Listen, He’s talking to you

Update, March 29, 2020: It occurs to me that in this period of social distancing, isolation, and quarantine, the most loving way to heed Jesus’ command to “Take away the stone” (albeit, virtually and from afar) from our friends, family, and even strangers who are experiencing life-restricting grief and despair is through regular check-ins in, texts, FaceTime (or whatever app you prefer) in order to offer each other life-giving loving support and encouragement.

The Good Disciple

5th Sunday of Lent (A)

Update, March 29, 2020: It occurs to me that in this period of social distancing, isolation, and quarantine, the most loving way to heed Jesus’ command to “Take away the stone” (albeit, virtually and from afar) from our friends, family, and even strangers who are experiencing life-restricting grief and despair is through regular check-ins in, texts, FaceTime (or whatever app you prefer) in order to offer each other life-giving loving support and encouragement.

Originally published in 2017

In a reflection on the Lazarus story, the late theologian, Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP, wrote, “Resurrection (…) is not so much a theological problem as it is a religious experience. It is not an extravagant miracle happening out there; it means the transforming presence of Jesus within us.”[1]

Stuhlmueller does not spend much time discussing the veracity of the Lazarus story in this reflection; he does not…

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Fear has Big Eyes

The Good Disciple

4th Sunday of Lent (A)

Fear has big eyes. With just four words this Russian proverb depicts the wide-eyed countenance of intellectual, emotional and spiritual blindness. Fear garners our trust and our friendship and promises vigilance against threats; it conjures the outline of the thief, murderer, or secret agent lurking in every corner. Fear is a shallow breather, a loud talker; it fortifies walls, builds bunkers, spreads untruths like Round-up on a windy day. There’s a snake under every bed. Therefore, fear never rests. Fear suspects everyone of malevolent intentions. Fear, with its myopic goal of self-preservation, shuts out light, extinguishes hope. This kind of fear has no experience or knowledge of God.

When I created the Good Disciple blog, I designed it as a space to reflect upon the Sunday readings in the context of contemporary Christian discipleship. Now, if you take a trip in the way-back machine and read my reflections from 2015, you may notice

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The Choice we Face

This morning after hearing what President Trump said to a cheering mob in Arizona I realized something, he may be a seriously flawed human being but he is no idiot.

No doubt, Trump’s words and actions point to an abject deficiency in critical thinking skills and an astonishing lack of tact. For that reason I and countless others have comforted ourselves with clever jokes exposing what we perceive to be pure idiocy and attacking his followers for being so gullible as to believe he actually cares about them.

But I no longer get the same satisfaction from sarcastic retorts to his daily stream of outlandish tweets and public statements. I’m not shaking my head in disbelief as often. The frequency by which I have plucked and hurled insults from the tree of low hanging epithets is waning. There is no comic relief. We are in trouble.

He bragged about his brain, and we laughed. Yeah, right, he has a really good brain. It’s not funny. Trump is incrementally dismantling established confidence in the various known thinking institutions through which (and despite which) the United States thrives. By targeting the media, for example, he is removing our right to make our own decisions. When Trump shouts “fake news” he is obstructing freedom of the press, de-legitimizing the role of the professional journalist, and convincing his base that they, too, are being victimized.

While we were laughing we just couldn’t allow ourselves to entertain the idea that his self-aggrandizement and predilection for “American First” was more than it appeared. It was too outrageous to imagine. He may be a jackass, but never this. Warnings during the election campaign were given the same respect as Chicken Little crying that the sky was falling.  We were too self-confident to believe his campaign speeches were more than bluster, he really didn’t want to be president, he would resign once he found out what a tough job it was, it was all for show, we thought. We never would have entertained the idea that as president he would both reject and fail to condemn Neo-Nazi’s and White Supremacists. He’s whipping up his base, softening them to the idea of White supremacism, applauding their patriotism and accusing his opponents of hating America.

I am sickened and horrified when I read comments from people I know, people who might not consider themselves members of Trump’s base suggesting that this whole Neo-Nazi resurgence is really no big deal since they existed as a fringe group for decades, and can we please stop talking about it now and share more pictures of baby animals, and even some brave souls asking what’s wrong with defending our nation’s White history.

Here’s what’s wrong. Aside from the fact that the United States’ white history was won on the backs of people of color, the softening towards a supremacist, nationalistic way of thinking is precisely the way the German people, defeated and disillusioned after World War I, fell into the arms of Hitler.

Trump is not Hitler, but his modus operandi is the same. He’s building a business and his supporters are his product. He’s rebranding the “American way” so there is uniformity and only one voice: his. The way of achieving uniformity is to inflame his followers so they do the work of pushing his opposition out, to silence and to terrorize. Trump is turning Americans against each other in ways that we never imagined could happen again.

And some of his ‘Christian’ base claim this is God’s will, that this presidency was pre-ordained by God. No. God’s will is that all of creation will reflect God’s glory by doing what Jesus Christ asked us to do. Need a refresher? click here.

To believe that this administration or its mission is Godly is a gross distortion of the teachings of Jesus Christ, a bastardization of the greatest commandment to love God and neighbor, and an outright rejection of God’s abundant love for all of God’s creation. If religious leaders aren’t willing to correct this false belief they need to reconsider their calling.

Are we better than this? I believe so.

No matter what side of the aisle you align yourself with sit up straight and pay attention: this is more than politics. Pay attention. Read world history. Read the work of seasoned journalists and quality, non-inflammatory publications and programs. Recognize the difference between news and entertainment. Look beyond your own back yard and get to know people who think, look, pray and come from places and families unlike yours. Seek ways to bring about a more just society that serves the least, first.

