Saturday, April 23, 2016

Important: This site has moved to a new address!

As I've mentioned already, we're on the verge of major life changes  - again.  In the constancy of change, this blog has been a happy place for me to store words and share them with others.  I will hold onto this little space as a place that is familiar, and, hopefully welcoming to you, too.  

But, even here, there's been some big changes.  I decided ten years was long enough time to warrant a bit of a facelift.  I've moved and expanded the blog to it's own happy website at  Will you join me over there?  

Instructions for subscribing to the new website:

Email subscription: I've done my best to integrate current email subscriptions into the new site.  If you've already received a post from the new site into your inbox, then you know the integration worked.  If you haven't, please sign up again in the sidebar at .  

RSS feeds for Feedly and other web-based feed readers: Unfortunately, I can't transfer the RSS feed from this site (This Sacramental Life) to the new site.  

Fortunately, you can make that change easily in three steps:
1.  go to my new website at

2. click on the RSS feed button at the top of the sidebar (or just use the link I've included here)

3. On the feedburner page, click "follow" on your preferred web-based reader listed in the upper right hand corner.  

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Happy anniversary, little incubator of words.  Thank you, friends, for your encouragement and intelligence and grace over the years.  Here's to ten more.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Practice Resurrection: Act as signposts of hope

see all Practice Resurrection 2016 posts here

Mural created by Syrian refugees and local Jordanian youth to promote harmony, Jordan

Signposts of hope

With Easter, God's new creation is launched upon a surprised world, pointing ahead to the renewal, the redemption, the rebirth of the entire creation.... every act of love, every deed done in Christ and by the Spirit, every work of true creativity -- doing justice, making peace, healing families, resisting temptation, seeking and winning true freedom -- is an earthly event in a long history of things that implement Jesus's own resurrection and anticipate the final new creation and act as signposts of hope.

N.T. Wright
Surprised by Hope


Today's Readings:  

  • Acts 9:36-43  • 
  • Psalm 23  • 
  • Revelation 7:9-17  • 
  • John 10:22-30

  • Tuesday, April 12, 2016

    Practice Resurrection: Feast on forgiveness

    Re-posting from April 2013 because it's a truth that never gets old, and a way of life that brings so much peace. May you know the same today, dear friends.

    "Refusing to forgive is tantamount to re-crucifying Christ. Instead of seeing stones rolled away, we throw stones at each other. ... When we forgive we set loose the [Easter] power of love in the world." (Johann Christoph Arnold, via Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter)
    For more than ten years I have served within a ministry that is overflowing with stories of forgiveness. No story of forgiveness gets to be amazing, though, without deep suffering. Because this ministry requires absolute confidentiality, I can't tell you any of the stories.

    This is not a hardship for me. I value the lives and healing of these men and women too much to be tempted to break confidence. I only mention this much because I wish that -- even for one week -- you all could sit witness to healing with me.

    You'd discover, yes, your worst suspicions about the depravity of human nature are true. Maybe, like me, you'd lose your ability to be surprised at the ability for human beings to consume, degrade, abuse and ignore each other. Hopefully, though, you'd also fight with me to keep feeling -- even when feeling hurts. During the first week of each session, after hearing new stories of wounding, I still gulp down bitter bile for about seven days.

    I get good and livid with injustice.

    I know by now to pray to the Christ who goes ahead and behind me. I ask Him to help me not forget the supreme act of injustice that saved us all. And, I wait to see how His Father, by His Spirit, will transact redemption -- swapping beauty for bitter ashes, joy for the hearts of these walking wounded.

    "What so many people today fail to realize is that forgiveness is a door to peace and happiness. Forgiving is not ignoring wrongdoing, but overcoming the evil inside us and in our world with love. To forgive is not just a command of Christ but the key to reconciling all that is broken in our lives and relationships." (Johann Christoph Arnold)
    I hope that I never stop feeling astonished at the human capacity for faith -- the space in the human heart left open for hope when it doesn't make any sense at all. I sometimes think it's as if the Father of the risen Christ wedged a pebble from the tombstone into each of our hearts, leaving a crack for resurrection air to survive until the moment we take Him up on the offer.

    I've met people who shouldn't be able to function in any sort of relationship again, ever. Yet they show up -- maybe just this one last try -- for healing prayer from their worst enemy, other people. They, who should not trust again ever, welcome the Spirit of Christ to lead them toward reconciliation -- a reconnection of all that disconnects them in their relationships with God, themselves and others.

    One theme that hardly ever shows up in the scores of stories I've heard? Justice. The abused remain abused whether anyone they love validates their story or not. The betrayed remain betrayed. No cosmic pen rewrites the pain that brought them to the group in the first place. The bereaved still miss fathers, mothers, spouses, children. The violated don't get back the innocence of childhood.

