to do.

What does she mean, a “lifetime of death and resurrections as Jesus did?” Well, first of all, every time I fall asleep, and then awake, how about that?  Oh, Lord, open my lips in praise.

Or when I am swept up in despair, someone else’s or my own, but then am held just above water by a mysterious hand. God’s perspective is the long one, and I begin to see things that way too. At the kairos time, new life appears like a bright green shoot – I’m hanging on and catching my breath and looking up to see the sky, and sometimes even laughing to beat the band. Oh Lord, open my lips in praise.

Life and death are a single mystery. We can be sure that dyings will intrude upon our lives, and we may have some choice about how we can respond to their coming.  We can be awake and watchful for the resurrections as well, for the creative ways that new life streams into us.

Many around us don’t ever think about resurrection, and because of this they might mostly not think about death, either. The life I’ve got is all I’ve got, they might say. That reductionism is tempting, but I’m going to say no thank you, and follow Paul.

I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.

John Updike’s famous Easter poem sings this hope loudly, disregarding doubt:

Make no mistake: if he rose at all

It was as His body.

If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,

The amino acids rekindle,

The Church will fall.

This journey, the part here on earth, can take unexpected turns. Paul was sent to Rome to bear witness there. That is where he died. As I learn to be a little quiet inside and hear the still small voice of God, who knows where I’ll be sent, and to whom? There is more than a little excitement in those possibilities, in those whispers, in the tinkling of that tuning fork.

I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

(Acts 22, Psalm 16, John 17)

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May 24 23

In spite of it all, I’m able to grin

by davesandel

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

In spite of it all, I’m able to grin

Some of us are far too young to sing this Pete Seeger singalong song

How do I know my youth is all spent?

My get up and go has got up and went

But in spite of it all, I’m able to grin

When I think of the places my get up has been

 Old age is golden, I think I’ve heard said

But sometimes I wonder as I crawl into bed

My ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup

My eyes on the table until I wake up

 As sleep dims my vision, I say to myself

Is there anything else I should lay on the shelf?

But nations are warring and business is vexed

So I’ll stick around to see what happens next

 How do I know …

 When I was younger, my slippers were red

I could kick up my heels right over my head

When I was older my slippers were blue

But still I could dance the whole night thru

 Now I am old, my slippers are black

I huff to the store and I puff my way back

But never you laugh, I don’t mind at all

I’d rather be huffing than not puff at all

 How do I know …

 I get up each morning and dust off my wits

Open the paper and read the obits

If I’m not there, I know I’m not dead

So I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed

 How do I know …

And I must also say, some of us are not too old at all!

Some famous friends have died recently. Most recently pastor and intellectual Tim Keller, a year younger than Margaret and I. Antihero Jerry Springer, age 79. Michael Gerson, columnist and intellectual, age 58. A while ago, Dallas Willard, age 77.

Like Paul, all of them had a chance to say goodbye.

Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare anyone. From your own group men will come forward perverting the truth, so be vigilant.

Like Paul, all of them could endeavor to turn the eyes of their disciples toward God.

Now I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance.

Paul rarely hesitated to point out what he had done to build others up. He talked about it a lot, actually. Rarely did his listeners seem to think he was overly full of himself.

You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Paul spent long hours with some of Jesus’ disciples. Imagine the questions that he asked, and the stories that he heard. He must have heard some of what Jesus said at the last supper, in the upper room, moments before he was arrested on the Mount of Olives. This moment might have felt like that to him.

When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all. They were all weeping loudly as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him, for they were deeply distressed that he had said they would never see his face again.

I want to learn both sides of this grieving, to pour out my sadness at leaving, and pour out my sadness at being left. Nothing in my life’s education has purposely taught me how. What is wrong with us adults who seem to think we’ll live forever, who don’t practice the weeping of goodbye and don’t teach our kids about it either?

