Category Archives: Ordinary Time

It’s a Puzzle

I know a family who has a summer practice of “Solving the Puzzle.”  Throughout the summer, there is always a partially-completed jigsaw puzzle on a card table that takes up summer residence in the corner of their family room. 

The puzzle – a different one every summer (and part of the fun is seeing who can bring home the most challenging one to work on) — begins its reconstruction on a designated Sunday afternoon, with everyone sitting around the card table working on it. But thousand-piece puzzles can take hours (or even a whole summer) to complete, and after a while Mom has to get dinner on the table and Dad wants to read the newspaper, and the teenagers have urgent text messages to answer.

Thereafter throughout the summer, the puzzle sits quietly and beckoningly on the card table in the corner of the family room. Every time a family member walks by, he or she stops, looks at the puzzle from a variety of angles, picks up a piece, says, “Oh, it goes right here,” places the piece, and moves on. The person who inserts the last piece of the puzzle is the winner and is treated to a DQ sundae. But of course the last piece only fits when all the other pieces are already there, so then everyone gets a DQ sundae.

 “But that’s the spiritual life,” reflected a friend to whom I was relating this. “Everyone has a piece of the puzzle. We have to see everyone’s piece or the puzzle is not complete.”

 Some of us have a hard time envisioning God’s Kingdom come while it is still under construction; the Kingdom doesn’t really come in a box with a picture on the front, even though we would like it to be that way.  We each have a piece of the puzzle but only a piece, and we begin to think that everyone’s piece looks like our piece.  We invite others into the spiritual journey and want them to have our experiences. But they must make their own way and have their own experiences.

“Too often people think it is necessary that we all see God in the same way (which is impossible anyway), but what is really necessary is that we all follow God according to what God tells us,” says Richard Rohr in Everything Belongs. “The fact that God has given us so many different faces and temperaments and emotions and histories shows us how God honors each unique journey and culture. God is not threatened by differences. It’s we who are.”

The Holy Spirit is abundant among us but particular to each of us. It is Pentecost again, and we each hear the Spirit in our own language (Acts 2:5-11). Paul speaks of this in his first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 12) when he reminds us that, like it or not, we all need each other.

Putting together a jigsaw puzzle should take an entire summer; our life journeys will take our entire life. And none of us – not a one of us – is going to bring in the Kingdom all by ourselves. All that is required is that we show up with the piece that has been entrusted to us and put it in its place. Then we really should all go out for a Dairy Queen.

Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at marjorie.george@dwtx.org.

 

 

The Other Side of the Wall

by Marjorie George

G. C. Waldrep, American poet and historian, was asked what connection he sees between poetry and prayer. “Sometimes I speculate the two are like adjacent apartments in the same building,” he said. “When you’re in one, you have no direct access to the other, but if you listen closely you can hear sound – sometimes muffled, sometimes sharp – coming from the other side of the connecting wall. I feel that way about prayer when I am reading or writing poetry and about poetry when I am praying” (from Prayer and Poetry in Huffington Post. Read the entire article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katherine-towler/prayer-and-poetry_b_1387832.html)

Waldrep speaks, I think, of making the connection with that realm beyond the tangible that occasionally beckons us out of our ordinary lives. (More likely, it constantly beckons us but we only occasionally hear it above the din of the commonness to which we have become accustomed.)

Jesus called it “the Kingdom of God.” “The kingdom of God has come near,” he said as he began his earthly ministry. “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).

“The Kingdom of God is here,” he said, as he held a little child (Mark 10:14).

“Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’” he said to his disciples as he sent them out (Luke 10:9).  

And don’t you hear it sometimes? Don’t you sense it?

G. C. Waldrep’s connection point is poetry. For us it might be a phrase in a well-known scripture that we hear with new ears, or that word in the Sunday sermon that we take all the way to the parking lot before forgetting it. It might be the incredible beauty of that Blue Jay in the backyard stopping by for a drink from the fountain.  

There is a tug on our sensitivities — a still, small voice that says, “Stop here; investigate this; pay attention;  enjoy. There is something more here, something especially for you.” A brush of angels’ wings, says the song; a muffled sound on the other side of the wall.

Listen to that, said Christ. Pay attention. Get out your reciprocating saw and cut a hole through the wall. It is a treasure hidden in a field, a pearl of great price, a lost coin found (see Matt 13:44-45, Luke 15:8).

But we will only hear it, see it, sense it if we stop long enough to listen, look, feel. The neighbors are there on the other side of the wall. Go ahead; invite them in.

Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at marjorie.george@dwtx.org.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hope of Phinn Li

by Marjorie George

The short film we were watching before worship on Sunday morning told the story of a Burmese family of refugees living in Thailand. Like many of the residents of Thailand, the family’s resources are meager – a dirt-floor hut for a house, straw mats for beds, and food cooked outside over an open fire. Making it worse, because the family are not citizens of Thailand, only visitors, they are subject to being evicted from their little home with only a day’s notice as the government of Thailand snatches up land to build modern houses for the middle class. Then the family packs up all their belongings, loads them onto a couple of hand-pushed carts, and goes in search of another spot to erect their mean little house.  

The father of the family, Phinn Li, related all of this with not a whit of anger or complaint. “I am a Christian,” he proclaimed, grinning.  “I know that God will take care of us.” Phinn Li said he is grateful that he has a job and can buy food for his family. He works construction, building those modern houses for the middle class.

Being a Christian has cost Phinn Li: his Buddhist family has ostracized him and begs him to renounce his Christian faith. The guys on the construction job taunt him, calling him “Jesus.” No matter; Phinn Li continues to read his Bible and praise his God.

When the film ended, our little group realized that we had witnessed someone who depends on God, literally, for his daily bread.  “This man and I read the same Scripture and follow the same God,” I said.  “But he walks so much more closely with God in his daily life than I do,”

“Why do you think that is?” asked our group leader.

”I guess I am just not needy enough,” I said. As the words came out of my mouth, I ducked and looked up at God-in-the-ceiling. “Not that I want to be needy enough,” I added. The group laughed, and someone said, “Stay away from her!”  

And isn’t that just like us? We think that if we humble ourselves, stand before God totally exposed, and ask him to make us holy, all hell will break loose. We take Job as our model: when we have suffered enough, when we have relinquished all of our earthly goods, then and only then will we be blessed.

But Pinn Li in Thailand expects all heaven to break loose – every day. Pinn Li is a man of hope and faith.

In the letter to the Hebrews, the Apostle Paul offers his great witness to the fathers who lived by faith (see chapter 11). “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household.” By faith, Abraham set out for a land he was not even sure existed, believing that, as God promised, he would become the father of many nations though his wife was barren.

It’s a long list of people that Paul has compiled, people who began their lives in the most ordinary fashion: Moses leading the people into the Red Sea believing they would not drown;  Joshua circling Jericho for seven days expecting the walls to fall down (and they did!). “Time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,” says Paul. Those who “through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” 

I would add to that list Phinn Li, who through faith lives every day expecting God’s blessings and acting on that hope.

Pray God that so will we.

Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at marjorie.george@dwtx.org.