Archive | January 2016

Old Bartimaeus


They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Mark 10:46-52 (NRSV)


Old Bartimaeus, his

memory held in trembling hands,

gout and loss enveloping his muscles, bones,

sorrow wrapped around his mind;

does he remember that day so long ago, when all of life

stood still so he could see the colors of his world?


Remember sitting by the road,

blind and crying out to Jesus—

bellowing, really—desperate and terrified of

being overlooked yet one more time?

Remember that Jesus-crowd surging past, too busy

singing happy praise to notice some poor

bawling soul along their path? Remember

Jesus stopping, standing still? Remember

rush of wonder as he sensed he had

become the center of celestial awe—wind and

angels, saints and ancient stars all gazing down on

him in hushed respect, as David’s Son stood

still for him, for him, a lowly, raucous beggar, a

good-for-little blinded man? Remember Jesus

scooping up his eager faith, telling him to

go on his way—sighted, whole,

ecstatically jumping for joy?


So long ago.

He now himself stands often still, when he can

stand at all, his body so misshapen, his voice

mere whisper, his mind so tentative. But

now and then, a smile will crease his ancient face; his

eyes will shine with light, as he

recalls, imbibes, and claims that day when

Love stood still to drench his life with joy.


??Blessing God??


(the attentive little cat on my prayer table)

          I’ve been puzzling about something lately. Puzzling about the psalmists’ frequent insistence that we should bless God. For example:

Bless our God, O peoples (Ps. 66:8)

Sing to the Lord, bless his name (Ps. 96:2)

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord (Ps. 134:1)

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name (Ps. 103:1)

          Praise of God I can understand. Thanksgiving to God I can understand. But how, I wonder, how is it possible that we tiny humans might be able to give a blessing to the Creator of all that is? The Hebrew word for “to bless” is ברך (barak), and it usually refers to God’s blessing of God’s creation, the bestowing upon us and all of life all the goodness that God desires for us to experience. But now and then, the word is used “in reverse” as it were, referring to our blessing of God. My Hebrew lexicon tells me that when used “in reverse” ברך suggests “to bend the knee, to worship, to praise, to adore.” Such a sense of “blessing God” makes sense and fits with the notion of praise and thanksgiving. And yes, we (hopefully) do all of that whenever we pray in private or gather in worship to acknowledge, honor, praise and petition the One who holds our lives and our destinies in grace-filled hands.

          But I am coming more and more to believe that there must be something more to a real “blessing” of God, something more than worship, praise, and adoration, important as these practices are—for God and for us! Coming to believe that what might be more of a blessing, more of an endearment to God would be a deepening of our attentiveness to God and to God’s faithfully persistent presence with us. Such true attentiveness would, I believe, deeply bless, touch, and delight our God, a God who, in the words of John Buchanan “does have feelings and is hopelessly and relentlessly in love with the world and human beings,” a God who “yearns to be known” says Thomas Merton.

          Brother Lawrence, a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in 17th century Paris, wrote a delightful little book called The Practice of the Presence of God, a little gem in which he urges an attentiveness to God’s presence with us in all the ordinary moments of our lives. An attentiveness to God as we sip our morning coffee or tea. An attentiveness to God as we go about our work, as we pause to read a poem or to contemplate a work of art. An attentiveness to God as we dry our tears. An attentiveness to God’s presence in the vast and often delicate beauty of creation.   An attentiveness to the reality of God in the faces and voices of our friends and even in the faces and voices of strangers. An attentiveness that is so beautifully illustrated by the little cat who greets me each morning as I light my candle for morning prayers.

          None of us likes to be invisible, unnoticed. We long to be seen. We long to have others acknowledge our presence in their lives, yearn for them to be aware of who we are.   We feel “blessed” when we know that we have been seen, when we have been called by the full name of who we truly are.

          Might not God, in whose image we are created, feel the same? Might not God, who happens to be hopelessly in love with all of us and with our beloved Planet Earth, feel more truly known, more deeply blessed, if we would daily, even hourly, open the eyes of our spirits to acknowledge the reality of God’s presence in our lives? In the lives of those around us? In the mysteries of this wondrous creation?

          Something to think about as we go about our lives in this new year.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name (Ps. 103:1)


*John Buchanan, “Editor’s Desk,” The Christian Century, December 25, 2013.

**Thomas Merton, as cited by Paul Elie, The Life You Save May Be Your Own, p. 403.