Watching, Waiting, Wondering

And so the new year begins, the time of joyful anticipation, the time of planning, of dreaming, of lighting a candle, of remembering that there are no matches to be had in the home, and feeling quietly joyful about that.

The time, perhaps, to wonder whether the notion of joyful anticipation in one’s mind equates to effortless anticipation.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps time to give that a bit of thought, a bit of prayer.

But, oh, this time is beloved.  the candles, the deep purple with the quiet, but attention commanding pink.  So nice.  To light them one at a time.  To savor.  A lost art in this world for which the time of renewal has arrived.


The advent candles were photographed by Alex Harden on December 24, 2006 and are shown pursuant to a Creative Commons license.



The Whole Soil Trope: Well, Whadja Expect?

Is there any passage in scripture more pedestrian than this?  Less exhilirating?  Could Jesus not have done better?  I mean, really.  We get it.  Good seed + good soil = good soul.


Or is it?

There are a million ways to spin out this metaphor, and that may be why it has persisted in spite of its clear hokey quality.

Weeds! That is what came up for me yesterday.  I have been alerted to the idea of avoiding submission to crankiness, to that bent of mind and soul that wants to lament, that gussies it up as “ventilation,” that can turn every splendid blue sky grey.

I do not want to be cranky, whether on my own or with others.

The greatest fertile ground for crankiness, I observe, are My Problems.  These are bigger and better and more important and more intractible than anyone else’s, and they allow me to retreat to a self-centered cocoon.

Time to stop this.  But how?

Perhaps it is time to go hokey by another route.  How about gratitude?  I choke slightly and I want to resist.

But it is time for the list.  The gratitude list.



This very minute.

I must note that I have no capacity to read what is said here.  I just love the idea of growth springing from the written word, particularly from a handwritten journal.


I awoke called to prayer, which was refreshing and encouraging, as in recent months I have been, if not averse, at best dispassionate about praying.  In any case, feeling drawn to prayer seemed a wonderful way to shake off my most recent nightmare, in which I wandered from room to room with authoritative voices tallying up cost estimates for repairs to property left to its own form of entropy.

Good thing my subconscious is not too oblique.  I need waste no time noodling this one out.

How is it that I can try to understand (and it is really a trial, not anything that is anywhere close to intuitive, being loved wholly and totally as I am, yet I am unable to extend that love to others?

I have no answer.  Perhaps there is only practice.  Currently there is present each day someone whose malevolent anger could corrode the sun.  In this person’s presence I tense up, I recoil, I want to run away, I want to lash out, to condemn, to berate, to eviscerate.  I do not criticize myself for having these feelings, for they simply show me that something is wrong.  Yet that does not go far enough.  I seek restoration of the peace in which I seek to dwell at all times, under all circumstances.

Something in these toxic types threatens that equanimity, stirs in me a fear that it will be forever ripped away and that I will be condemned to dwell forever in the land of the dispirited and destructive.   No wonder that is fearsome, for that seems the very definition of hell.

Time was that I would say a little pray before special encounters.  Perhaps the time to return to that practice has arrived.

Something is needed by way of assurance, by way of a reminder that I do not stare down this devil (dare I say it in this oh-so-enlightened world?) alone.  For that is the core feeling that all the inflictions evokes:  that one must live forever alone with this ambassador of spiritual death.

Among this morning’s imagistic awakenings was the old hymn, the old phrase from various sources in scripture, eye on the sparrow.  A humble creature, gifted with flight and voice, but without color, moving anonymously and innocuously, neither besetting nor benefitting anyone or anything.  Yet cherished.



The Costs of Chaos

Everyday demands we drown in media, alert at every moment to “news” telling us what to be afraid of next.  Cultivating a spirit of calm has likely never been simple, but as real and imaginary threats bombard us, the toll is too high.  Take a moment to be fascinated.



Resurrection is unexpected life, the boundless joy of another moment to spend in being, with others, in memory or in daydream.  Heschel observes in The Sabbath that time is eternity in disguise, and so it is, forever eluding us, gone as quickly as it appears, yet immutable in memory just as it is malleable in fantasy.

There are so many ways we might capture that unexpected life in everyday ways. Perhaps it is the stranger’s smile.  Perhaps an inquisitive wag and sniff from a canine passerby.  Perhaps someone offers a seat and strikes up a conversation.  There are 86,400 seconds in a day.  The Resurrection calls us to put them to good use.

Today evoked not just joy, but also the sadness of life, of love distorted.  Yet within acknowledgment of loss came a kindling, a desire to no longer withhold love as if in punishment, a resurrection in its own right.

Today held no expectations, for afflictions had had their grip for months. Yet the stone has been rolled back, the burial clothes cast off.


2017 easter sunday


Night Shines as the Day

Darkness is not dark for you,

and night shines as the day.

Darkness and light are but one.

This 12th verse of Psalm 139 is a favorite.  As I think on it, it is likely that the lion’s share of conceptions I carry about God are nestled in a handful of psalms and passages in the New Testament.   This image in particular, this call to the immutable eternal, of God’s omnipotence over all, including day and night, spoke to me this week as the volume of discord seemed ever to be amplifying.  I felt encouraged to pull the plug on the enticement of events and positions and busy-ness.

As a result, did I have a magnificent spiritual encounter?  Well.  I skipped services, fearing that my soul would be in danger of perdition were I subjected to one more hapless happy homily, and I skipped all but the most minimal chores, and I did a few odds and ends, and I watched old and new movies.

I had an odd sense that I would encounter a neighbor and but an hour later, there she was. A great chat was had.

Did I have a magnificent spiritual encounter?

I am inclined to say yes.



Just sitting around in between chores, when suddenly an angel appears.  As if.

We take this story quite seriously, giving it foundational significance, getting right to the core message (“Messiah on the way!”) while hardly pausing at the shocking implausibility of the entire matter.

I know what I would do if I were sitting here and suddenly an angel swept in.

I would call the doctor straightaway.  Get some medication.  Get back on an even keel.  Square things away.

But that is just precisely the point, is it not?  The issue isn’t the coming of the Messiah, who, being God, could chose the where and when, being, after all, their creator.

The very point is the implausibility.

What response shall we make to the most unexpected of joys?

How shall we live?

Of late I have noticed minute shifts, imperceptible on their own, which have in the aggregate created a new spirit in me, a more open and welcoming outlook, a new willingness to engage, and yes, at times, a child-like enchantment.  Laughter bubbles up, and there is joy in simple things.

All this is seemingly without a source, yet that cannot be.   What is irrefutable is how welcome is this new life within.

And perhaps this is, one might hope, just one of many ways in which one might say, “let it be done to me according to thy will.”