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“If you choose, you can make me clean.”

Christ Healing a Leper, Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1650 – c. 1655 – Rijksmuseum

Mark 1:29-45
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

In the years since I last wrote regularly, I have moved back toward my family’s historic roots in liturgical tradition (i.e.,, Episcopal, as we were historically Roman Catholic) and away from more Reformed denominations (e.g., Presbyterian, where I was contemplating working toward ordination). I find good things in both ecumenical traditions, but I always felt very hampered within the Reformed realm with respect to my devotion to admiring various saints and with respect to a lot of good liturgical and spiritual practices which were deemed centuries ago as “too Papist,” and because “this is how we do things because it is always how we do things” in most religious traditions more broadly, missed out on learning a lot of different disciplines and spiritual practices that I have since deemed to be quite useful and beneficial to spiritual development.

And as I had been poised to begin study to finish my undergraduate degree at a Jesuit university, I started learning about Ignatian Spirituality among them. I learned a few other things among the Episcopalians at a former parish, Lectio Divina among these, so here we are.

And as a former pastor once said about Lectio Divina: “You can’t keep a good spiritual practice down.”

I also keep the Divine Hours as much as possible, and find the Daily Office a good starting place for that. At the very least, it gives a structured reading plan for the Bible in alignment with the liturgical seasons of the church, rather than trying to just randomly read whatever parts of the bible I feel like reading on any given day. That is not to say that I don’t still occasionally depart to read an entire epistle independently, but I find it a very structured way to read through the bible in a thoughtful way that will also ensure I read through the entire bible (except for some of the weirder bits) over a three year period. Works for me.

And so I read. In parking lots, parking garages, waiting for appointments, in whatever public space or natural retreat I find myself. I don’t always read all the readings for all the hours every day, but I do try.

So after a terrible night of being sick and miserable in the rain that is soaking Southern California, I found myself reading in the parking lot at the local YMCA this morning as I tried to rehydrate and put my body back in some sort of order such that I didn’t pass out in the shower (for so many reasons, passing out in the shower is a bad plan).

My apologies to Peter’s mother-in-law, but the thing that really struck me and jumped off the page this morning was:

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’

I did not have a secondary translation immediately available (I think this one is NRSV), but the phrase really struck me as both moving and odd. “If you choose, you can make me clean.” That’s such a loaded statement honestly. Surely some measure of Jesus’ fame as a healer had reached this man, but what BOLDNESS would be required for someone who was required by religious law to stay away from people? Were his words in bold faith? A challenge? In desperation? Some combination of the three? It isn’t particularly clear in this translation the intent, but what a way to approach someone who was clearly of God (though not known as Christ at that point in his ministry).

I think the other thing that struck me was that there is a measure of humility in the request. It’s a request veiled in such a way as to almost be a question. There is the oft misused “you have not because you ask not” people so often cite as justification to approach God as some kind of cosmic vending machine (put in a prayer, get what you want). This request was not that, there was some measure of recognition that Jesus was connected to God, but also a reverence in the desperation of the bold request. I hesitate to cite impertinence because this unnamed man did give Jesus an “out” (while simultaneously putting him on the spot). I believe that you are capable of making me clean, do you choose to make me clean?

Jesus, of course, did so choose.

I think on this as I think on so many of my most desperate prayers. The world is always still “good,” but is messed up in so many ways. There are some things that are too big, too complex, too much beyond my control or any one person’s control, and sometimes too broken for anyone or anything in this world to hope to fix. I have spent so many hours sobbing over things so terribly broken in ways that only God can fix. And the request of this man reminds me of how I pray in those cases, the prayers when I remind God who God is: “This is too much for me to hope to be able to help or fix. You can fix this, please do.”

But God isn’t a cosmic vending machine and I know that. Providence is beyond my control, but — as so many bible passages remind me — not beyond my scope of influence. It is possible to change God’s mind.

So I sit now, many hours later (and in a different parking lot). A new storm is moving in, and the sickness that kept me awake and miserable all last night still lingers on (and may for some days yet). I think on all the things broken in our world, all the things broken in our country and government, all of the marginalized people stuck out in the rain this night just trying to hang on to life with some shred of human dignity (because I promise you, nothing is more miserable than sleeping outside in the wet, unless it is also cold and wet). Locally, most of the homeless population lives in the canyons and the river bottoms: it is worse still to be wet and displaced. I was always very blessed to stay safe and mostly dry in bad weather when I was out in the hills (my campsite was in a canyon protected by bluffs on three sides and far above where the creek might flood). Not everyone has those kind of geographical advantages, sadly. But at the same time, the resources to help those folks are very meager locally. I can’t really qualify if it is “fair” or not, but given the amount of churchgoing folks in my county and regionally, it certainly isn’t just.

