Words of Hope
Words of Hope
Thursday, May 9, 2019
You, LORD, are my shepherd. I will never be in need. You let me rest in fields of green grass. You lead me to streams of peaceful water, and you refresh my life. You are true to your name, and you lead me along the right paths. I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe. You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch. You honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows. Your kindness and love will always be with me each day of my life, and I will live forever in your house, LORD. Psalm 23
Word of Hope
For the past several years, I have had the honor of co-hosting the Irving Circle and friends’ Easter lunch. It has gradually grown, from twenty-something to thirty-something. This year, we had 36 people. My partner Carol does a huge amount of work, sending out invitations, managing the RSVPs, buying colored table cloths and decorations, arranging for the reservation of the clubhouse where we live, buying and baking ham, and usually preparing some other dish-to-pass. I help as much as I can, but usually get excused from much of the work due to the choir’s schedule during holy week. One of the group’s members creates place cards for each person. This year, she made beautiful crosses and placed them in boxes, each tagged with a name, and set at the assigned place at the table. Other group members came early, after going to the 9:00 service, to set up the tables and chairs (into one huge, long table), decorate, and warm up food for the huge Easter feast. Each person who attends brings food to share.
I love seeing everyone gathered around this table. There are so many different groups of conversation going on during the meal. Most of these conversations seem animated, and almost everyone is smiling. And yet, many have been through difficulties. Several have lost family members or partners within the last few years. Many of us have been disenfranchised from the churches of our childhood. Some are facing health challenges. Even so, the members of this group face the uncertainties of the future with hope and optimism.
After lunch, before we all clean up, we gather to have a group picture taken. I love having this gathering memorialized each year. As I look at the photos from years past, I see a group of individuals who have been tested by the challenges of life, but who gain strength from God’s love and kindness.
Thank you, generous and loving God, for looking after me, and recognizing when I need rest and refreshment. I feel your kindness and love, and I will live forever in your house.
Cathedral of Hope Member
Wednesday – May 8, 2019
When it was evening on… the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear…, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”After this he showed them his hands and his side.” (John 20: 19-20)
A Word of Hope
She rose to her tall and dignified stature, welcoming all in the priory dining room for a special Maundy Thursday buffet. When she began speaking, I thought maybe she was just hoarse, and she continued to the powerful opening call without hesitation: “Justice and faith comprise the liberating food for Christians. With Jesus we pray that our daily bread may be the bread and wine of justice and liberation….” Her quavering voice signaled a more permanent condition.
Later, she came to each table to offer us desert, her hands shaking in their own rhythm. But if it bothered her, she did not show it: her spirit was all kindness, her smile, all warmth. A man at our table, a vegan, could not eat the delicious chocolate cake and said he didn’t need dessert. But her well-practiced Benedictine ethic to treat all guests as Christ sent her back to the kitchen to have a bowl of fresh strawberries prepared for him.
Since one of the things I had carried to this Holy Week retreat was coming to terms with anxieties about aging, I watched this good sister attentively, knowing she had something to teach me. Generally, we take such pains to camouflage our infirmities, our woundedness. But Jesus bears his afflictions openly with the disciples. They mark him, define him, shape who he is. And Isaiah 53:5 foretells that that “by his wounds we are healed.”
The experience of the wounded Christ and the sister’s thriving in her affliction help me revision my own limitations in aging. And as I recall how living the pains of deep loss broke open my heart in greater compassion, allowing me to companion others, I am hopeful that the challenges of aging will do so as well.
After Holy Saturday dinner, three of us retreatants sat at table with the good sister, leaning in to hear a story about the sisters’ requests for community donations of multitudes of large-sized bras for women in Africa (a need brought by visiting African nuns). We laughed till tears came to our eyes imagining stacks and stacks of all colors and sizes of brassieres mounding the dining room tables and were inspired by the generosity of the community. But the richest treasure of our time away is the precious connection with the sister, her warmth and humor, intelligence and hospitality radiant and undiminished by her condition.
Resurrecting Christ, may the healing power of our wounds be blessed. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon
Tuesday – May 7, 2019
“I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.”*
-Psalm 118. 12-24
A Word of Hope
The rejected cornerstone of the Psalm was one of the Gospel writers’ favorite metaphors when telling about the countless times Jesus and his radically inclusive message were spurned by opponent and friend alike. Can you remember the last time you or one of your ideas was rejected? Psalm 118 is a comforting reading when we reflect on all those past rejections of our lives that we somehow survived.
I recently viewed an old recording of a documentary about one of the twentieth century’s most durable rejection survivors, Walt Disney, whose first major disappointment happened when he dropped out of school during World War I to join the army, but was rejected because he was too young. The resourceful young Walt did, however, maneuver his way into becoming an ambulance driver.
