Wednesday, April 30, 2014

7 Things I Want to Say to the Old

I first wrote this as a poem, but it better suits as one of those blog list things – you know – where unsolicited advice is given to others whether one is in a position to know or not . . . so here goes – my own personal list to those older than I – some advice from someone, who, as she approaches 60 in the not-so-distant future, finds it more than amusing that she would think on ‘the old’ as someone other than herself –

[SIDE NOTE:  The old tell me quite a lot – we spend much time together and they have much to offer – but – isn’t there always? – there are a few things I’d like to pay forward – some wisdom of the one younger watching the panorama unfold before you as you clear the path for me –]

1. There is thank you, of course, but there is also – listen to us – the ones who come not before, but after, for we have things to teach as well – letting go gracefully isn’t a one-way street, you know – don’t be mad at us because you’re old and we’re not yet:  learn something new today . . .

2. Don’t complain about us – the ones younger than you – jealousy is not fashion-forward.

3. If more than 5 minutes of your day are devoted to a review of health, try reading a good book – it’ll give you something else to talk about.

4. Don’t use your age as license to say whatever you want no matter how unkind – it’s always wrong to be unkind.

5. I don’t comment negatively about your hair-style – so please don’t criticize mine (goes for piercings, tattoos, and clothing too).

6. Smile more – the pain is real and present, but somehow when you find something else to  think about its presence fades.

7. Love us, notice us, include us, like you want us to love, notice and include you.

Okay, it’s your turn.  What’s your advice for those coming after?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Google Made My Day

My blog, according to a web ranker, is 1.7 millionth in the world!  Woo hoo!  I’ve never had a world ranking before for anything.  I’ll take 1.7 millionth – for now.

Making me smile.

Wonder what it takes to move up to 1.6 millionth or so?

So I went trolling other sites that rate sites and it turns out someone at Shutkeys, whatever that is, thinks my blog is, and I quote:

Wow – since I spend a good bit of my time musing on Jesus and faith and such, I am left wondering . . . is Jesus adult?  I suppose so – although not in the way they mean, I’m pretty sure.  Is he inappropriate?  Oh, you betcha – depending on whether it’s your toes getting stepped on or not.  Is following Jesus your own responsibility?  Absolutely.  I guess the ‘unsafe’ tag is more fair than I first thought.

Oh, I have 2,900 mentions for the blog site on Google – pretty good, considering I’ve only got 840 or so posts.  Although pretty bad if Shutkey is any indication of the other mentions.

Then there’s PageInsider, weighing in only to tell you I’m not on PageInsider – I like that too – the recognition of anonymity somehow makes me feel special – thanks PageInsider.  Same with SiteGlimpse, except they showed two mentions the blog got on other blogs – who knew – and by someone who actually liked (a) my poetry and (b) my sense of humor – I am feeling absolutely cherished today!  (It doesn’t take much.)

Perhaps my favorite (I’ve found the link and the site, but not the reference on the site), apparently there’s an online directory listing references to bears and a post I did that mentioned the grizzly bears in Glacier National Park, where I worked for a summer, got listed – how cool is that?  And who knew someone took the time to gather online references to bears – boy, people sure are interesting.

I’m going to stop now, but trolling sure was fun.

Thanks, Google, for getting me my 15 seconds (the times have changed a bit since Warhol, after all) of fame.  And for showing me that more people (according to Google’s cache, anyhow) visit sites that reference my blog as being ‘no information available’ than actually read the blog.  Made my day.  Really.

Monday, April 28, 2014

To My Fellow Christian Sarah Palin: Baptism, Enemies, and Truth – Words That Matter

Governor Sarah Palin recently delivered an address to a gathering of NRA folk in Indianapolis.  I listened to the speech in its entirety and recommend you do the same.

Reasonable people can and do differ on a great many issues, gun use and access among them.  And Governor Palin and I are on different sides of the question.  Fair enough.

What is not so fair, I would suggest, is the appropriation of the language of our shared faith; the clinging to a gospel that is rejected in the same breath; and a disregard of facts (truth) when speaking of one’s enemies.

Regarding our “enemies” (by which Gov. Palin is referring to terrorists), she says, “. . . if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.” [huge applause and cheering]  

1. The appropriation of the language of our shared faith Baptism is the rite, the ritual, the sacrament – the holy sign (one of only two for Protestants) – the outward evidence of the inward reality of having been claimed as God’s very own in Christianity.  When Jesus himself is baptized, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends upon him and God proclaims Jesus as God’s own son, in whom God is well pleased.  (Matthew 3.16-17).  Waterboarding shares with baptism only the use of water.  Waterboarding is to baptism as torture is to the doctor’s smack of a new-born baby’s butt.  To call torture baptism in a speech using other language of faith and God ignores Jesus’ own gospel message, a particular affront in this Easter season, when Christians world-wide celebrate the resurrection of the one who was himself tortured to death by state actors.  I want to believe that Gov. Palin is using the language of ‘baptism’ in a secular way (as in being ‘baptized’ by fire, meaning to be introduced to a certain way of being/acting in extremis).  The problem is that the remainder of her speech is peppered with the language of faith in a way that makes such a dismissal virtually impossible, because she weaves faith into her speech in such a way as to suggest that to carry a gun is not merely a constitutional matter, but also a biblical right or even imprimatur.

2. Clinging to a gospel the speaker rejects all in the same breath Use of the language of ‘enshrinement’ – the language of the sacred or holy –  (as in gun-ownership being ‘enshrined’ in our constitution); referring to baptism when speaking of waterboarding; giving the gratuitous shout-out to prayer in school;  and wrapping up with: “Celebrating family, faith and freedom . . . God shed his grace on thee, America, so stand and fight . . .” co-mingles the language of faith and Christianity in particular with the torture of enemies (waterboarding), killing with a gun as a problem-solving technique (my cold, dead hands language and the implied warning to Attorney General Eric Holder, “you don’t want to go there, buddy”); and the very specific link of “enemies” with torture as an indictment of the claimed lack of political will of those who differ with her on this issue (they would coddle the enemies that she, if in charge, would waterboard) – all this leads to a conclusion that for Gov. Palin, Jesus’ gospel is a call to arms.  The problem, of course, is Jesus, who actually happens to be very specific when it comes to enemies:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? . . .”  (Matthew 5.43-47; also Luke 6.27 & 35).  You simply cannot, with any integrity, wrap yourself in the gospel and advocate the torture of your enemies in the same breath.  Jesus recognizes the human habit of responding to enemies in exactly the way Gov. Palin recommends.  He recognizes it and rejects it out of hand.  Advocate torture if you will.  But you cannot, you may not, you must not, clothe yourself in The Risen One to do it.

