Sunday, December 29, 2019
A confluence of Christmas themes:
Top of mind, the Nativity, a tender scene. And today, the lectionary speaks of love - a father’s love, THE Father’s love.
And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
You call your Father Abba, translated Daddy. Not “Glorious and Holy Creator of the Universe,” just Daddy, evoking intimacy, family. (From Mark 14:36)
My weekend reading reinforces this:
God does indeed have for us perfect parental love - that unconditional, heart-bursting-out-of-your-chest love, a love that is deeply personal, bottomless, and abundantly flowing. Jesus’ word for “Daddy” is “Abba.”
You are mine. I delight in you. I will restore you. I will not let you go. I will write your name upon my hand. You are mine. What I have begun in you, I will complete. I will be with you in times of trouble. You are mine. I am the Good Shepherd.
(Disciplines, 12/28/19, Ray Buckley)
Amen ...to Abba!
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Our belief about Incarnation, recorded seventeen hundred years ago:
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. (Nicene Creed)
A report from shepherds at the first Christmas:
...the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:10-14)
Nascent theology from the Gospel of John:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:16)
On this Christmas Eve,
turn our ancient story to belief,
and belief to presence,
and presence to experience
of your glory.
In believing, in knowing,
in holy companionship,
may we live in truth
with grace-filled lives.
Sunday, December 8, 2019
ADVENT. The arrival.
God makes an appearance
in the person of Jesus.
Emmanuel. God with us.
An Old Testament change-up...
Not a pillar of cloud.
God in the flesh!
Physicality is the hallmark.
It inspires a muscular faith.
He comes to us,
as one of us,
walking with us.
So we decorate,
carol, feast and gift.
a personal advent.
The arrival of
Jesus the Christ
in heart and home.
Thanks be to God!
Browse Advent prayers:
Sunday, December 1, 2019
Lord of Light,
It’s time for the Christmas story! The baby, the star, lambs and magi. But my Advent reading begins with Zechariah. I long for The Light; his Benedictus shoves me to the shadows. He blocks my sentimental Christmas notions.
This ancient poem is a reality check for my tendency toward naïveté, optimism, even denial. It’s a reminder that we are living in the darkness of sin, in the shadow of death.
Most days the headlines are like poison. Gun violence and violent posts. In politics, the darkness is palpable. I cast a shadow, too. The Light can be very dim.
Zechariah lost his voice, dumbstruck in the shadows. Like him I must stand in the dark. I must own it. Only then can I fully appreciate The Light.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Now, I can kneel at the manger - in The Light. The canticle’s full message of redemption, salvation, rescue and hope warms me. Something momentous is unfolding with this Christmas story. It’s a game changer. Coping skills for the darkness. The power to resist evil. A call to come alongside the Divine. There’s a measure of peace, and even more is promised. We step out of the shadows into The Light.
The dawn from on high is breaking upon us.
Browse ADVENT prayers.
Monday, July 1, 2019
We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands.
We are downsizing - selling our home of over two decades and disposing of the boundless treasure hidden in attic and closet and cabinet. It's my latest baby boomer rite of passage. I'm self-diagnosed with nostalgic materialism. The cure is painful: throw it overboard! Seriously, there is a self-emptying aspect to this, a letting go, a dialing back of the ego. I am confident the empty spaces will be filled by and with Jesus!
I am what I have.
Henri Nouwen warned against that.
And that's not me.
I'm a prudent saver. I'm a serious collector.
Well...my stuff does bring comfort.
OK, I am a hoarder!
And eBay reveals little value.
I'm off to the thrift store with another load.
Lord, this house and my stuff have been a blessing - in their season.
Now it's an anchor. A new voyage looms. Anchors aweigh!!!
Like St. Paul, we will cast some cargo into the sea for our own well being. Traveling lightly. To weather the storms of our senior years.
To better enjoy the days of calm and fair winds. Amen.
Artwork credit: Jane Remsen Thompson Schultz. Early 1900s. Distressed family heirloom revived with a Prisma photo editor filter.
