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Dec 8 19

Little child, grows up strong

by davesandel

Little child, grows up strong

Second Sunday of Advent, December 8, 2019

Each morning he will pull on sturdy work clothes and boots, and build righteousness and faithfulness throughout the land. And in those days the wolf will romp with the lamb and the leopard will sleep with the kid. Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will lead them.

– From Isaiah 11 (The Message)

This was my dad at 4 am.

Awaken, pray, brush your teeth, get dressed with those sturdy work clothes and rubber boots. Go outside in every weather, open the barn doors, turn on the radio, and close the cows into their stanchions. Feed them with ground corn and hay (he lost his finger one day while grinding that corn). Put milking machines on the first cows. Repeat and repeat. Let cows out, bring the next ones in. Done with forty cows by 7 am. Twice a day. Every day.

Every month another farmer and Dad exchanged first place awards in the local butterfat categories. And I have to say that in those early morning milking hours he didn’t wake the rest of our family. We slept on.

This might also have been Edward Hicks in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1834. Or maybe not. Dad was a terrific farmer; Edward Hicks was a terrible farmer. He was a far more successful Quaker preacher. But also, Hicks always painted, signs and then pictures, mostly the same thing all his life (at least 62 canvases) – a changing scene he called “The Peaceable Kingdom.” (Click the link, look and see.)

In these paintings the wolf lies down with the lamb. The little child leads them. There may not be much sign of the person with sturdy work clothes and boots who brings righteousness and justice, but this restoration of the Garden of Eden does not happen without him.

He is who we’re waiting for.

And Advent sets a welcome frame around our waiting.

Again this year I spent a day with twenty or so others at a retreat sponsored by the Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary. Always, it is a simple-sweet day. We had ample group and private time to reflect on the texts for each Advent Sunday.

Second Sunday’s texts invite us into “The Peaceable Kingdom.” Our retreat leaders asked a good question: “What is your vision of peace?” And they suggested possibilities: “Is it a restored relationship? Is it a decision to help those who have been treated unjustly?” Is it your acceptance of being a co-creator of a peaceable kingdom for the future? Is it a world free of war?”

*           *           *

As I write, I think again what I thought yesterday: Where is it that I live? And is that where I want to be?

My geography spreads through more than rivers and woods and roads in between them. How does my mind’s terrain guide me into peace? What am I doing as a co-creator with God? What will be better when I leave it than when I came?

The sky has been blue, the air warm this week. The sun shines down on our lives, and I feel hopeful. Our Father never stops working. And he offers me the same sturdy work clothes and boots that he puts on every morning.

Lord, your strength is there for me, too. Your peace can carry me into my own peace. Your joy, O Lord, your joy, it rings and rings and fills me up with song.

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Dec 7 19

Promises for the simple life

by davesandel

Promises for the simple life

Saturday, December 7, 2019

He will give rain for the seed that you sow in the ground, and the wheat that the soil produces will be rich and abundant. On that day your flock will be given pasture and the lamb will graze in spacious meadows;
The oxen and the asses that till the ground will eat silage tossed to them with shovel and pitchfork.

– From Isaiah 30

I lived in New York City, on Hudson Street in Greenwich Village with Sam, my Valpo college roommate. Sam was a professional grip on movie sets. In his spare time he took photos (with Plus X black and white film) of the water towers that rose above building after building in south Manhattan.

Those pictures took time to develop. He didn’t see his pictures for days. Often they needed exposure or contrast or cropping work. Didn’t matter. He loved them. And even more, he loved the expeditions. “Goin’ out to take some pictures. Back in a couple of hours.”

We had it in mind to make movies ourselves, but a few days before I arrived at his fourth floor walkup apartment, his movie equipment was stolen. Bad day for Sam. So we didn’t make our movies. I found a job typesetting at night a few blocks away, working with students from Fordham and NYU on their daily campus newspapers.

My friend did the layout and I did the typesetting. Often in the morning we went to the movies. At least once we went to a triple feature at Radio City Music Hall and watched the Rockettes on stage above us at …. what … 10 o’clock in the morning? They were wonderful, of course. Kicking up a storm.

