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Oct 3 22

Pay it forward

by davesandel

Monday, October 3, 2022

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

Pay it forward

And the bard sang, “Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together.” But along the way their donkey fell lame, and robbers descended on them from the hills, and injured them badly, and took their money and their food.

On the way from Jerusalem to Jericho, they stripped and beat them and went off leaving them half dead.

But help is on the way. A priest happens by in his black car, wearing his black and white clericals. He sees the debris first and then the couple, lying on the ground. The sun is harsh, but they don’t move into the shade.

When the priest saw them, he passed by on the other side of the road.

Out of the corner of his eye, the bard saw the priest driving away, crossing the yellow line, avoiding responsibility, avoiding them. “I’ve got some real estate here in my bag.” My lips barely curl around the words. I am so thirsty, and I know my girlfriend is thirsty too.

A judge came by then, but he too passed by on the opposite side of the road.

I know that judge. He befriended my father once. But he must not recognize me. I’m a stranger to him. Probably he’s in a hurry to get to his courtroom. Time flies, and he must fly as well. But I can hear my girlfriend moaning, and I can’t help her. “Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, though `I knew she was sleeping. I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why … just counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike …”

A Samaritan traveler came up on the broken couple. He was moved with compassion at the sight of their impossible stillness. He approached them, he poured oil and wine over their wounds. He bandaged them and lifted the couple into his van and carried them off.

Who is this masked man? How does a hero happen by here to bless us? I know his face; that small scar on his cheek, how did he get the scar? He’s been robbed himself? His compassion leads, and I see that as he listens to our moans his eyes flood with tears.

He took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper and said, “Take care of them. If you spend more than what I gave you, I shall repay you when I return this way.”

We began to heal. We finished our Mrs. Wagner’s pies and ate the inn’s food, which was very good. Our eyes, bruised and blue, brightened.

So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine, and the moon rose over an open field.

And we asked ourselves what we were doing. Where are we headed? Are we seeking truth that digs down deep inside our souls? Remembering the innocence of our childhood? Have we found it?

Jesus asked his listener, “Which of these three, in your opinion was neighbor to the robbers’ victims? And the scholar of the law answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” And Jesus said, “You, go and do likewise.”

We walked off to look for America. Beside the road, entirely without hope we were rescued without bias or disgust. Our friend (who returned to help us again, by the way) had few words but much oil and wine and plenty of bandages. He had just enough money to soothe and straighten our way toward healing.

The works of his hands are faithful and just, reliable forever and ever, wrought in truth and justice. The Lord will remember his covenant forever.

Do we need to look further for “America”? In the midst of our horror, we have found healing. Now, as the wise man said, “We must go and do likewise.”

(Galatians 1, Psalm 111, John 13, Luke 10)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Oct 2 22

The deathless depths of God

by davesandel

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 2, 2022

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

The deathless depths of God

The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.

Habakkuk and God had some tough times at the beginning. Habakkuk’s questions in chapter 1 remind me of Job’s questions and the psalmist’s complaints.

What are you DOING, God? I cry for help and you do not listen.

Here is what James Finley says he is doing:

God is a presence that protects us from no things, even as God unexplainably sustains us in all things. God does not prevent the tragic thing, the cruel thing, the unfair thing from happening. Rather, God is intimately hidden as a kind of profound, tender sweetness that flows and carries us along in the intimate depths of the tragic thing itself – and will continue to do so up to and through death, and beyond.

In The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe, Susan is surprised when their friend Mr. Beaver says that the famous Aslan is a lion. “Ooh, I thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe?” Mr. Beaver was surprised. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God’s reassurance for Habakkuk is, of course, for us all. “I am good. Be patient and trust me.”

The vision still has its time and will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.

Both the author of Hebrews and Paul quote the next verse, so it’s well-known even among us New Testamenters:

The righteous shall live by faith.

There need never be any hurry in faith. Look beyond every dark horizon and expect God’s sweet presence always on the other side. Finley, a sweet voice himself, continues:

As we grow old we realize that love has been using us for its own purposes. And for this we feel immensely grateful.

