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Aug 15 22

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord

by davesandel

Monday, August 15, 2022

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

The warfare between God and Satan, which Jesus shows John in his Revelation, takes my breath away. This is no ordinary death; it is the death of death itself, and it begins in the heavens with the Queen of Heaven, Mary herself, standing strong on the front line, as Satan attempts to destroy life.

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. And she did give birth, to a son, destined to rule all the nations. Her child was caught up to God and his throne.

In her own humanity, she will not die. Encircled and attacked by evil and its minions, she flees to a place prepared by God, deep in the desert, the place Jesus knew from the beginning and to which he returned after he was baptized.

Mary listened to the thunderclaps above her as a storm threatened to deluge the desert. She felt no fear. She heard God’s power deep within the clouds.

Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Anointed One.

We seek solace in the company of Mary. Our God reigns, Jesus her Son with Jireh and Rapha, our provision and our healing, our Father. I fall down on my knees and then my face, weeping with both thankfulness to be made a man and repentance for compromising myself in so many ways. Mary watches in patience, recognizing her humanity in mine even as she knows what God has done in her.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

Like Mary, G. K. Chesterton recognizes and exults in the paradoxes of Christianity (chapter 6 of Orthodoxy):

In one way Man was to be haughtier than he had ever been before; in another way he was to be humbler than he had ever been before. In so far as I am Man I am the chief of creatures. In so far as I am a man I am the chief of sinners … When one came to think of ONE’S SELF, there was vista and void enough for any amount of bleak abnegation and bitter truth … Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious. The Church was positive on both points. One can hardly think too little of one’s self. One can hardly think too much of one’s soul. (p. 61-62)

As was Mary, we too are given great wonders to behold. Unlike Mary, all too often we don’t see God’s magical forest through the trees, and in exhaustion, we faint dead away, thinking we have been abandoned by our Maker when He is really waiting with us through the dark night of our soul.

We need our Solemnity today, for it to lift us up above the canopy so we can catch a glimpse of the Castle above the trees.

(Revelation 11-12, Psalm 45, 1 Corinthians 15, Luke 1)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Aug 14 22

Just do it, like Jeremiah

by davesandel

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 14, 2022

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

Just do it, like Jeremiah

Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us.

I, Jeremiah, feel very vulnerable today. But that’s nothing new. Everything around me is dangerous.

The princes took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Prince Malchiah, letting him down with ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.

The mud clung to my sandals, and then as the rope went slack, my feet and legs slipped further into the slime. No water here. No food here. I can’t move my legs back and forth more than an inch. No movement here. I am caught in the cistern, trapped by my enemies. No light here. Oh Lord, what are you thinking?

The country has been sacked and there’s no food for anyone. We are going to be carried off to Babylon, exiled from our country. You say it will be for 70 years, and I tell everyone what you said, but no one wants to believe it. The king was curious, at least.

But he could have stopped this kidnapping.

None of my enemies even seem to notice how this is also what happened to Joseph long before, when we were all saved when God’s avenging angel passed over the houses in Egypt, the houses with lamb’s blood on the lintel. We look back into the past for our traditions. Why can’t we look into the future with our hope? God’s vision extends from alpha to omega. Mankind moves through suffering into acceptance into peace. We don’t have to hold so tight to our own skins. We are as natural as the wheat, which must die to live again.

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. I have come to set the earth on fire!

I will not complain to you, O Lord, or wish I had been born in a more peaceful age. I will follow you into every inferno. You seduced me, and I was seduced. My life is yours.

A court official spoke to King Hezekiah. These men have been at fault. Jeremiah will die of famine in the cistern, for there is no more food in the city. And the king ordered that four men draw the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he should die.

Later in the second millenia (or third?) Richard Rohr wrote, of those living then and those living now.