*           *           *

Manhattan no longer has room for farmland. Thousands and thousands of people live on each square mile. Sam stayed, but I did not. After several months I returned to Indiana and eventually, Illinois. The black earth beckoned.

Now years later, I confess imagining the collapse of our technologies, and admit that I find the picture pleasing. It sounds idyllic, to simply live and breathe and eat and sleep, see every sunrise and sunset, live without a clock.

But of course it’s never been so simple, not since we left the Garden. Instead we have toiled and sweat, shed blood and tears, endured the pain of childbirth. We have gotten in each other’s way, and resented it. We have become selfish, and we are afraid. I guess we are as far from Eden now as we have ever been.

I imagine a world without technology while daily indulging in it. Like most of us, I spend a lot of time each day on my phone. I drive through the black earth country to visit Mom on our family farm, and as I give myself a little space, I begin to live and breathe more quietly.

But I don’t stay long. Last week I found Margaret’s old cracked iPad and restored it. Restoration! Yes, that’s what they call it. So I can play now on yet another screen.

*           *           *

I wonder where it is that you live. And if that’s where you want to be.

I am glad for these restorative, hopeful, farm-fed passages in Isaiah. For the Hebrews their God-breathed life of plenty always eluded them, slipped back and forth between the idealized past and the hoped-for-not-yet-future. It seems the same for me.

No matter. Dwelling in these prophetic images of our return to Eden, it is easier to worship and simpler to live with joy. My complaints don’t take hold, and my sadness falls away. As I say more and more these days, there is no hurry.

Lord, thank you for forgiving me my contradictions. Work inside me, release your energy in me, show me where to act in your world as co-creator, while you make all things new.

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Dec 6 19

Come together, right now

by davesandel

Come together, right now

Friday, December 6, 2019

Jesus passed by. Two blind men followed him and cried out, “Son of David, have pity on us!” Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” Then he touched their eyes.

– From Matthew 9

I am blind, and you are blind, and we are blind together. But our blindness does not bind us together: we quarrel, we turn on each other, we are selfish and afraid. I want more than anything to put this behind us, but because I’m not sure you want the same, I have little hope and barely try. We are companions in suffering, but it is difficult to share my bread with you.

Now Jesus is coming. We have been waiting like everyone else and put our quarrels aside. We smell the dust cloud coming down the road. The clamor around us fills our ears. Someone shouts, “I can see him!” The rabbis chant in disputation, “There is no God, but God!” But the common people aren’t interested. And we, blind from birth, are part of the common people.

I have heard that Jesus does not take liberties. He does not assume our weakness or expect our disease. Nor does he inspect us for failure, except perhaps the awful failure of self-righteousness. He does ask a simple question: “Do you believe I can do this for you?” My heart is in my mouth. I look toward the strong sound of his voice and whisper, “Yes.”

Can you imagine, then, the stillness of the descending universe, all God’s eyes fixed on me, and the touch of Jesus’ fingers, first one eye, then the other. The cardboard, the dark closet, the cloud … my muscle-bound eyelids flicker and there, by God, is Jesus standing straight, leaning back to check our Father’s handiwork and smiling, Jesus, ready to hug us tight and let us rest our heads against his neck. We can see! We kiss our healer Jesus.

I will sleep well tonight. My life is new. The roads stretch out until I can see no farther. What is there to do but follow Jesus? Will you go with me, my friend? We have quarreled much, but now, look! We have been healed. We can see!

I love to tell the story. I cannot wait to wake tomorrow morning and know that this is not a dream. I will look into your eyes, and be glad. In our suffering, and in this touch of Jesus, we have been joined.

But now, Lord, I’ve closed my eyes, nearly for sleep. You hand rubs my neck, and makes my head relax. On this day at last, there is nothing more to see but your glory, deep and wide inside my soul.

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Dec 5 19

Sing your song across our land

by davesandel

Sing your song across our land

Thursday, December 5, 2019

This lofty city tumbles to the ground. It is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor. The Lord humbles those in high places.

– From Isaiah 26

This Hebrew Labor Day parade does not lead to the Kremlin or the City Hall; it leads up the hill to the temple. And we the people, finally brought up and down and all together, we sing the words of Psalm 118, “O Lord, grant salvation! O Lord, grant prosperity!”