In his poem “The Dark Night,” Saint John of the Cross talks about a windfall of delight. When fruit becomes very ripe, the slightest wind can cause it to fall to the ground. This is also true of us, especially at the end of our lives. The windfall of delight pertains to our last breath, which we know and trust will send us falling forever into the deathless depths of God.

Our Empty Nesters classmate Kathy Black passed away on September 14 after 65 months of cancer. Speakers at her memorial service reminded us of her constant faith. Matt Cassidy reminded us it was the Holy Spirit working from the inside out that drove her constant faith. And the same Holy Spirit led her to drink up all of life, even the sludge at the bottom of the glass. Kathy, Matt said, wrung everything out life.”

As he neared his own death, Francis of Assisi, who befriended everyone and everything, called death “a welcome sister.” I expect Kathy echoed his thoughts on September 14. God is good. All the time.

(Habakkuk 1, Psalm 95, 2 Timothy 1, 1 Peter 1, Luke 17)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Oct 1 22

O taste and see

by davesandel

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Memorial of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

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

 O taste and see

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike.”

Yesterday Jasper said, “Let’s go see the peacocks.” Miles said, “I want to see everything.” Andi said, “I do too!” And I took pictures, so many pictures on the most beautiful day in the history of Austin, Texas.

At the Laguna Gloria Museum of Contemporary Sculpture, we sat underneath “Looking Up,” 33 feet tall man made of aluminum foil roasting pans. I wanted to be sure we didn’t get caught underneath his very large feet. We each drew a picture of the Miffy Rabbit, weeping baby bunny tears into a round Miffy Fountain. Three bald men considered conversation, then decided against it.

I fell behind, taking photos of unusual angles, and then suddenly, standing beside the mansion, the side doors swung wide open and there stood Andi and her two butlers, welcoming me inside. We pretended to be post-bellum occupants for awhile, but the flowers and sculptures drew us back outside. Esperanza trees drew bumblebees and honeybees into their deep pockets of sweet nectar, and we followed them in with our cameras and binoculars.

But I guess the highlight of this trip to Laguna Gloria was down by the riverside, an ancient junked out 1953 Chevy in the trees, bronzed up, headlights on, and a black blues and gospel preaching service pouring out of the trunk. “Road Angel,” she is called. Everyone was a little stunned, caught up in the rhythm and blues, swept away by the preacher’s voice, shouting us into heaven.

And Job cried out to God, I had heard of you, but now I have seen you, Lord. Therefore I repent, in dust and ashes. And thus the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than the earlier ones.

The nearby peacock garden was closed for a special event, but the peacocks watched us from across the fence. I drove downtown to a Brazilian steak food truck and picked up lunch, took a long nap, swam with the Tomitas while Miles had another swim lesson, and we got all dressed up for an Artists’ Reception at the Grand Opening of the umpteenth Hill Church juried art gallery’s fall and winter show.

The revelation of your words sheds light, Lord. Let your face shine on me.

Paintings and mosaics and photographs and drawings and sculptures lined the halls of the Hill Church gallery. For Dee Day, the curator, art draws a wide swatch through worship. A sign beckons us into the exhibits: “Creativity is a response to God.” We spent much of the evening with our friends George and Anne, listening to live jazz, eating incredible gluten free chocolate chip cookies, and marveling at the art.

One artist, Sheryl Artmann, has been our friend for years. Others are in our Sunday School class at Grace. We felt surrounded by so many who believe, as we do too, in what one beautiful multi-media piece proclaimed: “I will pray until I become prayer itself.”

(Job 42, Psalm 119, Matthew 11, Luke 10)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Sep 30 22

Haiku for every day of September 2022

by davesandel

Haiku for every day of September 2022

 

September 1  

Hyde Park Bar and Grill

Such laughter at our table

Pam, Marg, holding court

 

September 2

Fonda San Miguel

Mike’s birthday mole and flan

Surrounded by art

                 

September 3  

Watched The Rise of Gru

And Ms. Harris in Paris

Nat’nal Movie Day!

