I'm at my desk. Commentaries, Bible versions, and other resources are open around me. Two computer screens and three pair of glasses are necessary -- red computer glasses, tortoise shell readers, and the black bifocals. For comfort, a red rose from my garden sends its sweet scent across the pages.
I'm reading and re-reading the scriptures and the rabbit trails of related texts that inevitably emerge and I'm loving and learning from what smart people have written about the Parables of Jesus. It's a new study that I've committed to preparing and teaching this academic year. In preparation for the first class in a couple days, I'm trying mightily to soak it in and distill it down.
As I sit here, I feel the familiar panic. This is too much. Beyond me. What was I thinking? So, I ask myself, "How do you eat an elephant?" Obvious answer: one lesson at a time!
Last Spring, I organized myself and my students with a four-fold way to engage a text.
╬ Knowledge: What can I learn from this text and this lesson? What information fills gaps in my knowledge and increases my curiosity for more?
╬ Understanding: What are the implications of this lesson for my life? Is God the Spirit inviting me to something new here? How would my life be changed if I let this sink into my heart and soul, my past and my wounds, my relationships, and my attitudes and behaviors?
╬ Wisdom: Christ himself is the "wisdom of God" (1Cor 1:24). What does Christ−the Wisdom of God−want me to do? Is there a response of obedience and righteousness that I should not, dare not, ignore?
╬ Mystery: Is there Mystery here that requires my surrender to faith and greater trust in God?
I'm using this four-fold model again for this new study of Jesus' Parables. The Knowledge -- what I don't know -- is very great!
The Understanding of the implications of Jesus' intent in his stories exposes the disciple's continual need for repentance and increasing humility.
The Wisdom of his truth requires response and action. No resting on perceived maturity; we are invited to enact righteousness daily.
The Mystery already revealed in Jesus and yet-to-be-revealed in the culmination asks for faith and trust in the God of mercy, of love, and of holiness.
"Whoever has ears, let them hear" (Mt 13:9; Mk 4:23; Lk 8:18).
"In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of
gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. . . ." (Isaiah 29:18)
Father, I may have three pair of glasses to help me see, but it is by your enabling grace that the eyes of all hearts and minds are enlightened to receive your truth. Speak Lord, your servants are listening.
My computer battery is wimpy.
It runs out of
juice quickly and my screen is grainy
I plug it in. . . .
the fuzz goes away and the screen is bright and light.
Today I told a friend that this morning I woke up grateful for the Lord's abiding presence. "The Lord is near" (Phil 4:5).
Truth is, regardless of whether we are aware or attentive, He is near always. But we have to plug in.
The choice to stay on battery power is like relying on yesterday's breakfast for today's nourishment. You need breakfast today for today's endeavors.
When we forget to plug in to His presence, a lot of things get dull and fuzzed. I forget who I am in Christ with the great hope, inheritance and power that are mine in Jesus (Eph 1). I forget who He is and that all things are held together by His love. And, I forget what He has done to reconcile to Himself all that is lost and broken (Col 1:15-23).
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.
Remember the wonderful works he has done . . . . Psalm 105:1-5
Don't forget to plug in. It makes all the difference.
There are things that I love -- family, Jesus, nature, flowers, and as you already know, birds.
I'm a birder. As a young child my grandmother introduced me to the wonder and delight of birds. I started young as a seer and lover of the little feathered creatures. As an adult, I don't very often "go birding." Rather, I feed and attract to my home and watch from my chair or my kitchen window. I bird while I drive and try to name that creature on the electrical pole as I speed past.
There are big-deal, serious birders in Colorado who are constantly monitoring the skies, waters and trees of the state. In fact, Colorado has a bird alert website that tells you when something special is sighted. Like a flash flood warning or thunderstorm alert, these notices come to those who care to know.
Rarely do I let myself chase a bird. To leave family and responsibility to chase down a bird feels selfish, silly, a waste of time. Self talk is powerful, to be sure. "More important things" are left undone if I drop the urgent, grab my binoculars and bird ID book, a hat, a bottle of water and head for the bird.
