Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Wounded Hands: a sermon by Craig Wiley

Craig Wiley has served as pastoral intern at Lawrence Road Presbyterian Church during the 2013-14 school year. He has worked extensively with our youth programs, in particular the Love of God student-led retreat program. I am grateful for his presence and company along the road this year.
Craig preached this sermon last Sunday, on John 20:19-31, the story of Doubting Thomas. I was deeply moved and asked permission to share it. He has graciously provided the transcript for his sermon. Thank you, Craig!

     We start in a dark room – maybe lamplight, maybe still a bit of evening glow through a window. No light through any doorways, though. The doors are shut and the disciples huddle together. The resurrection has already happened, Jesus has been seen by Mary Magdalene – but his disciples, the

All That From a Half Dead Plant

A good friend of mine moved several hours away last month, and among other knick knacks and bric-a-brac, I inherited a plant.


The only plant I have ever not yet killed through incompetence and indifference is a small bamboo plant given to me by a student for Christmas 2012. It is still thriving above my kitchen sink.

However, every other plant that has come through my death grip has withered away prematurely. I know how to keep children and cats alive. Fish, crabs, plants, frogs, lizards, etc.: Beware.

But seeing as how this plant was inherited from my good friend, now moved away, I resolved to do

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Because TURTLES

“In my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well. This impulse [of thought] was much to be avoided, but nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed because of it, without reason and discretion...But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.'...These words were said most tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any who shall be saved.” ~Julian of Norwich

Fits and starts, fits and starts, these days after Easter do not come together neatly.

First thing this morning I got a papercut on my right index finger from a postcard reminding me to eat healthy in order to prevent cancer, and could I please send $25 or $50 to the worthy cause who sent me the postcard.

The cats are eating the new food I got them. It is the second low-calorie chow I have tried for them, and they are eating it--in tiny, resentful bites, with baleful glares between each niblet. But they are

wishful thinking

I thought I saw
in the woods of New Jersey
a woolly mammoth.
but it was just an
oddly shaped haystack.

how...disappointing.

still and all,
an oddly shaped haystack
is nothing
to sneeze at.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

the days after Easter

the days after Easter are...
a fitful start
a mixed bag
empty in their own way
as was the tomb
which still perplexes me

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Grits

[Kitchen utensils hanging below a spice rack
with mint, caraway, thyme, and sage jars]
I never liked grits my whole life long
even the name sounded like dirt
until one day
a friend of a friend made grits
the way they are supposed to be made
salt
butter
cream
like my mother would have made grits
if she made grits
which she didn't

I don't know if it is worse to never like grits
so that I could simply pass them by
with rude indifference
or to have tasted the grit divinity
that man created
and to long for what cannot be recreated

darn it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cristo Vive

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" When they had looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.
~Mark 16:1-4

Ewing Presbyterian Church graveyard



















Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, I came to the office to make coffee before the service. I saw the sunrise and ran upstairs to try to catch a better picture from the window,

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Trusting Joy

Who can command and have it done, if the Lord has not ordained it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should any who draw breath complain about the punishment of their sins?

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD. Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands to God in heaven. We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven.

You have wrapped yourself with anger and pursued us, killing without pity; you have wrapped yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through. You have made us filth and rubbish among the peoples.

All our enemies have opened their mouths against us; panic and pitfall have come upon us, devastation and destruction. My eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of my people.

My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite, until the LORD from heaven looks down and sees. My eyes cause me grief at the fate of all the young women in my city.

Those who were my enemies without cause have hunted me like a bird; they flung me alive into a pit and hurled stones on me; water closed over my head; I said, "I am lost."

I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, "Do not close your ear to my cry for help, but give me relief!" You came near when I called on you; you said, "Do not fear!"

You have taken up my cause, O Lord, you have redeemed my life.


~Lamentations 3:37-58

Candelabra at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia

























It has been a difficult season of grief this year, and the winter was long and cold. I have been

Friday, April 18, 2014

I Locked the Door Behind Me

...in pain he continued
down searching for those
eyes which would let him,
whisper,
          "I saw a butterfly--
          there can be more
          to life."

...It got darker and darker
and he was afraid.
          He felt he had
          to let go of
                    everything...

