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Sep 26 19

Station Thirteen: Jesus Is Taken Down From the Cross

by davesandel

This was written by Dan Frachey, Director of Springfield, Illinois’ Franciscan Chiara Retreat Center. He says, “I was walking the Stations of the Cross in downtown Springfield on Friday (Good Friday, April 19, 2019) when I heard the 13th station I had written last year. I thought, Hey! That’s what Dave was asking about!” Attached is the document that he wrote on March 15, 2018:

STATION THIRTEEN: Jesus is taken down from the Cross

At 5th and Capitol Streets, looking toward Jackson – Governor’s Mansion.

Song: And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on, and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on. And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be, and through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on, and from eternity, I’ll sing on.

“As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead but of the living.”              – Mark 12:26-27

Perhaps it is simply too distressing to ponder how death and life are such strange travelling companions in this earthly existence of ours. To see these two abiding together in casual conversation is deeply troubling to our spirits, but that is part of Divine Mystery’s own plan that we must accept.

Our finite minds approach and encounter death with great fear. Once the blade of that proverbial scythe has done its task of severing us from this earthly reality, that long handle then serves as a walking stick for a continued journey, for indeed, there’s much travelling ahead!

Jesus body, now fully drained of its vitality and light is darkened and limp. For the family members and disciples standing at the cross, it certainly appears as if their time with Jesus has come to a bitter end. The only appropriate thing to do is to carefully and prayerfully bring the body to its resting place. They wail with grief and disbelief that their hopes in Jesus’s promises for new life are just as lifeless. Death seems so final.

Yes, there are times when it seems as if we here, the collective sons and daughters of the Beloved stumble in the street, suffer and then die a humiliating public death. We lament and fear how the powers of the day can oppress and even deliver mortal blows to our collective desire to embody compassion, hope and justice – the Kingdom come.

Though we all suffer, “Love incarnate” has redeemed all of humanity so let us believe that the time will come when we all rise to full stature! As we remember “Love coming down from the cross,” we begin to reconcile how both death and life are woven within each of us. This is a strange paradox that has the power to offer a vision of hope, loving response and new life, even as we reckon with the Mystery amidst this world’s travails.


O God of the Living / though death be sewn into our collective fabric, help us to trust that those dark threads are part of your plan to create a magnificent tapestry – one that depicts a wondrous story of love that endures and fulfills your vision for humanity redeemed!

Also see devotion for Monday, March 19, 2018:


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Sep 16 19

Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram by Calhouns and Loughriges, 2019

by davesandel

This is the most useful book I’ve seen for using the enneagram as a tool for spiritual growth.

Following is an outline of key terms and an example of how each chapter is laid out:


Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram: A Handbook for Harmony and Transformation

by Adele and Doug Calhoun & Clare and Scott Loughrige, 2019

Key terms

Harmony Triad: reimagining of traditional enneagram lines so each number has a home in each of the three triads: the head (IQ or head intelligence), heart (EQ or emotional/heart intelligence), and gut (GQ or body/gut intelligence). The triads are 1-4-7, 2-5-8, and 3-6-9.

Each Enneagram type therefore can be named by their integration of the three centers of intelligence (see chart below):

Gut triad (GQ):

8          Strength is contemplative love (8-5-2)

9          Peace effects team (9-3-6)

1          Goodness creates joy (1-4-7)

Heart triad (EQ):

2          Love contemplates, then decides (2-5-8)

3          Effective loyalty harmonizes (3-6-9)

4          Creativity joyfully renews (4-7-1)

Head triad (IQ):

5          Wisdom lovingly directs (5-2-8)

6          Faithfulness produces peace (6-3-9)

7          Joy is deeply stable (7-4-1)


Incorporated into each chapter, ideas of True Self, False Self, Consolations, Desolations, motions of the soul, discernment, presence (concepts from Merton/Jung/Rohr and Ignatius), and the dismissed childlike self (concept from John Bradshaw and others)

Two important acronyms:

FLOW: inner rapport and practices that weave head (IQ), heart (EQ) and gut (GQ) intelligences together with love of God and neighbor. When you are in FLOW, you are …

Free and able to let go of false self reactions


Open to your head, heart and gut/body

With God and reality as it is


STOP: Become aware of default/automatic/unconsidered reactions so you can return to presence with God and others, and have freedom in the moment to make a different choice. When you STOP, you …

See more than what your number automatically sees and hears, so you can notice without judgment just what the …

Trigger was. What just happened to you?

Open: Open your head, heart and gut. Breathe into your harmony. Loosen constriction around your false self.

