He did it

Once, when I was a bored teenager, I invented a challenge for myself.  I was selling Christmas trees on our family’s Christmas tree farm, and in between dragging, shaking, baling, and lashing long trees on short hatchback roofs, I found myself with nothing to do.  There I was, standing beside the chainsaws and stump trimmings, idle and young.  Trouble brewing. “Hey,” I said to my friend and coworker.  “Wanna bet that I can throw this little tree stump over the… Read more

Hanging on to love

Sometime during the summer swelter, our family made the trip to a water park in a neighboring town.  It had slides and beach chairs, a lazy river and a wave pool–and a funky climbing wall angling out over the water.  Kids lined up to give it a try.  They scrambled up, touched the top in triumph, and then dropped back into the pool. I thought I would be able to handle this climbing wall.  After all, the climbing wall on… Read more

Infinite Sparrows

You are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:31 As the chill night has fallen this winter, a little red-capped bird has taken refuge in the grapevine wreath hanging beside our front door.  He tucks himself in behind the decorations for the night.  We don’t see him until we open the door to walk out, and then he disappears in a flutter.  This little bird reminds me of the words of Scripture, how “even the sparrow finds a home” in the… Read more

Always breaking bread, always giving thanks

Back when I was a graduate student in the big city, I got befriended by a young Salvadorean Jesuit named Kaiser.  We started out studying New Testament Greek together (in Spanish, which pretty well crossed all my wires).  Our relationship grew from there, and Kaiser ended up inviting me to his thesis defense and later ordination in downtown Boston.  The Lord’s table factored highly in both settings.  Kaiser spoke of the “Eucharist,” a term that comes right out of the… Read more

On being detained in the airport

Once, when my wife and I were returning to the U.S. after a visit to her home country of Peru, we were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the airport.  They never told us why.  As far as we could tell, the man who reviewed her passport on entering looked at the wrong page and saw the wrong visa and registered the wrong validity dates.  He must have pressed some hidden button while we stood there unsuspecting, all the… Read more

Christmas lightning

It’s Christmas, and the sky is zagged with lightning.  No one’s dreaming of a white Christmas around here.  It’s thunderstorms today.  But hey, we had our biggest snow of the year on Easter morning, so why not thunderstorms on Christmas? Lightning on Christmas seems like it should be a metaphor for something.  God’s kingdom breaks into the world with the birth of Jesus, the one who John the Baptist promised would come to baptize with “the Spirit and with fire”… Read more

Autumn’s lingering death

It’s autumn.  Things are dying, and I don’t like it. Maybe it’s my lament that the tomato vines have crumpled and the beans succumbed and withered.  Maybe it’s my despair over the browning earth, scorched by frost and wind–winter’s shock troops.  Maybe I just don’t like being cold.  But I have a hard time letting go of autumn. It seems to me that you can let go of the season in two ways.  You can pray to push the frost back, stomp your… Read more

When things fall apart

Everything’s falling apart on me, God; put me together again with your Word. (Psalm 119:107 The Message) What do we do when things fall apart? Because they will.  We’ll snag on life’s gnarl and come undone, thread by thread by spooling cord.  Things won’t go as we planned or hoped.  I once knew someone who, reflecting on a struggle, said, “It’s like someone just pulled a string, and I fell apart.”  That’s how it feels.  Someone got hold of our string…. Read more

I’m no better

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought – Romans 12:3 Once, I was in a crowded grocery store, edging my way toward the checkout in a game of social checkers, when a couple slid in ahead of me.  It was a sly move, almost cutting.  I heard the man say in a surly whisper to the lady (who had the courtesy to be a little embarrassed): “What?  He’s no better than us!” I’m not.  But it’s easy to… Read more

Amateur sainthood

I’m an amateur gardener.  I’m always figuring things out again for the first time, like that you can’t pack the tomato plants into the garden (so small and nonthreatening in spring, such monsters in August). This year, I tried growing corn and pole beans in my front yard.  It was my play on the Native-American “three sisters” technique where the corn supports the beans, and the beans fix nitrogen for the corn.  The third sister–squash–is supposed to trail along at… Read more

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