The Adventure Continues

This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21: 24-25

It’s a faithful confession that Jesus can’t be captured by any number of written words. It’s a glad admission that this glimpse of God With Us isn’t all there is to see. There are so many things that weren’t written down, even more that no one was around to see. No one’s life story could be written fully – not yours or mine, certainly not the life of Christ.

But it’s not just about the things that happened between the stable in Bethlehem, the cross in Jerusalem, and breakfast on a shore in Galilee. The story of Jesus continues because it is our story. The Spirit of Christ in us has been adding new chapters for two thousand years. The gospel will continue long after we are ancient history. We are the Body, we are the storytellers, we are the ongoing adventure.

What adventures will your chapter add?

Supplication or Reminder?

Christ with me, Christ before me,

Christ behind me, Christ in me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man (one) who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, part 7 (for full poem, click Lent 2016: Saint Patrick’s Breastplate)

Holy God,

When storms rage and enemies surround me, when I am powerless and facing danger, these words comfort me. Christ is everywhere around me and in me, in the molecules of the entire universe and in my very DNA. No matter what comes, I am not alone and I am never lost to you. You hear my prayer for help.

When I am safe, when I have the power to destroy or sustain, these words remind me: Christ is everywhere around me and in me, in the fabric of the cosmos and the DNA of all living creatures. Whatever I do, whatever I refrain from doing, I do to the Christ in the heart of all that is. In this Holy week, in the shadow of the cross, may I refrain from harming your Spirit in others. Remind me of who I am. Remind me that you are I AM.

Let It Be.

Walking Through Holy Week

Christ with me,

I can’t walk from palms to cross to empty tomb without you

Christ before me,

marking my trail

Christ behind me,

so I won’t turn back

Christ in me,

my best, truest self

Christ beneath me,

the solid ground, the sacred path

Christ above me,

invisible and infinite

Christ on my right,

in the eyes of my sons

Christ on my left,

in the embrace of friends

Christ when I lie down,

blessing my sleep

Christ when I sit down,

in the food on my table, in the words I read and write

Christ when I arise,

grant me to greet the new day with hope

Christ in the heart of every man (one) who thinks of me,

that my faults cause no harm

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

that their words of me are true

Christ in every eye that sees me,

imperfect and loved

Christ in every ear that hears me.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be

acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my salvation.

Amen.IMG_7346

photograph by Jared Fredrickson, seeker of nature’s beauty, seeker of God.

Its Own Reward

I summon today,

All these powers between me and those evils,

 Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,                

Against incantations of false prophets,

Against black laws of pagandom,

Against false laws of heretics,

Against craft of idolatry,

Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,

Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul;

Christ to shield me today

Against poison, against burning,

Against drowning, against wounding,

So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, part 6 (For full poem, click Lent 2016: St. Patrick’s Breastplate above)

I don’t summon armies or guns. I don’t ask for a tank or razor wire. I summon heaven, sun, moon, sea, and rock. I summon the love of the cherubim and the prayers of the patriarchs. I bind unto myself God’s wisdom, eye, ear, word, and hand. These I place between me and all the evils I can imagine – all the things I fear.

Even if they can protect my body momentarily, weapons cannot protect me from what I fear. What damages or takes life, what brings fear into the lives of other living creatures, none of it can save me from fear. Only things that give life and love do that, and it is these that stand between me and the evils of this world – the evils others imagine and create, and the evils I imagine and create.

Through the eyes of fear I see only threat and danger under the stars. I cannot see the beauty of this world or the grace of living in it. I am afraid of the neighbors beyond my locked door because they might mean me harm. I see nothing else.

There is evil in the world. There is evil in me. Fear fosters it in both places. So I place the goodness of creation and the God who created it between me and those evils. I ask Christ to shield me, to give me the strength to see the world through the eyes of love. To see through the eyes of God. They are the same.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or a sister whom they have seen, cannot love God who they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. I John 4: 18-21, NRSV

Photo on 2015-02-28 at 09.24

Lent, week 6: Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

I summon today


All these powers between me and those evils,


Against every cruel and merciless power 
that may oppose my body and soul

,
Against incantations of false prophets,


Against black laws of pagandom,


Against false laws of heretics,


Against craft of idolatry,


Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,


Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul;


Christ to shield me today


Against poison, against burning,


Against drowning, against wounding,


So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

As a young reader I loved fantasy books. The epic tales featured noble and brave young people who were enmeshed in the battle between Good and Evil: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars. Though the battles were difficult, they were always so clear which side was right and which was wrong. And God, the Force, the Truth, was always with the hero.

