A Glorious Event?

Deborah Beach Giordano
© March 19, 2018

John 12:20-33 ~ told by Deborah

It was Passover, and people who had come to Jerusalem from Greece met with Philip and asked, “Please, sir, we’d like to meet Jesus.”

Philip went to Andrew and told him, and then the two of them went to tell Jesus.

Jesus nodded, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He took a grain of wheat and placed it in the palm of his hand: “Think about it: a grain of wheat is just that: a single grain; but if it falls into the earth and dies, it grows into a huge plant, producing a lot of grain.”

He continued, softly, meditatively, his eyes on the grain of wheat as it rested in his hand, “If there’s nothing you’re willing to die for, there’s nothing to live for; but if you have no fear of death, eternal life will be yours.”

Jesus looked up at the disciples, “Those who serve me will follow me, and will accompany me wherever I go. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

He brushed the wheat from his hand and watched as it fell to the earth: “I’m troubled, deep in my soul; so should I say: ‘Father, save me from this’? No, it’s why I came; this is what I’m here to do.”

Jesus raised his eyes, “Father, glorify Your name.”

At that moment a voice came from above, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

Some of those who heard the sound said it was a thunderclap. There were others who said, “An angel spoke to him.”

Jesus replied, “That was said for your sake, not for mine. Now the world will be judged; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people into myself.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.)


Glorify. Glorify. Glorify. What’s with all this “glorifying” business? That’s a peculiar way to describe the approaching tragedy. Soon the group of disciples will be torn apart by the betrayal, arrest, trial, torture, and death of their leader. Jesus is going to be scorned and spat upon, he will be beaten, flogged, mocked and maligned. He is going to be condemned and crucified; he will die, and be buried.

Not exactly “glorious” by the standard definition of the term.

But the Johannine community looks at things differently. They view all that happens over the next several days as a single event — the Glorification — beginning with the betrayal of the Lord, through his arrest, trial, crucifixion, death and burial, all the way to the resurrection. The Easter event is the defining aspect of their faith and their understanding; it’s what makes the “glorification” glorious — transfiguring all that went before into a prelude to the Divine Proclamation of love and light.

Easter changes everything.


John can appear almost casual toward Jesus’ “passion” by comparison with the other Gospels — notably Mark — which focus on the terrible suffering and sorrow that the Lord endured. In John’s version, Jesus not only accepts, but actually orchestrates his betrayal, and forces Pilate to condemn him. He has a couple of moments of hesitation, but otherwise seems to understand it as necessary, inevitable; he is riding the wave along to its conclusion:

This is why I’m here. This is what I’ve come to do. If the grain doesn’t fall into the earth and die, it won’t be raised up into a stalk of wheat that will fill the fields with grain.

One event leads to the other, that’s simply how it works. It’s presented as very reasonable, rational, logical. I can imagine Mr. Spock as the Jesus of John’s gospel: “Quite logical.”

Even as he writhed, cut and bleeding and dying, from the cross, John’s Jesus did not cry out in mortal despair (“My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”), but arranged for his mother to be looked after by one of the disciples (“Son, behold your mother”). It is positively other-worldly; very unlike the other Gospels. So, which one is right?

Divine Understanding

Just as no two witnesses of a bank robbery or a ball game will describe what happened in the same way, neither do the witnesses to the Christ event. Each of the Gospels offers a different perspective on the life of Jesus: Mark speaks to the Lord’s deep humanity, Matthew and Luke are concerned with shaping an understanding of his Message, and why he should be accepted as the Messiah. And then there’s John.

John is in an entirely different realm, working from an entirely different premise. For the writer of this gospel, Jesus is the Risen Lord; he is the Christ, and all else flows from there. If you don’t know that — and I mean really know: accept it as a fact, deep in your bones and firmly in your heart; hold it as the foundation of all that you say and do, hope for and believe, pray for, and work for — if you don’t get it, you simply won’t understand.

“If you have to ask what jazz is, man, you’re never gonna know.”
~ Louis Armstrong

John doesn’t seek to convince anyone, he simply presents the facts (as he understands them). To know Jesus as Lord is not through “reason” or logic, but through direct apprehension: some folks are going to “get it” (more or less spontaneously) and some aren’t. It is an experiential gift of the Spirit that blows where it will. It is a truth that presents itself to you; it is a knowing: divine wisdom that exceeds mere logic.

Difficult Understanding

The tricky bit is that, for those who have been given access to this divine insight, nothing is more frustrating than those who don’t have it. And so they fuss and complain and often, unfortunately, condemn those who “refuse to see” what to them is obvious.

This week’s passage provides a perfect example of the situation between those who “get it,” and those who don’t. After Jesus prays, a sound is heard from the heavens. The rational and literal-minded hear thunder; but there are others who “have ears to hear,” and they say that it was the voice of an angel.

Both are right. And each side will accuse the other of ignorance, stupidity, or stubbornness.

The members of John’s community simply can’t understand how anyone can fail to see that Jesus is the Christ. As far as they are concerned, there can be only two possible explanations: either God specifically hardened the hearts/ closed the eyes and ears of the disbelievers, or they have intentionally, maliciously, chosen not to see the truth. Regardless, those others are headed down the wrong path.

No, YOU are Wrong!

Meanwhile, the Jews who are continuing to faithfully worship the Lord God as they have always done consider these “Christ-followers” to be a bunch of disruptive troublemakers. There can only be two possible explanations for their behavior: either God has hardened their hearts/ closed their eyes and ears to the teachings of Moses and the prophets, or they have intentionally, maliciously, chosen to depart from the truth. Regardless, they are headed down the wrong path.