 

September 4

New friends each Sunday

Good talk at our tables

Something special, yes

                 

September 5

Labor Day with boys

Then cookout with Tomitas

But still … no dessert!

                 

September 6

can I help? Austin

Disaster Relief Network

Tuesday? Break down boxes

                 

September 7

Ask, what can I do?

Keep learning how to say YES

Both inside and out

                 

September 8

7 AM – get in line

Wheelchair tag good for six months

Help Marg get places

                 

September 9  

O boy! Sleepover

Toys and snacks and big green tent

We watched Robin Hood!!

 

September 10

Get on down the road

Dallas … piney woods … sunset

Fall on bed and sleep

 

September 11

Listen – highway church

All of life is repentance

And then … forgiveness

                 

September 12

Picked Texas Roadhouse

Meal at home with M & M

Sweet display of grace

 

September 13

Time at home with Marc

Days this time – not just hours

Laid back companions

 

September 14

Dawn’s mirror surprise

I no longer look so young

Wearing out? OK …

 

September 15

Hours! Demanding

Screams! Sit still too long? Get stuck

But God provides a shield

 

September 16

Had to call police

I swoop in to rescue Marc

Such filthy abuse

 

September 17

Couldn’t sleep last night

Marc couldn’t either, I’m sure

But he’s taking steps

 

September 18

Barber’s Joseph coat

Skyler’s leg on a cart

Nancy’s big welcome (at Life Community Church)

 

September 19

Afternoon alone

Drove south to Sikeston motel

With Comanche Moon

 

September 20

One close call – that’s all

All day driving down the road

Austin feels like home

 

September 21

Melt in Jasper’s smile

Make breakfast, books, Tinker Toys

Long afternoon naps

 

September 22

Read, write, listen, pray

Tuesday, Thursday on our own

Deep breath – enter in

 

September 23

Wall in the water

Block me moving toward the kids

Thank God, they don’t drown

 

September 24

Fam’ly at the pool

Miles swimming in the morning

Fun lessons with Bart

 

September 25

Come on ring that bell

Light the big wide world on fire

Words bless and words burn

 

September 26

Mostly, just be still

Tame your tongue? Impossible!

Holy Spirit thing

 

September 27

Dentist cleans my teeth

They start squeaking when I smile

Keep up the good work!

 

September 28

Drinks at home, then food

Casey, Shannon, such good friends

I get to join them

 

September 29

Miles underwater

Bart’s swim lessons continue

I put goggles on

 

September 30

Date night – art show, jazz

Sheryl shows some of her works

And we are happy

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Sep 30 22

Complete list of September 2022 Daily Devotions with links

by davesandel

Complete list of September 2022 Daily Devotions with links

 

September 1   Be still and listen

September 2   Master your own method of retreat 

September 3   Suffer the sweet yoke of Jesus

September 4   Corner of Mission & Parkview, San Antonio

September 5   What a wonderful world

September 6   Whirlwind

September 7   Songs of slaves

September 8   Mary, Margaret and all mothers

September 9   Miles and Jasper, overnight, following Jesus

September 10 We’re going on a bear hunt!

September 11 Pierced

September 12 Encountering Jesus on Avondale Avenue

September 13 Getting to know you

September 14 Abigail and Joshua the Brave

September 15 Stabat mater dolorosa           

September 16 Looking for adventure

September 17 May I kill it?

September 18 The color green

September 19 Pirate talk

September 20 Turn your radio on

September 21 Matthew the scribe

September 22 Herod would not let go

September 23 Naked hope

September 24 Let’s go swimming in the pool, pool

September 25 Walk on through the storm

September 26 Choose life

September 27 Travail

September 28 Let my prayer come before you, Lord

September 29 We’re all just walking each other home

September 30 Still life at midnight

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Sep 30 22

Still life at midnight

by davesandel

Friday, September 30, 2022

Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church

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

Still life at midnight

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm.

Job must have thought he was dreaming. His friends had spoken, Job spoke, the fire burned, and then in a flash God’s presence manifested, and God spoke.

Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?

Guilty as charged, I say. That would be me. I talk far too much and listen far too little, to God the I AM and to the other little I Ams all around me. (thank you, Peter Kreeft)

Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you will answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.