When primal knowing is wounded or missing, an immense doubt is often created about our own and God’s foundational goodness. Many people live with this doubt, and religious experience only comes to them with great difficulty. Most people don’t know how to surrender to God. How can we surrender unless we believe there is Someone trustworthy out there to surrender to?

Often we don’t learn this trust completely enough from our parents.

When we inevitably begin to see ourselves through eyes that compare, judge, and dismiss, then we need spirituality to help heal the brokenness of our identity and our world.

Jeremiah knew his business. His relationship with Yahweh held him high in every moment, out of the mud, out of the terror, out of the whirlwind. His “spirituality” taught him the safety of surrender to God, and although his complaints rang loud and his circumstances rarely comfortable, his obedience carried him through.

(Jeremiah 38, Psalm 40, Hebrews 12, John 10, Luke 12)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Aug 13 22

Breaking bread with Jesus

by davesandel

Saturday, August 13, 2022

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

Breaking bread with Jesus

Fathers have eaten green grapes, thus their children’s teeth are on edge.

Family problems are nothing new. Fathers bless and nurture their children, but they also cause problems for them. Since Adam, we’ve had to accept this. Family fail as much as they flourish. And so do all of us, products as we are of … families.

My friend, who has some important issues with her own dad, talked to God in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago, in a hotel room. She had put an unfinished loaf of bread in the refrigerator.

She turned over, and awoke. She felt God’s presence in the room, along with her children and husband, sleeping.

Come. Wake up and eat from the loaf of bread. And let’s talk.

But if I open the refrigerator the noise will wake someone up.

She opened it anyway and no one awoke, and she ate some of the bread. She began to speak in her mind of her fear and jealousy, and the guilt she felt about them. She felt unworthy and broken.

God, why am I so messed up?

You have gifts you aren’t using. Satan is after your soul.

Well, that is very scary!

I have you in the palm of my hand. I have called you by name. You are mine.

Okay. What can I do?

Tell of your forgiveness.

This command frightened her. She didn’t want to talk about this stuff. And did she even feel God’s forgiveness?

How?

Read Psalm 32. You are my hiding place. You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Is it really you, God?

I have all you need.

Reading through the Bible in a year, she remembered verses she read recently in Isaiah 55. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, says the Lord.” She knew God’s thoughts about her were not the thoughts she had about herself. God’s thoughts “yield seed for the sower and bread for the eater.”

Bread for the eater!

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.

Be led forth!

She felt safe, but in the morning she was afraid to speak. And so she felt guilty again.

Later she had an insight, another word about the dilemma she seemed to be in.

Your sin is no big deal, but your forgiveness is. Like the woman bleeding for eight years: in the moment she was forgiven, none of that mattered. Only the moment of her healing ever mattered again. Let your forgiveness be unto you like her healing. Nothing else has any power over you.

Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord God. Return and live!

As David prayed, so did she. And so do I:

Create in me a clean heart, O God. And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation. Create in me a clean heart, O God.

My friend has several children, including a young baby girl. She holds her baby close, and the baby sleeps. She nurses her, and the baby is satisfied.

Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray.

She knows how much Jesus loves her baby, even as she struggles to remember how much He loves her. But in moments like these, her faith is renewed. God’s love pours over her like a waterfall, as she steps under it at last.

Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom. Alleluia!

(Ezekiel 18, Psalm 51, Matthew 11, Matthew 19)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Aug 12 22

Children of the Heavenly Father

by davesandel

Friday, August 12, 2022

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

Children of the Heavenly Father

Receive the word of God, not as the word of men, but, as it truly is, the word of God.

I sometimes repent of my first-born son status, which entitles me to whatever I want, or so it seems. That’s not true. When I watch others, especially children, take advantage of their position I realize how often I do the same thing.

In my conversations with God I bring this up. God’s patience leads Her response. She waits for me to finish. She agrees that I can be far too quick to take advantage of situations or of other people. But God never seems to be in a hurry to discipline me. Consequences will do that. And when she reminds me that I’m not in charge of anything, and I don’t know what is best, and that I won’t wither away if I don’t get my way right now, I believe her utterly.

