Friday, April 29, 2005

A Word in Need

when I am lonely, wondering if I have
a friend in the world . . .
. . . it embraces me with its comfort;

when I am prone to ignore the world . . .
. . . it pushes me into its delights;

when I wander the streets of today's culture . . .
. . . it shadows me to keep me out of trouble;

when I think that I have no responsibilities
for those around me . . .
. . . it grabs me and shakes me;

when I am broken by the suffering
of those I love . . .
. . . it caresses me with its peace;

when I strut my arrogant pride . . .
. . . it shatters me into humility;

when I need a Word . . .
. . . God provides it.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Commandment Keeping

For some folks, the Ten Commandments (and all the others) "have" to be followed without question. They are the core of how folks are to live; they are the law; they are the instruments by which we determine who are the really good people, and who are the rotten scoundrels.

For others, the commandments are sort of a moral code which, while not absolute, gives us some guidance on how we should live. Recognizing the times and context in which these 'laws' were first written, and taking into account when and were folks live today, there is a lot of latitude taken in following them.

Yet, for Jesus, keeping the commandments was an act of love! (John 14:15). Not an act of unquestioning obedience; not a philosophical pondering of the relevance of the commandments for ourselves and our times; no, simply the natural result of a life which loves Christ.

Which really shoudn't surprise us. After all, how better to understand and live out the commandment not to kill, then loving the One who taught us to relate to other people, including our enemies? How could we dare to covet all that our neighbor has when we love the One who teaches us to give all that we have and are in service to others? How could we fail to love God with all our heart, our mind, our strength, our soul when Jesus shows us the sort of life we can have through such love? How can we not love our neighbors (and ourselves) when Jesus sees the neighbor in everyone he meets (including us), when Jesus is the neighbor to everyone he meets (including us), when Jesus us loves us more than we can ever love ourselves?

If it is an act of love which leads to a lifetime of giving and receiving love, how can I not want to keep the commandments?

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Place

When I was in college, my minister and his family had a place in the mountains of North Carolina. On several spring breaks, a group of us would go there to relax and, of course, study (though for some reason, our books never made it out of the car!). It was a beautiful, peaceful, wonderful spot.

On walks in the area, we came across an undeveloped lot, where the ground was carpeted by the needles from the pines, sunlight filtered through the tall trees, and a small stream softly sang nearby. I decided when the time was right, I would buy that spot and build a house. But the timing was never right, someone else bought it, and built something completely out of character with the location. But for years, that spot was my idea of what heaven would be like.

In John 14, Jesus tells his friends that he is going to prepare a "place" for them. What does your place look like, in your mind's eye?

Is it an old Victorian mansion with big, airy rooms; cobwebs lurking in the corners; heavy drapes cuddling the tall windows; doilies on the arms of the big, comfortable chairs?

Is it a modern, one-level house, where there are no steps to trouble your arthritic knees?

Perhaps you envision a child's room with a mobile of Noah's Ark turning above your bed, and God sitting in a rocking chair by the window, just waiting for you to crawl up in her lap for a snuggle and a bedtime story.

Today, I hope the place that Jesus is getting ready for me looks like the Isle of Iona, with the water and sky constantly changing; with St. Columba's Shrine a space for silence and tranquility; where we gather to share at God's Table, as the Bread of Heaven takes the loaf and hands it to me, saying, "This is my body, for you."

Thanks be to God.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, April 18, 2005


It's dandelion season here in the States, and people are going crazy trying to get rid of this simple, little yellow flower they think litters their lawns, making them unsightly. Pesticides are called into action, folks are out with their trowels trying to dig them up by the roots, and lawn care companies are making a killing.

And it seems like the only ones who find delight in the simple dandelion are the smallest children, who can sit for hours in the grass admiring and playing with these gifts from God.

In other parts of the world, the dandelion is used to make herbal remedies, teas, salads and mild wines that look and taste like summer. Others make muffins using parts of the flower. Some people believe that the dandelion root can be a blood purifier, relieve gout and rheumatism, and be an aid to problems with the liver, stomach, and gall bladder. Not bad for a little flower that so many consider to be a weed.

And who doesn't remember picking the dandelions and blowing their dried, soft petals into the air and watching them dance away on the breath of the wind. Maybe Jesus used to sit in the fields, joining the kids in their joy with the dandelions, reminding them, as he did Nicodemus, that "the spirit blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes."

So, chill out and have a glass of dandelion wine and enjoy this gift from God!

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Back of the Line

Over 4 million people in attendace; 200 world leaders; folks of every faith (and none) sitting side by side for 3+ hours; at least 800,000 folks gather for a mass in his native home town of Krakow; billions, probably, watching on televions or the internet, listening on radios.

An amazing funeral, an unbelievable tribute to a man who touched millions and millions of lives - especially young people. A witness to the power of one person of strong faith to minister to people in a way most of us only dare dream about.

And yet, as powerful a figure as he was; as many lives as he touched; as many prayers that he offered for the world; as tireless a worker for human rights and peace as he was, I have a feeling that when John Paul II got to heaven's door, he was not granted first place in line.

If the gospels are correct, the position of honor may have gone to a little girl who shattered her parent's hearts with her innocence when she was born, and left a hole in them when she died of cancer.

If the gospels are correct, the first person in line may have been a 75-year-old survivor of Dachau, who spent the rest of his life telling his story, so that the horror would never be repeated.

If Jesus was correct when he talked about the least, the last, the lost, the little, then the gates open first for all those unknowns who quietly shared their love for their families; for all those mothers who placed their childrens' needs before their own dreams; for all those fathers who worked 2 and 3 jobs so their families could have the simple basics of life; for all those nameless, courageous, faithful people who tried their best to treat everyone fairly, who loved everyone equally, who followed God trustingly.

All those people who have been forgotten by the press, the politicians, the multitudes . . .

. . . but not by God.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, April 04, 2005

Opening Day

This is the day we have all been waiting for!

No, not the first day of spring, silly - Opening Day!
The first day of the brand new baseball season. The sun
is shining, the sky is blue, the birds are singing, and the
Reds are playing baseball!!!

And here in Cincinnati, it is the same as a national holiday.
Call just about any office, any person, and the message is
the same - "sorry, I am working out of the office today;
I won't be in the office today; my apologies, I am not at
my desk today." Right. The critical work that everyone
is "out of the office" for today is baseball. If you don't have
tickets to the game, you are at home, sitting out on your
deck, in your favorite chair, listening to the game on radio.

A local sports writer says that baseball players are luckier
than the rest of us who work. Every year, they have a day
when the slate is wiped clean, when the past is forgotten,
when the future lies before them, when they can write new
statistics, new chapters, a new life. It is called "Opening Day."
Oh, don't we all wish we had an annual Opening Day at our
jobs, in our marriages, in our journeys, in our lives!

For believers, we do.

Because of what God, in Christ, did on that Opening Day
of all opening days, we have that chance to have the pages
torn out of the book of life and new, blank pages put in.
Because of that first Easter, when Jesus strode from the
darkness of death into the new creation, we can walk out
of the shadows of our sin into the future God holds out
to us. Because of that first day of the week, when the
stone was rolled away, and the doors to the Kingdom
were thrown open, our past is behind us, our life is
before us, our journey begins anew!

And now, every morning is Easter; every waking is
a fresh start; every day is Opening Day!

Play Ball!!!

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman