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Aug 5 22

Naming the bird

by davesandel

Friday, August 5, 2022

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


Naming the bird

Mary Oliver, poet and friend of the world, wrote an essay entitled “Bird.” (from Owls and Other Fantasies, p. 41-45)

On a December morning, two years ago, I brought a young, injured black-backed gull home from the beach. It was, in fact, Christmas morning, as well as bitter cold, which may account for my act.

Mary knew as well as anyone that humans rescuing wounded animals, especially birds, rarely works out well. But she brought him home anyway. Her partner welcomed him too. They knew you should never name a rescue animal, so likely to die.

They named him “Bird.” It was Christmas!

His eyes sparkled. We gave him a stuffed toy—a lion as it happened—and he would peck the lion’s red nose very gently, and lean against him while he slept.

Mary slept well too, as her new friend slept with his friend. The big red lion. The soft white-headed gull. Mary, learning her own art of loving. And seeing through her own eyes, what there was for her to see.

He was, of course, a piece of the sky. His eyes said so. This is not fact, this is the other part of knowing something, when there is no proof, but neither is there any way toward disbelief. Imagine lifting the lid from a jar and finding it filled not with darkness but with light. Bird was like that. Startling, elegant, alive.

Along they went living in their Atlantic Ocean home, hearing the waves all the twelve days of Christmas, joined by Bird for Twelfth Night, happy to be with them.

But no matter how hard I try to tell this story, it’s not like it was. He was a small life but elegant, courteous, patient, responsive, as well as very injured. And there is this certainty about muscles; they need to be exercised. And this was an enterprise in which he could no longer, to any useful extent, engage. At the same time he was gaining in attentiveness and eating more than sufficiently, he was growing weaker.

Isn’t this just like the rest of us, getting stronger and weaker at the same time?

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Surely Mary and her partner Molly recognized themselves in their friend Bird.

Was he in pain? Our own doctor, who came to see him, did not think so. Did we do right or wrong to lengthen his days? Even now we do not know. Sometimes he was restless. Then I would take him with me into the room where I write, and play music—Schubert, Mahler, Brahms. Soon he would become quiet, and, dipping his head, would retire into the private chamber of himself. But the rough-and-tumble work of dying was going on, even in the quiet body.

There were coming-ins and going-outs. January turned into February, and the cold winter persisted, sometimes in sunny stillness, occasionally in wild Atlantic storms. Snow fell upon snow.

It was late February when I came downstairs, as usual, before dawn. Then returned upstairs, to M. The sweep and play of the morning was just beginning, its tender colors reaching everywhere. “The little gull has died,” I said to M., as I lifted the shades to the morning light.

Mary’s story of her friend Bird has come to an end. Mary knew her Bible. In her lifetime she learned the nature of sacrifice and that God desired mercy more.

Just how much can I live my life that way?

What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?

Mary Oliver put that in other words in one of her most famous poems, “The Summer Day:”

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?

(Nahum 2, Deuteronomy 32, Matthew 5, Matthew 16)

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Aug 4 22

Houseboating in the heat

by davesandel

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest

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

Houseboating in the heat

I have been drinking a lot of water! And this afternoon Margaret and Andi talked in the air conditioning while Miles, Jasper and I played in the apartment pool for awhile. Water in the desert!

In the heat of afternoon we took long naps. Alexa tells me that, at 8:10 pm, it’s 98 degrees outside. Driving to the airport I saw several work crews pouring concrete on highway construction sites, working under various lights and in constant danger of being hit by speeding cars. But they are getting themselves and the concrete away from the scorching sun.

In India, my friend Chris told me that half the working population works outside. And although we are suffering at 105, it’s even hotter there.

I appreciate the desert imagery in Jeremiah and Isaiah, and the gift God gives his people – gifts of water, and milk, and wine, and shade under the tree. Our air conditioning shortcut won’t last forever. We will need God’s liquid gifts sooner rather than later.

