Thứ Tư, 5 tháng 6, 2013


Jesus did the will of the Father when it was not at all pleasing to his human nature. It was not pleasing, even long before the Passion, to be treated with ingratitude, to be disappointed again and again, to receive such small returns for his love. But he did the will of the Father always and not just when it was agreeable to his humanity.

Out of that constancy comes directly that persevering love absolutely characteristic of Jesus. Saint John says of him that, "having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (Jn 13:1). Again, we see in ourselves, flowing right out of the previous consideration, a sometimes-love, a self-centeredness. Christ was always Father-centered and other-centered.
It is when we are focused on ourselves that we have sometimes-love. When we look back on our own lives, we realize that we have sometimes experienced that feeling of "What's the use?" in situations, particularly at times with persons.  And yet there is that unquenchable love that God has put in our hearts, which comes up like a tide and against all evidence to the contrary.  It urges us to say, "No, I will try again." This is what we want to nurture in ourselves. This is of Christ. It is the always-love.
This persevering, constant love, like mobility and the faith response, comes out of suffering and pain. The love that is not persevering, the sometimes-love that separates us from Christ, is a matter of emotions, situations, persons, circumstances, surprises. But the persevering love of Jesus is the unquenchable love.

Playdates with God: Wonderland

“I’m going to warn you,” he says, smiling. “That’s where all the children sit. They fill up these first two pews here. If you want to sit surrounded by children, that’s fine. But that’s where they’ll be.”

On Trinity Sunday I am sitting in the first pew waiting as my host busies himself around the church, getting ready for morning service. We make small talk and he tells me some of their story. How he’s been a member there all seventy years of his life. How the neighborhood was a blue-collar one when he was growing up—workers of the chemical plants and the other factories that thrived along the Kanawha River.

“These houses were as neat as a pin, then. The lawns were always mowed and cared for. You never saw any trash or old cars in the yards. It’s a different story now. Drugs. Abuse. The church has been broken into several times…”

He tells me how, a few years ago, their membership dwindled into the single digits. They decided that something must be done. So they reached out to the children.

Right about then, six little girls come through the door, holding hands and chattering. Their ruffled skirts are a rainbow of colors—billowing clouds of sparkles. These girls know they were welcome. They go straight up behind the pulpit area and start dancing, gliding across the chancel, twirling and giggling and clinging to each other. Their sandals clop hard on the wooden floor and Wanda J.—who is sitting four pews from the front and who just celebrated her ninetieth birthday—snaps her fingers.

“Girls! Girls! Settle down.”

And they do. They go and sit in the first pew. One by one he brings them over to meet me.

“Are you our new pastor?” One doe-eyed little girl asks.

“Well, I’m just visiting today,” I say.

I watch them settle in the first two pews. A few little boys join the girls and the first two rows of pews are full.

“Do they come alone? Without their parents?” I ask him.

He nods. “Yeah, they come down from the hill up there.”

When it is time for church, about twenty-five sit in the pews—half of which are children. Through the announcements and the Call to Worship I study their shining faces. After the sermonette—in which I tell them about Memorial Day—they sing a song. No accompaniment, just these young voices lifted up.

“Oh, how I love Jesus…” They sing.

“Oh, how I love Jesus…”

As I listen, I am in Wonderland; I grow small. And God grows bigger. No amount of preparation on the sermon I am about to give could have prepared me for the power of that—no sermon could deliver a message as powerful as the one in those front pews. And what God is doing in that tiny church sweeps me off my feet—brings me to my knees.

“Oh, how I love Jesus. Because he first loved me.”

Over at The High Calling, we're finishing up our discussion of  The Life of the Body: Physical Well-being and Spiritual Formation by Valerie E. Hess and Lane M. Arnold. We're giving away two copies of the book this week.

How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us

Bark Butter and other Small Joys

Flowers—and other growing things—like water. It’s amazing how much more they cooperate with being beautiful when they get some. So this morning I get up early to water the flowers and my tiny vegetable garden. There is a new raised bed in the back yard, waiting for me to fill. Yesterday, my father-in-law brought me a load of soil and we spent the afternoon shoveling and mixing and dreaming that empty bed full. All night long I slept on images of earth and roots and good things to eat.

This morning, I comb my hands through the loose soil—locating any stones or sticks or large clods of dirt. I break up the lumps of dirt, letting the soil stain my fingers; letting the smell of earth fill my lungs. I find some broken pieces of pottery, a bit of a tin can, and some unidentifiable plastic. Already it’s the kind of day that has a drop of sweat trickling down the small of my back. There’s a Cardinal in the maple tree making a fuss, asking me to please leave so she might visit the feeder in peace.

I pick some green onions and look over the wilted lettuce. It will need pulled up in the next couple days if it is to be worth anything. At that thought I feel my heart make room for squash and cucumbers.

I need to cut the dried blooms off the lilac, but already it’s getting too hot for that. I pull a few weeds around the bee balm; shake my head at how quickly they grow. The feeder needs filled so mamma Cardinal can have some breakfast so I go back inside and get the sunflower seeds. I pull out a container of bark butter—a recipe one of my patients told me about—and carefully place the block in the suet pocket.

My boys are sleeping in. Teddy is finished with school for the year and I can almost feel the contentment of his breathing through the walls. Jeffrey still has three days next week.

“NO ONE goes to school on the last day, mom,” he said to me yesterday. And he had that look on his face that I have seen on my own in pictures of a young me. Monday will be Step-up Day—the day all the eighth graders go to the high school to see what they are in for next year. I shake my head again. How quickly they grow.

Later, Jeff and I will go to the nursery to pick out some more pepper plants and blue lake pole beans. And who knows what else. This is the happy: being together, moving slow through the day, tending the earth.

How about you? What does Sabbath look like for you?

