Monthly Archives: February 2015


(Two years ago, for Easter/Pascha, I wrote A piece of broken glass, a post on my old blog about an artistic exploration into salvaging broken glass as part of my spiritual pilgrimage. This post continues this journey in the context of my recent posts Letter to a lost soul and My house.)

It was 2:30 AM and the window was boarded up after the first break-in. I was exhausted, of course, but found myself strangely disappointed that the crew of one who had arrived to help me had shoveled up all of the broken glass and hauled it away.

Well, not all of it. And therein lay the redemption of the moment.

Every moment has its redemption, I believe, though we may not see it immediately. In fact, with the majority of bits of time that flow by, we probably do not see it at all.

Yet it is there, hidden in each moment, however difficult, painful or frightening, just as Christ’s redemption of us is hidden in every breath we take, whether we are aware of it or not.

Over the next couple of days, I gathered fragments of broken glass that were concealed in random places in the carpet, their presence given away by unexpected glints of light.

At first, I had only tiny pieces and thought perhaps I could make a small sculpture with them. However, when the man came to repair the window, there were some larger pieces of glass to be removed from the frame. Without a hint of embarrassment (okay, maybe a hint), I gave him a box and asked if he could save them for me.

He did so gladly, resulting in my having a collection of glass fragments, varying in shape, most of them quite small but a few a bit larger.

In the days that ensued, I pondered the fragments and what they might be. But I did not have to ponder for long. It soon became quite apparent what they were trying to say to me.

The first step was to select the pieces. I wasn’t going to try to cut or shape them in any way. If they had sharp edges, they had sharp edges. I could not avoid that reality.

After I had the pieces, I began painting them with alcohol inks, using simple colors and procedures. A bit of texturing appeared when needed but everything flowed as it was meant to.

I laid the pieces to dry on my desk and then moved them to rest on the flat surface of my printer while I tested the glue on some scrap. I would glue the pieces together in the next day or two.

Or so I thought.

When break-in number two occurred, the focus was, of course, on what was missing. The printer had been taken, the serial number was given to the police and the reporting rituals repeated.

It was only after I had left for work the next day that I remembered that my glass pieces had been on top of the printer. What had become of them? Had they been broken? I felt a twinge of sadness but again, a call to let go.

When I returned home that night, I searched the floor around and behind the desk, managing to find each and every piece, down to the tiniest fragment. Perhaps a couple of new chips had appeared in their already uneven edges but they were still speaking the same image to me.

I breathed a sigh of relief and a prayer of thanks.

The bringing together of the pieces and fragments into the whole I had seen in my mind was fairly effortless. The glue dried clear. It was finished.

I wasn’t sure just how the sculpture should stand so that its image could be received but a way came to me that worked. My cell phone stood in for the camera lost to fate and it happened.


(click on image to enlarge)

And then it crashed. My propping had lasted just long enough for the image, when the glass structure fell and came apart at its glued joint.

Broken by my own hands, the cross lay in pieces.

With glue and grace, it again assumed its form and was left on my desk to dry once more.

Then came break-in number three.

At this point, there was so little left to steal that it took some study to determine what was missing. What was most evident to me as I entered the room, however, was that the glass sculpture of the Savior lay on the floor, having been knocked out of the way.

All I could do, all I can do, is contemplate the brokenness.

Not the brokenness of my bit of simple art. It survived mostly intact and is of little consequence. The Cross, after all, is not about art.

Rather, what my heart sees before it is a world of brokenness – my own and that of all of humanity. Shattered we are, our souls like my panes of glass twice broken, smashed and sprayed across the microcosmic universe of my bedroom.

From the evil lurking within our seemingly innocent passions comes the blow that shatters. And from the wounds brought by shattering blows, grow still more passions.

We are dead and broken. And a bit of glue cannot make us right again.

But this One on the cross…who is He? Who is He and why does He allow Himself to be knocked about and broken at our hands?

Why does He take our brokenness upon Himself? Where can such a love come from that He would want to bring us to wholeness and life again?

Our Lenten journey begins and we bring Him our shattered souls. To the One who delivered up Himself completely, we deliver ourselves in our confusion and uncertainty, hoping to learn what it means to truly repent and accept the Gospel into our hearts.

My house

I am about to join the ranks of the people who tape peculiar messages to strangers on their windows or doors.