I stumble and stutter, “Uh … uh, I have nothing to say, Lord. I wasn’t there.”

Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?

My paradigm is shifting, Lord. And You are shifting it. Like the dawn shaking the wicked, I am shaken. I am startled and afraid, and uncertain what comes next. I know you could kill me, but I know you love me.

I am of little account; how can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth.

Instead I will be still, read and remember the words of David, his song of blessing and constancy, patience and perseverance.

You have searched me, O Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise. Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Albus Dumbledore in Prisoner of Azkaban, speaking of Harry Potter to Professor Snape: “Let him sleep. For in dreams we enter a world that is entirely our own. Let him swim in the deepest ocean, or glide over the highest cloud.”

If I say, Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Professor Dumbledore was a grand parent to Harry. Richard Rohr says:

When we can let go of our own need for everything to be as we want it, we can then encourage the independent journey of others. Grand parents have hopefully become spacious, with space to contain problems, inconsistencies, inconveniences and contradictions – after a lifetime of practicing and learning.

The large soul of the grand parent is spacious enough to accept all the opposites in life – masculine and feminine, unity and difference, victory and defeat, Us and Them.

That was Dumbledore to the core. It’s the way Margaret and I want to be, to lift up Jasper, Miles, Aly and Jack. They grow up quickly. Combined their years add up to 31. Our years add up to 144. But they increase as we decrease.

We know that our beliefs have less to do with unarguable conclusions and more with scary encounters with life and the living God. We do not so much grasp the truth as we let go of our egos, which are mostly just obstacles to the truth.

Going to bed tonight, I pray for my body to cooperate with this letting go, to be spacious and receptive to all that God shows me, to rest and move into a “world that is entirely my own.” Let our grand parenting thrive and bring joy in the morning.

You knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.

 (Job 38, Psalm 139, Psalm 95, Luke 10)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Sep 29 22

We’re all just walking each other home

by davesandel

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels

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

We’ll all just walking each other home

In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.

As I went to bed I thought of the angels, ascending and descending. Why not, I wondered? Would they come to me, perhaps as I slept, or before, or just after, while the waves in my brain were more receptive than controlling?

I lay down, my head on two pillows, closed my eyes, and waited. Jesus spoke, as to Nathanael:

You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

I opened my eyes again, surprised. Jesus is here, with me? But I saw nothing but the ceiling in my bedroom, and heard nothing, and so I closed my eyes once more.

I will give thanks to you O Lord, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of your angels I will sing your praise.

I heard singing above the white noise of my electric fan. The music blew sweetly right up inside my skin, around my mind, through my heart. I knew it was the angels singing, and Jesus was not far away. I began to sing too, all of it with my eyes closed, no longer waiting but rejoicing in this splendid, impossible moment. I knew what I was hearing was something I could not see. But just in case, I opened my eyes again.

I saw the picture my mother, and her mother before her, saw when they awoke, hanging on the wall left of my bed. In that moment I knew how safe I was, and I looked on for what seemed like several minutes more.

As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a son of man, coming on the clouds of heaven. When he reached the Ancient One he received dominion, glory and kingship.

All hail King Jesus, all hail Emmanuel. King of kings, Lord of lords, bright morning star. Music flooded my heart and I wanted to jump for joy. How helpless I was, in bed as I was, to jump like that, but I felt like I was flying.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out.

Suddenly I knew why I could have this vision. How we could spend all day singing at the dome. What so many generations before us had not known. Jesus walked the earth, and Satan could no longer roam to and fro. The tables were turned on Satan. He was not free, and we were. The angels called out for me to join them, for all of us to join them, and together celebrate our freedom.

We have conquered Satan the accuser by the Blood of the Lamb and by testimony. Love for life did not deter the death of our brothers. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them.

I lay still in my bed. Crickets chirped just outside my window. Barely begun waxing, the moon would not rise till well past sunrise. The dwelling place of the stars felt close, bright in the dry air. All sounds faded before this wonder, of the world alive and well. No fan nor freezer, no refrigerator or computer, no buzz of circuits all around the house, only the crickets, only the angels and the quiet footfalls of Jesus, coming in love to hold me through the night.

