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Jan 6 19

You shall be radiant

by davesandel

This is the last of this year’s Advent, Christmas and Epiphany devotions.  Thank you for sharing them with me.  God bless the coming weeks of what the Catholic Church calls “ordinary time.”  I hope to begin sharing devotions again with you the day before Ash Wednesday, on the day called Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, which in 2019 is Tuesday, March 5.

You shall be radiant

Epiphany Sunday, January 6, 2019

You shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD. – From Isaiah 60

O, what a day that day will be. O, what a party we will have. Can you stand it? Can you barely wait? At last no pain, and all our faces rest in joy. There will be peace in the valleys and peace on the mountaintops. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

Gold and frankincense! Camels bear the gifts, camels proclaim the praises. The whole creation no longer groans in childbirth (Romans 8); the child has been born! God is alive and magi are afoot.

But wait. They bring three gifts, not two. Along with gold and expensive incense, they bring myrrh. Why this strange addition?

Frankincense and myrrh both smell exquisite in perfumes, incense, and ointments. Modern essential oils incorporate them both. But myrrh also formed an essential part of the embalming fluid of biblical times. The magi brought gifts for the present moment, and also a gift for the future. Myrrh symbolized death. Jesus’ life was already marked.

Mary took note. A bit later in the temple, Simeon cried out with joy, “Lord, now let my servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For my eyes have seen thy salvation!” Nunc dimittus. And then he spoke to Mary, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Mary looked at Jesus, looked at Joseph, and nodded her head. They took Jesus and left the temple. Thus began this boy’s childhood, thus began the holy family, thus began the salvation Simeon saw so clearly. God is alive and magic is afoot.

The liturgical calendar moves through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, and then through Lent, Easter and Pentecost. These seasons mark the Lord’s experience and ours: anticipation, incarnation, revelation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. And in between comes what the church has always called “ordinary time.”

What will I do with my “ordinary time?” We are created for worship, we are made to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. He prepares a table for us, and invites us to eat.

What else would I do, but party with Jesus? Every chance I get.

I am learning, ever so slowly to be sure, to work around my prayer instead of pray around my work.

O, Lord, bless my soul. You are radiant, and so shall we be. You are holy, and so shall we be. You live at the right hand of the Father, and so shall we. O, Lord, bless my soul!

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Jan 5 19

I saw you under the fig tree

by davesandel

I saw you under the fig tree

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him … Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”  – From John 1

Jonah sat under a tree that shaded him one day and was taken from him the next. Odysseus had to cling tight to the branches of a fig tree to be saved  from destruction between the whirlpool of Charybdis and the ravenous snaking heads of the monster Scylla.  The Buddha’s great revelation came under the “sacred” fig tree. “Throughout the days of Solomon, Judah and Israel lived in safety from Dan to Beersheba, each man under his own vine and his own fig tree” (1 Kings 4:25).

Now Jesus sees Nathanael, a man of truth, sitting under a fig tree: the giving tree that shares its fruit and leaves and trunk with us, the sacred tree that stretches up to heaven while its roots dig deep into the earth, the tree that rocks the cradle, the tree that shakes and whistles in the winter wind, its broken branches scratching against the icy panes, keeping me awake.

John Muir, father of our national parks, cherished his time sitting in a tree during thunderstorms in the California mountains. Our son Marc climbed trees with abandon from almost the time he could walk. I settle much more comfortably into a house surrounded by trees than one with none. My mother’s favorite poem might be that special one by Joyce Kilmer,

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree …

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray …

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

Fly into any Midwestern or eastern city, and you get the impression you are flying down into a forest. I must have sat beneath a thousand trees in my short life and look forward to many more.

Nathanael sat beneath the tree, a man of no duplicity. Jesus knew him from the inside out, and Nathanael was transfixed. But Jesus said, “No Nathanael, there is more.”

The tree might bring Nathanael’s mind up to heaven and back to earth. But now, Jesus says, “you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

My friend’s mother, growing old, less than a shadow of her former strong, practical self, shared a story the last time her daughter spent time with her. “I know not everyone believes me,” she whispered, “but I really do see angels in the trees.” My friend touched her mom’s soft, worn hand and said, with no duplicity, “Oh, Mom! I wish I could see angels in the trees. Will you show me the next time you see them?”

