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Oct 15 21

Heading south

by davesandel

Friday, October 15, 2021 (today’s lectionary)

Heading south

There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops.

The alarm woke me with a giant start, right out of a dream that seemed far more important than it was. We left home about 7 and drove straight south 200 miles through Illinois to Cave-in-Rock, where Pam Clevenger was born and lives still.

She and her husband Gary remodeled a home on the bluffs of the Ohio River. Everything in the house was designed by Pam and built either by Gary or Amish woodworkers from across the river in Kentucky. I sat on their new deck, listened to the barges pushing through the river, felt the warm sun, and fell asleep.

Time and space settle into their familiar places when I’m awake, but in the dreams they are like untamed stallions, and I can just barely stay on their back. Ulysses Grant is moving his armies up and down the Ohio River, winning victory after victory. Old political signs decorate the highway. Time races up and down the years. I go along with it, breathing deep. In the dream the diatribes against Lincoln and Grant mush together with “Pritzker Sucks” and “Trump-Pence” and the church bulletin board: “Americans are free and so is salvation.”

Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins?

Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.

Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.

Do not be afraid.

You are worth more than many sparrows.”

Down here along the river, pick up trucks belch diesel fumes. Same thing up north, but here I feel more threatened and isolated in our little white Prius. We passed a Jeep 4×4 with all the windows down, completely covered with dried mud. Like it had been plucked by a tow truck out of quicksand, just before it disappeared forever. It sat there on the highway shoulder. Down the road a couple young guys with cowboy hats walked toward the Jeep. I bet they had a story.

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more.

I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.

We left Pam’s and drove to Evansville, to Dorothy and Kay’s house. Margaret’s mom and sister have lived together for several years. Dorothy will be 98 on December 27. The three women linked by blood and history talk three blue streaks, and I remember those Navy Angels, jets streaking through the sky. They are happy to be together, and somehow their conversations do not collide.

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you just; exult, all you upright of heart. I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.

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Oct 14 21

Sitting on the couch with John

by davesandel
Thursday, October 14, 2021                           (today’s lectionary)

Sitting on the couch with John

I trust in the Lord, my soul trusts in his word. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchman wait for the dawn.

I realized again yesterday, having catfish for lunch with my brother John, that we are really good friends. He was 65 yesterday, which, regarding newfound privileges, is kind of like becoming 16. Now we can compare our experiences with Medicare!

We both remembered a picture I took of him, sitting up in his pajamas at age 4 or 5, peek-a-booing me from below the sheets. I would have been 11 or so and using my first 35mm camera, the one Dad and I picked out in a Springfield camera store. Probably we had been having a pillow fight in our males-only bedroom at the back of the house where we grew up. He and Karen live there now, after several substantial remodels.

As I sat across the room I looked over at him and thought I saw that same smiling kid boy look he had when he was 5. I know he is just as ticklish now as he was then. He still has a more hilarious happy laugh than anyone else I know.

He gave me a bag of winter caps from seed companies, especially Pioneer caps with a bunch of different designs. Karen was getting things ready to sell or discard. We watched “The Great British Baking Show” for a few minutes. Their three year old grandson Gabe was taking a nap. I felt peaceful as we sat in their living room. Neither John nor I are as active as we used to be. It feels good to just sit and joke and laugh, and be ourselves.

I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord. No one comes to the Father, except through me.

We often express different politics. We certainly have lived in different ways and different places. I collect books, he collects fishing reels.

But we do not express different spiritualities.

What occasion is there for comparison? It is ruled out. On what principle, that of works? No, rather on the principle of faith.

In the course of our own human events, I think John and I have come to a familiar, quiet resting place with God. I think he would like this poem, written from God’s point of view:

A New Creation

I didn’t create you to be grateful.

I didn’t create you to praise me.

I didn’t create you to be my hands to serve others

or to fix what’s wrong in this world.

I created you to share myself.

I cannot be contained.

I cannot be limited.

I created you to enter into the mystery

of life, of living, of me.

I created you as part of the beauty of the universe

and to carry in your soul the essence of all that is.

You have the freedom to claim your essence as mine,

to share in the life that is me.

And you have the freedom to say no,

or not yet, or not so much.

You have, and you will

(remember I know you as well as I know myself).