A friend who lives on the East coast gets the bird alerts for Colorado. When she texted me that there had been nearby sightings of hummingbirds not often seen in Colorado, this morning I let myself throw responsibility and to-do list to the wind and went to see the hummers!
Feeling a little guilty now; I had some important work to do this morning that didn't get done. But guilt aside, this was important self-care for me today. Unscheduled and spontaneous, I let myself say yes to something that gives me great joy. I'm glad I did.
I didn't see the rare-for-Colorado Calliope Hummingbird afterall. But the morning was well spent, my heart is full, and I am thankful. Soul-care and self-care.
What do you love that you don't let yourself engage? Consider giving yourself permission to say yes to what nourishes you. You'll be glad you did.
I can lose myself
in the woods.
The smells, the sights, the sounds.
The smell of the forest is something I'd like to bottle and enjoy in dry Colorado!
The details of the forest overwhelm me and delight me. It's hard to take it all in --
I'm obsessed with trying to "name that tune."
This is a Red-Eyed Vireo on a nest just
outside my window.
It's song is a lovely constant in the
I can lose myself in the woods.
On a walk in early June, a tiny warbler caught my eye and my ear. Black, yellow, and white with a Grammy award-winning song, the Black-Throated Green Warbler made a diehard fan of me. I first saw the brightly colored male. He posed on a branch and took my breath away.** The female was nearby and soon flitted into view. She had grass in her beak and when she stopped in a crook of a birch tree, I realized she was making a nest. A magical moment!
In the next few weeks I returned to the spot often. I saw the nest form into a perfect cup, a receptacle for the female to lay her eggs. I saw her sit..., and sit..., and sit. Unmoving, patient, keeping the nest warm and protected with her own body and soft, lovely feathers.
One day she was absent from the nest. I saw her return with something in her beak. A chick had hatched and a tiny pink beak opened wide to receive a tasty morsel from the mother.
A few days later I watched both parents hunt and return to the nest to nourish their growing chick. Then . . .
Last night we experienced yet another violent thunderstorm and a deluge of rain. Over an inch fell in just a few minutes. Would the little warbler family survive? I wondered.
My question was answered today as I studied the place of the nest. It had been destroyed by the storm.
Nest remnants hung sadly from the branch.
My heart stopped as my mind raced through possible scenarios. Neither parent was to be seen or heard. Ravaged as the nest was, the one chick that had been held safely in the cup of the tiny nest and who had so eagerly accepted food from its parent, was not there.
I ventured into the woods to look under the tree,
hoping to find a chick to rescue or a chick to grieve. But, none was to be found.
A tiny Black-Throated Green Warbler was lost in the woods last night.
What do I make of this twist of the story?
I can lose, and find, myself in the woods.
**Adult male photo from https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=black+throated+green+warbler
All other photos ©2017 Nancy Buschart
June in the Northwoods of Wisconsin is a magical time. I've been here since the first day of this mid-year month and have tried to listen deeply as life has unfolded before my eyes. It is a sacred experience. To watch deeply, to observe with the eyes of one's heart, is to see hiddenness and obscurity revealed. Words fail me.
My camera has helped me capture what words cannot.
In the next several posts on Ruminations from my Journal, I'll let photos of my experience speak what my mind stumbles to articulate. There is meaning here. I'm still seeking language. Maybe you can help me find the words that elude me.
Look. See. Pay attention.
"Look at the birds of the air, . . . See how the flowers grow.. . ." Mt 6
Nothing much to see here.
But wait. Watch.
Oh, the beauty of these struggling fronds. The God-given power at work to break through to fullness. It takes time; we can't speed up the process. Rain, sun, warmth, and the fullness of days. . .
The lovely becoming journey.
Already, but not yet.
Then, in a blink of an eye, while I forgot to be attentive,
they are full and mature and so lovely.