3. Disregarding the facts when speaking of one’s (political) enemy It is popular to the point of hardly meriting notice, let alone response, for folks in the political sphere today to make false claims against their opponents.  But it isn’t okay that they do nor that we allow it to pass by.  Truth matters.  Facts matter.  False claims of facts and truth matter because they misshape our perception of reality.  Gov. Palin takes on and carries as a theme in her speech, with references to the various bracelets she is wearing, a claim that Attorney General Eric Holder advocates the wearing of some sort of tracking bracelet by gun owners.  There is only one problem with the claim: it is false, as attested by the presumably liberal TPM and presumably conservative Bearing Arms.  Facts and truth matter to our faith as well as our practical day-to-day lives (if there can even be any separation of the two): we follow the man who self-identified as the way, the truth, the life, who instructed his followers to allow their yes to be yes, their no, no. (Matthew 5.37).  It may well be that Gov. Palin and/or her speechwriters  believed what she said about the Attorney General to be true.  But that doesn’t solve much: when we are speaking, it is our duty to assure that our words are true, that they are accurate.  That is actually part of the job of being a Christian.  Truthfulness is so important that it is actually enshrined (unlike our constitutional provisions) in our holy writ, which we refer to as the Ten Commandments, among which is the provision: Thou shalt not lie (or more accurately, bear false witness – that is, to say something not true about another person).  Before we say it, it is our job to know whether it is true and if we cannot or do not know, we should not say it.  The fact that it took me less than 5 minutes to find two sites online that referenced the Attorney General’s actual remarks indicates that the truth was easily discoverable.  One simply had to wish to find it.  Gov. Palin claimed that the Attorney General wants to track by bracelet those who own guns.  What he actually said was that there was interest in exploring smart guns that can only be used by the actual owner (via a chip in the gun which links electronically to a bracelet worn by the owner).

Truth matters.  Taking care to tell truth matters.  Taking special care not to speak ill of enemies falsely (recognizing our own inner tendency not to give our enemies the benefit of the doubt) matters.  Making claims about the gospel which directly contradict it matters.  Clothing ourselves with the gospel of the Prince of Peace while proclaiming things like torture matters.

As a fellow Christian, Governor Palin, I beseech you: make your case, but please, please, please, stop standing on Jesus’ back to do it if you're not willing to grapple with the ways in which the gospel challenges your views.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

It's Springtime in the Mountains

It’s springtime in the mountains!

So we see the sunshine, fling open our windows and throw on our parkas and sip our coffee outside with our flip-flopped feet quickly tucked under to keep from freezing.

It’s springtime in the mountains!

So we dash inside, parkas still on and stare forlornly out the window at the rain, it’s drops to determined, so loud, we stand with our arms outstretched from the door to make sure it’s not hail.

It’s springtime in the mountains!

So at dusk we rush to cut the flowers that have dared bloom, praying that this is really the last of this year’s frosts.

It’s springtime in the mountains!

So we all emerge from our hidey-hole winter houses and stand in the sun, faces up, and feed – before scurrying back inside because it sure is colder than it looked.

Joy of joys, it’s springtime in the mountains!

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Silent Witness of a Filled Sanctuary

I am tempted to conclude that . . . to believe that . . . always and ever . . .

Love begets love . . . but not always
Kindness given is kindness returned . . . but not always

And yet, and still, every now and then, we humans get it, like the proverbial Three Bears, just right.  And when we do, it is whelming and overwhelming.

One of those every now and then deeds is the act of showing up.  That’s it – showing up. . . being there . . . what we preacherly people like to refer to as the ministry of presence . . . and sometimes, that’s all about being a face in the crowd, for sometimes, it is the crowd that is the whelming thing . . . the silent witnesses to one’s grief and pain and joy and remembering . . . as in a funeral . . .

Last night was one of those times when love begot love and kindness kindness . . . and the husband who was saying his faith farewells to his dear companion beheld the crowd and pronounced himself overwhelmed . . .

The next day, I am struck by so many I know who eschew things like funerals because . . . why?  Because they are so hard?  Perhaps.  So final?  Surely.  So sad?  Definitely.

But sometimes, we’re called to do the hard, the final, the sad thing . . . sometimes it isn’t about us at all.  Sometimes it’s just about being another face in the crowd of surrounding love.

So the next time you dither, not wanting to go, you might think about that and you might go . . . go because you need to . . . go because you want to . . . and even when you don’t want to, go, because your presence matters to those most heart-struck in their loss . . . your presence will whelm them . . . and that is a good thing.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

When a Neighbor Sees a Rainbow

Around here, when a neighbor sees a rainbow, she hollers for her husband to call so-and-so and tell them to get outside; there’s a rainbow.  Word spreads in the randomness of our connectedness and everyone (more or less) gets the word.

The other day, I was talking to a friend in Monterey, 10 miles and one large mountain away, when she told me she was watching the most amazing rainbow.  I hurried up and got off the phone to run outside, hoping against hope.

Alas, no rainbow – beautiful sky, but no rainbow.  After just standing and basking in the beauty of the evening for a bit, I went back inside.  But I kept looking out all around to see if it traveled my way – no sightings.

The next day on FB, I saw pictures posted by folk I know to the north, south, east and west of me – rainbow glory as far as 50 miles away.

Surely it was here and I missed it.  Or perhaps not.  Doesn’t matter either way – my neighbors got to see it and that’s plenty good enough for me – blessing and blessed.

For it is a good day when a neighbor gets a rainbow.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Things I Want to Remember

I listen to Nick Cave . . .  I believe in love . . . and behold the greening outside and I am overcome with a love and beauty that moves me to tears . . .

Last night, a friend tells me she’s watching a rainbow and I keep running outside and doing a 360 scan of the evening sky, all to no avail, for the rainbow does not settle where I can see . . . yet the sky and the clouds, the cattle settling in, dogs barking in the distance, houses fading into evening – all fill me with quietude as I turn back in for the night, richer for the rainbow I did not see . . .

A man sits at my table and tells me about the day he met his wife, unshed tears glistening in his eyes like memories too precious to lose to time . . . or loss . . .