    We pray for justice. We hope for justice. We believe together that all manner of things shall be well. But we hardly ever experience it in the way we'd always imagined it'd come. Like the Jesus-followers who thought he'd throw off oppression with a mighty demonstration of vengeance, we hoped for the same.

    Like the Emmaus walkers we admit: "But we had hoped...."

    Then we gather around the cross and remember it's not justice that saves us. Justice is the hope we long for, but for now, the Healer invites us into suffering. Not the sort defined by helpless victimhood or apathetic dullness; rather, a surrender to become power-full forgivers -- wounded healers.

    Our very act of surrender to the One who gave forgiveness even when He could have destroyed His abusers, this is the Christ who asks us to follow him.

    This is the same Christ looking his betrayer, Peter, in the eyes, handing him grilled fish and toasty bread, and hope-fully seeking reconciliation. Not only that, but invited his friend to join Him in suffering.

    John 21:15-19 - Jesus and Peter 
    When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time,“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
    This is the Christ who forgave his own murderers, who forgave me, too, and who commands us to forgive. Who invites us to suffering, and who, with his own body, turned the bread of suffering into the bread of life.

    And these men and women I've had the privilege to know for the past ten years say "Yes, I'm starving. Nothing I've tried fills me like the Bread of Life."
    Together we practice the backwards, upside down and shocking claims of Jesus that when we forgive, resurrection power is released. Life happens.

    Our offer of forgiveness comes only after we acknowledge wrong has been done. Giving our wounders a pass, diminishing their acts because we know they meant well, acting as if we are to blame in some way for our violation does not release resurrection power. Time does not heal. Silence does not heal. Trumped up "Christian love" does not heal. Forgetting does not heal. All of these coping behaviors leave us starving for whole, life-giving nourishment.

    Only forgiveness -- the sort borne of suffering and granted to us first by the Suffering Christ -- releases us and others to love and justice. Only the Bread of Life fills us -- and no other.

    When my own wounds creep up inside me, cause me to feast on old anxieties and bitterness, I'm learning to center myself in Jesus.
    I breathe truth in and out, finding myself again as hidden with Christ in God, His fought-for and loved-on daughter

    I breathe in:

    You are the Bread of Life

    I breathe out:

    Fill me now, O Christ.

    As I've journeyed these past eight years with men and women seeking healing for their relationships, and as I've walked my own bumpy path learning to give and receive good love, I've discovered four major roadblocks to forgiveness. With the help of author Dawn Edens' book (My Peace I Give You) about finding healing from childhood sexual abuse, here are the observations I've made and Edens' insights.

    1. We believe surrendering to forgiveness equals ignoring wrongdoing.

    "Forgiveness does not mean forgoing the demands of justice. It means wanting God's best for that person. Where there is a crime, God's best can mean, in the words of Mark Shea, 'releasing the evildoer into the hands of God's mercy even as you finger him to the cops.' " (Edens)
    2. We've become so familiar with the energy anger and bitterness give us, we're afraid we'll no longer recognize ourselves if we release our wounders.
    "Forgiveness means letting go of resentment...The greatest good possible is that we grow in grace. When we hold onto resentment toward the person who hurt us, we impede grace. " (Edens)
    3. We convince ourselves that we aren't really hurt and, therefore, do not need to forgive.
    Sadly I find this objection to be most common among those who've been raised in the Church and/or deeply religious homes. A common variation sounds like this: So many other people have really hard stories, mine is small in comparison so I should not complain. I should be grateful I didn't have it worse. 
    When I hear these types of statements (and, perhaps, because I used to say it so often myself) I offer the most holy response I can muster. 
    Bull shit. 
    Hurt is hurt, brokenness is brokenness, and all of it separates us from the whole, thriving life God intended for us when He first thought us up. 
    It's as if we are hanging mid-air between what we were on one cliff, and what God intended for us to be on the facing cliff. Whether we miss safe landing by a toenail or a mile, we are doomed. When our relationships with God, ourselves and others are damaged, we hurt. As soon as we can own that fact and surrender to the uncomfortable feelings of grief, the closer we are to dealing with the reality of wounding and forgiveness. 
    We do not help anyone -- ourselves, our wounders or the people we've deemed to be more wounded than us -- by refusing to deal honestly with the reality of our pain.

    4. We already prayed to forgive our offender once and that was enough/it didn't work.

    "Forgiveness is not within our own power. It is in God's power. ... [from The Catechism] 'It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.' " (Edens)
    I've discovered I need to practice forgiveness several times a day every day of my life. There have been -- thanks be to God -- key moments in my life where I've released large amounts of bitterness, resentment, and anger toward an offender in one climactic prayer. Those moments are good for me to rehearse, to re-visit when I begin to doubt my wellness. But they are not enough. I am too prone to wander back into the realms, be re-hurt all over again, remember new offenses I'd not dealt with yet or see old offenses in a new way. I must pray often: Forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.
    When we feast on unforgiveness, we are never satisfied. There is no justice available to remove the anguish of our wounded selves. When feast on the Bread of Life, we release ourselves (and our offenders) to His mercy and justice and find ourselves hungry no more.