Years later, after some success producing animated short subjects, he spent the latter half of the 1930’s being turned down by innumerable banks who refused to finance Disney’s folly, the feature-length Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. “No one will ever be able to sit through an animated feature,” he was repeatedly told. They were monumentally wrong. In the 1950’s after producing over a decade of animated feature classics, Disney had another idea: an elaborate amusement park called Disneyland. The bankers who had become rich on his animated features suddenly cooled at the new idea. “How could such an expensive venture ever make any money? Who would travel across the country to go to a park called Disneyland?” Walt and his brother Roy would not give up, however, but in their search for park backers the determined brothers were rejected over 450 times.
I’m not certain how much of Disney’s tenacity came from his Christian faith, but I do know that Jesus was the ultimate teacher of the resolute. Even a casual consideration of the life of Christ reminds us that being spurned, mocked and rejected are never synonymous with defeat. Such unrelenting faith can make cornerstones of each of us.
Help me to reflect today on a past rejection. Is it still holding me hostage or is it showing me the path to my own salvation?
Minister for Children and Families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Monday – May 6, 2019
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139.14
A Word of Hope
Looking for Beauty
It began with a “yes.”
“Yes Lord,” I said.
“When are two people not equal?” God asked while leading me to the answer.
“When?” I asked.
“Sometimes one person interprets a red image, or in other words, sees the color red. However, it is possible that out of a thousand people only one person sees the color purple in that same image. One might consider the difference in vision unique and beautiful, and another might consider the difference odd and against nature. Everyday people develop bias and prejudice, but art cannot be judged, for there is no standard to judge it by. Art by definition is an interpretation or in other words a vision of someone’s mind. Everyone’s mind works differently. No matter how hard two people try, they will not agree on everything. At some point his red will inevitably encounter her refreshing shade of lavender.”
“But when are two people not equal?” I asked again.
“When the doctors told you that you were Schizophrenic for seeing things in a refreshing shade of lavender.”
Being the one person who sees lavender is not always as refreshing as it sounds. For a long time I thought that I was crazy and was in a perpetual state of self rejection. I take medication because without it my mind would sometimes be trapped in a hell dimension where demons, beasts, and my own rage would eclipse my beautiful city of Dallas. At some point I had to accept that there was much I did not know. My vision is not all bad and it’s not all good, for it is neither. If I were to try to define anything, then that would mean pretending I had an understanding of universal and irrevocable truths even though I do not fully comprehend anything. I could say I know God exists, but that would mean having an understanding of what, or rather who, God is. I could say that God is love, but there is too much love for me ever to be able to describe fully. I couldn’t do it, even with a thousand years.
Lord, the path we took is the one You chose, for You are before all things. You make the colors for us to see. Do we not interpret Your art? You see all colors; all points of view. We see in part, but you see the whole picture. Help us not to judge ourselves and realize that there are many perspectives around a table. Please help those who suffer from the stigmas of diagnoses. Help us to be kind to each other and kind to ourselves.
Jesus we need You. Amen.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Friday – May 3, 2019
The nights of crying our eyes out give way to days of laughter. Psalm 30:5 The Message
A Word of Hope
Sometimes (maybe often) life is a jumbled mess of emotions. Am I right? Holy Week was almost two weeks ago and I still have spiritual whiplash from the range of emotions I experienced. I bounce around like a pinball.
Maybe I am emotionally vulnerable because I have a lot going on now. Some events and people are bringing me much joy and others deep sadness. Sometimes all in the same hour. I am not alone. We all experience these periods.
It is called being human.
The Psalmist knew all about life’s ups and downs. Read Psalm 30, today’s assigned lectionary reading, and you experience David reaching the summit of the highest emotional mountain only to tumble down into the deepest valley of despair.
Jesus’s disciples might have read and identified with this Psalm following Jesus’s death as they struggled to understand his life and ministry. How on earth were they going to go on with life? I can imagine that right in the middle of recalling a joyful, maybe funny, story they were stopped short when hit again by the pain and despair they felt reliving Christ’s Passion. You know that feeling because you have sat with friends following the death of a loved one recounting their life and the tears come mixed with laughter.
How can we carry on when it seems God “looked the other way?” (verse 7) I am no theologian but my guess is that the emotions Jesus’s followers experienced between the cross and Easter morning and Pentecost remained with them throughout their lives. You read in the rest of the New Testament of them struggling with the significance of Jesus’s life and teachings and what it means to follow him and demonstrate his love after he was gone. They experience tremendous success and almost insurmountable challenges including martyrdom.
It is called being human.
And yet, despite the wild swings of emotion and experience, in their shared humanity, David and the disciples were able to say “God, my God, I can’t thank you enough.” (verse 12)
God of my Being, I can’t thank you enough for loving me through the daily ups and downs of being human.
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