As an adult I gradually learned that things weren’t so clear and that evil often arises out of good intentions or understandable fears and sometimes from the history and present of our beloved Christian church.

To summon protection from evil as we pray this section of the St. Patrick’s prayer seems to be a much more difficult task. I look at the war in Syria that drags on and on and on. I see evil in the indiscriminate bombing of civilians and leaving people to starve in villages laid seige. But is evil also in the people traffickers who lead refugees to die in rickety boats and washed up on Greek beaches? Is evil to be found in countries refusing to take in refugees or those who refuse to help fund the cost for their care? How do I pray for protection from this?

If I choose to live in the world, to really listen and learn and live an examined life, I open myself up to truly seeing evil that may oppose my body and soul. And equally, to understand the evil I may unwittingly or reluctantly participate in as part of a larger society, nation, or my particular gender or race that opposes or oppresses others.

The political primary process that daily comes to us in the form of 30 second bursts seems very much to be about the challenge of evil. Is evil “out there” such that we can wall it off or regulate it away? Or is evil within our nation in entrenched income equality and institutional racism? Politicians rise up as prophets speaking incantations that promise change and protection in exchange for our vote.

But I believe to be protected against evil requires more from us than that. Lent is an opportunity to decide to be clear-eyed and fearlessly seek the truth. Praying for protection from idolatry necessitates understanding that what we hold so dear blinds us to others – whether money, power, security, nostalgia… As we learn about the world and about ourselves, we will be challenged to change. Change is undeniably hard. But with our sights set on God and Jesus’ commandment to love neighbor as self, it is harder to choose the path of evil or not stand up against the inertia of evil.

I hope the abundance of reward we pray for is more peace in our times, and more peace in our minds. And the blessings that come with seeking those difficult and uncomfortable truths and seeing them through to the place of justice and grace.

Offered by Karen Gale, farmer, mother, seeker of God.

Ill Wishes

I arise today, through

God’s strength to pilot me,

God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s host to save me

       From snares of devils,

      From temptation of vices,

      From everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and anear.

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, part 5 (click Lent 2016: Saint Patrick’s Breastplate for the whole prayer)

Clenched fists, tight shoulders, narrowed eyes, pursed lips, angry tone and words – not a child having a tantrum, but a woman in her seventies I barely knew. She wanted to make money where she served as a trustee, ethically questionable as well as against trustee policy. As a fellow trustee, I objected. That was seven years ago. I’ve rarely seen her since, and barely given her a thought until the last few words of this poem brought her to mind.

I have no idea if she’s wishing me ill afar as she did once anear. I haven’t wished her ill, afar or anear, now or then. I opposed her. Did I stop her from doing something wrong and potentially harmful? Yes. Did I do something wrong and cause her harm? I’m sure she thinks so.

Lack of ill wishes isn’t much of an accomplishment on my part. Perhaps that’s the best I can do on my own. Beyond that, it takes an act of God in and through me. Perhaps my prayers should be two-fold:

God save me from those who wish me ill. God save others from my indifference.

Lent 2016, Week Five: Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

I arise today,

through
God’s strength to pilot me,


God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,


God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,


God’s word to speak for me,


God’s hand to guard me,


God’s shield to protect me,


God’s host to save me


From snares of devils,


From temptation of vices,

From everyone who shall wish me ill,


afar and near.

 

It is a song of praise to God for all God is and does. And well it should be.

But to understand the depth of praise we need to start with ourselves. To look inside. To look inside deeply. To see deeply. Only then, when we see ourselves deeply, can we understand the depth of praise expressed in these words.

When we look deeply we can begin to see. The uncertainty about life that requires a pilot. The weakness of spirit that requires upholding. The straying from who we truly are that requires a guide. The blindness to the pain of others that requires new eyes. The deafness to the cries of the oppressed that requires new ears. The silence in the face of injustice that requires a new mouth. The danger to life and love we help create that requires a guard. The foolishness of our egos that requires protection. All the ways we are lost that require saving from that which seduces and tempts us, from those who wish us ill.

This kind of looking within is not easy. It means seeing things in ourselves we would rather not see. It inevitably leads to struggle and perhaps even suffering.

But this kind of looking is the only way to new life. It is the dying that makes resurrection possible.

We cannot do it – not even think about doing it – unless we have faith. Faith that when we arise today and every day we will be upheld by the strength, might and wisdom of God. And that in all we are about God’s eye, ear, mouth, hand and shield will offer us whatever it is we need to face whatever it is we see.