I visited Las Vegas, New Mexico in March and really enjoyed my time there. Two days ago they had less than 50 days of drinking water left, after a forest fire contaminated the river they draw their water from.

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

As the sun burns through the atmosphere hotter than ever, I think of Jonah under the broom tree, sweating it out with God. He wasn’t happy with God’s generosity to Jonah’s enemies. He tried to claim God for himself and his people, but God would have none of it.

I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall return to you.

But God’s intentions didn’t include the retribution Jonah expected, not after the people of Nineveh repented and tore their clothes and wept. They didn’t try to appease God, they just recognized their selfishness, idolatry and sin. Perhaps God was tired of the Israelites’ conceit, and here was a people falling down in shame.

For you are not pleased with sacrifices; should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

For the last twenty years my friend Shannon has helped coordinate a monthly guys get-together called Houseboat. For the first hour or so, lots of guys jump in the water and talk while they float around.

“We had an exceptionally rich HB Tuesday night for some reason! Guys who haven’t been in a while, new guys, deep check-in, prayers for physical and emotional healing, good connection time all around.”

Jesus admonished Peter. “You are an obstacle to me! You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

A big reason Houseboat works is a noticeable lack of “conceit” in the regulars, the guys who have been showing up for years. They show they know they are sinners too. Jonah might have a hard time at that meeting, expecting to meet Pharisees but finding publicans instead. Texas hubris makes many people, places, and times here a little too big, a little too special, but the folks at Houseboat laugh and refuse to play that game.

(Jeremiah 31, Psalm 51, Matthew 16)

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Aug 3 22

At least two paths to Texas

by davesandel

Wednesday, August 3, 2022  

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

At least two paths to Texas

Thus says the Lord: the people that escaped the sword have found favor in the desert.

Margaret met a man from Afghanistan, who pushed her wheelchair through the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport. A year ago he was a driver for the US Embassy in Kabul. On August 30, 2021 he and his eleven family members were among those evacuated to the United States.

They were flown to Dallas, and “dumped.” In those times of emergency, nothing had been prepared for them. He tracked down a couple of relatives and gradually they scraped their way into American life. But his wife speaks no English and has no Afghan peers to talk to during her long days while her husband pushes a wheel chair around the airport for wages and tips.

In his mid-50’s, Margaret thought. He dressed well and his posture made her think of a quiet, successful businessman. He pushed her chair onto the Skylink train. She made it to her next plane in plenty of time. She gave him a large tip, and he pushed it into his pocket without looking.

I spent the day driving, breakfast in Tyler at the beginning with my friend Casey, who tomorrow will begin a state job chaplaining paroled Texas prisoners. Presently, he preaches several Sundays a month and helps his mom, an artist and art teacher, with her painting. Her hands shake too much for her to hold her brush steady, so she stands behind him while Casey sits at her easel with her brush in hand, and she tells him what to do. She is tall and very thin and uses a walker. Her words are clear.

This is better than Bob Ross. He’s on the other side of the TV screen, but Casey’s mom is right behind him. When he makes a mistake she does NOT swat the back of his head. She didn’t even do that when he was a child. She is and was a sweetheart in Casey’s life. He left an Episcopal parish two hundred miles west of Austin partly in order to be with his parents (dad 85 and mom 87) as they get older. His wife’s mom too. They’ve been in Tyler a bit longer than a year.

We came to Austin to be with Miles and Jasper while we still could. The generations are different, but Casey and Michelle had the same idea. Let’s do this while we can. When that’s a motive force for how and where you live, God is pleased. “Love the Lord your God. And love your neighbor as yourself.” Love your mother, love your dad, love your children and grandchildren. While you can. There is no power on earth greater than love.

Shout with joy! Exult at the head of the nations! Proclaim your praise and say, “The Lord has delivered his people. The Lord will guard us as a shepherd guards his flock.”

Because the ten mile traffic backup was on the other side of I 35, I got to Andi’s in time for lunch. I hammered on the door. Lots of noise inside. Running footsteps. The doorknob turned, or tried to turn. I gave it a little help.