But this is not for me; it is for all of us. You sing for me, I sing for you: “We bless you from the house of the Lord.” Finally there is no hurry; God’s done the work, and we rejoice. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has given us light!” We all have more than enough.

Tell this story to the little matchgirl, just before, frozen at midnight, she dies. No one bought her matches, she found a corner behind the busy street, and as she rested she heard her grandmamma, calling to her from heaven. The girl’s eyes cleared, and there she was.

Tell this story to Ivy, college senior, frightened and sick. She doesn’t think she can trust even her parents, and she kind of wants to die.

And tell this story too, tell it up toward the kings and queens of commerce, the kings of politics, the queens of society who hold everything and compare it to themselves, who claim as theirs so much of everything we touch and feel and see and hear and taste. This story is for them too.

And then, there’s me. I’ve lived here seventy years, and I know how much I take for granted, reserve for myself, remove from others. I’m grateful for words to confess, but I know how cheap they can be when nothing changes in the way I live.

It is God who does this trampling, straight along the streets of Zion. The needy and the poor, no longer downtrodden, follow in those footsteps, trying to keep up with God’s Giant Step.

I think of the old song, the Battle Hymn of the Republic, “He is trampling out the vintage of the where the grapes of wrath are stored, he hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword. His truth is marching on.”

Was Julia Ward Howe, caught up in her dream, thinking only of Union victories? Surely not. We all cry out to be trampled by the Father who made us, not for drinking and not to death, but for the joy of being held and being made, finally, One.

You, O Lord, are the one who shows me how to put my money where my mouth is. Open all my pockets, turn them out, and let me share all that you have given me. Your mercy endures forever!


 “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Julia Ward Howe, November 1861

In her Reminiscences, she wrote: “I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, “I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.” So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pencil which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper.” (from Wikipedia)

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Dec 4 19

A table in the presence of my enemies

by davesandel

A table in the presence of my enemies

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.

– From Isaiah 25

Later in life, our family cared for another dog, not Lassie this time, but Bear.

We lived then where we live now, beside one of the busiest streets in Champaign-Urbana. Nowadays we do everything we can to keep our eight chickens in the back yard.

Bear had his own issues with the killer Lincoln Avenue. A few close scrapes made him mostly wise, but not at night so much, not when the traffic was gone. He never joined a pack, but he loved to explore on his own.

That Sunday morning I drove home from Indianapolis after a Promise Keeper’s conference. There were 60,000 men singing. We filled up the football stadium. We were reminded that we’re God’s kids before anything else, and that made being dads different. It seemed like, now, we could do it. None of us was alone.

Can I remember that now? Getting out of the car, stretching in the sun, there is Bear, just across the street, just across the busy street! I look and shout, “Bear, get over here!” He comes of course, excited, fast. Maybe a little ashamed. But he didn’t have time, he was halfway across and an out-of-town ambulance, siren shrieking, slammed into him.

I screamed again. Bear picked himself up and shrugged up our drive. I carried him, laid him in the sun beside our house. He wagged his tail, as best he could.

I cried and cried. Just the the night before Margaret told me that my much-loved cousin had been killed. In my implosion I realized I was sobbing from my deepest place, my baby place, out of the depths of infantile despair. How deep does it go? I was weeping desperately in my crib. Beside Bear, I sat down on the sun-warm sidewalk. It seemed like all I could do.

Margaret came outside when she heard my crying. Chris came out, and Marc and Andi, and they stood beside Bear, and they cried too. Andi knelt beside him and cradled his head and wept.

Because Bear had not yet died, I called Dr. King, my friend, our vet, and he met us at his office that Sunday morning, and we took our broken dog to him.

He did what the vets call “palpating.” Then as he felt all over Bear with tender, knowing fingertips Dr. King looked up at us, surprised, and said, “I don’t think he has any broken bones. But we’ll have to see how badly he’s been hurt inside.”

“Oh, Lord, you prepare a table in the presence of our enemies … such a great feast of juicy rich foods and choice fine wines.” While Dr. King worked with Bear, as we watched him, you could hear a pin drop. I scarcely breathed. But then he smiled, and spoke, and we breathed again, and smiled too. Bear was deeply, badly bruised. But perhaps he would live.