 So let us continue this journey

with the next steps of patience and kindness –

with each other,

with ourselves. – Clarence Heller

(Romans 3, Psalm 130, John 14, Luke 11)        

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Oct 13 21

Let’s skip over the judgment thing and just be loved

by davesandel
Wednesday, October 13, 2021                       (today’s lectionary)

Let’s skip over the judgment thing and just be loved

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things!

About thirty-five years ago (1987-88) I copied all 16 chapters of the book of Romans (New International Version) onto 3 x 5 cards, laminated them, punched a hole in the corner of each card, and put them all on a ring that I could carry around in my bag. I was a district sales manager for Jacques Seed Company. I drove around all day talking to farmers in my eleven Illinois counties.

Some days I’d prop one of the cards on my steering wheel, and repeat the verses over and over. Once I memorized the first card, I started on the second. But always I’d begin back at the beginning and recite my way up to the card that was in front of me.

This was such an intensive mental experience that I still remember where I was as I worked on a particular part of Romans (although I only got through chapter three). I was learning Romans 2:1 in a demonstration corn plot at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois. I took a break from our sales and information booth.

The sky was blue, the air was crisp and Septembery, and the corn was ready to harvest. Brown leaves brushed my face and my blue Jacques jacket as I walked, alone, down one row and then another, repeating the verses. Over and over.

You therefore, have no excuse … you who pass judgment do the same things!

The psychological clarity of this verse caught me by surprise. A few years earlier I’d completed my master’s degree in counseling, and I didn’t expect the Bible to describe Freudian projection more clearly than Freud had himself. That Paul guy was wise!

These few verses continue to help me renew my commitment to the joy of righteous confession and forgiveness.

Perhaps you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, his forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.

When I begin to “show contempt for the riches,” the first verses of Romans 2 settle me back into faithfulness and help quiet my tendency to judge others. I don’t know about you, but that ugly spirit rises up in me still. I think it’s genetic, but not limited to my own family tree. I think we learned this too effective way of avoidance back in the garden of Eden.

But Eve made me do it!

Here’s a wonderful little poem Garrison Keillor shared on his website the other day:

Mediation

by Kim Stafford

At the dinner table, before the thrown

plate, but after the bitter claim,

in that one beat of silence

before the parents declare war

their child, who until now had been

invisible, but who had learned in school

a catechism, speaks: “Would you like me

to help solve the conflict?” Silence.

They can’t look at each other. A glance

would sear the soul. A wall of fire plots

this Maginot line across the butter plate,

splits salt from pepper, him from her.

So their child speaks: “Three rules, then:

One—you have to let each other finish.

Two—you have to tell the truth. Three—

you have to want to solve the conflict.

If you say yes, we will solve it.

I love you.

What do you say?”

What is causing this family crisis? Both parents are doing what Jesus called out in the Pharisees, those “unseen graves”:

You impose on others burdens hard to carry, but you yourself do not lift a single finger to help them.

And what will resolve this family crisis? The child speaks:

  1. Let each other finish.
  2. Tell the truth.
  3. You have to want to solve the problem. If you say yes, we will solve it.

Their child knows this is true. She (why am I so sure this child is a girl?) speaks from a peace within herself that surpasses understanding. I’ve participated in Ruth Haley Barton’s Transforming Communities for nearly ten years, and we sing a Taize song, “In God Alone,” usually at Vespers or Compline, about this peace. It rises out of today’s psalm, Psalm 62:

Only in God is my soul at rest, from him comes my salvation. Only in God be at rest, my soul, for from him comes my hope.

Listen to this song. Let God give you peace. Rest without judgment in the accepting, firm, unshakable arms of God, and be loved.

(Romans 2, Psalm 62, John 10, Luke 11)        

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Oct 12 21

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands

by davesandel
Tuesday, October 12, 2021                             (today’s lectionary)

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands

My plumber friend Paul drives back and forth from Danville, Illinois every day. He saves every penny he can to pay off his house, on a dead end street which ends in the woods near Stoney Creek, which empties into the Vermilion River not more than a half mile from his home.

There are fancy neighborhoods in Danville, but my friend’s neighborhood is spacious and quiet rather than fancy. Last year he saved twice as much as usual because he couldn’t go out to eat much during Covid. He is now out of debt and very happy.