I watch Andi, who was the baby of our own three children, parent her two boys. She listens to them, she gives them great space to find their own timing and their own way, and she tells them what she wants. When they don’t listen, or act on what she wants, she says it again. Sometimes she raises her voice. But always I recognize her patience and her love under whatever words she uses.

I am less patient and more firm, and sometimes I think my love for friends and family gets obscured. It’s when they have gone that I feel remorse, when what I said or did begins to sound harsh in my ears.

Listened

I listened for what God wanted me to know,

and I heard, “Yes.”

Only yes. Always yes.

Yes to what I hope to do.

Yes to my very existence this moment.

Yes to my humanness, pettiness, generosity and smile.

Yes to whatever questions I have and yes to my answers.

Yes to how my presence affects the world,

to how I complete it and to how I make it broken.

And then I heard a bit more.

“Say yes to the rest of the world with me.” – Clarence Heller

God’s business is the joy of the whole earth. God’s “yes” is for every one of us. Austin’s metropolitan area grew 84% in twenty years to 2,295,303. Every person in shouting distance is invited to say “YES!”

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Howard Beale’s invitation in the movie Network for us to all yell out our windows is so tempting. And when we do it together, it feels like something big and good is going to happen.

But it doesn’t.

Not the way it does when a bunch of us say, “YES!” And I don’t think we even need to yell.

We went swimming and had pizza with Mike and Diane, Miles and Jasper yesterday. I watched Diane and Mike say “yes” often to all of us. I noticed how comfortable we all felt. I realized I can learn a lot of about “yes,”, inside myself and in how I speak. Yes, I can. Yes, we can. Yes. Yes.

Barack had at least one word very right.

(Ezekiel 16, Isaiah 12, 1 Thessalonians 2, Matthew 19)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Aug 11 22

In the school of the Holy Spirit

by davesandel

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Memorial of Saint Clare, Virgin

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

In the school of the Holy Spirit

In anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back his whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.

Saint Clare, best friend of Francis of Assisi, had much to forgive. Her father and brothers did violence to all around her, determined to drag her home from her chosen life alone with God. She clung to the altar and would not leave.

Obeying God sometimes involves disobeying men, even parents. But not always, perhaps not even often. Jacques Phillippe has written several small books, including In the School of the Holy Spirit.

Of course we must obey God rather than men, but it would be an illusion to think we were capable of obeying God if we are incapable of obeying other people. The reason for this is that the same obstacle has to be overcome in both cases: attachment to ourselves and to our own will. If we can only obey people when it happens to please us, we are fooling ourselves about being able to obey the Holy Spirit. If we are never prepared to renounce our own will (our ideas, our tastes, our attachments) for other people, what guarantee is there that we’ll be able to do so when God asks us to? (p. 32)

 

Must we even sometimes forgive God? God allows evil when I want to crush the evildoer. God’s patience with others, and with myself, extends far beyond what I think of as appropriate. I’m grateful, and frustrated, all at once. Better that we be “handed over to the torturers until we pay back the whole debt.” OK, God, practice what you preach.

But then how could I earn what I need to pay it back?

God intends his grace and forgiveness to be my teachers, as well as my salvation. Learn from the best, and do likewise. A few willing students, adopting this skill, change the world around them.

Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house; they have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear … while they look on, dig a hole in the wall and pass through it; while they look on, shoulder your burden and set out in the darkness; cover your face that you may not see the land, for I have made a sign for the house of Israel.

Could Ezekiel make a difference? I think so. At least he prepared some of the people for their impending exile. God was pleased with his obedience, even as the house of Israel as a whole was “rebellious.”

And even as God was using him as a “sign,” Ezekiel was learning obedience to the God who did not destroy the rebels. God’s vision is not limited by present evil. He does not allow his anger to rip and tear. Always there is the hope for future repentance. Jacques Phillippe calls our response to this “obedience to events.”