    We are full on the only sort of nutrient that lasts for eternity -- the body and blood of Christ. And we are glad.

    post script:
    I do not feel a specific calling to offer writing that deals with all the aspects of relational wounding or any form of abuse. I do have a story of my own and am honored to walk with others in face-to-face ministry. I also do not mean to suggest that a healing prayer ministry is the only form of support needed for victims of abuse or relational crisis. I am a firm believer in many types of counselling and therapeutic services. If you are looking for books that offer a wider range of help for those suffering from any form of abuse, I offer a few suggestions:
    My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints by Dawn Eden 
    Strength in Weakness: Healing Sexual and Relational Brokenness by Andrew Comiskey 
    Changes That Heal: How to Understand Your Past to Ensure a Healthier Future by Dr. Henry Cloud 
    Thin Places: A Memoir by Mary E. DeMuth 
    The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by Dan Allendar

    Sunday, April 10, 2016

    Practice Resurrection: Wage peace

    Sea of Galilee
    Sister Mary Corita Kent

    Wage peace

    Wage peace with your breath.
    Breathe in firemen and rubble,
    breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.
    Breathe in terrorists
    and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.
    Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
    Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
    Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
    Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
    Make soup.
    Play music, memorize the words for thank you in three languages.
    Learn to knit, and make a hat.
    Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
    imagine grief
    as the outbreath of beauty
    or the gesture of fish.
    Swim for the other side.
    Wage peace.
    Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious:
    Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
    Act as if armistice has already arrived.
    Celebrate today.
    Judyth Hill
    "Wage Peace," written on September 11, 2001


    Today's Readings: 
  • Acts 9:1-6, (7-20) •
  • Psalm 30 • 
  • Revelation 5:11-14 • 
  • John 21:1-19

  • Sunday, April 03, 2016

    Practice Resurrection: Be believing!


    Be believing*

    (John 20:19-30)

    Later on
    that day / the dark room
    was enough
    to concoct buttoned down,
    in our minds.

    While we lingered bolted-in,
    shut-up / You
    breezed past barricade as One
    hole-pocked / exhaled
    absolution, a hot gust
    peace be with you;
    materialized new --
    as Yourself / awake & alive
    after the woman's claim
    you spoke her name.

    afraid / our fingers
    traced your split side
    'til we inhaled
    Your closer breathing,
    our truer air.

    *I wrote this poem a few years ago, inspired by the form Luci Shaw used in her poem Ascending.


    What do you need help believing to be true about the resurrected Christ?  What fears are hindering you from receiving his offer of peace?

    Saturday, April 02, 2016

    Practice Resurrection: send me your photos and captions!

    For the next six weeks (from now until Pentecost), will you join me in feasting on Resurrection goodness in our everyday lives?

    During Lent, the phrase retrieve lament captures me through the words of Rilke. During the Great Fifty Days of Easter, it's the lovable contrarian Wendell Berry exhorting my imagination with two words (plus many more): Practice Resurrection.

    I also remember each year the passage I've fallen in love with from N.T. Wright:

    "... we should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative new ways: in art, literature, children's games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind. this is our greatest festival....This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out. 
    ...if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again -- well, of course....The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving. You may be able to do it only for six weeks, just as you may be able to go without beer or tobacco only for the six weeks of Lent. But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures you never dreamed of. It might bring something of Easter into your innermost life..."
    After attending Good Friday service together this year, my daughters and I talked honestly about how sometimes Easter feels like a let-down. It seems to be easier to understand fasting better that feasting. We thought that might be, in part, because our world is generally obsessed with feasting, and whatever we try to do to mark Eastertide feels like the stuff we're normally trying to do every day anyway. 

    Maybe so. 

    I wonder, too, if sometimes feasting shows more plainly how far away from God we still live. When I can be satisfied in just the right amount of wine or chocolate, that is feasting. When I can't stop either one, that turns into gluttony - which is no longer true feasting. In some ways, fasting is easier, see?

    Put another way: feasting is a discipline, too. We take in the good with gratitude and contentment without making an idol of the gifts. This requires us to depend on the Creator as much (maybe more so) as any other spiritual exercise.

    So that's what I've been pondering.

    The last couple of years, we've celebrated Eastertide on this blog with photos and captions you send me each week. It's one of my favorite series all year, and I'm excited it's time to start again!

