Journal Archive 2007 CYCLE C

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Is 60:1-6
Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6
Mt 2:1-12

Pregnant Dreams
I am one of those people who have dreams that are very vivid. I can tell you about dreams that I had years ago. Sometimes my dreams seem to be picking up on things that are about to happen. Other dreams tell me about things that are currently happening that I would not know otherwise. For the most part I live primarily with vivid dreams.

My siblings and friends who know me well ask me not to tell them if I dream about them. I know they mean it in “a nice way.” However, sometimes regardless of this request I call them up just to check out if a recent dream has manifested itself. When I think about the dreams which happen in the gospel for January 7th, I think, “Thank God I don’t get dreams like that!”

However, sometimes I wonder if I miss clues about the call of God in my life by going to sleep with my editor on. We talk about night dreams, but what about the day dreams that come to us through inspiration? How often might God be coming to us in the inspiration created by snow falling, a beautiful sunrise or sunset?

As this new year falls into place and we begin to write with greater ease the year 2007, might we shift our energies towards the dreams. Let us dare to be more open to dreams that guide us by new stars and lead us to different places of hope, than back to the safe and already charted routes.

Is. 62:1-5
1Cor. 12:4-11
Jn. 2:1-11.

Hidden Gifts
This past week I have had an opportunity to return to my old stomping grounds. I saw lots of people who were a formative part of my adult life. Quite honestly, it was a bit overwhelming as people greeted me. Some asked at my former place of work, “Are you back here now?” Others asked, “How are you doing? How is your life?” Again their generous care of my well being and interest in my daily life was a little overwhelming. Being one who believes questions are asked from a point of care, I took time to respond.

In the gospel reading for January 14th, Mary invites Jesus to step into a new ministerial response. She invites him into his gifts of the Spirit. He reluctantly responds to her request. He acquiesces to her as it becomes clear that she isn’t going to go away just because he isn’t interested.

This past week I spent time with people who challenged me many times. Sometimes they called me to step into the gifts they saw in me. Sometimes others questioned my ability to do this or that. Some did both, but in such a way that the doorway to the learning or growing was from a place of love.

What are the situations in my life where I am invited by another to respond to the needs of others? Who are the mothers in my life who can see what is waiting to be birthed in me in my public life?

Today, for whose sake will we call forth new gifts to meet the needs of the bride and bridegroom in our lives?

Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
1 Cor 12:12-30 or 12:12-14, 27
Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Me and my Cell Phone
The other day I was at a funeral. At the beginning of the liturgy an announcement was made to please turn off any cell phones. I was feeling slightly smug because I had already turned off my cell phone and felt ready to enter the celebration of this fine woman’s life.

After communion I heard this music playing and wondered, “who didn’t turn off their phone, for goodness sake!!!?” I was surprised as it sounded so close to me and then I realized it was MY new personal cell phone! After I took a deep breath I turned to those around me and apologized not so much with words as with my face and hands. I had already taken up sacred airspace. I can’t tell you just how easy this whole experience happened. I left church feeling embarrassed and chagrinned at my initial smugness.

In the readings from January 14th, both the first reading and the gospel talk about the Word being fulfilled in the presence in those who were gathered. In the first reading Ezra the priest and Nehemiah encourage the people to claim this holy day as the Lord’s. Rather than fasting they invited people strength from the food and drink made available through the Lord.

In the gospel, Jesus reads from the book of Isaiah. He proclaims and acknowledges that it is he of whom this passage speaks:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Listening to these readings, I was reminded of my cell phone experience at the funeral. All of a sudden that cell phone experience reminded me of how easy it is to be distracted when God is proclaimed and potentially miss the message being proclaimed.

I wonder how many people in the first reading and at the time of this Gospel missed what was being said? How many, for their time and culture, had their cell phones on?

In the end, that doesn’t really matter, what matters to me is how attentive am I to the Word of God as it unfolds in my midst? This week I will probably have times when I miss those God moments. But my intention will be to more attentive to God’s presence than moments being smug about my readiness for God’s appearances.

Being Seen from Inside Out
We have a nurse who recently had a baby. It was cool to watch how her appearance changed over the months. The other day I saw her in the hallway at work and asked her if she had any pictures of her new little one, she didn’t that day. I asked her to bring some so we might be able to see what he looked like out of his nine month apartment; she smiled and said she would.

I love the first reading used on the Sunday of January 28th from Jeremiah. The concept of God being able to know and see me in my mother’s womb is very comforting. At the same time it is almost too much for me to take in, that God not only knows and see me, but has since my conception.

I guess in some ways I fall into the same trap, the same small mindedness that the people of Jesus time fell into when they encountered his giftedness in the gospel reading from the 28th of January. After all I am from a small town like Nazareth, my parents are like ordinary people (at least from the outside) like Joseph and Mary.

These readings today invite me to be more. They remind me, like the picture of the new little baby, that I can be seen not only in the here and now, but that I was also known in my mother’s womb.

Is 6:1-2a, 3-8
1 Cor 15:1-11
Lk 5:1-11

Burning Coals
The other day at work a co-worker took a short cut through our hospice team room. We have a team room which has two doors and is the shortest route from the back of the building to the front of the building. As a result there is a lot of foot traffic and that can be irritating when I am trying to do paper work. Well anyway…I was irritated that this co-worker didn’t even apologize for cutting through, so I made what I thought was a teasing remark and she had a very strong retort. (Later I admitted to myself and my colleague that my remark had less humor and more anger to it.)

I felt crummy about my remark and terrible about our interaction. I was also suffering from some self righteousness about the whole ordeal so it took a few minutes and a trip to the bathroom before I was ready to follow up on our previous exchange. However, life is short and the office is small and…so I went to talk to this co-worker. To make a long story a little shorter, we ended up both apologizing to the other for the exchange explaining how both of us experienced the interchange. Each of us thanked the other for being willing to talk about it. The air cleared and I think both of us felt better.

When I heard the first reading from Isaiah on Sunday the 4th of February, I was touched by the image of hot coals used to purify the prophet’s lips. I have become more aware lately of the awesome beauty and bigness of God’s creation and praise often rolls off my lips. However, I seldom think about whether my lips are clean enough to speak those praises. I don’t often think about how I have used my breath to form words and conversations that may or may not be life giving. The experience at the office the other day is such a great example of how easy it is to have “bad breath”.

Later when I left the office to visit patients, I felt better prepared to say, “Send me Lord, here I am.” Thank God for the burning coal that purified my lips and refocused my heart.

Jer 17:5-8
1 Cor 15:12, 16-20
Lk 6:17, 20-26

That place of Unknowing
This week as I have reflected on the gospel reading from February 11th, I have found myself looking for beatitude people. It seems a simple task when looking at it from the surface. I encounter a lot of people who live simply, who suffer, who are hungry and voiced a sense of being persecuted. There are days when I think I might be even able to slip my name under some of the categories.

However, what I realized this week that I want to be changed by the encounter with these holy ones of God. You know a deeply visceral experience of God, like one feels when rained upon…saturated with moisture. Yet much to my surprise when I got close to experiencing saturation, I stopped. What I found lacking in myself was the inner freedom to accept the unknown change that might happen, if indeed I did open myself to the power of the “Blessed” to call forth transformation within me.

In the reading from Jeremiah, I am encouraged as he describes what will happen to the one who trusts in this kind of transformation in the following way:

Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
it fears not the heat when it comes;
its leaves stay green;
in the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.

I think that the beatitude people have found the way to plant themselves bebeing persecuted. There are days when I think I might be even able to slip my name under some of the categories.

However, what I realized this week that I want to be changed by the encounter with these holy ones of God. You know a deeply visceral experience of God, like one feels when rained upon…saturated with moisture. Yet much to my surprise when I got close to experiencing saturation, I stopped. What I found lacking in myself was the inner freedom to accept the unknown change that might happen, if indeed I did open myself to the power of the “Blessed” to call forth transformation within me.

In the reading from Jeremiah, I am encouraged as he describes what will happen to the one who trusts in this kind of transformation in the following way:

Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
it fears not the heat when it comes;
its leaves stay green;
in the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.

I think that the beatitude people have found the way to plant themselves beside the waters. The invitation to us is to trust, to trust that the longings of our souls are strong enough. Strong enough to risk that time of not knowing exactly what kind of blessing is waiting to nourish our tree’s roots.

1 Sm 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23
1 Cor 15:45-49
Lk 6:27-38

Turning the other Cheek
The other day I was talking to a dear friend of mine. She was full of good news about work opportunities that connect very deeply to her passions. As I listened I found myself with two very different responses. One was “GREAT!” The other was “how come she gets to do that… and here I am…” Clearly I was at mixed odds with my two very different reactions. Fortunately, for both my friend and for myself I spoke only my first reaction.

The readings from February 19th rang within me as I heard them at the liturgy. In fact as I listened to the reading from 1 Samuel, my thoughts turned to the gospel reading of the day. That concept of turning the other cheek, or not getting even can be such a hard concept to really live, at least for me. David saw his mortal enemy asleep and he could have easily “taken him out” as the television shows talk about in the crime programs. However, he chose to model not revenge, but turning the other cheek.

