All posts by Johnna

About Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

Signs and Wonders

I saw it because I was giving the hall bathroom a deep cleaning – pulling the storage shelves out for a hose-down, scrubbing tub and sinks, wiping down vanity drawers and cupboard space, and washing the window. It appeared as I began cleaning the window.

Tuesday, September 27

I ran down the stairs and out onto the back porch, hoping to get a glimpse without a screen in the way. It lasted mere seconds. Had I been scrubbing the tub instead of washing the window, I’d have missed it entirely. Timing may not be everything, but it’s something. The beauty of the earth waits for no one.

I returned to my cleaning. Once it was done, I sat down on the back porch. Rain plinked on the roof overhead. Sparrows darted under the porch, and a woodpecker perched on the fence. Ordinary, extraordinarily beautiful life surrounded me – not the rare rainbow kind, but the all-around-me-all-the-time variety. I just needed to look and listen. Then this appeared:

Rainbow Arc
Rainbow Arc

Too big for me to get in a single glance or picture, this second bow suddenly appeared. Not a sign that God will never again flood the earth, but a wonder that reminds me to look and listen. Eyes to see, ears to hear, a little time and attention are all you and I need. Signs and wonders are everywhere.

The Walk To Town

Walking into town from home looks a little different than it did before the move. There are no sidewalks for most of the way, but not much in the way of traffic, either. It’s noticeably downhill, and significantly uphill on the return trek. There’s no way to ignore that I’ve moved from coastal Massachusetts to the Vermont mountains.

Barnumville Road
Manchester Center Staircase

I don’t know the people who live in the houses I pass as I walk, but we share the road to town. We are connected by that common path, and by the town at the end of it. We share this time and place, strangers related by era and address. I don’t know what adventures I’ll share with these new neighbors-in-time-and-place, but I know that their lives are sacred if yet unknown to me. And that’s quite enough for now.

Moving Home

September 14, 2022

The view I see out my kitchen window went from hostas and ivy on the back banking to a couple of hay rolls with the Green Mountains as their backdrop. My younger son continues to live in the South Coast, Massachusetts, white Cape that’s been home for twenty years; my husband and I moved into a 1990’s house in Manchester, Vermont. Boxes have been unpacked, and more are waiting to be emptied. Items I’d long ago found places for are now awaiting their new spots in this space; appliances are in a different configuration, and I haven’t figured out what lights are controlled by what switches. It’s going to take some time to locate my sense of home in this new place and space; it’s also going to take some time adjusting to the changes that my son is making to the space he continues to call home. In both houses, home is changing.

I think it’s time to take a look at what home means – place, space, and belonging.

Concluding in the Middle

Let us bless the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

It’s an odd thing, this conclusion in the middle of the day. I’m used to it at the end of a Sunday service (or a Saturday night one, for that matter) – it’s the beginning of the week and the end of a communal gathering. But noonday prayers are scattered throughout the week.

Perhaps that’s the whole point. Blessing God and offering thanks is a recognition of how and what life is – a gift that I neither earned nor requested. Offering these words are a way to end the chapter of the morning before beginning the afternoon’s chapter of this book that is my life.

Free Intercessions

Free intercessions may be offered.

It’s in small print, just before the end, but it’s there – that space to pause and let joys and concerns bubble to the surface of my mind and continue their ascent to God. What a gift, this moment of rest from the focus on whatever I am doing at the moment. What a gift, to move beyond my own concerns and challenges to be others in spirit and prayer.

Noonday Sight and Blindness

Almighty Savior, who at noonday called your servant Saint Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles: We pray you to illumine the world with the radiance of your glory, that all nations may come and worship you; for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

Was it at noon that the burst of light and the voice of God met Saul on the road? At noon that his companions had to lead a blind Saul into the city? At noon that a blind Saul was healed, transformed into a sighted Paul?

How is it that we can remain blind to what it takes to live a holy life – loving God, self, and neighbor – even on the brightest of days? Saul couldn’t see it, or didn’t see how to apply it; it took three days of blindness, the courage and grace of a stranger, and a new name for writer of so much of our New Testament.

What will it take for me to see?

[Book of Common Prayer, p. 107]

Daily Sustenance

Give us this day our daily bread.

What’s the difference between a want and a need? What is necessary for a life well lived and loved? This question is all wrapped up in a request for daily bread – not daily five course dinner in a mansion, but what is necessary to sustain life and a roof over my head.

This is playing out in a larger sense at the moment, as I decide what to bring to a new (and temporary) home and what to leave behind. I want to bring what will make a fruitful, faithful life possible; I want to leave behind what distracts and hampers that life. I don’t want to waste this opportunity to let go of what is unnecessary and what doesn’t really matter.

Lord, help me discern what daily bread is, and what it is not. And help me pack accordingly. Amen

[For more on this, click Noonday Prayer Service above.]

Our

Officiant and People: Our Father, who art in heaven

If you look through the New Testament, the word saints is only in its plural form – no singular saints, just a collective. This is different from the honorific Saint that is bestowed on a select few whose very human essence scattered the love of God like a prism flings light. Christianity, like its mother Judaism, is a communal affair rather than a singular pursuit.

The collective shows up again in the prayer Jesus left with us. Our father, not my father or your father. God isn’t the personal property of a single person, even one praying this prayer in solitude. God gives life to everyone, and everyone is claimed as a child of God’s love.

Our means I can’t exclude those I’d prefer to exclude, and they cannot exclude me. We are in this life together. We come before God together, even when we don’t, can’t, or won’t admit it.

What a powerful reminder, in the middle of whatever activities the day brings, that I am not alone – unique, beloved, but never alone.

That goes for you, too.

[For more on the Noonday Prayer service, click above.]

Have mercy

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Kyrie Eleison is the Greek form of this prayer for mercy. It’s often sung, which adds weight to the request. It’s a three-fer, guaranteeing that it can’t be skipped over as easily as a single plea might.

Have mercy, dear God, for my inability to love you, myself, or anyone else as well as I could or should. Think kindly of me when I don’t offer kind thoughts to others. Help me in my weakness and in the limits my humanity brings.

Have mercy as I pray. Have mercy when I cannot or choose not to pray. Grant that I may have mercy on others because you have so freely and often granted yours to me.

Amen.

Silent or Spoken

A meditation, silent or spoken, may follow.

There are so many words thrown at us every day, almost every minute of every day, that they can become an indistinct buzzing more than bearers of anything important. When the words become too loud and too numerous, turning them into background noise can keep things manageable – a way of keeping our heads above water and our lives moving forward. But there’s a cost to it: life-giving words are filtered out along with the meaningless babble.

Built into this mid-day service is a pause, a space for a meditation. It might be filled with words, it might be an intentional respite from words. In the middle of the day’s activities, in the middle of this service, is this pause. Silent or spoken, a time to ponder life and love and holiness and fear, this is opening our hearts and souls to God – if only a crack.

What would life be like if we took time in the middle of every day to pause? If only for a moment, a few breaths in length, we welcomed God into the middle of our commonest of activities?

I can’t say I know, but I think it’s worth giving it a try.