Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

Last week, one night for dinner, my wife made homemade stew.

The stew was very savory, full of sweet onions, fresh carrots, tangy celery and hearty beef chunks.We topped the stew with a sprinkling of sea salt and the flavors just popped out of it. The salt crystals were little flavor bombs that exploded with pungent delectability in your mouth.

Well they explode in my mouth, not yours, because you weren’t there.

Also, my wife made some fluffy home-made biscuits to go with the stew. We cut them in half and put butter and honey on the hot, steaming bread. The honey melted into the butter, and made the top of the biscuit a sweet gooey mess while the bottom of the biscuit was still floury and crispy.

The savory stew combined with the honey-sweet biscuits like shooting stars in my mouth — to even remember it makes me salivate.

Salt is king of the taste buds! Sugar is its gorgeous queen!

Matthew 5:13

“You are the salt of the earth.”

I want to remind you of something important that Jesus said about you. You Christians are the salt in the savory stew. We, as Christians, are the honey on top of the fluffy biscuit.

You season your community, you season the world.

How? Where? When salty?

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6

According to scripture, you can be salt, when you speak. How you talk.

By letting your words be encouraging, gracious and helpful to others — that’s salt.

So lets be clear. It is expected of you and me by Christ is to speak with grace our mouths.

We are to open our mouths, and pour out grace on others.
….
I was in Home Depot once. The checker was super slow. It took several decades for him … to process the person in front of me.

I waited, and waited and waited.

So when I got to the checker, I said, my heart was exposed when I said, “Could you possibly just go a little slower.”

That was of course before I was a Christian. Actually it was last week. Not really.

Negativity is so distasteful, in me, nasty sarcasm, it is yuck, it is embarrassing, it is life-sucking. When I said that, I felt shame.

With a positive mouth, we season the world; with a negative, unattractive mouth, our value is lost. Jesus said we might as well throw out the salt that has lost it’s saltiness.

This is straight up Jesus.

If you want influence, if you want to be heard, if you want a voice, for God, you must commit to being gracious. Otherwise, God will only see you as,  needing to go.

I have an uncle.

We went to his house for Thanksgiving a few years ago. We all brought food. My young nephew brought bread.

My uncle claimed it was the wrong kind, and got he so upset he went to the store for his choice of bread.

It crushed my young nephew. My uncle made a scene, over the bread.

To be truthful, I don’t like to go to my uncle’s house much.

Negativity — it demolishes hospitality, and it can ruin family relationships.

This was so important, this thing of being gracious, to Jesus, that he communicated a second image to talk to us about it.

Jesus went on to say, in Matthew 5::14

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

What did Jesus say? He said be quiet more, let your actions talk for you.

Yesterday, two of the plumbers in our church came down and spent five hours putting eight new toilets in the church.

If you go in the women’s bathroom, you might have the honor of being the first one …

I like plumbers. They typically don’t say much. They just shut up, and create a good flush.

For being quiet and doing their jobs, these guys make like $60-$80 per hour, but yesterday we were the recipients of their work — for free.

That’s light; that’s kingdom light.

The light goes on, said Jesus, when we shut up more and just serve others.

What can we do to be salt and light.  To be so, a few things seem obvious:

Stop complaining.

Stop complaining about your job and be grateful you have one.

Stop complaining about those who think differently than you and be grateful that they and you have freedom of speech.

Stop complaining about your family and just love them. Be glad you have a family. Some people don’t.

Research shows that simply smiling at others produces chemicals in them that make them feel better.

Be grateful.

I have been realizing what a privilege it is to have people do things for me, make my food in a restaurant, make my coffee, wait on me at the bank.

So, I have a new line. it isn’t hurry up and serve me. It is “Thank you so much for making my coffee drink today, or thank you very much or serving me today.”

Listen more, and try to understand.

You can do that  with the people you disagree with by asking lots of questions, before spouting your answers.

As of course you know, there is lots of political conflict these days.

It is okay to disagree, even to protest, (lets uphold the right of free speech in America), but Christians, let’s not hate and make villains out of the other side, whatever the other side is for you.

What we need is more dialogue, more understanding … not more putting each other down

I called a friend this week who I think voted the opposite of me in the last election.