I think I know one thing: we haven’t learned how to juggle two contradictory events, but think we are required to pick either-or. So we don’t juggle thoughts of our life full of plans, emotions and thousands of heartbeats with imaginings of our unpredictable but certain death. Worse, we call ourselves or others either maudlin or morbid when we dwell too much on one or the other. Hearing the judgment, we keep this confusion to ourselves.

Far better to watch Jesus. As he is about to die he asks his Father to “consecrate them in the truth.”

Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

(Acts 20, Psalm 68, John 17)

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May 23 23

Paul cannot be leaving, no!

by davesandel

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Paul cannot be leaving, no!

Now compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What will happen to me there I do not know, except that in one city after another the Holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me.

Imprisonment and hardship just keep flowing down the pike. Paul has no reason to expect those persecutions to stop; the Holy Spirit is telling him so, and his body speaks too, not yet recovered from his last bad time.

Paul might be ready to die.

I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and ministry, the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace.

Paul speaks to his Ephesian brothers, his friends, those he loves. He knows this moment is goodbye. Perhaps they know it too. The fresh smell of the sea fills their nostrils during this time that none of them will ever forget.

But now, I know that none of you to whom I preached the kingdom during my travels will ever see my face again. And so I solemnly declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God!

We will never see his face again. It was shocking to hear Paul say those words out loud. His words are stirring up a waterspout, and I can’t help but turn my face away, turn it out to sea, blinded by salty tears and absolutely unable to believe him. Never see Paul again? I would have thought these circuits of preaching and singing and teaching and blessing would be unbroken, going on forever.

And maybe they will, but without Paul.

A bountiful rain you showered down, O God, upon your inheritance. You restored the land when it languished, your flock settled down upon it, and in your goodness, O God, you provided it for the needy.

Margaret and I have said goodbye a few times, to our church families, to our sons and daughters, to our parents. Most nearly, to our parents, to Margaret’s mom Dorothy, whose love for her children bound them together more than we knew. It has been difficult to regain that equilibrium.

When we left our church in Waynesville, more than a hundred people gathered with us for a potluck, an ordination, gifts and a farewell. Even now thirty-four years later the memories feel fresh, and when we visit a friend in Waynesville we are closeted with each other in the warmest airs of love.

Blessed day by day be the Lord, who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation. God is a saving God for us. The Lord, my Lord, controls the passageways of death.

Paul, stop a minute. Let us grasp your words, and then let us reject them. We will not survive without you, for you are the bulwark of our faith, and the cannonballs of doubt and fear continue to fall hard upon us. You look up and shake your fist at Satan; who will be doing that for us now? Must we eat the meat of your teaching suddenly, in a moment, when most of the milk is left to drink?

Paul looks up, and into our eyes. And we know he will be gone in just a moment. Gulls flutter around us, their white feathers blessing. All our hearts are filled with the Father’s love.

 (Acts 20, Psalm 68, John 14, John 17)

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May 22 23

The land laments

by davesandel

Monday, May 22, 2023

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

The land laments

In this world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have overcome the world.

In Romans 8 Paul writes about the earth, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth, right up to the present moment.”

The hour is coming (and has arrived) when each of you will be scattered to his own home.

At Sunday School yesterday we heard from a group of men and women who have traveled often to Congo. After fourteen trips their leader Greg described a four-generation moment on this trip: one man showed another man the way to build and sustain a business, then that man showed a woman how to do it, and then she showed a fourth person. Greg was visibly overjoyed.

But before the joy of sharing that story Greg showd us a funny video of the leader of a gorilla troop of fifteen or so, dismantling a palm tree, eating one bite after another. But think about it. A fire would ruin their lives. Jungle fires ruin habitats. Forest fires burn the homes of thousands of forest dwelling animals.

Many of us in Oregon, California and now western Canada know too much about how that feels to human families. But what about the land itself? Can I put my ear to the ground and hear the sound of its lament?

