Saturday, October 27, 2018

Full of Faults

It’s an interesting thing, isn’t it, that our heroes are so full of faults? I am reading Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church by Philip Yancey. I’m still reading it, and the first mentors Yancey has written about that I have read so far are:
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • G.K. Chesterton
  • Dr. Paul Brand
  • Dr. Robert Coles
  • Leo Tolstoy & Feodor Dostoevsky
  • Mahatma Gandhi
As I started reading about Gandhi, as is the case with several others, Yancey told the “gossip” associated with Gandhi. In these cases, the gossip is true, and reveals the sad affairs of some of these great men’s lives, the broken relationships and serious personal faults.

Gandhi made “petty demands on associates,” had “bizarre personal habits,” slept with “nude young women,” and “failed as a leader of his own family” - leading to a son who “became an embezzler, gambler, and penniless alcoholic,” and contributing to the death of his wife. Tolstoy’s “attempts at honesty and reform caused endless problems to his own family,” including frequenting whorehouses, drunken orgies, mistresses and venereal disease. Dostoevsky had a loveless marriage, and succumbed to alcohol and gambling. MLK had affairs and apparently plagiarized long sections of his speeches and writings.

I think of the many men who have fallen from grace with the “Me Too” movement, men I have admired for their good works. A good man is hard to find, indeed (credit to Flannery O’Connor there). Wow. And, yes, I know there are women heroes, too, whose faults and weaknesses have become known.

I’ve often felt despair about the fact that these heroes are so flawed. It has seemed like a betrayal. How can I trust anyone when these people held up in admiration have done such awful things? How can there be a reason for hope when these people who have done such amazing good have also done such shockingly bad things in their own personal lives?

Today I had a different thought. For years, I’ve said Peter is “my favorite disciple” because he did so many stupid and wrong things -- failed in his faith when he was walking on water, told Jesus not to wash his feet, cut the ear off the soldier when they came to take Jesus, betrayed him 3 times after swearing he never would. Peter’s flaws, rather than making me feel betrayed, give me hope. If Peter could become such a leader in the growth of Christianity, such a beloved brother of Jesus’, there was hope for me!

Is there a way to re-frame my feelings of betrayal, even sometimes despair and a loss of hope, when faced with the flaws of other amazing heroes in the world?

Friday, October 26, 2018

His voice

May God’s voice give you comfort and remind you of his love.

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them,
and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him
because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
I am the good shepherd;
I know my sheep and my sheep know me—
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—
and I lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.
I must bring them also.
They too will listen to my voice
and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
--John 10::2-5; 14-16

The other night my devotions included the above passage in John 10 about Jesus as the shepherd whose sheep know his voice. I started thinking about the way we recognize the voices of those we love.

I was in a mall with a high school friend and she suddenly stopped and said, “Oh! There’s my mom.” I looked at her questioningly and she said, “I heard her ‘pee-wheet.’” What? I thought back a little and realized I had heard some kind of high pitched noise right before my friend said that. Turns out, in their family when they want to find each other, they let out a high pitched almost-whistle type of noise, loud and piercing, that sounds like “PEE-WHEET!” They draw in their lips and then explode them out with the high pitched “Pee,” following with the second syllable, “Wheet.” Very effective. We heard her mom from way across the mall.

My kids, adults now, use a “bird call.” (I did not teach them this, not sure where they picked it up - but it works!) It’s kind of like a crow call, “Ha-HAAA.” Their kids know and use it, too. My youngest granddaughter, not quite two, only says a few words but understands much. When my son was telling me about using the bird call, she heard the phrase bird call and gave her own version of it, “Aw-haa!”

Another time I recognized a loved one, it wasn’t actually a voice. I was sitting in a conference room waiting for my son to pick me up from work. I heard a truck rumble to the sidewalk in front of the room’s wall and said, “My son’s here.” I hadn’t even realized I could recognize the sound of his truck!

And, of course, the classic is a mother’s voice. When a baby is crying, often all she has to hear is her mother’s voice and she is comforted.

How about you? Do you have voices (or sounds) that you and your loved ones know? A good reminder of our shepherd’s voice. Tell me about them! Thank God for the love we know in his voice.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Joy in the Normal

May you feel and see God’s love in the normal.