He told me he appreciated me, because of my willingness to be open, to always be trying to understand.

Graciousness, openness to try to understand others, that is salt and light. To keep friends, who you disagree with, that is maturity, that is the honey on the fluffy biscuit, the tangy salt on the savory stew.

And another thing …

Apologize when you are wrong.

I know people who never admit they are wrong. They don’t say I’m sorry.

But you can’t be salt and light if you won’t own up to your mistakes and apologize.

I was working with someone recently and we got tangled up over who was in charge. So immediately, after, I called them.

Why? I wanted to understand their side.

Then I apologized for over-stepping my role.

It helped.

Lastly, compliment people more.

I have been realizing what a privilege it is to have people do things for me, make my food in a restaurant, make my coffee, wait on me at the bank.

So, I have a new line, “Thank you so much for making my coffee drink today, or thank you very much or serving me today.”

Yesterday, I  bought pizza for the volunteers at the church. When asked what kind they wanted, the plumbers, who don’t say much, said anything, with meat. So I got the works: savory sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, salty sauce, flaky crust. It tasted so good, someone asked me where I got it.

That’s it! That is what we want, to be so delicious people ask us,  where did you get that from?

Then we can show them.

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners .’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Jesus

We humans seem to take great pleasure in judging each other, and calling names, especially when accismus is at work and we are madly competing for religious, social, familial or political power. It’s unfortunate because this sullies all of us, train wrecks relationships — and while piling up loads of fun, political booty and smug satisfaction for the winners — such behavior can oppress and crush the best among us. Take Jesus for instance.

Jesus was profoundly spiritually healthy, but he was a hedonist and a drunk to his contemporaries. Hmmm.

I’ve experienced something like this myself. Probably you too. You get passionate about something good, you have some success, you do things differently than done in the past and you engender all kinds of secreted jealousy and closeted competition that eventually surfaces in name calling.

It causes me to conclude something like, “Succeed, then duck!” But that is not what Jesus taught or modeled. Jesus taught that wisdom proves itself correct — and disproves the names it is called — by what it does. I love empirical, proverbial, brave and simple bits of advice like this — they salve the beaten-up and roughed-up in me.

Jesus is saying this: Keep doing the good that God puts in heart to do, and time will show if you are the real deal or not. Your actions will prove the motivations of your heart. Your behavior will speak for you. Over time, the good will show themselves to be good, the evil, evil.

Cool! Jesus is so cool! He is so wise, he is so gentle with us, he is so good.

Contestaires of all ilk take heart — time will tell.

It did with Jesus.

Divers exploring a maze of underwater caves on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula have identified what may be the longest underground river in the world. The underground water they found runs for 95 miles through the Mexico’s limestone caves.

Cool!

The Christian concept of joy is like that underground river. On the surface life may be hot and dry, but underground, deep within, lies God, a river of life, watering our world.

Joy is not happiness; happiness is a surface thing — superficial, based on circumstances, evaporating easily. But Christian joy is deeply rooted in the idea that God is a cool, pure, constant refreshing water and that because of that, everything is going to be okay.

How good is that! Joy transcends the other emotions We can be sad or beaten down by life on the surface, and yet experience the deeper, inner river of joy by trusting that God will come through for us.

“Take joy in God, all the time,” writes Paul, “He is always there.”

Randy Hasper

Randy Hasper

Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, was one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld, the other four being Styx (the river of hate), Akheron (the river of sorrow), Kokytos (the river of lamentation) and Phlegethon (the river of fire).That’s a nasty bunch of waters, and I’m not boating these if I can help it. Instead, I’m chosing to float another stream — mindfulness. These days, I’m remembering — good things.

Oscar Wilde wrote that “memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.”

I’m carrying that diary these days — all the time, a diary of the good things that are happening to my new friends, and I’m liking it.

Yesterday Isabel who is six, and Dolores, who is seven, came to my house for lunch.

“What’s your favorite story,” I asked Dolores.

“The God story,” Dolores said.

