Thursday, November 20, 2014

Simple Truth

Matthew 25: 31- 46  
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Many times, I perceive a sense of panic in people's eyes when this gospel is read. Everyone focuses on the part at the end, where the sheep and the goats are separated. No one wants to be a goat. 

Here's the part to worry about, though: have you been ignoring Jesus? 

I don't mean have you been the best at feeding, clothing, visiting, welcoming, and healing. I mean, have you been doing it at all? Recently? Today? 

Our ultimate salvation is contingent on Jesus' actions, but our sanctification... our growth into being the sheep of his pastures... our increased ability to recognize the Shepherd comes from listening to his voice and then seeking his face. 

The Shepherd will always be where he promises to be, which is- apparently- in the naked, the hungry, the isolated, the sick, the imprisoned, and the thirsty. 

So, don't panic. 

Either you're doing these things. Or you're not. 

It's as easy as separating a sheep from a goat for a king. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Video Share: John XXIII

I really enjoyed Fr. James Martin's book, My Life with the Saints.

He's made a video series about some of the saints he discusses. This one is interesting. Martin's own reflections based around John XXIII were rooted in his reflections on life in the priesthood and were very moving (to me).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

This Week in Reading

I am planning to finish these 3 books in the next 5-6 days. I will comment on all of them in one way or another!

Reading for a potential church book study:

From Barnes and Noble:
The gripping story of the American army chaplain sent to save the souls of the Nazis incarcerated at Nuremberg
Lutheran minister Henry Gerecke was fifty years old when he enlisted as an army chaplain during World War II. As two of his three sons faced danger and death on the battlefield, Gerecke tended to the battered bodies and souls of wounded and dying GIs outside London. But at the close of the European theater, with Hitler defeated and scores of American troops returning home to resume their lives, Gerecke received his most challenging assignment: he was sent to Nuremberg to minister to the twenty-one imprisoned Nazi leaders awaiting trial for crimes against humanity.
A crucial yet largely untold coda to the horrors of World War II, Mission at Nuremberg unearths groundbreaking new research and compelling firsthand accounts to take us deep inside the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, into the very cells of the accused and the courtroom where they answered to the world for their crimes. Never before in modern history had man accomplished mass slaughter with such precision. These twenty-one Nazis had sat at the right hand of Adolf Hitler; Hermann Goering, Albert Speer, Wilhelm Keitel, Hans Frank, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner were the orchestrators, and in some cases the direct perpetrators, of the most methodical genocide in history.
As the drama leading to the court's final judgments unfolds, Tim Townsend brings Henry Gerecke's impossible moral quandary to life: How, having risked his own life (and those of his sons) to eliminate the Nazi threat, could he now win the confidence of these men? In the months after the war ended, Gerecke had visited Dachau. He had touched the walls of the camp's crematorium. He had seen the consequences of the choices these men had made, the orders they had given and carried out. As he worked to form compassionate relationships with them, how could he preach the gospel of mercy, knowing full well the devastating nature of the atrocities they had committed? And as the day came nearer when he had to escort these men to the gallows, what comfort could he offer—and what promises of salvation could he make—to evil itself?
Detailed, harrowing, and emotionally charged, Mission at Nuremberg is an incisive new history of the Nuremberg trials as well as a nuanced reflection on the nature of morality and sin, the price of empathy, and the limits of forgiveness.

Reading for personal book club (selected by someone else):

From Barnes and Noble:

The runaway bestseller that has swept the nation, with more than one million copies sold
Between 1854 and 1929, so-called orphan trains ran regularly from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest, carrying thousands of abandoned children whose fates would be determined by luck and chance.
This is the story of one such child.
As a young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future a world away. Returning east later in life, Vivian leads a quiet, peaceful existence on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are reminders of a turbulent past.
Seventeen-year-old Molly Ayer knows that a community-service position helping an elderly widow clean out her attic is the only thing keeping her out of juvenile hall. But as Molly helps Vivian sort through her keepsakes and possessions, she discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they appear. A Penobscot Indian who has spent her youth in and out of foster homes, Molly is also an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past.
Moving between contemporary Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train is a powerful tale of upheaval and resilience, second chances, and unexpected friendship. 

Received copy for review for

From Amazon:

Marriage is great, but it's not forever. It's until death do us part. Then come eternal rewards or regrets depending on how we spent our lives.

