Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Priceless Collection

           What do you collect?

            I used to collect sandcastles. Not the ones high tide washes away. The permanent ones you can buy in shops on the boardwalk. Every summer on vacation in Ocean City, New Jersey, I carefully chose another sandcastle to bring home.

            Now I collect teddy bears. Most of them spend most of the year in plastic bins in the basement or attic, but they move to the living room in December. They are my Christmas bears, dozens of them. And my Hanukkah bears, three or four of them. And a few assorted non-bears like sheep and dogs and even a moose. But mostly bears. I often can’t resist adding to my plethora of bears; I especially like rescuing cast off bears from thrift stores.
A fraction of my bears

            Does Jesus collect anything?

            Today’s devotion in the Secret Place surprised me. Author John A. Fischer points out that we are God’s gift to Jesus. I had to read that sentence twice. And underline it. “…God has given us to Jesus as a gift.” I’m used to thinking of Jesus as God’s gift to me, but I never thought of myself as God’s gift to Jesus. And yet there it is in John 17:24, a sentence in Jesus’ prayer the evening of his arrest, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

            Jesus collects people given to him by his Father. He loves and treasures them. Even though he has a plethora, many sets of ninety-nine, Jesus searches for the ones who are cast off and ragged. (See Luke 15.)
See the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15.

            Who would have ever thought a girl from Park Ridge, New Jersey would become part of a priceless collection? And yet I am. And you can be, too.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Secret Life of Mrs. Saint Peter: Imagining Between the Lines of Scripture

Simon Peter’s wife is never mentioned directly in the Gospels. We don’t even know her name, but we can imagine what a roller coaster ride of a life this woman experienced. She had lived an ordinary life as a fisherman’s wife in first century Galilee until Peter brought home a traveling rabbi, who healed her feverish, widowed mother. (Mark 1:29 – 31) Did Mrs. Peter put her faith in Jesus that day?
After that, she knew Jesus was someone special, but then Pete took off for months at a time and didn’t phone or Skype. He stopped fishing for fish and started fishing for people…and who paid the bills?

This continued for several years until Peter nearly got himself arrested skulking in a Jerusalem courtyard while Jesus was on trial. How did Mrs. Pete deal with a grief-stricken, shame-ridden husband…who then turned around in less than a weekend and claimed his dead teacher was alive? Just when life was going to return to normal, because Pete started fishing again (John 21), the risen Jesus gave him a new assignment:  be a shepherd to God's sheep.
Was Mrs. Peter in the upper room at Pentecost? (Acts 2) Did they have to pry her off the floor when the Holy Spirit filled her husband and he started boldly preaching to thousands of foreign visitors? How did she feel when Peter defied the Sanhedrin’s order to stop proclaiming Jesus and he spent his first night in jail? (Acts 4)

Fisherman mosaic at outdoor altar at Church of the Primacy of Peter Tabgha in Galilee Israel

After keeping a kosher home and a separated Jewish lifestyle for decades, was she stunned when Peter bunked in the home of a Roman centurion and ate at his table? (Acts 10 – 11) Did she enjoy accompanying her husband on his ministry travels? (1 Corinthians 9:5) Did it make up for the three lonely years when Peter had left her and wandered with Jesus?

The imagination is not stretched too far in saying Peter’s first epistle reveals his family life. When he urged newborn believers to crave spiritual milk, was he fondly remembering his own infants nursing hungrily? (1 Peter 2:2)
Peter chose Sarah as the biblical example of a wife’s submission without fear—Abraham had selfishly handed Sarah to a king to save his own skin. (1 Peter 3:5 – 6) Was Peter remembering everything his wife put up with during his open-mouth-insert-foot days?
Peter’s description of a beautiful Christian woman reflects decades of living with his wife. It’s not about fancy clothes and fussy hair and sparkly jewelry, he wrote. It’s about the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, valuable in God’s eyes. (1Peter 3:3 – 4) He urged husbands to be considerate and respectful of their wives; after all, they—and Mrs. Peter—are joint heirs of the grace of life.
What is the silent Mrs. Peter trying to tell me? Maybe that in the seasons of life, a woman may at times be married to a fisherman, an unemployed wanderer, a crowd-wowing evangelist, or a jailbird…and they’re all the same man. No matter what she thinks she knows about her guy, only God can envision what he will become with a little patience and a lot of Holy Spirit power and polish.
When I doubt God can change and use someone close to me, I will try to remember Mrs. Saint Peter.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Flash Mobs and the Everlasting Song