Inside Jasper and Miles burst into smiles. I did too. They jumped on me. I dragged them into the living room, holding onto my legs. They pulled me down and we had a giant pile-up. Everybody was laughing, especially Andi. She had salad and chicken nuggets and birthday cupcakes. Jasper’s 3rd birthday was Sunday, July 31. The cupcakes were still just fine, and we cut off the tops and turned them over to make … sandwiches!

With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt, carrying your festive tambourines, and you shall go forth dancing!

Before picking up Margaret at the airport last night, I found my way into the parking lot at Barton Springs Pool, always 68 degrees, clear spring fed water in the middle of Austin, the “crown jewel” of Austin Parks and Recreation. Really, the pool is more like a lake, with a natural floor and “Barton Creek Salamanders” living in the pool. It’s open from 5 am till 10 pm. Parking is scarce, but I found a spot. For me, the old guy, it cost $2 to swim.

The temperature a couple hours earlier was 105. I dunked myself over and over in the cold water. I could not have been happier. The crazy traffic, the burning sun, the new weird way to buy a pool pass … who cares? Get in the water and stay there.

At least for a few minutes. The airport, I had to get to the airport. Margaret would soon be waiting.

(Jeremiah 31, Luke 7, Matthew 15)

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Aug 2 22

Travel the banks of the River of Jordan

by davesandel

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

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

Travel the banks of the River of Jordan

When I summon him, he shall approach me; how else should one take the deadly risk of approaching me? says the Lord.

The prophets were summoned. Jeremiah was, in his own words, “seduced.” Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy-laden. We’re all called, but that might not be the same as “summoned.” God tells us we cannot stand to see his face. He shows only his backside to Moses.

So now it’s Peter’s turn. Jesus has finished his prayer and is coming back to the disciples, back to the world in which he lives these days. They are in a boat far from any shore, and a storm is breaking. Jesus heads across the water, looking for all the world like a ghost. He reassures his friends.

Take courage; it is I; do not be afraid.

Peter’s mouth opens before he thinks. And, as often happens, he gets just a little ahead of God. He didn’t exactly invite himself, but …

Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.

Jesus hears that “if” but does not respond to it. He summons Peter.


Perhaps the disciples eagerly thrust Peter over the side of the boat? What a group of characters they were, like any group of twelve, whether jurors or disciples. Peter’s friends feared for his life, could he swim in such a storm? Others might have done the thrusting, hoping Peter would be humbled once and for all.

Jesus knew Peter, his past and his future, and he loved him.

Peter became frightened and began to sink. He cried out, “Lord, save me!” Then immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him.

Jesus spoke to Peter, but his words were lost to the others in the sounds of the storm.

O you! O little faith! Why did you doubt?


Yahweh’s words to Jeremiah were for the nation, but they must also have felt personal.

Incurable is your wound, and there is none to plead your cause, no healing for you. All your lovers have forgotten you.

Jesus and his Father know that doubt accompanies faith; as Thomas Merton said on his way to his unexpected death, “You can’t have faith without doubt.” Both Jeremiah and Peter are rescued from their remorse and shame, as well as the impending danger. Yahweh stands strong in his place, the Creator, Healer, Savior.

I will punish all his oppressors. When I summon him, he shall approach me, this ruler who comes from your kin. How else should one take the deadly risk of approaching me? You shall be my people, and I will be your God.

And Peter, who got the summoning all mixed up, he too was saved.

After they got back into the boat, the wind died down. Truly, they said, you are the Son of God.

Jesus and his friends landed at Gennesaret. The crowds came and begged to touch the hem of his garment. All these adventures served to strengthen God’s power in Jesus to heal.

As many as touched it were healed.

I just love these stories. The water is wide, and at least now and then, we are summoned to.