It began this last Thursday when I was at work, talking to someone on my cell phone when I heard the familiar beeping sound of an incoming call. I couldn’t get to it right away. As I was checking the message a moment later, my land line began ringing and my heart sank when I viewed the caller ID. It was the monitoring service for my security system.

The police response time was good and they called me with the verdict: a broken window. A bit of discussion revealed that it was the same window on which repairs had just been completed the day before (because of the previous break-in). The same window scheduled to have security bars installed on it the next morning.

I knelt on the floor and wept.

Although the damage and losses were considerably less from this second break-in, I have struggled with it more. There have been moments when anger has risen to the surface. I have questioned the sentiments of my previous post, Letter to a lost soul. I have felt a bitterness toward the insurance company that seemed to treat me so well, now having learned that my single claim will push up my rates because I am no longer a “safe home owner”.

But I have also stood before God, feeling chastened and stripped of my pride and attachments. Who am I to think that anything really belongs to me, whether it be my electronics, my house or even my faith? (“What do you possess that you have not received?” 1 Cor 4:7)

What is it that God is inviting me to learn, as I let go of not only my possessions but the security I imagine that I have behind my four walls?

A number of responses have occurred to me. Perhaps I am called to enter more deeply into material simplicity – to not replace the stolen items, to refrain from owning anything of enough value to be stolen. Or perhaps I will replace them all and fortify my house with security measures. Or perhaps…

But whatever I do on the outside is not nearly so important as what I do on the inside. Or rather what I allow God to do within the depths of my heart. Stuff will come and go. My house will come and go. Even my body will come and go. But my heart’s journey to God is the one thing that cannot be compromised: it is eternal.

And it is and ever will be a journey. What I feel called to do now, today, is to post the following message on the remaining intact window that faces my back yard. Whether anyone reads it is not up to me. What is important is that I proclaim the message and commit myself to it…

My house is a house of prayer for all people. Whatever your needs or problems, whatever your addictions or mistakes, I am praying for you. And my prayers are always heard. But for us to receive God’s gifts, we must turn our hearts from evil and learn to do good. Please join me as I strive to do this with all my heart.


When more is not better

Yesterday was a busy and complicated day. I was working from home, so that I could take care of some personal appointments while trying to get some work done. Wednesdays are my usual day to do this and typically it is not a difficult balance.

However, yesterday numerous things occurred that pulled me in many different directions at once. An ongoing situation with a patient came to a head, resulting in tense telephone conversations with her and her attorney about a hearing that was hopefully going to occur today. The fellow who was repairing my broken window returned to put it back in place – and had a great deal of trouble getting it back in place, causing me to be late for an appointment with a patient I see at my church. A representative from my security company came to give me a quote on upgrading my security system. Inch after inch of beautiful snow piled up, with snow banks already so high that there was virtually no place to put it. My poor snow shoveler had a cold but was dedicated to duty – but also wanted some advance pay because he was hungry.

Not a bad day, but complex and full. A day that had me reaching in my pocket numerous times for my prayer rope to say the Prayer and be reminded that everything is safely in God’s hands.

Last night, just before bed and during the night, the head pain started. By morning, it was overwhelming, like someone trying to remove my left eye with a screwdriver. I managed to cancel my first patient, send a text message to our practice manager and take some medication before going back to bed. I was (and am) back in migraine land.

Before going further, please allow me to clarify that I do not mention my migraines as a complaint nor am I seeking sympathy. In an odd sort of way, I have come to believe that I “deserve” them.

Now I know that remark is going to require some clarification. I am currently reading Jean-Claude Larchet’s book, The Theology of Illness and am learning a great deal. I don’t think I have ever believed that God created illness or that He wants His people to suffer but I did not have a good alternate understanding either.

In the reading of this masterful little book, I am understanding much more clearly how illness is but one consequence of humanity’s sinfulness and movement away from the God who is goodness and life. Further, I am understanding how God works through this suffering to bring us to salvation.

Larchet writes, “…paradoxically, the illness of the body becomes, by divine Providence, a remedy which promotes healing of the soul”. Thus, I think I can safely say that I deserve such correction, remedy or “chastening” (my 2015 word) because my sinful soul is indeed in need of God’s healing.

In any event, after much sleep and blessed remission of the pain, being in migraine land is, for me, like being in a place of great simplicity. Physically, I feel very tired and weak, to the point where I can easily, if awake, sit and stare for long periods of time without being aware of the passage of time. Mentally, I am often unable to focus much at all.