I embrace that God can choose to help us when we ask. I rejoice that God so often does choose to help us when we ask (though sometimes in unexpected ways). But my question and my challenge is whether or not we are also called — as Christ’s disciples — to “choose” to help those who ask. I have been at different churches where the answer to that question varied WIDELY!!! I am happy and blessed to be a part of a congregation who takes the “I do choose” sentiment seriously, but I also know that sentiment is not universal.

So as I think on this passage this wet and rainy night, I am reminded that we are all called to think on Christ’s response when we are asked for help by those in need — even (and perhaps especially) — those who we think are somehow societal outcasts. I am called — we are all called — to love and care for those in need as they present themselves to us.

We can choose to do this.

Do we so choose?

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When we last left our heroine…

I stopped writing and went on an odd sort of pilgrimage back in 2014. To make a very, VERY long story shorter? I turned homelessness into a form of contemplative monastic life as a 100% legit “green martyr,” left the Presbyterians, and took up with the Episcopalians. I lost a lot of precious people to death, lost a few more (including my sister and two nieces, the younger of whom I’ve never met) to estrangement. I mostly lost my health when I left my canyon hermitage and tried to reintegrate with society. I survived the 2017 Thomas Fire stranded in a broken down minivan behind evacuation lines. “Living rough” in the foothills near my hometown didn’t cause the problems, but trying to reintegrate with people did.

How do I even explain what it was like to live in the woods alone for two years?

The remote canyon was a beautiful and deeply holy place. There is a phrase from St. Ignatius of Loyola: “disordered affections.” Disordered affections are all the things in daily life that separate us from God in small (and sometimes large) ways. The miracle of my canyon hermitage was that I was finally able to shut out almost all of those worthless and busy things that our society thinks are important, I was finally able to retreat to silence and solitude to live 3-4 days a week (I was also working at this time) in deeply intimate communion with God.

And it was beautiful, deep, and profound.

Several well-meaning (and perhaps somewhat misguided) people sought to extract me from this life. I let them. I cannot go back, but now that I am back with people it is an ill fit. All those worthless things to distract still exist, and I can’t even pretend to care. But if I am going to live with people with any hope of success, I need to somehow try to pretend.

But therein lies the rub…

As Christians we are told that we need to build our relationship with Christ Jesus, NOT hold tightly to the things the world values, pray always, seek God in all things, and become a new creation as we move away from our old selves and toward the new person we are becoming in Christ.

But what if — in 21st c. America, in Southern California — I took that seriously?

And so I did. It preserved my sanity, but moving away from that space of communion and solitude (a space with total immersion in nature, no news, no other people’s drama, little contact with the outside world when home, no music except for sacred choral music in Latin). There were sometimes a few movies, sometimes books, long creative nights, deep and peaceful sleep, and much prayer and meditation.

But someone else decided that wasn’t a good idea, I left, and now I struggle.

I had a misadventurous year or so in a vehicle with more work arounds than working parts, but a! Very blessed to now have a more reliable vehicle. This is my cozy home:

It may not seem like much, but it is a way to stay safe, to help my mother, and to travel. Maybe not forever, but it is for now…and I prefer my soundproof retreat to shared solid walls.

I still have two guinea pigs with me — (L to R) Sophie and Harville — though they are old and will be six in May.

And as I always think on my life now — in sort of a holding pattern for perpetual poverty — and wonder what is next. I want to go back to school and finish undergrad. I want to move forward in life in a direction aligned with vocation. I want my health back. So I wait, and I wait with too many unanswered questions.

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On Pilgrimage

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I promised myself for Lent I’d write.

But what to write?

The Urban Monastic is on pilgrimage.  Okay, yes, but technically????

I’m homeless.  And have been.  Since the beginning of February.

Roving from shelter site to shelter site (literally a different site every night of the week) while the shelters last (we have no year-round shelters, so only ’til the end of March) is a pilgrimage right enough.  Granted it seems a bit like the kind of pilgrimage Pooh and Piglet took around a tree — following their own tracks in the snow and looking for what made them — but time is moving in a forward and linear direction, whether I seem to be moving in anything but circles or not.

