Category Archives: Easter

Other Things…

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31, NRSV

This is the end of today’s Gospel offering – the story of Jesus appearing to his disciples, of Thomas’ absence at that time, his doubt and his eventual acceptance of Jesus resurrected once he had seen Jesus for himself. The gospel reminds us that what we read in scripture is just a partial account: there was more to the story, things we will never read or have read to us. What was handed down wasn’t to relate everything that Jesus ever said or did; what was handed down was for us to make a doorway of words and images – a way for us to enter the truth, meet Jesus, and gain life. They are the words that end chapter 20.

But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21:25, NRSV

This is the end of John’s Gospel, similar to the ones above, but rarely ever read in church – the lectionary reading ends a couple of verses short of them. Maybe it’s because these words are so similar to the ones ending chapter 20? Did the similarities between the passages make them appear to be exactly the same, not worth a second reading? Perhaps, perhaps not. Either way, what sets them apart is remarkable.

The first words are about the disciples, and about Jesus appearing in resurrected form to them. They are written for all of us, so that we may encounter Jesus and be forever changed by him. They are our linguistic doorway into truth and life.

The second words go way beyond that. Two differences stand out to me, but there are sure to be more:

Jesus did other things beyond the presence of his disciples, his followers, and us – so many things that the world itself isn’t big enough to contain an account of them. Jesus isn’t limited to the Christian record, the church and its history, the fellowship through time and space. It’s a well phrased reminder that we cannot and should not try to set limits on how God manifests, even within the limits of our own space and time. 

Jesus manifests in ways that the world cannot contain because within each and every living thing is a world of mystery and untold depth. The cosmic scope of the universe finds its reflection in the cosmic scope of our own inner landscapes – the dwelling place of the Spirit within. It takes a lifetime to scratch the surface; perhaps part of the joy of eternity is a deep dive into these worlds, and a complete sharing of them with God and all God’s beloved children.

I think the differences make them both worth reading.

New Life

They’re everywhere, these signs of Spring and life renewed. Flowers adding yellows, purples, and whites to the brown leftovers of last year’s growing season; lengthening days and rising temperatures that encourage us to leave our jackets and mittens on their hooks; chives, oregano, and thyme cut in the yard rather than bought at Shaw’s. It’s time to rake the mulched leaves out of the garden beds, thankful for the protection last year’s growth offered.

I’d like to do the same in the spiritual sense. It’s time to clear my mind, heart, and soul of last year’s growth, not because it wasn’t fruitful but to make room for what’s emerging. It’ll take some work, some time, and trust in God – that’s true of almost everything.

I can’t wait to see what new life will grow this year.

Let me not lose faith

For Today

O God: Give me strength to live another day; Let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties; Let me not lose faith in other people; keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery, or meannesss; Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them; Help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity; Open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things; Inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness; and make me the cup of strength to suffering souls; in the name of the strong Deliverer, our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Phillips Brooks

A Meditation by Bill Albritton, leader, teacher, child of God:

Sometimes you have to look hard at a person and remember he’s doing the best he can. He’s just trying to find his way, just like you. (Katherine Hepburn, On Golden Pond)

When I have lost faith in other people, I’m sometimes forced to admit that it’s not the other people’s problem – it’s mine. They haven’t lived up to my expectations. And why should they? Maybe, just maybe, I need to lose faith in my expectations? What gives me the right to expect people to behave according to my rules, or ideals, or MY anything? Who died and left me captain of the world?

During these tremulous times of Coronavirus,  I have been encouraged by the selfless commitment of “other people,” who as Dale Carnegie put it when talking about a track coach training a jumper, throw their hearts over the bar and the rest of the body follows. I didn’t really expect this, but I’m not surprised, either. After all, just like me, these are God’s people.

[Found in Forward Day by Day. For more information, click For Today: Phillips Brooks Prayer above.]

Lunchtime!

Give us this day our daily bread…feed my sheep…whenever you eat this bread, remember me…

At my high school, I needed a paper ticket to get lunch in the school cafeteria. Every day, I handed over my lunch money, got a ticket, chose an entree, and handed the ticket to the cashier on the way to a table. But for many students, this daily activity was a source of embarrassment: the paper tickets were color coded – free lunch, reduced lunch, and full price lunch each had different color tickets. What was (most likely) an easy way to keep track of how many free, reduced, and full price meals were consumed had (most likely unintended) social consequences; the financial status of every student who ate school lunch was on display for anyone who cared to take a look. And apparently, many did look: it was humiliating enough that some students chose to go hungry rather than stand in the lunch line with the “wrong” color ticket.

[Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often these days. School children key in a number and the computer keeps track of the finances. It’s still not a perfect system, but it’s a whole lot better than it used to be. Perhaps fewer go hungry as a result. ]

That break in the middle of the day, the time to nourish the body and give the mind a break, shouldn’t come with a side of humiliation. If all things come from God, food included, shouldn’t it be respectfully and kindly given? If I am unable to give without punishing the one who receives, it reveals more about the sad state of my spiritual affairs than it does about the financial straits of someone else.

