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So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour—so Jesus of Nazareth concludes the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids in Mathew’s Gospel.

This imperative, if practiced, prickles waking hours with discomfort, stripped of defense mechanisms, distractions, and procrastination. It corrals wayward thoughts and motives and reveals them for what they are: sludge-pots obscuring the Sacred’s yearning for communion with his beloved creatures.

Such discipline, or Kingdom living, costs, as Jesus well knew. To engage his listeners’ imaginations—hungry for peace—he taught with parables often used by other rabbis, but bearing his imprint that quickened heart-conversions. A revolutionary manner of living inevitably followed.

Indeed, is not conversion of heart life’s deepest lesson? As I continue filling each twenty-four hours with prayer, study, writing, and phone contacts, I keep company with the five wise bridesmaids in the parable; they knew to carry extra flasks of palm oil for their lamps lest theirs went out while waiting to escort the bridegroom and his bride to the feast. With them, I keep my spirit well oiled while waiting for his call to enter the joys of the banquet prepared for all eternity.

That, indeed, will be a moment…


“If you love the truth, be a lover of silence. Silence like the sun will illuminate you in God.”—a trenchant saying attributed to Isaac the Syrian, the seventh-century Bishop, theologian, and monk who the Eastern Orthodox Church regards as a saint.

Simple words, if pondered, reveal the unseen caught in the flux of time. Key to this process is passion, whose firelight, like the sun, ignites inner worlds. But who cares to go there? To discipline unruly instincts clamoring for expression? That would be like dying. Such flies in the face of our cultural mores, engulfed in denial and rationalization. The predictable is more comfortable, yet soulless.

It does not take much to see who is truly alive among us: their quickening gaze, their resonant voices, their authority, of whatever age and background.

That’s what happens when you sit in the fire. It works…

“I sat in Dr. Cone’s classroom at Union—that’s where I did my theology—back in the late ‘80s,” said Eunice, her soft eyes alight behind rimless glasses. “Yes, he was a master teacher, mild-mannered despite the hard truth of his people he espoused in his lectures and books,” she added resting her hand upon the dining room table, its vase of tulips beginning to fade. “But I’ve been away from all that for sometime—I didn’t know of this book.”

Her response to my blog on Dr. Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree left me breathless, but not from lung issues. Additional reflection upon his identifying the Crucified with Black victims of lynching flared my psychic pain: Both experienced mob rule, torture, jeering, and slow agonizing deaths, alluded to in the first blog, but now felt. Rather than follow the chaplain—patient dialogue of previous visits, our conversation took off in a different direction: its synchronicity demanded it.

Yet, it did not come off as I had hoped, due to my dearth of words; they only came later. At best, I skirted around the glaring issue stinging my innards, and some preliminaries did surface: Eunice’s South Carolinian origins; growing up in York County, site of numerous cotton and rice plantations worked by slaves; her physician father’s segregated waiting room; planning a picnic for the townspeople on the grounds of Davidson College, her college, that up-ended a KKK rally planned for Main Street; attending Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan, known for its liberal bent; and her continued studies in spirituality that enhance her role as chaplain.

I listened, deeply, asked questions, and later researched South Carolina’s practice of slavery through the lens of the Crucified: it blistered my soul wound still more, scraped my entitlement, and woke me to what’s coming.

Our chaplain—patient dialogue will continue.



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