Circumstances are complicated, nuanced, and more than I really want to get into on so many levels.  2013 broke me, plain-and-simple.  It is what it is, but the question remains how to find something of a phoenix in the ashes.

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“Dad, you don’t choose a life, you live one.” — Daniel Avery, The Way

This journey is a pilgrimage.

It’s not a marathon, it’s not a happy little hill-walk for leisurely enjoying the wildflowers.  It’s not a thing to be rushed, sped through, escaped as fast as humanly possible.

That would be…

…that would be like arriving at a busy transit hub and getting on the first bus or train to leave — regardless of destination — merely to escape the location of the transit hub.

That would be stupid.

At the same time, you can’t take up residence in the transit hub and never leave — that would be equally stupid.

This journey is a pilgrimage — the only way out is through, it has a beginning and an end, but it is a journey of deliberation and contemplation as much as it is a journey of destination.

I have a passion for urban ministries.  A friend of mine joked that this journey is like an urban missions internship.

It is what it is, and what it is…is a pilgrimage.

¡Buen camino!

I forgot to credit my source for the shell image — http://tatianasbowl.wordpress.com/

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Uncertain

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Psalm 59:16

I fell silent in my sorrow but the sorow has been long.  I am at an uncertain crossroads and am watching the last threads that connect me to life and this world slowly unravelling.  All is not quite lost, but it’s getting there.  There is little hope left, but I want to try.  It may be too late.

I painted this last week on a day with only darkness and no words, painted on a notecard to encourage a friend.

I am not singing any more.  2013 broke me.

VKS

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For dear friends who are dear saints

I posted this as my gratitude for yesterday on my Gratitude page.  I have a Gratitude page, did you notice this?  I update it daily, even when I’m not writing elsewhere.  I thought this thought deserved its own post.  Love you C & D!

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Gratitude entry for 22 NOV 2013

I am grateful for dear friends who are dear saints

There is a great grace in the gentle and quiet love of abiding friendship, among the communion if saints, amid a rising storm (that exact sentiment being exactly why there is a communion of saints).  There is so much grace in: “We will not try to fix you, to force you, we very much wish to just love you, please just be.”

But that can be a very difficult grace to embrace at times.

I’m getting better at it.

It is those quiet moments of love that Christ’s love is best reflected in us, by us, and through us.
— VKS

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Forgetting my first love

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Photo credit: Alison Batley©, source http://shetalkswithgod.wordpress.com/tag/prayer-vigil/

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have perservered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. — Revelation 2:2-5b (NIV)

Friday was a rough day. A friend of mine has been very ill with something very serious. I helped her decide to skive off work Friday and go to the ER. She was waffling, and I told her not to waffle. She left Friday morning, and I didn’t have much information until after I got home Friday evening.

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Image Credit: Marie Ellenrieder, Kniendes betendes Mädchen, http://commons.wikimedia.org

Thursday night I was waffling on whether or not to come to an open prayer time scheduled before another event at church on Friday night; my friend was so sick I wasn’t waffling Friday morning.

So, there I sat in the church sanctuary.  I decided to begin with a few praise songs to empty myself and calm myself down, then I put on Hildegard von Bingen.  I wanted to read something before I started praying.  I decided on The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, not for any particular reason other than its topical nature.  Thomas à Kempis: practical mysticism at its best.

The e-book on my e-reader opened to the last thing I read, which was the following (Book 2, Chapter 5):

On the Wonderful Effect of the Love of God

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DISCIPLE: May You be blessed, O Heavenly Father, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, because You have consented to be mindful of me, poor sinner that I am. O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, I thank You that sometimes You are pleased to console me with Your gracious presence, though I am unworthy of such consolation.

I bless You and glorify You always, together with Your Son and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, forever and ever. O my Lord, God, most faithful Lover, when You come into my heart, my whole being is filled with joy. You are my glory and the joy of my heart; my hope and refuge in the time of tribulation (Ps 59:17).

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You know how weak in love and imperfect in virtue I am and how much I stand in need of Your strength and comfort. Please, Lord, visit me often and instruct me in Your holy teachings.

Deliver me from evil passions and heal my heart from all disorderly affections, so that being healed inwardly and well purified, I may become ready to love You, strong to suffer for You, and firm to persevere.