"To stop moving around, to sit quietly on the grass, to switch off the world and come back to the earth, to allow the eye to see a willow, a bush, a cloud, a leaf, is an 'unforgettable experience.'"
June 1, the beginning
Thank you, God of Creation and Lord of Creativity!
"Be still and know that I am God." Ps 46
I just came across these few lines on making space for God. It has lots to ruminate upon. It's a simple idea that has profound implications for the way we live. May you make space so that you might be open and receptive to receiving all that Christ has to give you. . . .
by Digitalnun on November 18, 2011
With the week-end approaching, it is worth spending a few moments thinking about the old monastic injunction vacare Deo, to make space for God. The Cistercian equivalent is the otium sanctum, holy leisure, which St Bernard characterised as otium negotissimum, very busy leisure. How do we make space for God in our lives? What kind of sacred leisure should our lives contain?
The first thing to note is that making space is not the same as doing nothing. Doing nothing worried St Benedict, for example, who saw it as idleness and the enemy of the soul. Making space for God, by contrast, is more a change of gear, adopting a slightly different focus. We make space for God by attending to him. That may mean we have to think about what we do, but it doesn’t mean that we necessarily stop doing things. Have you ever thought of inviting God into your week-end activities, for instance? Of course prayer and reading the scriptures matter, but so do the other activities in which we engage. Time spent with others is not time stolen from God unless we are selfish and self-indulgent about it.
I sometimes think that one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to create a God in our own image and likeness: exacting, a bit of a policeman, rather a killjoy, if truth be told. Yet in Jesus we see a much more attractive image of God, one who taught us to expect miracles at parties and holiness among the outcasts of society. The whole week-end, not just Sunday, can be filled with God. We just have to make space for him.
What follows is an important and powerful story from the journal of a young friend of mine. Something to Ruminate upon. . . .
Today is my first anniversary.
Exactly a year ago I packed up my belongings from my partner's apartment in Tel Aviv with the help of Lauryn and Richard. Rich had come out from Jerusalem with empty bags for me to fill. Lauryn had her own luggage already full, this being her long-awaited trip to see me in the place I'd fallen in obsession with years ago. Hunched over under the weight of backpacks we wheeled our leaden suitcases down a kilometre of uneven sidewalk to the bus station. We threw everything in the hold, found our seats as the bus heaved forward, and then we sat there, uncomfortably passive, for the slow rush-hour journey through the hills back to Jerusalem.
I'd left a long note on the table explaining to my partner the need for my immediate and permanent departure. My friends and I had packed up every trace of me and cleaned and tidied the space I would never return to except in panicked dreams and nauseating recollections.
On the bus Rich made friends with twin girls who had the time of their life playing hide-and-seek with bits of stale cracker. Still enclosed in my own inner world, I wept, terrified. But from time to time I felt a glimmering wave of sensation in my intercostal muscles that presaged the elation in which I would nearly drown in weeks to come, when the significance of this choice sank in.
But in that moment I was racked with guilt. I thought only of how I could have done things differently to hurt my partner less as I ended it. I found no better alternatives throughout all that self-flagellation but the guilt persisted anyway. I knew that he was pathologically manipulative and controlling and that his love wasn't love, that he wanted a possession, not a partner, and had gaslit me into the kind he wanted. He never would have said so, but it was written in everything he did, the letters increasingly bold as the weeks wore on.
Back in Jerusalem, back among my friends who never knew him, gradually I named his love "abuse." Thanks to the divine presence of Lauryn, I'd already named our last night together "assault." I will never forget the look on her face the morning after when I told my unfiltered chronicle of that event. It is hard to say the word. It sticks in my mouth. I don't want to aggrandize my pain enough to make me a proper victim. It feels disrespectful and effacing to those who really suffer, so much more than I ever did, and have for years. I don't want to further drown out those who suffer in silence and solitude. I am privileged that even in my sometime isolation in a country that is not my own, I had community. The ranks of the less privileged seem limitless. But perpetrators get free rein when we fail to name those "lesser" evils, those less ripened fruits of the same poisonous tree we call misogyny. I want to rip it from the ground however I can. So I call it that. I choose my nouns, I practice them, I wear them: my not-so-easy As.