The other evening my husband wanted to show me a flash mob on YouTube. We ended up watching at least twenty in different cities around the globe, including tango dancers in Budapest and swing and Charleston dancers…somewhere else.
Dancin' in Denver, November 2011

This is a great one:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87qT5BOl2XU. My sketchy research suggests "Ode to Joy" is the favorite of flash mobs globally.

In Minneapolis in November 2015

One symphonic performance started with a young girl playing a phrase on a simple wooden flute to a man who echoed her notes on a bass. Slowly, casually, other instrumentalists wandered over until a full orchestra shared Beethoven’s joy.
When the music ended, performers dispersed as if nothing special had happened.
Meanwhile, a line from a hymn kept tapping my shoulder and whispering in my ear, a line from “All Hall the Power of Jesus’ Name.”

O that with yonder sacred throng
we at His feet may fall!
We'll join the everlasting song,
and crown Him Lord of all.
We'll join the everlasting song,
and crown Him Lord of all.

It turns out there are several more verses to the hymn that I’ve never sung, and alternate wording to verses I have sung. For example, one version substitutes “all the sacred throng” for “yonder sacred throng.” No way! I will never give up “yonder” to sing “all the.” How boring! I will continue to honor the ancient, venerable words.

But anyway, as I delighted in the flash mobs, and my husband and I wistfully agreed we wished to participate in one, I thought about Heaven and the everlasting song. When I get to Heaven, I expect to find yonder sacred throng of people already singing songs of praise to Jesus, like a flash mob at a huge mall. And I’m going to run—not slowly or casually—to join them. Will I have my ukulele? I don’t know. Will I have learned to play Ray’s accordion? I don’t know. Will I wait for the next verse to start before finding the Alto I part? I don’t know. Will my soprano range be restored? I don’t know. I can only imagine.

The crowd singing the everlasting song will never disperse, if another old hymn tells the truth.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.

And another hymn exclaims,

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

Yes! What. A. Day.

Until that day, I’ll keep singing with my church family. And with my school family. And with Don and Dave in the morning on the car radio. And with the Mad Dog Baptist Choir. And often with only my ukulele and God.

And if you’re organizing a flash mob, text me.

If there are ukuleles in Heaven, they will always be in tune.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

If you give a man a ladder...

In a perfect world, a drop ceiling might look like this.

The living room’s drop ceiling tiles were bulging downward. They’d been bulging downward for months, maybe years. We had repeatedly noticed this and then ignored it. As in, “I wonder why that area of the ceiling sags.…I wonder what’s on Netflix.”

But today, because my husband had brought a ladder into the house for another project, he decided to solve the mystery of the bulging ceiling tiles.

This is not my ceiling. But similar.
He removed a tile and was rewarded with a shower of crumbling plaster. The shower turned into a torrent that eventually filled three big black trash bags with heavy rubble. I helped a bit loading the first bag, until I reminded my husband that my right hand is not supposed to hold anything heavier than a coffee cup, due to my healing broken elbow. I judiciously jumped out of the way before the worst crashed down, covering him, our TV and accessories, and the carpet.

 My husband’s further reward was vacuuming up all the dirt himself, again because of my healing broken elbow. I’m sure I would have been put on cleanup detail otherwise. The carpet has not been cleaned this thoroughly since before I broke the elbow. Who am I kidding? It hasn’t been this clean since the start of the 2017 – 2018 school year.
This is not my husband. 
Our old house weathered Central Pennsylvania's famous 1972 flood. The previous owners, like many flood victims, covered damage with new carpeting on the floor, wood paneling on the walls, and a drop ceiling tile system. The old plaster remained above it. We bought the house in 2000. We even replaced the old ceiling tiles once, but we also left the old plaster in place.