Recognize that the current administration is damaging the soul of our country and its citizens; it’s more than politics.

This is our choice. We can continue along the easy route to oblivion joking and flinging insults at one another, cultivating the ideal environment for hate groups to thrive, and giving Trump carte blanche to further divide us and destroy our Union, or can we do the hard work to come together as a people, rejecting hateful ideologies and standing up for what is right.

Read up:


Where was God in Charlottesville?

This was a very ugly weekend for our country. I can’t write about it, I have no words. Taylor Ott does it for me. Thank you for this reminder of where God lives. .

Daily Theology

By: Taylor Ott

The response that Mr. Trump gave to the events in Charlottesville ignited fury as it was rightly criticized for equivocation and being a pitiful, lukewarm response to racial injustice and hatred.  But as much as there was backlash, I’m guessing that the white nationalists themselves were not the only ones comforted by such a statement, because it sounded very much like statements that were made after the death of Michael Brown: some variation of “If it turns out it was wrong, his death was tragic; but the looting and rioting is unacceptable,” usually with much more emotion behind the latter half.

We seem to find it more comfortable to spread blame around equally than to acknowledge that violence and death are the product of systemic injustice.  It’s more comfortable to think that all opinions are equal, and that the conflict proceeding from a clash of opinion…

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Dividing Roots

The other day I watched my dad transplant a rhubarb plant. The day before, my husband carefully dug that plant out of the raised bed behind our soon to be sold home; I was so proud of his effort when I saw Rhuby’s long beautiful tap root and felt confident about her survival, despite the less than optimal conditions and timing for transplanting.

This was a plant which we moved from our garden in Illinois just four summers ago, a plant that came out of our neighbor Edna’s abundant garden three years before that. I love rhubarb; it’s easy to cook and truly delicious in a pie or compote or even pickled. But what I appreciate most of all is its grand reappearance every spring, its red “eggs” that pop out of the soil and give birth to showy red stalks and enormous leaves.

When I transplanted Rhuby in New Jersey I did it quickly: I dug a hole and stuck her in it thinking I’d move her again once we were settled. But she thrived in that place. Today we are relocating to a climate that is too warm for plants like rhubarb, plants that need to die back to the ground and rest before they spring back to life.

My father moves slowly, deliberately and quietly. He’s a gentle farmer. He selected a spot along the fenced edge of an established bed where potatoes and raspberries and rhubarb, and other vigorous growers were living large and enjoying life. To me the soil looked hard but my dad turned it easily with a long handled spade. Getting down on his hands and knees he worked the soil with his hands, rubbing out the clumps and lumps and moving the earth, digging five holes.

With a narrow hand spade he divided the woody root, and then tore it apart with his hands. I thought my dad was going to just dig one hole and drop the plant into it like I did; I did not realize he was going to divide it and make five new plants out of one, although it made perfect sense to do so.

If a plant can feel pain I think a little of it transferred to me as I watched my dad work. It got me thinking about raising a family, about how parents and children and their children and their children’s children divide like a root sometimes, and about the move my husband and I were undertaking. After I asked my dad how he knew how to locate the best place to divide the root and he admitted it was often an inexact science we agreed that in the end rhubarb is pretty resilient; it wants to grow. Like us.

Once he had five good pieces of root, each sprouting one or two small leaves and a perhaps a straggly stalk of rhubarb, my dad placed them in the prepared holes and with his hands began to sweep the soil he had removed back into the holes, starting with coarse soil and ending with the fine soil he had rubbed free of lumps and stones.

I noted how my dad buried those roots far enough apart so the plants would have the space to thrive, but close enough so that in the height of the growing season their stalks and leaves might touch and even provide a bit of shade for one another. I watched him, his opposing thumbs and forefingers forming the shape of a heart around each stem as he pressed down a dressing of earth, and tucking each new plant in like parent does a child at bedtime.


Still Here

I really am. Although, “still” is the exact opposite of what I am.

I’m inside a wave: in the midst of a hefty relocation, and while it is true that people move all the time and somehow still manage to carve out time to create meaningful prose, I have not been able to secure the quiet contemplative space that I need to write.

Oh, I can write. It’s just not fit for anyone’s eyes but mine.

I haven’t written a reflection on the Sunday readings for several weeks and this weekend is no different. I had hoped to publish a reflection for the 12th Sunday of Ordinary time. I also wanted to have tidy thematic outlines at the ready that I could use for the next six weeks. It’s not happening. All I have are exegetical notes and the questions I pose to the texts that invariably inform my writing. So, I’m taking the pressure off from writing new reflections until summer’s end.

What you might see over the next few months on The Good Disciple are snippets and musings inspired (maybe) by change, (maybe) related to Scripture, (maybe) related to prayer, (maybe) related to the world’s unintentional duplication of the socio/political situation that gave rise to the prophesy of Isaiah (please do pick it up and read it). I may also republish (with permission) other writers’ work.

Just wanted to let you know. I’m still here and I hope you will stick around.

The Root of War is Fear

Except for an endnote and disclaimer, I offer without commentary these thoughts on war written in 1961 by Thomas Merton.

“At the root of all war is fear: not so much the fear humans have of one another as the fear they have of everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another; they do not even trust themselves. If they are not sure when someone else may turn around and kill they, they are still less sure when they may turn around and kill themselves. They cannot trust anything, because they have ceased to believe in God. “ [112]

“When the whole word is in moral confusion, when no one knows any longer what to think, and when, in fact, everybody is running away from the responsibility of thinking, when humans[i] make rational thought about moral issues absurd by exiling themselves entirely from realities into the realm of fictions, and (more…)