Pastor Andi Lloyd has been doing that for years. Like many who work for “creation justice,” she does what she can and is patient with the results. In the meantime, she listens to the land’s lament:

In the Hebrew Bible, mourning is an expansive practice. The people mourn, of course, but so do the land, the pastures, and the deep springs. Even gates and walls lament. The Hebrew verb abal, translated in Hosea as “mourn,” also carries the meaning “to dry up, to wither.” Where a widow might put ashes on her head, the land and pastures and springs mourn by withering and drying up—all ways of speaking aloud the truth of inward grief. 

Therein lies the power of lament: to speak the truth that all is not well. It bears faithful witness to all that is not right with the world and to all that is not right with ourselves. To take the land’s mourning seriously is to ask about its grief.

The land’s lament speaks a foundational ecological truth: when one part of creation goes awry, the whole suffers … Our lives are held, connected, one to the other and all to God: we are bound up in a beautiful, multicolored, homespun fabric. The land’s mourning speaks simultaneously of a vision of the world as it ought to be—that beautiful fabric—and the truth of the world as it is: too much injustice and too little love fraying the threads that hold us all. The land feels those fraying threads. The land grieves those fraying threads. The land mourns. 

We can feel it when we walk along upon the earth. But I forget so soon,  when first I feel the asphalt and the concrete, and my ears recognize rubber hitting the road. Engines hiss and brakes screech. There isn’t that much grass. Where have all the flowers gone?

I remember Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Getting down in there in the depths of the lawn, smaller suddenly than the already resident insects, everything changed. The kids’ lives were constantly threatened with drowning, mutilation, poison. Eventually restored to their original size, their awareness of the world around them grew in leaps and bounds.

When I’m sheltered from the earth, as I am in hundreds of ways, I just stop thinking about it. I do not hear its lament. Gradually I don’t hear even my own lament, as I separate from the land around me. How long has this been happening to me? To you?

The father of orphans and the defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling. God gives a home to the forsaken, he leads forth prisoners to prosperity. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.

(Acts 19, Psalm 68, Colossians 3, John 16)

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May 21 23

The ever-contemporary hope of Julian of Norwich

by davesandel

Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 21, 2023

The Ascension of the Lord

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

The ever-contemporary hope of Julian of Norwich

I experience my world when I move about in it. It seems small, somewhat ordered and contained. I feel contained within it, and more or less safe.

Jesus told his disciples, “You will receive power … you will be my witnesses” … and when he had said this he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.

Then there is another world, the world of Jesus’ ascending into heaven, the world Henri Nouwen calls “the world of spiritual beauty, invisible in large measure, but which is more real, has more density, more mass, more energy, and greater intensity than physical matter” (from You Are the Beloved).

I look to relax into that infinity, a few minutes at a time. Just as at the rural railroad track, I will stop, look and listen. Relax. Open the windows and listen to the birds. For me I usually move into the spiritual beauty via the birds, via the sky, the morning dew and the rainbows – via the physical.

All you peoples, clap your hands, shout unto God with the voice of gladness, for the Lord Most High, the Awesome, is the great king over all the earth.

The church of St. Julian in Norwich was rebuilt after German bombs destroyed it, nearly a thousand years after it was built. In the fifteenth century a woman perhaps called Juliana lived there for a few decades as an anchoress, confining herself to a single room with only an opening into the church. She was not well, she had nearly died. Yet her most famous words inspired T. S. Eliot hundreds of years hence, when he needed them most.

And all shall be well and … All manner of thing shall be well

You may not have time just now to read Eliot’s entire poem, but take a moment to read the last couple stanzas (just around his picture), and notice his rediscovered hope, his excitement for creation and energy for life – life which begins and ends and begins and ends and begins again. Juliana helped him get back there, and she wants to help us all.

Here’s a poem which a contemporary friend wrote about this hero of hope:

Pilgrim visits Julian of Norwich, April 1410

Through a tight window, Julian

crouches over a bit of handwork.