Today I learned what happens when I sweep things under the rug. Wrong metaphor, but the incident reminds me of issues I ignore or hide, hoping they will magically resolve themselves. Especially relationship issues. (Isn’t everything a relationship issue? Relationships between people or groups of people or nations?)

Will I do any better after today’s lesson? I don’t know.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Do Dreams Have Expiration Dates?

Something uncanny happened on the last day of February. I've waited too long to write about it.
As I drove to school on that barely-light Wednesday, I asked aloud, “What about my dreams? Can any of them be salvaged?” I don’t know if I was asking God or myself. I don’t know if a song on the radio prompted my question. I don’t know if I was thinking of my friend Tracy who had recently written a blog post about a dream that was delayed for thirty years and finally fulfilled. 
I do know the emotion behind the question was more intense than my usual morning disquiet of it’s-cold-and-dark-and-I-need-more-coffee. But once I entered the school, responsibilities jostled the dream questions to the end of the line.
After homeroom, I shooed my students to the church sanctuary for our weekly chapel service.
After a few songs led by our worship team, Seth, our seventeen-year-old student chaplain, began his message. His first PowerPoint slide revealed his topic, “From Dreams to Destiny.”
THAT got my attention.
Following the narratives in Genesis about Joseph, Seth made some really good points, which I jotted down while blotting my tears. He bravely shared some of his own dreams, such as wanting to someday have a family and own a minivan, not a dream you expect to hear from a high school senior.
I want to see Masada.
As he concluded his message, Seth said, “Even older people have dreams. Mrs. Brosius still has dreams. She wants to go to Israel.”
At that point, I came completely undone. After chapel, I spent much of my free period crying, trying to stop crying, and trying to make my face look like I hadn’t been crying.
I didn’t know on February 28, and still don’t know, if this message from God was specifically about going to Israel. Maybe it was God’s way of answering publicly the question I had voiced privately not much more than an hour earlier in my car: Yes, my dreams can be salvaged. Even the dreams I can’t share with anyone but God.
I do know I had not talked recently about wanting to go to Israel to Seth or any of my students. I don’t know why it was on his mind.
When I was more composed, I asked Seth if he had planned to call me out, or if it just came to him at that moment. He said he had planned it, and his parents had advised him not to. They thought I might find the age reference insulting. I’m not usually glad when my students ignore their parents, but in this case I sure was.
"Joseph Receives his Coat of Many Colors"
by Shoshannah Brombacher; pastel and ink. "
Last month at a writers conference, my friend Jim Watkins, shared a message called “Keeping Your Dreams Alive.” I scribbled these points Jim made as he guided us through Joseph’s life:
  • The dream is received.
  • The dreamer is refined.
  • The dream is resized.
  • The dream is revealed.

He told us “how to keep your dream alive when they steal your coat,” and quoted author Neva Coyle, “God is a refiner, not an arsonist [of dreams].”
Do you think God is trying to tell me something?
If you believe God is speaking to you about your dreams, feel free to comment and share.

Read about Tracy's dream here: http://stdavidswriters.com/dorm-room-dreams
Follow her blog here:  http://earlgreyandyellow.com
Follow Jim Watkins here:  http://www.jameswatkins.com

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Poem for Christmas


You are God in time and place,
Wholly God with human face,
Dauntless God who joined our race.
We worship God the Son.

Prophets wrote about your worth
Ere you came to dwell on earth,
Trading riches for our dearth.
We worship God-with-us.

The branch from Jesse’s withered tree
Blossoming in history
To reign for all eternity.
We worship God the King.

Saturday, December 16, 2017


Don't get tangled in holiday lites,
Deafened, bedazzled by sounds and sights.
Don’t get mired in merry-making,
Overheated by cookie baking.
Don’t get wrapped up in gifts from a store;
God’s Christmas presence is so much more.
Take a breather from the Yuletide race
And savor the swaddling of God’s grace.

© 2017 Roberta Tucker Brosius