Monday, February 23, 2015

the world traveler

for Meaghan, on your birthday

You were 11 months old when we moved to Europe; we celebrated your first birthday in Portugal. During our time in Europe, you attended four different schools and lived in 5 different homes in three different countries. Yes, this spanned 12 years of your life, but I think it is safe to say we got used to living out of suitcases. Here you are, making yourself at home in one.

I remember pushing your stroller over cobblestone streets, uphill to our shared home overlooking the river that opened into the Atlantic. The bright yellow house punctuated the vibrant blue sky amid lush green gardens. The home had no central heat, nor water heat, so we managed to make do with portable propane heaters. When we bathed you we worked out a system so that, when you were finished in the bathroom, the bedroom would be nice and toasty for jammy-time.

There was a large, round glass-topped coffee table in the center of the living room that you had a love-hate relationship with. You loved crawling under it, but when you wanted to stand up, you’d rap yourself on the back of the head and cry out from the sharp pain.

My prayer for you on this your 18th birthday is that wherever God takes you he will lift the glass ceiling and will show you nothing but bright, vibrant colors, warmth, comfort and rhythmic alleyways. May you find a true home in God wherever you may roam—even when living out of a suitcase. May you continue to face adventure with quiet strength and courage.

I love you, Meaghan, and could not be more proud of the woman you have become.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

on the prospect of skipping lent

I don’t know why but, as Lent arrives this year, I find myself especially heavy-hearted. In previous years I’ve understood that Lent involves a certain sadness, but I feel as though I can especially identify with it this year. I haven’t wept but feel as though tears would come easily if I let myself cry. By all accounts I am blessed and should have no reason to feel this way. Nevertheless, I find myself feeling alone. If not for a loving family and friends, I do not know what I would do.

When I pray alone, God seems distant—so these days it takes everything in me to simply utter the words “God bless” and add a name. Because my heart wants a deeper connection in prayer, I pause a second or two after each name and in a simple, childlike way trust that God knows the details of the intercession. Still, believing that God has heard my prayer seems to be nothing more than a stretch of faith.  Praying with others feels fuller to me. Maybe that is because I am borrowing their faith. I don’t know.

I cannot focus on sustained solitary reading, either. I have read Matthew and Mark in the last month but nothing really stuck with me this time. It is more speed-reading than sustained reading. In an effort to read through all four Gospels, I began reading Luke, but now I find myself flipping randomly to the Psalms of pathos for a semblance of solidarity. When I turn to the Psalms I only have to read a few verses and I find it is enough. The writer understands the experience that I call “welling up.”

I want to eat comfort food often, though I’ve managed to keep making healthy choices, thank God.  Still, the desire is there and I am very aware of it.

So, I guess you could say I am simply trying to take it one day at a time these days. I am trying to simply delight in moments: the entrance of my wife into the room, the long embrace of a friend, laughter with a couple on the mend, the smile of my daughter, the earnest effort of my son, the light conversational cadence of dinner guests.

Today, the furnace beneath my office worked a little harder. I know that I should have turned the thermostat down to conserve energy but, to be honest, I just needed a little warmth. The cold bit my eyes on this morning’s walk. Even the dog almost slept through lunch. Winter is tiring.

Sometimes a heavy heart comes out as frustration. I find myself feeling angry too often lately. I get angry at the way we treat each other. I get angry about apathy and indifference. I get angry when I feel overlooked. I don’t like feeling angry, but I have to be honest—that is a real source of sadness.

I know that Lent is supposed to be a “purple” time. That is what I teach…that purple is a sad color and Lent is a time of sadness. But, I don’t like sadness. I don’t want it to linger. I want joy.  I know…I know…sadness plays a role in joy, but how I wish it could be another way!

Pray for us sinners in this, the hour of our need. Pray for me, if you think of it.  Maybe this year it would be good for me to skip Lent and just carry on with Easter.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

"be with us and hear us"

Fire of the Spirit, life of the lives of creatures,
spiral of sanctity, bond of all natures,
glow of charity, light of clarity,
taste of sweetness to sinners—
be with us and hear us.
Composer of all things,
light of all the risen,
key of salvation,
release from the dark prison,
hope of all unions, scope of chastities,
joy in the glory, strong honor—
Be with us and hear us.

-Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179

Sunday, February 8, 2015

the God of the discouraged

Yes, I know what that feels like.
To be forgotten and overlooked.
My work can be seen everywhere,
wondrous and beautiful.
I weave words
in poems and stories,
hoping to make friends,
comfort the hurting,
inspire the deflated,
create peace.
I have poured out my heart
for the sake of others,
to bless—
work sprung from joy and hope.
Oh, that people would see and hear
and lay hold of it,
grow fuller and brighter!