In our culture we are rewarded for not only finding the challenges, but for overcoming them. Often the fuel that motivates some of those successes is jealousy or personal pride. We use another person or company, as our comparison marker. Sometimes our goal is to do as well as, but often it is to do better than that marker.

As my friend and I continued to talk, I decided to tell her what was going on inside of me. I was grateful for the grace and courage to admit to the jealousy brought up inside of me as I heard of her good fortune. I left our conversation feeling much more connected to her. I also left the conversation humbled by how quickly jealousy sprang up within me. It took absolutely no effort to feel my burning cheek, but it took a conscious decision to allow love to enter the conversation.

Dt 26:4-10
Rm 10:8-13
Lk 4:1-13

Leaning on the Lord
A week ago I went snow shoeing with a friend on one of the nearby mountains. This was the first time I had really done any snow shoeing that involved going primarily uphill. It was also the first time for me to do it on a mountain.

My friend gave me several tips about ways of approaching the incline. A mutual friend had given me the childhood mantra, “I think I can, I think I can…” As I walked up the surface of this awesome mountain I could hear myself tell friends, “Yes, I snow shoed up Mount Red…” I went on to imagine them being at least a little bit impressed that I had done it.

The reading of Jesus being tempted in the desert, in the gospel reading for Sunday February 25th hit home. As I heard the temptations, I heard my inner conversation with myself from my experience of snow shoeing. I must admit that as I climbed one of the steeper slopes, affectionately known as Heart Break Hill; I wrestled with my ego big time. My body was starting to let me know that she was tired, but my ego kept saying, “oh come on, it is only 45 minutes once we reach the crest. Think how good it will look!”

As I made my way up Heart Break Hill I found myself thinking about this gospel. I understood in a different way how well disguised temptations can come dressed. I wonder, was it easier or harder for Jesus to say no to the temptation than it was for me?

In the end, I listened to my body and much to my relief my friend had also come to the same conclusion. That was a week ago and since then I have had many temptations to highlight my comings and goings. I think that I have been more aware of them than usual.

It was here, that I needed to do as the Spiritual sings, “I’m leaning on the Lord.” Perhaps my Lenten lesson is inviting me to do with more inner awareness and less self importance. “Leaning into the Lord…”

Gn 15:5-12, 17-18
Phil 3:17-4:1
Lk 9:28b-36

A Mountain Top View
This past week I have been thinking about the gospel of Luke from the Sunday reading of March 4th. I have always felt for poor Peter in this gospel. He moves right into action and decides it is time to offer the prophets appropriate accommodations for their stay with Jesus and them on the mountain. Just as he is moving into a mode of hospitality, a cloud overshadows them and then,

“from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
They fell silent and did not at that time
tell anyone what they had seen.”

I can’t quite imagine being in his position. I heard and have read this passage with hindsight for years. But imagine being there as Peter, James and John! Imagine going for a mountain retreat and having big name saints showing up in your prayer space. I have to ask myself, how might I move forward after such an experience?

This time of Lent is an opportunity to experience transformation. Most of us won’t go away physically for forty days to ready ourselves for the celebration of the Tridium. So I ask myself, how open am I to really having my life changed during this time of fasting and prayer? Am I willing to be open to these changes happening in my everyday life? Honestly, some days it varies, as I can be very comfortable with my known patterns whether they build the kingdom within or not.

The other thing I wondered about was to what degree am I open to others being transformed during this time? I wonder what was it like for Jesus and the disciples to come down from the mountain? How open were their friends to the changes they must have experienced in them?

Thank goodness for Peter, as he gives all of us a break in our human struggle to accept the various ways that God calls us to transformation. He bumbles through so much of his journey. Yet in it all he shows us that we too can respond to the call of Christ whether it is on a mountain top taking in the awe of God, or asking for forgiveness after denying to the woman by the fire, that he was a follower of Jesus. Remember, it was Peter who was invited to be the rock upon which the message of Christ was to be lived.

Ex 17:3-7
Rm. 5:1-2, 5-8
Jn. 4:5-42

Bearing Life Giving Water
I always feel somewhat sorry for the woman at the well when the story starts to unfold. The first part of the gospel story is my worst fear. Imagine there you are all by yourself and all of a sudden everywhere around you turns dark except for this brilliant light that forms a four foot radius around you. In the midst of that four foot radius steps forward a person who can read not only your thoughts, but also your history!

Even thinking about that imagined story I can feel my stomach tightened up as I think about the stories that only a few know. I think about how much prayer and time it has taken to bring healing to those memories. This story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well holds these types of exchanges. As the conversation unfolds it is clear that Jesus, somehow, knows the whole picture…the whole picture!

This woman has the courage to stay in the conversation with Jesus. Jesus seeing the whole of this woman calls out in her that deep desire to know a fullness that cannot be satisfied by the old ways. She is thirsting for a well that cannot go dry and she finds in Jesus living water. She encounters a person who knows her history as well as her potential and instead of falling down in shame, she steps forward in hope.

Let us be encouraged and embolden by the woman at the well. Let us listen to the one who knows and loves the whole of us and calls us to bear the news of Living Water.

1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
Eph 5:8-14
Jn 9:1-41

Uncomfortable Blindness
I recently found out some information about various wages being offered to my colleagues at work. The information surprised me. I have found myself the last days trying to make sense out of the differences. I dropped to a level of blindness, where I went so far as to discount all the blessings I’ve received in my daily work. As I heard the readings for Sunday the 18th, I worked really hard inside to not only hold my blindness without judgment, but I also pleaded for a healing.

In my head I could hear all the right words to frame my feelings and the situation. I let myself think about a healthy response and then I heard the more important message. DO NOT BE BLINDED BY QUANTIFYING ONE’S WORTH WITH MONETARY PAYMENT!!! Then I thought about all the remarkable people I know and love whose salary doesn’t touch their worth and the light that they bring.

Yet, I have to admit that I needed the grace of the clay which Jesus put on the eyes of the man born blind, to get from intellectual words to a heart’s Amen. The healing of the man born blind lifted up the One who continues to bring sight to our eyes, transformation to our hearts, and hope to us who pray waiting for grace to move from knowing the right words to living them.

The gospel stories sound so easy in hindsight; however the journey is about living the hindsight into daylight.

Acts 5:12-16
Rev 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
Jn 20:19-31

Between a Rock and A Hard Place
I enter the post Easter readings today a little sheepishly, as my reflections have been missing the last three Sundays. However, what a shame it would be to stayed behind the locked door of these feelings and miss the opportunity to begin today with the gifts these readings are offering me.

The readings of the last several weeks have called us from hearing about miracles into living miracles. This is what I have heard over the past weeks. I heard the reading of Jesus calling Lazarus out of the cave, out from a place of death. I heard the reading of the passion and each reading punctuating the high and low points of the Tridium. I call these readings, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place.” Jesus and his loved ones were pushing against the cultural and religious accepted understandings of the day in those readings. Lazarus and Jesus came out of a dark place, death due to natural causes for one, and the other dead due to a greater message of love and forgiveness.

Both experienced the stone rolled away. Those expecting far different endings were challenged to consider options that pushed them beyond their comfort zone. In the Easter reading we heard the angel say to Mary of Magdela, “Do not be afraid, He is risen.” In the gospel today, Jesus appears to his disciples, who have locked themselves into a room due to fear of the Jews. They don’t know what to expect from the powerful and the fearful, who not very many days ago killed, Jesus with the thieves on the crosses.

It is so simple for me in hindsight to judge the motive of those sited as the villains who killed Jesus. However, I definitely connect with the disciples who are afraid of what may happen next, now that Jesus was found to be missing from his tomb. In the midst of this fear and unknowing Jesus stands among them and says again to them,
“Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Imagine for a moment what it felt like for those disciples gathered to hear with their ears; then their hearts were anointed by the Holy Spirit. The disciples were called from fear to a deep seated peace. Eventually this peace and healing propelled them outside that locked room to preach the Good News. Christ anointed them to offer people forgiveness for their actions which separated them from the message for which He was crucified.

Today, as we allow the Easter message to melt into our hearts, let us look for opportunities to share with others that peace that surpasses our understanding; and that forgiveness which unites us with all who seek to walk the message of peace.

Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
Rev 5:11-14
Jn 21:1-19

Innie Outtie
My housemate and I have two wonderful dogs, they have all kinds of good habits and a few irritating habits. They are not so different than many of us humans. One of the games that they seem to like to play we have dubbed as “Innie Outtie.”

They come up to one of us, put their noses in our three feet of personal space until we get up from whatever we are doing and let them outside. “Oh we think, this is what they wanted…they need to go outside.” Moments later they are at the door again making it clear that they want to come in. So one of us goes to the door and lets them in. This pattern repeats itself several times in a day. Eventually the dogs get tired and settle into a place that meets their desires. We two legged aren’t quite sure what that is, however we are glad to move from the game, Innie/Outtie.

I was thinking about the gospel story for April 22nd. In this story the disciples have been out all night fishing without any success. I would imagine that they tried all sides of the boat hoping that they would throw their nets in the right direction at some point. Their efforts to put the net in the right place seems a little bit like our game of Innie/Outtie with the dogs, Hannah and Emmie, hard to know exactly what to do.

