What Do You Want from Me?

Chocolate Ice Cream Sundae

When I pay my rent, utilities, and phone bill, and I buy the necessary groceries, and I have a bit left over for a small extravagance, do you want my hot-fudge sundae, God?

Do you want me deprived or prosperous? Do you want me confident or needy? When I see the poorest of the poor among your children, do you want my pity or my activity?

Do you want me to volunteer among the elderly, even though it would be (almost literally) the blind leading the blind?

Do you want me to show up for the homeless or at protest rallies or the Red Cross?

Do you want me to take up chanting, make a gratitude journal, or crochet blankets for children in third-world countries?

Or do you want me to be like Brother Lawrence, wanting nothing but what you want in things both great and small… not even taking up a piece of straw from the ground if I thought you didn’t want me to but running to pick it up out of love for you if that is what you want?

Do you want me to wake up every morning and cheerfully to give you the day, confident that you will guide me to the place where joy meets grace, and certain, as I take my rest, that you have done precisely that?

Do you want my sickness and my pain? They are of no use to me except to waken my awareness of your presence.

Do you want my heart? I grant it to you freely, hoping you can chip away the crust and shine your light into the corners.

Do you want my purpose? Here it is, and here is my prayer, too.

All I have I give to you. Amen.


What Is the Good News?


El Greco, Christ Healing the Blind

Meditation for the Thirteenth Day of Lent

Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem. (Isaiah 52:2)

HOPE AND NEW LIFE. Turn away from evil and embrace the Good News.

Christ really has been raised from death—the first one of all those who will be raised. Death comes to people because of what one man did. But now there is resurrection from death because of another man. I mean that in Adam all of us die. And in the same way, in Christ all of us will be made alive again. (I Corinthians 15:20-22)

ETERNAL LIFE. The body dies and decays; the spirit lives on.

I gave you the message that I received. I told you the most important truths: that Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say. (I Corinthians 15:3)

FREEDOM. If we had to pay a fine for every unkind thought or angry word, we would all live in a culvert. But, having done the best we can to right our wrongs, we needn’t carry guilt and shame around with us, punishing ourselves for our sins and hating our sinfulness. Indeed, these take a toll on our bodies as well as our hearts and minds. They paralyze our ability to love. In Christ we are given innocence at any time we choose to claim it. In the resurrection we are set free to experience joy, which blesses us and all whom we encounter.

Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” (Matthew 11:4-5)

HEALING. Physicians have told me they see miracles all the time. That the body inclines toward healing is a miracle in itself. The body and mind want to be healthy. Torn skin scars over, and scars fade. Broken lives are mended. Broken relationships are restored. These are laws of nature lived through Christ.

“In the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time, the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the Providence and Power of God, which has never since been effaced from his soul.” (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God)

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)

VICTORY. God is supreme. Good is greater than evil. If we didn’t believe this in one form or another, we wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. Every minute of every day would be lived in dread of calamity.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

PEACE. Much misery arises when we try to control everything—ourselves, other people, circumstances…. Who, having gained a measure of power, does not seek even greater power? When we realize how little we can truly control, we can lean on the infinite strength of God. Thus are we free to live and love in this moment.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

HAPPINESS. The Spirit brings “mystic sweet communion” with Almighty God. By sowing its seeds, in prayer and meditation, we will harvest well-being in all its spiritual dimensions. Having that, what more can we ask? What else do we need for happiness?

Jesus replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

LOVE. We don’t have to wait for love to rush in and sweep us off our feet. You and I can make a decision to walk in the way of love… the love of God, the love of others, and the love that our Sunday-school teachers failed to mention: the love of ourselves. There is nothing noble or generous about neglecting our own needs or being easily manipulated.

Jesus “did not command self-love; he assumed it and made it the measure of neighbor love: ‘As you would that men do to you, do so to them.’” (John Piper, desiringgod.org)

How to Get Rich

God of Grace, I love the place I’m in, but we are not intended not to grow. So if I need to go from here, I ask, as Brother Lawrence did, that you will put me where you want me… where I’m needed most. Amen


Dear Sister Alma Rose—Is it sinful to want to be rich? If not, how can I become wealthy? —Penniless in Potsdam

The Palace of Versailles; photo by Eric Pouhier

The Palace of Versailles; photo by Eric Pouhier

Dear Penniless—Sister Alma Rose wouldn’t say “sinful”; unenlightened, perhaps. The answer to y’all’s question depends upon why y’all want to be rich, and what kind of riches y’all are seeking. Sister Alma Rose has found that those who are the saddest are the very poor and the very rich… the poor, because they struggle, and the rich, because wealth don’t satisfy them the way they thought it would do. Sister Alma Rose wishes she had thought to say this before Marsha Sinetar wrote a book about it: Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. If y’all have true abundance—friends, joy in your work, a welcoming home, and peace in y’all’s heart—then outward abundance will be likewise manifest. And if it ain’t, would you care?

Sister Alma Rose’s niece Jo Ellen wrote this bit of verse that might speak to y’all:

I Won’t Mind It If I Fall

Baking Cookies with Grandma

Baking Cookies with Grandma

I want to be a powder-scented
grandma who bakes cookies and
wears aprons and is plump and
matronly… not now, but maybe
someday soon, before my grandchildren
grow up and have to pay a duty call and
wonder if I’ll know their names when
they approach me shyly, in the Home. I
truly hope I’m not incontinent. But
I’ll be rich by then, I think, and have
my own domestic staff anticipating
every wish and bringing me my food
and drink upon a tray that has a doily,
lace, not paper, and I don’t want
ketchup in the bottle, not that I’ve the
tiniest affection for that condiment, but

Today, however, I’ll be reckless and not
mind it if I fall, for I have nothing, so
I’ve not a thing to lose. And
it’s not true, not true at all, that I
have nothing, if by something is
meant “money.” There are days when dust
motes drifting in a ray of sunlight make me
giddy with delight. Perhaps I should get
out more, though I always walk the
neighborhood to see what subtle changes
have been made since yesterday. We must
have had a shower in the night; the air
smells clean, my sweet alyssum is a little
greener, and the sky is bright.

There are so many roads I wish to travel,
in the next life if I haven’t got the time in
this one. God is economical; we’re given
longings for a reason, to be satisfied in
God’s time, in their season, by God’s grace. I
can wait; I’m happy as a kitten with a junebug
in this place. 


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