Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Forward Day by Day: A Look Backward at January 2015

[icon written by Rev. Paige Blair]
I mark pages of the quarterly Forward Day by Day booklets whenever a daily meditation strikes me.  I'd have those little booklets crammed into every cranny of my roll-top desk by now if I didn't use this blog for storage of thoughts.

In the issue ending January 2015, the most striking pages were co-written by Barbara Baumgarten and David Catron, who work together in a mission among the poor in Rio de Janeiro and Santa Rosa.  They self-published a book, Don't Touch Me! Daily Stories of Gospel Relevance.

Here are some of their responses to daily readings in scripture:

  • John 15.5 I am the vine, you are the branches. When we read this, we don't often picture the man-made trellis used to support the growing vines.  We miss the implication of community of believers when we think only in terms of one grape, one vine.
  • Psalm 4:4 Speak to your heart in silence upon your bed.  Catron writes simply, "Today I missed an opportunity to do good."  His ex-wife of forty years dropped off a present for their daughter; he failed to invite her in.  Immediately after she left, "It was too late.  A moment for grace had presented itself, and I failed to honor it."  He knew that night, on his bed, he would "ponder the encounter...and be silent."  
  • Isaiah 41.6 Each one helps the other, saying to one another, "Take courage!" A Brazilian's promise, "I am going to buy you!" though puzzling, conveyed confidence.  "If we did not possess the qualities he professed to admire, we worked to develop them so as not to disappoint him."  This strikes me as a great approach to leadership and teaching.  
  • Isaiah 43.5 Do not fear.  Or, as a Buddhist expression has it, "Invite the dragon to tea." Or, as a Quaker Gene Knudsen Hoffman has said, "An enemy is one whose story we have not heard." The authors tell of introducing themselves to the threatening shady characters encountered at the train station each day.
  • Matthew 16.15 Who do you say I am?  Who is Jesus for you? "How a person answered that question" during the process of ordination became a guide to more general behavior to others. "Was Jesus a buddy?  A severe judge?  A mediator? ...alive... or always the same, as if still dead?" One called him a "troublemaker," upsetting a life already settled and doing fine.
  • Psalm 39:4 My heart was hot within me; while I pondered, the fire burst into flame; I spoke out with my tongue.  Catron recalls feeling this way and how he shouted out "the truth" at a clergy conference.    But "the truth did not set me free; it cut off all meaningful communication with my colleagues in Christ."  I often fantasize -- usually in traffic -- about speaking that kind of truth, and tremendous energy builds up inside my body, heart rate shooting up, arms and back tensing.  Good thing to remember: that's a dream that must never come true!
  • Mark 4:11 ...for those outside, everything comes in parables.  When a group examined pictures of Christ from around the world, the authors observed, "Like a parable, no artwork communicated the absolute truth about Jesus, but each caused us to struggle with who Christ is."  They conclude, "Truth is a creative act. We enter not through dogma or law but through personal engagement."  
  • Isaiah 51.7 Do not fear the reproach of others, and do not be dismayed when they revile you.  The authors' anecdote concerns a bad doctor, good doctor experience.  What struck me was the coincidence of coming across this reading a day after I was indeed dismayed by Mom's accusations.  I'm learning that "dementia" can be like the weather, clouds coming in out of the blue, and vanishing as quickly.  I must not take it personally;  I must not be dismayed.

The Forward booklets are available in "tract racks" at many churches for one dollar; the organization sells subscriptions and many other valuable, thoughtful guides to spiritual life via .

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