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Garden St. Francis

Copyright 2019 John A. Budde

A weathered, concrete St. Francis, the beloved patron saint of the animals, is a common garden sight. What of the real St. Francis? Many of us would tire quickly of this single-minded advocate for charity, poverty, and love. No one escaped his criticism. You see, St. Francis took the Sermon on the Mount seriously, and to the extent he could, he showed us what it looked like in action. As much as we extol its virtues and lofty aims, few of us want to live that sermon. The cost is too high. St. Francis needs to stay in the garden.

Discernment

Copyright 2020 John A. Budde

Perhaps no invention impacted the modern world as greatly as the book. Suddenly, information was widely available and, for the most part, permanent. But are we losing the skills of concentration and discernment books required of us? Digital media have accustomed us to short bursts of information, lacking depth, crafted for emotional manipulation. But in unstable times, faced with multiple crises, the most important intellectual skill may be discernment. What is valuable? What is true? Faith and hope are needed in every age. Neither is possible without truth. Discerning that takes work. Unexamined ideas – from any source – are always dangerous.

Gentle Remembering

Copyright 2020 John A. Budde

Near my house stands an old chapel ruin, now a garden. Once, worship services touched the lives of many people. After the chapel burned, the city, the community, and the worshipers debated the future of the charred remains. Eventually, a new chapel rose next to the old one, and the garden was created. Like the chapel garden, old memories, often fragments, persist next to current thoughts, reminding us of who we are and where we have been. Not all reminiscence is pleasant, but there is in all of us space for a chapel garden. A quiet place for gentle remembering.

Hope

Copyright 2020`by John A. Budde

It’s still wintry looking along the Potomac River. Spring is early this year but more felt than seen. For many of us who love the outdoors, now is like waiting for the knock at the door that announces an expected friend. In a time of fear and uncertainty, hope is the friend who comes to comfort us. For Christians, hope is inextricably linked to faith. The Apostle Paul assures us that “hope does not disappoint us.” We hope and wait in faith that God still has a word of blessing for us. Spring stands knocking, but Jesus is already here.

Copyright 2020 John A. Budde

I’ve been asked many times why I go to church. Answer: to be renewed. I’ve learned that I need other people. That includes when meeting my spiritual needs. Like-minded people gathered to share not only a common belief but also common experiences. That’s one of the reasons most of the world’s six billion people express some religious belief. Note, “religion,” not “spirituality.” That’s too vague a concept to be helpful to most people. Doctrine, ritual, and structure fill a need that simply isn’t met by meditation and yoga. Religion is not for everyone, but it works for most of us.

Forsythia

Copyright 2020 by John A. Budde

Once planted, forsythia endures. It’s a persistent plant that resists chopping, pulling up, and often, weed killer. For two weeks of the year brilliant yellow blossoms cover the stalk, announcing spring. After that, it is a leggy growth, pale green and aesthetically lacking in every way. Why do we keep it, aside from its hardiness? Because nothing is beautiful all the time. All of us have our moments – both good and bad. Times when we shine as human beings and times when we disappoint. God remembers those blossoms, sees us as we could be. That’s grace. We are God’s forsythia.

Self-Worth

Copyright John A. Budde 2020

Two things strike me about our world: our reliance on technology and our obsession with self-image. They often overlap. The “right look” includes the latest consumer electronics as well as designer labels. Together, they often clothe very shallow individuals, or sadly, wounded souls whose self-worth can only be measured by how others view them. A healthier life doesn’t require a technology-free, ascetic lifestyle. It begins with an honest, and often painful, self-examination that finds beauty in each of us — a beauty reflecting the image of God, not our latest seven-minute tanning session. God is standing by, ready to help