50 Days!

We’re here – on the other side of 50 days of fabulous. We’ve celebrated the Resurrection, been asked questions, been offered insight and story from amazing writers, and we have been changed by our encounter with the Risen Christ.

Thank you for journeying with us, for reading the words and adding your own.

Thank you, especially, to the amazing writers (in no order other than they way I wrote them in my notebook): Megan Castellan, Maria Noletti Ross, Anna Fitch Courie, Adam Thomas, David Creech, David Sibley, Tim Schenck, Mary Wright Baylor, Maria Kane – and – the contributors from Forward Movement, Rachel Jones, Miriam McKenney, Jason Merritt, and Hugo Olaiz.

Thank you to many who have shared emails, comments, and in-person meetings about how much you appreciate Fifty Days of Fabulous and the ministry of Forward Movement.

Now we go forth, to love and serve the Lord.

Amen. Alleluia!

 

Tangled in the Light of Stars

Read

Horses by Jim Harrison

In truth I am puzzled most in life
by nine horses.

I’ve been watching them for eleven weeks
in a pasture near Melrose.

Two are on one side of the fence and seven
on the other side.

They stare at one another from the same places
hours and hours each day.

This is another unanswerable question
to haunt us with the ordinary.

They have to be talking to one another
in a language without a voice.

Maybe they are speaking the wordless talk of lovers,
sullen, melancholy, jubilant.

Linguists say that language comes after music
and we sang nonsense syllables

before we invented a rational speech
to order our days.

We live far out in the country where I hear
creature voices night and day.

Like us they are talking about their lives
on this brief visit to earth.

In truth each day is a universe in which
we are tangled in the light of stars.

Stop a moment. Think about these horses
in their sweet-smelling silence.

from Songs of Unreason. © Copper Canyon Press, 2011. 

Reflect

We are tangled in the light of stars.

The followers of Christ were all together in one place, probably still reeling from the events of the last few days and weeks, when suddenly all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Their voices, their stories, their accounts of love and life changed by their relationship with Christ – all this came forth from them by the power of the Spirit, and in this moment, they were tangled in the light of stars.

Pentecost is often framed as only a miracle of language – women and men were able to speak other languages that, we hear, they did not formerly speak. Our minds usually default to a room filled with people speaking any number of languages of the day all at one time.

God, however, is never only one thing. The light-flame of Pentecost that lights upon us all as followers of Christ tangles us in that moment with the light of God, the very moment of creation when God’s very words and voice gave order to the universe and called life into being, a life filled with variety and diversity.

We become tangled with telling the story of God’s love because we are tangled in God’s love. Our voices, our actions, our very beings are empowered by the Sprit to be witnesses of God’s love in the world.

We are witnesses to this love by sharing our stories and using our voice. But do we give equal weight to how we share this love by the language of our presence, by the language of silence, and by the language of being with another fully?

Do we talk about our lives as Christians on our brief visit on earth using the many languages we’ve been given by the Spirit?

Our Spirit-filled language invites us to share how our lives have been resurrected from moments we thought we would surely die under the weight of grief with a friend who is now lost in the midst of her own despair. And our Spirit-filled language speaks as powerfully through the moments we hand her a tissue, hold her hand, sit with her in silence, and leave a casserole in her refrigerator.

Our Spirit-filled language gives us words to sing of the love of God in music written through the ages. And our Spirit-filled language welcomes us as we stand at the fence for hours and listen to creation sing God’s praises through foals running with wild abandon across rolling hills as the sun sets on another day.

Our Spirit-filled language welcomes the newly-baptized with our word-filled prayers, and our Spirit-filled language anoints each of us with holy oil, reminding us in the drenching of water and oil and Spirit, we are marked as Christ’s own forever.

Our Spirit-filled language is vast, deep, and wide. Its communication encompasses words and stories, silence and sighs, dance and stillness.

The Spirit-filled language reminds us we are tangled in the light of stars.

We are tangled in the love of God.