Sidney the cat moseys over to the small square of sunlight on the Turkish rug and snuggles in to its warmth . . .

I study a picture of my grandson, caught in mid-stride, mid-smile, at a moment where I was not there and can only enjoy from this distance of time and memory, the boy he is mingling with the baby and tree-hugging toddler he was, so many firsts still before him . . .

I listen again to the Good Friday soundtrack* I created for the service and am again moved by the voices of others in ways my soul understands but my words cannot describe . . .

The tulips do their spring surprise – yesterday’s limp-melted sun-infused petals revitalized to attention by the cool evening air, looking, for a moment in time, like the youngsters they were just a day or so ago . . . back then when they had more life ahead than behind . . .

Nothing special, nothing earth-moving or history making, perhaps, but these, the moments, are the things I want to preserve, to remember, to call to mind in a cool spring day when such moments reach out and touch my heart and warm the room just a bit . . .

*This year’s Good Friday soundtrack:  Stay With Me, Taize Community.  Dust in the Wind, Kansas.  Ride, Nick Drake.  After the Storm, Mumford and Sons.  21 Guns, Green Day.  Anthem, Leonard Cohen.  Stand by Me, Sam Cooke.  Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Nina Simone.  The Far Road, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Disease of Incurable Optimism

Welcome poverty! . . . Welcome misery, welcome houselessness, welcome hunger, rags, tempest, and beggary! Mutual confidence will sustain us to the end! – Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Like Mr. Micawber, I find I have become an incurable optimist.  It is, as the name suggests, a disease.  Not a good thing, though its propounders would, being the optimists we are, hold otherwise.

Alas, we are wrong.

How do I know?  Because, in spite of my best efforts, life daily proves me so.

Yet even so proven so wrong do I persist – hence the nomenclature of disease, or worse, perhaps, insanity.

Thus it was that yesterday I turned the page from Easter Sunday and saw on the top of my Monday to-do’s, Sandra Communion.

Sandra died Saturday night.  The sight of her name and my plan so plainly writ before me left me thunderstruck in the silence of knowing myself for a fool, believing, though I know better, that there would be plenty of tomorrows for the doing.

I am bereft of sense.

It is not the regret of thinking I could have, should have, done it sooner – that is present, but this is something else entirely – the shame at a pride that would be so sure of tomorrow that it would actually commit the commitment to paper, as if the writing were the deed made possible . . . as if my thinking it thus would make it so . . . as if Sandra’s own pleas to be let go were of no moment . . . as if her own sense of her failing did not matter because I willed it, believed it, otherwise.

My son asked if optimism were not better than pessimism and my answer was undoubting, even before seeing the proof of my own foolishness: No!

No, because realism is the best to aspire to . . . realism that can hear the pleas of the dying and know them for the truth they are . . . I used to know better, but now find myself making this same mistake again and again and again . . . Micawber and I, such boon companions, are the fools, pitied by those around us, the unsurprised by life ones who feel the pain but not the startling jump of the unanticipated . . .

That’s what the day after Easter looks like to one who cannot shed this damned optimism . . . poor, poor fool she . . .

Maybe it will be better tomorrow . . .

Monday, April 21, 2014

He is Risen Indeed! -- A Checklist

Tomb empty . . . check

Gardener/angel/risen one in place . . . check

Visage changed/wounds intact . . . check

Bread broken/recognition had . . . check

Women alerted . . . check

Men told . . . check

Bonnets and bow ties in place . . . check

Eggs colored . . . filled . . . hidden . . . chocolate had . . . lilies in bloom . . . sun shining . . . ham in the oven . . . family gathered . . . church bells rung . . . greetings exchanged . . . story imagined and reimagined . . . table fellowship had . . . check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check and check . . .

Yep . . .

He is risen . . .

He is risen indeed!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sandra's Last Easter

It is Easter . . . when resurrections are not only possible but likely, expected even . . . and last night, on Holy Saturday . . . the day when Jesus descends into the bowels of the earth to seek out all who had gone before him before God does the divine work of resurrection this and every Easter Sunday . . . it was last night when beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, cousin, sister, friend, Sandra, died . . .

As I sat at her bedside yesterday, beholding all the indignities visited upon her poor body by medicine’s best efforts to keep her among the living, somehow what I beheld was not a sick perhaps unto death woman, but a phoenix . . . in the moments of just before . . .

Just before rebirth and rerising into its new creation, the phoenix descends into ash, out of which emerges a new beauty that holds all the ancient bird was before . . . in other words, resurrection . . .

My faith tells me that today Sandra rests easy with her Lord and that, while there is weeping here in the place we call below, for her, all is well and very well indeed.

That is an ash heap I can sit in . . . that, a place I can stand, proclaiming in confidence this Easter, as with all others, He is risen . . . and somehow, in ways I can barely imagine, let alone understand, so too is she, beloved beyond time, Sandra.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday Follows Friday

It is a Friday . . .

It begins at 6 o’clock in the morning
for even frolicking Roman procurators
rise early when there is killing work to be done.

“Have you no answer?”

Pilate consults the crowd.
It is a joke between them, this consulting.
“What would you have me do with this man?”
“Crucify him!”
The man utters not a word.

Roman soldiers process him
with his thorned crown and purple cloak
hailing him king in cruel sarcasm,
and still he does not speak

they hit him on the head – more playful –
in the way of monsters –
than really hurtful
and they spit
and kneel to their prisoner king
And still he makes no sound.

They walk him to his own death
making him carry the burden of
his own electric chair –
a wooden cross
When it gets too heavy for his beaten back
a man is plucked from the
crowd to bear it for him
and we can imagine Simon trying
to strike up conversation
that he might tell his friends
and loved ones about it later

And still he says nothing

It is 9 o’clock in the morning
the day is turning to its brightness
and away from the dawning mists –
like the Galilee days of youth
and the Nazareth days of childhood
but not like them
for this is the day that will not pass him over
this is the day when the blood on his own
doorpost will not save him.

and within the vast silence that inhabits
his own soul,
he says . . . he thinks . . . nothing


It is 9 o’clock in the morning
when they arrive at the Skull place

we can imagine the bird-picked bone-white bones
scattered like shining jewels all round,
some sticking up from the ground –
sign posts pointing to the sure destination
for those unfortunate enough to take their
rest there

And the cruel words of pseudo-hospitality
“Here.  Have some of this.”  The cup of
wine mixed with myrrh
a sedative to ease the passing begs the question:
can there ever be kindness
from the executioner’s hand?