Three years ago she wouldn’t have said that. Three years ago her father was rafting hard down that river of fire that is made up out of crystal meth — Phlegethon, flowing hard and fast. He’s not now. No smoking meth; just working in the ship yards, and going to church. Because of this things have changed for Dolores, as well as for her nine siblings, and for her mom too. I’m remembering, and smiling.

Sunday at church I shook Aaron’s hand. He’s a single dad. He introduced me to a friend who was with him.

“How do you know each other?” I asked.

“Recovery,” said Aaron and then he laughed, having outed his friend the first thing.

Aaron told me recently that he was able to buy a house for he and his two boys. He’s so happy. A few years ago, his life was impossible — Kokytos of devastating proportions. Not now. The hard crying is behind him.

I’m remembering. I’m smiling.

Jeanie and I sat down to catch up recently. Jeanie is one of my many new friends.

“I’m telling my daughter that I love her now, ” she told me, breaking a little as she says it. She continues emotionally, “I never used to be able to say that.” Her eyes are wet.

When I met Jeanie she was traversing Akheron. She’s not so much now. She’s expressing emotions. She’s feeling. She’s coming back from the dead.

“Why do you think you’ve changed?” I asked her.

“Love,” she said emotionally, “I’ve found unconditional love. Now I’m able to give it to others.”

But Styx — it’s pervasive.

“I want you to pray for me,” said Robert.

“Why?” I asked him.

“I don’t want to hurt people anymore,” he said. He told us about an incident. He said, “I don’t want to use violence anymore.” He’s done trafficking on the river of hating.

We prayed for him.

Robert lives in a group home. Apparently there is nobody to tell this kind of thing to there. It’s hard to find people to tell this kind of thing to anywhere.

I’m happy for Robert. I’m happy as this year closes. I’m happy because I’m remembering my friends who are abandoning the polluted rivers of the underworld.

I’m with them. I myself refuse to float Lethe anymore. Mnemosyne — I want her.

I have too many good things to remember to be spending time forgetting.

I have too many memory stones to pile up to be losing river rock these days.

I’m remembering my people. I’m remembering my people, my precious ones, the transforming ones who God has given to me, the ones who are floating new rivers with me.

I’m remembering them. I’m happy.

Randy Hasper

Randy Hasper in CoronadoWe met the Aussies on the beach on Christmas day, waving at them from a distance across the sand, then walking over to them and greeting them warmly. We had actually met and talked to Mona, the Australian mom, in Starbucks only a few minutes before as we met getting coffees, and now here she was again with her son and husband, strolling towards us.

“Are you following us?” I teased.

They weren’t, of course. We had recommended this beach to them. They were vacationing from their home in Australia, and asking questions like,”Where can we best access the beach?” and so we had told them where we were going. They had just come from Hawaii, now they were here in San Diego, then they were going to Washington D. C. and Chile and other places wonderful and distant. Christmas was as they wanted it, away from home,  international, social and interesting, and it was the same for us meeting them here in our home town.

My daughter Laurel and I,  just before spotting them, had been leaning against the big, dark rocks of the jetty in Coronado and talking about finding ways to get out of ourselves, ways to migrate from our obsessions, ways to connect to something bigger than us, ways to place distance between ourselves and our fairly familiar familiarities.

So we talked with the Australians for a while, and then  in parting,  I said, “I’m sure we’ll meet again, when we are in Australia someday and walking down your street.”

Mona laughed and replied, “And we’ll recognize you because you’ll be wearing that same black jacket and Laurel the same blue sweat shirt.”

“Of course we will,” I said.

“I won’t remember you,” said her husband, “because I can never remember people and their names.”

“Then I’ll remind you that you owe me money,” I said, and we laughed.

Only the day before, at church, during the Christmas Eve candle light communion, we had more of this kind of thing. At the service, upon my wife Linda’s request, Isabel came from the row in front of us and stood between Linda and I, and for a moment, just as on the beach with the Aussies, a few of us formed a little, temporary international family. Isabel is seven or eight and on Christmas Eve she was dolled up in a pretty dress with a pony tail in her dark hair, and she stood between us like a granddaughter might and held Linda’s hand and leaned against me.  It was good, very good, because we have history, Isabel, her family, Linda and I, and for a moment, we were without borders.