He did live, for many more beautiful years. The hand of the Lord rested on him, and we loved Bear and he loved us. He rolled in the leaves with Andi and me, and we found tasty pig ears for him at Christmas, and he was frightened of fireworks and storms and fled to his own corner of the crawl space under our house. He came out, though, every time he heard our steps, and his tail wagged the rest of his body. Happy he was.

Oh yes, Lord, happy were we all. I am still so thankful to have had these wonderful dogs in our lives, somehow completely free to love us without fail. In this way we follow them to you.

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Dec 3 19

Leaving well enough alone

by davesandel

Leaving well enough alone

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him … The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest. The lion will eat hay like the ox, the baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and there shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain. And the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as waters cover the sea.

– From Isaiah 11

That green field where I spread our cow’s manure stretched in front of me. My seat on our John Deere B, padded but cold, was patched with duct tape. Even young as I was, I knew the levers and pedals, and started the spreader where I’d left off with the last load.

Our dog (was her name really Lassie?) ran beside me, like she always did. But toward the end of the field she got mixed up, I guess, and ran under the wheels. I drove over her before I knew. Stopped the tractor with a scream. I jumped down.

Lassie made noises I had never heard. I screamed so scared, angry, guilty, panicked. We were as far away from the house as the field allowed, and I picked her up and began to run. I will not forget those breathless sobs, not in a thousand years. A lifetime’s not too long …

To live as friends was all she wanted, Lassie. And we did. So sweet to come outside on those cold days, walk frozen ground, fine yellow dog waiting for me, wagging her whole body with her tail. We had some wonderful times. In the summer I laid down on that same black dirt, smelled the grass while she licked my face.

Now, remembering instead her death and my part in it, the headlong heavy weight of that fancy Bible word “dominion” crushes me. Right there at the start of it all (Genesis 1:28) God puts us in charge. But I am not wise in the “knowledge of good and evil.” I go too far too fast, or too slow, not far enough. Mostly, I have not learned the magic of leaving well enough alone.

But still, that does seem to me to be the business of the Spirit of the Lord. I might track in those steps just a little bit, being made in the image, but I cannot make the cow and bear be neighbors. I must not train the cobra to play with my baby. When I try too much, too hard, too fast, harm and ruin fall down on me like desperate rain.

To let things be, accept my part in life’s simple fabric, in silence listen for the words of the Spirit of the Lord, follow them, that might be the secret of leaving well enough alone. This dawns on me often, surprising me, over and over new. And in good time my own earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

There’s no sense crying over spilled milk, Lord – there it goes. Drains down into the ground. But then deep within my dual rights of love and forgiveness, I discover regret, remorse, sadness, anger and guilt. These are real, and I am grateful for your permission to work them through, wrestle, wait, to finally be loved and forgiven again. Your peace is deep and strong and always so real.

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Dec 2 19

I sit still in the safety of my Savior

by davesandel

I sit still in the safety of my Savior

Monday, December 2, 2019

Smoking cloud by day, light of flaming fire by night, over all, the Lord’s glory will be shelter and protection. ­

– From Isaiah 4

I have seen him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps. But these days I spend almost all my evenings indoors. My light flickers in bulbs or behind screens. Strangely, I must close my eyes to feel those watchfires, or touch the dewy ground, or see the flaming lanterns of the Lord.

That’s OK, though. My memories and imagination are alive and well. And because I am not captive in a prison or in a wheelchair, I can stand up, walk outside, and stare up at the moon.

They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps. Once with my hitchhiking buddy Jay, I laid out a sleeping bag on the side of an Arizona hill and slept until the morning sounds of Hopi Home Dance singing woke us both. After the July night’s desert rain had soaked us through, warm sun steamed up our bodies and our clothes. We settled in, sat and clapped with the music and felt the strength of all that structured, frenzied dancing. Sheltered in the arms of God, Jay and I and all of us grew strong surrounded by His glory.

I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps. Poring over passages from Isaiah and David and John and Paul, the righteous sentence is clear and always the same. As Suzanne Stabile says, we are given only two unalienable rights: to love and to forgive. That we are free to do. For those gifts we are responsible. We are to receive them and pass them along. Lord knows, the Hopis have had plenty to forgive. But on their hill we felt encircled by their forgiveness and their love. His truth goes marching on.