We are not being asked to consent to evil, but to consent to the mysterious wisdom of God who permits evil. Our consent is not a compromise with evil but the expression of our trust that God is stronger than evil. This is a form of obedience that is painful but very fruitful. (p. 33)

 

Reading today’s Psalm 78 I wonder if I’m wrong about God’s long-suffering:

God abandoned his people to the sword and was enraged against his inheritance. Do not forget the works of the Lord!

Both messages, of unconditional grace and God’s anger acted-out, pour pell-mell out of the Bible. Richard Rohr quotes Thomas Aquinas who said, “Whatever is received, is received according to the mode of the receiver.” (Naked Now, appendix 1) But it never seems right to ignore certain stories and put others on a pedestal.

What is truth? Pursuing tentative answers to this question is a requirement for human life. Jacques Philippe’s book In the School of the Holy Spirit helps. It gives me tools and direction.

(Ezekiel 12, Psalm 78, Psalm 119, Matthew 18)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Aug 10 22

Considerable treasure

by davesandel

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

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

Considerable treasure

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. If it dies, it produces much fruit.

Hospitals and clinics abound in Austin, and we grains of wheat take our turns at lengthening our earthly lives. It was our turn yesterday.

We took Margaret for an echocardiogram. By we, I mean Miles and Jasper and me. We brought our $30 plaid-seat wheelchair and took turns riding it around the five floors of the hospital clinic. Miles took pictures of all the pictures on the clinic walls. We rode up and down the glass walled elevators and met a few other kids.

Margaret’s echo lasted about an hour. After she was finished, we drove by our friend’s house nearby and looked for the community pool where she is taking us tomorrow. We couldn’t find it, so we used our computer’s Google Earth drone when we got home – there it is!

Being booklovers, we are gradually gathering a library’s worth of kids’ books. Monday we found a sidewalk library and pulled into the driveway. We dropped off two books but found four more. Margaret has been reading books to Miles and Jasper for the last hour.

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

We kept the syringes and tubes Margaret used to inject antibiotic last summer, and now the boys suck water in and squeeze water out of the five syringes we have left. Sometimes the water gets everywhere. Usually they are kind of careful, self-contained. Do you believe that? Maybe not so often, actually.

God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.

Saint Lawrence gets a personal Feast because he offered his Roman police and prefect the most valuable treasure of the church. They did a sweep looking for gold, and Lawrence asked them to let him gather it for them. A couple days later he brought hundreds of poor men, women and children into the church. The soldiers asked what was going on.

“I brought our most valuable treasure, the people.” Lawrence was martyred for his trouble.

He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor, his righteousness endures forever.

I imagine Lawrence played with the children of his parish every day, reminded by the kiddos that God’s world exists now, always in the now. That is certainly what I am learning. Together they learned God’s sacrament of the present moment. Together they pursued God and chased each other, playing tag, hide and seek, and falling on their knees now and then to pray. Such a good life they must have lived together.

Lawrence was tied to a hot gridiron and burned. I hope the kids didn’t have to watch. But after awhile of slow roasting, Lawrence said, “I am well done on this side. Turn me over!”

The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

(2 Corinthians 9, Psalm 112, John 8, John 12)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Aug 9 22

Ezekiel the shepherd

by davesandel

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

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

Ezekiel the shepherd

Be not rebellious like this House, but open your mouth and eat what I shall give you.

And in my silence, in my youth, in my house, I shuddered and fell back on the bed. This was not a dream. Dust motes blew around in the corner. My dog whimpered and ran out the door. Even my cat, still as a summer day in the desert, eyes wide, looked at me.

Expectantly.

It was then I saw a hand stretched out to me, holding a scroll, written, which the Lord God unrolled before me. Written on it was lamentation and wailing and woe!

