Lenten Meditation: Before Darkness Overtakes You

John 12:35

Then Jesus told them: You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.

Many older people when stressed with illness, while hospitalized or disrupted from their routine, will become disoriented, even confused in the evening, unable to sleep, or be at ease.  It is referred to as “sundowning” by the care providers who must try to keep an older patient safe, calm and oriented to time and place.  It isn’t at all clear what is happening in the brain as the sun goes down, but over the years of watching this happen in my patients, I think it is a very primal fear response to loss of light.  We don’t know where we are in the dark and feel lost.  We don’t know what is out there that may hurt us.

Jesus knew the dangers of the night, both as God and as man.  As the Light of the World, soon to hang from the cross as the sky blackened and the sun was covered over, His illumination will dim and die.  At that moment, man is plunged into darkness like none ever known before.  This is extreme  “sundowning” where all hope is lost, and we can so easily lose our way.

Yet if we stay rooted to the spot, and not leave the cross, we may find comfort in our troubled state, and can put down our heavy burden and rest. We can celebrate the arrival of brilliant light in our lives. Instead of darkness overcoming us, our lives are covered in the glory and grace of Resurrection Day.

The Son settled among us.  Darkness can no longer overtake us, even at death.  The Light will illuminate the path we are meant to take.

“No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.”  Corrie ten Boom in The Hiding Place

Lenten Meditation: If They Keep Quiet

Luke 19:40

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

The songs from the swamp were faintly detectable in the distance about six weeks ago.  In the middle of winter, due to unduly mild temperatures, the frog chorus had begun in the wetlands surrounding our farm.  It was almost disorienting, along with the daffodils budding in late January and lawns needing mowing in February.  An early March cold snap sent the frogs back into the mud and the evening concerts ceased briefly.  Then suddenly today, along with the sun,  they are back, this time closing in right next to our bedroom window, populating the small fish pond in our front yard.  With voices so numerous, strong and insistent, it feels as though a New York City of Pacific Chorus Frogs moved in next door, and our family is seated in the balcony of Carnegie Hall.  They seem to be directed by an unseen conductor, as their voices rise and fall together and then cut off suddenly with a slice of the baton, plunging into uncomfortable silence at the slightest provocation, as if holding an extended resting fermata for minutes on end.

The frogs’ repertoire is limited but their wind power,  stamina and ability to project their voices impressive.   They are most tenacious at making their presence known to any other peeper within a mile radius. Then when the coyotes are chorusing in the field out back, just a hundred yards away from our other bedroom window, yip-yip-yelping their song at the moon, we are serenaded by the sopranos and altos of the farm’s wild fauna.  There is an occasional percussive beat of a barn owl’s click as he flies overhead, and the intermittent tenor hoohooooo’s back and forth between mates perched in trees around the house.   Add in the deep bass huh-huh-huh-huh of our stallion’s nicker as he talks with our mares through the barn wall, and it makes for a fine evening concert indeed.

Everyone’s welcome to attend the next performance at our farm. Admission is free as long as you are willing to help clean barn the next day.

As a relatively new member of a small town choral society, I am discovering choirs of all sorts are joyous groups, a collection of individuals perhaps as disparate as the creatures on our farm, joining together to create a woven musical tapestry.  The Lenten portion of Handel’s Messiah is a challenging work that our group will perform later this week, prior to the beginning of Holy Week, as our faith community prepares for Easter.  As a novice singer,  I am learning to find the right notes, stay on key, pronounce the words correctly, turn the pages at the right time, watch the conductor, know when to start and when to be silent, when to stand up and sit down in unison, and most natural to me, how to actually show the emotion of the words.

If there would be a command to silence, if we are told to keep quiet, if we are somehow prevented from singing this amazing choral work, or even if there is not a cacophony of sounds out our bedroom window every spring evening, I have no doubt the stones themselves would cry out.    It is that important to sing praises loud and clearly, whether it be a choral society, a peeper chorus, a coyote concert or the hosannas shouted during His ride into Jerusalem.

Everyone’s welcome to attend.  Admission is free.  No barn cleaning necessary.  Instead be prepared for washing of your feet and cleansing of the heart.

Lynden Choral Society

Lenten Meditation: The Hem of His Mother’s Robe

“Looking at Stars” by Jane Kenyon from Let Evening Come

The God of curved space, the dry
God, is not going to help us, but the son
whose blood splattered
the hem of his mother’s robe.

Jane Kenyon, whose work I’ve only recently discovered, wrote much of her spiritual poetry in her forties while dying of leukemia.   This brief poem illustrates her (and humanity’s) need for a bleeding God who lived and died among us, splattering beyond his mother’s robe.  Our help, our only comfort, our desperate need is for God who understands our suffering by dwelling on earth, not just in the heavens.

His blood, shed and shared so graciously and willingly, is on our hands, and pumps everlasting within our hearts.