“If my house was in Champaign it would be a $200,000 house,” he said. In Danville it cost him $50,000.

Did not the maker of your hands and face also make you on the inside? And to clean what is within, be generous to the poor and everything will be clean for you.

I have always admired his work ethic, which I think echoes that of his boss, Mark. Everything he does for us is spit-spot perfect, and then some. When I’m with him I sense the “cleanliness” of his insides. I imagine he is generous to the poor, but I know he is generous to us with his time and his skills.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day pours out the word to day, and night to night imparts knowledge.

Although he has driven the same stretch of interstate every day for 17 years, Paul declares the glory of God with his presence. He strikes me as one who is gentle and easily satisfied, happy with little rather than requiring much. He is a bachelor. He has a dog. He loves the animals that come out of the woods, including a baby fawn this spring which spent day after day around his house, and a giant tortoise, which comes up out of the woods once a year, on the same day each year, perhaps to mate? Paul watches that big guy in awe.

And spending some time with him yesterday I kept comparing his words to the Texas stories of young Jack Deere, one of my favorite Vineyard speakers back in the 90’s, who wrote a book Even in Our Darkness, that revolves around the suicides of his father and his son. I am listening to that book this week, and it seems like no one in the book, including young Jackie himself, can find that satisfaction. Even as newborn Christians he and his friends are working so hard!

Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities of eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that we are without excuse. Although we know God, we neither glorify him nor give thanks to him, and our thinking becomes futile and our foolish hearts are darkened.

I imagine going with Jackie and his friends to Danville, to watch the giant tortoise slide up out of the creek, through the woods, and onto the grass in Paul’s back yard. He could sell tickets; it happens at the same time every year. We could sit there with Paul, silent, smelling the breeze through the trees, and weeping with joy at what we are so privileged to see. Paul the author of Romans might be with us in the clouds, pleased as punch to see Paul the plumber invite his friends to attend this glorying of God.

While claiming to be wise, we became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal Creator God for likenesses of people and things that God himself created.

What on earth is wrong with us? God made that tortoise. God sustains that tortoise year after year in its simple, satisfied life. I would like to sit in a lawn chair beside Paul, and perhaps beside you, too, sip something, be happy I’m alive and just praise God.

(Romans 1, Psalm 19, Luke 11)          

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Oct 11 21

Take courage, put some words out there and listen to what happens next

by davesandel
Monday, October 11, 2021                             (today’s lectionary)

Take courage, put some words out there and listen to what happens next

IF today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.

I am learning to put words out there, into the open space, out loud or on the keyboard, and imagine they are God speaking.

Does it sound like God?

I’ve read the Bible through a few times, I write from the lectionary every day, I practice lectio divina now and then, not often enough. Margaret and I are slowly learning to use Logos 9, and I succumb to book purchases for Logos even more often than I do for my physical bookshelf. There are ways I’ve found to study the word of God, and other ways I’ve found to cherish it.  And in those practices and rhythms, I become more capable of recognizing the words of God among the rest of what my imagination creates.

Of all the gifts God gives me to communicate with Her, my imagination ranks among the top. Psychological techniques like theophostic therapy apply that godly imagination to healing. I want to apply my imagination to loving and knowing and worshipping God, saturated with awe but not saddled with false fear. Wasn’t that exactly what Paul was doing when he wrote the first chapter of Romans?

God promised his Gospel through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, the Gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness.

At Life Community Church in Mahomet yesterday, Greg talked about how important it is to provide an environment for Christians who revisit their long-held beliefs but then discover they don’t hold them any more. “I am no longer a Christian” is a phrase I’ve heard from young and old friends. However tempting it might be to talk them back into their faith, listening to their thoughts in order to understand them is the only thing that makes sense.

And I think God is a better listener than anybody. Tell me more, David. In the conversations my imagination generates with him, that is his favorite phrase. I do not have the sense that he is trying to talk me into anything, although he is quick to point out parts of my argument or confession that aren’t clear or that I hadn’t even considered.

The Lord has made known his salvation. Sing to the Lord a new song. Remember his kindness and his faithfulness. Break into song, sing praise.