As they headed back to shore after this night with no success, a stranger directs them to put their net back in one more time and they do just that, despite their night! And to their amazement they caught so many fish that they were not able to pull it in! It is at this point that they recognize the stranger as the Risen Christ and they hurry into the shore. There Jesus waits for them that they might have breakfast.

I have days where my interactions at work feel like Innie/Outtie, where I have tried a number of different approaches to work challenges and none seem to be working. It is often on those days that someone calls me out of the blue or comes up to me at work to see how I am doing. This simple gesture shifts my empty net and often helps me see what I need to do.

I think the gospel of April 22nd is full of messages. However, today I would like to lean into the message of how all of us are invited to be the light of the Risen Christ to and for each other. Some days we may be called to invite someone to shift the location of their nets and on other days we may be invited to give someone hope, who has had an Innie/Outtie kind of day.

Acts 13:14, 43-52
Rev 7:9, 14b-17
Jn 10:27-30

In All Ways
In the mid 1970’s a new liturgical hymn came out from the St. Louis Jesuits called “Be Not Afraid.” I liked the hymn then and I continue to find it comforting now. The words are based on Isaiah 43. In this hymn God promises that we will never be alone in anything that we face in life, whether we pass through raging water, or fire or learning to do something in a new way.

One line says, “I go before you always, come follow me…” In the gospel reading for April 29th, Jesus uses the metaphor of the shepherd to connect to his listeners. He says to them that the sheep know the voice of the shepherd. Not only do they recognize and know this voice, more importantly they follow that voice and by following the shepherd they shall live.

I don’t know about you, but I have times when I really need to trust this message of Jesus and I need help to do so. In the hymn, Be Not Afraid and in scripture we are told that God goes before us always or all ways. It is this God who calls to us in both the old tried and true ways of walking the gospel and in the news ways. Today or next week, let this God who will let no one take us from this guiding hand, strengthen each of us in all the ways that we are called to live the Good News.

Acts 14:21-27
Rev 21:1-5a
Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35

Let us Dare to Love
During the past week, I officiated at four funerals of patients with whom I have walked. Each person had a unique story quite different from the other. Some I knew very well and others were new gifts in my life.

Yet, each person’s life spoke to others of the God spark with which each of us is endowed. In this post Easter season it is good for me to experience the ways in which people jump, slide, and wait their way into being. Each had a very different way of holding the bigness of God and their strongest remnants came in the stories that their loved ones shared about them.

I think it is that spark of God, that remnant that Jesus was talking about in the Gospel of John 13, in the gospel of May 6th. Jesus gave to his disciples the most powerful tool for witnessing his presence in our world, love. This love makes the difference between surviving and thriving. It is the power to change one life at a time or to change the course of history.

Jesus simply said, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”

Funerals often make us stop to think about the ways in which a person has touched our lives with the spark of God. However, Jesus commandment to us was to take love and let it be our trademark in the here and now. Let us open our eyes to those who fill our daily life with love, take it in and allow our love in turn to enrich the lives of others. May others be moved in the ordinary by the ways in which our lives give voice to Risen Christ.

Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Rev 21:10-14, 22-23
Jn 14, 23-29

Making Room for the Spirit
On this Mother’s Day Sunday, May 13th, the gospel reading seemed pregnant with promises. Although I have never been pregnant, I have more than once asked a pregnant family member and friend if I might touch her belly. I am always amazed when I am able to feel the baby moving within the expectant mother.

In the gospel for May 13th, Jesus promises his disciples that he will send them the Holy Spirit who will fill them and become their guide. Just as the mother can feel that the growth of the new life within her, I would imagine that the arrival of the Holy Spirit within the disciples on that Pentecost had to be amazing as well.

This spirit would fill them and teach them all that they would need to know as they walk the road of discipleship. Not only is Jesus going to send this Spirit of Guidance, he is also going to leave them with His peace.

“I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”

It is this peace and the Holy Spirit that inspired and guided the disciples in the first reading from Acts to invite the Gentiles into living their walks as followers of Christ in a manner that honored their society.

“Since we have heard that some of our number
who went out without any mandate from us
have upset you with their teachings
and disturbed your peace of mind…
It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us
not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities,
namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols,
from blood, from meats of strangled animals,
and from unlawful marriage.”

As I think about all of the women in my life who have taught me how to bear witness to God’s birthing presence in my life, I am quieted by the readings from May 13th. How is God seeking to be revealed in our world today? How do I let my own practices become the strict guidelines that I impose on others when they ask, “How can I come to know God?” How often do I miss the opportunities to embrace that peace that Christ left not only for those first disciples, but for me today? Dare I dream how I am called to be impregnated with God’s revelation for our world today?

Lest I get too busy with all my questions, this week I seek to be guided by the Holy Spirit who is always breathing life into us. May I receive both that peace that surpasses all understanding and the courage to follow the Spirit, who was there yesterday, today and will breathe me into my tomorrow.

Acts 7:55-60
Rev 22:12-14, 16-17, 20
Jn 17:20-26

The Door

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: “Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one,”

In my professional life I have had people ask me to lead a funeral, give a workshop, visit a friend not based on knowing me, but rather because a friend of theirs gave them my name. I always find this an amazing experience. Partly because of the extraordinary trust they have in their friend but mostly because they are willing to put something very important to them in the hands of a stranger.

In the gospel reading of May 20th Jesus prays for his disciples who are going to be ambassadors of His Word and we get to hear the very private prayer that He prays, a prayer that continues to be uttered everyday in the here and now.

There are family members who are praying for their spouses, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, granddaughters and grandsons as they head out to enter the work force or military after graduating from school… These prayers are offered up in hope that these loved ones will be safe, will be brilliant, will be able to pay their rent and other daily costs.

Imagine the ears of God as these words are being lifted up in prayer. These days we are waiting again to celebrate Pentecost…to celebrate the Spirit that Jesus promised us… that grace that allows each of us to be that witness to a world longing for the love and forgiveness which was the capstone of Jesus’ presence so long ago. Today He hands over to us the opportunities to be the door through which God’s presence is made known. Let us dare to make this prayer become flesh.

Acts 2:1-11
1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Rom 8:8-17
Jn 20:19-23

It seems not so long ago that I was sitting at the bedside of my mother as she was dying. It was just me, as my six siblings had been told she was okay, no big changes. A few days before she had opened her closed eyes and with brilliance I will not forget said, “It is beautiful, it is the best in the world.”

I was certain that God was giving Mom a sneak preview of what the coming attraction was.

Anyway just two days later, it was Mom and me in ordinary time. I was reading the psalms to her and just before she returned full time to the sneak preview, Phyllis came in. I read the 23rd psalm and then the 27th. Mom opened her tired eyes and exhaled into “it is beautiful, it is the best of the ‘next world.’

I watched with my own eyes, one breath made the difference between living the ordinary and living the best! In the readings from Pentecost Sunday, it is clear that Jesus does not want us to have to wait to enter and share in the kingdom of God. My Mom did not wait to live the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

She had years of practicing the Divine in the here and now! The Divine was not always easy to access with her human senses. There may have been some times in Mom’s life when she questioned the actual longitude and latitude of God’s proximity…timeliness…idea of a good time, BUT I am quite certain that her faith kept her looking and trusting that God was there somewhere.

The celebration of Pentecost gives you and me a chance to be “Wowed” by the bigness of God, by the strength and creativity of the Spirit to fill and move us. In the case of my Mom’s dying…birthing process I was so intent on looking for the time and place of her transition. During these days let’s be awake; as we breathe in this Spirit and are being made new. May we be as attentive to the “WOW” being made new in the Spirit.

“I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”

Prv 8:22-31
Rom 5:1-5
Jn 16:12-15

Mapquest Holy Trinity Style
I am a hospice chaplain, most of our patients live in their homes, while some live in group homes of nursing homes. Two years ago I moved from a familiar city where I had lived for 25 years and a familiar job where I ministered as a hospital chaplain. Now I live in a new area of the country, in a new city and in a relatively new job. I am often driving to unfamiliar places and meeting new people as a hospice chaplain.

Mapquest has become my new best friend as it takes a little information like an address and gives me a full report on the how to get to this person’s house or that professional location. It is great! I use it a lot! Maybe that will change with time and familiarity.

When I go to see a patient for the first time, I know very little about them. There really isn’t a Mapquest that I use to help me know their deepest secrets, their quiet fears, the most unusual experience in their life, or where God is and where God might have gone. (From their perspective) Orienting me to that precious landscape comes with time and trust, crisis and celebrations. Sometimes it is sped up by the stories their friends and family members tell. Or sometimes it happens after they have died in a story told at the funeral.

On Sunday June 3rd we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity. The readings are rich in describing the various ways through which the members of this Trinity have and are present in our lives. In a way it is a kind of historical mapquest for the Holy. However, this mapquest doesn’t tend to jump off the page of intellectual reading until we encounter the presence, the power of this Incarnate God; and as important, you are often the vehicle through which others encounter the Trinity.