But only a few notice.
I am hidden,
but want to be found.
I feel ready to give up.
I have spent a long time…trying.
Yes, I know.
That is how I got to be

the God of the discouraged.
Take comfort. We are few
but we are not alone.

Okay, cry.
You are not alone.
You are not forgotten.

the God of the discouraged
by troy cady

whatever is gathered

Father, you gather us to you through the work of your Son, Jesus. We believe that is how you change everything.

Whatever is gathered to you changes and is itself changed. We give you our lives so we may participate in that wondrous work.

So, we pray, gather us to
heal the sick,
feed the poor,
and surround the lonely with friends.

Gather us to
welcome the outcast,
reconcile enemies,
and enlighten the darkened mind.

Gather us to
invigorate the apathetic,
open the clenched fist,
and soften the hard heart.

Whatever is gathered to you changes and is itself changed. Glorify your great name; do this work that only you can do.

In faith and worship, by Jesus’ name we pray,

whatever is gathered
a prayer by Troy Cady

Saturday, February 7, 2015

the best transfiguration

Peter, James and John caught a rare glimpse of Jesus when he was “transfigured”. I put the word in quotes because I call into question our assumption that the vision of Jesus as dazzling brilliance enveloped in a cloud of glory is somehow more special than the everyday vision of him as a simple carpenter from a backwater village.

In fact, I argue quite the reverse. What the disciples saw in the transfiguration was the Son of God in his natural state. What should surprise us is that he traded otherworldly glory to become an everyday person—so that he could be close to us. The real transfiguration happened when Jesus cried as an infant, slept in a stable, ate and drank like a glutton and drunkard.

Jesus confirms as much in the aftermath of the so-called transfiguration. The disciples were arguing: “Who is the greatest?”  Being around that kind of power had an intoxicating effect on them. Maybe that is why Jesus only chose three of his disciples to see it. He knew they were prone to feed their power-hungry impulse and he wanted no part of it.

Either way, the disciples believed he was the Messiah; as such, they believed he was destined for kingship—and they, along with him, destined for power. It is understandable they would argue about who was the greatest among them, but their argument belied a misguided belief. The path to transfigured humanity is not through some kind of unearthly magic but precisely through learning to be just who we are: human.

How could he make this clear? They had missed it so far. So, this is what he did:

He placed a child in their midst, a person of no account (the name of the child is not even mentioned). Here is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Then, he told them that if they welcome a child, they welcome him. So, what do they do next?

The story goes that sometime later people were bringing children to Jesus to have him bless them. Do the disciples “welcome” the children, as Jesus told them? Far from it. The disciples took pains to send the children away. The disciples had more important work to do; they thought Jesus had more important work to do.

But Jesus, patient as ever, tells them not to send the children away. “Let the little children come to me…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

But they missed it. And we do, too. We make our various lists of people who are important: politicians, celebrities, speakers, authors, award-winners, CEO’s, professors. We feel our importance is measured in terms of wealth or breadth of influence.

Jesus says that is all rubbish. He modeled it by becoming a Nobody. Because we miss it, though, he shows us another example of how God changes things: a child. If we can’t see the kind of change God wants in the person of Jesus, hopefully we can see it through the child in our midst.

But we often overlook the child. And, in doing so, we miss the kingdom of God. See the child.

Do you know her name? What are her favorite foods? Does she like to sing, climb trees and tell jokes? What does she wonder about? Does she daydream and seem to think backwards about the world?

Let it be, Jesus says. Let it be. That is transfiguration. Just become a child. That is transfiguration.

Friday, February 6, 2015

just passing time

just passing time
listening to the crackle
of the candle’s wooden wick,
and the boy’s joyous cackle
in the next room.

The Friday sun worked wonders on
last Sunday’s blizzard that called for a Monday Sabbath.
After snoozing away the week’s morning,
the city felt restless,
if tired from digging herself out
from too much God.

So let us uncover hope—
such a beautiful form, how warm!

The grapes I now eat
are ripe and sweet,
while my beloved
sips red wine,
a story of survival in her hands
and mind.

Meanwhile, the icicle out front
is a broken finger on home’s hand,
fragile but joined.
The night peers through the glass
of ice as flecks of light
from streetlamps
appear as sparks in the paralyzed cold.

Tomorrow I will sleep in.
For now, this is how I want to pass the time.

just passing time
by troy cady