And then through the grace and mercy of God these words of praise touch the depth of our being and we know life that is both abundant and full.

Offered by Jeff Jones, pastor, writer, follower of Jesus.

The Wanderer

(story by Bryan Fredrickson, seeker of the face of God)

Francis sat on the roughly hewn wooden bench with his back against the cabin facing the sun that chased away the night’s chill. The cabin was a simple and peaceful place. It was a place where he came for solace. He called it his hermitage in the woods. He had everything he needed to be comfortable, but not so much as to detract from its rustic simplicity.

His breakfast consisted of a plate of hot biscuits which he had just removed from the oven and placed in front of him. Next to the biscuits were a pot of hot coffee and a plate of butter. Pine scent and birdsong suffused the air, wafting his prayers of thanksgiving toward the heavens.
His gaze fell lazily on the horizon as the biscuits melted in his mouth.

Suddenly there appeared the figure of a man emerging from the forest. As he came over the hill, Francis inspected him closely. He looked to be a man of about Francis’ age and build, but he moved with a limp as if one leg was shorter than the other. He was hunched from shouldering a large pack. Francis thought there was something about the man that he recognized but he could not put his finger on it.

When the man came within ear shot, Francis beckoned him to sit and rest on the bench. The man sat down heavily, unloading his pack from his shoulder. It hit the ground stirring the dust. The man sighed and stared up at the deep blue sky as if uttering a silent prayer. His hair and beard were unkempt and his layered clothes were tattered. He smelled of earth and sweat. The sun exposed heavy wrinkles around his eyes and face. Again, Francis thought he recognized something about this man. Perhaps it was the man’s eyes, their hue or shape? He wasn’t sure. The man was silent but trained his eyes longingly on the plate of biscuits.

“Of course,” said Francis. “You must be terribly hungry.”

The man stretched out his hands to accept the buttered biscuit from Francis. They were calloused with dirt imbedded in their creases and fixed under his nails. Francis thought their shape and size bore a strong resemblance to his own. Francis fetched another mug from the house and poured the man some hot coffee.

It was evident to Francis that the man did not want to talk. So they ate in silence, communing like two old cats in the sun that had sized each other up and decided neither was a threat to the other. Time passed as the moments seemed to fold in on themselves and melt away. Finally, the man heaved himself off the bench to stand, pulling his pack over his shoulder.

“Thank you,” he uttered, breaking the silence in a voice strangely familiar to Francis.

“May I ask your name?” Francis queried.

“I am called the Wanderer,” he answered. “I look for people who need a doctor.”

With that he slowly limped away over the hill. Francis’ eyes followed him until he disappeared into the woods.

All day long Francis pondered what the man had said. Why had he come to him? Was he sick somehow, he wondered. It seemed to him that it was the man, rather than he, who was in need of succor. He remained perplexed as he crawled under his warm comforter to go to sleep. That night the Wanderer visited Francis in a dream. Looking deeply into Francis’ eyes he said, “Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the Age!”

Francis bolted upright in bed, peering into the darkness suddenly illumined by epiphany. Now he understood who the Wanderer was. He was every man, woman and child who is a victim of ill circumstance: the tired, the oppressed, the poor, the sick, the bereft, the lost, the disadvantaged, the unemployed, the orphan, the homeless, the friendless, the lonely, the judged, those who can’t catch a break in life and those whose addictions destroy the chances they are given. Francis knew what he recognized about the man. He had seen himself but without the trappings of comfort and ease. He had been given a chance to see himself born into the dark, cold lonely edges of society. The Wanderer was indeed a physician, opening the eyes of those who are blind to the suffering all around.

Francis recalled the first words the man had spoken to him. “Thank you,” he had said. It is a prayer offered when outstretched hands of one in need are met by the hands of one who gives what one is able. It is a prayer that reverberates across temporal time and place, even to the little town of Bethlehem where once the cry of a poor, cold child lying in a feeding trough echoed through the ages.

“I was blind,” Francis whispered to himself in the darkness. “But now I see!”

Worth Thousands of Words

May today’s offering of images enrich your soul and provide a glimpse of the creation that God loves so much. 

I arise today, through the strength of heaven,

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The light of the sun, the radiance of the moon

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The splendor of fire, the speed of lightning,

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The swiftness of wind, the depth of the sea,

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The stability of earth, the firmness of rock.

IMG_7346

 

Photographs taken and offered by Jared Fredrickson, learner, builder, seeker of God.