Whate’re the motive,
he refuses
mouth shut
no sound

If there be kindness in
your heart, executioner,
you’ll get no credit for it here
There is no sop for your conscience
in the sop you seek to give a dying man
who would live but for your hand –
that pain, friend, you will have to bear alone
in the silent places of your own heart.

As he hangs dying
the representatives of the state sit unnoticing below
gambling for the privilege of his few clothes
while kind he makes no noise to disturb
them at their gaming

Passers by taunt and jeer
“temple-destroyer-rebuilder boy,
save yourself!  Jump down”
and even the ones who should know better
cannot contain their contagious cruelty
as the bitter herbs of their own mouths
pour forth venom for the one cheeky enough
to die in front of them . . .
“How about a saving miracle now?”
“How about a healing now?”
The schoolyard bullies have been loosed
and even those dying beside him taunt and jeer
as if their crosses were somehow higher, better,
than his, as if his dying made theirs less bad.

He received their words
into his own great silence
and still and yet, he said nothing,
thought . . . nothing.

It is noon
and this day
it is darkening time
as the shroud pall
of dying death
is pulled over the land
maybe this is his word?
No – silent he remains
as darkness claims
the frightened and the frightening
and still and yet he says nothing.


It is 3 o’clock in the afternoon
and the darkness ebbs away
like smoke from the chimneys
curling its way heavenward
leaving behind a light less bright
less sure of itself, its place, in the midday world

It is 3 o’clock when he breaks his fast of silence
Eloi . . . Eloi . . . my God . . . my God . . . 
Lema sabachthani?  
Lema sabachthani?
Lema sabachthani?
Why have you forsaken me?

He calls for his God
Daddy, where are you?
Come get me, Dad.
I’m in trouble Pop.
Father, I need you.
Help me!

He calls to his father, his God –
they hear Elijah
even now they cannot understand him
even now his words are mysterious to their ears
even now they confuse life for death, death for life

putting the proverbial mirror
under his nose to see if he still lives
they rush to place a sponge of drink before him –
if he lives, surely he will drink
they poke sponge sticks at his mouth
as he cries his death rattling cry
and breathes no more

and something,
about the way he dies
the way he cries
the way he looks
the way he sighs
moves the battle-hardened
centurion to see not a dead
carcass but a son . . .
The Son?

But he did not know him
not really
did not love him
for no one who loved him
could have so quickly relegated
him to the past
speak of what he was
instead of who he is
no, for those who love,
that takes days, weeks, months, years –
this moving of a dear one from present to past
from prologue
to postscript

no, the ones who loved him
merely stood – silent – witness
offering the solace of presence
knowing it was not enough –
it never is, is it?  This death bed
vigiling we do – it is never enough,
but it is all we have – and they gave it to him
their silence joined to his
providing for him in his dying as they had in his living
and the irony of killing the kind
lies with silence in the place with no need of words
continues as only those not allowed to speak are given witness
it is the women who stand with him at the end
those of no standing in any court, public or private,
are left to watch the unfolding
never to be allowed to tell
to anyone but each other

but One Lover was not silent
sending a single sound into the cosmos
the sound of a curtain torn, rent,
from top to bottom
the sound of God’s own broken heart
flooding the world with its grief
and moving on to further reaches
no earth-small planet could contain
and the sound – that sound – the sound of tearing
echoes down the universe’s halls even now
stopping in the time of butterflies and babies and revolutions
to caress with the clawing tearing brokenness of a mother’s heart
that will not be comforted for a child who is no more

If God will hear our broken cries
of pain and loss beyond bearing,
who will hear God’s?
Who will take on God’s pain
and in the taking, lessen it?


It is 6 o’clock in the evening
it’s nighttime, really, for those who
work with their hands and live by
the sweat of their brow
sundowning time – the beginning of sacred rest

more words now . . . the words of the business of burial
every death has them – from friends and lovers or strangers
for something must be done with the body
and so it was with him, Our Silent One

we can imagine the women going to one who can help
one with standing with the powers-that-be
a fixer

and so the fixer goes to the Procurator
and utters the placating words of asking . . .
“Not too much trouble, surely?
Gesture of kindness appreciated . . .
perhaps a gift to grease the skids?”

And he, holder of power of life and death
the keys of empire securely in his hands,
his delicate palms no nails will ever pierce
marvels not at his own deed
not at the vagaries and cruelties and whims
that make him thus and the other so
nay – he wonders that the one he sent
died so fast – “dead already?

That then, is the epitaph for The One
The One who lived among us for a time
and showed us another Way . . .

Dead already
dead already
dead already

and he . .
And all . . .
Is silence


It is Saturday
and nothing happens
nothing we can see
or hear
for the bowels of hell
are silent to our ears
their groanings beyond
our imaginings
if there be such place
that he be there is
beyond reckoning
and it cannot
it will not
be endured

will this day
never end?

and the silence
of a rent
goes on

Friday, April 18, 2014

Pilate's Hands

In Deuteronomy 21, the Lord sets forth the way in which an unsolved murder shall be handled: the elders of the nearest town to the body are to wash their hands over an animal sacrifice, and then shall declare, “Our hands did not shed this blood, nor were we witnesses to it.  Absolve, O Lord, your people Israel, whom you redeemed; do not let the guilt of innocent blood remain in the midst of your people Israel.”

Only then, only after they had spoken truthfully of their innocence and prayed, would they be absolved of the ‘guilt of innocent blood’.

The reason for God’s concern: the people must do what is right in the sight of the Lord.

Like the people of Israel with an unsolved murder on their hands, Pilate seeks to absolve himself of all guilt in the murder of Jesus by washing his hands.

What Pilate fails to grasp, or perhaps hopes that we will overlook, is that the washing means nothing if there is actual guilt.

What is even more extraordinary in the story, however, is the reaction of the crowd, people familiar with Deuteronomy: let his blood be on us and on our children!  

It is no wonder that after Jesus cried out from the cross and died, the earth shook and the temple veil was torn in two – from the time of Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, God’s wrath and God’s sorrow are the divine responses to the slaying of the innocent.

Perhaps Pilate and the crowd challenge us to examine our own lives, our own times, to see where the blood of the innocent stains our own hands.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Maundy Thursday Reflection: Will You Let Me?