My friends made a scroll for me a few days ago when I returned from the hills, and it said in many colors, “WELCOME!” I laughed when they unrolled that scroll. We belonged to a happy village and it was great to be back with them. They had nothing but hope for the future.

This scroll was so different. It frightened me. I watched my warm black cat, Felopsis. She and I both arched our backs. God’s words felt nothing like a warm welcome, or a hopeful smile, or a sweet bowl of milk. Laced with spikes and razors, DO NOT DRINK. I sat up again. An imaginary string pulled my head toward the ceiling and I sat up very very straight.

God spoke. Son of man, eat what is before you; eat this scroll and then go to speak to the house of Israel.

This was not an invitation to accept or refuse. Here I am Lord, send me. In the pasture with my dad’s sheep I prayed just that prayer, over and over. Our forefather Isaiah was a young man once. God came and filled his mouth with words. Now a hundred years later in Babylon, is God filling up my own mouth now?

Feed your belly with this scroll I am giving you. So I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. And the Lord God said, “Son of man, go now. Go to the house of Israel and speak my words to them.”

With the sheep one night in the shadows, as the fire fell into darkened embers, I sat up suddenly on my sleeping robe. A tiny bleating voice caught my ear. My friend Azariah told me when he had lost a lamb. He tied himself to a strong vine and climbed out into the chasm to reach her. She shied away, he steadied himself and sang her song. Then she came to him. He took her home.

Azariah’s story rang in my ears. I stood up and listened again, and followed the sound, and in the darkest part of the pasture one lamb cried. I whispered to her and she looked at me, and she came running to me, and I took her home.

Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever RECEIVES one child such as this in my name receives me.

I knew a feral cat once, who lived out of her shadow and would not let anyone touch her. Many of my neighbors refused to look at her, or feed her, or give her milk. That frightened cat hid in the dirt, scrawny and starving.

I wept one night for this foolish cat. I even prayed for her. I asked God to bring peace into her dirty house. Then I left her milk and relaxed in God’s joy. I wished her well.

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. Their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.

God is going to give me words. I will be a shepherd of sheep no longer, but a messenger from God for men.

(Ezekiel 2, Psalm 119, Matthew 11, Matthew 18)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Aug 8 22

My own cloud of Dominican sisters

by davesandel

Monday, August 8, 2022

Memorial of Saint Dominic, Priest

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

My own cloud of Dominican sisters

A stormwind came from the north, a huge cloud with flashing fire enveloped in light, from the midst of which something gleamed like glowing metal. Within it were figures resembling four living creatures whose form was human. But each of them had four faces and four wings.

But I think of five living creatures.

Some of my best friends are Dominican spiritual directors in Springfield, Illinois. So when Memorial Day for Saint Dominic rolls around each year, they are who I think of: Sr. Barb, Sr. Melanie and Sr. Margaret Therese, as well as Sr. Anita and Sr. Sharon on Jubilee Farm. I don’t remember seeing them in their mostly unworn white habits and black scapulars, but in their street clothes, and their farm clothes. They look just like you and me.

But they don’t think like you and me. One of my favorite stories is about a disagreement, which ended after their facilitator sent them off to be alone and pray, here and there in the Springfield, IL motherhouse, for an hour. When they returned they came quickly to agreement. And this was not particularly unusual. Their prayer bears the fruit of peace.

He has lifted up the horn of his people. Be this his praise from all his faithful ones, all the people close to him.

Sr. Barb has a robust sense of humor, and patience beyond belief. When I told her I was visiting the Abbey of Gethsemani in central Kentucky, she said I had to visit the church near her undergraduate college in Springfield, KY, because it had the most awful Catholic art she had ever seen. I visited. She was right.

Sr. Melanie was my first spiritual director, trained with the Jesuits in Canada and living for years at Jubilee Farm. She sat with me in her rocking chair, she laughed at my bad jokes and introduced me to Matthew Fox, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan and Ilia Delio, none of whom are considered standard Catholic fare, they are far too liberal. Worked for me. Fox’s Original Blessing gave me permission to see God’s blessing instead of God’s curse at the dawn of human life. His “Appendix B” at the back of that book rights my course year after year.