When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me. And we shall sing of the ways of the Lord, great is the glory of the Lord our God. In the sight of the angels we will sing your praises!

(Daniel 7, Revelation 12, Psalm 138, Psalm 103, John 1)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Sep 28 22

Let my prayer come before you, Lord

by davesandel

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

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

Let my prayer come before you, Lord

Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.

Jesus made his way through Galilee and Judea, and I wonder, would I have followed him, given up my work and family to be with Jesus? Even with his followers, Jesus was often alone. He found his way into God’s embrace every day. He listened to him and watched the world around him, learning all the time. I can imagine Jesus might have written this poem:

Autumn Goodness

Today, the Immense Goodness spewed from the depths
like juice from a fully ripe piece of fruit
on the tip of God’s tongue

so close I can touch it
see it, smell it
experience its transition
as another leaf falls and
others deepen their hue before my eyes

if dying can be so beautiful
then let me die also
perfect imperfection of individuality
I too yearn to be an instrument of love
past and future converge in the present
never stopping, but pausing to notice
that God is here among us   – by Clarence Heller

Where do we go from here? A tree sits quietly in its home and does not move as its leaves fall dead to the ground, year after year. It can easily be abused by those of us who move about. Shel Silverstein called his “the giving tree.” He knew how selfish and unknowing he could be, taking advantage. The Messiah? Moving about? Can he bring healing and wisdom instead of struggle and strife? His Franciscan and Jesuit messengers centuries later brought contagion and plague upon those they hoped to help. Surely Jesus did much better than that.

Daily I call upon you, O Lord, to you I stretch out my hands. Will you work wonders for the dead? Will the shades arise to give you thanks? Are your wonders made known in the darkness, or your justice in the hand of oblivion. With my morning prayer I wait upon you. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.

The psalmist was sarcastic, baiting God. Jesus did much better than that, he asked the same questions but in hope and not despair. When he asked his Abba to light the darkness and bring justice “in the land of oblivion,” Abba listened and filled Jesus with the power to heal.

In Jesus’ wake I need not hesitate, as Job did. His respect for God bordered on intimidation, to my New Testament ear.

How can a man be justified before God? Should I wish to contend with him, I could not answer him once in a thousand times. Who has withstood God and remained unscathed?

My friend suggested that in the death and resurrection of Jesus, God “used up all his wrath.” What a wonderful way to describe the change Jesus brought, the gift of the Spirit he shared with us all.

God alone stretches out the heavens and treads upon the crests of the sea. He does great things past finding out, marvelous things beyond reckoning. I shall not choose out arguments against him. Even though I were right, I could not answer him, but should rather beg for what was due me.

On Sunday our pastor Matt Cassidy quoted Martin Luther when he said, “All of life is repentance.” And so, Matt pointed out, the other side of the coin is that “all of life is forgiveness.” These days after Jesus, God is safe to listen and love me, always ready to forgive and receive me, in all my deepest fault.

So when is the last time you repented? One always comes before two.

 (Job 9, Psalm 88, Philippians 3, Luke 9)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Sep 27 22

Travail

by davesandel

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest

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

Travail

By the third chapter, Job has had enough. He can’t stand it anymore. His grief explodes inside him and words pour forth. He is undone, he feels trapped by his circumstances, and hopeless. The “giveth and taketh away” idea doesn’t help anymore.

Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?

God, I think you made a mistake with me. I am not fearfully and wonderfully made. You have mostly just taken away.

Job’s memory falters. He forgets the rich times with his family. Of course he wonders if he did something wrong, but he doesn’t think so. Except, of course, to be born.

Why was I not buried away like an untimely birth, like babes that have never seen the light? For then I should have lain down and been at peace; sleeping I should have been at rest with kings and counselors of the earth.

Job does not remember the past, nor can he see forward into the future. He is paralyzed by loss and pain and sadness and misery and horror. Tragedy. And he wishes for nothing more than death, because he is one of …

Those who path is hidden from them, and whom God has hemmed in!