A few years ago I wrote a short blog entry about the joy of normal after a bout of sickness. Yesterday as my husband and I carpooled to work, I noticed some normal stuff. Four different times, between the telephone poles and wires, above the buildings and traffic, I saw V’s of geese flying. As we entered the freeway ramp, we saw a gap of blue sky above the hills, the gray clouds seeming to hover over us like a big puffy blanket in some kind of lesser gravity. Even in the busy, overcrowded city of San Jose, we see glimpses of nature, and the normal life happening in what seems like almost a different dimension. Last night as dinner was cooking my husband, kids, and granddaughter sat around the kitchen table and chatted. Well, the adults chatted; my granddaughter sang, ran, galloped like a horse, yelled, reached for snacks, made faces, demanded more food and then, when reminded, said please, and on and on and on. Just noticing this normal stuff reminds me of God’s love.

Often events disrupt the normal. Maybe our times of normalcy are just brief interludes. My prayer for you is that you feel God’s love always, and when your life is normal, may peace descend into your soul.

You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands. -- Isaiah 55:12

Saturday, October 13, 2018

God's Peace

May you feel the “peace that passeth understanding way down in the depths of your heart.”

When you were a kid, did you sing the song this line comes from? It was a popular song while I was growing up, “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart.” We thought it was fun to say “way down in the depths,” not just “down in my heart.”

The peace that passeth understanding is what I wish for you. Knowing God loves you, really knowing it, gives you that kind of peace. I appreciate the phrase “that passeth understanding.” How true is that? With so much going on in our lives, in the lives of those we love, in our nation and world, there often seems little reason to feel at peace. The peace we feel because God loves us often does not make any sense, it does defy understanding.

I feel that peace when I imagine myself in the presence of God. I almost always start my personal prayers by getting into the presence of God, as taught in the Jesuit tradition (and others). I close my eyes and imagine my “go-to” scene -- myself as Moses standing in front of the burning bush. I imagine myself standing on the dirt of a desert land, my shoes off because it’s holy ground, looking at a bush that’s burning but not burning up. I use my five senses to make it more real. I feel the scruffy dirt under my feet and between my toes, the warm breeze against my skin, my hair lightly blowing back, the heat of the sun on my face and head, the warmth emanating from the fire. I see the branches of the bush, dark because they’re burning, but not turning into ash; the flames orange, yellow, and red, flickering around; a rocky hill behind the bush. I hear the crackle of the fire, God’s voice saying “I am.” I smell and even kind of taste the smoke. I gaze into the fire as I would a fireplace, and I feel that peace entering my heart. Even in my body I feel it. My shoulders un-hunch, my neck muscles spread out and lose their tension, my eyebrows relax, my lips fall into repose, my teeth unclench. I breathe in and out slowly.

May you feel and know God’s peace.

What can I pray for you?

love and blessings,


c: 408 318 2037

If you would like to send me specific prayer requests and are reading this as an email message, just reply. I will gladly pray with you. If you are reading this in my blog, email me at mavis at I'll keep all communication confidential.

Friday, October 5, 2018

God loves you, even if you suck at being good.

I read an article recently that I thought had all kinds of good stuff, “Why I’m a Christian (And Continue to Suck at Being One)” by Benjamin Sledge. I could write volumes about everything he says, but one phrase that keeps coming back to me is the one highlighted below.

So, Why Am I A Christian?

Because I know I’m a train wreck in a dumpster fire. But I also know that God loves me 100% as is, right now, in the midst of the burning carnage that is often my life. I know that if I were to stack up my cards against most church people, I’d fold every time. I’m not that good at following rules, and I run my mouth a lot. And yet, God loves me and is cheering for me as I get better and especially when I fall down. Where I see failure, he sees opportunity for growth. Where I see addiction, he sees an opportunity to take a step. Where I’ve given up, he whispers, “You can make it”. 
So maybe if we can all accept the idea that God’s love is wholly separate from our actions, receive it, and give it to others maybe then we’d have more Christians that look like Christ. Christians that don’t feel it’s important to beat people down with their theology and doctrine, but instead spend their lives in the gutter bleeding alongside other people. 
I think maybe then, we might just see Christ’s kingdom here on earth.
So that’s what I want to say in today’s email. Whatever you do or don’t do, God loves you. His love is not dependent on you. God’s love is wholly separate from your actions.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Isaiah 43:1-3

What can I pray for you?

love and blessings,


God loves me, even though I'm only an angel when the wings are painted on the wall!
If you would like to send me specific prayer requests and are reading this as an email message, just reply. I will gladly pray with you. If you are reading this in my blog, email me at mavis at I'll keep all communication confidential.