All kinds of washing happen in scripture . . . the washing of Jesus’ feet with a woman’s tears . . . the washing of Jesus’ hair with annointing oil . . . the symbolic washing of bodies in baptism . . . washing of the feet in Genesis and in John, a simple act of cleaning up for supper . . . washing of animals in preparation for their sacrifice . . . washing of clothes in preparation to come before the presence of the Lord . . . washing as an act of healing, as with the blind man at Siloam . . .

And then there was the time in Matthew when Jesus and his disciples got in trouble with the Pharisees because they didn’t wash their hands . . . because they didn’t make themselves ritually pure before eating . . .

The washing of his disciple’s feet by Jesus was a very simple and routine act in the life of a Jew living in that time – comparable in our own time to washing our hands before dinner.

What, then, was so remarkable, that Peter refused to have his own feet washed?  That Jesus, as leader, teacher and as host, did the washing himself, was extraordinary. . . there were servants for the lowly work of washing dirty feet.  That’s how it seems the disciples saw it. . . but Jesus saw it very differently.

When I think of the love of this simple act from Jesus’ point of view, I am reminded of going to a Turkish Bath in Amman, Jordan.  At the Turkish Bath, you are pampered beyond belief.  After a shower and time in the sauna and before the massage, you are bathed.  Lying on a marble slab, your body is scrubbed, but the last thing is the best – your face is washed.  I don’t think anyone has washed my face for me since I was a child.

To have someone hold your head in their hands while they tenderly wash your face is to feel like a baby . . .  safe, cherished, and utterly vulnerable.

How gently Jesus must have spoken to Peter, “Peter, unless you let me, I cannot love you.  Will you let me?”

Will we?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Crying Stones

We are the pillow for Jacob’s head . . . the makings of an altar . . . a cairn, a marker of something important happening here . . .the first writing surface . . . we are for beauty and adornment . . . and we are the very bearer of the commands of God to your kind . . . we are something that lasts . . . for a very, very, long time . . .

You use us . . . as a weapon to do each other harm . . . the first hunting tool . . . as a gift . . . yet we slow you down and keep you from planting food where you want to plant it instead of where it just grows . . . you use us . . . to mark boundaries between you and your neighbors . . . we provide an anchor for the roots of the trees . . .

Heated, we are the means of removing sin from your very lips . . . have you forgotten?

We were the roadway for your feet in the Garden of Eden . . . we stand in silence as witness to your injustices . . . we are the raw material from which the children of Abraham are made. . .

You use us . . . as a means of public execution . . . a way to measure distance based on the strength of your throwing arm . . . for the building blocks for your dwellings and places of worship . . .

We are that which will cry out the glory of God if you do not . . .

We are the witnesses of all that has ever been and all that will ever be . . . here before you and surely here long after you . . .

We, the crying stones, are the stuff of the very earth itself . . . if you keep silent . . . we will cry out . . . the earth will tremble with our groanings . . . and the whole earth shall know its God . . .

You are in covenant with us and we with you . . . and here is our promise to you . . . if you do not cry out . . . in love for the God who died for you . . . in sorrow that he would have to . . . in joy that he would . . . if you do not cry out at the injustice which would seek to keep our God fastened to a tree . . . if you do not cry out when crying out is called for . . . if you do not . . . we will . . .

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What Do Money Changers Have to Do With Me?

When it comes to Jesus' encounter with the money changers, the fact is, I have no clear idea what on earth was happening.

I don’t feel too bad about that, and neither should you: we’re in pretty good company.  The disciples took it as a sign of Jesus’ own crucifixion and resurrection.  Or he was engaging in an act of religious purification, cleansing the temple (a view favored by my home church, which will not allow anything to be sold in the sanctuary of the church).  Or he was showing the importance of keeping the church ‘pure’ (free from sin), the view of early Protestants.  Or he was reacting against injustices like lending money at high rates of interest (the view of many modern Christians).  Or he represented the sadness and anger of the early believers who had themselves been thrown out of the Temple by the mainstream (a common scholarly view).

There is truth in all of these views: Jesus did hate injustice.  We are challenged to separate ourselves from sin.  Jesus is the temple at which we worship.  And keeping others away from the worship of God because they don’t fit our model of what a ‘good Christian’ should look like or be like is a recurring problem in the church.

There are many ways to understand Jesus’ radical actions in the temple.  And they all carry truth.  But the one for our time is perhaps the understanding that our God is freeing, not enslaving . . . that our God is a rescuing, not a condemning God . . . and that having ourselves been freed, having ourselves been rescued, to do any less to others makes God furious!

As Daniel B. Clendenin says, “The "cleansing" of the temple, a delicate euphemism to describe the only violent act of Jesus, occurs in all four Gospels. It's an unnerving story that reminds us that there's no such thing as "business as usual" with Jesus, and that all who come to him must come on his terms, not ours.”

His terms, not ours.  It’s a tall order.


Give us a sign, they asked.  Who are you to do this?  they asked.  Give us a sign.

Understand this about signs . . .

They do not exist for their own sake . . .

Signs point to something else . . .

They stand for something . . .

Jesus stood for something . . .

And he demands that we stand for something too . . .

So if we are signs . . .

What do we stand for?

To what/whom do we point?

. . . in what direction are we pointing?

Are we pointing to the world and all its pleasures and concerns?

Or are we pointing to God? . . . and which God?

Are we pointing to a God who hates and destroys?

Or are we pointing to the God who loves and rebuilds?

The moneychangers, the temple guards . . . gatekeeping signs . . .

Deciding who could come in and who could not . . .

Don’t have a sacrifice?  You can’t enter . . .

Not the right kind of person . . . you’re definitely ‘out’ . . .

. . . who do we keep out . . .

Who can’t get past our gates?

Who doesn’t have the right kind of sacrifice?

Whose spots do we see more clearly than our own?

What tables would God overturn here?

What signs do we put up that keep others out?

What gates do we guard . . .

What tests do people have to pass to ‘get in’ here?

What price do we make people ‘pay’?

What tables would God overturn here?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Only a Boy

[My imagining of a boy dragooned into accompanying Jesus' entry into Jerusalem]

I’m an old man now, but I was only a boy then . . . living with and working for my uncle and his family . . . 

I’ve often wondered how Jesus knew about that colt – none of his followers were from my village – had never been there, as far as I knew . . . 

“The Lord needs it,” they said of the colt . . . actually what they said was that The Messiah needs it – do you have any idea how many Messiahs were running around my country in those days?  Everyone was looking for rescue from the Romans . . . 