*           *           *

Unable to live forever on our own, O Lord, we march on to the beat of your drum, no longer ours. Your drum sounds deep into my soul. Your drum draws me into the desert, through the dryness and finally to the pool. Your living, your water, your giving, your world.

“Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Julia Ward Howe, 1861. Julia heard the song in a dream, woke up and transcribed it, then sold it to the Atlantic Monthly for $4.

From Suzanne Stabile’s November 2019 seminar “Holidays and the Enneagram”

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Dec 1 19

Come, let us climb

by davesandel

December 1, 2019

The Christian season of Advent begins today. Today also marks the beginning of the liturgical church year in many churches around the world.

I’d like to send you short reflections on each of the days of Advent and the Christmas season. These meditations are based on scripture texts from the daily lectionary used in Roman Catholic and other churches throughout the world. You can read all the scriptures of the day by clicking on the linked date at the top of each reflection.

Even though we’re not in church, reading these scriptures and meditations is a way to participate in community worship and prayer with many others who are also reading the same texts.

These devotions will be part of the book Finding My Way 2019, available on Amazon by March 2020. It will join six other compilations:

Finding My Way 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Finding My Way Toward Easter: 1998-2018

Finding My Way Toward Christmas I: 2000-2009

 Finding My Way Toward Christmas II: 2010-2019 should also be available by March 2020.

All of these books are available either as inexpensive paperbacks or even more inexpensive Kindle versions. Besides the year’s devotions, each book includes many photographs from our family life.

The devotions are also available and archived each day at the following web addresses:

God bless you,


All the Daily Lectionary Readings for Advent 2019 and Christmas 2019-2020

Readings for the Sundays (Year A)

12/1/19     Isa 2:1-15, Ps 122:1-9, Rom 13:11-14, Matt 24:37-44

12/8/19     Isa 11:1-9, Ps 72:1-7, Rom 15:4-9, Matt 3:1-12

12/15/19   lsa 35:1-10, Ps 146:6-10, James 5:7-10, Matt 11:2-11

12/22/19   Isa 7:10-14, Ps 24:1-6, Romans 1:1-7, Matt 1:18-24

12/29/19   Sirach 3:2-14 or 1 Sam 1:20-28, Ps 128:1-5 or Ps 84:-3-10, Col 3:12-21 or Col 3:12-17 or 1 John 3:1-24, Luke 2:41-52

1/5/20       (Sunday of Epiphany) Isa 60:1-6, Ps 72:1-13, Eph 3:2-6, Matt 2:1-12

Readings for the Advent and Christmas Weekdays (Cycle I)

First Week of Advent

12/2/19     Isa 4:2-6, Ps 122:1-9, Matt 8:5-11

12/3/19     Isa 11:1-10, Ps 72:1-17, Luke 10:21-24

12/4/19     Isa 25:6-10, Ps 23, Matt 15:29-37

12/5/19     Isa 26:1-6, Ps 118:1:27, Matt 7:21-27

12/8/19     Isa 29:17-24, Ps 27:1-14, Matt 9:27-31

12/9/19     Isa 30:19-26, Ps 147:1-6, Matt 9:35-10:8

Second Week of Advent

12/9/19     Gen 3:9-20, Ps 98:1-4, Eph 1:3-12, Luke 1:26-38 (Mary’s Immaculate Conception)

12/10/19   Isa 40:1-11, Ps 96:1-13, Matt 18:12-14

12/11/19   Isa 40:25-31, Ps 103:1-10, Matt 11:28-30

12/12/19   Zech 2:14-17, Rev 11:19-12:10, Judith 13:18-19, Luke 1:26-38 (Lady of Guadalupe)