 (Jeremiah 30, Psalm 102, John 1, Matthew 14)

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Aug 1 22

Plenty here for everyone

by davesandel

Monday, August 1, 2022

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Plenty here for everyone

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

On the road again.

I left this morning at 8 am. I’m driving 780 miles to Tyler, Texas. Tomorrow morning I hope to have breakfast with my friend Casey at Mama’s Restaurant on 5th Street. Five loaves and two fish. Five loaves and two fish.

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.

Some of the Jesus stories bear repeating over and over, including this one. Thousands will eat instead of one, and everyone is happy. Jesus just heard the hard news about his cousin and friend John the Baptist. John anointed Jesus in the Jordan at his baptism. John insisted that Jesus pick up his mantle and become the Messiah John knew him to be. John’s death broke Jesus’ heart.

The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. And Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them.

And so he wanted to get away. But the crowds followed him, with their limps, deafness and blindness, and illness of all kinds, led by their friends. John had just been killed in the prime of life, and Jesus could do nothing. Now at least he could bring healing to these people in pain, and provide food for them when they had nothing for themselves to eat.

Five loaves and two fishes.

Jesus took them and looked up to heaven. He said the blessing and broke the loaves. The disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied.

Jesus sat on the grass and watched. He didn’t eat that night, only watched. He thought of John, and prayed for him. He waited for the disciples to bring back the leftovers. He listened to the laughter, the singing, as the evening sun began to set.

The disciples picked up the fragments left over – twelve wicker baskets full.

Jesus thought of Jeremiah’s words in the temple, and of the prophets’ challenge: Hananiah’s prediction of peace and Jeremiah’s skepticism.

The prophet who prophecies peace is recognized as truly sent by the Lord only when his prophetic prediction is fulfilled.

And there was no peace. God replaced a wooden yoke with an iron one, and Hananiah died within a year, as Jeremiah said he would.

Jesus thought about these things, sitting on the mountain, watching the crowd disperse and the night fall. He had no place to lay his head. Sometimes, like Jacob, he was awake all night wrestling with the angel. Sometimes, like Jeremiah, he grew tired of his Father’s refusal to speak peace to these people.

Now John was dead, and Jesus’ heart was full of grief. He wondered what he would be doing next, now alone without his cousin to pave a path, and he knew that God would show him. Just as clearly as he did this night. After a few moments, he laid himself down to sleep.

And looking up to heaven, he said the blessing.

(Jeremiah 28, Psalm 119, Matthew 4, Matthew 14)

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Jul 31 22

Complete list of July 2022 Daily Devotions with links

by davesandel

Complete list of July 2022 Daily Devotions with links

 July 1        God is good, all the time

July 2        New wineskins

Sunday July 3             Pears, watermelons, books and Shakespeare

July 4        Touch the hem of his garment

July 5        Bombs bursting in air

July 6        Weddings in Danville

July 7        Together

July 8        Meetings of the mind and heart

July 9        Watch Isaiah, catching fire

July 10      King Lear’s good Samaritan

Sunday July 11           Trust and obey

July 12      Finding our way to Waynesville

July 13      Let the little children come

July 14      Sleeping on the job

July 15      Black coats for Bonaventure, Francis and me

July 16      Christmas in July

Sunday July 17           A letter from Dad to his sister

July 18      What does the Lord require of me?

July 19      I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God

July 20      Ever in transition that we cannot control

July 21      Charlie Parker’s pancakes

July 22      Open prison doors, set the captives free

July 23      Gather the wheat into my barn

Sunday July 24           Story-telling for all of us

July 25      Bringing in the sheaves

July 26      Poems from the edge of the world

July 27      Meeting Jeremiah at the fair. Fancy that!