~Trina Paulus, Hope for the Flowers

























My meditation from the Good Friday Service at The Lawrence Road Presbyterian Church. Gratitude to Pastor Nina for the invitation to share on the theme: "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."


There are some things that just seem so unforgiveable, aren’t there?
I mean there’s the little things

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Take Me With You

When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.


~Mark 14:17-25













Do you feel it? Do you feel the urgency, the ambivalence, the unfinished business? 
40 days of Lent

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Short and Sweet

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud,
     be gracious to me and answer me!
“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
     Your face, LORD, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me.
~Psalm 27:7-9




Though I struggle often with your words,
Holy One,
It is your silence I cannot bear.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hook, Line, and Sinker

Indeed, this is our boast, the testimony of our conscience: we have behaved in the world with frankness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God - and all the more toward you. For we write you nothing other than what you can read and also understand; I hope you will understand until the end - as you have already understood us in part - that on the day of the Lord Jesus we are your boast even as you are our boast.
~2 Corinthians 1:12-14

Sometimes I read Paul, and his arrogance and condescension pour out from the text. This cat is too cool for school, called out apart to serve, and deigns to drop by in person or by letter for an occasional drive by advice column.

We call her DevilCat, but her given name is Bast.
A friend, who is a medium, consulted the spirits
and they told her this was my cat.
How do you say no to that?























Mining Paul's gems out of that mess is like trying to just eat the meat out of a bowl of chili. You

Monday, April 14, 2014

Boy Kings and Temper Tantrums

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard it...

In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered." Jesus answered them, "Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses."


~Mark 11:12-14, 20-25




















Ruining a perfectly good fig tree
just because it didn't see fit
to produce fruit

Sunday, April 13, 2014

I Might Owe the Lord $32.10

And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo...

"Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is my associate," says the LORD of hosts. Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones. In the whole land, says the LORD, two-thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one-third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, "They are my people"; and they will say, "The LORD is our God."


~Zechariah 12:1-11, 13:7-9



















It was Palm Sunday today, and the weather has turned. We are nearing the end of Lent, and therefore, nearing the end of my lenten practice of blogging daily about grief. 46 days of releasing grief, I said, in order to make room for joy.

Truth be told, by now I am tired of blogging about grief--the daffodils are blooming, and it is warm

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Is There No Other Way?

But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he was unwilling to let them go. Then Pharaoh said to him, "Get away from me! Take care that you do not see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die." Moses said, "Just as you say! I will never see your face again."

The LORD said to Moses, "I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here; indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you away...

<Moses speaks aloud the Lord's promise to murder all the first born children in Egypt>

"Then there will be a loud cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as has never been or will ever be again. But not a dog shall growl at any of the Israelites - not at people, not at animals - so that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. Then all these officials of yours shall come down to me, and bow low to me, saying, 'Leave us, you and all the people who follow you.' After that I will leave." And in hot anger Moses left Pharaoh

~Exodus 10:27-29, 11:1, 6-8
























The frogs weren't enough to abandon the fruitless quest to own people?
Every plague worst than the rest

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Love of Ghosts

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, and say to him, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. For this time I will send all my plagues upon you yourself, and upon your officials, and upon your people, so that you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But this is why I have let you live: to show you my power, and to make my name resound through all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people, and will not let them go. Tomorrow at this time I will cause the heaviest hail to fall that has ever fallen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.
~Exodus 9:13-18



















I wonder what were the justifications in Pharaoh's mind
that he wouldn't let the Israelites go?
what did he tell himself in the quiet of the night
pondering his options?
I have some sympathy for his plight.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Evil Will Not Sojourn With You

Give ear to my words, O LORD; 
          give heed to my sighing. 
Listen to the sound of my cry, 
          my King and my God, 
          for to you I pray. 
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; 
          in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; 
          evil will not sojourn with you. 
The boastful will not stand before your eyes; 
          you hate all evildoers. 
You destroy those who speak lies; 
          the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.
~Psalm 5:1-6

One of several murals in the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia
It is an astonishing building. Go visit it.



















I've been reading Kiese Laymon's book: How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, which I highly recommend to you. His writing is poignant and pointed, cutting straight into my heart, leaving me with the unreasonable hope that we might yet change how we function around race in

Monday, April 7, 2014

Chunky Milk

What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.
There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?