Sunday, June 2, 2019
When writing, I have a need to frame and condense owing to my early years as a news reporter. This is a challenge during Eastertide. There are so many facets to Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. It cannot be explained in a tightly crafted paragraph. It's worthy of volumes. In that spirit, I'm reading The Crucifixion | Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge - 612 pages of Easter meaning! This study reminds me that my staccato prayers may fall short. Still, I'm forever trying to explore and explain my "truth," to locate my current position on the path of faith. And I'm humbled by St. Paul's admonition to the Corinthians: Those who think they know something do not yet know as the ought to know.
(1st Corinthians 8:2)
So many layers, Lord. So many rooms in Easter's theological mansion.
There's an impressive library with scholarly tomes on penal substitutionary atonement. I'm staying out of there! It's not a commodious room for me.
I prefer to spend time in the grand ballroom of your fierce and sacrificial love.
Other spaces beckon, too. Sins forgiven. Evil repelled. Life eternal.
Let the Spirit test these highlights of my Easter exploration:
Lord Christ, you experienced this world at its worst - betrayal, humiliation, torture and homicide. We call that suffering your Passion.
You might have summoned an apocalyptic response. Instead, you took the punishment - rather than punish - to show the depth of your love for us. I call that your passion for mankind.
And the horrific crucifixion event has a profoundly surprising outcome. Your resurrection.
You have defeated evil. Your followers are acquitted of their own brokenness.
You have defeated death. Your followers rise with you.
That's our hope as Easter people. Lifted above worldly offense and our personal trespass. Lifted even from the grave. Fiercely loved by our Creator. At home with Jesus! Amen.
Sunday, March 3, 2019
As the new year began, I added daily posts from Fr. Richard Rohr to my reading. He's a Franciscan priest and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. His God and faith are expansive. His theology is challenging. I've been Bible studying with Scripture Union for 35 years. It's a traditional, conservative orthodoxy. I hope my faith is amplified by a contrasting perspective.
Over time, we confine the Magnificent God of All Creation to a tiny box of our own limited thinking, packed with our fears, prejudices, politics, etc. On that subject Fr. Rohr does a mic drop:
The Christ is always way too much for us, larger than any one era, culture, empire, or religion. Its radical inclusivity is a threat to power and arrogance. Jesus by himself has usually been limited by the evolution of human consciousness in these first two thousand years. His reputation has been held captive by culture, nationalism, and much of Christianity's white, bourgeois, and Eurocentric worldview... He came with darker skin, from the underclass, a male body with a female soul, from an often-hated religion, living on the very cusp between East and West. No one owns him, and no one ever will.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent Books: 2019)
Reading his post of February 15th, Fr. Rohr's prose was more like poetry...or a prayer! I took the liberty of reshaping some of his words...
Am I too narrow, too protective of my faith? Has that powerful personal encounter turned selfish?
Can my faith transcend creeds and denominations, nations and ethnicities, the vagaries of gender and sexuality?
Move me from I to WE.
To see God everywhere. In the mundane or mountaintop. My dog. The yard. In traffic. In a meeting. At the store.
To see God in everyone. In people who don't look like me, even people who don't like me.
Let Christ's light illuminate everything. Everything created by you, everything and everyone loved by you. That I may appreciate and engage. Amen.
Artwork: Image of Jesus with Prisma filters from Salvator Mundi by Titian
Saturday, February 16, 2019
There is power in patience.
Rivers are my witness:
for six million years,
carves the Grand Canyon.
Here at home,
in NC and TN,
the French Broad
slices through the Appalachians,
for 300 million years,
smoothing, nourishing the landscape.
Yes, God often comes
as lightening or quake,
but more often, most often,
with a river's patience,
with a river's persistence,
wearing down our barriers,
flooding our hearts
with his presence and love.
There's power in his patience.
Photo: French Broad River at Asheville NC
Browse Nature prayers.
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Poet Mary Oliver died in January at eighty-three. She had a gift for expressing in words what she experienced of nature. Her numinous encounters were of the everyday/anywhere variety - in the woods, at the marsh, with her dog.
Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.
(from It Was Early)
(from It Was Early)
Her theology inspired a 2011 prayer that I re-post to honor her memory.