July 28      Seeing in the Kingdom of heaven

July 29      An intervention in Bethany

July 30      Twas the night before Christmas

Sunday July 31           Number my days aright

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Jul 31 22

Haiku for every day of July 2022

by davesandel

Haiku for every day of July 2022


July 1

Sweet maple sirup (that’s how they spell it at Funks’ Grove)

Much Ado About Nothing

Watch our friend Henson


July 2

Sit on front porch with

Dave and Cheryle, letting the

Big World come to them


Sunday July 3

Christian’s sweet guitar

Big worship at the Vineyard

Loud and strong and clear


July 4

Marlene in Waynesville

Such good friend from long ago

And we get hugs!


 July 5

Rotator cuff tear

Soft touch: Sewan Lee, P.T.

School in Buffalo

July 6

Jack, Aly, driving

Oishi, Marc, teppanyaki

Bowl at Old Orchard


July 7

Dr. Kim, P.C.

Helping Margaret so much

And they talk of God


July 8

Genius at Ewing Manor

In the grass, the play’s the thing

Henson’s eighth King Lear


July 9

Aunt Vera made lunch

92 and doing great

Dad’s oldest sister


Sunday July 10

You are now enter-

(Waynesville Church, then Country Aire)

-ing the mission field (sign above doors since 1988)


July 11

Sit at Bunny’s bar

Watch Marc care for ev’ryone

Bartending with joy


July 12

Chinatown with Jim

And a movie by myself:

Top Gun: Maverick


July 13

Plancha! Carbon steel

Marc helped make burgers, tuna

Right on top of grill


July 14

Pam from Cave-in-Rock

Dinner at Rainbow Garden

Such good stories!


July 15

Spurlock museum

With Pam, worldwide culture show

Bunny’s for dinner


July 16

And today, the art!

Krannert: “The Blind,” Stringfellow:

“I was never mad.”


Sunday July 17

Chris preached at West Side

Great for us to all be there

Jack plays volleyball


July 18

Margaret, Pam left

yesterday for Evansville

Jack drove in country


July 19

Their new-used golf cart

Just to drive around the town

Aly’s pretty cool


July 20

Quonset hut diner

Charlie Parker’s huge pancakes

Eat 4 – get them free!


July 21

Krannert Uncorked, from

Zimbabwe, singing, dancing

Then sweet Broadway songs


July 22

High School Musical

Play at the Virginia

Watch Sophia act!


July 23

Laura by for lunch

And installed a safety lock

She does everything!


Sunday July 24

Look at her again …

Surprise! High school friend at church

eyes light up – big smiles


July 25

Marv, Dyke and the boys

This music’s for the old guy

It always will be


July 26

Fairgrounds – heifer show

Corral filled with red ponies

Just in from Texas


July 27

Farmer’s overalls

Crickets singing all night long

Apple Dumpling smiles


July 28

Music on Stage 6

Cross-legged Jim Braun’s guitar

Krannert comfort folk


July 29

P.T. is over

Feldenkrais book to Sewan

His hands have a gift


July 30

Tried to start wood fire

No luck, loaded up the car

Urbana days, over


Sunday July 31

I leave for Austin

Tomorrow – let this place go

On Jasper’s birthday!

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Jul 31 22

Number my days aright

by davesandel

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 31, 2022

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

Number my days aright

Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in the image of its creator.

Emilie Pelletier is a life coach in Montreal. Like most life coaches, she might struggle sometimes with what she calls “toxic positivity,” which includes a reluctance to look at situations or problems that are not likely to improve. But many parts of my way of life could stand a little improvement, including what I do before I sleep and as I wake.

She suggests five daily habits to “make me a more positive person.”

  1. Lying in bed, scan the previous day for positive things, especially the tiny ones. Spend a few seconds remembering before moving on to the next one. Do this until you fall asleep.
  2. Have something to look forward to the following day. Schedule at least one activity for the following day that brings you joy.
  3. Absorb uplifting ideas in the evening.
  4. Make a gratitude list of three to five things and why you appreciate them.
  5. When you wake up, choose your state of being as you open your eyes. Try doing this before you even open your eyes. Train your brain to see what’s positive. This isn’t toxic positivity, which ignores or denies the negative.

