I am working on a story for telling. I know that sounds weird, but Biblical Storytelling is a thing, and I’m working on putting together my first story to tell. It is the story of the man with the withered hand, whom Jesus heals on the Sabbath. I’m thinking about telling this story from the perspective of the man’s wife or daughter or mother, because I think I can tell it better from a female point of view. And so I found myself researching how Shabbat was observed during the time of Jesus, how a woman would prepare home and family and meal each week. Continue reading
If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your God in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.
Actually, it was the word “gather” that kept coming to mind before I drew this, but I couldn’t find a lectio divina to go with “gather” that resonated for me. So it may come another day. Part of the image that came to mind for “gather” was of gathering up a flock of sheep, or gathering up your coins to go to market, and that took me to the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. And in both of those parables, we rejoice that what was lost has now been found, just as God rejoices every time we turn Godward. That turning, it’s a constant thing, and it’s a lifetime’s work. We never stop (intentionally) turning Godward, because we never seem to stop turning away.
So even though my heart is not in a rejoice place right now, I know that God’s heart is. So that is the doodle for today, to remind me that even as I lean on God who is strong and has patience, even as God simply abides while I am scattered, even as God has peace and is gracious, even as God will strengthen and enfold and comfort me, even as I am as tiny as a mustard seed — in every moment, God will rejoice.
Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.
A new prayerdoodle has taken its place in my cubicle, along with Strong, Patience, Strengthen, Enfold, Comfort, Gracious, peace, and Mustard Seed.
My prayer is to abide where I find myself. The abode is my home, the place my heart finds rest. My heart is troubled, unquiet, right now, so there is work to do in my home. Among the rocks and the vines and the branches and the roots and the leaves and the blossoms, there is life, and there is abode, and there is home.
And that, as the Author of all that is says, is very good.
So today was the appointment with the pain management specialist. It’s the appointment I’d been anticipating for a couple months. I took the very first appointment available, even though it was at a terrible time in the middle of a workday. I packed up my med bag this morning, rescheduled an interview with a job candidate that had gotten booked at the same time as my coveted appointment, hit the ladies’ room on my way out to relieve the overfull bladder, and went to the doctor. On my way, I stopped to pick up lunch, including about 20 oz of water.
When I arrived at the doctor’s office, the receptionist remembered me from four years ago, which was nice. She gave me my paperwork to fill out and made copies of my ID and insurance card. I sat down to my work and had filled out about two-thirds of the forms when my name was called. First stop: the restroom, for a urine sample. They have to trust that you are not misusing, abusing, or overusing pain meds or psychoactive meds, and that trust has to start in empirical evidence. But there was a problem: there’s a minimum sample size required, and I didn’t have it. Continue reading
Last weekend, I picked up index cards and a set of art pens, planning to use them for some contemplative doodling when I need a break at work. These have been created in the last 8 days, and appear in my cubicle where I can see them throughout the day.
Each is based on a word that has come up in scripture, usually as part of the Daily Office, or from some other source that has been calling to me.
Strong was the first doodle, and it is from a psalm.
Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for you are my crag and my stronghold;
for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.
– Psalm 31:3
Gracious came next, from a hymn.
Gracious Spirit, dwell with me
I would gracious be;
help me know thy grace to see;
I would be like thee;
and, with words that help and heal,
thy life would mine reveal;
and, with actions bold and meek,
for Christ, my saviour, speak.
– Charles Wesley
The inspiration for Patience was my overwhelming need for some, as well as Guns ‘n’ Roses.
Woman take it slow, and it’ll work itself out fine
All we need is just a little patience
Yesterday, I found three words from Psalm 71 calling out to me: Strengthen. Enfold. Comfort.
You strengthen me more and more;
you enfold and comfort me
– Psalm 71:21
What you can’t see is that about 15 inches to the left of these is a little BVM I got from the dollar store years ago. I’d fallen in love with her because she looks really young, like she could actually be 13 or 14 years old. She is against the corner of my cubicle, so 90 degrees from Mary is an icon of Saint Dominic. I expect that there will be more contemplative doodling that fills the spaces, soothes my nerves while I draw, and sustains me each time I look up.
I am the exact opposite of an artist. These are, for me, prayers. And they are prayers of a sort I’d never prayed before. I struggle to describe this in words. Yesterday, when I shared with my partner the words that required doodling, I told her that each had its own feeling as I explored the word in my mind and the shapes of the word on the card.
Strengthen felt like Harden my bones, O God. Enfold felt like Surround me with light and warmth, Good Shepherd. And Comfort felt like Sustain my inner life, Holy Spirit.