Although I'm unfettered and elated, until I left the country half a year later I was also constantly afraid that he would find me and kill me. A week after I left him I ran into him on the street as I was grabbing a bite. I held my ground, both physically and rhetorically; I managed to speak my mind without sending him over the edge. A lifetime of womanly socialization making a balanced cocktail with my feminism. Despite the metaphorical liquid courage, I shook the whole time. I realized afterward that my body had been telling me to run. After he left, the Ethiopian bus boy came over to me. "Everything okay, my sister?"
The choice to leave was divinely aided. I had Lauryn. I had Rich. I had bus fare. I am lucky.
It's the first time that, when given the choice between being happy with myself or being miserable for the sake of a man, I chose myself.
Growing up in the religious environment I did, I learned to believe that any action or thought on my own behalf was one of selfishness. I could advocate for anyone but myself. Anyone could be a person but me. It's thoughts like this that helped me accept abuse. I welcomed the outside control. It's familiar. It's safe, even when it's violent. I learned to try to ease my partner's violent emotions the way I'd always done for the emotionally volatile around me. I ignored the fact that it never really worked.
The person I am now is not who I was in that relationship. More importantly, it's not who I was before it, either. Over the years I have chosen many times not to kill myself, but this felt like the first time that I had decided--really, truly, independently decided--to live.
With distance I saw how close I'd been to giving up my life to please someone else. It would have been no Jesus act. My crucifixion would have emancipated exactly no one. The grace of the actual Crucifixion is that despite all the shit that humanity's tight-fisted, defensive selfishness has unleashed in the world since the dawn of sentience, I can know that I as a human being am still loved by God and capable of good. That the core of me is lovely. For too many years women have been overtly and covertly taught that to honour God we must deferentially honour men, no matter how they treat us in return. But we are the image of God, too; I will honour myself.
Self-love is a choice I make every day. I am the spouse I choose to love; this is my only guaranteed lifelong human relationship, no matter how many cherished friends I've had since infancy. I make my heart and mind the planting-ground for self-acceptance and awareness, and from that I hope to grow. Even at the lowest points in this year of union with myself, I have never felt more at home in my own skin. And I've never felt more powerful and creative and compassionate. Self-care is about more than bubble baths; self-love is not the same as self-indulgence. The powerful reality of these things is counter-cultural and anti-capitalist and anti-misogynist. It is literally revolutionary. It shouldn't need to be so, but it is.
This year has been my revolution. I set boundaries for myself and the people I let near me. I moved toward forgiveness. I faced fear after fear. I spoke my mind. I stayed quiet when I had nothing to say. I came home and accepted that that was a good thing. I allowed myself to be adored for what I am. I let myself adore the people in my life. Sometimes I was also a dick (sorry). But I was me, and I was happy about it. For the most part I was alone--at least in the way that our society chooses to acknowledge--and I was broke, but I was whole and lacked nothing.
This is an imperfect and unfinished glimpse of a thought; like me, it will keep evolving--but I am complete. Happy anniversary, Hannah.
A popular worship song has been singing to me for days. Particularly, the words saying, "What a powerful name it is!"
It's not just the name, as if it is a magic incantation. It is the Risen Christ who bears the name.
Philippians 2:10-11 reminds us that the day is coming when "at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
But before then, now−even now,
In the powerful name of Jesus and by the blood of the Lamb we can be released from the Enemy's lies we have believed for too long.
In the powerful name of Jesus we can be free from the fears that have kept us living small.
In the powerful name of Jesus we can be liberated from the confusion and doubt that have kept us from living in truth.
In the powerful name of Jesus we can have the crushing weight of guilt and shame of past sin and rebellion lifted from our souls.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Freedom for today in all the spheres of our lives and relationships.