They were fishermen and they didn’t know anything about donkey colts – it was pretty comical really – they kept trying to get near her and she kept dancing around so they couldn’t  get close to the reins, so one of them came over and grabbed me by the arm and said ‘You - farm boy!  Untie this son of a donkey and bring it - you’re coming with us!  

Looking back, they didn’t mean me any harm . . . but they just weren’t used to asking children for anything . . . that’s something their master tried to cure them of that I don’t think he ever succeeded at . . .  

Anyway, I don’t know what I was expecting, but their Jesus wasn’t anything special to look at, that’s for sure . . . usually the Messiahs we see coming through the village are big, strong, handsome fellows - you know the kind - the ones any fool will follow – but this guy was different – not memorable at all – I can hardly even call his face to mind, even now . . . and he was quiet . . . sort of soft in his voice . . .

Slowly, we started walking toward Jerusalem . . .what a sight!  People were shouting ‘Hosanna!’ . . . save now! 

As we walked, more and more people fell in behind us, shouting their hosannas and waving their branches . . . not everybody followed - some just watched in silence as we passed by . . . some laughed and pointed – including some centurions . . . they thought we were great entertainment – poor villagers from the far corner of their ‘Empire’ processing into town like it was a parade . . . like we didn’t know our lot, our fate . . . like we didn’t know they were watching . . . but we knew . . . He knew, I can tell you that much . . . whenever he saw them, though, he just seemed sad . . . like he pitied them . . . lucky they couldn’t see his face . . . I don’t like to think what they would have done to him . . . of course, they did, didn’t they?  Only not then . . . 

Hosanna, they kept shouting . . . and I started shouting it too . . .

Finally, we entered Jerusalem . . . somehow, we made our way with the crowd right up to the temple . . . 

As we got closer and closer, it got quieter and quieter . . . even the hosannas seemed to be whispered . . . 

The air seemed to be alive around us . . . and then the wind came . . . sand storm . . . the closer we got, the more the wind blew until you couldn’t see or hear anything . . . most of the people disappeared inside to ride out the storm, but we few continued on . . . I put my hands over the colts eyes to protect them from the grit of the sand and we crept forward, one slow step at a time . . . he didn’t seem to mind – when we came to the temple . . . he just walked up and in . . . disappearing from my sight with his first step . . . 

I stayed with the colt . . . I didn’t know what else to do, where else to go . . . I’ll never forget the sound of the wind while I stood outside the temple holding onto the colt . . . it was like she and I were the only two creatures left on the whole earth . . . the few other people around were just shadows huddled against the howling . . .

When the insiders tell the story, they don’t mention the dust storm, do they . . . well, I guess it’s not their job to give a weather report . . . and they don’t mention me . . . why would they?  I was only a boy . . . 

They tell the important bits – about the parade and the hosannas and the colt and the temple – and I get it . . . those are the things everybody looks for – the signs – that make a messiah – it’s kind of a prophet’s check list with my people – and if this guy was the messiah, his followers needed all the check-list proof they could muster – cos he sure didn’t look or act like who or what  we were waiting for – he came from the wrong people, wrong birthplace, wrong status, wrong looks, wrong horse, wrong message . . . wrong, wrong, wrong!

How could we have been so wrong?  My excuse?  I was only a boy!

I wonder how it would have been if I’d stayed with them, with him?  Of course I know what happened to him . . . and I know the stories . . . but I didn’t stay . . . I went back to my uncle, back to my life, back to everything the same . . . I went back . . . but I was only a boy!!!!!   

Sunday, April 13, 2014

That Which Lies Beneath Your Feet

[NOTE:  On Palm Sunday, contemplating Holy Week, I have been moved to consider each step along the way presenting a whole cast of characters, many unnamed, in the unfolding drama of it all.  This week is devoted to those 'characters', the first of which is the road taken.]

You walk upon me all the time unaware . . . scarcely needing to cast a downward eye to assure a safe tread . . . for I have seen to all of that for you . . . removing the rocks which routinely fall from the center of my flat pathways . . . for you . . . 

The animals and I worked together to make me the pathway that I am . . . a meandering, curving thing, taking you first this way and then that . . . slowly, every so slowly wending toward that which you seek . . .The Holy City . . . 

I see your excitement as it comes into view . . . I am glad for you . . . but always a little sad, too . . . as you rush forward with no thought of me . . . the mountain road you so eagerly leave behind . . . 

Was the view too harsh for your delicate eyes, with its sun-glaring whiteness?  Did you mistake the blending together of all you saw for dullness . . . or lack of life?  Did you miss the creatures and the grasses and the trees bursting forth even in the worst of the dry times?

Or perhaps my dust offended you . . . rising up in greeting and welcome, did you receive it not as the gift it is intended to be, but only as an annoyance to be gotten through as quickly as possible?  How could you not know I was welcoming you with flung star dust . . . surrounding you with the very rings of Saturn?

Did you really think my gift was nothing . . . have you really forgotten that I greet you as one dust brother to another?

Did you think it was an accident that I wend towards a destination?  Did you think that no planning or effort was involved in scratching out from the millennia a path for your delicate two-footed existence to navigate with ease?

As you leave behind your palm branches and gather up your coats, won’t you look back, if only for a moment . . . and remember me . . . the path you trod to get where you’re going?

Friday, April 11, 2014

I Miss . . .

Lupo’s hot dogs . . . sleeping in on weekends . . . the excitement of my kids when they were little and we were about to embark on an adventure . . . soccer games . . . Saturday morning cartoons . . . my hair when it was so long it wrapped around my arm in my sleep . . . how pretty I was back then and didn’t even know it . . . that being-pregnant glow . . . rolling in the grass at any excuse . . . chasing lightening bugs . . . being the age where every party I attended involved wearing a hat . . . summer days at the play ground . . . drive-in movies . . . cruising with no where to go just loving being on the move . . . all my firsts . . . the anticipation of a school dance . . . Easter Egg hunts when I wasn’t the one hiding the eggs . . . roasting hot dogs and marshmellows on a stick . . . being small enough to be thrown into the air and carried sleepily from the car at the end of a long day of sheer joy . . . believing in Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy . . . getting a new outfit at Easter . . . the beginning of being a freshman and the ending of being a senior . . . being read to . . . when everything I needed was near enough to walk to . . . walking home after school with friends . . . giggling on the phone with friends after walking or driving past the house of the most recent boy crush hoping just to catch sight of him . . . hanging out at the swimming pool all day . . . the smell of Grandma’s cinnamon buns in the early morning . . . having a posse of parents and grandparents have my back no matter what . . . Grandmother Bertha chasing those bullies away with her cane and 1st grade teacher voice . . . 