These weren’t immediate things, and they weren’t in words. Rather, each was a feeling, almost a sensation. Strengthen was about my structure, my frame, inside my skin; I could tell that it was not only my physical structure, but the frame of my mind and heart as well. Enfold was about my surroundings, and felt like slipping between the covers of my bed, or wrapping myself in a warm robe. Comfort was a similar warmth, but internal, in the mushy guts of me. Comfort felt like hot cocoa or soup on a cold day, like receiving nourishment and vitality and life.
I didn’t pick up on the Trinitarian nature of this prayer until journaling about it, until trying to express in words what those prayers felt like. But when I did hear that message, it was so obvious and so powerful.
I could not tell you why I knew that index cards and art pens were on my Required Shopping List ten days ago, nor where I learned this from. The call was just there, and I had to do it, had to urgently have these things. And because I obeyed, the Spirit breathes these prayers through me. Thanks be to God.
I gained a new twitter follower this morning, @larry2_0, the Rev. Lawrence T. Richardson, who wrote this beautiful reflection on the blog for the United Church of Christ. It’s a short one, so if you want to pop over and read it, I can wait for you.
I was quite taken by his story of being a child who hung out with the elders of the church, and this it in particular caught my eye:
They were also impressed with my ability to be deeply engaged in content that was for adults when there was adequate children’s programming available. I became a lover of wisdom because of all the stories and information they shared.
See, here’s the thing. Children are not some strange alien creature. Children are humans. Children are also sponges, and they soak up everything that happens around them. Children are perfectly capable of being deeply engaged in the sharing of authentic stories of faithful Christians who are working through their struggles, perfectly capable of being deeply engaged in free conversation about the overwhelming, scandalous love of God for us, perfectly capable of being deeply engaged in the wisdom of grandparents.
The other thing is that children are also not miniature adults. While they are perfectly capable of this deep engagement, they also have different limits than most adults. Or, to be perfectly honest, they may have the same threshold we have for boredom, but less self-control… so that when a child’s engagement has waned, they are not content to sit still and doodle in the margins of the handouts from some church council session. So yeah, we do make some accommodation for their unique needs, in exactly the way we would make accommodation for our siblings in Christ who are unable to walk or to hear or to see.
One of the great gifts I have learned in training as a catechist for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is that children have a life of faith every bit as deep as any adult. Children are capable of relationship with God — and with other humans — every bit as deep as any adult. Children are capable of understanding liturgy every bit as deep as any adult. And yes, I mean little bitty children – there are four-year-olds at my parish who are often more deeply immersed in the Eucharistic prayer than anyone else in the church.
In church, however, we tend to segregate our children. We say they don’t know how to behave in church, but how will they learn if we don’t bring them into church and teach them? We say they don’t understand what’s happening in worship, but how will they learn if we don’t show them worship and allow them to explore it? We say that the work of church councils is too dull for children – or that children are not smart enough for it – but how do we know if we don’t give them the opportunity to engage in it?
Some years ago, I had stewardship of a group of fourth- and fifth-graders for the Christian formation hour on Sunday mornings. I kicked off our group discussions without a curriculum, starting with a saint’s feast day or a bible reading or something appropriate to the liturgical season. Their favorite Sunday of the year? It was the week after I returned from the annual council of our diocese, and I spread out all the papers I’d accumulated during that weekend, and we talked about running the church. They looked at budgets and resolutions and canons and committee reports, and they were completely fascinated. No, they didn’t understand everything. Guess what: neither did I. But they were deeply engaged in this content for adults, when we could have been making a craft or doing a puzzle about the lectionary readings for the day.
Want to know something really sad? I went to flickr to search for an image to go with this blog post. I searched on the keywords children and church, limiting the results to Creative Commons licensed images only. I did not see a single child in the first forty-one photos. Most were of empty worship spaces, church exteriors, or sacred art. Only image number 42 showed children, and they were singing a song into microphones on church steps, wearing Santa hats. It was only the 74th image where I actually saw some children inside a church, at worship. How sad is that!
People like to say that children are the future of the church.
They are wrong.
Children are the now of the church.
Children are the now of the church every bit as much as you are or I am or Pope Francis is. Children have an important place in the life of the church. Children have ministries. Children are capable of far more than we offer them in most churches. So why do we offer them insipid coloring books with white, Anglo Jesuses and blonde Marys and all the dirt and blood and truth removed? Why do we separate them, “until they’re old enough to understand”? Why don’t we include them in the life of God’s people?
Why don’t we allow them to become lovers of wisdom – lovers of Christ – because of all that we can share?