For the sake of the faith community and the souls of those confused enthusiasts, many rabbis and religious elders decided that a line must be drawn. These new notions, this claim that the messiah of God had come, was condemned and crucified, died and was buried — and rose from the dead! — wasn’t consistent with the Scriptures. These characters would have to decide: either they were Jews, in which case they were welcome in the synagogues, or they were something else — and had to take themselves and their permutated faith elsewhere.

Of course that went over like the proverbial lead balloon with the Johannine community. Confused and angry that others did not see as they did, they retaliated against those who excluded them by referring to them as sanctimonious jerks: “those Jews.”

And so what began as a family quarrel became institutionalized enmity; each side suspicious and fearful of the other, each more concerned with being right than being kind; neither realizing the toxic nature of the seeds they were sowing.

They knew so much, and yet understood so little. They were so wise and yet so foolish.

Both sides knew God as gracious and merciful, patient and forgiving, and abounding in steadfast love. But they stood apart from one another. This division, this unyielding separation, is the abiding tragedy, continuing sorrow — and sometimes cause of wickedness — embedded within the beginnings of our Christian faith.

And so they could not believe, because, as Isaiah also said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn — for then I would heal them.” ~ John 12:39–40

It’s alarmingly easy — even for those who “know the Lord” — to attribute blindness to others, and fall into a ditch themselves (Mt 15:14, c.f., Mt 7:4).

It’s So Obvious

It’s all about Easter, man. Easter. That’s all you gotta know.
~ Gospel of John (attributed 😉)

As far as John and his community are concerned, once you know about Easter (really know), you can see why all that happened, happened. It’s obvious; it’s perfectly logical. You understand why Jesus had to do what he did, why he spoke as he did, why he endured what he did: why he was crucified, died, and was buried. It wasn’t pointless suffering and needless dying, but a necessary prelude to the Extraordinary Demonstration of God’s absolute, unequivocal, abundant and unrestrained love for us.

For God so loved the world…

It’s the Gospel passage we all know — well, it’s the passage we recognize. Perhaps we should stand back and consider: do we know it as passionately, fully, and completely as the Johannine community did? Do we hold it as an article of faith — as the article of our faith — that God loves us?

“I have glorified and I will glorify again.”

Some people heard thunder, others heard an angel speak; some people saw an empty tomb, others saw the Risen Lord; some ran away in fear and sorrow, others came together, professing God’s love for us.

The Lord Christ wasn’t sent to condemn the world, but to transform it; he wasn’t sent to die, but to give life. The crucifixion wasn’t the most important thing; the Resurrection is what defines the Gospel: God’s love is so luminous, so transforming, so glorious, that all else — whatever we have done or left undone — is dim and inconsequential by comparison.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
~ 1 John 4:15-16

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,


Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Is it utterly obvious that God loves you? Do you believe it, fully and completely? Or is there a sneaking, shadowy doubt? Do you love gently and generously — others as well as yourself? Do you live as if the Truth is true?

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In the Silence

In the Silence

Holy God, I’m feeling very lonely.
You seem so far away; distant,
like a stranger hurrying past, looking at his phone,
unseeing, uncaring,
as I sit, weeping endless tears.

Night and day I call, but the only response is silence.

and the mocking of my enemies,
who laugh and take delight in my suffering.
Beyond that, there is nothing;
there is no one who will take my part.

Yet they say that You are the Faithful One,
that You can be relied on when the chips are down.
In the past You were really something;
pulling off miracles right and left.
When the people cried, you listened;
when they were in danger, you lead them to safety;
when they were hungry, you gave them food to eat.

But as for me, it is not so.
Despite my pleas, nothing changes,
I am an outcast;
scorned and shunned,
treated like contagion,
avoided like the plague.

Others stare and shake their heads,
then whisper, as they turn away,
certain that I am guilty of great wickedness,
the author of an evil deed that has brought a terrible retribution.

But You know better, O Eternal;
You’ve been here from the start:
I’m the same as everyone else — no better, but no worse.

Show Yourself, Guardian of my life,
for trouble lurks around every corner,
lying in ambush, ready to bring me down.

I’m wearied beyond exhaustion,
I can hardly raise my head
it takes all of my strength to face each new day,
I tremble and hesitate,
I take one step forward and then fall back;
my heart awash with grief,
my eyes dimmed with tears,
my mind a torrent of fears.
I am drowning in my sorrows.

I am surrounded, Lord;
an army of fiends encircles me.
I am defenseless, helpless, weak.
My courage has failed.
They smirk and sneer;
their sharp remarks cut my heart,
their hatred pulls down my spirit;
circling like wolves, they wait for me to collapse.

Yet wolves only kill from hunger, not malice.
These predators destroy for sport;
preying on the weak and vulnerable,
killing because they can.
Red in tooth and claw,
the blood of the innocent drips from their mouths.

Oh my God, can’t You hear me?
Don’t leave me here alone!
O my Help, my Salvation, hurry and rescue me!
Otherwise I will be devoured:
consumed by despair,
my spirit broken,
my life in shreds,
my soul crumbled into dust.

Despite it all, I will not give in.
I will not succumb
to the howling,
growling beast
that seeks to lure me to hopelessness
and destruction.

Evil will not claim me;
I will not forsake You, O my God,
no matter how long the silence,
how deep the loneliness —
for You are there, even in the silence;
You are the Presence too deep for words.