Thursday, April 10, 2014


I read of a stabbing boy
and am stabbed in the
heart of my eyes – soul-
weary of trying to
understand – wanting
only to yell S.T.O.P.
Enough, already!
Yes, something is
wrong – really wrong –
when someone, anyone,
decides today will be
the day of knife stabbing
gun wielding shooting
life taking crap over
way to problem solve
through their own
particular brand of pain

on another day, I will
care again, be concerned –
again –
wade through the societal piece –
again –
but today, enough
really is enough
and I don’t particularly
want to care – all I want
should anyone care to know
is for this to stop

I doubt any of the weapon
carrier believers that today
will somehow be different –
be their day – will be reading
but on the off chance and with
no thought to changing
minds or hearts but if you
were wondering what
everyone else is thinking
about you – and it isn’t fear –
that’s reserved solely to
those right in front of your
weapons – well, here goes –
get over ‘it’ – what ever your
it may be – just get over it –
everyone else did and does –
yeah – we’ve got shit in our
lives too - we’re real too –we’re
invisible to many too – we’re
tired too – we’re struggling too –
we’re hurt and hurting too –
we have angst too – and no,
we’re not better than you –
we just decided a long time
ago that it was our problem
and did the best we could with
it – and the best we can does
not include taking knives
and guns and trying to shoot
and stab our way out of our
pain – simply because it
just doesn’t work – and oh
yeah – those other people –
they. are. people. too.

you are not a hero
nor are you a villain
you’re just ordinary
about to do something
really stupid
from which there is no
coming back
and here’s the thing –
you want to come back –
it’s obvious – your very
actions scream that you
want to come back –
people who don’t
want to come back
don’t take other people
with them on the journey

and you will not be famous
a handful of people will
know your name, but they
will not know you
that doesn’t happen by
knowing you happens by
a lifetime of spending
time with
that’s it
not very mysterious
but boy is it hard
and all you’re doing
with your snap
stupid gun-slinging
knife toting is
showing you don’t
have it to go the distance
because it’s hard

spoiled poor baby
living in the land
of too much that
isn’t enough
with nowhere to
go – how about
down to the local
mission or shelter
to lend a hand to
someone who really
has had it bad or hard
life-slinging bad hard
or over to the nursing
home to do the hard
work of sitting with
someone who will
never recognize you
never say thank you
and just do something
nice for them with
no reward
because there is a
whole world of real
suffering – you’re just
a poor imitation of
the real thing
and you really piss
me off

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sermon Cliff Note: The Third Temptation -- Choose

If we were to reduce Jesus’ three wilderness temptations to one-liners, we might say that the first temptation is the temptation of need . . . the second, the temptation of surrender . . . and the third, the temptation of power.

The temptation of need is the temptation to turn away from or to blame God for our lack, our problems, our needs.  This is the temptation which says essentially: God won’t help you, so you better help yourself any way you can.  The second temptation says: This is too much for you.  Just give in.  Quit. It doesn’t matter what you do – God will save you anyway.  The third and final and perhaps most seductive temptation of all is essentially this: Imagine what you could do if you were in charge!  

Consider this temptation as told in Matthew 4.9-10 from The Message:
For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”  Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy:“Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”  The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels!
Satan is claiming to be able to bestow everything in creation to whomever he chooses.  Remember that the real meaning of Satan’s name is The Liar.  From humanity’s first encounter with this figure in the Garden until the end of time, The Adversary’s claims are lies.  The earth is not his to give.  Bowing down to him doesn’t get you the world; it gets you kicked out of the Garden.

The next thing to consider is what is being asked of Jesus.  The NRSV and The Message, as well as most other translations in English say Jesus is being asked to worship, the inference being that Jesus is being asked to worship Satan and not God.  In the Greek, it’s a bit more subtle than that.

The literal translation reads something like this:  Again he is saying to him, “All these I shall give to you if ever you should fall prostrate before me.”  

To fall prostrate or to bow before can be an act of worship.  But it is also, especially in Jesus’ world, an act of recognition of someone’s superior status to you.  Recognizing someone’s superiority doesn’t necessarily make of them a god.  But it does recognize their power.  And this temptation is all about power and status, about the things that get so much attention and importance in this world.  Thus it bears remembering that immediately after this encounter is when Jesus delivers his Sermon on the Mount with the beatitude blessings upon the the societal nobodies.

The Adversary offers Jesus all the power of the world if only he will recognize The Adversary’s own claims to power, to which Jesus says, no thanks.  

Literally what he says is, Then Jesus is saying to him, “Be under [your] leading, Satan?  It has been written, “For God, your master, you shall be prostrate before and to him only shall you be offering service.”

In telling The Adversary to go away, in rejecting this third temptation, Jesus is saying two things: (1) the world isn’t yours to give; and (2) even if it were, none of that can compare to the worship of God, the serving of God, to God’s very self.

What might we learn from Jesus’ encounter in the desert wilderness?  What might be our take--aways when it comes to this third temptation?

It’s doubtful that any of us are going to be offered the ability to control the whole world any time soon.  So what are the temptations to power in our lives?

Perhaps they’re the temptations of the every-day . . . the things we don’t even think of as being related to power at all. . . things we bow down to without giving it much thought . . . things like our schedules . . . our agendas . . . our desires . . . our vision of how things ought to be. . .

And we have lots of power or power-potential, whether we think so or not . . . all of us . . . we have power in our relationships with other people – our children, our spouses, our family and friends . . . we have power in how we spend our money . . . we have power in how we spend our time . . . if nothing else, it is the power to choose – and as Jesus points out, the power to choose is to be about the worship and service of God – always.

So perhaps some questions we might ask ourselves during this lenten time of reflection might include:
1. How do I react when I don’t get my way?  Do I recognize that I’m not the only person involved and that others might see things differently?  Or do I get mad?  Judge the other person?  Withdraw my support?  Undermine the others by complaining? 
2. Have I ever agreed with an opponent about anything?  Or do I always see my opponents as wrong simply because they are my opponents?
3. When I choose to buy something, do I think about whether this buying will glorify God?  Does the question seem silly?  What might I do differently with my money if I thought about it in those terms?
4. When someone asks you to do something, do you think about whether the doing is in service to God?  Do you pray about it?  Or do you just answer based on what you think or feel at the moment?  