We are the mile markers, the points through which others experience hope or solace, steadfastness or love. As this summer breathes itself into being, I seek to be open to be part of this divine mapquest. I also ask for the grace to be able to see the mile markers in my everyday life that are there to point the way.

Gn 14:18-20
1 Cor 11:23-26
Lk 9:11b-17

Feast of the Holy Body and Blood of Jesus
I watch the children each Sunday as they approach the distributor of communion, their hands folded over their hearts, their eyes focused on the one who will give them a blessing and a prayer… I watch their faces as they receive this very human yet divine exchange. They are waiting for the day when they, too, will be able to receive the Eucharist. Some of the children are so young that they are being carried by a love one to receive this blessing.

This happens weekend after weekend at the Saturday evening and Sunday Eucharistic liturgy. I watch this ritual and each time I find myself touched by their attentive faces. I remember going to church with my family and watching with great attentiveness to all who “Got to go to Communion.” Maybe it is this memory that stirs up inside of me when I watch the children.

On June 10th we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Body and Blood of Jesus. This feast like so many of our feast is one that cannot be contained by a one day celebration held annually. It is there for us to behold each time we approach the table of the Eucharist. Like the children who are waiting for their turn to be blessed, their turn to be “old enough” to receive communion, you and I are invited to lean into this Sacred Meal with great anticipation and expectation.

Is 49:1-6
Acts 13:22-26
Lk 1:57-66, 80

Scheduling Conflicts
The last couple of days have been very full with work. Loving summer as I do, I have crammed a lot of projects into the evening light and warmth. Actually, since the beginning of June I have acted as I did about thirty years ago…going… going…going and today I feel gone!

In the readings from June 24th, I find myself backing off just a little wondering if I put myself out there as a “servant” what more might be asked. I don’t mean that as a selfish response as much as I mean it as a question about being present when I show up for the: one more day of call, doing extra massage work for others outside of my work time, doing a funeral or two on a Saturday…what exactly is my call?

When the birth of Elizabeth and Zechariah son took place, he was called into his servant hood by the name of John. I wonder just how much that baby knew as his name was called forth in handwriting by his mute father Zechariah…when did John come into his “call?” As John grew into his mission to be a “voice in the wilderness” how did he know that he was not the One, that there was another who was coming who was greater?

Did John ever find his energy and his schedule at odds with each other? We know that Jesus took time away for himself to pray and to be. How are we called in this fast forward electronically connected world to be of service and know when to take time away to be?

Perhaps the gift of the readings from June 24th are the questions that are stirred up as we seek to take seriously our calls to be a voice in the wilderness and Jesus modeling the practice of taking time to be away and pray.

1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21
Gal 5:1, 13-18
Lk 9:51-62

The Call to Trust
I felt called to go to Japan when I graduated from college. I can still hear my Mom saying, “You need to think about going on for your Masters now, you are always choosing jobs that pay you very little. Why Japan now, when you are waiting to get into the Master’s program?”

She was right. I had chosen several low paying jobs for experience during my college summers. I did lean toward a romantic view of life and just “trusted” that all would work out. I really wasn’t quite sure why I was going to Japan. My decision to go to Japan was really one of those deep gut feelings that made no sense as I was making it. Yet it was so strong a sense that I could not listen to anyone or anything that made “good sense.”

When my Mom saw that I was determined to go, she graciously kept her “please be practical,” talks on low beam. As I packed to go she was a trooper and helped me pull everything together. That was 28 years ago and now living with hindsight, I am so very glad that I followed the call to service.

The year in Japan was one of such dependence on God’s grace as I experienced it through my adult students to whom I taught Conversational English. These women and men taught me the bigness of God in ways I could have never imagined. My simple stipend taught me how to keep my hands open to the ways in which my needs would be met through others’ kindness.

The gospel from the Sunday of July 1st has Jesus talking about how difficult it is to leave the known and the secure for the call of the Spirit. It is still true for despite God’s faithfulness. I forget that I am not in charge of all things and that everything that I have is a gift from God. The gift may have been made available through a job, family or friends… however if I was to follow the trail to its origin…there God would be.

Let us continue to dare to trust the call and the caller of our daily lives; for indeed, God is our inheritance.

Is 66:10-14c
Gal 6:14-18
Lk. 10:1-12, 17-20 or 10:1-9

Sent Out
Recently a friend asked me a very good question. She asked whether hospice patients prayed more for physical healing or salvation? I had to think for quite a while before answering or better said, responding to her question.

As a hospice chaplain, I trust that God is there in the midst of every conversation of which I am part. I don’t bring in an agenda to make sure every patient sees Jesus as their personal savior and I don’t bring in an agenda to be the hospice chaplain who can attest to the most physical healings. Perhaps I should move with a stronger evangelical effort on a verbal level. Perhaps my prayer has been dulled by the number of times I have prayed from a place of deep conviction for physical healing and watched the patients die.

July 8th’s gospel reading talks about the seventy-two disciples that Jesus sent out to proclaim the Word of God. He instructed to offer peace on those who would receive it and shake the dust off their feet when they weren’t welcomed. He invited them to preach that the kingdom of God is at hand.

In a very simple way that is what I seek to do. I seek to create an environment of peace for the men and women I meet, who are in hospice. It is my hope that God, who is greater than our imagination can do all things. It is from this simple action to be present and a person of peace that I hope to draw on the intention and energy of the classical Greek verb sozo which can mean to heal or to save. I then leave it in the hands of this Loving God to be the itinerary planner of their journeys.

This effort to bring the good news of the kingdom is not limited to my daily work, it is part of the way in which I seek to live in the world. I am a subversive evangelizer daring to bring the love and compassion of a big picture God to those that I meet.

There are many times when I am not sure of the impact of my words or actions. However, I do feel that call to continue to break open the daily bread of God’s graciousness whether I am sent out with a pack of seventy-two others or whether it is a solo mission.

Dt 30:10-14
Col 1:15-20
Lk. 10:25-37

The Burly Stranger
I find myself wondering in certain situations, what is the right thing for me to do regarding this or that. In the readings of July 15th from Deuteronomy and Luke, we are given some help from both Moses and Jesus. Their suggestions demystify the question: “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Moses tells the people what is asked of us is within our grasp, it is not too remote or mysterious for us to carry out. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus paints a very clear picture of who knows how to love God with their whole heart, mind, and soul, and their neighbor as themselves.

Much to the surprise of the Jesus’ audience it is not the designated hitters that stop what they are doing to care for a man who is beaten by robbers and left for dead. It is the alien, the stranger, the “Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.” This Samaritan not only cleaned up the traveler, but also gave him a safe place to stay and gave the Innkeeper money for any of the needs of the traveler.

I remember when I was in college, my sister’s Volkswagen beetle slowly down shifted until it came to a stop. We had no idea what was wrong. It was winter, quite cold, about nine p.m. And we were about thirty minutes from our destination. This happened in the mid seventies. Cell phones showed up in the television program “Get Smart” and perhaps in the cartoon the “Jetsons.” It was not part of our daily reality. So what we did was to turn on our emergency lights.

We sat there for a while and much to our surprise a big guy on a motorcycle pulled over. He was great! He checked on the engine and within a few moments had the car going again. I can’t tell you exactly what was wrong; however, I can tell you that he wasn’t he kind of guy I go up to for help. Fortunately for us he had a bigger heart than us. He was my Samaritan and I was his traveler, as well as the Levite and priest who passed by.

Crisis has a powerful way of letting God be God and sneaking into our lives in ways we never expect. Our invitation with this gospel is to look to see where in our lives we are the fallen traveler, the robber, the Levite and priest, and the Samaritan. In our culture we are given all kinds of room to make judgments about the fallen, in our scriptures we are invited to be the Samaritan. How are we called to love the Lord our God today?

Gn 18:1-10a
Col 1:24-28
Lk. 10:38-42

Where are we called to be Mary?
I was waiting for my plane in Denver, after being forty-five minutes late in boarding, a voice came over the microphone inviting my area of the plane to board, I was thrilled! I happened to glance into the passengers waiting to board and my eyes stopped at a young woman heavily tattooed with a Mohawk haircut. I thought to myself, now she would be an interesting person to sit by. However, I am not very attracted to people with a lot of tattoos, so I realized that I would probably be very uncomfortable talking to her. Those thoughts passed quickly as I was imagining the location of my seat and where I would find a place to put my carry on.

Moments later, the very woman who caught my eye as I headed toward the boarding area sat down next to me. I couldn’t believe it, here was the very person I had made several quick judgments about before I boarded the plane. We made small talk at first. Initially it was a little awkward for me. She, however, seemed very at ease with me, even I didn’t have one tattoo, nor was my pixie hair cut anything to talk about.

Yet within the first twenty minutes of this two hour flight, this young woman invited me to see the beauty of her work by showing me pictures of the tattoos she had done, the beauty of her mind as she described her interaction with her clients, and the beauty of her soul as she told me her story.

It turned out that I was only two months younger than her mother, who had hoped that her daughter would follow her dream of being a lawyer…now her daughter gifted as she is…was on her own path. It turned out that this gifted woman went out of her way to be a decent and loving human being. And it turned out that I who started out full of prejudices and assumptions about this young woman was given a new opportunity to meet the spirit of the Risen Christ.