In the midst of it all, I will be thankful.
Through my tears, I will praise You —
for there is beauty in the darkness,
there is majesty in the depths,
there is grandeur in the stillness.

You, O glorious Comforter, will never abandon me;
You are faithful, trustworthy, reliable —
You’ve been here all along;
ignoring my insults,
hearing my complaints,
easing my pain.

Yes. Yes… Yes, here; here with me:
the unspeakable Presence,
the silent Word,
the Voice that resounds across the universe,

Yes, singing.

I hear it everywhere: a hymn of joy sung by all creation —
from the sun’s rising to its setting
and throughout the star-strewn night:
butterflies and bats and grizzly bears,
dogs and dragonfish and dandelions,
tortoises and trout and tabby cats,
lizards and leopards and mountain lions,
geese and gazelles and geraniums,
roses and ravens and rainbows:
the forests and the wheatfields,
the mountains and the valleys,
the seashore and the ocean,
the laughing and the crying,
the birthing and the dying…

A glorious multitude
of beauty and blessedness;
important, essential,
filled with grace and truth.
This is God’s world and all have their part;
we are the words and the music.

Lifting up my heart in praise and rejoicing
I become the song:
swept up, swept in — deeper into Your love;
so much a part of You
that there is no separation.
You are my life:
I am Yours.
We are One.

May all who call upon the Beloved be given ears to hear;
may your souls sing gloriously —
in joy and sorrow,
in laughter and tears,
in waking and sleeping,
in sickness and health,
at this life’s beginning and through to its ending —
this day and forevermore.

Deborah Beach Giordano
March 16, 2018
Based on Psalm 22

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Knowing Good and Evil

Deborah Beach Giordano
© February 18, 2018

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 ~ told by Deborah

God put the man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and maintain it.

And God said, “You can eat as much as you want of everything that grows in this garden — except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; you mustn’t eat from that, because the day that do, you will die.”

Now the serpent was the slyest of all of the wild creatures that God had made. He asked the woman, “Did God say, ‘You mustn’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”

“We can eat the fruit of any of the trees in the garden,” she replied, “but God said, ‘You must not eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden — don’t even touch it — or you will die.’”

“Oh, piffle!” the serpent said, “You won’t die! It’s just that God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened — and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman realized that the fruit of the tree was edible as well as lovely to look at — and who wouldn’t want to be wise? — she picked some and ate it, and gave some to her husband who was there with her, and he ate it, too.

Then they had understanding; and they covered their bodies, concealing themselves from one another.

Again We Weep — and Point Our Fingers

This past week I was on vacation, enjoying a sabbatical from news and networks. But on Thursday as we drove into a nearby town we saw flags at half-mast everywhere, and we learned of another national tragedy. And the too-familiar pattern repeats: another heavily-armed young gunman, another community devastated, and another round of finger-pointing.

No one wants to be responsible for an action that is almost impossible to imagine in its horror: the cold, calculating planning and execution of a vicious, evil deed. No, this cannot have anything to do with us. It must be the fault of someone else: and the litany of “the guilty others” begins.

The identity of who is to blame varies, depending on who is pointing the finger. One thing you can be sure of: it isn’t the one who is doing the pointing. After all, it is too terrible for any of us to even imagine.

Ultimate Responsibility

One target for a great deal of blame and resentment is God. We’ve all witnessed it — and engaged in it ourselves, perhaps. If God is everywhere, always, what the #ell happened on Valentine’s Day? That is the Big Question we all struggle with, making peace (or continuing the battle) each to our own ability and with God’s grace. In my own Walk, I understand it as contingent on the gift of free will.

As the story of Genesis tells us, humanity has claimed the knowledge and power to know and do both good and evil. Our choices have god-like results: to maim, kill, and destroy — or to bless, comfort, and build up.

What we do cannot be undone; the responsibility is ours. That is the Original Obligation: our actions have consequences — sometimes terrifying, irreparable consequences to ourselves and to others. To wish otherwise would be to want to be simply divinely-powered marionettes, with God pulling the strings. No, we are here, in this world, in all its majesty, splendor, challenges and opportunities.

Tall Poppies?

As people of faith, we naturally turn first to prayer in times of trouble — and are often scorned and belittled for doing so: “Prayer is useless. Do something.” “Your God didn’t prevent it, so what’s he gonna do now?”

I think this is a variation of the “tall poppy” syndrome: those who raise their heads and speak become targets for the angry and the grieving. The desire for an undoing of the damage that has been done runs deep, and its impossibility cuts to the heart. The implication that “mere words” can bring relief is considered an insult to the intelligence, an outrage against reason — and all of the suppressed resentment and rage and sorrow is turned against those who dare to suggest A Path of Peace.

It is not our task to explain or justify why prayer is our first recourse in times of trouble. It is enough — it is all that is necessary — to recognize that such reactions flow out of a lack of understanding and an agonizing hurt. What matters is that we cling tenaciously to our Work of prayer always — and especially when horror and chaos and fear are at their utmost.

Prayer helps us respond rather than react, reminding us that, whatever may come, God’s redeeming love is the last word. Prayer helps us to focus on restoration, not revenge; it leads us upon the path of compassion, for His Name’s sake, and delivers us from despair. Upheld on the wings of prayer, we will act with wisdom, grace and energy.

And yet, despite our prayers and our pleas, and our best intentions, these tragedies persist. Why?