Always.

Respond

What are the ways your communication is inspired by the Spirit, especially ways that don’t involve talking? How can you express the language of the Spirit without words?

The Underside of Our Life

by Maria Kane

Read

The Underside of Quilts
by Cecily Jones

Two ceilings roofed the front room of my grandmother’s house most of the year:
a pink calcimined one almost matching the roses in the wallpaper
and a ceiling under which I sat to watch creation.

Visitors exclaimed over my grandmother`s quilts
stretched between two wooden slats
which could be deftly hoisted to the calcimined ceiling
and then lowered for quilting time.

Visitors admired the Pinwheel
and the Double Wedding Ring
and the Log Cabin
and the Dresden Plate
pieced together winter nights
and now arranged in bright-blocked rows like a landscaped garden.

But the underside of quilts offered a magic roof
beneath which I waited for the tracery of squares and diamonds touching points in every other block.
Sometimes a border Grandmother stitched a patterned vine:
A tendril, then a leaf, a tendril, then a leaf.
And though the repetition of the leaves was constant,

I`d wait for one more tendril to link its slender stem to one more leaf in one more twisting vine
as two borders joined.

Sometimes, these years, I dream:
Let the stitchers piece a million quilts
for all the children of the earth,
who can watch the patterned magic from beneath a wooden frame.
Sweeps of simple muslin
would become golden canopies
where a child from any land could see
a galaxy of buttercups
or a cobblestone of sky,
where a filigree of stitches would create
small parades of lambs and lions,
dove-wing silhouettes,
and circles of never ending circles
with a pansy in each one.

A whole world could be created on the underside of quilts.

From Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, Vol. 29, no. 3 (pp. 10-11)

Reflect

The first time I read Cecily Jones’ poem a few years ago I alternated between awe and envy.  “I wish my grandmothers had made quilts…I wish I had stuck with sewing lessons as a kid…I wish I could finally afford a quilt so beautiful…I wish, I wish, I wish.”

When I read the poem again days later it finally sunk in that Jones’ reflection is not about sewing; it is about the stories and dreams of her life.  Even still, aren’t there times in our lives when it is easier to look to our right and marvel at the “good life” we imagine everyone but us is leading? Even in the face of someone else’s sorrow or suffering, we sometimes catch ourselves shamefully wondering why our faith does not hold up as strong as our neighbor’s faith when storms ravage our lives. It often leads us to think our past lacks significance; our present is missing something; our future is not as promising.

And God weeps.

God’s tears fall because we do not see what our Creator gazes upon each day. Regardless of how we sometimes feel, the patchwork pieces that make up our lives are just as beautiful as the next one. There are joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, and memories and dreams in all of our stories. We can get in the habit of looking only at the underside of our quilt and what we think are unfinished seams while gazing longingly at the seemingly connected pieces of our friends, colleagues, and neighbors. We forget that our undersides also create breathtaking images and figures. There are millions of quilting combinations and innumerable manifestations of God’s glory in each of us—all of us. It’s not a competition; it’s a community. We are created to dream, to imagine, to create, to behold, and to receive the precious goodness that is each of our lives—no matter whether we know how to thread a needle or not.

Respond

Write down at least 5 unique characteristics about yourself or experiences you have had. Let your memories and list become an offering of gratitude or hope to God.

Act Like You’ve Been Someplace Before

by Rachel Jones

Read (Watch)