My new friend had all kinds of stories, both of good choices and not so great choices. However, in the end we were more similar than different. I wonder how often we miss meeting the Christ because we don’t take time to be present. I really identify with Martha’s business in the gospel of July 22nd. Our minds are often very full of things about which we need to think. This is especially true on airplanes.

However, sometimes those things aren’t as important as who we are called to be with when Christ appears in the person sitting next to us. I have to say I think that God is funny. I was full of thoughts whirling around in me. Yet I am so glad that I didn’t miss the opportunity to learn more about the ways in which God is made known through all kinds of people. I’ll close inviting each of us to be “Mary” sitting at the feet of the unknown Christ. My opportunity came with the tattoo artist, who might be your unknown Christ this coming week?

Gn 18:20-32
Col 2:12-14
Lk. 11:1-13

Who will be Spared?
In the first reading from Genesis 18:20-32, for the Sunday of July 29th, we find Abraham negotiating for the good and innocent people of Sodom and Gomorrah with God. The conversation between Abraham and God sounded like this:

While Abraham’s visitors walked on farther toward Sodom, the LORD remained standing before Abraham. Then Abraham drew nearer and said: “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?” The LORD replied, “If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham continued this conversation with God until God promised that Sodom and Gomorrah would be saved if there were at least ten good people.

About ten years ago I went to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. with a group of Jewish students from Tufts University. As a Christian it was very powerful to go with this group of students. As I toured the museum I learned a lot about ways in which people and countries stood up for the Jews and those being targeted by Hitler, and just as much about those who did nothing.

I remember the following poem/writing by the German anti-Nazi activist, Pastor Martin Niemöller:

In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me – and by that time no one was left to speak up.

In our world today we encounter situations which are unjust. How often do we dare to speak up like Abraham in the first reading from Genesis? Or are we like the writer in the passage above who did not speak up?

In the gospel of July 29th, we are invited by Jesus to speak up. We are not expected to be professional prayers…we are merely asked to use the prayer that Jesus gave his disciples long ago to speak up on the behalf not only of our needs, but also the needs of others.

The challenge given to us by Abraham and Pastor Martin Niemöller is to speak on behalf of those who are different from us! Whether that be for someone who speaks a different language, comes from a different neighborhood, and/or worships God in a different way than me. In the gospel, Jesus gives us words to use. Let us dare to learn the important lesson from Pastor Martin Niemöller and Abraham, that one or more voices can make a difference.

Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23
Col 3:1-5, 9-11
Lk. 12:13-21

Fishing for the Right Barn
I listened to the readings from Sunday, August 5th differently, especially the gospel from the 12th chapter in the writer Luke. In this gospel Jesus warns about storing up one’s wealth. He talks about the rich man who has a wonderful harvest. Rather than share that abundance, the man decides to tear down the barn that he has and build a much bigger one. That night he dies and all of his saved wealth does him no good.

In the past I have listened to these words from a comfortable place of having all that I needed. I would then think about my philanthropic giving to see if I was building barns instead of giving to others in greater need. It was a good inner conversation to do a review of my charitable giving.

This year I listened to the words as a person who was recently and unexpectedly laid off from my job. My inner conversation went something like this. “Well, no worry about building an extra barn…at least that is one thing I don’t have to worry about. But how do I move forward in this challenge and opportunity in a way that allows God to be the driver of this search for meaningful employment?

How do I continue my search when I have been out in the boat all night long and caught nothing? Why should I believe the person at the shoreline who says, hey put your line over here and where exactly is ‘over here?’

What is my connection with the man who built a new barn? Perhaps we aren’t too different in the end…. I am trying to trust God that the right job is coming and to have enough trust not to race to any job whether it is the one for me or not. Most everyone is worried about me, wanting me from a place of love to once again have the semblance of financial security and good health care. To tell you the truth both of those things sound good to me, too.

However, what do I do with this heart felt place where I believe God is working? My heart place tries to convince me that our God who works in mysterious ways will put before me a job this is doing what is my best way to make known the kingdom. I am not talking about ignoring or refusing temporary work, I am talking about the man at the lake front who has told me where to put my net, after fishing all night long without any results….

I have to say, I can really connect to the man who wanted to build that bigger barn after all. Both of us are struggling with a God who can be trusted to provide all that we need.

As this week unfolds let each of us be open to the ways in which our sense of a God of abundance is challenged by a world that tells us there is not enough, please build a bigger barn. In those moments, may we dare to ask God to grace each of us with the trust to believe that we really can put our net into the waters, and have it turn out the best fishing yet.

Wis 18:6-9
Heb 11:1-2, 8-19 or 11:1-2, 8-12
Lk. 12:32-48 or 12:35-40

The readings for August 12th walk us into the sacred space of waiting. I think that most of us are “in waiting” almost every moment of our lives. Some of the things for which we wait are big things, some are small and some we take for granted and forget that we are even waiting for them.

For example, there is that challenging waiting that happens when we or someone in our lives is pregnant. We pray often and purposefully during that time of waiting. There are the times when we decide to sell or buy a house, change jobs or shift the direction of our work. During each of these periods of times we do variety of things to expedite the waiting.

We get external professional help to create the change we seek, or we may turn inward and beef up our spiritual practices, hoping that God will show a kind eye toward us.

In the second reading from Hebrews, we are coached by Paul on the importance of waiting with a sense of faith. He says: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” It seems that we wait in this manner whether it is for a birth or death. It can be a powerful place to hang out, this place of waiting with faith.

On the other hand, it can also be very challenging to wait unsure of the unknown. This is where I have been grateful for the unlikely angels who show up with an encouraging word, an embrace that gives permission for doubt right along side of an even stronger faith, and a distraction that leads to an accomplishment not related to that for which one is waiting.

In the gospel, Jesus wants to make sure that we are waiting for that which gives life. He invites us to let go of all that we are holding in our clenched hands that we use as a security blanket as we wait. He says to us, “don’t sell yourself short, as it pleases the Father to give you the kingdom.” He gives us the whole estate; we are to receive everything, just like the prodigal son. However to do this we have to make room in our hearts for a love so great.

The challenge of this is that it is all about faith, this letting go into the arms of God. It is all about an active waiting that invites our hearts to be empty in order that we are open to the sacred map quest that will guide our steps and free our minds to the one thing that matters, the kingdom at hand. He asks us to prepare for a way of living that guides our hearts to be totally, consciously dependent on the kingdom of God. He says it this way:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

Today the question in each of our lives is: am I willing to choose a focus that is based on God’s invitation and not our materialistic culture? Am I ready to put the focus of my waiting, of my faith and most importantly of my heart in the hands of the Father, who is pleased to give me the kingdom?

Jer 38:4-6, 8-10
Heb 12:1-4
Lk 12:49-53

Where are we in the Crowd
In both the first reading and the gospel of August 19th, I find myself feeling a little shook up and not quite sure where to put myself in the audience of speakers and listeners. Neither Jeremiah nor Jesus are messing around as they live the message that they were sent to preach. Both of them are pushing the buttons of their audiences.

A few years ago my good friend Emily Ann, rattled by the pastor’s homily chose to go up after communion and respond to the injustice she heard being spoken. She did not mince words nor did she attack anyone directly. She spoke from a place of deep conviction about a topic that was rocking the church nationally.

I happened to be sitting by my friend, when she strolled up to the lectern after communion. I can still feel the panic that ran through my body as I thought, “What is she doing? Doesn’t she know we have a procedure here, and people don’t just go up and do a verbal editorial later in the liturgy? I heard some of what she said, but a lot of it was lost in wondering how the church would respond.

After she finished the congregation had a variety of responses. A good number of the people clapped as they knew Emily Ann from being very involved in the parish, others looked stunned, and some weren’t so pleased. The pastor followed Emily Ann’s comments with the simple statement: “There are a lot of different views to this issue.”

Now I know as Emily Ann’s friend I wanted to fall through the floor immediately, pass out, or wake up from a nap to find out it was only a dream. I can look back now and be very proud of her ability to articulate in a very spontaneous way, I can acknowledge that if I ever got in touch with my own feelings around that issue I would stand up and clap in the midst of her words. However, truth be told I wasn’t there emotionally or spiritually.

I wonder what happened for the disciples of Jeremiah and Jesus when they spoke out against the injustices and luke warm nature of their hearers. Were Jesus’ disciples there clapping when he spoke about coming to bring division by his words of justice? Did they have a huge picnic after Jesus laid out the dividing lines between family members and friends? Where was Jesus when this preaching took place? We really don’t know.

So for me I can acknowledge that I don’t always do so well with justified challenges directed at those in power, especially if it feels like a surprise. Does this mean then, that I don’t have to listen to Jesus’, Emily Ann’s or Jeremiah’s challenging words? Can I turn myself away from acknowledging the challenge?

My small self says, “I can because I am not ready to be that.” However, my small self imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit says, “Hear the word of God and respond. Begin with small steps if you need, find the ways that you, too, can be a voice for the poor, the hungry, and the disenfranchised.”

May the readings from the Sunday of August 19th, call us home to the place where we are called to give witness to a God of justice for all.