Changing the System

People of good will insist that we yearn, deeply and truly, to prevent another tragedy such as the one in Florida. Yet we argue, debate, and disagree over methods of keeping our loved ones and ourselves safe, never coming to an agreement, always insisting on our own way, never seeking a compromise. And, in the end, nothing is done. And so the story repeats, again and again.

We point our fingers, we find fault and blame. We establish a scapegoat, an “other,” absolutely unlike ourselves, convinced that those who do evil are utterly different from us. We’re not responsible, these things have nothing to do with us….

But I wonder.

All human beings are “as gods, knowing (and doing) good and evil,” and, altogether all too often, we dabble in that which is evil. But just a bit. Only a little, not a lot. We just dip our toes into the poisoned spring, we don’t dive all the way in. We’re not all that bad.

We aren’t major sinners, we don’t murder or rob or steal. We love God and we love our neighbors as ourselves — except for the neighbors who always park in the spot in front of our house. We only hate a few people. We have compassion for sojourners, the poor, the ill, and those in prison, but despise those who disagree with us. After all, they’re in the wrong, so it’s ok. Right?

Jesus told his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not murder,’ and anyone who murders will be brought to judgment.’ But I am telling you that whoever is angry with his brother or sister will be brought to judgment. Whoever calls his brother or sister ‘worthless’ or ‘stupid,’ is answerable to the court. Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ is bound for destruction.”  ~ Matthew 5:21-22

How much harm do we do when we carry hatred and contempt in our hearts? Who among us can honestly say that we have not “been angry with our brother or sister,” have not called anyone “stupid” or “foolish” or worse?

Spiritually such an attitude creates a trail of destruction a mile wide wherever we go. Now multiply that by all of the angry, hateful encounters that occur throughout our nation, day after day. What happened in Florida was mild, by comparison.


The ancient prophets repeatedly warned the people of Israel that their actions had consequences; not only their individual actions, but what we might call their “cultural values,” as well. When great evils arose, where once they had known joy there was an abundance of sorrow; when violence and cruelty grew commonplace, as “brother rose up against brother,” the impoverished and the ill crowded the streets, as the nation was besieged by foreign enemies and beset by political unrest at home ….. it seemed as if God had disappeared.

The problems, the prophets insisted, were not due to God abandoning the people, but came about because the people had abandoned God. They were no longer concerned with doing what was right — only in looking out for themselves. But all was not lost:

If you remove oppression from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted, then the Light will dawn brightly in the midst of this present darkness, and your saddest day will be like a celebration.
~ Isaiah 58:9-10

All is not lost. But things will not get better on their own.

Without the protective shield of love and compassion, evil spreads; hatred and violence seep into the national consciousness. Getting and grasping and pushing others aside are seen as virtues. The gentle warmth of kindness is supplanted by the heat of anger, the delight in building up is displaced by the thrill of tearing down. “If it bleeds, it leads:” what’s important — who is important — is the one who does the most harm.

When destroying our enemies is presented as a solution to our problems, can we be surprised when fragile or disordered minds take us at our word?

Slouching Toward Calvary

Perhaps we can glean a lesson, a divine Warning, from the most recent tragedy. Could there be a more powerful condemnation of our national attitude? There, in all its vivid horror, was a physical manifestation of the hatred and division, alienation and violence, viciousness and destruction that passes for conversation in our daily lives.

It was not the first, and it will not be the last such tragedy unless and until we change our ways. And I think it is particularly significant that it occurred on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. This is the season of special mindfulness for Christians; during this time we are called to look at our lives in the light of our Lord Jesus’ life and teachings.

How will you honor Him throughout the days ahead?

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah  ♰

Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Reflect on this Scripture passage:

If you remove oppression from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted, then the Light will dawn brightly in the midst of this present darkness, and your saddest day will be like a celebration.
~ Isaiah 58:9-10

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The Magnificent Yes/es


Deborah Beach Giordano
© December 18, 2017

Isaiah 61:1-11 ~ interpreted by Deborah, imagined as Mary might have heard it

“The Holy Spirit has seized me, claimed me, captivated me, anointed me, and sent me forth. I bring you tidings of great joy: good news to the weary, the worn out, the weak, and the grieving. 

“It is Jubilee: the year of the Lord’s gracious compassion and mercy, poured out in abundance. I must tell you — I cannot hold back! Blessed! You are blessed by God: cherished and cared for beyond all imagining. Soon you will see it with your own eyes, know it in your own hearts!

“Blessed! Blessed are you who are impoverished in body, mind, or spirit — riches beyond compare are yours. Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness — a great banquet is being prepared! Blessed are you who work for peace — the harvest is ready; you will reap in gladness what you have sown in sorrow. Blessed are you who have been brought low — you will be raised up like mighty oaks planted by the Lord, revelations of His glory.

“You are blessed! Blessed, now and forever.

“And as for me, from now on all generations will call me blessed — for the glory of the Lord radiates from my very being, shining forth like a city on a hill; like a lamp in the darkness; like the sun at its rising.

“I rejoice in God my Savior, my Beloved, my All-in-All, and I will serve Him with all my heart and soul and mind and strength; for He has brought forth in me the good news of salvation as a midwife brings forth a precious child, and has dressed me in the robe of righteousness as a bride is adorned with her gown.

“The earth brings forth green grasses, and gardens give birth to what is sown within them, so the Lord God causes compassion and mercy, joy and gladness to be born in our world in accord with the promise given to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”


She awoke to the sound of her father’s husky recitation of the morning prayer streaming through her window as though carried on the rays of the sun. Miriam listened to the end, adding her own whispered “Amen.” Yes. May it be so. Let it be so, O Gracious One, holy is Your Name, that Your kingdom be made present in our world.