The Piet by Giovanni Battista Gaulli (Called Baccicio)

Hill Top Easter Sunrise Service Invitation

2012 Easter Sunrise Service at BriarCroft  — April 8, 2012 at 7 AM
(formerly Walnut Hill Farm)

sunrise view from our hill–see more at our website at http://www.briarcroft.com/easter.htm

When we purchased Walnut Hill Farm from the Morton Lawrence family in 1990, part of the tradition of this farm was a hilltop non-denominational Easter sunrise service held here for the previous 10+ years.  We have continued that tradition, with an open invitation to families from our surrounding rural neighborhood and communities, as well as our church family from Wiser Lake Chapel, to start Easter morning on our hill with a worship service of celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

At our annual Easter Sunrise Service in Whatcom County, we develop a different Easter theme each year through use of scripture readings and songs, led by Dan Gibson. We sit on hay bales on the hill for the worship service, followed by breakfast of cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate and coffee in our barn.  As many of the people who attend come from some distance from all over the county, we try to conclude by 8 AM so they may have time to get to morning church services.

We invite all to come to our farm to participate in this traditional service of celebration.  Please dress warmly with sturdy shoes as you will be walking through wet grass to reach the hilltop.  Bring heavy blankets or sleeping bags to wrap up in if it is a chilly morning.  In case of rain, we meet in the big red hay barn on the farm, so we never cancel this service.

If you would like more information and directions to our farm at 1613 Central Road, between Hannegan and Noon Road, please email us at emily@briarcroft.com

Dan and Emily Gibson

Lenten Meditation: Ground Down

“The grinding power of the plain words of the Gospel story is like the power of millstones; and those who read them…will feel as if rocks had been rolled upon them.”

G.K. Chesterton  in The Everlasting Man

The observance of Lent is a downward trajectory, heavy laden.   The betrayal and denial by His closest friends during that final week in Jerusalem only amplifies His suffering and the sacrifice He was prepared to offer, even when forsaken.  Lent is a disconsolate descent into sadness, sliding into the overwhelming reality of the stone being rolled in place to seal a tomb. That moment effectively cuts man off from God, and it is as if we too are crushed, our breath and life forced from us, by that very stone.  There is nothing darker than a sealed tomb, other than the knowledge of eternal separation from God.

From the vantage point under the stone, there is no way to comprehend the eventual lifting of the impossible weight of sin, the ascent into an unbearable lightness of new life.  As hard shelled kernels ground to remove our useless hull, we will never be the same again.

Nor should we ever wish to be.

Lenten Meditation: Spread Under Foot

Entry into Jerusalem by by Giotto di Bondone. It is the image of a fresco, created between 1304-06, from Scenes from the Life of Christ at the Arena Chapel (Cappella Scrovegni) in Padua, Italy.

“So it is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours.  But we have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, with the whole Christ–‘for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ’—so let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet.”   –8th century bishop Andrew of Crete

It would have been a spectacle of waving branches stripped from trees and coats being spread in the dirt of the road to Jerusalem.  But it was only spectacle.  Within a few days, it was all forgotten as another reversal takes place: the King of Glory himself was stripped of His clothing and hung upon a tree.

Andrew of Crete points us to the words of Apostle Paul in Galatians:  we must spread ourselves, clothed in His grace, over the dust, under His feet.  We become indistinguishable from the dust, indistinguishable one from another, as His soles leave permanent footprints on our souls.

Galatians 3:27-28

…all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Lenten Meditation: Lost and Now Is Found

Return of the Prodigal Son --Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Luke 32: 15

this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

There is a unique aspect to the “Prodigal” story that is not always apparent on first reading/hearing.  It is, on the surface, a warm and tender story of a loving father welcoming his wayward son back to the fold after squandering all, and realizing his life would be better working as one of his father’s servants than literally wallowing in a pig sty.  Instead,  his father greets him home with utter joy, bringing him the best of all he possesses to celebrate.   It is the ultimate story of grace and forgiveness.

It is told by Jesus in the context of a warning to the Pharisees and keepers of the Jewish law.  It is actually a parable far more about the older brother–the obedient  “nose to the grindstone”  guy– who is resentful and angry that his father lavishes such special attention on the younger brother returned home from a life of sin.   The father “pleads” with his older son to participate in the celebration, reminding him:  “You are always with me and everything I have is yours, but we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”  We don’t know what the older brother decided to do, and whether he could ever get over his resentment of his brother and his anger at his father.  Jesus leaves that part of the story open-ended, just as our own decisions are open-ended.

It is clear what we must do.   We cannot have expectations for what we feel is owed us because of our “good” behavior, our hard work, or our obedient nature.  We deserve nothing.

Yet our Father hears our righteous anger, sees our self-absorbed resentment and instead entreats us, with all the power of His love,
“You are always with me; everything I have is yours.”

What can be greater than that?   As we are lost in our selfish judgment, He reminds us how firmly He holds us.  We are meant to be found resting, living, breathing in Him.

And so, it is not only the prodigal who lives again.