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Love is a strong force — a great good in every way; it alone can make our burdens light, and alone it bears in equal balance what is pleasing and displeasing. It carries a burden and does not feel it; it makes all that is bitter taste sweet.

The noble love of Jesus urges us to do great things and spurs us on to desire perfection. Love tends upward to God and is not occupied with the things of earth. Love also will be free from all worldly affections, so that its inner vision does not become dimmed, nor does it let itself be trapped by any temporal interest or downcast by misfortune.

Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing higher, nothing stronger, nothing larger, nothing more joyful, nothing fuller, nothing better in heaven or on earth; for love is born of God and can find its rest only in God above all He has created.

Such lovers fly high, run swiftly and rejoice. Their souls are free; they give all for all and have all in all. For they rest in One Supreme Goodness above all things, from Whom all other good flows and proceeds. They look not only at the gifts, but at the Giver, Who is above all gifts.

Love knows no limits, but is fervent above all measure. It feels no burden, makes light of labor, desiring to do more than it is able. Nothing is impossible to love, for it thinks that it can and may do all things for the Beloved.

Therefore it does and effects many things, while those who do not love falter and fail.

Love is ever watchful; it rests, but does not sleep; though weary, it is not tired; restricted, yet not hindered. Although it sees reason to fear, it is not dismayed, but like a spark of fire or a burning flame, it blazes upward to God by the fervor of its love, and through the help of his grace is delivered from all dangers.

Those who love thus know well what their voices mean when they cry out to God with all the ardor of their soul: You, Lord God, are my whole love and all my desire. You are all mine and I am all Yours.

Let my heart expand in Your love. Let me learn to know how sweet it is to serve You, how joyful it is to praise You, and to be dissolved in Your love. Oh, I am possessed by love and rise above myself because of the great fervor I feel through Your infinite goodness.

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I will sing the canticle of love to You and will follow You, my Beloved, wherever You go, and may my soul never weary of praising You, rejoicing in Your love. I will love You more than myself and myself only for Your sake; I will love all others in You and for You, as Your law of love commands.

Love is swift, sincere, pious, joyful and glad; it is strong, patient, faithful, wise, forbearing, courageous, and is never self-seeking; for when people seek themselves, they cease to love.

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Love is cautious, humble and upright; not weak, not flighty, nor concerned with trifles. It is sober, chaste, firm, quiet, and keeps guard over the senses.

Love is submissive and obedient to authority, mean and despicable in its own sight, devout and thankful to God. Love always trusts and hopes in God, even when it lacks fervor; for there is no living in love without some sorrow or pain.

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Pietà, St. Martin of Tours Church,.Brentwood, CA. 19 AUG 2013.

Those who are not always ready to suffer and to stand disposed to the will of their Beloved are not worthy to be called lovers; for lovers must gladly embrace all hardship and bitter things for their Beloved, and never allow themselves to turn away from him by adversity.

This broke me, brought me to tears.  My silence has been the result of so much despair, so much sadness, so much lonely solitude, so much pain — deep, deep, deep pain.  I have no answers, and most of the time I have no words for questions either.  I feel lost, drifting, breathlessly screaming into the wind, enveloped to death by great darkness.  A dark night of the soul, indeed.  On a good day, I get out of bed.  On a great day I take a shower.  On a rare day I brush my teeth and leave the house.  Taking care is too much work, I am too tired.  I’ve been drifting very close to the “giving up” place, yet desperate to hide this — a wounded animal concealing her weakness…or trying.

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I walked into the church sanctuary not sure if I have any fight left (and to be fair, I’m still not sure).  Living life is hard, and so often without rest.  And yet, while I am not certain if I have the strength to fight on, what is clear to me — so much of what has been missing, broken, crumbled, shattered, dirty, and lost — is simply that, somewhere along the line, I forgot my first love.

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*KNOCK! KNOCK!*…ooooh, nevermind

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Trunk-or-treat, taken -- obviously -- in the church kitchen last Sunday night

First of all, this is to say that I do clean up well, and generally offer a touch of class to my Halloween attire.  I don’t do scary, I do classy, historic, period, clever, or literary.  I used to ride horses, I keep the helmet around for just such occasions, and I was dressed and pressed in four layers of clothing to suggest fox hunting.

Because that’s how I roll.

And again, I clean up well…but I don’t roll out of bed in perfectly pressed clothing, shapewear, hair product, and make-up.