    *    *    *

In a few months as the leaves re-appear, I might find a blanket, walk out to the woods with Winnie-the-Pooh and lie down under a big tree, just to stare through the branches into the sky. This will be a fine experience, restful, stimulating my imagination, teaching me the ways of winter and spring. The bugs will not yet bother me. Winnie will be patient and never in a hurry to get back home.

But there is more.

What if we happen to hear the call of Jesus?

What if we see the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man?

What if?

Why not?

We are your children, Lord, we run to follow you. We know how much you love us, even though you know all things, even though you know what we wish you didn’t know about us. We can trust you with the winter, and trust you with the spring. We can trust you with the water and trust you with the trees. These lives we live, Lord, they all belong to you. Turn us back to you again and again, looking up and looking in each other’s eyes.

Homer, The Odyssey, Book 12, lines 565-585

Joyce Kilmer, “Trees” from Trees and Other Poems, 1914

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Jan 4 19

We have found the Messiah

by davesandel

We have found the messiah

Friday, January 4, 2019

Andrew was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. First he found his brother Simon Peter and told him, “We have found the Messiah!” Then he brought him to Jesus. – From John 1

Robert Frost was a Vermont dweller-of-the-woods given the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1960 by the US Congress and President Eisenhower. Forty-five years earlier he wrote a poem which stands forever famous, “The Road Not Taken.”

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear …

Really, we never know just what to do. We can follow with obedience, we can strike out with adventure and abandon, and what will we miss when we come to the end of the path? Surely, something.

Looking for the Messiah on this 10th day of Christmas? Do you have any idea, really, what path to take to Galilee? Maybe you, like Andrew, have someone whispering in your ear, “Come this way.” And maybe like me, you often choose the other way … just because. I really haven’t given up my “Terrible Two’s.” Not quite yet.

But it’s one thing for me to find the Messiah, and quite another for the Messiah to find me. Andrew might have been surprised to find Jesus, but Jesus was hardly surprised to find Andrew. He had known him forever. He knows us all like that.

I think again of Merton’s understanding of  the “pointe vierge”:

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will.

 Maybe this is how God knows us, from the inside out. This is a whole new way of knowing for me, and God invites me, “Try it out!” Use my senses, of course, but also my non-sense, and let my FATHER show me who We are. The Lord is full of ways and thoughts higher and greater than mine, but he is ready for me to learn His ways. Yes, He is.

Merton continues,

This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is, so to speak, His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven.

 Sonship begins at birth, and continues into maturity. In the house of the Lord, I am always child, I am always dependent. Growing up does not mean growing rich in my own world. Growing up does mean becoming more and more aware of my “indigence.” Without God I am homeless and stranded in poverty. But God prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies (as Pogo said in his comic strip, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!”) Our God calls us to dwell in his house forever. These are gifts beyond reckoning. And this Habitation is for us all:

It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely…. I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.

 I grapple with my finity. I have a place and time to live here on this earth. The choices I make seem to matter much. Our world’s history reckons on that, and reminds me of the choices made by those who came before. Lessons to be learned? Who will be coming after? Generation upon generation asks the same questions. And from the outside in, there’s only so much we can know:

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


It’s from the inside-out we know far more. We know God’s love, and like President Bush, we glimpse a billion points of light. We cannot know alone, or on our own. But I believe like Thomas Merton, “The gate of heaven is everywhere.”

Holding hands in the darkness, we clamber over boulders and climb the hills made barely visible by the moon. We form an endless line of lambs: scientists and singers, dancers, artists, engineers and poets looking always for Jacob’s ladder, looking … looking. O dear Jesus, let us see what you always have given us to see, the gate of heaven. You, sweet shepherd, never swing it shut, and always watch that we’ll come in.

 Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken, from Mountain Interval, 1916

Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p. 155-156, 1966

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Jan 3 19

See what love

by davesandel

See what love

Thursday, January 3, 2019

See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are! – From 1 John 2

Up in a prominent place on Andi and Aki’s dining room wall, the words say, “I don’t want to treat my blessings as burdens.” Andi used her considerable calligraphy skills and created a beautiful reminder.