Is 66:18-21
Heb 12:5-7, 11-13
Lk 13:22-30

Where will I Sit?
I grew up in a large family. I was the sixth of seven children. There was an expectation in our family that when dinner was served, we were to get to our places right away. (Yes we each had a place, depending on the quality of our behavior we either sat close to Mom or close to Dad, I was closer to Mom.)

The incentive for being able to have dessert was eating all of the food on our plate…everything. Although I did have an eclectic taste, there were some things I would put into my paper napkin. It was my hope that neither my mother nor father would see the covert operation. For me the goal of a successful dinner was making it to the dessert. I was not focused on the different food groups that would make me a healthy little girl; I was focused on the prize.

Somehow despite my particular focus, I grew to appreciate all of the food groups. As an adult there are nights when all I really want is the dessert-the prize, but in general I want vegetables, a protein, and starch. I wonder as I think back how many times my mother saw my covert operations? Did she ever wonder, “Will this little one ever get to a place in her life when she’ll see the importance of the whole meal?”

In the gospel reading for the Sunday of August 26th, the people listening to Jesus ask, “Who will be saved?

He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” Later in the reading he says: And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

His words are unsettling to me. I can’t help but wonder, can I get through the narrow gate? Where will I be sitting at the table?

Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29
Heb 12:18-19, 22-24
Lk 14:1, 7-14

Table Places
I have been thinking a lot about seating places the last couple of weeks. In the gospel reading from Sunday September 2nd, we are reminded by Jesus to take care when we take our seat at the table. We should not place ourselves at the head of the table, lest the host of the meal invite us to go sit at a less visible place.

For those of you who read the entry from last week, I already revealed that I sat by my mom. This meant for the most part that I didn’t need to be sitting near my dad for good behavior. I must admit I haven’t given too much thought to what it is like for those who designate our seating. I am sure for my parents with seven children, their thought had to do mostly behavior and particular needs with cutting etc. our food.

I remember as a child that we had two levels of eating places when our cousins came. There was the adult table with a few older kids, and the children’s table. Unfortunately for my older sisters and brother, they often were given the task of taking care of the kids and their eating needs (usually there were about ten of us).

The adult table always seemed so cool. Their conversations seemed more adult like, more exciting…I looked forward to the day when I would be of the age and ability to be at the big people’s table. This actually took quite a while as when I got older I became the designated younger adult to sit with the children. Now I have graduated to the adult table. Sometimes I look to the younger kids table and watch their ease with conversation and laughter, and wonder how I grew up so serious.

In the gospel of September 2nd we requested not only to sit at the “kid’s table,” we are also encouraged to invite to our table those who are not able to pay us back in any way. However, I think that Jesus must surely want us to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to experience what the “poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” have to teach us. It is in this way, that we are able to live the message of Sirach,

My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God. What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not. The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs, and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.

Wis 9:13-18b
Phmn 9-10, 12-17
Lk 14:25-33

The Great Adventure
I am at the beginning of an adventure. It began last week with an email offering two temporary contract jobs. I am on my way to New York City to be part of a support team in a hospital as it goes from paper charting to electronic charting. Then I head to Maine to do the same in another hospital.

Each of the details to this opportunity came like clues to a treasure hunt, one at a time. For me, a woman who needs to know the big plan with details at the front end, it has been a very different kind of adventure.

Each step of the way I have asked God, “Is this from you? I sense your presence in this opportunity!!! Don’t I?” Each time as I slow down inside to hear God’s response, it was as close to yes as I have ever gotten from God. The adventure seems in some ways so out of character for me in some ways and so familiar to me in other ways.

Last week as I got ready to leave my home and family, I felt this huge tug in my heart. I will be gone for more than two weeks. My schedule will be so very different than what I am use to living. And again, I will be at a distance from those I love.

As I listened to the liturgical readings for the Sunday of September 9th, I could feel the energy of the words in my gut, especially the gospel. In the gospel Jesus tells his followers,

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple… In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

I am not sure that my family sees this in the same way that I do, however, we all can feel that sense of one going and the others being left behind. Although I have a paper itinerary for my travels and my work, the biggest decision of the adventure was the internal one. This internal process was far different from whether I could do this adventure physically. This part of the decision was whether this was part of what God was calling me to…it was not about money or ability, it was about a deeper truth.

Not all of us are going to be handed an adventure such as mine today. However, everyday Christ calls to us from that place of heart, mind and soul. Everyday we make decisions which may coincide with what others want us to do/to be or may collide with what important people in our lives think we should do/be.

The ease or challenge of making any decision is guided by whom or what is the foundation of our decision making. In the reading from Wisdom, we are reminded to turn to the counsel of God. We are not asked to do this alone, without God’s grace or input.

In the gospel Jesus invites us to follow his call with all of its blessings and challenges. If our foundation is the call of Jesus, each adventure internal and external becomes an opportunity to live this adventure guided by the One to whom we have chosen to say yes and follow.

Hab. 1:2-3; 2:2-4
2 Tm. 1:6-8, 13-14
Lk. 17:5-10

In Search of the Mustard Seed
This past month I have had the opportunity to learn about God’s faithfulness and about the “spirit of power and love and self-control” that God has bestowed upon me. I have been on an adventure trying to find the best way to make a bridge between being laid off and finding the best way to live my call as a chaplain. The bridge gave me an opportunity to make money, but not live life.

At the end of this work adventure I spent time with a friend looking back over the month and seeking hindsight. My spirit felt run over by an excessive amount of work with very little play…it was only with time and a friend who knew me well that I was able to again remember that place in the core of me where, the “spirit of power and love and self-control” was bestowed upon me.

In the gospel of October 7th, Jesus reminds his disciples about the power of faith that is the size of a mustard seed and what it can do. Sometimes it takes getting off the path to find it; it takes blindness to see with greater clarity…it takes finding a mustard seed in one’s shoe to know its power to influence.

The question perhaps for each of us is how do we hold in our hands with honesty opportunities that take us away from living life from a vantage point of faith of a mustard seed? How do we access choices that feed our culture’s drive for money, but in essence take us far away from our deepest and most intimate riches? Aware of the impact of this past month I am standing consciously in this place. However, it does not always take an extraordinary experience to bring us to this point. There is a multitude of daily experiences that can edge us away from that inner place, “the spirit of power and love and self-control,” given to us from a God of abundance who says always to us, “You are enough.”

Dare we trust the mustard seed this week and live the invitation of faith in new ways.

I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

2 Kgs 5:14-17
2 Tm. 2:8-13
Lk. 17:11-19

The Exit Ramp
This morning I was coming off an exit ramp from the freeway and a man held a sign which said, “I am dying.” Usually, their signs say something like, “disabled veteran, out of work, stranded, will work for food, mother with five children…” and so the list continues. I usually think about what their situation might be and sometimes give them money.

However, I had a very strong negative reaction to this man and his sign today. My negative reaction both embarrasses me and puzzles me. I don’t know what it is about people who ask me for money via face to face requests. I have had several unsolicited teachers show up in the activity of asking for money. I always learn more about myself than I usually want to know at the time, not so much from their requests as much as from my strong reactions.

Today, I was angry with this man on the side of the road for not going somewhere besides the side of the road to get the help he needed. Now the truth is that I have no idea what he has tried to do to get the help he may or may not need, I have only my skepticism and my judgments.

Later today, I was driving home from an errand and I saw a dog wandering out in a very busy street. I pulled over to the side of the road and tried to get the dog out of the road, I was worried that s/he might get hit. When I got home I called and told a friend about both experiences today and my embarrassment about the different reactions I had to the man on the side of the road and the dog.

As I read the gospel for the 14th of October, I find myself thinking about the unsolicited request that Jesus received all of the time for one thing or another. Today it was ten people living with leprosy looking for “pity” from Jesus. I don’t know if pity is translated into money, food, or even perhaps a place to stay for the evening. Jesus used what seems like to me, code words and said to them, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And off they went to show themselves to the priests. Moreover, not only did they do that, but on the way they were healed!

Okay, so Jesus didn’t react unkindly to the folk’s request, he gave them even more than what they asked. In healing them, he called them back into community no longer outcasts because of their disease. Again I look to my experience today and I wonder, “Why did I respond so poorly to this man?” What did his need trigger in me? In comparison, what was triggered in me when I saw the dog running in the street?

In the gospel of October 14th, Jesus (from what we read) did not ask, “Upon what criteria are you asking for my attention? Who have you seen prior to me for help, for healing?” Instead, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” Later in the reading one of the ten realized that he was healed.
“And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;

It is at this point that Jesus was upset, because only one of the ten returned to express gratitude for the healing; that is understandable. However, I am still left with my less than Christ feelings about the man and his sign. There is a gap between the gospel reading and my reaction to the man on the road. This week I will use my teacher on the freeway exit to look at the inner judgments which keep me from seeing all as being as worthy as a dog to be healed and whole.