Miriam pondered these words as she arose and straightened the bed linens; this notion of a land ruled in accordance with the divine will. What would it be like to live in a place free from injustice and unkindness, where all people would live in harmony? It would be gloriously peaceful, safe, and … well, heavenly. Earth would be like heaven. She closed her eyes and for a moment Miriam felt herself enter into that Place; she could smell the spring grasses and feel the gentle breeze touch her face, and her heart leapt within her, “Yes!”

“Hey, dreamer-dreamer! Wake up!” Amos was leaning on the doorframe. He struck a pose and declaimed: “‘You shall all bow down before me! I have seen it in a dream!’” He wrinkled his nose and crossed his eyes at her, “All of the dreaming and daydreaming you do, Mom and Dad should have named you Joseph-ah!” He drew out the final syllable as a goatish bray — then ducked out of the way of an expertly-thrown sandal. Missing its intended target, it landed in the hall just as their father was coming in from the garden.

Joachim shook his head, “I hope this isn’t the way you’ll deal with disagreements when you are married.” Handing the sandal to his eldest child, he marveled at how lovely she was — and how grown up.

He reached out to smooth an unruly strand of her hair, remembering, suddenly, the first time he had touched her head; so long ago and yet surely only yesterday — when what had only been imagined was suddenly real: a child, his child, living, breathing, a precious, holy gift. He had placed his hands upon the tiny head crowned by a soft coat like the velvet on a young deer’s antlers, her olive-dark eyes looking into his, “May the One who has delivered our people bless this child. May she carry the name of her grandmother with honor, and be a blessing to our people, to the memory of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Not a son, but a daughter — but not “just” a daughter. The child would be taught to pray and to read the Scriptures as well as to weave and to spin; she would be a fine jewel, a pearl of great price, pleasing to God and a helpmeet to her husband, blessed by her children, doing good, not harm, all the days of her life.

And so it was; he and his beloved Anne had raised a child wise and good and lovely. And soon she would be leaving their nest and making a new home with her husband. As it should be; another stage in life, lived fully. Yes.

“Dearest Daddy!” As if reading the thoughts of his heart, Miriam kissed his hand and held it to her forehead, “I am so blessed.”

After breakfast Amos went off to Torah study “with all of the willingness of Jonah bound for Nineveh,” his father observed.

“He’s just a boy,” Anne felt the need to defend her son; he was a bright, social child, but quite unlike their firstborn. It was as if Miriam had been delivered to them full of grace: she was wise and good and kind; an embodiment of love, of the grace-filled Yes between her and Joachim.

She looked at her daughter, “You’ll understand, when you have children of your own.”

Miriam’s smile faded into a frown and she pressed her hand to her chest, as her eyes filled with tears.

“My child! What is wrong?” Anne put her arm around her daughter.

“I… I don’t know,” Miriam replied, resting her head in her hands, “It’s… I’m all right now.” She took a deep breath and remained silent, unwilling to alarm her parents; it had been a sudden sharp pain — as if an arrow had pierced her heart.

“Fresh air.” Joachim prescribed, “That’s what you need; go out and spend some time in the garden.” Privately he wondered if it had been a reaction to the thought of coming together with her intended bridegroom.

Had he and Anne been wrong to arrange this marriage? Joseph’s family was a good one, descended from the line of David, and Joseph was a skilled tradesman who could provide for a family. He was a kindly fellow, a bit older than Miriam, it was true — but not past his prime; more important, he seemed to genuinely care for her, and she for him. Joachim looked at his wife, “Oh, my dear Anne, have we done the right thing?”

In the Garden

Out in the garden, Miriam took a deep, cleansing breath: “Ah, yes,” she sighed. She delighted in this blessed space; this, her sanctuary. Surely the first Garden could not have been more glorious than this one; each tree giving abundantly: persimmons and pears, olives and lemons and trailing lilacs. Here her father spoke his morning prayers as he had done for as long as she could remember; here her mother praised God as she planted, nurtured, and harvested; here she and her brother had laughed and played for hours. And here she found peace and contentment.

She had brought Joseph here after their betrothal, taking his hand and leading him, timidly, as though entering the bridal chamber itself; revealing this most intimate space, allowing him to see where her soul took its pleasure. He had been gentle, admiring each bud and blossom, and taking special care not to disturb the plantings.

They had lingered in the garden, breathing in its peace, learning about one another in tender silence. It was then that she became certain that he was the right man; a man who had eyes to see the reality beneath the surface, as seeds deep in the soil begin to sprout before green shoots appear in the ground above.

Miriam was certain that her Yes to Joseph had been right. He truly was as wise as he was good.

She closed her eyes and tried to imagine their life together and immediately remembered throwing her sandal at her brother this morning. The thought made her smile, and then brought sadness: she would miss her family. Would there be a place for her in Joseph’s world? He was busy nearly every day in his shop, and his family was originally from Bethlehem; what if he decided to move there?

Miriam sat down on the bench beneath the ancient olive tree, so large it could hold “all the birds from everywhere,” Amos had said when he was young. She resolved never to forget it, no matter how far away she went; she would remember and tell her children and her children’s children of this wonderful garden, this wonderful tree, this garden paradise, and all future generations would say that she was blessed.

