Monthly Archives: May 2018

Brought home for the first time

I don’t have any memory of it,  I don’t have a picture of it, and I can’t tell you what street it’s on. I wasn’t there for very long in this Charleston, South Carolina dwelling. All I know about my first home: I was welcomed, cared for, and loved by everyone who lived there. That’s quite enough.


This is the first in a series about home. Click No Place Like Home(s) above to learn more…

A Waste of Precious Time

Yesterday was Pentecost, the celebration of the Holy Spirit alive and moving in this world. I arrived early to set up for the high school class I lead, only to find that a fundraising car wash and the need for extra acolytes had reduced my class to just me. Several hours of preparation and a twenty mile drive for nothing more than a few minutes in an empty room and a return trip home. My thought on the drive home: what a waste of time.

And I was right, it was a waste of time: just in a way I didn’t appreciate until I was more than halfway home. I was so focused on the time I spent prepping for something that didn’t happen that I disregarded the celebration of the Spirit who always moves in unexpected and mysterious ways. I ignored the grace of so many youth and adults scrubbing cars to fund the mission trip to Puerto Rico. While I wasn’t rude, I certainly wasn’t gracious about the whole thing.

In truth, preparation for learning in faith is never a waste of time; I had the chance to pray for my class and learn something new. It’s a testament to my own lack of perspective that I forgot this. The real waste of time: I had the chance to see the Spirit moving in surprising and wonderful ways and I turned a blind eye to it. Not a waste of my precious time, but a rejection of the gift of sacred time the Spirit offered me.

O Lord, open my eyes to see your grace and my heart to love the gifts you give. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.

Prudence and Excess…the final couple

Where there is Mercy and Prudence,

There is neither Excess nor Harshness. St. Francis,  The Admonitions XXVII

[The Message of St. Francis, New York: Penguin Studio, 1999, p. 9]

Prudence: 1. The ability to govern oneself by the use of reason; 2. sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs. 3. Skill and good judgment in the use of resources; 4. Caution or circumspection as to danger or risk [Merriam-Webster online dictionary]

Being prudent isn’t the same thing as being a prude (a person who is excessively or priggishly attentive to propriety or decorum, Merriam-Webster). A prude fulfills the letter of the law for its own sake, or to feel morally superior to those who don’t. He or she may feel a smug sense of satisfaction by avoiding mistakes or pointing out the transgressions of others, but there’s no real life or love involved. Ironically, excessive focus on doing things properly in all times and places is also blindness to the rest of this life-giving world – the very opposite of prudence.

The virtue of prudence is sound judgment, a grasp on the bigger issues involved in daily actions, respectful and effective use of resources, and the good sense to stay out of danger. Self control isn’t for its own sake, nor is it a means of shaming others. The whole point is to live in a way that brings good things to self and others, to bring self and neighbor together.

I rarely think about the word prudence, but I do my best to practice it in my daily living. I don’t want to judge others harshly to feel good about myself and I don’t want to use more than my share of the world’s resources. I want to live a good, rich life with a minimum of worldly goods; I want to help others do the same. I can’t be prudent and a prude at the same time – if I can remember that simple truth, my blessings won’t be at the expense of others.

Mother and Child

 Picture by Jared Fredrickson

It’s Mother’s Day, and I’ve been up for almost three hours. I called my sister a few minutes ago, wishing her a good day. I’ll call my mom in another hour to wish her well and to say thank you for the life and love she’s given me – and for the prayers she continues to say for me.

The first time I laid my newborn sons in the crib at home, I gave them over to God in prayer. I said that same prayer every night, and still do with some modifications (For most of the year, it’s a long distance prayer for my older son). At sixteen and twenty years of age, they often stay up later than I do, so it’s now part of my going-to-bed prayers rather than a putting-them-to-bed prayer. I think it’s made being a mother more of a joy than an anxiety, and I’m sure it’s given me the strength to let them grow into their holy lives. I don’t own them and I don’t know what life holds for them. I do know that God loves them even more than I do. Perhaps I say this prayer to remind myself of that…

Gracious God, this night I give my son back to you in faith and hope. He is yours even more than he is mine. May you return him to me in the morning, to love and to raise. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 Row house by Colin Fredrickson

[St. Francis’ Prayer will return in a few days…]

Harshness and Mercy

Where there is Mercy and Prudence, there is neither Excess nor Harshness.

St. Francis  (The Admonitions, XXVII)

[The Message of St. Francis; New York: Penguin Studio, 1999, p. 9]

Here’s another cross pattern, Prudence matching Excess and Mercy a foil for Harshness. One of these pairs is enough for today…

Years ago, I had a daily calendar/notepad – sticky notes with the date and a short saying. Most of them I’d use for this or that purpose, then toss them away. A few struck such a chord that I stuck them to my desk. One of these sayings:

There’s brutality and there’s honesty: there’s no such thing as brutally honest.

Words can be the an ocean wind in Winter – cutting, cold, penetrating muscle and bone. They whistle in our ears and bend our backs. We shrink before them, turning in upon ourselves to avoid exposure. Long after the words are spoken, our teeth still chatter and the shivers remain. In our frostbitten souls we hold a question and we fear its answer: Could such words be true?

In a small sense, cutting words shine a light. Faults and imperfections come with being human. A careless tongue or sharp wit can highlight such things. We are reduced to a collection of blemishes and incompetence. But this isn’t really the truth – it’s a keyhole version of reality, allowing only one small look at an unseen whole.

The big lie such words tell isn’t so much what is said but what is implied: if we aren’t perfect, we are worthless. The lie lies in believing the implication. Truth be told, the words would be something like this: You aren’t perfect, and you never will be. I’m not perfect, and I never will be. But we are precious, and a unique gift to this world. We are loved, and anyone who tells us different is sadly mistaken.

If I use words to cut down, I have a keyhole’s view; when I stand up and open the door, only words of love can describe what I see.

Love for the whole and mercy for the imperfections – true words always offer a glimpse of these.

My True Dwelling

Where there is fear of God to guard the dwelling,

there no enemy can enter. St. Francis

Admonitions XXVII

[The Message of St. Francis, New York: Penguin Studio, 1999, p. 9]

I’ve never been a fan of the “fear of God” language. I think it’s too easy to mistake its true meaning for the false idea that God will harm anyone and everyone who makes a mistake or behaves in a less than morally perfect manner. My definition of the  “fear of God”:  Yikes! My life is laughably brief and limited compared to the age of the universe and scope of God’s creative action within it. Time didn’t begin with my birth and won’t end with my death. After all, I am a very small person in a very big cosmos. 

At the same time, knowing my relative size and duration within the universe is not a commentary on my value or significance. There is no such thing as an insignificant life. Every single one is unique, precious in the eyes of God. You and I may only take up a speck of space and moment of time, but such specks and moments change the very nature of this whole universe. 

When I accept my limited existence and my unique place in the grand scheme of things, then I claim the blessing of God’s love for me and every other being that ever has or ever will grace this vast universe. No one can take my place or steal God’s love from me. I dwell in God’s love, so do you, so does everyone else. Who can steal what is freely given? Where there is enough love for everyone, how can there be enemies? And with God, there is more than enough.