Known for going nowhere

she has redefined the words home,

here, prison, exile. Your eye,

single, beholds her face. Her eye

never leaves her needle.

Unlike you, she knows where

she will die. She breathes eats

sleeps a seamless meditation.

Her chair is every chair,

her bed, every bed, her cell,

a wilderness, the first garden,

a temple of the spirit, the city

of God. She sets her face to go


Forever chaste, she greets you

like her own firstborn, Confesses

to you, as to a priest, that sometimes

shuffling about her tiny cell

she forgets where she is,

where she’s going,

who she even is.

– Scott Dalgarno

In Julian’s Revelations of Divine Love she tells of Jesus saying, “Sin is necessary. But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Fr. Dwight Longenecker calls her “almost a universalist and certainly an optimist and firm believer in the ultimate goodness of God. She suggests that wrath is part of the fear in our own hearts, which we project onto God.”

Could that be so? Could we be free to turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face, and know how much he loves us? No fear? Right now?

May the eyes of your heart be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.

(Acts 1, Psalm 47, Ephesians 1, Matthew 28)

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May 20 23

Ten minutes at a time

by davesandel

Saturday, May 20, 2023

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Ten minutes at a time

Paul left Antioch and traveled in orderly sequence through the Galatian country.

Ah! For a little while Paul was not being whipped and stoned! His perseverance was paying off. For now, he lived an orderly life.

A Jew named Apollos arrived in Ephesus. He was an authority on the Scriptures.

How did Paul take to this man Apollos? Born in Alexandria and perhaps a frequent visitor to the great library there, student of the Scriptures and full of the words of God, a fervent preacher, did they circle each other carefully or embrace one another?

Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos, then they took him aside and explained to him the Way of God more accurately.

Ego matters, and big egos matter more. Will they get in the way of God? I take it that Apollos was wise, learned, and teachable. A wonderful trinity. And when Apollos and Paul met and prayed together, did they stay together? Thinking back, they may have known that Jesus and John the Baptist did not. Was this God’s way or did their egos struggle against each other?

There is no mention of their relationship in Acts, but they were colleagues. Paul praises Apollos in the context of God’s sovereignty in his first letter to the Corinthians:

What after all is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants as the Lord has assigned each to his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

Making it my ambition to live a quiet life, sometimes working with my hands (1 Thessalonians 4), I wonder what it would be like to be a mover and a shaker. Paul did both, and presumably Apollos did as well. How did they do it? Henri Nouwen was much more like them, a mover and shaker. He thinks about his own way to be “big” and “small,” to be God’s created instrument and to be God’s kid, both-and, every day:

Listen to your heart. It’s there that Jesus speaks most intimately to you. Praying is first and foremost listening to Jesus who dwells in the very depths of your heart. He doesn’t shout. He doesn’t thrust himself upon you. His voice is an unassuming voice, very nearly a whisper, the voice of a gentle love. Whatever you do with your life, go on listening to the voice of Jesus in your heart. This listening must be an active and very attentive listening, for in our restless and noisy world God’s so loving voice is easily drowned out. You need to set aside some time every day for this active listening to God if only for ten minutes. Ten minutes each day for Jesus alone can bring about a radical change in your life.

 You’ll find it isn’t easy to be still for ten minutes at a time. You’ll discover straightaway that many other voices, voices that are very noisy and distracting, voices that do not come from God, demand your attention. But if you stick to your daily prayer time, then slowly but surely you’ll come to hear the gentle voice of love and will long more and more to listen to it.

John talked about Jesus: “He must increase, and I must decrease.” I want to learn the art of decreasing, as my body calls me out. Rejuvenation takes longer. I don’t remember the words I’m looking for. Some days are better than others.

I sense that none of this matters much. The “ten minutes” Henri describes matters a lot. Day by day.

O dear Lord, these things I pray.

To see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly, to follow thee more nearly.

I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father.

 (Acts 18, Psalm 47, John 16)

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