In front of us in the church were others, new friends from Brazil — Priscilla, Thalita, Lukas and Isabella. We met them at church only a few months before and struck up a friendship. I’ve traveled in Brazil. I love the culture, and since going there I have been hungry to reconnect with warm, beautiful, fine Brazilian hospitality. Through these new friends,  I have done just that, and here, on Christmas Eve, my Brazilian family, was worshiping with me.  At the end of the song-filled, candle-lit, reflective worship, we chatted for a moment at the door and gave each other warm hugs. We are getting to know each other.

Last Saturday, Sebastian, Priscilla’s husband, invited me to attended his daughter Isabella’s birthday party in their home. I went with my daughter Rosalind, and I ate hot dogs prepared Brazilian style — cooked in tomato sauce with spices and onions — and I drank passion juice and ate Brazilian candies.  At the party we sang a happy birthday to Isabella in English, Spanish and in Portuguese.

Isabella, who just turned six, is very shy, but very cute, and so at the party I found myself wanting to win her as a new friend but not succeeding. Then I spotted an art table set up for the kids, and so I took up some colored pens and drew a picture of Isabella and me standing side-by-side holding hands. I gave it to her. She said nothing, but then only a few minutes later I saw that, seated besides her dad, she was adding butterflies and birds and flowers to “our” picture. It was a good start on a new friendship. When I went home, I did so with gifts —  some new friends and a wonderful Panettone, sweet and fluffy and so delicious. Panattone is a sweet bread from Italy, but very popular in Brazil.

My Christmas this year had a pattern running through it.  I liked the motif. I had a Brazilian Christmas. I had a bit of a Mexican Christmas. It was an Aussie Christmas. I want more Christmas’s like that. I’ve been praying for just that.

I have been praying, “God, give me my people. God, give me more people. Please, give me  different people. I want them, I need them, I think that they might need me too. Different kinds of people  are my people. Please send my people to me.”

I think that this is a good thing to pray; I think that this just might be the kind of prayer that gets answered.

P1030619When I was little, I found a safe place high up in a tree near my house.

The first time I climb that tree I saw that above me, higher up and near the top, were grape vines tangled in the branches. I climbed higher, and I saw that the vines formed a kind of roof over me, and so I poked my hands and then head through the leaves and netted vines,  and there found a kind of vine nest, a skyfort — hidden in an upper world.

“Cool!”

I climbed up, and into it, and I laid back, and I floated on my back far off the ground, and I put my hands behind my head, and I looked up at the blue sky, and no one walking by knew I was there lounging above.

That place has stayed with me. Last year, I had the chance to go  back to where I grew up. The skyfort isn’t there any more, but my need for it remains. I still find myself ferreting out somewhere where I might be alone and feel safe for a moment and watch the world pass by below. I need such a place. We all do and if we don’t find it, we go crazy looking for it.

My office, at my work, is a bit of this  kind or place for me, where I meet with people and help them. My bedroom, at home, is such a place for me, where I write and play my guitar and talk to my wife. These places are good, but they are not enough, nor will they ever be.

I spoke to someone recently who isn’t okay —  no skyfort, no place up above it all, where they can go and feel okay. This person has a home, but there is still no place to get away from what he has done and especially what he has not done and fundamentally and intrinsically from the rejection of himself by himself.

“Hold me,” my daughter said to me recently, and so I held her, my own flesh and blood, close, safe, in the arms that have no harm in them but only want to protect and comfort and rescue. And then she let down and rested.  She was safe there, leaning back into her nest of  not-aloneness that exists within the not-aloneness of my care, where she can lounge and  watch the world go by and be okay.

We’re all looking for that kind of okay, but most of us don’t find enough of it. I know I don’t. My daughter either.

Life for all of us is less that we hope for in our moments of hoping and dreaming and imagining what might yet be there somewhere above us.

