sacraments on vacation

sacred, familiar, strange,
   welcomed more than ever, it seems
the cup lifted high
the loaf broken
   both blessed
gifts of grace offered up,
but they are not offered by my hands
today i receive, thanks be to God

two pews up
a mother with children
   two of the least push and shove one another
she thrusts herself in between them
   they part momentarily
   but resume their wrestling
   jockeying for position
      amid the Great Thanksgiving
they are oblivious to the grace being offered
they push and shove
their mother pushes back and splits them
they shove again
   and again
they whine
   oblivious to the gift
      and the One in whose presence they wrestle

they do not distract me, though
i am amused at these children
sympathetic to their mother
   and then, revelation
      i am one of these children, perhaps both
         wrestling, pushing, shoving, jockeying
            refusing to be still, to recieve, to enjoy, to unwrap,
            so many times

sometimes i am oblivious to the Present One
   to the gift
      to the grace
         to the giver

but not today

today i am on vacation
and the sacraments are not


Slanty Houses (06.28.04)

The unit in which we are staying seems to slant a bit. Every door in the place, when left ajar, will swing open of its own accord. When the front door is closed, if not latched properly, it will swing open with a slow, rising creak. It seems to be caused by the wind, initially. And then the forces of gravity and the nature of the slant take hold. This is sometimes irritating, of course.

The first night here, as we all sat in the family room area, the door gently swung open. It looked as if we were receiving an unseen guest, so I announced to the entire family that Jesus had arrived and we all jokingly welcomed him. We did this every time the door swung open that night and in the days following. It was our running gag. If the door swung open one of us would light-heartedly say, "Come on in, Jesus" or "Jesus is here again."

I don't know if it's likely that an entire housing unit can sit on a slant, if it's just a matter that the house was not built square, or (more likely) if over the years it has shifted and settled into a comfortable slant, and all those who have stayed here have simply accepted this as reality. All I know is that Jesus seems to walk into our family room quite regularly.

My inner house is on a slant too. Whether it is the foundation itself or simply a lack of "squareness", I don't know. I do know that sometimes I like to push the door tightly closed and make sure it latches, so that it will not swing open. I turn the dead bolt. I may even place a chair in front of the door. By doing this, of course, I deny my slantiness. I pretend everything is square and deny the nature of the way my house sits and the imperfection of the structure. And, perhaps, in some way, I also deny Jesus the hospitality he deserves.

It is on vacation when I tend to see my slantiness more realistically, however. I see controlling behavior, anger, pride and a lack of patience, for starters. I also tend to have time to reflect on these things (once I come to grips with vacation as an opportunity for spiritual growth, not just self-indulgence, that is).

The other day, as we were arriving in town, I was driving the van. We looked at the printed directions, thought we understood them and then headed ten miles down highway 70 to look for Range Line Road. We never found it. So, we realized, we must have misunderstood the directions. Range Line Rd. must be on the other side of town, twenty miles in the other direction. Twenty-five minutes later, however, we discovered that we were wrong again. We turned around (again) on highway 70 and headed east once more. This time we went still further and never found Range Line Road. I was furious. I was silly angry. I was so angry I was shaking. What should have taken us fifteen minutes had now turned into well over an hour. I couldn't cuss because the kids were in the car, so all I did was rant and rave to no one in particular about the stupid instructions, etc. I even threw my hat and sunglasses and tore up the directions we had been provided. I had no patience. I was out of control.

Later, my family informed me that my anger was somewhat humorous and that on more than one occasion they had to turn their heads or cover their mouths to keep from laughing at me. I live in a very slanted house and I see this more readily on vacation, when things should be a bit easier, but are not.

Slanted houses need the wind of the Holy Spirit to nudge the front doors open, I think. Slanted houses need Jesus to come in any old time he wants. And those who live in these houses need to make him welcome when he comes. I live in a slanted house and today I long to hear the slow, familiar, once irritating creak of the front door, swinging open. Come on in, Jesus. Make yourself at home.


my favorite pool rule:
"Spitting, spouting of water, blowing the nose or discharging of bodily wastes into the pool is strictly prohibited."


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