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just-mercyAre you a stone thrower or a stone catcher?  You may not have heard of a stone catcher before but I think we are all familiar with the concept of a stone thrower. These are the people that Christ was talking to when the crowd planned to stone the adulteress woman.  “Let he who is without sin among you throw the first stone.”

I learned about stone catchers this week reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson is a lawyer who started the Equal Justice Initiative. The group started out defending those on Alabama’s death row who didn’t have legal counsel. Soon they worked nationwide, trying to stop the killing of men, women and children simply because they are poor and uneducated. Or mentally ill. Or handicapped. Wrongfully convicted or unjustly sentenced.

Society and the justice system pitched stones at these people, burying them beyond hope or light.

Stevenson is a stone catcher.  He didn’t coin the term himself.  He learned it from an older woman he had seen in the court room. He thought she was related to one of the defendants. When they spoke, she told him that, no, her grandson was one of the murder victims. Seeing his killers sent to prison “forever,” didn’t give her a sense of vindication.  It only made her sadder.

rock-1533825_1920Finally she realized that she was to spend her days at the courthouse.  She was there to listen to those no one else could hear – the mothers, grandmothers and daughters.  She was there to hold them up when they could no longer stand.  She was there to catch the stones thrown at them and those they loved.

A stone catcher.  Someone who catches the stones thrown by the merciless.  Someone who catches the stones thrown by the unjust.  Someone who catches the stones thrown by those in power simply because they can.

What an amazingly powerful image.

Christ was a stone catcher.  He listened to the widow.   He sat among the fallen.  He saw and he heard and he healed.

Catch or throw.  Throw or catch.  Which would Christ have you and I do today?


Some people live small lives and seem, if not happy, at least resigned to it. What do I mean by “small”? I mean that they place limitations on themselves because of who they are, where they were born, or other circumstances. Imagine a bird in a cage. After years of frustrated fluttering, it realizes it cannot break free. Then someone takes away the cage, and the bird doesn’t try to fly away. It believes that it cannot be free even though its situation has changed. It lives small because it can no longer imagine doing otherwise.

But people are smarter than birds, right? Surely, they must see that they are not as stuck as they might seem. On the contrary — we are more apt, I think, than the dumbest of creatures to box ourselves in to a rigid construct that perhaps fit once, but doesn’t fit anymore…or that never fit at all. How often do you find yourself saying, “I’m too old” or “too short” or “too heavy” or “too dumb” to do something or other that you’d really like to do?

There are people who believe that God is merely an echo of what is eternal in each of us. And people of many faiths believe that God resides in every person. So believers and nonbelievers agree: Each and every human person contains the divine. The divine is infinite. That makes you infinite, too. So what are you going to do about it? There’s an old saw that goes something like this: Imagine what you might do if you knew you couldn’t fail. Now consider this saying with the knowledge that there genuinely is a part of you that cannot fail.

When I was a kid, we would go to a local amusement park and pan for gold in their Old West themed area. You’d scoop up some water and sand in an old tin pan and swish it back and forth, back and forth, until a crumb or two of glinting ore remained. That old pan is you. And even if most of it is filled with grit and gravel, there is gold there, too. God is in and with you. You can fly. The cage? Well, that’s just an illusion. It’s long gone. Or maybe it was never there to begin with.

Maybe you don’t want to fly. Okay, fine. But don’t limit someone else based on your own constraints. Don’t ever dim someone else’s cage-less vista just because you still see bars. To ignore the eternal in yourself is tragic, but to snuff it out in someone else…unforgivable.

leopardThis video of a charity tennis match with Rafael Nadal really caught my attention. A woman in the crowd loses her child and Nadal stops the match as security helps her.

What really got to me was the part at the end, when the camera focuses on tennis great, John McEnroe. In days of yore, he would have ranted at the woman, You can’t find your kid? You have GOT to be kidding me! But it doesn’t turn out the way, and this made me wonder: can people really change?

How about this question: can a hermit flip a switch and suddenly become an extrovert? The Swiss town of Solothurn seems to think so. They recently placed an ad seeking a professional hermit with a charismatic personality willing to engage in small talk with the public.

Of course, there are many things that you can change, including your name and your appearance.

Do you know who Ilyena Vasilievna Mironoff is? She’s an actress you may have seen in such movies as The Hundred Foot Journey and The Queen. Not for nothing, but at 68 years old, she’s got the figure of a swimmer!

Do you recognize this famous face? jennifer-grey-mindy-friends She (and her original nose) starred in the movie, Dirty Dancing, but I saw her in a rerun of Friends recently, and I didn’t know who she was!

“I went into the ­operating room a ­celebrity and came out anonymous,” she told The Mirror in 2012. “It was the nose job from hell. I’ll always be this once-famous actress nobody ­recognizes because of a nose job.”

Surely, these things are malleable, but what about who-we-are at the very core? Can people change at the most basic level? Saul did, on the road to Damascus, and finding faith led him to become the Apostle, Paul.

After once calling himself an “amiable agnostic,” CS Lewis experienced God’s “compelling embrace.” Remember Matthew 19:26: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Well, if Johnny Mac has become an old softie on the tennis court, heck, maybe anyone can change!

tree-99852_1920Sorry this is late going up.  Autumn is a crazy busy time for me.  I have a book due in 11 days.  The church rummage sale was this weekend – I donated 7 boxes full of stuff and only brought home 2.  And I had a stomach bug that’s going around.

In spite of the craziness, this is one of those times that I always feel closest to God.  Maybe it’s because the weather cooled off for an entire week.  One day it was 90.  The next it was 65. For a week we’ve had the windows open.  I got to listen to a gentle rain while I sprawled out on the sofa with a book.

Tomorrow we are even having an outdoor service. We had a great pavilion and the congregation is going to gather out there to praise God.  The apartment complex next door will be able to hear our music.  Maybe a few extra people will join us.

Tonight, in preparation, we are going to camp out.  We’ll start with s’mores and tonka toasters.  Then we’ll all sleep out where we can hear the breeze and, less wonderfully, the squirrels.  Am I the only one who wonders how a healthy squirrel can make some of those noises?

Whether you get to sleep outdoors, worship under the open sky or just open the windows as the temperatures drop, autumn blurs the walls that we often put up between ourselves and God.  It gives us a bit of an opportunity to breathe deep, make connections and make some breathing room in our souls.

Maybe that’s why it’s my favorite time of the year.



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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