In the preface to his book The Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann says, first of all, that “imagination is indeed a legitimate way of knowing.” KNOWING … logos … truth … can I actually apply that idea about imagination to my own relationship with God? Must I wait silently for the voice of God, or can I be more proactive, listening through my own imagination?

This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.

When Jonah walked the streets of Nineveh, God walked before him, and the people repented in droves. The king tore his clothes and put on sackcloth. We don’t do those things much anymore. I/we need to, in Brueggemann’s words, engage in “direct confrontation with presumed, taken-for-granted worlds,” simply to refresh and renew our faith. What better tool to use in this work than our imaginations?

On Saturday I spent several hours with my mom, who sleeps much of the time in her big chair. She watches “Dr. Pol” and reads when she is awake. She read Time Magazine. She read some of my devotions from Margaret’s hospital time that we’ve put into book form. She did some word puzzles. Then she slept again.

I got fried chicken and meatloaf for us from Daphne’s in Lincoln. At 8:45 I gave her the pills she was sure she had already taken, and gradually we made it to her bed.

It was difficult for her to get out of her chair, manage the walker, find her wheelchair, use the bathroom and fall into bed. She was out of breath and exhausted. She gave me her glasses and hearing aids and after catching her breath, she prayed Luther’s Evening Prayer, which she has prayed every day more or less for 99 years.

Into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.

And then Mom sleeps again, this time in her bed, this time until morning. God gives her so much time in the semi-conscious or unconscious space of sleep, when her imagination is less constrained, when her imagination is alive and well and seeking communion with God. I wonder what’s going on between them, and that wondering makes me happy

(Romans 1, Psalm 98, Psalm 95, Luke 11)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Oct 10 21

Facing up, and giving God time to be with me

by davesandel
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 10, 2021                      (today’s lectionary)

Facing up, and giving God time to be with me

How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

Does Jesus mean then, or does he mean now? Is he talking about Life after death after life, or he is referring to this present darkness? And is entering the kingdom of heaven the same as entering the kingdom of God?

My theology tells me that the kingdom of God on earth, now, in this present moment, is very elusive. I fail miserably when I try to squeeze through the eye of a needle. I’m lazy. I’m selfish. I’m a fat cat, and I don’t fit. I hear about the kingdom of heaven, I see a landscape over there and know it’s the kingdom of God, but here I am, on the other side, settling.

My theology also tells me (and I know it might be self-serving) that either before or at least on my deathbed, I will enter that stunning kingdom with ease. Slip through the eye of that needle like greased lightning. God keeps his promises, even when I don’t keep mine. If your enemy is hungry or thirsty, give him something to eat or drink. Whether or not I have been a giver throughout my life, God will be a giver to me.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. Fill us at daybreak with your kindness.

Jesus often requires more from me during my life on earth. (See Matthew 25 for his distinction between sheep and goats.) So I know how wrong I might be in my understanding of the grace of God.

As Jesus set out on a journey a man ran up, knelt down and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “Go and sell all you have, and give to the poor.”

Margaret’s birthday is today. I think she is a “giver,” as is her sister Kay, as opposed to those of us who grew up to become “takers.” I think I am a self-aware “taker,” and I don’t like that about myself. So I suppose it’s in my nature to assume God is a “giver,” and he will give to me.

I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. All good things together came to me in her company.

OK. I will pray.

Lord, I think I am selfish and careless with others. I think I am hardened of heart. And even when I can describe the sin, I continue in it. The description, in fact, seems righteously confessional, and so that gives me space to keep sinning.

Ugly, David. Let’s cut to the chase. You don’t need to take like you think you do. I give you all you need.

Is that supposed to help? I am grateful, sometimes I am even generous, but my heart beats on without remorse, ready to take again. A selfish friend told me once, “You know me, I’ll take anything I can get.” His words could have been mine. What happened? I don’t think I was born like that.

Lots happened, and I was with you every time. I don’t think you knew that I was with you, though. Since I gave you enough capacity to create a world of your own, and put you in a position to do so, you just went ahead. But you didn’t know I was with you.

The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.

OK, OK. I know you are telling me truth, and part of me closes up and will not listen.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Tell me about that part of you, if you can. The part that closes up.

Isn’t that the point? Describing that “part of me” makes me vulnerable, and so I get angry to protect it? I was angry in the crib, when Mom didn’t come to pick me up. She was reading Dr. Spock’s book on parental attentiveness,  engrossed, and she didn’t hear me. How ironic is that, Lord? Her best intentions sent me off into fear and anger.