Jamie Foxx’s 2005 Oscar Acceptance Speech (his speech begins about one minute into the video)
Reflect
Jamie speaks in his speech about those who have influenced him, who have taught him, and the legacy they opened for him as a person and as an actor.
We are a few days past the Ascension, but not yet at Pentecost. The followers of Jesus are gathered, I can imagine, speaking to each other about how he influenced them, what they have taught him, and the legacy he left them…and us.
I imagine that if the angels present at the Ascension of Jesus had been from Texas, they might have looked at the disciples and spoken thusly to the gathered and gawking Apostles:  “Stop standing there like a herd of calves at a new gate! Get to work–and act like you’ve been someplace before.”
I can’t imagine what Jesus’ friends must have been thinking. They’ve been through a lot these last few days, learning what it means to be an Easter people–the very first Easter people. Jesus pops in and out of their lives, sometimes he eats with them, sometimes he gives them instructions or explains things, and then, all of a sudden, he’s just gone.
This was just the latest weird thing they had to figure out how to deal with, how to process, how to put into practice. So of course they stared up at the sky like a flock of wild turkeys drowning in a rain storm. I’m surprised there’s not some artistic standard required in all renderings of the Ascension that involves a tiny little bit of blood leaking out of at least one Apostle’s ear. And on the other hand, after all this time with Jesus, was it really so surprising that things wrapped up with him this way?
As I’ve wrestled with trying to put myself in the unique position of the Apostles, I know I can’t come close to the skin and bones reality of Easter the way they did. But I do know what it feels like to understand what I’m supposed to do without having any real certain knowledge of how to do the thing. I felt like that when I went to college. I felt like that when I started my first real-live grown-up adult human job. I felt like that when I fell in love and got married.
There are days when I still feel that way–when I’m trying to figure out how to turn a phrase, or put some sparkle on a manuscript, or write an Easter blog. While I’ve never yet been left standing for long, wondering what in the wide world I’m doing, I completely sympathize with the feeling of “Oh, my God. How do I do this? “
There’s never been a single time I’ve asked that question of “how” that I haven’t had an answer, haven’t had an advocate come to my aid, haven’t been comforted with an answer. The timing of those answers has been occasionally maddening and sometimes a little spooky, but always miraculous and on time. And while I will likely never know the divine heat of tongues of fire, I do know that spreading the Good News of Easter is never as difficult as we might imagine, even when it might cost us our lives…after all, while we don’t know all the twists and turns, we do have a sure and certain hope that this story turns out very right–very good,  in the end.
Respond
How do you ask and answer questions about what you’re supposed to be doing with how you’re doing something–your job, your relationships, your hobbies, preaching the Gospel, etc.? Tweet about it with #50daysEaster , #whattheEaster , #howtheEaster

God in the Other

by Megan Castellan

Read

It seems to me that the will of God is that I should not enter the Church at present…I cannot help wondering whether in these days when so large a proportion of humanity is submerged in materialism, God does not want there to be some men and women who have given themselves to him and to Christ, and who yet remain outside the Church.  In any case, when I think of the act by which I should enter the Church as something concrete…nothing gives me more pain than the idea of separating myself from the immense and unfortunate multitude of unbelievers.  I have the essential need, and I think I can say the vocation, to move among men of every class and complexion, mixing with them and sharing their life and outlook, so far that is to say as conscience allows, merging into the crowd and disappearing among them, so that they show themselves as they are, putting off all disguises with me.  It is because I long to know them so as to love them just as they are.  For if I do not love them as they are, it will not be they whom I love, and my love will be unreal.”
Simone Weil, Waiting for God

Reflect

Simone Weil was a philosopher and activist during the 1930s and 40s in England and France.  A stone-cold genius, she taught philosophy, and wrote extensively on the unrest plaguing Europe.  She was an ardent activist as well, advocating for an end to poverty, unsafe working conditions and social inequity.  She travelled to France during the Nazi occupation to work for the French Resistance, and then worked in a factory making munitions for the Allies.  For our churchy purposes, however, it is important to note another aspect of her story–she was raised in a secular Jewish household, and converted to Catholicism as an adult.

Sort of.

images-6She apparently had a profound religious experience at one point, and began to explore the intersection of her passion for social justice, and her newfound curiosity about Christianity with a Roman Catholic priest from her hometown in a series of letters.  And despite his urging her to be baptized, Simone insisted on remaining as she was until she died–a devout believer, yet unbaptized–basically a modern-day Godfearer.