Ex 17:8-13
2 Tm 3:14-4:2
Lk 18:1-8

Who is at the Door?
In the gospel reading on October 21st, Jesus talks to us about the widow who pesters the judge until he renders a just decision. The judge gets tired of the widow’s constant demand for a decision that is honest and fair. In the first reading from Exodus, we hear the story about Moses’ family and friends holding up his arms when he is tired, so that the Israelites will win the battles. Both readings stirred memories in me.

When I was a child we would pray every night before we went to bed. One of my parents would come into the bedroom with my sister and me to pray. We would kneel down at the bedside and our litany of prayers for the important people in our lives would commence. We also got to tuck a couple of prayers in for ourselves for forgiveness for what we did wrong that day, gratitude for the day protection by our guardian angels and a request for night watch as we gave ourselves to dreaming.

Finally after covering the big and small pictures of our world we would ask Mary, the mother of Jesus, to be with us. Those prayers are still a part of my cells and bring me a sense of connection to a God who was and still is bigger than my imagination.

The other thought that has seeped itself into my daily imaginings is an image of the people who sit near me in church. I think like many places people land in the same spot, unless of course, someone not familiar with the terrain sits in “my/our spot.” I wondered what it would take for me to receive their gift of holding up my “figurative arms” in prayer.

I remember telling some church friends about being laid off and watched them divert their eyes. I certainly couldn’t or wouldn’t ask them to hold my arms in prayer for this inner battle of shame I was going through. There were some people in my life that seemed comfortable with praying for me the first couple of weeks that I was unemployed…but then that same awkwardness seems to appear. How was Moses able to both get and accept others’ support?

In essence everything about our lives are shared on a spiritual and village level, no different than the battle being fought on the behalf of the Israelites. What kinds of prayers make room for actions that invite us beyond our awkwardness to hold up the arms of each other?

In my favorite childhood prayer, “Infant Jesus, bless me, keep me close to you, I want to love you Jesus in everything I do,” the foundation is there for holding the hands and arms of each other as a way of “loving Jesus in everything we do.” It is a prayer that demands steadfastness, like the widow who does not cease asking the judge to hear her request. It is a prayer that sees the power of staying closely connected to Christ in order that we might be able to hold up the arms of each other.

Where is it in our lives that we close the door of those who call us to respond justly to the needs of other? Perhaps like in the reading from October 14th it is the man at the side of the road or the person with leprosy. Who are the people in our lives who are already there, holding up our arms be it emotionally or spiritually? Who are we willing to open our door to, like the judge, that we can be transformed by the power of justice and love?

Sir 35:12-14, 16-18
2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18
Lk 18:9-14

Rubber Stamp, I think Not!
Recently I had the occasion to pray with a patient, her granddaughter and her sister. When it came time to pray I asked each of them, “For what do you want to pray?” Each of them had several things for which they wanted to pray. The patient’s sister began her prayer with, “As a sinner, I have such trouble with hate in my heart…please forgive me and take care of…” The patient began with “Father God please take care of…and bring peace to these walls.” The granddaughter said, “Dear God please take care of my two babies and…” Each of them prayed from a place that invited the framing of my own words to a depth I didn’t expect.

Later, I walked with my patient’s sister back to her apartment. She invited me to please come in and see how Jesus was on every wall and surface of her home. I did, and He was…every wall and on every surface. After touring her small, but deeply sincere house church she began to tell me about her days of prayer. She talked about putting a sign on her door, “Do not bother me, I am busy.” She talked about how Jesus responded to her prayers. I told her that I was going to have her put me on her prayer list. She smiled.

As I thanked her for her time and the tour, she again told me that she struggles with hate in her heart for bad people and how difficult it is for her to forgive people. I tried to take it all in, listening and being amazed at this woman’s sincerity. In my earlier days as a chaplain I might have rubber stamped the end of our conversation with “God will heal you.” Or “Don’t worry,” however today I was in the presence of a woman who knew God far better than me. What she seemed to need more than anything was person who could listen not with the right answers, but with an open heart.

Fifteen minutes later I got into my car mindful of how easy it would have been to fall into the trap of the Pharisee…right answers, but wrong timing. So as I take in the gospel reading for the 28th of October, I am grateful to be aware of my own temptations to answer without listening or hurrying on and missing the most important moment. I am grateful that I didn’t fall into my own trap of being the one confused about my role.

I was not the messenger of God, through these blessed women I was the receiver of God’s faithfulness and steady hand. As I lean into the week’s celebrations of All Saints and All Souls I give thanks for the three holy women whose words invited me to taste the bigness and boldness of God’s presence.

Wis 11:22-12:2
2 Thes 1:11-2:2
Lk 19:1-10

To be Tall of Heart
I have been short a great deal of my life. I am fifty and I can honestly say that I haven’t been tall since the 5th grade. It was easy to be tall then, easy to be able to see over the heads of those shorter than myself. I think that being tall those early years was like being called first to do cool things. However, my height was short lived. It seems like such a long time ago that physical height was part of my identity.

In the gospel reading of November 4th I feel an affinity with Zacchaeus, the short in stature tax collector. He wasn’t tall enough to see from the ground in the midst of the crowd so he sought another way to see Jesus. Much to Zacchaeus’s surprise Jesus called him down from his perch and asked to stay with him. Wow! Just think Jesus saw more than his physical height, He also saw into this man’s heart.

The righteous who were watching weren’t pleased at all, after all how could this man of God spend the night with the lowest of the low-a mere tax collector?

I like connecting myself to the one Jesus calls down from the tree, I am a bit reluctant to place myself with the “righteous.” However, recently I watched a former boss be removed from her position due to some of her dealings with me. I have felt very good about his demise. As I think about the gospel reading for November 4th and my reactions to this woman’s loss of employment, I wonder if I have begun to give away my inner height for short term “self righteousness and small heartedness?”

I wonder in this situation where the gospel writer would place me in this story? Do I have the humility of Zacchaeus to be seen by the loving eyes and heart of Jesus? Do I have the trust to come down in order to be raised up as a companion of the champion of love and forgiveness? Honestly, I don’t have it yet, but I do have the seed of desire to have Jesus ask to come home to my inner house.

2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14
2 Thes 2:16-3:5
Lk 20:27-38

Sunflower Seeds
Recently I heard this phrase: “Even if we cannot find God within, God recognizes Himself within us.” I find this statement very powerful and very encouraging. It is especially helpful with our brain cells struggle with depression; our bodies are going through changes which shift our graciousness to others.

I have always worked really hard to “do things right.” As my physical body is shifting these days and it is affecting the filters which usually keep my thoughts (those ones you can’t believe just came out of your mouth!) in my head and away from my tongue. There are days when I don’t feel like such a good representative of God’s light or love. It is days like those that I am grateful that God can see Herself in me, even if I can’t find my own inner light switch.

As I look at the gospel for November 11th and its focus on issues around the resurrection I find myself quieted. I use to worry about whether I would get to heaven or not. As a young girl under the age of seven I memorized my “major sins” so that I could confess them when I got to confession. Fortunately I only remember taking a little bag of sunflower seeds from the corner grocery. Otherwise my sins were the repetitive type like fighting with my brothers, being mean to my younger sister. They seem to show up even past my first confession.

Now I don’t focus so much about the someday resurrection as I do the expansive and loving presence of God in the here and now. Now I seek to live day by day and at the end of the day being happy to be able to start again tomorrow.

Mal 3:19-20a
2 Thes 3:7-12
Lk 21:5-19

Grabbing hold of the Kingdom
At a recent Sunday liturgy I watched a Eucharistic minister make the sign of the cross on the forehead of his four year old son. His son looked up at his dad and then leaned into his dad’s legs and grabbed hold of them. After a moment or so he let go and followed his mom back to the pew.

As I looked at the gospel of November 18th this image came to my mind. I find it hard to balance that desire to hold on to how I meet God in the here and now and be free enough inside to be ready for the next life. I encounter this paradox often. I remember in my late teens and twenties being somewhat reluctant to make good and deep relationships. My spiritual focus at that time was more on the here after, not the heaven at hand.

There was a kind of safety in having friendships that rode the waves, but didn’t touch the bottom. The inner heart spot that had roots was saved for the mystical God and of course my family. It took a really dear friend to challenge my surface friendships. I have come to appreciate the people in my life who have made my life mystical (who have made God present) in the here and now. So when I hear the gospel of November 18th, I feel like the child at last week’s liturgy hanging on his dad’s legs, unsure what will be there if I let go of the known and dear.

The gospel reading invites me to remember the foundation that Jesus has given me. This foundation roots me in the here and now and invites me to seek the whole kingdom, that which I see and that which is yet to come. I don’t think Jesus is asking us to ignore his teachings on “the kingdom being at hand.” I think instead He is reminding us as he did to those clinging to the physical beauty of the temple, that this isn’t all there is.

The gospel message gives us both roots and wings. Our challenge is to keep our hearts open so that the Spirit of Wisdom can guide us to the temple wherein God dwells.

2 Sm 5:1-3
Col 1:12-20
Lk 23:35-43

Christ the King
I have struggled with the readings from November 25th I got stuck on the title “The Feast of Christ the King.” It seems silly somehow that I couldn’t think or better yet, feel my way through the title. The readings themselves are all about being a loving servant and a forgiving leader.