In his latest book, Francis Chan joins together with his wife Lisa to address the question many couples wonder at the altar: How do I have a great marriage? Setting aside typical topics on marriage, Francis and Lisa dive into Scripture to understand what it means to have a relationship that satisfies the deepest parts of our souls.

In the same way Crazy Love changed the way we saw our personal relationship with God, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity will radically shift the way we see one of the most important relationships in our life.

Jesus was right. We have it all backwards. The way to have a great marriage is by not focusing on marriage.  Whether you are single, dating or married, You and Me Forever will help you discover the adventure that you were made for and learn how to thrive in it.

100% of the net profits from You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity will go towards providing food, shelter and rehabilitation for thousands of orphaned children and exploited women in partnership with global charities.

What are you reading this week?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Just Like Me

One of the prompts for today was to name skills you see in other bloggers that you wish you had. Forme, that felt like an exercise in frustration. I write like me. When I've tried to write like other people, it sounds weird.

Something where I have wanted to look like other people, though, is hands. 

I'd love to have longer fingers and better shaped nails. I go through rounds of getting my nails done, as pictured, to make my hands look nice. When I don't keep them done, I tend to nibble at them and they look dreadful.

I covet nice hands. Consequently, I don't hanker after other bloggers' skills, but I do envy their hands. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Today was filled with a lot of intense prayer and conversation. I knew it would be ahead of time, so I
tried to a lot plenty of time during the past week to quiet and meditation. 


My older child got sick and stayed home from school for two days, which meant I stayed with him. I fell behind in everything- including reaching a sense of peace and stability. 

What to do? 

Last night, I decided I would do a guided meditation no matter what time it had to happen. This lead to me sitting in the bathroom with headphones on at 10:30, listening to a soft voice talking me through awareness of the moment. 

This morning, I breathed my mantra. It is always a version of "grace in... [something] out". Since we were having a healing service with a time for individual prayer, I prayer for "Grace in, anxiety out. God in, self out." Over and over. 

When my hands rested on people's heads and shoulders, it was, as always, a powerful and disconcerting sensation. 

Being open to that work for God can only happen when I get out of the way. That takes time and effort. In time past, I would have spent a great deal of energy worrying about how the week didn't build up the way I'd hoped. 

Now, I trust that nothing is impossible with God. I did the best I could. 

God made it right. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Who Can Say?

Our adult education class at church is studying Amos. I like it because it feels like sneaking a peek a Jesus' preaching notes.

Of course, there are some very uncomfortable moments. Amos comes down hard on those who are focused on the details of religiosity, but ignore the true work of relationship with and response to God. The prophet cries out against those who use others as means to an end, particularly when the end is a lush life, a sexual adventure, a perversion of justice, or simply a picnic with the spoils of oppression.

Donald E. Gowan says we must be careful about how we apply Amos's words in a modern context:

“Have we the right (or the wisdom and insight) to make a direct application of Amos’s message to any contemporary nation or culture? With injustice still rampant, there is a strong temptation for us to do that, but that should be done with caution… We cannot make direct applications of the prophetic message in order to predict our future, but we can and should use it to diagnose the health of our society… To know whether a society is healthy, do not look at the wealthy homes or the magnificent sanctuaries, but look at the state of the poor and needy. If the words that go with them are Amos’s words- tumult, oppression, violence- then there is no health in that society, and where there is not health, death cannot be far away.” New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Vol. VII

So we cannot assume, without clear spiritual revelation, that we will suffer in exile as did Israel. We can, however, make an assessment about our culture's habits and our own.

That's where Amos leaves off preaching and takes up meddling', as they say.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Litany for Healing

LITANY FOR HEALING                                                  Inspired by Jeremiah 17:14

Lord, the brokenness of the world is known to you.
No pain, suffering, grief, or regret is hidden from your eyes.
Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed;
Save us, and we shall be saved.

Our prayers are not merely for physical well-being,
But also for consolation, renewal, and hope.
Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed;
Save us, and we shall be saved.

We lift up our sisters and brothers, our enemies, strangers in our midst.
We pray for the nations of the earth and the whole of your creation.
Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed;
Save us, and we shall be saved.

We offer to you a sacrifice of open hearts and minds,
Prepared to be found by you in unexpected ways and places.
Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed;
Save us, and we shall be saved.

We do not dare to pray out of a sense of our own worth,
But our cries come from the depth of the body of Christ.
Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed;
Save us, and we shall be saved.