At Jubilee Farm, just a couple of miles from their house, Jack and Aly let Sr. Anita take them in hand and lead them into the alpaca barn. She helped them overcome their fear of petting those tall alpacas. She also let them collect eggs from the henhouse. We hiked down the hill to the labyrinth the sisters had cut into their pasture, and I admired their gorgeous garden. Not just a farmer, but also a potter and craftsman, Sr. Anita has two sales each year of her creations.

Long before Pope Francis published his second encyclical, Laudato Si (Praise Be to You) on ecology, climate change and the condition of the Earth, Sr. Sharon was talking about it. In 2008 she wrote, “The work of the preacher is not so much about healing Earth as it is about proclaiming the non-negotiable truth that unless Earth is healthy, we humans cannot be.” In lectures she gives around the country, the co-founder of Jubilee Farm does not waver on this point.

Like the rainbow which appears in the clouds on a rainy day was the splendor that surrounded him. Such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

I remember Sr. Margaret Therese best of all, because in December the year before she died, she and I shared children’s stories. Not just about Christmas, although that’s how we got started, sharing Christmas memories at the group meeting of spiritual directors that month. We brought goodies, and we told stories. Sr. Margaret, who always came in a wheelchair, made me laugh, as she did every month. Long before I decided we must be on the same spiritual wavelength. She talked about Patricia Polacco, children’s book author from Michigan, and her books Christmas Tapestry and Firetalking.

It was snowing outside the next day when we met with Sr. Margaret in the beautiful lobby of the Dominican motherhouse. I brought books, and she brought books. We drove home through the snow, and I checked out every Patricia Polacco book at the Urbana and Champaign libraries. In the months that followed we shared many books and many stories. Then she passed away, falling away into heaven, flying away, and I often miss her mischievous smile.

Jesus said to Simon, “Go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to the collectors, for me and for you.”

Watching, as perhaps she is at just this moment, I think Sr. Margaret is laughing.

(Ezekiel 1, Psalm 148, 2 Thessalonians 2, Matthew 17)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Aug 7 22

Land where our fathers died

by davesandel

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 7, 2022

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

Land where our fathers died

The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine. Our soul waits for the Lord.

According to The Face of Rural America, a 1976 bicentennial publication of the Department of Agriculture, the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, is made up of 2.3 billion acres of land. Half of that land is used to produce crops and livestock. Another third of the nation’s total land area, including Alaska, is forested.

What’s left is mostly urban areas, which are growing at the rate of about 1 million acres each year. That’s about the size of Phoenix, LA and Houston combined.

This is a huge country!

Famine in the rest of the world has barely touched the United States of America. Because of this our gratitude has sometimes degenerated into entitlement, unless we are the ones who actually run the combines and butcher the meat into pieces for the grocery store. Even then … most of us rarely call our home the promised land.

Abraham, by faith, sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents, for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.

Because we expect rather than appreciate, we also forget that we die too. Not from famine, probably, but certainly often from overwork, from walking to and fro on the face of the earth, attending everyone and everything except our Source. An ancient sage said that:

In secret the holy children of the good were offering sacrifice and putting into effect with one accord the divine institution.

She was talking about the celebration of Passover, and each week’s reminder, Sabbath. Shabat. A day of rest and gratitude.

Celebrating my life in these rhythms allows me to also celebrate my death. I don’t go go go go all the time and then go again the next day every day until the end of time. And as I gradually remember that, I recognize the beauty of each breath, rather than expecting them to last forever. The future is less about plans than about acceptance. Hope springs out of joy, not fear.

Jesus couldn’t tell us this often enough.

Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.

These are the words of a man who celebrated his Sabbath every week, and who prayed every day, and whose Father spoke to him, and who passed on the love of his Father to us.