Just around the corner, as we enter the kitchen, another sign: “Not by my strength, but his.”

Not by my grace, not by my hope, not by my love, but his.

Only through great love and great suffering do we enter the eye of the needle, pass through, and inhabit the kingdom of God. And of course, this being earth-caught-in-time, we don’t have the capacity, yet, to stay there. Back and forth through the gates we go.

Or maybe it’s just me.

To be afraid of death, as if it isn’t part of living, seems very human, very fallen, very wrong. And I AM afraid. I want to stay situated safe in the Kingdom and not waffle, not be thrown back and forth by my whims, my choices, my sin, my fear. I think the first step to dwelling in the house of the Lord forever includes the welcoming of death. At the bottom of it, fear is always about death. Without that fear I am free to be myself in each magical moment, each one a gift, and dis-regard my unknown, unknowable future.

In Ron Rolheiser’s childhood home, his family prayed for “happy death.” Fr. Rolheiser thinks that means dying “in honesty, irrespective of whether the particular circumstances look good religiously or not.” His example of honesty comes from Carmelite Ruth Burrows’ thoughts about her friend: “She died the death of a weak person, asking God to forgive her for a lifetime of weakness.”

Not by my forgiveness, and not by yours, but his.

Poetry gets down deep inside these truths. Mary Oliver looks at her life, watrching a hungry dogfish hunting “three small fish, I don’t know what they were, huddled in the highest ripples.” The hunter swims in “effortless, the whole body one gesture, one black sleeve.”

In her life, Mary said,

Also I wanted

to be able to love. And we all know

how that one goes,

don’t we?




Mary watches the hunted, gets to know herself staring into the stream.

And look! Look! Look! I think those little fish

Better wake up and dash themselves away

From the hopeless future that is

Bulging toward them.


O Lord, it is not our strength but yours! O Lord, this is not burden, it is blessing! O, Lord, it’s you it’s you it’s you. See what love!

Mary knows what she sees in the mirror of the pool, naming the fish, watching herself. What lesson for them all?

And probably,

if they don’t waste time

looking for an easier world,


they can do it.

*    *    *

O Lord, we have seen the moments of our greatness flicker. Central Casting sends out one and then another to play the prince. When my heart beats without my knowing, Lord, you still inhabit your “pointe vierge” deep inside me, and I know how safe how safe how safe I am with you. See what love!

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Jan 2 19

His anointing teaches you about everything

by davesandel

His anointing teaches you about everything

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

His anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false. Just as it taught you, children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence. – From 1 John 2

Austin has a brand new award-winning six-story Central Library building downtown, surrounded by skyscrapers, a power plant, statues of Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughn and O Henry, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. The Colorado River winds its way below the library, and beyond the river Barton Springs Pool beckons strong swimmers even in January, with its year-round 68 degree clear, fresh water. (Although flooding closed it for a few days last week.)

This library won awards from the American Library Association and the American Institute of Architects. On Saturday we met our friend Lisa for a tour and some playtime. She is excited to show us one of her favorite places. Show lights, gardens, mesquite tile, white oak floors, a red grackle wall pendulum, and thousands of books surround us. I recall fondly one of Austin’s south side slogans, “Keep Austin Weird.”

In the children’s section I realize there are many families and many toddlers, singled out and loved to pieces by parents and grandparents and special friends. Just like Miles. Lisa and Miles giggle when they see each other and share warm hugs. Miles and Mommy choose a few special train books, and Miles checks them out. First time. He will learn about everything at libraries like this.

Whether what he learns is true or not, well, that’s up for grabs. Flash headline from the internet: 40% of what you read on the internet is false. Of course, that statistic could be false as well.

My friend Walter posted a review of The Rise of Christian History on Goodreads last week. He pointed out that the only sources the author used for the medieval period were Gibbon and Voltaire, neither of whom have ever been known for their expertise in medieval history. The book is riddled with bias and error.

We all want to know the truth. We look for truth in all kinds of wrong places. But we can come back to the words of John: ­­”His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true and not false.”