This attitude of hers basically confused the bejesus out of her spiritual director.  If she believed in Christ (she did!) and she loved the Church (also, yes!) then why on earth wouldn’t she want to join up?

Simone, however, pointed to a sense of call she had which instructed her to remain allied with the outsiders.  Her understanding of Christ was mediated through being Other–first a female Other, then the Jewish Other, and then as a non-baptized Other.  She understood God first and foremost as having love for the Other.

I’m sure theologians would have a field day with whether you can truly be a Christian without having been baptized.  This seems to be the sort of question that would employ several of the more theoretical sort for quite some time.  Yet what Simone, orthodox Christian or not, grasped about the nature of the gospel cannot be denied.  She understood that God’s grace and love never comes to us as insiders, but as outsiders.  Therefore, as children of faith, we are called to accompany our fellow outsiders in the world, because that is our spiritual home.  Not with the powerful, the popular, or the wealthy, but the dispossessed and the struggling.  We are called to embody grace for the outsiders–just as we have received.

 

Respond

Today, listen to someone who is different from you–in gender, race, class, or religion. Read a blog, a Twitter TL, or an article written by someone of a different perspective than you.  Don’t worry about agreeing or not agreeing–just absorb and watch for God in a new place.

 

 

Perspective

-by Maria Nolletti Ross

READ

“The fruit of the bee is the Son of the Virgin. ‘Blessed is the fruit of thy womb’ it says in Luke 1:42; and ‘His fruit was sweet to my palate’ in Canticles 2:3. This fruit is sweet in its beginning, middle, and end. It was sweet in the womb, sweet in the crib, sweet in the temple, sweet in Egypt, sweet in his Baptism, sweet in the desert, sweet in the word, sweet in miracles, sweet on the ass, sweet in the scourging, sweet on the Cross, sweet in the tomb, sweet in hell, and sweet in heaven. O sweet Jesus, what is more sweet than you are? ‘Jesu-the very thought is sweet . . . sweeter than honey far.’”  — St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon, SUNDAY SERMONS

REFLECT

I’m a sermon connoisseur. Whether they are satisfying a particular question, serving up something completely new to me, or reviving my faith, I love sermons. For me, sermons are as much a part of a Holy Communion Service as the bread and wine because they feed my hunger for spiritual wisdom.

My favorite sermons are those that show me a new way of looking at a situation that completely changes my understanding and gives me hope for the future.

Of course, there are those Sundays in which the sermon doesn’t speak to me at all. No worries, I can usually find a good one to read on social media. Or I can go to the saints, such as my family’s patron, St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon.

Anthony (formerly Fernando Martins de Bulhoes) was raised in Lisbon, Portugal, where he studied theology and was ordained a priest. Later he became a Franciscan Friar who served quietly with deep humility in Italy.

Eventually, Anthony’s superiors, including the head of his order, St. Francis of Assisi, discovered his theological knowledge and gift for preaching. They encouraged him to speak his heart and spread the word. Overjoyed to receive this permission, Anthony became a teacher of friars preparing for priesthood and a life of preaching.

The above passage seems like an entire sermon in one paragraph – he quotes scripture, explains, suggests, and even ends by quoting a popular song of his day (Jesu Dulci Memoria). His advice is to read the gospels and remember that in all moments of His life on earth and in heaven, Jesus Christ is pure goodness.

In other words, there is no historical moment when Jesus became Christ on earth, he was the complete package his whole life. God’s gift of the baby Jesus contains the Crucifixion of Christ, and the Resurrection of Christ includes the death of the baby Jesus. Christmas and Easter are meaningless without each other. Together, they mean everything.

That’s a perspective I can get behind in much the same way that we stand, metaphorically, behind the saints as they guide us, through their examples and teachings, ever closer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

RESPOND

 

St. Anthony

St. Anthony

In what ways has your understanding of God deepened by listening to or reading someone else’s perspective? Who was your guide?

 

 

 

 

If you’d like to read more about St. Anthony and his life, click here for more from Maria.