A poem about the power of . . . nothing.
(From Parabola Magazine)
When I walk past
the fragrant forest
after heavy rain,
which smells like
the freshest salad
you ever ate,
that when eaten
makes you feel alive,
then I listen, listen
and there is
nothing, nothing but.
When it is almost dusk
and the horizon is tinged
with the most delicate
hint of lavender,
against it dark
silhouettes of tiny
I listen, listen
there is nothing, nothing but.
When I pass the small mountain
rising like a god
impressing the night
and the still liquid sky,
I listen, listen
and there is nothing, nothing.
But nothing is something
curious and rich,
and I have heard it.
When I find myself in times of trouble,
“Mother Mary comes to me,
“Speaking words of wisdom . . .
“Let it be, let it be.”
— Paul McCartney and the Beatles
I’ve been reading and mulling on the life and the story of Mary the Mother of Jesus this week, influenced as I’ve been by the presence of my daughter and her newborn babe.
The story of Mary is the story of the ultimate in a loving and nurturing mother, of course. But of course it’s also the story of the ultimate woman of God, devoted to service to God and others.
Note how Mary is always thinking of others as when she goes to see her cousin Elizabeth (Luke 1: 39); how she worries over her son lost on a pilgrimage (Luke 2: 43); how she considers the others who have no wine at the wedding at Cana, where her son performed his first miracle (John 2:3).
Jesus’s homeboys all tucked tail and ran when the going got excruciating for Jesus, but it was Mary (and other women, of course) who stayed in full, loving connection with him.
The story of Mary as the ultimate mother is a story of ultimate service to God and all God’s children. She’s the bright, shining star who guides all, male and female, through the ages.
Let it be.
Here’s a hodgepodge of “Summa This & Summa That” items that I’ve saved in the photo files which I’m cleaning out while I sit here procrastinating when I should be packing for the night flight to Texas Our Texas . . .
Today’s thought from the “I hate when dat happens” files:
When I feel the overwhelming urge to sneeze real big with a mouthful of food.
This kind of discovery from antiquity fascinates me to no end. The story is from the “Twisted Sifter” web site, one of the coolest sites I’ve come across in a while.
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From the “Bloggers We Love: Christian Div.” files.
Rachel Held Evans is right on here about the ludicrous “War on Christmas” nonsense.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
— Matthew 28:18-20,
the so-called “Great Commission of Jesus”
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“The world is my parish.”
— John Wesley
* * *
“Charity begins at home.”
Why go to a foreign country to help people? Why not stay home and help Americans?
I was asked that challenging question by other Christians many times when I went on mission trips to the far-flung slums of Juarez, Mexico, where volunteer teams from my home church (Sun Creek UMC in Allen, TX), build cinder-block houses for big families living literally in cardboard-box homes.
I was asked it when I went with mission teams to be in ministry with struggling Methodist Churches and orphanages in Moscow and Tomsk, Siberia.
And I was asked the question by an American tourist I met here in San Ignacio the other day, when I told him I moved to Belize largely to be in ministry with the poor and to live close to the millions of poor in Central America.
He and I and his wife were talking over coffee–they were a really nice couple from frigid Nebraska–and the talk led to that question, from the man, that I’ve been asked so many times before:
I told him that I always appreciate that question, which I’ve heard so many times before, and can certainly understand the sentiment behind it. God knows there’s never going to be a shortage of Americans in need of Christian outreach.
But my first response to the tourist–who happened to be a fellow United Methodist (and who sheepishly noted that “We’re not really very good churchgoers”)–was this:
I told my tourist friend, whom I met in passing at a local coffee shop, that I’ve been asked the same question he raised about American Christians taking care of “their own” no less that a kazillion times now. I told him–trying not to be defensive about my ministry–that I’ve been in ministry with people in need all over the U.S. and other countries too, because I don’t think there’s any such thing as an “American Christian.”
I always point out to Americans who question mission outside the U.S. that Christ didn’t say in his “Great Commission,” “Go therefore into your American town or city neighborhood and take care other Americans.” Jesus said to go into the world. And my tourist friend’s reaction was the same reaction I always get in lifting up the Commission of Christ: “I never thought about that.”
I hope he and others keep thinking about the good news, which Jesus didn’t limit to the United States of America. And think about the obvious fact that Christianity exited long before the United States was even founded, and founded with the displacement of native people who occupied it long before we Americans staked claim to it, btw.
John Wesley, who was an Anglican priest till the day he died at the end of a long and fruitful life of creating a Christian movement called Methodist, famously said:
“The world is my parish.”
It happens to be mine as well, and I happen to believe, strongly, that “the world” is every Christian’s mission field. Just because “charity begins at home,” as the wisdom of American folk theology has it, does not mean that Christian outreach is to be limited to a church’s neighborhood or town or state, or country or continent.
Advent is that season in the church year in which we prepare to be astonished, once again, by the mystery and miracle of the most astonishing birth ever recorded.
My youngest-born child, Megan Joy Bidelman, and her husband Jake, are expecting the arrival any day of their first baby, Logan Joy. For lo these many months, Meg and Jake have been planning, anticipating and preparing to be astonished by the mystery and miracle of birth.
I’m planning and preparing to be in Texas next week and can’t wait to hold and behold my first granddaughter, just as I could hardly wait for the arrivals of two grandsons and the births of three children so many years ago.
What we experience as expectant parents is not so different, really, from what Mary and Joseph experienced as they planned, prepared and anticipated–surely with no small amount of apprehension as well as hope–the arrival of the child they loved so much.
Such love awaits Logan Joy.
Such love awaits us all.
Joy to the world.
Lord our God,
We thank you and praise you for never giving up on us, no matter how far we may distance ourselves from you.
Just as your Spirit rested on Jesus, we pray that you pour out your spirit on us.
We pray for this Spirit of Christ-like love and peacefulness out of our faithfulness and gratitude to you, for you have so richly blessed us in this, another season commemorating the Love that came down in the form of your Son, Jesus.
Empower us to do all that is within in our powers, wherever we are, to promote peace on earth and goodwill to all in our speech, in our actions, our behavior, in all that we are and all that, with your help, we can be, on this day, in this season, in all the short time that you may bless us with on this good earth you created.
We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.