Presence: Intentionally return to being present to God, yourself, and others

*           *           *

The chapter on each enneagram number includes the following sections (using first chapter on Eights) as example):

  1. Who I am and who I am not

Beloved Eights Descriptive Words: “I Am …” and “I Am Not …” and questions

Getting to know Eights (personal story and questions)

  1. True self and false self: The Powerful Person

True Self Eights: Sacred Strength

Breath Prayer for Eights

False Self Eights

True or False Self questions

Bible reading, “Gut reactions to gain control”

  1. Harmony (ways to integrate IQ, EQ and GQ into default patterns of interaction. For the Eight, that means “strength is contemplative love” (8-5-2).

More than a type (personal story and questions)

Bible reading, “Reactions to wrongdoing”

GQ, EQ, IQ (a personal story of integration and questions)

  1. Healing childhood hurts: Opening to Innocence

Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola

Receiving the dismissed childlike self (personal story and questions)

Journaling your dismissed childlike self (suggestions and questions)

  1. Discernment: Desolations and Consolations

Present to what’s happening inside

Healing prayer for Eights (“imagine Jesus and yourself back in a memory …”

Prayer practice for Eights (for waiting)

Desolations and denial

Consolations and innocence

  1. Spiritual rhythms for Eights

Practicing presence for Eights

Pray into your harmony (strength is contemplative love)

FLOW practice for Eights

Practice confession

Practice the presence of people

Practice trusting

Practice empathy and understanding

Practice detachment

Breath prayers

Blessing for the beloved Eight

  1. Empathy for Eights

This is for the other numbers wanting to understand and empathize with Eights.

Understanding the defense mechanism of denial

Relating to an Eight (with questions )


Each of the nine Enneagram number chapters is organized in the same format as the chapter on Eights.

In Part IV, a sort of Appendix, the book includes 12 Soul Resources, which are very helpful!

  1. STOP for harmony. Each number has its own section on See, Triggers, Open, and Presence.
  2. Solitude and silence: nurturing the IQ, EQ, and GQ of the True Self.
  3. Returning prayer for harmony. This is a description of centering/contemplative prayer.
  4. Mindful body harmony. Breathing, body scan, heart connection.
  5. Examen and harmony. Definition of examen, examples, sacred reading.
  6. Welcoming prayer: a path to harmony. Connects the four “letting go’s” of security, approval, control and change with body, heart and head responses.
  7. Imaginative prayer to nurture head intelligence (IQ): finding yourself in God’s story. A list of biblical stories. Complete imaginative prayer practice example using Luke’s story of Gabriel appearing to Mary.
  8. Practicing the presence of God. Edginess of each number, practicing with spiritual director, suggestions for gut center, heart center and head center.
  9. Work styles and harmony. Several pages of information for gut triad, heart triad and head triad, bringing harmony to work relationships and goals, organizational issue practice exercise, prayer for leaders.
  10. Harmony Triads: A Quick Guide for helping professionals and clients. Only three pages, but very well laid out, lots of detail about each number.
  11. Discovering your enneagram type. Way to use the book’s nine introductory pages for each number as a self-assessment, and instructions if you prefer an online assessment.
  12. Small group discussion guide on empathy. Covers each number and relating to them.
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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


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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

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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.


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May 19 19

Henry V’s songs of glory

by davesandel

Henry V’s songs of glory

Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 19, 2019

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

– From Revelation 21

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

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

Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remembered-

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

For he today that sheds his blood with me

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

This day shall gentle his condition;

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed

Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day …

*           *           *

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

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;

Then lend the eye a terrible aspect …

Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,

Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit

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

Dishonour not your mothers; now attest

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

Be copy now to men of grosser blood,

And teach them how to war …

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,

Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge

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


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

Here was a royal fellowship of death …

O God, thy arm was here,

and not to us but to thy arm alone

ascribe we all! …

Was ever known so great and little loss

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

for it is none but thine …

God fought for us.


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

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

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

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

Open up the doors and let the music play

Let the streets resound with singing

Songs that bring you hope

Songs that bring you joy

Dancers who dance upon injustice

*           *           *

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

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


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May 12 19


by davesandel


Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 12, 2019

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

– From Revelation 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course we can.

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


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May 5 19

Yet in thy dark streets

by davesandel

Yet in thy dark streets

Third Sunday of Easter, May 5, 2019

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

– From John 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Apr 28 19


by davesandel

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


Second Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2018

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

– From John 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Apr 27 19

Austin Fire Station #1

by davesandel

Austin Fire Station #1

Saturday in the Octave of Easter, April 27, 2019

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

– From Mark 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He puts out all our fires.

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


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