All this is in the powerful name of Jesus because Jesus is alive and he rules and reigns at the right hand of the Father.
Today is Good Friday. Today, Jesus walked the Via Dolorosa ─ "the way of sorrow" ─ to Calvary's hill. There, he placed himself on the cross of sorrow and shame ─ for my sake.
It is not too far fetched to say that on this day, I was granted a divine and sacred "marriage license." And, Easter Sunday is my Wedding Day!
I've been married to my beloved David for almost 36 years. We were married in mid-July in Chicago. He chose me to be his wife many years ago and he has been a loving and faithful spouse, friend, and life companion to me every day hence.
Long before David chose me, however, Jesus chose me. On the first Good Friday, Jesus loved me to the end. He showed his love by walking the path to the Cross. And there, He gave all because of his love for me.
Prior to the Cross, the Lover and the beloved could not share intimacy of love because of the barrier between us. The apostle Paul calls it "the dividing wall of hostility" because the sinner is helpless to approach the Sinless.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.[i]
In the death of Jesus, the sinner was given her marriage license to become the bride.
The rehearsal dinner took place in the upper room of Maundy Thursday where Jesus washed the disciples' feet and gave them the sacrament of his body and his blood to "eat in remembrance."
Good Friday made way for the two to become one. The legal contract between the two is now complete.
The apostle Peter tells us that Jesus "himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.[ii]
Whatever your earthly status, whether you are single or married, young or old, divorced or remarried, man or woman, because of the cross of Jesus, you are united with Him. The death of Christ is the eternal marriage license for all who name Christ Jesus Lord.
The wedding day of Easter Sunday is coming soon. The resurrection is the wedding of the forgiven sinner and the Savior; we are united with Christ ─ I am IN Him and He is IN me.
In the death and resurrection of Christ the Lord, and in the sinner's repentance and relinquishment of control and independence, the two can become one. Therefore, nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the Lover and from the love of God in Christ.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.[iii]
Today, I celebrate that "I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine."[iv]
I rejoice in your belovedness, too! May you drink deeply of his love for you on this Good Friday!
Thanks be to God!
[i] Rom 5:6-8
[ii] 1Peter 2:18-25
[iii] Rom 8:31-39
[iv] Song of Solomon 6:3a
Have you heard people pray asking God to "show up" in a time of need?
Or, after a difficult circumstance, have you heard someone express gratitude and surprise that God "showed up" in a big way?
I think we have it wrong. God doesn't show up. According to scripture, God is with us always, never leaves or forsakes us, knows our need before we ask, and desires to give good gifts to his children.
If we believe we need to beg God to be present of if we're surprised when we become aware of his loving action, I propose that we may believe some not-quite-true things about God. Perhaps these sound familiar:
As we prepare for worship together, we don't need to ask God to come to his people or to fill the sanctuary with his Presence. He is already present; we are the ones who are absent. We come scattered, frazzled, distracted. A call to worship is not, "Come, Spirit, fill this place." But, "Spirit, we have come. Collect our distracted minds and hearts that we might be present to You who is already present to us."
Our personal prayer is not "Show up in my need, Lord." But, "Thank you that you are present to me even when I am distracted and afraid. You know my need for healing and rescue. Help me to turn toward you to receive from your already outstretched hands that which you desire to give me."
The healing movement is not an external one: "Come, Lord Jesus, Come."
Rather, the healing is an internal awareness and surrender to the One who is already present and is enabling my awareness and my surrender: "Here's my heart, Oh Lord."
Some may feel that this is simply semantics. Asking God to come and show up when we are the absent ones is not a big deal. These are just the words we've given to the beginning of corporate worship or private prayer. However, I believe it is more than semantics. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks. What we say is a window to what we believe.
Consider: Do you believe that God─Father, Son and Spirit─ is present to his children? Is He present to you? If so, turn toward Him and receive His good gifts.