Brothers and sisters, if you were raised with Christ, seek what is above. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

I appreciate Emilie’s ideas. They are simple to try. She gives me enough to do to keep me busy for a few minutes if I don’t fall asleep right away. Lately I have been listening to some audio adventure for fifteen minutes, but I like her ideas better. They remind me of Ignatius’ Examen, which is another good way to end my day. And to begin the day, I sometimes listen to the tolling bells and music that begin “Pray as You Go,” a morning dip with British Jesuits into the day’s lectionary.

One more link. In the middle of the night or the morning or the afternoon, it’s always a good time for centering prayer. Be still and know that I am God, at least for 20 minutes. The app from Insight Timer, after you dig through the extras, lets you set up 20 minutes with an opening bell, gongs every five minutes, and then a closing bell. Each of them can be different.

A thousand years in your sight are as yesterday, now that it is past, or as a watch in the night. You make an end of us in our sleep, the next morning we are like the changing grass, which at dawn springs up anew but by evening, wilts and fades. Teach us to number our days aright. Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.

As I get older, sleep is more elusive. I wake up too often most nights, and it’s hard to get back to sleep. I appreciate these tools, and I sleep better because of them.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes establish the work of our hands.

(Ecclesiastes 1, Psalm 90, Colossians 3, Matthew 5, Luke 12)

(posted at


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Jul 30 22

Twas the night before Christmas

by davesandel

Saturday, July 30, 2022

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

Twas the night before Christmas

Overheard on Christmas Eve in a small church in Cornwall, as a huge storm gathers in the sky above.

“Very old, them crosses are, rector,” said Old George unexpectedly, firm and clear. “Made a long time before Christianity. Long before Christ.” The rector beamed at him. “But not before God,” he said simply.

Young Will Stanton spoke up. “There’s not really any before and after, is there?” he said. “Everything that matters is outside Time.” Mr Beaumont turned to Will in surprise. “You mean infinity, of course, my boy.”

“Not altogether,” said the Old One that was Will. “I mean the part of all of us, and of all the things we think and believe, that has nothing to do with yesterday or today or tomorrow because it belongs at a different kind of level. Yesterday is still there, on that level. Tomorrow is there too. You can visit either of them. And all Gods are there, and all the things they have ever stood for.”

And,” he added sadly, “the opposite, too.”

“Will,” said the rector, staring at him, “I am not sure whether you should be exorcised or ordained. You and I must have some long talks, very soon.”

“Yes, we must,” Will said equably.

But Will gets very busy very quickly, as the youngest of the Old Ones carrying the Light, who defend mankind against the Dark. We are midway through Susan Cooper’s five volume series The Dark is Rising, and though these books are perhaps intended for teens, I’m fascinated.

I think of what Will meant when he said “And the opposite, too.”

Herod arrested John, bound him and put him in prison. He wanted to kill him but was afraid. Herodias danced and delighted Herod and then asked, “Bring me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist. The distressed king ordered it and John was beheaded in the prison. The party played on into the night. John’s head was brought in on a platter. His disciples took away the corpse, and they went and told Jesus.

Jesus, an Old One defending mankind from the evil of the Dark, cries out in grief for John. Jesus knows the limitations of time, a bit of which Will sought to share with his rector.

There’s not really any before and after, is there? Everything that matters is outside Time.

But John has died now, and so will Jesus. His wails might be muted, but he is in agony, crossing back and forth between Now and Then, between Time and Eternity.

In our centering prayer time this week, Mary Lou shared a passage written by Henri Nouwen.

The word “care” comes from Old English “kara,” which means to lament, to participate in suffering.

To care is to enter into the world of those who are only touched by hostile hands, to listen attentively to those whose words are only heard by greedy ears, and to speak gently with those who are used to harsh orders and impatient requests.

To care is to be present to those who suffer and to stay present even when nothing can be done to change their situation.