Like you, perhaps, I recently contributed to the annual Wikipedia fund drive, which is a bargain at almost any price. But there is no anointing on its contributors. What I learn there does not imbue me with confidence for the day of Christ’s appearing. And that’s what I want most of all, for Miles, for Aki and Andi, for Lisa, and for Margaret and me. And for all those others parents and toddlers at Austin’s Central Library.

I love you, Jesus. Your brow is clear and unwrinkled by uncertainty. Your eyes brim with intelligence. You are the smartest man who ever lived. You share your anointing with us, and your wisdom, and your love. It doesn’t get any better than that, Lord. The awards you have won cover every wall.

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Jan 1 19

The shepherds went in haste

by davesandel

The shepherds went in haste

New Year’s Day, Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they proclaimed the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed. And Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. ­ – From Luke 2

It’s pretty wonderful to reprise the Christmas story a week later. Already it kind of seems like old news, as much as I don’t like that about my ragged mind. But Mary, she kept all these things. Mary, she pondered them in her heart. She held them close to her chest like delicate crystal, being sure as she could be that nothing she held there, in her heart, would break, or be lost, or lose its shine. Sweeter than honey, more precious than gold.

The calendar Miles gave us for Christmas reprises his year. He feeds goats, sits at table with his favorite bear Furball, holds his red crayon carefully just like a big boy, and cradles a barely bit apple in his lap while the rest of him sleeps in the car. He looks out the window of a Japanese bullet train, gathers Easter eggs and spring sticks, stares at fish who are staring at him, and sports his first-ever haircut over fancy blue shades.

“Say cheese,” Miles!” He says cheese on the park train, cheese in the pumpkins, cheese on the first day of pre-school. He wears a kimono and jumps in the pool (not at the same time). And just like that, the old year is gone and the new year dawns.

Sometimes I fly when I need to sit still, like most Enneagram 7’s. I try too hard. Today my emailed “Enneathought for the day” is “Try giving up pursuing happiness and instead be fully present.” I think that means for me, “Sit still and ponder all these things in your heart.”

I don’t have to be unaware of the future and the past to be fully present. But I do, quite often, have to sit more still. And I thank Mary and her biographer, Luke, for her example.

We’ve shared these words with each other for thousands of years, Lord. They are beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life: The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you, the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

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Dec 31 18

And the word became flesh

by davesandel

And the word became flesh

New Year’s Eve, Monday, December 31, 2018

And the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth. – From John 1

Ideas like rivers flow through Miles’ mind, they don’t stop to consider themselves, they just move on and carry along whatever is in their path. He helps with everything, or thinks he does. He wants to stir the eggs and peel the orange, he puts food of every kind on his very own plate, he tries to eat it all at once but fails, and then when we’re all done he pushes the dishwasher door shut with a giant, groaning shove. He smiles very wide. He is his own hero, once again.

It may not efficient, these words made flesh so to speak, but there is no doubt how much he learns each day. Our moments may seem monotonous, but his are magical. We may unwisely consider our knowledge complete, or at least act like it is, but his always teems with new, every ding-dong day, and he jumps and down looking for more.

This boy cries like a river now and then, but far more often he laughs like a fountain. He would be happy to read books to us rather than be read to, and it won’t be long before that’s exactly what he’ll do. Surely Jesus when he was two showed just a bit of the wisdom he shared so clearly at age 12. I wonder what Miles will be like at 12.

Will he be asking difficult questions? He already is. Will he have learned to worship? He begins most of our prayers right now, although he’s not sure how to continue them. And I imagine Jesus, like Miles, ending his prayers with a resounding, bright-smiling wide-eyed “Amen!” and a crackling clap. Hands and mouth and cheeks and teeth all pray, all eat, all sleep, all the time. There is no careful placement of anything yet. Surely Jesus must have looked like this – and it was all Mary and Joseph could do to love him and hold him, teach him and learn from him, always choosing wonder, being awed by his presence. Yes, that’s right, I think. Awed.

And we see his glory, yes, the glory as of the Father’s son, full of grace and truth. Held up, held close, held with joy and peace, the boy becomes a man.