“Thank You, O Holy Lord, for this place, this day, and my part in it,” she said aloud.

The Scripture

As she had often did when troubled or uncertain — as her father had taught her — Miriam turned to the Scriptures to calm her spirit and seek Wisdom’s leadings. On this day she opened the text of Isaiah and began to read.

“The Holy Spirit has claimed me and anointed me to bring tidings of great joy: good news to the weary, the worn out, the weak, and the grieving. Jubilee: the year of the Lord’s gracious compassion and mercy, poured out in abundance.”

Miriam blinked and tilted the book back and forth, but in sunlight or shadow the letters appeared the same — as if they had been written in gold, bright, as if on fire. Their meaning thundered off the page and made her soul tremble: it was not a story of long ago, or the expression of a distant hope; it was a description of this very day, and this very place, calling for the world to be redeemed.… and it was speaking directly to her.

This very day. Her very own life. It seemed so real, and yet unbelievable. “How can this be,” Miriam asked, “I’m nobody; an unmarried girl, powerless. And the world is so big, and the troubles so enormous.”

A dove cooed softly in the branches.

A dove. Doves were made as offerings in the temple when a child was newly born. Could it be, Miriam wondered, that her child would bring about the Holy Kingdom?

“How could it be me?” Miriam shook her head as though to banish the thought.

But the words spoke to her again, “Good news. Good news. Good news. Comfort and joy.”

“Yes.” Miriam said, “If it is Your will, O Holy Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. I will love and serve You forever.”

At that moment the sky clouded over. Miriam looked up, expecting to see the beginnings of a rain storm; the dove fluttered down from the tree and landed at her feet as if he, too, sensed the change — but, in an instant, the sun shone brightly again. A flock of songbirds from somewhere beyond the garden began to sing, a distant rooster crowed; it was as if a new day had begun.

Miriam closed the book and cradled it in her arms. She felt the stirrings of new life within the very center of her being.


May this story, which is offered with respect and reverence, increase our understanding and our admiration of the blessed Mary, Mother of the Lord.

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah  ♰

Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Imagine a life lived in service to the Lord.

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Without Warning


This was written prior to the outbreak of the new Southern California fires; we pray for the safety of all involved there.

Deborah Beach Giordano
© December 3, 2017

Mark 13:24-37 ~ told by Deborah

Jesus said, “But in the days that follow, the sun will grow dim, the moon will go dark, and stars will be falling from heaven, and the cosmic powers will be shaken. 

“Then the Son of Man will make a dramatic entrance — in grandeur and power. He will send forth angels to gather his chosen ones from the farthest corners of the earth to the distant reaches of heaven.

“Take the the fig tree as an example: as soon as leaves begin to form on its branches, you know that summer is coming. So, too, when you see these things happening, you know that he is near by, right on the doorstep.

“I’m telling you truly, all this will take place during your lifetimes. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But nobody knows the day or the hour when it will happen — not the angels above, nor the Son — only the Father. So be on the alert, because you don’t know when the time will come.

“It’s like a man going on business trip, when he leaves the office and puts his managers in charge, each with a particular responsibility, and orders the staff to keep the place secure.

“That’s how it is: you don’t know when the CEO will arrive — it could be while you’re at dinner, or before breakfast; it might be in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, at sunset or just before dawn; any time at all — so be on the alert, otherwise he may find you asleep when he appears.

“I say to all of you: Keep awake.”

All of a Sudden

It is impossible to read Jesus’ warning as given in this passage without thinking of the terrible fires that rampaged through our region of California. For many people, it happened just as the Lord said: without warning, at an unexpected time; suddenly a firefighter was pounding on the door, shouting that they must leave their home immediately, this very minute, for an almighty conflagration was on its way. All at once, in the midst of a tranquil, ordinary day, their very lives were at stake.

Burning embers rained from the sky, igniting new blazes miles away like fiery “stars falling from heaven,” and the smoke and soot was so thick that it “dimmed the sun and darkened the moon.” It was as if it was the end of the world.

And for several days the terror continued, unabated, out of control. Our powers were as nothing against the sea of flames.

Nothing and no one was safe: the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, the aged and the young. The disaster struck “the good and bad alike”: devouring houses, hotels, and apartment buildings; gated communities and trailer parks; cars and campers and fire trucks, farms and forests and vineyards; crops and clothing and computers; birds and bees, livestock and wildlife, and forty-four human lives.


Those of us living in the area were made vividly aware of the destructive force of fire, and the fragile nature of life as we know it. All at once, without warning, everything could change — everything could literally vanish; disintegrated into ashes, into nothingness.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Just as Jesus said.

It’s easy to take our safety for granted; surrounded by civilization we are lulled into a false sense of security: the fire station is less than a mile away, there’s a fire hydrant on the corner, emergency services is just a phone call away. Besides, disasters happen to other people, and if — God forbid! — anything were to go amiss, we’d have plenty of time to prepare.

But the firestorm proved that we might not.

It might happen when we weren’t expecting it: in the middle of the night, or late in the afternoon; it might happen at dinner time, or just as we stepped into the shower.

“The end of our world” might come suddenly. As Jesus warned.

The greatest threat to us isn’t wildfires — or hurricanes, or floods, or earthquakes — what they destroy, generally, are mere things: earthly “stuff” that can be replaced. What if, instead of a fireman pounding on our door, shouting out that we had only a few minutes left, it was the Angel of death?

Suddenly, often without warning, our lives are ended. Nobody gets out of here alive, that’s a fact. How, then, have we prepared ourselves?