    For the next six weeks (from now until Pentecost), will you join me in feasting on Resurrection goodness in our everyday lives? It can be as simple as a special candle you use for your meals during Eastertide or as elaborate as travelling across the world to meet new people. 

    Whatever it is, will you show us a picture and tell us a few words? Plant spring flowers (maybe a new variety this year)? Show us! Get up to see the sun rise on a Sunday morning? Tell us about it! Take a new route to work (maybe taking more time than necessary in honor of the mad farmer)? Share it!

    Three steps to play along:

    1. Add something to your day that helps you practice resurrection. (one day or fifty days doesn't matter)  
    2. Take a picture and write a description in 1-50 words.  
    3. Share it with me via an email, Facebook. I'll share some of your photo-stories with everyone here each week.

    Who's in?

    Thank you to these friends who are helping me kick off this weekly series: 

    "I journeyed and prayed through the prayer labyrinth this morning out at the Shrine of St. Therese. There I laid my sorrows down. There I thanked Him for His suffering and enduring the cross. There I laid the 25 years of my marriage down. There I begged Him to be kind and gracious and to forgive my failures. He is full of grace and freedom. Thank you Jesus for all you are to me." (Wendy Wall, Juneau, AK)

    (I love an artist willing to share a photo of his work in progress!) "Day one of my next parable painting : Mark 4:26-29 26 He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’ " (Jim Janknegt, Austin)

    "We haven't traveled locally nearly as much here in Texas.... I think we have to be really intentional or else it doesn't happen, what with city life and unbelievable traffic in our day-to-day. Today? We decided to let the kids take a day off school and take their learning on the road - just like we used to. Feels good to find a familiar rhythm today." (Tsh Oxenreider, Austin. By the way, you can read about this excursion at Tsh's blog, The Art of Simple)


    "Easter welcomes outdoor running on Lake Michigan." (Sarah Lewis, Chicago)

    "A few little vignettes from today's Easter feast with darling friends. I'm so happy to have had a house full of laughing and toasting and food." / "Phaedra printed a collection of posters for Easter and placed them throughout the house. It was like a scavenger hunt for words that dearly need to be true and images that made our spaces beautiful. God knows I need his resurrection life, and thank Jesus for it." (Phaedra & David Taylor, Richmond, TX)

    "Just because!" (Kim & Gracie Akel, Austin)

    "I was overwhelmed today that God would send me to Japan at such a gloriously beautiful time as cherry blossom blooming. I'm so glad he knows our hearts and gives us these good gifts." (Tammy Burger, Binghamton, NY)

    Prelude to Vespers, Easter Sunday at Orcas Island Community Church  (Brian Moss, Eastsound, WA)

    Now it's your turn. Who wants to join us?

    The best place to start is with another reading of the poem that inspires our Eastertide blog series....

    Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
     by Wendell Berry
    Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
    vacation with pay. Want more
    of everything ready-made. Be afraid
    to know your neighbors and to die.
    And you will have a window in your head.
    Not even your future will be a mystery
    any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
    and shut away in a little drawer.
    When they want you to buy something
    they will call you. When they want you
    to die for profit they will let you know.
    So, friends, every day do something
    that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
    Love the world. Work for nothing.
    Take all that you have and be poor.
    Love someone who does not deserve it.
    Denounce the government and embrace
    the flag. Hope to live in that free
    republic for which it stands.
    Give your approval to all you cannot
    understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
    has not encountered he has not destroyed.
    Ask the questions that have no answers.
    Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
    Say that your main crop is the forest
    that you did not plant,
    that you will not live to harvest.
    Say that the leaves are harvested
    when they have rotted into the mold.
    Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
    Put your faith in the two inches of humus
    that will build under the trees
    every thousand years.
    Listen to carrion – put your ear
    close, and hear the faint chattering
    of the songs that are to come.
    Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
    Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
    though you have considered all the facts.
    So long as women do not go cheap
    for power, please women more than men.
    Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
    a woman satisfied to bear a child?
    Will this disturb the sleep
    of a woman near to giving birth?
    Go with your love to the fields.
    Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
    in her lap. Swear allegiance
    to what is nighest your thoughts.
    As soon as the generals and the politicos
    can predict the motions of your mind,
    lose it. Leave it as a sign
    to mark the false trail, the way
    you didn’t go. Be like the fox
    who makes more tracks than necessary,
    some in the wrong direction.
    Practice resurrection. 

    Friday, April 01, 2016

    Practice Resurrection: Reintroduce yourself

    The Resurrection: Reunion of Families
    Stanley Spencer


    The resurrection is a moment in which human beings are reintroduced to each other across the gulf of mutual resentment and blame; a new human community becomes possible.


    What relationships in your life are separated now by "mutual resentment and blame"? Where could the reality of resurrection bridge the gap and allow you to reintroduce yourself?

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...