What Jesus faced was a time of trial.  And what times of trial do is winnow away the unimportant, reducing life down to the things that matter, which makes the matter of choosing much simpler than in the day-to-day of life.

In the day-to-day of things, perhaps we might do well to recall the parting words of Joshua: Choose this day whom you will serve.  As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

To paraphrase Bob Dylan, you gotta serve somebody – the question is who.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Resting Into Providing God

I love this time of year.  All the signs of spring are upon us: birds are chattering, flowers are in bud, the sun shines and the rains come.

And with the rain, every day things get a bit greener, reminding me of the many references in Scripture to God as our Living Water.

From God’s provision of water to the people Israel, suffering in the desert in Exodus through Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in the Gospel of John, we are continually reminded that for all our effort, God is our Provider.

I don’t know about you, but that single fact is a great source of comfort and rest for me.  It reminds me that I don’t have to be in charge; that I don’t have to worry; that I can and should do my part and (thankfully, oh, so very thankfully) leave the rest up to God.

Jesus came that we might all find rest and comfort, peace and reconciliation, in and with our God.  Let us be thankful, but even more, let us be rest-filled.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Active Dormancy

Isn’t it interesting, maybe even ironic, that the maple trees are so productive, so fruitful, when they would seem to be the most dormant.  While the sap runs so well, it would mostly seem to our eyes that nothing at all is happening.  I wonder what God does within us during our dormant times, the times when, to human eyes, it would seem that we’re doing nothing at all . . . what God manages to work when we release ourselves to simply being.  Perhaps, like the maple tree, life is running within us, anxious to produce fruit.  May it be so, Lord, may it be so.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Question of Miracles

In our time, we have to struggle with a fundamental question born of our sense of individual identity, of our increased scientific and medical awareness, a question of faith and a question of doubt . . . for some of us, at least, I suspect, it is ultimately a question of miracles . . .

Do they happen?  Are they real?  What do they say about God?  Why do some get them and others do not?

A long time ago, I was in a car accident and I got a miracle . . . for myself and for others there that day . . . that’s how it seems to me, anyway . . .

My car spinning on the ice out of control, I was ‘driving’ backwards headed into the oncoming lane of traffic at 60 miles an hour . . . others behind me were also spinning trying to avoid me . . . now, when you’re going backwards at 60 miles an hour there isn’t much you can do to save yourself . . . and I distinctly remember the realization that I would soon die hitting me . . . I took my hands off the steering wheel and prayed . . . I prayed that no one else would die because of my mistake . . . I did not pray for myself  because I thought my own fate was a ‘done deal’ . . . my vehicle came to a gentle stop in the median and the car behind me righted itself and the 18-wheeler somehow avoided hitting it broadside, which only a moment before, had been a certainty.

But ‘my miracle’ has not always been received as a story of blessing . . . as some have heard it with anger rather than joy, with resentment rather than appreciation . . . if what I got was a miracle, where was theirs?

Miracle stories leave some filled not with questions of wonder, but with questions of mourning: why not me?

In trying to get at the ‘why not me’ question, Stephen Jones says of the Tabitha miracle, "We do not hold the keys that unlock these mysteries. We do not know God's will as it pertains to Dorcas or to our loved ones. The helpful distinction is between praying for a cure, which seems to dictate to God our desired outcome, and praying for healing, which can come in a hundred unexpected ways. God's Spirit will intervene on behalf of our prayers, yet the healing that comes often surprises us and causes us to catch our collective breath."

I like what Jones says, but he is so 20th century!

For the fact is that the biblical miracle stories aren’t about ‘healing’ in our 20th century sense of the word; they’re about cure.

Our faith is a thing of mystery . . . and with this mystery, we do not know why anymore than we know how . . .

In our time and in our place, that uncertainty, that not knowing the why of it all, leads to doubt . . . doubt in miracles and doubt in God . . .

The challenge to us in the now is to live with this doubt, I think . . . to not discard miracles because they don’t happen to us . . . to rejoice for others even as we mourn for ourselves . . . and to understand that those receiving miracles do not have all their problems solved . . .

And so we are left with some simple declarative sentences, I think:

God is . . .

Miracles do happen . . . but they don’t bring a life free from pain or despair or problems . . .

C. S. Lewis once said, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”

But most powerful for me is the ‘testimony’ of William Sloan Coffin, who says that he knows Jesus performs miracles because he has seen Jesus turn beer into furniture . . . And only those who have never suffered from the effects of alcohol and alcoholism would ever doubt that it’s a miracle when that change happens . . .

I have never been closer to my God than in the mud and the muck and the pain and the sorrow of life . . .

God moves about our lives and our deaths . . . and we are changed . . .

Old or young, living or dead, sooner or later . . . we all meet God face to face . . . and we are never the same . . .

How could we be?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April's Fool

It’s the first day of April and who knows what mischief is afoot.  We clever humans never seem to lack imagination for new and improved ways to trick our fellows into all kinds of silliness (Hoaxes) on this spring day memorable for nothing save its place of first on an imaginary chronology (the modern-day calendar).

All kinds of theories abound online as to its origins, but my own favorite traces back to ancient Persia and Zoroastrianism.  Nowruz, or new year, is upon us in certain parts of the world and in Iran today is still celebrated the ancient Persian rite of Sizdah Bedar typically falls near the first of April.  Sizdah Bedar celebrates family and the promise of a good harvest.

The Zoroastrians believed that
laughter and joy symbolize the throwing away of all bad thoughts. According to Zoroastrianism, the bad thoughts are coming from the Devil Angra Mainyu (in Middle Persian: Ahriman) and the celebrations of New Year and Sizdah Bedar will cleanse all bad thoughts. Avesta, the holy scripture of the Zoroastrian faith, recalls that all those who love purity were responsible for celebrating Sizdah Bedar to help the Angel of Goodness prevail over the earth in the struggle against the Evil and the Devil.  Wikipedia
The object, then, is not who is the most clever, but rather the evocation of laughter and joy.

Having, hopefully, left behind our last snow of the year in these parts, the dawning of April finds us almost
Photo by Mariam Foster 
giddy with relief as we emerge from our winter cocoons and observe the tiny evidences of spring abounding in the greening of the land and find ourselves laughing for no apparent reason save the joy of the moment.

Laughter and joy as an antidote against bad thoughts and evil – now there’s a blessing to get behind.