12/13/19   Isa 48:17-19, Ps 1, Matt 11:16-19

12/14/19   Sirach 48:1-11, Ps 80:2-19, Matt 17:9-13

Third Week of Advent

12/16/19   Num 24:2-17, Ps 25:4-9, Matt 21:23-27

12/17/19   Gen 49:2-10, Ps 72:1-17, Matt 1:1-17

12/18/19   Jer 23:5-8, Ps 72:1-19, Matt 1:18-25

12/19/19   Judges 13:2-25, Ps 71:3-17, Luke 1:5-25

12/20/19   Isaiah 7:10-14, Ps 24:1-6, Luke 1:26-38

12/21/19   Solomon 2:8-14, Zeph 3:14-18, Ps 33:2-21, Luke 1:39-45

Fourth Week of Advent

12/23/19   Mal 3:1-24, Ps 25:4-14, Luke 1:57-66

12/24/19   2 Sam 7:1-16, Ps 89:2-29, Luke 1:67-69

Season of Christmas

12/25/19   Isa 52:7-10, Ps 98:1-6, Heb 1:1-6, John 1:1-18

12/26/19   Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59, Ps 31:3-17, Matt 10:17-22

12/27/19   1 John 1:1-4, Ps 97:1-12, John 20:1-8

12/28/19   1 John 1:5-2:2, Ps 124:2-8, Matt 2:13-18

12/30/19   1 John 2:12-17, Ps 96:1-10, Luke 2:36-40

12/31/19   1 John 2:18-21, Ps 96:1-13, John 1:1-18

1/1/20       Num 6:22-27, Ps 67:2-8, Gal 4:4-7, Luke 2:16-21

1/2/20       1 John 2:22-28, Ps 98:1-4, John 1:19-28

1/3/20       1 John 2:29—3:6, Ps 98:1-6, John 1:29-34

1/4/20       1 John 3:7-10, Ps 98:1-9, John 1:35-42


Come, let us climb

First Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2019

“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, up to the house of the God of Jacob, that HE may instruct us in his ways and WE may walk in his paths.”

– From Isaiah 2

“Come now, little jellyfish,” said the Shepherd. “Do you believe that I can change you into a mountain goat and get you to the top of the precipice?”

“Yes,” replied Much-Afraid.

“Will you let me do it?”

Jay and I left the Lama Community and hiked up toward Lobo Peak, three thousand feet the first day. We set our small tent. In this thin air our fire was hard to light. We scrambled eggs, ate nuts and berries, slept.

Fresh in morning mountain air, we started up again, two or three more hours along the edges of the tallest mountain in New Mexico (12,195 feet). Clouds fell down on us. Forty miles away lightning ranged across the valley above Flag Mountain, our nearest neighbor. Huge pines with no ground cover fell off quickly on both sides of our trail, and sky and valley shone through. We ate from an ancient snowbank, intact in mid-July, crusted, red, covered with nettles. The air was thin, and the flowers were very very bright.

Much-Afraid said something she had never been willing to say before. “I don’t think I mind so very much if you do change me. Only have your will and way in me, Shepherd. Nothing else matters.”

At last grasping the flagstick that marked Lobo’s Peak, Jay and I were silent. God did all the talking while we stood quiet among the rocks, at the altar on this particular top of the world. We felt surrounded by earth’s full circle of life. God’s hand reached down to caress us through the clouds. For some time we sang our alleluias, and sat silently beneath the heaven. Then with a little lunch, after drinking part of our final quart of water and picking some wet wild flowers to keep and dry, we headed down.

Much-Afraid gasped with wonder and delight. As she spoke she saw that her guardian angels Sorrow and Suffering, who had drawn aside while the Shepherd spoke to her, were standing one at either side of the path. She saw a double rainbow, arching the precipice, and where the ends of the rainbow touched the earth, one touched Suffering and the other Sorrow.

At the bottom of Manzanita Canyon we caught a ride to Taos Ski Lodge. We listened to classical music, drank beer and met people from Chicago and Africa. Pleasant enough. But it felt to me like we hit earth with a bang, too hard. I needed … I still need … some way to move from earth to heaven and back again.

Much-Afraid knelt down at the foot of the precipice. She built an altar and laid on it her will, her dread and her shrinking. When the fire had fallen she found among the ashes a larger, rougher-looking stone than any of the others, sharp-edged and dark. This she put in her purse and rose to her feet, and waited.

 *           *           *

As do I, Lord. As do I.

Hannah Hurnard, Hinds’ Feet on High Places, p. 111-112, 1975.



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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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