Tell me more.

Henry Cramer played Rock, Paper, Scissors with me on the school bus. We were in second grade. I lost, and Henry hit me really hard on the arm. I started crying. He started laughing. I turned away from him. And I turned away from you, Lord.

So what I’m saying is that I was there on the bus with you. I felt you turn away. I wept with you, and for you.

Lord, this is what I need. Just to talk and hear you love me. No excuses. Thank you.

There’s more where that came from, David. I love you.

May the gracious care of the Lord our God be ours; may he establish the work of our hands. Oh, yes, establish the work of our hands.

(Wisdom 7, Psalm 90, Hebrews 4, Matthew 8, Mark 10)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Oct 9 21

Between the alpha and the omega

by davesandel
Saturday, October 9, 2021                              (today’s lectionary)

Between the alpha and the omega

When I get home from an ultrasound and blood test (early morning, and it took three pokes), Margaret said, “I had a surprise when I woke up this morning.”

Let the nations bestir themselves and come up to the Valley.

There are only supposed to be three things that go wrong at once, right? That’s what I’ve always heard. This time the plaster is falling off her ceiling directly under a difficult-to-access (read: impossible for a normal person) shower drain upstairs. And … well, of course. I took a shower this morning. I love those morning showers.

The doctor let me go early. Nothing wrong with my aging body, not this time. “Go home and fix your plumbing! Celebrate your wife’s birthday!” Since I’m OK, only two of the three broken-nesses have hit so far: the tree limb on the roof and the broken shower drain.

People crowd upon crowd in the valley of decision; for near is the day of the Lord in the valley of decision.

What will happen next? I woke up at 5 to pee, and then laid down till 6:30, listening to my mind wonder about all the things that could happen next. There is an electrical problem I haven’t fixed completely. In the winter any one of our pipes could burst. The mice will be returning soon for their winter hibernation. The car might have a problem on a trip back and forth to Austin.

Sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withhold their brightness. The Lord roars from Zion, the heavens and the earth quake.

This morning, lying in bed, my mind teemed with possibilities. I thought the merry-go-round of catastrophizing would never end. Now they seem to have disappeared from sight. And it’s Margaret’s birthday!

The Lord is a refuge for his people.

Lying there I do remember thinking, after at least 45 minutes struggling to hang on to my merry horse and mostly failing, that “I can turn toward you, God, or away from you.” I think that’s when I caught a breath, grabbed the reins, and swung back on my gaily colored wooden pony. “Let’s ride!” At 6:30 I got up and took that fateful shower, drove in my quite functional car to the clinic, where everything happened like clockwork and I was given a clean bill of health.

Light dawns for the just, and gladness for the upright of heart. Give thanks to his holy name. The mountains shall drip new wine.

But there is a bit of something. I kind of resist taking a nap. For a long time my dreams at night have been muffled and mushy: lost in a city, can’t find my friend, the car has disappeared even though I know the way and all my devices would show me where I parked, I’ve made plans with Margaret but can’t find her. Always, none of my preparations matter in the least. Always, I am lost.

But Judah shall abide forever and Jerusalem, for all generations.

I still need a nap, whether I’m nervous or not. When I lie down I’ll breathe deeply and ask God to quiet my mind. “I’ll turn toward you, Lord, if you don’t mind.” I’ll breathe again, and that breath too, will start down low and rise up into my lungs.

God knows, there is unfinished business with so much of our Stuff.

But there is nothing you have to finish with me, David. With me, a thousand years are like a day. I am the beginning and the end, and all the days between.

Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.

(Joel 4, Psalm 97, Luke 11)     

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Oct 8 21

By virtue of my wordy prayers

by davesandel
Friday, October 8, 2021                                  (today’s lectionary)

By virtue of my wordy prayers

Taking a shower is mostly a morning joy. Sometimes I’m in a hurry, today I was not. We’ve been in Illinois since Tuesday, and I used our upstairs shower for the first time since May.

Which was not a problem, everything worked. The water was hot, just right. Then I looked up at a window in the roof, a skylight, above the bathroom.