Needy, we tend to climb life, unrested, looking for a vine-net of affirmation, but usually all we get is a bunch of criticism, a pack of rules and a parcel of lies. They tend to shove us  back, away from each other, and toward the ground. We experience the “not good enough” in the very places we hoped for “your all I ever hoped for.” Even in the places we expected to find the web of understanding, places like marriage, home, church and school, we meet the cool eyes of distancing disapproval.  And then in anger and stubbornness we retreat and sniff out alternate places, dangerous and harmful places of escape and avoidance and brain numbing stultification. Yet these places are not nearly strong enough to hold off the harsh judgments of our peers and of ourselves.

There seems to be no place, to make us okay, because in no place do we find unconditional acceptance.

Except one.

Where is that?

It is in God.

God only, Christ only, accepts the unacceptable heart when it comes to him broken and unacceptable and self-rejected and allows itself to be forgiven, lifted up and held close. There is no other place to go to be okay. No human arms, no social success, no known substance, no  wealth, no hidden tree fort, nothing on the planet or in the universe that can erase the loneliness incumbent in our own failure to love and be loved. This only happens  in God.

God.

One place.

God is the one place in which we unacceptable persons may  begin to be acceptable again. He is a safe place in which  a new okayness can be found,  from which we can begin to recover and look out and gather strength and live and love ourselves and others once again.

God.

He is a skyfort.

It’s my humble observation that heaven overlapps earth.

The other day, I put my head up against my wife’s head, my check touched her cheek, the skin of her face presed up flat against mine and the porous boundaries of our individuated existances merged. We hugged with hugs that only thirty-three years of marriage can hug. We Venn diagramed.

Venn diagrams, and the nature of earth and occassionally a fleeting idea or two about heavenly possibilities, have long interested me. In Venn’s, circles represent sets. The interior of one circle represents the elements of a set, while the exterior represents elements not members of the set. If two circles, representing different sets are overlapped, then the area of overlap represents members of one set that are also members of the other. For example, one circle may represent creatures which walk on two legs, the other creatures that fly. Creatures in the area of overlapp both walk on two legs and fly, for instance, ducks.

The concept underlying Venn diagrams is commonality. One thing which is different from another thing may yet have something in common with it and even crossover into it. I like it; I  have always liked it, two things sharing common space, cheecks for instance, and I don’t much care for “this-is-nothing-like-that!” and the “us-and-not-them” perspective and other various separating distinctions, selfish individuations and nasty polarization. Legs go nicely with wings. I have legs; I wish I had wings. Antithesis and this-has-nothing-to-do-with-that is not that much fun.

Take heaven. What a weird and absolutely bizzare concept. Heaven is the idea that there is a place which we go after we die, and that it is better than this earth, and it is better than Mars and the time-space continum that we, Mars and Earth inhabit! Really? How would anyone know that?

It makes me nervous when people talk about heaven.  I find myself particularly nervous when people talk about who is not going to be there. The “in heaven” versus the “not in heaven” — how would anyone know that?

It is my rumination that the set of things that make up heaven somehow overlapps with the set of what make up earth and that earth and heaven have things in common, and that no one on earth has any accurate idea of what barriers or for that matter, doorways, exist between earth and heaven.

When Jesus was born, the scripture says that “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared …  praising God and saying,“Glory to God in the highest heaven,  and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

That’s an interesting report, from a Venn perspective. According to scripture, the set of things that make up heaven include God and angels, the set of things that make up earth include God’s favor. But elsewhere in scripture, Paul, a fairly repectable authority on the spiritual-space continum, says that in God, “we live and move and have our being.” So, if this is true, then earth’s set includes God too, and if we trust Dr. Luke, angels too, seeing they showed up for the shepherds.  So then if  we look at the teachings on heaven in the Bible, we might conclude that the set of things that are in heaven share with the set of things that are on earth,  things like God, angels who talk, and other attendant and following vague-itudes like “peace” and “favor.”

It’s overlap; heaven overlaps earth. Heaven isn’t some kind of alien place. Heaven shares underpinnings with earth. If we do go there, after we die, it will feel familiar. When we put our faces up against it, it will put a warm face up against ours. When we hug heaven,  heaven will hug back.

It is my observation that some people think heaven will be long church!  I think it won’t! Thank God!