So clearly this writing block gives me an opportunity to think about servant leadership. How did Jesus bring his leadership to the people he encountered? Did he have a press agent…no Jesus usually went into town unannounced. Per the gospels there weren’t any marquees with his name on it saying: “Jesus Christ Superstar, in town this coming Friday. See him perform magnificent feats and witness as he changes the hearts of harden criminals.”

He came into town in a quiet way. This is so different from the way our political hopefuls come into any town, large or small. But this King wasn’t a hopeful candidate running for office, rather he was love and forgiveness embodied in human form. He was the Son of God, human yet divine.

Although we do not have to go to the polls to affirm his Divinity, his kingship, we do have to take a stand. Dare we live his example or not? I know sometimes I am no different than our political candidates. There are times when I want to shout out the things that I have done which have and do make a difference. From a place that starts out with good intentions, I get stuck in my own need to have a known legacy.

The feast with some reflection reminds me it is now my turn…some people say that we vote with our body, in other words in our actions. As we behold this Servant King, this servant leader, I need to dare to live a life that marks me as being one of his party. I must begin by asking for the grace to mark my heart with the passion and courage to be a servant leader, living unabashedly the call of the gospel to be present to the needs of others.

Is 2:1-5
Rom 13:11-14
Mt 24:37-44

“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”

I grew up in Northeast Iowa. It is not known for its towering mountain peaks. For some “outsiders” they don’t even give us credit for having hills…they see us rather as a flat square state situated in the Midwest somewhere. However, I would like to point out that as a child, teen, and young adult I did have experiences of climbing up our “flat ground.”

Since those early years I have had several opportunities to understand by experience what it is like to climb up bigger hills than the ones I tackled as a child and mountains that make those bigger hills seem flat. I now live in a state where mountains are a common site and the opportunity to hike them a frequent occurrence. I have learned that describing a mountain climb as a challenging climb has meant different things depending on my age, how agile my body is and the condition of the hiking path.

I think I have always heard this reading from Isaiah with a strong degree of optimism and hope. I have never taken the time to think about what the path and the climb up the Lord’s mountain might be like. I guess for this particular passage I thought about the path being more like the hill climbs I had as a kid in Iowa than the challenging hike I had up a mountain in Japan.

It struck me this time upon hearing the passage that I may be more ready to hear His instructions than I am prepared to climb the path up His mountain. I have been aware lately that the path seems to be full of people whom I normally would not hang out. They challenge my way of “doing God, of understanding scripture and how to interpret it.” This summer I encountered a boss who thought the company would be better with me somewhere else than there. I have found climbing the mountain path full of unexpected surprises. I have had to find new leg muscles, bigger room in my heart, eye site that was not guided by an eye for an eye.

Yet, there is nothing more that I want to do than to climb the mountain of the Lord that I may be instructed in God’s ways. As this Advent unfolds may I trust that I will be guided as surely in my travels as a pilgrim up the mountain path, as when I sit at the feet of the beloved for instruction. May I dare to breathe in the Light that will guide me and keep me awake for the day when the Kingdom is at hand.

Is 11:1-10
Rom 15:4-9
Mt 3:1-12

My Favorite Flashlights
This week I have been thinking about the concept of light and how this season of Advent invites us to open to the Christ light that we celebrate. It made me think about flashlights. I must admit it seems no matter what age I am I am always excited about getting a flashlight as a gift.

I remember as a Girl Scout counselor my sophomore summer in college finding this really cool small flashlight that had a metal outside and this amazing ability to project a great deal of light. This was a wonderful find as I had to go out later in the evening and take my turn checking on our little campers. Even though I was about twenty years old, walking out and about in the dark was a little undoing.

Five years ago a friend of mine in Minnesota knew that I had to take the infamous Hannah for walk in the winter dark and gave me the perfect flashlight for poop control. Two years ago I found the best camping flashlight which could either be used like a lantern for reading or like a “normal” flashlight. As you can see I am serious about my flashlights.

During this second week of Advent I thought about the various ways in which the light of Christ comes to us. Sometimes it is in the words of wisdom of insight and is spoken through another. Other times it is in the clear actions of justice reaching out to the “dear neighbor.” Sometimes, it is the call to “be still and know God.” There are other paths of light that become a path to our feet during this Holy season. For me the most challenging light is the one that comes from within that invites me to trust the light of love and change that can lead to Holy Transformation.

The light that called a simple, holy, and young virgin to become the vessel for the Son of God. As I move deeper into this Advent invitation, may I trust the authenticity and generosity of the one who calls me to a bringer of this Advent Light.

Is 35:1-6a, 10
Jas 5:7-10
Mt 11:2-11

Miracles Great and Small
The other day I sat with a man who was dying. I was told that he was dying and that he was afraid. You could tell by looking at him and listening to his breathing that he was working hard to hold his own. I was asked by his daughter to please come out and pray with him. I chatted with him for a little while before I asked if I might pray with him. He wasn’t verbal, so I, based on his daughter’s request for prayer started the prayer.

Immediately his eyes and eye brows told me that he didn’t want that kind of prayer. It is important to me that I don’t impose upon someone my love of prayer. I have learned over the years that God doesn’t need my prayers in order to welcome someone home. For the readers, you may think, “Well of course, God doesn’t need your prayers.” A very fair response, however, I have also learned that people who are dying may want your presence even if they don’t want your words.

So I fessed up to him that I knew God didn’t need my words for him to be welcomed home. Jim’s (the patient) face relaxed again. I noticed that Jim was starring into my eyes. I then began to pray that my eyes might be a vehicle for God’s loving presence for Jim. He looked at me for a very long time and as he did his eye brows relaxed and his eyes seemed a little more peaceful. After a while it seemed like a good time to leave. I thanked Jim for allowing me to hang out with him. I told him that I would keep him in my prayers and possibly see him next week.

In the first reading of the third Sunday of Advent, Isaiah talks to us about what will happen when the “glory of the Lord appears…” As I listened to and thought about this reading I wondered what it would be like to see the engaged splendor of God. What would it be like to see “the eyes of the blind open, and the ears of the deaf cleared?”

It is so easy for me to get caught in these amazing healings that I remove myself as being part of a world where miracles happen everyday all around me. The miracles aren’t often as glitzy as the physical ones named in the first reading. For example the other day I called the daughter of a patient who died this summer. She was surprised and pleased to have me call her. Although she told me that she remembers all the people who were part of her journey with her mother, she often thinks that we have probably become too busy to remember her. It took a simple phone call to bring the Christ light.

I am new at my place of work. Feeling new is such an odd thing, at times down right uncomfortable. Last week I heard an overhead announcement, “Would the chaplain please come into the billing’s office.” I thought, being the only chaplain, “oh no, I think I turned in my paper work…etc. etc.” So in I went to see the folks in the billing office. “Yes, here I am, what is it you want?” The two folks in the office smiled and said, “We hadn’t seen you today and just wanted to see how your day was going?”

Their gesture of hospitality wasn’t complicated to do; it merely took the thought of doing it. I don’t think I physically leaped when they asked how I was doing, however I did feel like I was starting to belong. For me this was the miracle which is such a blessing to new people.

My patient Jim didn’t seem to want “God words.” However, he seemed comforted by someone trying to be a loving presence. Granted some of you who read this may have the experience of being part of the story where the eyes of the blind are opened and the lame leap. However, I think that this reading is meant for me too. Perhaps the reading of this third week of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, is about the joys and miracles which happen without an angel showing up or choirs of angels singing the Halleluiah chorus.

This week I will seek to be more open to the ever expanding light of Christ as they show up in simple gestures of love.

Is 9:1-6, 10
Ti 2:11-14
Lk 2:1-14

An Unlikely Manager Scene
I have to admit that if I take into consideration who I am with my sensitive nose, my dislike for the cold, my standoffishness for expected strangers asking me for things, I might not have found myself at the site of the birth of Christ. The great thing for people like myself is that I have opportunities to meet the Christ light which we celebrate at Christmas in all kinds of places. One of the places where the Christmas story becomes alive for me is when I go and visit Kevin.

The other day I sat on Kevin’s couch and listened as he named all the ways that he had been blessed this holiday season. He talked about everything from the friend who checked in on him when he was sick with a bad infection to special Christmas soup his cousin brought him on Christmas Eve. I have sat on this couch many times and in recent weeks I have heard a lot about the challenges in his life. However on this day I found myself at the manger scene experiencing the choirs of angels singing, the unlikely place of a manager being the site of the birth of a Savior, and tearing up as he described the way the Christ light filled his life.

He lives in a small community of individuals’ whose generosity to each other can be seen in sharing hot dishes, checking on each other’s health, sharing each other’s wheel chairs, and offering support at times of struggle. I have been invited into the stories both as a hearer and as one asked to pray for the neighbor next door struggling with issues of abuse, the woman living near the parking lot who is back to work for the first time since her mother died and the grandchild who is trying to find God in the midst of turmoil.

Yet, sitting on the couch listening to Kevin I am distanced from my own qualities that might be tempted to keep the power of the Christmas story from my everyday life. In the story of love and compassion alive and well in Kevin’s low income community I am freed from my own barriers to encounter this Holy Light.

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