Friday, May 18, 2007


I look at this picture and think about what the Psalmist says about us being wonderfully made. I usually take that word wonderful to describe God's activity - God's creative action. But seeing this picture of my kid I have to think it describes more than God. It also describes us. Think about it. We were wonderfully made. In other words, wonder was on hand when we were being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth. Wonder is a basic part of our genetic makeup. We are quite literally "wonder full".

Part of the tragedy of the human fall was our loss of wonder. When we ate the fruit, and began knowing things that only God had beforehand known, we grew smarter but lost that sense of absolute awe that makes us so giddy that we can do nothing but break out into doxology:

O the depths and the riches and wonder of God. Who has known his mind and who has been his counselor?

James Baldwin once wrote that the purpose of art is to lay bear the questions that have been hidden by the answers. Looking at this picture of Gabrielle I long for that lost womb of God's imagination, where I knew nothing and all was possible.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Dismas House

Saint Dismas

Last night Irie, Gabs and I attended the Dismas House of Vermont annual dinner. I delivered the invocation - which means that I provided the first awkward moment of the evening. "And now, let us pause from the fun we are having and remember that God is still watching. . ."

Our church has been sending a troop of six or so people over to Dismas every month or so for a while now. (Props to Mary Lynch for taking on the organization of that.) Dismas is a transitional home for people who are re-entering our community following a jail or prison term. I have had a great time every time I've gone and have discovered that I am willing to fight for dinner rolls just as much as the felon sitting next to me.

Olin Robison, professor emeritus of Middlebury College, gave the keynote address. That didn't impress me much. But the fact that he was a Baylor alumni made me think he might actually have something of substance to say. I'm glad I listened. His speech was shorter than I would have liked, but his thoughts imaginative.

Robison talked about the request by James and John to sit with Jesus, one on his left and one on his right, when he came into his kingdom. "That is not mine to grant," Jesus said. Robison made the point that James and John assumed Jesus would be draped in royal garments and seated on a throne of glory when he came into his kingdom. They were wrong. When he came into his kingdom he was hanging naked from a cross - not so very becoming for a king.

For whatever reason, James and John were spared the agony of having to die with Jesus. Instead, two common criminals held the places next to Jesus when Jesus came into his kingdom.

I think what Robison was getting at was this: It could have been James. It could have been John. It could have been them hanging naked next to Jesus. And except for grace, it could have been us too.

Catholic tradition has it that a man named Dismas was one of the two criminals next to Jesus when he came into his kingdom. It was Dismas who turned to Jesus and begged him to remember him when he came into his royal power. Dismas' request stands the request of James and John on its head. They were asking out of a desire for glory; Dismas was asking out of a longing for grace.

A lot of politicians and talking heads on TV earn their living by getting some people riled up about needing to be tougher on crime, etc. They make anyone who has ever served time out to be less than human. Its bread and butter for them.

But places like the Dismas House keep reminding me that convicts and felons are human also. I know that because I keep bumping elbows with them as we pass the dinner rolls around.

And I look up from my plate and think, "You know, it could of been me. But for grace, it could have been me."