C. S. Lewis posited that heaven is found in our longings for a place that is suggested by the beauty and wonder of earth. We see a beautiful mountain. We long to climb to the top. That longing — its’ a longing for heaven, stirred by the beauty of earth. Earth’s mountains have something common with heaven’s mountains and one suggests and creates hunger for the other.

Speculation? Perhaps, but the hints at what-will-be after-what-is-present-now  indicate commonality. Perhaps, earth  does mirror and even contain pieces of heaven, the angels, the peace, God himself. The best of what we taste here? It’s realized and finalized and perfected there. Coal here, diamonds there. Legs here, legs and wings here and there.

Heaven?

I think we might be experiencing a bit of it now.

Think Venn diagrams.

It’s odd what juts out from the past, in our minds, as we story and restory what we live through. Bits of narrative lift above the landscape, like mountains pushed up by continental drift, and we grab on to these, to make some sense of the past.

The parking lot lights weren’t working, but we were —  seventy to eighty people swarming the buildings,  fixing, cleaning, painting, planting. We were renewing our church. Then suddenly in the outer hall there was a guy in front of me saying, “I’m an electrician. What would you like done?”

“Really?” I said, “That’s perfect! I’ve got something for you.”

I didn’t know his name, and I wasn’t sure how he knew about what we were doing, but there he was, offering free labor, and I knew what to do with that.

“The parking lights don’t work,” I said, and as I opened a closet door on a couple of old, rusted, steel boxes mounted on the wall, I added,  “We think it’s these timers.”

That was enough. He went to his truck, came back, and he was on it. In short order — problem solved.  He replaced the old boxes with new — clean, bright, functional —  perfect mechanisms that light up the church, on command.

I drove home coasting! Happy! Thankful! Surprised.

That day, that fix, that surprise stands out for me because it’s part of a pattern.

It rained. We found a roof leak in one of the church buildings. It was serious — $5,000 worth of serious. There was no offer of free labor. Right around that time, I can’t remember the exact chronology,  a woman came to me after church one day and said that in her retirement settlement she had received some money, and she wanted to give some to the church. It was a check, for $5,000.

It was odd, in a way I like — the numbers were the same.

There’s more.

As part of our site remodel, we ripped into the old nursery, the  old carpet,  the broken furniture, the chipped walls, the horrific curtains. About that time an older couple began to attend the church. One day, after church, he came to me and said, “You mentioned needing a couch. What about this one?” and he showed me a picture torn from an ad.

“Great,” I said.

“What day would you like it delivered?” He asked.

I remember a couple of us ripping off the protective plastic and cardboard that covered the new couch when it was delivered. Then we just gasped and hooted. It was gorgeous, the perfect shades of brown and dark brown to match our newly painted nursery. The babies and their moms would now repose, in style! Then he bought two more new couches. It was like Christmas, a furniture Christmas.

There were also the cabinets, in the upstairs kitchen. They were a piece of work, right out of the seventies, pine, burnt with a blow torch, and then coated with thick shiny layers of polyurethane. They looked like what they were — remanents of a fire!

What to do?

I went down to Dixieline,  the home repair store just down the street from the church, and asked if there were any cabinets that had been brought back from a job, something that hadn’t worked out, and were being sold for less than they were worth. There were some, but I was told I would need to talk to the manager.

So I made an appointment. I went up to his office, upstairs, nice, impressive. We talked. I’ll always remember his question to me. It took me back. I wasn’t sure how to respond. The cabinets were gorgeous, a whole bank of them, and drawers and doors beyond what I had expected.

He looked across his big desk at me in his big office and asked, “What do you want to pay for them?”

My mind raced. If I said too much I would miss the chance for a deal. If I said to little it would be insulting. They were worth between $1,500 and $2,000, by my best guess.

I said, “We can give you $200.”

“Good,” he enthused. “I’ll have them delivered for you next week.”

The other day I was in the upstairs kitchen. The cabinets are in, installed free by a local cabinet-maker who not only donated the labor, but also gave us the counter tops for them.

I could get used to this. I have.

A donated landscape design by a local landscape architect, a restoration consultation by a woman specializing in historic building remodels, the no-cost installation of huge, new sanctuary windows by a man who had formerly worked for a glass company — all this and more has landed our our doorstep. Surprise!