Miles is sleeping now, his noontime two hour nap. After his nap we’ll go to the new library in downtown Austin. His parents are book people. He is a book person too. The world is a fascinating place. Miles will be studying something, I think, for the rest of his life. Just like Jesus.

Lord remind us, again and again, how close you always are. This may be the last day of our 2018; it’s only the first day of the rest of our life with you. Sweet dreams, baby Jesus. Sweet dreams to you, too. God bless us all, every one.

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Dec 30 18

I prayed for this child

by davesandel

I prayed for this child

Sunday, December 30, 2018

I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord. And Hannah left Samuel there. – From 1 Samuel 1

In Margaret’s and my parenting world there’s always been a delicate balance between giving our children freedom and giving them direction. Of course in the Garden of Eden, those go hand in hand. But it’s been hard for us. We disagreed with each other, we contradicted ourselves, and we often regretted our actions after the fact.

And it doesn’t get better when you hand a child off, at least not to a private boarding school or military school. That’s been the way of wealthy families around the world for many generations; I’m not convinced of the positive results.

So here is Hannah, leaving her son Samuel with Eli the priest. Samuel is famous for anointing David, but Eli is mostly famous for his poor parenting skills with his own sons. Still, Hannah has prayed for this child. Hannah believes God has given her direction. She speaks strongly for her son: “As long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord.”

Imagining her in the temple, I think of two verses. Paul said, “Fathers and mothers, do not exasperate your children” (Ephesians 6:4). And long before Paul was even a sparkle in his parents’ eyes, Solomon said, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

I think Hannah visited Samuel now and then. And I think her strength and confidence lifted Samuel’s spirits when he felt alone. I also think Samuel the child may have wondered if he might make a few choices on his own. Since Hannah had prayed for him and heard the Lord’s direction, he might have to wait awhile. How will Eli and Hannah give Samuel freedom and direction at the same time, at the right times?

In Austin we watch Andi and Aki tread those same tightropes. Miles is two years and nearly two months old. He usually knows exactly what he wants and can use words to let us know. He loves to help his parents fix food, serve food, eat food. He loves food! He helped wrap Christmas presents. He helped unwrap them. He loves presents!

After his nap Miles and I walked across the fairly busy highway to sit in the grass and watch trucks. It was late on Friday afternoon. A bunch of guys in orange and yellow coats were laying concrete blocks to build three forty-foot 10 x 10 pillars. One of them was cleaning the mortar mixers. One of them was using a very cool truck to move blue scaffolding. A couple guys in giant white Silverados with Texas plates roared out of the worksite. We waved. They waved back. Their work was nearly done for 2018.

Before his nap Miles asked me to read Goodnight, Construction Site. All the different trucks got cleaned up, settled down, and went to sleep. “The bulldozer puffs some smoke out of his stack, turns off his engine, stops his track.”

Those big, big trucks, so rough and loud,

They work so hard, so rough, and proud.

Tomorrow is another day,

Another chance to work and play.


Turn off your engines, stop your tracks,

Relax your wheels, your stacks, and backs.

No more huffing and puffing, team:

It’s time to rest your heads and dream.


Construction site and child … one day follows another and we just can’t wait to see what happens next. One thing for sure, though, every day we get to rest, and leave off the work, and just be.

Construction site, all tucked in tight,

The day is done, turn off the light.

Great work today! Now … shh … goodnight.

   *     *    *

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Goodnight sun, goodnight moon, shhhh. Goodnight, Lord.


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Dec 29 18

And yet I do write

by davesandel

And yet I do write

Saturday, December 29, 2018

And yet I do write a new commandment to you, for the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness. – From 1 John 2

I’m tempted to stop there, and be bowled over by the undeniable weight of, not just mine, but the hate of the world. But John goes on: “ Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.” I have no excuse for stopping before letting the love come.

We’re called to “finish the race,” and I think mostly what that means is to move from paralyzing guilt and denial to awareness, remorse, confession and forgiveness. I have no business staying stuck. The misery of my hurt is foolishness to God, who casts all my sins and yours as far away as the east is from the west. For God’s sake! Get over it.