Today’s responsorial psalm is #88, the most desolate psalm in all one hundred and fifty psalms. It ends as it begins, in hopeless terror. Simon and Garfunkel knew this psalm, and they wrote their most famous song out of its depths.

Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.

The last words of the psalm collapse on me and drive me too into the dark:

From my youth I have suffered and been close to death. I have borne your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath sweeps over me, your terrors destroy me, and all day long they surround me like a flood; they have engulfed me completely.

You have taken from me friend and neighbor – the darkness is my closest friend.

Did Jesus enter this darkness?

When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.

The villagers did not want him to come into town. He set his face like flint. O God, O God, why have you forsaken me? Does God abandon Jesus?

My friend George’s Quest class is studying Hebrews. His teacher said, “In Jesus, the Father used up all his wrath.” Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. In that moment George relaxed. When I heard that statement, I relaxed. It rings so true.

There are memories from my life that feel like brands on my soul. I forget much, but some I recall in detail. The emotions I felt then, return with the memory. Was God angry with me? But no, … the Father has used up all his wrath, burned it out. Better even than the ashes of a phoenix, what resurrects is love. Satan walked to and fro upon the earth, but now he cannot walk as he did once. Because Jesus walked upon the earth, the same earth, our earth, loving and preparing for the fire, then loving some more. And we are free.

The disciples, angry with the villagers, asked Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

Job’s story has just begun. His friends will gather around him, and for seven days hold their tongues. The sound of that silence might bring peace to Job’s soul. But then their mouths open, and nothing of that peace is left for long.

In the meantime I will rest easy, knowing God’s love in every pore of my skin and every crevice of my soul.

(Job 3, Psalm 88, Mark 10, Luke 9)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Sep 26 22

Choose life

by davesandel

Monday, September 26, 2022

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

Choose life

Job began to tear his cloak and cut off his hair. He cast himself prostrate upon the ground and said, “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

In The Grace of Aging, Kathleen Dowling Singh simply says, “Everything of value that can be lost, will be lost.” Job lost all his livestock and herdsmen and shepherds. His camels were carried off and their caretakers were killed. Job’s sons and daughters were all killed in a great storm, and their home too was destroyed.

He did not lose the confidence of God.

Have you noticed my servant Job, and that there is no one on earth like him, blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil?

Job’s wife gave up. She told Job he should “curse God and die.” Job simply said to her, “I know that my redeemer liveth.”

In all this Job did not sin, nor did he speak disrespectfully of God.

How did this catastrophe affect Mr. Job? And was it so unusual? Richard Rohr does not think so:

Reality, fate, destiny, providence, and tragedy are slow but insistent teachers. The horizon of old age seems to be a plan that God has prepared as inevitable and part of the necessary school of life. What is gratuitously given is also gratuitously taken away, just as Job slowly came to accept. And we remember that his eventual pained response was “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Can I say those words with all my heart? What will get me there, what conditions might ripen me into this way of surrender and acceptance, this peace which ends in death?

If we are to speak of a spirituality of ripening, we need to recognize that it is always characterized by an increasing tolerance for ambiguity, a growing sense of subtlety, an ever-larger ability to include and allow, and a capacity to live with contradictions and even to love them! I cannot imagine any other way of coming to those broad horizons except through many trials, unsolvable paradoxes, and errors in trying to resolve them. In this way we are forced to learn, by necessity and under pressure, the open-ended way of allowing and the deep meaning that some call faith.

To live in trustful faith is to ripen; it is almost that simple.

But there is nothing automatic in the ripening. Even Solomon had trouble with this “open-ended way of allowing.” Deep into the center of his soul, the king ached with loss as death approached. “Vanity of vanities, everything is vanity!” He shouts into the wind.

Man goes to his lasting home, and mourners go about the streets. The silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken. The pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the broken pulley falls into the well. The dust returns to the earth at it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 11)

Solomon’s ripening was incomplete. For me too, in the second half of life either I will keep to my old way, or open wide to the new.

And God alone allows me to choose well.

(Proverbs 3, Psalm 15, Matthew 5, Luke 8)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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