We have come in a spirit of prayer-
To wrestle, to plead, to summon, to advocate, to receive.
Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed;
Save us, and we shall be saved.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Cross-posted at

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Here's the truth: I take 20 mg of Lexapro every day. I set a timer so I won't forget it. If I do forget it, I won't necessarily be able to tell that day, but I can tell the next morning.

Lexapro is most often prescribed for anxiety and/or depression. If you ask me why I take, I will say,
"To keep me from being homicidal or suicidal and so far it's working."

I don't often say anything about taking this medication. It is not that I'm ashamed, but there is often such a stigma about mental health and mental well-being in our culture that people who need some chemical help via prescription are judged harshly.

I received the prescription in conjunction with about a year of counseling. Lexapro is a medicine that MUST be tapered off, but I am continuing to take it now because I think it is genuinely helping me.

I feel well-connected with myself on this medicine- with what I like to do, what is true about who I am, and- most importantly- able to feel accompanied by God.

So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9b

If I had Type 1 diabetes, I would seek treatment. When my appendix became necrotic, I had it removed. I didn't die in childbirth, thanks to an emergency C-section. And, at a very dark time in my life, a little white pill and a counselor helped me get out of bed and do what I needed to do to embrace life.

I don't believe anyone of us can save ourselves. We need God. We need community. We may need help from sources we didn't expect. To claim the day of God's salvation, at hand, is to accept that the gift of wholeness comes through the cross and through our willingness to accept our limitations and God's boundlessness.

Right now, Lexapro helps me to think clearly, to stay calm, to realize I'm not a failure (or actively failing) at everything I do. Maybe it's a weakness, but I don't see that way.

My weakness is my reality. I'm human. Not only human, but truly human- a circumstance that God understands through Jesus and that has been redeemed through Christ.

Lexapro helps my mind. God's grace is the medicine that cures my soul.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Those Who Save Us

It's Veteran's Day. Or Veterans' Day. Or Remembrance Day, for some.

My husband is a veteran. So's my brother. My grandfathers were and my great-uncles.

There was an article in Wired last month about content moderation in social media feeds. Adrian Chen, the author, wrote about teams of Filipino men and women who are hired by companies who contract with Facebook, Twitter, or other internet works to monitor what is posted. They are paid to sit and delete pictures of genitalia, graphic violence, abuse, animal cruelty, threatening images, and anything thing that interrupts the flow of happy babies, food pics, and Buzzfeed quizzes.

Chen writes:

While a large amount of content moderation takes place overseas, much is still done in the US, often by young college graduates like Swearingen was. Many companies employ a two-tiered moderation system, where the most basic moderation is outsourced abroad while more complex screening, which requires greater cultural familiarity, is done domestically. US-based moderators are much better compensated than their overseas counterparts: A brand-new American moderator for a large tech company in the US can make more in an hour than a veteran Filipino moderator makes in a day. But then a career in the outsourcing industry is something many young Filipinos aspire to, whereas American moderators often fall into the job as a last resort, and burnout is common.

Apparently being well paid for this work in the U.S. means in the neighborhood of $20/hr. So there are people in the world who are working for $20-25/day to absorb the most horrific images of what the human psyche is will to capture in pictures and on film. Burnout is common. Chen speaks with people who quit so they won't become desensitized to the horror, because they can't handle it anymore, because they are becoming so distrustful of their fellow human beings that they are unable to leave the house or find someone to watch their children.

Is $20/day enough for work that may take this kind of toll?

Similarly, there are people we pay to intercede for us- in places we don't want to go, in situations we can't imagine, in circumstances beyond their control. We ask them to make split second decisions about the actions of men, women, and children. We expect them to kill and remain unaffected, to manipulate and yet continue to trust, to obey and still be willing to point out injustice. It's difficult, difficult work that people volunteer for and that turns out to be more than they may have expected.

No one's forced to join the military. No one is forced to become a content moderator.

Sometimes I think that's what we tell ourselves when we don't want to admit that someone else is putting up with a lot to make our lives easier, better, cleaner, safer.... far from the grit and horror that are possible in the world.

If we described what these people did, what they saw, what they would endure... how would we decide what to pay them? What they deserved after their work? How to honor them? How to help them heal? How to respect them?

Before you automatically thank a veteran for his or her service today, remember their work is often content moderation- seeing what's bad and preventing it from getting worse. What's that truly worth to us?