At every turn we have been given — gifts.

When we decided to install new lighting in the worship center we were looking at an $8,000 project, at least $16,000 if we paid for labor. We didn’t. All the lights were purchased at cost through a friend who works for a lighting company. All the labor, hours and hours, plus the use of a lift were donated by an amazingly generous electrician and a few of his friends. All the labor, days of it, free.

The lights in — beautiful, functional, lovely, perfect for the building.

A patio garden — the dirt, irrigation, labor — free!

A hardwood floor sanded and refinished, free except materials.

The painting of the interior of our worship center — free, even those difficult upper levels, brushed in by a local professional painter, done safely, nicely, a gift, more than we could have asked for

There is more, but the more that really sticks out to me is what has been added to us that is human, not mineral or material.

A renewed site, a growing congregation — we needed staff to care for them.

We went to our local seminary and asked for an intern.

In asking, we were taking a risk. We weren’t controlling who we would get, we didn’t know the outcome, we didn’t even know if we could afford it, we just knew we needed help. We were a continent, of people, drifting.

That was two years ago.

The result of that inquiry is now on paid staff, well-funded for this next year, uniquely suited to our needs, trusted by our people — she is perfect for us! I almost don’t feel surprised anymore.

Things stand out, in the past, bits of narrative rise up, pieces of our continuing story. Our past has a pattern in it. The pattern is good. One could almost draw certain conclusions — that  it was orchestrated.

We have.

The sun rotates every 28 days. Not being solid, it should be slightly flattened by its rotation. But an international team of scientists using the Solar Dynamics Observatory have have determined how perfectly round it is.

If scaled to the size of a beach ball, it would be so round that the difference between the widest and narrowest diameters would be much less than the width of a human hair.

Other subsurface forces must be exerting more of an effect than expected. Such is the nature of reality. Things have a shape. Unexpected forces are at work to maintains that.

Cool! It’s incredible! I love it. Like Cezanne I love a sphere. God work.

I have a daughter with brain damage. I suffer the pain of chronic nerve damage, and my heart has been broken too. I once had a very close friend turn on me.

I could have been flattened by such rotations. I haven’t been. I have had a charmed life. So much good has come my way.

I have been educated in literature, linguistics, history and pain.

I am married to woman who specializes in discovering information.

I am a writer.

I live to make geometric sense out of reality.

Unexpected forces have done this. God work.

As a result of all this and everyday realities that round me out, I am becoming more and more of the kind of round I was always intended to be.

The unvarnished truth is that each one of us is a sun. Each of our lives is a shape, and internal and external forces are at work to persist into forming us into something extremely beautiful.

It’s round light.

It’s the kind of round that is within a hairs breadth of being perfect.

It is the work of God.

When I pulled into the parking lot of the church a young man in a suit and tie rushed up to the window of my car and said, “Sir I have a twenty-four month old and my wife and I need to get back to New Mexico and I am begging for money. The man over there just gave me some.”

It was fascinating to me, the suit and tie, the stock narrative, the assumption about church, the he-did-so-you-should logic, the questions this raises. I wasn’t sure what to think.

I didn’t give him anything and felt right about that.

He drove off quickly in a nice minivan.

I went out front and began pulling dead leaves off of a plant I had recently replanted. A few leaves had survived the transplant.

A young man and girl walked by. After he passed, he looked back over his shoulder at me and called out, ” Hallelujah!” I wasn’t sure how to take it. Sarcastic? Not? Sincere?

It gets me thinking. What’s spiritual?

Later in the day a friend called me. “She’s yelling,” he said. “This is ridiculous. I can’t stay here.”

“You can’t not,” I replied. I was ticked. Maybe it was the guy in the suit. He had kind of set me off.

“It’s insane here,” he said.

“Yeah but you made it that way when you had all those kids,” I said back.

He said more stuff

So did I.

“Go apologize to your wife,” I said.

He did.

That’s spiritual.

What’s spiritual?

Not “Hallelujah.”

Not begging from the church.

I think spiritual has something to do with taking responsibility for your mouth and the people you live with.

I think that really spiritual is an apology and the peace after.

It’s like a transplant. A few leaves survive.