Bark butter

2 cups of crisco 
2 cups of peanut butter (I used crunchy, but it doesn’t matter)
4 cups cornmeal
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups bird seed or sunflower seeds (I put some overripe berries in too)
1 tsp. of honey
Stir it all together. I then pressed mine into small Tupperware containers to shape them into a size similar to the store bought suet cakes. Then I just pop them into the suet pockets of my feeder and let the birds enjoy!

Playdates with God: Rain

No rain falls that I do not at once hear in the sound of the falling water an invitation to come to the wedding. It is rare that I do not answer. A walk in an evening rain in any setting is to walk in the midst of God’s loving attention to his earth, and, like a baptism, is no simple washing, but a communication of life. When you hurry in out of the rain, I hurry out into it, for it is a sign that all is well, that God loves, that good is to follow. If suffering a doubt, I find myself looking to rain as a good omen. And in rain, I always hear singing, wordless chant rising and falling.
In the early morning hours while the house still sleeps…the sky opens. I hear the steady beating of a million glossy beads falling on the roof and I smile in my half-sleep. It is our secret love languageand each drop—a kiss falling from heaven. I drift and dream of bluebirds perching on the fence--those shy, welcome visitors.
When the time for waking comes, each blade of grass reflects a blue sky on its tip--our early-morning tryst only a memory. The robins scurry to-and-fro—splashing in the rain-soaked earth. I drive Jeffrey to the high school on diamond encrusted streets. It's step-up day and this morning he and the other eighth-graders will visit the freshman classrooms they will populate next year.

"I'm nervous," he tells me, as we troll down the rain-washed valley road.

"What we need is a theme song," I say. And I put in one of the cds he and his brother gave me for Mother's Day and cue up number seven. We sing the song loud together and he makes dance moves with his arms. We pray on the way down the hill like we always do and he hops out in front of the school with a spring in his step. I watch as another boy hurries up beside him and they walk into that big building together. 

"Take care of him today, Lord," I whisper as I pull back out onto the wet street.

It’s been a busy few days, with lots of meetings and gatherings and end-of-school hoopla and I am tired. I haven’t had the time to pause and look around. But now?  I do. Suddenly, the quiet surrounding me speaks beauty and possibility and I feel the reassuring hand of love.

The air settles in misty ribbons, weaving a white cloak over the hills that surround my valley—soft like the breath of God. And the streets glisten, winking in the early morning light.

Today we're starting a new book club discussion over at The High Calling. Will you join us

How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

Stephen Whittaker RIP

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Stephen Whittaker, a third year student of our seminary, who died in his sleep on 19th October. Half Term had just begun that week so Stephen was at home with his family. We were informed by a member of staff who called every single Seminarian on the Tuesday evening to inform us of Stephen's death. Upon our return to the Seminary we entered a week of mourning, meeting together every day to pray Midday Prayer for the dead. On Monday last the entire student body, including those on Extended Pastoral Placement, travelled together to Manchester for Stephen's Requiem Mass at St Joseph's parish, Reddish. Mass was said by the Vicar General of Salford and concelebrated by the rector and priests of the Seminary and priests who knew Stephen. The Bishop of Salford had received his body into the church the previous evening and led a Holy Hour and given Benediction, which was beautifully appropriate as Stephen had a great devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Mass was beautiful, the Seminary schola sang the Psalm, the Contakion for the dead and In Paradisum. All agreed that Stephen would have greatly approved. We then all went from the church to the cemetery where Stephen's Parish Priest led a very emotional Service of Commital and the Dean of Students intoned the Salve. Please pray for Stephen's family and for all his brother Seminarians who greatly miss him and are currently trying to adjust to life without him. Requiescat in Pace Ste! Posted by Orthfully Catholic at 10:40 am 8 comments: WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2008 Visiting the Travellers As it is Half term this week I replaced my school day by joining the Sister who has pastoral care over the travelling communities in the Diocese. I asked to have some involvement with the travellers when I began my placement because they seem to be an important aspect of pastoral life in my Diocese. It wasn't what I expected at all. I was expecting large families living in tiny caravans but in actual fact each family has built a makeshift house and has a few caravans parked outside, so they live in the house but sleep in the caravans. New mothers also have a caravan each in order to bond with the babies. Sister told me all sorts of scary stories so I was very nervous at first but really enjoyed the experience when I discovered it was no different to visiting ordinary homes. The women were very hospitable. The men were a little suspicious, they are very protective of their property (which includes their women and children). However, when they saw me with Sister they assumed I was a priest and apologised. They are in great need of prayers. They are hated by the local community and ignored by the local councils. The local school is populated entirely by travellers because the locals won't send their children there. They go over to Ireland every Christmas and the locals go and destroy their site. The road leading up to the site is treacherous but the council won't repair it because they are travellers. Their culture is fascinating. Only the first generation were born and raised in Ireland, all generations beyond that were born in England, yet they all have Irish accents. This is simply because they pronounce words as they hear them and they don't meet English people as they rarely leave the site. I had a very positive experience and look forward to visiting another site some time in the future.

Prayers After Low Mass

Given the two previous posts we should reintroduce the following at all celebrations of the Holy Sacrifice. V. Hail Mary, full of grace the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. R. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen. (3x) V. Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us. And after this our exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. V. Let us pray. O God, our Refuge and our Strength, look down with favor upon Thy people who cry to Thee: and by the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of St. Joseph her Spouse, of Thy blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the Saints, mercifully and graciously hear the prayers we pour forth for the conversion of sinners, and for the liberty and exaltation of our holy Mother the Church. Through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen. Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle: be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. -May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to hell Satan and all the evil spirits who roam through the world seeking the ruin of souls. R. Amen. V. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. R. Have mercy on us. (3x)

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