Is It Well with Your Soul?

One of the traditional questions asked in faith-supporting communities is, “Is it well with your soul?” In contemporary terms: Are you ready to go, if that Winged Messenger came calling today?

What would you need in order to be ready to leave this life “at a moment’s notice”?

Are there any essentials you’ve let go by the wayside, any important issues you have avoided or neglected? Any promises you’ve failed to keep? Any joys you have postponed?

Is your heart filled with compassion and lovingkindness? Is your spirit infused with gratitude and delight? Do you trust in God’s goodness and mercy? In short: Is it well with your soul?

If Death came knocking at your door today, are you prepared to go?

It Can’t Happen Here 

As the Lord said, we need to be awake: aware and ever-mindful of the reality of our mortality. We don’t have “all the time in the world” to prepare; none of us knows the day or the hour when life as we know it shall come to an end.

I’m not afraid of death;
I just don’t want to be there when it happens.
~ Woody Allen

It’s natural to put off thinking about such things, just as we’re prone to do with disaster planning. It’s not pleasant to imagine our dying: the world going on without us, the events that we would miss, how our end might come, or how long it might take — but that doesn’t prevent it from happening. We mustn’t be lulled into a false sense of security because of our youth, or health, or family history of longevity. How often have you heard it said, “If I die…” as though it’s an option?

Awakened to Life

“Be awake, therefore,” not in fear-filled sleeplessness, but in daily alertness. Be aware that today is all we have for certain. Today — not tomorrow; today — not last week. Mindful of death, we will be fully awake to life: to seeing this world, our world, without expectations of tomorrow.

Today, with no guarantee of tomorrow, be alive, awake, aware, and supremely grateful. Perhaps this time will be the very last time your eyes see that face, your ears hear that music, your tongue tastes that flavor, your nose smells that fragrance, your fingers touch that texture, you think those thoughts, you feel those emotions, you say those words….

What if, in the midst of these things, Someone came knocking, announcing that the time had come: that you had to leave, at once? Some day it will happen, but no one knows the day or the hour. It can happen at any time: in the middle of the day or the middle of the night — suddenly, without any warning. And we will have to leave everything behind.

A Departing Blessing

When we go we will leave everything behind — including those who love us. If it is well with our souls, our legacy will be a blessing. Our loved ones will grieve, but not without hope, for the Light will have shined in our lives, and through our lives, leaving a legacy of lovingkindness and compassion; we will have demonstrated what it means to be Awakened and Alive in Christ — in this world and the next.

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah  ♰

Suggested Spiritual Exercise:
Are you prepared to leave at a moment’s notice?
Is it well with your soul?


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Burned Out: the Parable of the Bridesmaids


Deborah Beach Giordano
© November 13, 2017

Matthew 25:1–13 ~ retold by Deborah

Jesus said, The kingdom of heaven is like this: 

Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 

The foolish didn’t bring any oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil along with their lamps. 

The bridegroom was delayed for several hours, and as it got later, the bridesmaids fell asleep. 

But at midnight someone shouted, ‘Look! Here he is! Come out and greet him!’ 

Then all of the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. 

The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ 

But the wise replied, ‘No! there won’t be enough for you and for us; you’d better go to the shops and buy some for yourselves.’ 

And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the party began. 

Finally, much later, the other bridesmaids arrived; but the door to the reception was shut. They knocked and yelled, ‘Hey! Open up! We’re here!’ 

But the bridegroom said, ‘Who the heck are you? My friends are here with me.’

So be on the alert, because you never know when you’ll need to be ready. 

Is that Right?

The behavior of the five “wise” bridesmaids has always made me a bit uncomfortable. Is that really the right way to act? Shouldn’t they have given the other bridesmaids some of the oil that they had brought with them?

You know: sharing.

From early days we are trained to help those in need, to share what we have, to give and not hold back. To be a Christian is to engage in compassion-fueled generosity: abundant giving with no thought of self.

But this parable turns that belief upside down. In it Jesus describes as “wise” the bridesmaids who did think of themselves. We’re meant to admire the ones who held something back.

What can that mean?

Give until…. 

For many years a major charity has used the slogan: “Give until it helps.” Each time it is broadcast, the older, entrenched admonition echoes in our ears: Give until it hurts.

The phrase distresses and at the same time goads us; pinching our consciences: we must give more, do more, work more, pray more…. until it hurts. There it is: the classic Christian notion of sacrifice: if our Lord loved and gave so much — then shouldn’t we do the same?

How much is enough?

Must we, too, bleed and die? How severe must our pain be, how weary our bodies, how worn down our spirits before we can rest from our labors? There’s always more that can be done, more that should be done, more that we might accomplish. It still isn’t “on earth as it is in heaven”: so our work is not finished.

But we also need to consider the bridesmaids in the Lord’s parable; the wise ones who held onto enough oil for themselves to see their way through to the wedding feast. Christians are supposed to be joyful Light-bearers, not grim-faced taskmasters — not even if we assign the tasks to ourselves!

Sour-faced Saints

From silly devotions
and from sour-faced saints,
good Lord, deliver us.
~ St. Teresa of Avila

The idea that we must give until we are hurting, subjecting ourselves to extreme or unceasing fatigue or suffering, can lead to terrible trouble. It puts our health at risk, erodes our spirit, creates conflicts in relationships, and turns our faith into a business transaction.