Lord, help me remember that your prayer isn’t just for my daily bread, but for oursMay I be a respectful giver and a grateful receiver. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

 

Time for Recess!

Everyone knows that children need a break from school work and the classroom environment. Halfway through the morning, it arrives: recess. Children get out of their chairs and head outside to run around and play. Recess brings exercise that builds a healthy body, and unstructured play that restores the mind. Just a few minutes makes all the difference. Learners return to their desks with renewed ability to learn and grow. Recess is the frosting on the cake that is a good school day, and the relief from drudgery and stress that a bad day brings.

The benefits of taking a break in the work day are well known. So why do I act like skipping recess is a better, more virtuous choice than skipping rope outside for a few minutes?

Use Your Inside Voices

It’s not something anyone said when I was a child, but something very often heard when I became the mother of young children. It’s a reminder that high volume isn’t necessary in enclosed spaces. But there’s an assumption in these words that isn’t stated and often isn’t true: that the one who speaks with a quiet voice will be heard and listened to. Hearing doesn’t guarantee listening – a truth many toddlers are painfully acquainted with.

Still, small voices are often drowned out by louder and larger ones. Being overlooked and ignored can come with devastating consequences – it’s often what the holy, lovely, and precious experience. The wondrous is ignored and discarded in favor of the merely loud and obvious.

Today, Lord, help me listen to the quiet voices that sing of your love. May I recognize a quiet truth when it speaks. Amen.

[This is one in the series, Every School Day. For more, click “Every School Day” above]

 

Check Your Answers

How do I reply to someone who asks me an insulting question, an upsetting question, a question that at best is beside the point of whatever conversation it arose from? On good days, I answer with respectful disagreement, supportive correction, and a bridge between question and context. On days when I’m irritated or tired, I set the facts straight without thought or regard beyond factual accuracy. If I’m grieved or frightened, I return personal insult for personal insult with a roll of the eyes and click of the tongue. For the person on the receiving end, it won’t matter what words I use: it’s the ugliness of their delivery that remains. Insult for insult is still insulting.

But….

On the days I remember that God embraces whomever I meet in conversation, I’m aware that questions are often beside the point. The crux of the matter is the encounter with a living, breathing beloved child of God. Language provides a bridge between soul and soul. If such a one constructs a shaky bridge from insults or ignorant words, perhaps those are the only materials available at the time. Now the choice is mine: do I answer by tearing down the poorly made span, or do I use my answering words to shore it up?

Take One And Pass The Rest On

It could be a vocabulary quiz or an math test; it might be directions for an experiment or a list of things needed for a holiday party. Every so often, perhaps a picture or article just for the sheer pleasure of seeing or reading something beautifully created. Whatever it was,  it wasn’t meant to be hoarded by the one or two learners who were handed a whole pile of them. Whatever the teacher handed out was meant for everyone – the fun ones as much as the worksheets that required mastering a new skill or a significant time investment. No one needed two or more: one was more than sufficient.

I wonder if there’s a profound life lesson in this ordinary practice. What if I took only one of what was necessary for me to learn and live well? What if the rest I handed on to my neighbor, offering the opportunity to learn and grow, to work and play? Can it be that almost everything I’m handed is meant to be handed down the line?

Lord, give me the strength, wisdom, and generosity to hand on what was never meant for me to keep. Amen.

 

 

Open Your Books

It started with a chocolate cream pie one August morning in 2002 – that’s when Joan entered the book of my life and my family entered hers. It continued when she introduced my four year old son to her tree swing, and admired my one year old’s toy car. She was expecting us that August because we were staying in the beach house that belonged to her son and daughter-in-law, just a few hundred feet from her door. I wasn’t expecting a kind gesture or a warm welcome for my family; had Joan never bothered with us, I’d never  have known what I was missing. My life, my family’s life story, would have been the poorer for her absence.

Joan came into our family story, but she didn’t come alone. She brought her husband, Ben. Ben and Lena, the next generation down, added their family stories to the book of our lives – adventures of family who lived in the beach house long before it sheltered us, and the secret toy stash hidden below the bookshelf. Joan’s daughter and husband, Jaime and Larry, added their stories as well – and a quick guide to the best asian food in the area.

Over the years, Joan and her family brought more blessings than I can list. Her husband and son made beautiful benches for a library garden project I was working on; my father got a tour of the family oyster business – something he treasured long after he had returned home to New Hampshire. Joan was kind enough to accept soup and bread every so often because she knew it was an expression of love from me and mine to her and hers.

Yesterday, I stood with my husband beside the place where Joan is resting after a life well lived. Surrounded by her family and the friends who were her larger family, we said our farewells and thanks to her. How much she was loved and how well she loved is written in the book of life that holds all of our sacred stories. It’s an honor to be included in Joan’s story – a gift that came only because we opened our books to each other.

Child of God, daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, friend. Your book is truly a book of love…

[Peter Gabriel, The Book of LoveShall We Dance (sound track), Casablanca Records, October 12, 2004