Monthly Archives: July 2021

What Do You See?

They were nineteen years old when I threw them away. I bought them before Jared was born, when Dave and I lived in New Hope with our toddler son, Colin. You can’t see it, but the soles are split, the laces are frayed (this is the second set of them), and the stitching has given out on the heels. They are permanently bent, as if my feet were still in them, lifting up to take my next step. I took the picture to remind me of how much care and talent went into their creation, and of how they carried me in comfort over countless miles.

Images evoke feelings and memories. The same image can mean different things to different people – over time, they can also mean different things for the same person. For these summer days, I’ll share some images that speak to me – like the boots above. I’ll also post a second picture – one at the end of the post. Without words for a few days, then with a story.

If you are so inclined, tell me what you see. A second set of eyes can bring a new perspective…

Next Image: What Do You See?

 

 

The Words of My Mouth

July 16, 2021

Twenty years ago today, just after eight in the morning, Jared Embrey Fredrickson arrived. For these twenty years, I’ve watched him grow from an infant to toddler, elementary student to high school graduate. That first day, I didn’t know what his favorite color would be, what would make him laugh or cry, or where he would find God’s presence in his life. What I did know: the words I would say and the words I would leave unsaid would matter to him. Tone of voice and eye contact would make a difference; whether I was talking to him or at him mattered.

Words matter, and the heart behind the words matters even more. There are a few prayers that I say because of this truth.

Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others.

Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray thou thyself in me.

And most important:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Marc Cohn, The Things We’ve Handed DownThe Best of Marc Cohn

Proud Thoughts

Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me.

Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Psalm 19:13, NRSV

Keep back your servant also from proud thoughts – the alternate translation of that first part of the verse. This isn’t a prayer for God to keep me away from the insolence of others: it’s a prayer to God that I don’t become insolent. But, as like attracts like, if I hang with an insolent crowd I’m probably guilty of the same vice.

Proud thoughts (the ones that make me see myself as comparatively better than others) aren’t the same thing as self-confidence or self-love. Proud thoughts are those internal conversations that demean others so that I can feel inherently superior. They shrink my soul even as I diminish the worth of others. There is no doubt: this is a great transgression. Evil comes easily from such thoughts.

The Buddhists list right thought as one of the chief elements in a holy life. This is having the right perspective more than it is the lack of thinking mean thoughts. Their point is that everything else springs from this basic starting point. Wrong thoughts cannot lead to right judgement, speech, or action – harm will come from the wrong perspective, damaging others or damaging self, and often both.

Perhaps there’s no better way to avoid proud thoughts than asking for God’s help. Knowing I cannot rely on my own strength of character, and knowing I can rely on God’s love, is a good starting point.

 photo by Donna Eby

How Will We Find Our Way?

Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 

But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. Psalm 19: 11-12. NRSV

There’s more: God’s word warns us of danger and directs us to a hidden treasure.

Otherwise, how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool? 

Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Psalm 19: 11-12, The Message

[For the whole psalm, click Psalm 19 above.]

A couple of years back, just past midnight, street work closed my usual route to Logan airport. The detour signs put me on an unfamiliar road, then left me stranded in the middle of a bunch of warehouses. GPS was no help: it kept directing me back to the closed street and refused to guide me to another route.

I couldn’t see any familiar streets or landmarks, so I picked a street and drove. After a couple of attempts, I came upon a familiar place and was able to make my way through Boston and arrive at Logan from the North. My knowledge of Boston streets was just enough to get me to my destination.

At times, my spiritual life feels like that drive. My usual routine can’t get me where I need to go, and I end up in a dark and unfamiliar place. It’s during those times that I need to find a familiar intersection, somewhere that reveals where I am. Once I find that, I can reorient and find an alternate road. It may take some time, but I’ll find my way.

That night in Boston, the familiar place was South Station.

When my soul is lost, that familiar place is God’s word: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind – and love your neighbor as yourself.

 Art by Margaret Hill

Deeds of Justice

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

More desired are they than gold, even fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

Psalm 19: 9-10, NRSV

Ps 19:7-10 – This is often viewed as the start of a separate psalm, due to the focus on law.But Torah connotes God’s “instruction” or will, which involves justice and righteousness on a cosmic scale; so “law” and creation belong together. The concept of justice is explicitly present in v. 9, where ordinances is more literally, “justices” or “deeds of justice.”

[the Discipleship Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version including Apocrypha; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008, p.752, footnote]

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the Lord’s deeds of justice are true and righteous altogether; 

More desired are they that gold, even fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

Change that one small word and the whole thing has a different feel for it. This isn’t about ordinances, things that insure my property lines are honored and I get everything that I’m owed. This isn’t about dancing on the right side of the legal/illegal line, making sure I take whatever I can out of any situation. This is about justice, doing what is right by my neighbor and fostering whatever is holy and life-giving. This is how I walk through this world and my life doing good rather than harm.

Such a life is worth more than gold, isn’t it? Such a life is la dolce vita, isn’t it?

Such a life is worth lifting my voice to God in song/psalm. And dancing a happy dance, too.

In Memoriam: Tom Nordquist

 Christmas Greetings from the Nordquists

 

Tom sent a work of art every year – a Christmas card. Always beautiful, with a wonderful sense of proportion – the kind of art that the heart and soul appreciate as much as the eye.

 Angels on High

These images graced our living room for the holidays, and now keep my place in the Bible and Book of Common Prayer. I see them every day, and every day I am grateful for the beauty they bring.

That would have been enough, the gift of beauty. But Tom also brought other gifts: a wonderful, quiet sense of humor; music to fill the worship space; and art in many forms to gladden the hearts of all who sat in the sanctuary of Christ Church.

This past year, Tom’s generosity brought joy in a holiday overshadowed by Covid-19. He let me send his Three Kings to the parish and beyond as an Advent Sunday school activity – the magi on a journey to unknown places, bringing gifts of beauty and hope.

Tom didn’t have to be generous, but he was. Tom didn’t have to gladden the hearts of others with his talents, but he did. The world is better for Tom’s presence, and I am better for spending time in his presence.

 Three Kings by Tom Nordquist

Blessings and Peace, and Grateful Thanks for you, Tom.