Jesus laments, participates in the suffering of his people, John’s people, our people … us. Jesus enters into the hostile world, surrounded by the Dark, held hostage by beginnings and ends of things, caught in time. He comes in there with us, as God surrenders his power in favor of his infinite mercy.

When the humble confession of our basic human brokenness forms the ground from which all skillful healing comes forth, then care can be welcomed not as a property to be claimed, but as a gift to be shared in gratitude.

Christmas in July? Just a couple more days to celebrate. God is with us!


(Jeremiah 26, Psalm 69, Matthew 5, Matthew 14)

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Jul 29 22

An intervention in Bethany

by davesandel

Friday, July 29, 2022

Memorial of Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus

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

An intervention in Bethany

The guy on the street, carrying his sign “25 cents is more than enough,” caught my eye. Like me on our hot Texas record-breaking stifling afternoon, he was trying to be civil. His smile got crossed up between his cheeks. His eyes struggled to stay open. I was driving, but I struggled too, just to stay awake. He thanked me for my $5 bill.

Peter Mommsen wrote about his father and his book is beautifully titled Homage to a Broken Man. He ran risks by adding a generalizing adjective of any kind to this story of a single, unique, exceptional and irreplaceable person. Eugene Peterson wrote the introduction and spoke to this problem.

The culture in which we are immersed is constantly at work eroding the uniqueness of named persons by giving them labels: ectomorph, unsaved, anorexic, bipolar, single parent, diabetic, left-brained. The labels are marginally useful for understanding some aspect of the human condition, but the moment they are used to identify a person, they obscure the very thing I am most interested in: the unprecedented, unrepeatable soul addressed by God.

Every time someone is addressed by name and realizes that in the encounter they are being treated as one-of-a-kind – not as a customer, not as a patient, not as a voter, not as a sinner – the gospel is served. Saving love is always personally specific, never merely generic. Christ’s mercy is always customized to an individual, never swallowed up in an abstraction.

Ignatius taught his students to put themselves into a story, be one or two or three people in a bible narrative, and talk. Speak to each other. Speak to yourself. Speak to God. I’m … what did Peterson call me? “An unprecedented, unrepeatable soul addressed by God.” And so is my friend with the sign. Ignatius would have us get to know ourselves and each other in a conversation, in a story. We have much to learn from each other.

And so, more to the point today, do Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Jesus. Far from being saints at this stage in their history, they were deeply committed friends, able to speak to each other about much more than the sunny side of life.

Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

Jesus looked Martha in the eye and said, not for the first time:

I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this, Martha?

I can just see her eyes, her smile caught and crooked between her cheeks, trying to be civil.

Oh yes, Lord.

And then she went to find Mary. “Jesus is here and asking for you.”

Earlier Jesus had spoken to Martha, at an earlier sweeter time when they shared a summer day and knew as yet no loss. Martha was complaining a bit.

Lord do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.

But Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

And once again, I imagine Martha turning her eyes away and asking herself, “What has gotten into this friend of ours?”

So in modern psychological terms, Jesus and the sisters of Lazarus need an intervention.

I don’t know many men or women who are not tied up in knots by their spiritual and practical selves. Mary wants to spend her time at Jesus’ feet, washing them in perfume and listening to every word. Martha is busy fixing their meal, the meal for all of Jesus’ troupe of disciples and hangers-on. But I’m both Mary and I’m Martha, and I just cannot settle for one role or the other.

Martha has chosen the good part, Jesus implies, and Mary has chosen the better part. Good … better … best. Is there a third, “best” part? How can we cook the meal and worship, scrub the floor and pour perfume over Jesus’ feet? I want to do both. And I really want to do both at the pretty much the same time.

Any ideas? Maybe I could read a book. But really, better to imagine and invite an intervention. I can sit down at a table with Jesus, Mary, Martha and even Lazarus and close the door. Get some coffee and tea. Start with a prayer. We each get some time to speak and ask questions and listen. There’s no hurry.

I think I can learn a lot from them.

(Jeremiah 26, Psalm 69, John 8, John 11)

(posted at


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