In the airports we traveled through on Thursday after Christmas, dozens, and then hundreds, and then thousands of us were uncomfortable, delayed, exhausted, angry … weather and crew overloads and mechanical failures made Christmas travel … very difficult.

Of course the airports in Champaign and Dallas and Austin are fascinating to people-watchers. But it’s not the same when I’m being watched too. As the hours wore on, my equanimity gradually eroded. My body ached, my brain was fuzzy, and more and more I felt caught and contained in the chaos of our traveling culture.

In 1978 Brian Eno wrote “Ambient 1: Music for Airports.” He hoped his composition would be “as ignorable as it is interesting.” Its intent was “to defuse the tense, anxious atmosphere of an airport terminal.” Say what? Brian Eno traveled at Christmas!

Scott Hahn points out that Christmas is exactly the right time to travel. Beginning with Mary and Joseph, humans have been visiting relatives at Christmas for millennia. And surely our postponements and frustrations are less visceral than riding 90 miles pregnant on a donkey.

What I noticed in myself and watching others for nine hours was how we either adapted, or we didn’t. There are few group experiences that provide opportunity like this to practice calm, to wait rather than want, to share and to listen and especially to accept.

This is a gauntlet from hell for control freaks, of which I am mostly one. The thing is, there’s no way out. You really do have to just wait, and accept, and get along as best you can. Tornadoes and hurricanes and tsunamis and earthquakes and forest fires … these are much worse.

But an airport at Christmas is something many of us experience now and then, and just as in the great natural disasters, at the airport we can learn to love. There’s really no room for selfishness or hate. They won’t stick.

So, Lord, we never need to settle for hate. It is always an intermediate step on the way to love. We are born loving and we die loving, and in between you have given us our troubled airports and many more calamitous moments, so that we can find our way back to you.

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Dec 28 18

If we walk in the light

by davesandel

If we walk in the light

Friday, December 28, 2018

If we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. – From 1 John 1

After the 11 pm bell-ringing service at First Methodist in Champaign, I came home for Pope Francis’ Christmas Eve service at the Vatican. Lots of people there! Sleepy kids and bored householders, and many others who were enthralled. I was both, I guess.

When Pope Francis speaks, it’s almost with a whisper. He reads his homily; the charisma comes from elsewhere. Like Francis is trying to get out of the way, so the Holy Spirit can come upon us.

He talked about Bethlehem, which means “the house of bread.”

The tiny body of the Child of Bethlehem speaks to us of a new way to live our lives, by sharing and giving. God makes himself small so that he can be our food. By feeding on him, the bread of life, we can be reborn in love and break the spiral of grasping and greed.

If we welcome God’s gift, history changes starting with each one of us. Once Jesus dwells in our heart, the center of life is no longer my ravenous and selfish ego, but the One who is born and lives for life. Let us ask ourselves, “What is the bread of my life, what is it that I cannot do without? Is it the Lord, or something else?”

 Francis continued to talk about Bethlehem, the city of David. David the shepherd knew God’s protective presence in his great loves and his great sufferings. And Jesus, the Son of David, was born among shepherds.

The shepherds of Bethlehem tell us how to prepare and meet the Lord. They were alert, waiting, watchful. Our lives can be marked by “waiting:” we hope in the Lord and yearn for his coming, and receive his life. Or our lives can be marked by “wanting:” all that matters are our strengths, abilities and achievements and then our hearts remain barred to God’s light.

The Lord loves to be awaited, so when we hear God’s summons like the shepherds, we can set out, leave our flocks unguarded, and take a risk for God.

 Francis cannot help but pray. Most of his homily was a prayer. By the end the prayer was palpable:

To keep watch, to set out, to risk, to recount the beauty: all these are acts of love. “Let us go now to Bethlehem.” We too, Lord, want to go to Bethlehem, and today too, the road is uphill.

But there you await me. Lying in a manger, you are the bread of my life. I need your love so I, in turn, can be bread broken for the world.

In God’s presence, we can all be as children.

*   *   *

Take me upon your shoulders, Good Shepherd, loved by you, I can love my brothers and sisters. Then it will be Christmas, when I can say to you, “Lord, you know everything: you know that I love you.”

(this was the end of his homily, and the end of his prayer)

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