This isn’t a replay of Psycho. I didn’t shriek, but … well, maybe I did. A big limb was sitting on the window, broken off a tree beside the house in one of the several storms Urbana has suffered through in the last few days.

Suddenly I was caught in the “tyranny of the urgent.” Even with many people to see and promises to keep, those important parts of my life suddenly took second place. I couldn’t change much, really, but always too close to the front of my mind was this nasty vision of a big tree limb resting uncomfortably on the roof of our house.

This morning I’ll be taking another shower, and maybe see that the limb is gone? I don’t think so, but I might see that it has cracked the window. Uh oh, I’m getting that Psycho feeling again. This is a fine time to pray that away. My friend Kevin said he gives people advice to pray when things are good, and pray when things are bed. Pray all the time with Thanksgiving. But he forgets to follow his own advice, and then feels really guilty.

Gird yourselves and weep, O man. Come, spend the night in sackcloth. Proclaim a fast, cry to the Lord.

That’s a trap, and it gets sprung on Kevin just at the very end. Instead of seeing his way through to repentant prayer about not praying, he just curls up and feels guilty. God is not doing that to him, and I hope eventually he (and I) learn that down deep inside our souls. We are being ripped off by the devil.

Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion, sound the alarm on my holy mountain.

Thomas Merton says it’s a risky thing to pray, but it’s a risky thing not to pray as well. Merton says to let God pray within me; still, I know how important my words are to the maturing of my will. An active, regular prayer life might become an idol I settle for and therefore no longer seek God, or it might become a beating heart within me that compels me to seek Him, and keep on seeking.

I will give thanks with all my heart, I will declare your wondrous deeds. I will be glad and exult in you, I will sing praise to your name.

This kind of wordy prayer protects my house and my heart from those homeless evil spirits looking for a place to sleep, the ones Jesus talks about in today’s gospel. Like the Rosary and the Jesus Prayer, gratefulness and praise simplify my thoughts about God and sweeten our relationship.

It is by the Finger of God that I drive out demons, and the Kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe.

Margaret’s birthday is tomorrow. It has been 114 days since her heart valves and tissue were replaced. In some ways her recovery has barely begun. In other ways it is remarkably complete. Can we praise God, give thanks, declare his wondrous deeds, and ask for his presence each day and every day? Of course we can. Lord, don’t let either of us forget the important and get caught up in the web of the urgent.

We belong to YOU.

(Joel 1, Psalm 9, John 12, Luke 11)     

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Oct 7 21

Pursue goodness, truth, beauty. Pursue, pursue and never stop

by davesandel
Thursday, October 7, 2021                             (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

Pursue goodness, truth, beauty. Pursue, pursue and never stop

For you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.

In 21st century America praying the Rosary matters more than ever. If you can count your steps, you can count your prayers, right? 10,000 steps, 1000 reps of the Jesus Prayer, the Divine Chaplet, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, the Glory Be’s, and …

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb: Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos), pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Pray for Margaret, Chris, Melissa, Jack, Aly, Marc, Andi, Aki, Miles and Jasper, now at the hours of their death.

Pray for me, now and at the hour of my death.

Pray for pray for pray for pray for. At the hours of our death.

Pray that prayer fifty times and come back tomorrow. Today will be focused on the “luminous mysteries,” and tomorrow will turn toward the sorrows. But Saturday we will rise up in joy, and Sunday pours us out in glory. Rinse and repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Pursue what is good. Never give up.

What the heck? You could pray your day away. And there are lots more prayers, like the ones listed above. You got anything better to do? I always think I have things that have to be done. This is sometimes called the “tyranny of the urgent.” Important as it may be, this kind of prayer is mostly left behind.

And even when I get started on these prayers (including centering prayer, which is a silent meditation that partners up with the wordy ones), I think about everything else except the prayer. I have miles to go, and promises to keep.

Blessed is the man who follows not the way of the wicked nor sits around with them, but instead delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it, day and night. He is like a tree, planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves never fade.

The Rosary is like needing bread and knocking on my friend’s door over and over, maybe even after midnight, until finally my friend gives me some bread. Jesus ends that story very well:

If he does not get up to give you the loaves because of your friendship, he will get up to give you whatever you needs because of your persistence.

Keep on asking, and you will receive.

Keep on seeking, and you will find.

Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

And Jesus is talking about knocking on heaven’s door as much or more than the door of your friend. A simpler way to say this is that God is the parent, and I’m the child. In all these repetitive prayers, God is the parent, and I am the child. I do the praying, God listens.

What father or mother among you would hand a son or daughter a snake when they ask for a fish? Or hand out a scorpion instead of an egg?

When God listens, things happen. But I have to open my mouth and say something, and often my words are better replaced by words written long ago, the same words that might be said by others just down the street, across the country, over the ocean, at all the places where these prayers are fit to print.

If even you, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?

Come, Holy Spirit. Pray for us sinners now and at the hour. Come, Holy Spirit. Oh, the water. Let it run all over me.

(Malachi 3, Psalm 1, Acts 16, Luke 11)          

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Oct 6 21

The last of Jonah’s three days and nights at Nineveh, and it’s a good one

by davesandel
Wednesday, October 6, 2021                         (today’s lectionary)

The last of Jonah’s three days and nights at Nineveh, and it’s a good one

Jonah was greatly displeased.

In the Bible books labeled the Prophets and Minor Prophets, God is the one who is displeased. Or the prophet is displeased with the people. When the prophet is displeased with God, you know something interesting is about to happen.

But Jonah wants to get his words in, and God lets him. Jonah’s point of view might be racist and xenophobic, but he gets to say what he thinks.

God did not carry out the evil he threatened, and Jonah was angry.

“I knew that you are a

gracious and merciful God,

slow to anger,

rich in clemency,

loath to punish.

Jonah put his own skin in the game, at least for the moment.

And now, Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.

God’s response was simple.

Have you reason to be angry, Jonah?

But Jonah didn’t answer. On this second of the three days and nights it would have taken for him to walk through the city and threaten the people, he found a place outside the city where he could watch the sunset.

Jonah built a simple hut, sat in the shade and waited to see what would happen to Nineveh. Like  atomic scientists watching their bomb explode in the Arizona desert from a supposedly safe distance, Jonah watched. Will the city blow up? Will the people come streaming out the gates, writhing in pain? Will he just sit there in the noonday sun, and watch no thing happen? He kind of thought the third. But God – Jonah’s good God – was with him during all that time.

The Lord God provided a gourd plant that grew up over Jonah’s head giving him shade, relieving him of any discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about this plant.

It’s Saturday, but Sunday’s comin’. Jonah woke up early on the third day, hoping to see a mushroom cloud in front of him, shining in the dawn. No dice. What he saw instead was an ugly old worm chewing on his gourd plant, and as he watched, it withered.

In the rising sun God sent a burning east wind. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head. Jonah asked for death again. “I would be better off dead than alive.”

Jonah does not really mean it. He’s just miserably hot, and mad at God besides. Jonah is like all of us immortal mortals. Anne Rice, in an interview about her book Interview with a Vampire, said of herself and all of her readers, “It’s very difficult to realize that we are going to die, and day to day we have to think and move as though we are immortal. A vampire transcends time, yet he can be destroyed, go mad and suffer, so the book is intensely about the human dilemma.”

And Jonah cannot bluff God. God asks him again, “Do you have reason to be angry over the plant?” Jonah says yes, but then clams up. God gets the last word.

YOU are concerned about the plant, which cost you nothing, which came up in a night and then perished the next. I am concerned about Nineveh, and the 120,000 persons who live there, who cannot distinguish their right hand from their left … not to mention the many cattle.

Was he grinding Jonah down, insisting he see a larger perspective, discard his bias and prejudice and thoughtlessness? That may happen to readers, it certainly happens to me each time I read it. Jonah, on the other hand, is the kind of adversary God might have to wrestle with till dawn, and leave him with a bad limp to remember him by.

Jonah needs a simple prayer to get past the strong emotions that lead him astray. He needs what Jesus gave the disciples.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

That’s the prayer Jonah needs. Of course he must add the supplications and the cautions, but that first part, just say that over and over, Jonah, 5000 times and then come back tomorrow.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. (Do you hear me, Jonah?)

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Along with the journey, those three days and nights at Nineveh would have changed my life. I hope that happened to Jonah too. Our pretend immortality is nothing compared to the real thing.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

(Jonah 4, Psalm 86, Romans 8, Luke 11)        

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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