~Ecclesiastes 2:22-25

I was out walking last night and noticed that the new bubble tea/fro yo place had gone out of business already. It can't have been around more than a couple of months, and I was sad for the people who started it up and then shut it down. It's hard to have dreams fall flat.



















Yeah, I been there. More than once I've put out a for rent sign in the windows of my soul. After my last set of broken dreams I mustered the strength for one more grand effort to get on my feet. But I

At Least We Wore Pants

John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward."
~Mark 9:38-41



















In my California days, I sang in a worship band at my church. For some time the Spirit had been stirring up a guitarist and a drummer in our congregation, and as this was the days of "Create a Contemporary Service and They Will Come", we started a second service and formed a band.

Our praise band had an open door policy--if you liked to sing or play an instrument, you were welcome. We didn't have a band leader, as nobody really wanted to lead. Nobody really wanted to

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stick With the Psalms

Even the sparrow finds a home, 
          and the swallow a nest for herself, 
          where she may lay her young, 
     at your altars, O LORD of hosts, 
          my King and my God. 
Happy are those who live in your house, 
          ever singing your praise.  

~Psalm 84:3-4


















They say Jesus came and gave us a kinder, gentler Gospel. Oh the Good News of Jesus Christ tames the harshness of the Hebrew Scriptures, they say.

I think they don't read their Bibles very well.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus* said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’
~Luke 9:57-62

He doesn't even say "Home is where the heart is" or "Your home will be with me." No. The sparrow gets a home, the swallow a nest. Even foxes have holes. But if you follow Jesus, home becomes whatever kindness is shown to you along the way.

And you're not even supposed to look back and grieve that.

I should just stick with the psalms.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Probably Heresy

Plead with your mother, plead—
   for she is not my wife,
   and I am not her husband—
that she put away her whoring from her face,
   and her adultery from between her breasts, 
or I will strip her naked
   and expose her as in the day she was born,
and make her like a wilderness,
   and turn her into a parched land,
   and kill her with thirst...


I will punish her for the festival days of the Baals,
   when she offered incense to them
and decked herself with her ring and jewellery,
   and went after her lovers,
   and forgot me, says the Lord
~Hosea 2:2-3, 13


They say that Hosea stands in for God and Gomer for Israel. They say that Gomer's faithlessness mirrors the faithlessness of God's chosen people. Gomer/the people run off with other lovers/false

Friday, April 4, 2014

I Lie In Wait

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, 
          and in his word I hope; 
my soul waits for the Lord 
          more than those who watch for the morning, 
          more than those who watch for the morning.

~Psalm 130:5-6


It might be truer to say that I lie in wait for the Lord
my soul lies in wait
impatiently
imperfectly
twitching
like a cat waiting for a mouse
your spirit been tickling my whiskers lately
and I caught a glimpse of your tail last night
before I settled in to watch for the morning
come play, Lord Jesus.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chasing Ghosts

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?
~Mark 8:34-36



I don't quite know how it happened, but I fell in love with this Jesus in whom I never quite believed. What a strange decade! I've found such freedom in this way of life.

But forgive me, old friends. I left many of you behind, chasing after this Spirit.

It is a strange thing to love a ghost, even a Holy Ghost. 
Insubstantially solid. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Say Something

Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out - beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod." They said to one another, "It is because we have no bread." And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" They said to him, "Twelve." "And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" And they said to him, "Seven." Then he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?
~Mark 8:14-21

Lera, the Duchess
























Jesus speaks in metaphors. The disciples hear nonsensical prose.
"Beware of the yeast," he says.
"OMG, we are out of bread!" they cry.
As if Jesus didn't just take care of the bread problem on the hill.

How many times do we need assurance that we are loved
that we are cared for

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tangled Feet

The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, 
          and he makes his covenant known to them. 
My eyes are ever toward the LORD, 
          for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, 
          for I am lonely and afflicted. 
Relieve the troubles of my heart, 
          and bring me out of my distress. 
Consider my affliction and my trouble, 
          and forgive all my sins.
~Psalm 25:14-18

Two men fishing in the Bundaberg district















Have you ever tried to untangle something from a net?
Have you freed an animal from a trap?
Untwisted a cat from a ball of yarn?