When we become “suffering saints,” our acts of lovingkindness turn into ordeals; we persist with growing resentment — angry that our sacrifices are unacknowledged and under appreciated; our thinly veiled hostility and hubris sabotaging the spirit of charity. We become prideful of our labor, delighting in our misery, convinced of our own holiness, unwilling to accept assistance or advice; martyrs to our own egos. There is no joy in us, no gratitude, no warmth in our hearts. We confuse suffering with sanctity, and mistake pain for piety.

We have given all that we have. The Light has gone out from us.

In the Dark

As the bridesmaids in the parable demonstrate, if we don’t reserve something for ourselves, the time will come when we find ourselves in the dark; hopeless, lost. If we don’t tend to the holy Flame within us, we will burn out.

It happens. It can happen to the best of us; a slow, steady decline in energy, enthusiasm, and hope; a gradual dimming of our faith — eclipsed by exhaustion, disappointment, or sorrow.

It happens when we fail to keep holy oil in our own lamps: when we act without prayer, without reflection, without humility, without love. It happens when we forget to be gentle and compassionate — to ourselves as well as to others. It happens when we forget who we are and Whose we are.

We are indeed called to the work of building the Kingdom of Heaven — but it isn’t up to us to complete the task, and certainly not to do the work single-handed! When we walk humbly with Christ we can do great things, but in stubbornly pursuing our own way we can do great harm — to ourselves as well as others.

Keeping the Light Burning

Even the noblest and most worthwhile projects — particularly those — can drain us: they can consume our attention and energy, becoming the sole focus of our concern. We give our all to the “Good Work,” and leave no time for God. Then one morning we wake up and realize that we’ve been running on empty.

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest. ~ Matthew 11:28

We don’t have to do it all, we don’t have to do it all today, and we don’t have to do it alone. Jesus Christ is our savior; we are his disciples, not his replacements. Stop. Take a breath. Allow yourself to stand in the presence of the Beloved. Allow yourself to be loved.

It is all right. You are all right. You are loved and cherished beyond anything you can dream of or imagine — just as you are. You don’t have to earn God’s love, you are awash in it: like a fish in the ocean, that love surrounds you, flows through you; it is within you and you are within it, inseparably, inescapably.

All is well, and all is well, and all will be well.

Faith in the Darkness

But there are times when we cannot find that place of Divine Acceptance: when we are in stillness we find, not peace and comfort, but angst and fear and doubt. And so we keep doing and working and busy-ing harder than ever — to keep the terrors at bay. It is the vicious cycle of burn out: the emptier we are, the more we do in search of meaning, which makes us feel emptier and more frantic, which drives us to do more, and on and on..…

That’s when faith must take the lead. It calls us to Stop, in the midst of the hurry and busyness. Stop and breathe and trust in the Light. Know in your heart that God is love and in that love there is no darkness at all. Have faith that it is all right, that you are all right. Breathe and be at peace.

Perhaps that was the situation with the five foolish bridesmaids: perhaps they weren’t really locked out, perhaps they were so burned out that it seemed as if the door was closed to them. Perhaps they assumed that Christ was sending them away when he was actually calling out, “Come to me, all you who are weary and weighed down, and I will give you peace.” I know which version I believe.

Trust in the Lord!

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah  ♰

Suggested Spiritual Exercise

Be mindful of what nurtures and nourishes your soul, and partake of it often. Keep the light of Love aflame in your soul.

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A Cry from the Heart

Deborah Beach Giordano
© October 2, 2017


Once again we learn of “man’s inhumanity to man.” And we grieve and cry out to God.

A Cry from the Heart

Holy One, be merciful to us and bless us.

We lift up our hurting hearts to you.

We cry out in sorrow and confusion;

why is there pain,
why is there grief,
why is there
and separation?

It is beyond our understanding, beyond all reason;
how can You allow such things to be?

We grasp at every trace that remains;
notes and photographs, a pair of shoes,
a favorite food, a half-read book, a lock of hair,
a voice message, an old worn-out sweater…

to stay connected, to stay in touch –

to hang on
to one we can no longer hold;

constructing a bridge

to bring us nearer

to that farther side.

Holy God, be merciful to us and bless us.

The world is a weird and meaningless play;
a series of acts in which others recite pat phrases
and go through the motions
that pass for normal life

but we miss our cues,
we forget our lines,
we stumble as though in a fog,

we are deaf, near-sighted, and numb;

our steps are slow and weary, weighed down
by a burden too great to bear,
held in place
by memories too dear to release.

Dear God, be merciful to us and bless us.

Give us the courage to cry
as much and as long as we need.
Give us the strength to go on;
in time
let our sadness be transformed
into strength.

Turn each memory
into a ray of light
that warms our hearts
and uplifts our spirits.

Help us to forgive all faults and failings –
of others as well as ourselves.
Fill us with compassion and understanding,
free us from rage, resentment, and despair.

Dear God, be merciful to us and bless us.

The days ahead will be difficult, Lord,
so don’t expect any outbursts of praise.
But I will stay beside You,
as I know You always stand by me;

And I have faith
that we will get through this

May God, our God, bless us;
and may all that lives
find peace
and comfort
in God’s unfailing love.


Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah  ♰

Suggested Spiritual Exercise: Be kind to one another.

Isaiah 40:28 ~ told by Deborah

Take heart
and draw strength
from your faith;
the testimonies
that stretch
from age to age;

the Beloved is eternal,
whose glory
extends throughout creation,
whose wisdom
is beyond our understanding,
whose strength
is greater than we can imagine,
whose love
is everlasting.

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