Sell your belongings and give to the poor. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, for you have an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.

This requires death here in the world, death as a most lovely part of life. The wheat ripens, and so do we.

Be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.

Mary Oliver died three years ago. As she got older … as she lived 14 years after her partner Molly died, she thought more about death. This is nothing new. Abraham too, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of us gradually come to terms.

maybe death

isn’t darkness, after all,

but so much light

wrapping itself around us— as soft as feathers—

that we are instantly weary

of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes,

not without amazement,

and let ourselves be carried,

as through the translucence of mica,

to the river

that is without the least dapple or shadow—

that is nothing but light—scalding, aortal light—

in which we are washed and washed

out of our bones. – Mary Oliver, from “White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field”

 After awhile there is nothing much left to say, but always just one more breath, one more breath, Sabbath after Sabbath, learning the art of loving from the Maker of Love, until the breath becomes air, and we fly away.

(Wisdom 18, Psalm 33, Hebrews 11, Matthew 24, Luke 12)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Aug 6 22

Bathroom transfiguration

by davesandel

Saturday, August 6, 2022

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

Bathroom transfiguration

While Jesus was praying his face and clothing became dazzling white. Moses and Elijah appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions became fully awake and saw this. A cloud came and Moses and Elijah entered the cloud. “This is my beloved Son; listen to him,” a voice spoke from the cloud. And the disciples fell silent.

We call this moment on the mountain “transfiguration,” when Jesus set out on the last part of his ministry – his mission to Jerusalem to be arrested, convicted, and crucified. The image Peter and his friends saw was not that of the Jesus they knew, but of Jesus in heaven.

His clothing was bright as snow, and the hair on his head as white as wool. His throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire. A surging stream of fire flowed out from where he sat. The court was convened and the books were opened.

Later Peter wrote of his experience.

We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him, and now we possess the altogether reliable prophetic message. We will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

And there are many transfigurations in our lives, brought to mind by the story of Jesus, when we are “made more beautiful or elevated.”

For years we have added bidets on our toilets, ever since Dr. Mercola sold Margaret on the idea, and then she sold me. So when we moved (mostly) to Austin, we installed bidets on our two apartment toilets right away.

They work great. The water pressure is high, and so they shoot out a strong stream of water. Generally that stream is contained (to put it politely). But when no one is sitting there, and the knob gets turned, well … whammo! In our bathroom the stream hits the mirror and then floods the counter, and whatever happens to be sitting on the counter. It all happens fast.

Miles has been fascinated ever since we’ve been here. But he’s a little nervous about actually using the bidet. Jasper is learning to use the toilet himself, and as a newly minted three-year-old, he’s pretty proud. The day after we got here he stood up and did his work, then turned the bidet knob and watched the flood. I hadn’t put my dop kit stuff away yet, and there were several other things on the counter.

Miles laughed. I laughed, kind of. Jasper laughed. I cleaned up the water. We reminded Jasper what the bidet was for, and how it worked. He didn’t say anything.

Later in the afternoon, Jasper had to pee again. I was helping him this time. He stood down off his stool, and as I walked away he turned the bidet on again. And I turned it off. Surprised. Jasper is plenty mischievous, but not in kind-of in-your-face, destructive ways like this.

The next day we were peeing again. And he asked me, “Grandpa, how do you flush this toilet?”

Aahh!

I pointed to the flush lever. “Right up here, Jasper.” I touched the bidet knob. “Did you think this was how you flushed?”

“Yes, Grandpa.” He didn’t smile, he didn’t laugh. He just said, “Yes.”

In that simple moment I realized and remembered Jasper’s innocence and essential holiness. My picture of him was transfigured.

And I think this kind of thing happens all the time. God makes all things beautiful, all things good.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.

(Daniel 7, Psalm 97, 2 Peter 1, Matthew 17, Luke 9)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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