So…that said…

Laundry day.  Home with the Ridiculous Creature (new roommates’ not-that-bright Papillion), sorting laundry upstairs, he’s downstairs.

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The Ridiculous Creature, photo swiped from my friend's Facebook feed

Door.  Bell.  Rings.

The Ridiculous Creature takes off barking, with all ferocity, up the stairs to me:

“INTRUDERS!!! DO SOMETHING!!!”

I mentioned laundry day, right?

So I go downstairs in what I have on: white flannel conversation heart print pajama bottoms, a brown and tan striped shelf tank, black flip flops, hair sticking up everywhere, obviously needing a shower.

I open the door *just* as a woman is trying to shove a tract through the crack in the front door (Note: this house needs better weather-stripping because it was working!). There were two of them — middle aged hispanic women, well-dressed, long and straight black hair neat down their backs.

And me: standing before them, looking like I rolled out of bed at the local psychiatric ward, Ridiculous Creature barking — fit to kill — on the stairs beside me.

The woman with the tract takes one look at me and says: “Hi, can we give you this?” as they both start leaving…quickly.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, a tract on life after death on All Saints/All Souls weekend. Nice.

I read it, I always read tracts. I don’t hold that tracts are particularly effective as evangelism tools, but I always read everyone’s tracts.

I giggled up the stairs, but then as I thought about what just happened, it occurred to me: these are people who (wrongly) think they have a message and method for salvation, but they left me. Without going into it, suffice it to say the works-based, grace-free model of salvation is just the tip of the iceberg for Jehovah’s Witnesses, as they are a modern rehash of the Arian heresy (Christ not divine but created). Now, as my mother will tell you, I go out of my way to be irritatingly kind and welcoming to Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they think they get “extra credit” for mean people. I’m an evangelist, let’s go. Eventually they stop coming around, and I never seem to make headway (I did unconvert a Mormon once though).
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But seriously, it disturbs me — a value judgment was made on my doorstep by people who think they have the gospel of salvation not to share it with me.

Let that sink in.

It doesn’t matter that Jehovah’s Witness is a cult, I get that. What bothers me is that I opened the door and they decided: nope, next house.

Because, you know what? I’m an Evangelical Christian who would absolutely claim to have the gospel of salvation. Maybe I’m not most people, because I’m willing to drop everything and talk to people for hours. Does it do any good always? I don’t know, but I can try to bring hope and love, right?
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I was reading In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri J.M. Nouwen this morning. In the chapter titled “The Question: ‘Do You Love Me?'” Nouwen reflects:

Look at Jesus. The world did not pay any attention to him. He was crucified and put away. His message of love was rejected by a world in search of power, efficiency, and control. But there he was, appearing with wounds in his glorified body to a few friends who had eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand. This rejected, unknown, wounded Jesus simply asked, “Do you love me, do you really love me?” He whose only concern had been to announce the unconditional love of God had only one question to ask, “Do you love me?”

The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus? Perhaps another way of putting the question would be: Do you know the incarnate God?

I like to — hope to — think the answer with respect to myself is: yes.

Based on nothing but professed allegiance to a theological and cosmological worldview that excludes the incarnate God (as Christ was not God, according to what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe and teach), the answer for the two women on my doorstep this morning was probably: no.

Nouwen continues:

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Image source: the wonderful Keeping Company blog

In our world of loneliness and despair, there is an enormous need for men and women who know the heart of God, a heart that forgives, cares, reaches out and wants to heal. In that heart there is no suspicion, no vindictiveness, no resentment, and not a tinge of hatred. It is a heart that wants only to give love and receive love in response. It is a heart that suffers immensely because it sees the magnitude of human pain and the great resistance to trusting the heart of God who wants to offer consolation and hope.

But here’s the deal…

A value judgment was made on my doorstep by two women who believe they have the answer and the gospel of salvation that I wasn’t worth the effort. That disturbed me then and still disturbs me.

They walked away…and I shut the door.

Because this is where it gets tough: I shut the door.

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I would argue, as an Evangelical Christian, that I have the answer and the gospel of salvation. If I really believe what I say I believe, and that the Holy Spirit is mixed up in this too, shouldn’t I be always willing to share this news with every human who crosses my path always?

Always?!

Always.

Because maybe a value judgment about me was made when those two women — confronted with a woman dressed like a three year-old and a creepy yipping dog — decided to leave my doorstep, but what I now realize? The second I started closing the door, I made the reciprocal value judgment about them.