At its most profound moments, I think of it as being at rest in the Lord, because there is not much else I can do. Or I may do something but tire so quickly that I know I must return to the place of rest.

Part of my usual morning prayer routine is praying the Divine Office (Roman Catholic). Because of the flurry of activities involved in preparing for work, I am not always as deeply into this prayer of the Church as I would like. Nonetheless, it is still a blessing and comfort to me.

Today, after my long slumber, I came out and read the first antiphon:

“Their own strength could not save them; it was your strength and the light of your face.”

My mental fog did not allow me to go any further – but I was able to focus on this one line. How many times had I heard or read this line (based on Psalm 44) and simply moved on to the next line without further thought? But today it was my only line, at least for several hours and so it stayed with me.

Feeling so weak and so tired, I had no difficulty believing this message today. Not just believing it with my intellect but believing it with my entire self. My strength cannot save me. My strength cannot save anyone. “It is your strength and the light of your face.”

Some peanut butter on toast. A cup of ginger tea. More sleep. Resting in Him with prayerful awareness of my patient whose court hearing was today.

When I got out of bed a bit later, I returned to my book, still open to the Office of Readings, and read the next line:

“We triumph over all these things through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

It was not terribly long before I heard from my patient’s attorney. After two weeks of involuntary confinement (which I believe was unjust), my patient’s case was being dropped and she was being released. A little later still, the patient called me from her cell phone with the joyful news: “I’m free!”

As much as she had suffered during her confinement, she was now able to see how some good came out of it. With new vision, she saw how some people had really worked to help her and how she had been able to bring a bit of comfort to some she encountered along the way. She is now becoming free in more ways than one.

I had very little strength today and very few words to pray with. I cancelled all of my appointments and slept a lot. It was a simple day. But God gave me this day, knowing far better than I do what is needed for my salvation. As I learn, as I am chastened, I too am becoming free.

“This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)


Letter to a lost soul

Dear Lost Soul,

You have been on my mind a lot these last few days. It is natural, I suppose, that I wonder who you are. But it is more than that.

I have been pondering who you are on the inside, i.e. what it is that led you to be so broken, so lost, so hurt inside that you would intrude into my world uninvited to take a couple things that you felt you needed.

I imagine you standing in the cold, pulling the screen off my bedroom window and hearing my security system blasting at you the warning that police were being called. Yet you did not run then, as most would, but kept on going.

When I imagine you heaving a 35 lb cinder block through my window, I can only imagine what kind of desperation or anger must have fueled that act. Are you hungry? Are you cold and tired of living on the streets? Is there a drug that is controlling your life and you cannot escape the unending cycles of relief followed by retching illness when you have to have more? Is there some bitterness or rage, like a cancer eating away at your soul?

Most people expect me to judge you. “Scumbag” and “Low life” are the words they have for people who do what you have done.

But who am I to judge you?

Surely your sin has affected me. My week was considerably more stressful because of your act. A window to be boarded up. Police and detectives to be met. Some of these meetings at 2:30 in the morning. The loss of the material things is a minor matter but leaves a sadness in my heart nonetheless. How many times have I written, “My camera and I…” (My beloved companion now rests in someone else’s hands.)

However, as much as your sin affects me and the world, my sin affects you and the world as well.

When I am selfish or proud, when I am self-absorbed or indifferent, it is quite possible that I have made your struggle through life that much harder. If not your life directly, by imitating the sin of Adam, I have undoubtedly helped perpetuate the consequences of that original sin.

I have separated all of us just that much more from the living God. Each of us is subject to corruption in body, mind and spirit because of my sin. We are one and what I do affects all others.

I am not letting you off the hook, of course, for your sin does the very same thing. I am just saying that perhaps this letter is written to me as much as it is written to you. We are both lost souls.

However, through no merit of my own, I have come to know our Savior. And so I know it is not hopeless for people like you and me.

Part of me is wishing that the few drops of blood you left behind on my carpet, beneath the shards of broken glass, will help us to find you. It is not that I want to punish you but rather that I want to help you stop. I fear that whatever has hold of you may be very hard for you to stop by yourself.

In any event, know that you are beloved of God and that I pray for you. May you too find our Savior so that whatever is wrong in you may be made right. I wish you many blessings on your journey.



(To those inclined to worry about me, please be assured that I am fine. I’ve been rather stressed but that will pass. And no, I’m not afraid and no, I don’t plan to move. 😉 These things happen.)