And, okay, maybe me chasing them down would have made a terrible impression, maybe they wouldn’t have stopped to talk, maybe they wouldn’t have listened, maybe they wouldn’t have been receptive, maybe nothing would have changed.

Maybe…maybe not.

But the trouble is? I’ll never know, I never gave them — or the Holy Spirit — a chance.

The hound of heaven does not relent — if God is after those two nameless women on my doorstep, he will find them. The trouble is, I denied the Holy Spirit the opportunity to use me. And why? That’s the worst part: essentially because my jeans were dirty and I wanted clean sheets. That…is like the worst excuse note ever.

Dear Jesus:

I am very, very sorry I did not keep my divine appointment today. I forgot to look for it. But, see, I was distracted by the fact that my sheets were stinky and I didn’t have any clean jeans. I’m sorry I failed to recognize the two women on my doorstep were precious in your sight, loved by you, and made in the image of God. But really, who has time? I mean the washing machine takes over an hour to wash a load that big, and about two hours to dry, that’s a long time to go without clean pants! Yeah, okay, eternity without you is longer, but it’s not like I knew them or we had anything in common. And anyway, even if I screwed this up, you can use someone else, right? So really, it’s all good.

Glad we cleared that up.

See you Sunday!

Val

(To be clear — satire!!!)

But isn’t that — essentially — the attitude my actions reflected, apathy?

Lesson for today (which I hope to be able to remember next time): We are all precious, loved, and made in the image of God. Look for — and notice — divine appointments.

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Gratitude and looking toward my lesson this Sunday

From my sister blog, I originally meant to post this here. Hannah and Samuel, the story that never stops challenging my faith.

St. Val the Eccentric

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I was looking at the church newsletter Wednesday morning. I knew I was teaching this weekend, but had forgotten which story.

Hannah and Samuel.

I wrote this earlier this year. I won’t be teaching this lesson this way to the preschoolers and kindergarteners on Sunday, but Hannah’s is a story that gives me chills and pause:

Could you pray to God to give you the one thing you want most, and in the same breath offer it back to him?

Day 3 — Gratitude (Monday, 18 February – Monday, 4 March, 2013)

And sorry for the silence, but my move has been — in a lot of ways — a tough transition. Grace and peace to you. — VKS

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Looking ahead?

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I’m sitting in my new place, home alone tonight, thinking and studying for my lesson tomorrow: I’m teaching “Joseph’s Later Life” to the 3-to-5 set.

I could tell you the story of Joseph upside-down, inside-out and backwards, as I’ve — oddly — taught it almost every single year since I’ve been teaching Sunday School at all.  Joseph’s story (see Genesis 37-50) is the story in the Bible on providence (apart from, of course, Christ’s story).

I have a lot to be thankful for this week, but I’m afraid my life has just been a muddle of disordered affections in recent days.

The life of a man like Joseph is easier to read when you know how the story ends.  Uncertainty is harder to deal with in day-to-day pieces.

In so many ways life overwhelms me right now (not the least of them being crazy Santa Ana winds that have sucked me dry).  I’m not sure what God is doing with my life or where we’re going, but here I am, LORD.

Blessings for your Sunday, prayers to work out the kinks in my new life appreciated. — VKS

5

Lasts and goodbyes

I have to move soon.  Within a week.  The whys are ugly and complicated on some level.  I have a lot to say about it, but can’t really.  I know I can’t stay, but I’ve been on assignment here for over two years.  I’m moving twenty miles away, back to my hometown.  Urban Monastic, off to the suburbs.  Bus service sucks there, so it will cut me off from my mother, my sister, my adorable niece.  I am going to stay with a dear friend and her husband.  It’s a good thing, and will put me closer to church as well.

Still…

Saying goodbye to life here, even grim and hard-scrabble life scratched from nothing, is hard.  I’ve gotten used to being able to easily get to my family.  I’ve had a few “last” adventures in the city in the past few weeks.

School is still impossible, but hopefully I can find meaningful work soon and put the pieces of my life together into something that feels like a meaningful life.

I try to find God in all things, and I know where he is in parts of this, but I do despair at all I leave behind.  I trust in the promise that he is working beyond what horizon I can see to prepare things.  Moving on, per the norm in my crazy nomadic life.

Blessings — VKS

Oh, and GOOOOOOOOOOOOO Red Sox!!!!!!