Lenten Reflection–Crying Out Loud

photo by Josh Scholten

So much conspires to keep us silent~
faith as unfashionable,
a crutch for the weak,
outmoded, obsolete,
outrageous belief.

Far easier to worship the earth
or each other
or nothing at all
rather than exalt the
Living God Everlasting.

His name no longer spoken
at school or work,
mentioned one hour a week
by some,
forgotten by most.

Sing of His glory
out of joy and from deep gratitude.
Sincerely imperfect,
we must not be silenced
while we have tongues.

If we do not shout out loud,
nor spread branches at His feet,
if we worry what others might think,
the stones will cry out
and not stop,  as they know

He weeps at our silence.

photo by Josh Scholten

Lenten Reflection–The Cost of Humanity


Man was added to Him, God not lost to Him; He emptied Himself not by losing what He was, but by taking to Him what He was not.

Look upon the baby Jesus. Divinity may terrify us. Inexpressible majesty will crush us. That is why Christ took on our humanity…that he should not terrify us but rather that with love and favor he should console and confirm.” Martin Luther

He was pushed out in those first moments on earth, birth-bloodied, then cradled and held in human arms. Three decades later, He was pulled down following  His last breath, death-bloodied, then cradled and held in human arms. The symmetry of His birth and death mirrors the symmetry of our lives, a consolation about how He belongs to us as much as we belong to Him.

The blood shed at birth is the mother’s alone. The blood lost at death is God’s alone, pumping through human heart and arteries, soaking the wretched ground below.

He empties completely because He is fully human; He returns risen and complete because He is fully God.


Lenten Reflection–Mute Eloquence

He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.

It turns the mind inside out–created within His creation, hugged within an earthly embrace, by way of heaven, fed from human breast while becoming food for the heart, bathed while cleansing the bather.

In the beginning the Word breathed and articulated life, knowing its utterance would someday come from lips and tongue and throat, whether as an infant’s cry, a toddler’s chuckle, a child’s secret or an adult’s stricken sorrow. 

We are speechless, listening.

Straws as Sharp as Thorns

“The whole of Christ’s life was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day. From the creche to the cross is an inseparable line. Christmas only points forward to Good Friday and Easter. It can have no meaning apart from that, where the Son of God displayed his glory by his death.”
opening words by John Donne in his sermon on Christmas Day 1626

Lenten Reflection–How It Works


The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal.
C.S. Lewis

We are staying with our friends Brian and Bette at their cabin on a bluff just above the beach at Sendai, Japan, just a few dozen feet above the devastation that wiped out an entire fishing village below during the 3/11/11 earthquake and tsunami. We walked that stretch today, learning of the stories of the people who had lived there, some of whom did not survive the waves that swept their houses and cars away before they could escape. We walked past the footprints of foundations of hundreds of demolished homes, humbled by the rubble mountains yet to be hauled away to be burned or buried and scanned acres of wrecked vehicles now piled one on another, waiting to become scrap metal. It is visual evidence of life suddenly and dramatically disrupted.

This was a place of recreation and respite for some who visited regularly, commerce and livelihood for others who stayed year round and now, in ongoing recovery efforts, is struggling to be restored to something familiar. Yet it looks like foreign ghostly landscape. Even many trees perished, lost, broken off, fish nets still stuck high on their scarred trunks. There are small memorials to lost family members within some home foundations, with stuffed animals and flowers wilting from the recent anniversary observance.

It is a powerful place of memories for those who live here and know what it once was, how it once looked and felt, and painfully, what it became in a matter of minutes on 3/11. The waves swept in inexplicable suffering, then carried their former lives away. Happiness gave ground to such terrible pain that could never have hurt as much without the joy that preceded it.

We want to ask God why He doesn’t do something about the suffering that happened here or anywhere a disaster occurs –but if we do, He will ask us the same question right back. We need to be ready with our answer and our action. He knows suffering. Far more than we do. He took it all on Himself, feeling His pain amplified, as it was borne out of His love and joy in His creation.

This beautiful place, and its dedicated survivors are slowly recovering, but the inner and outer landscape is forever altered. What remains the same is the tempo of the waves, the tides, and the rhythm of the light and the night, happening just as originally created.

In that realization, pain gives way. It cannot stand up to His love, His joy, and our response.


Lenten Reflection–Sacred Somethings



Something of God flows into us from the blue of the sky, the taste of honey, the delicious embrace of water whether cold or hot, and even from sleep itself.
C.S. Lewis

Six days so far in Japan: the sky bright blue, the cherry blossoms bursting, the smooth snowy cone of Fuji visible at sunrise, the stars sparkling in the night sky above Nikko, the bounty of the sea and fields displayed in the markets of Tokyo, the warm hug of the hot springs, the sea of humanity streaming into subways.

Something of God is flowing here in this beautiful place, though not yet recognized by all. He is sacred, tangible and intangible, internal and loving.

May we be filled. Even as we sleep.


Lenten Reflection–He is Here

And He departed from our sight that we might return to our heart, and there find Him. For He departed, and behold, He is here.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:30-32

I think often of the disciples walking to Emmaus on the evening of Resurrection Sunday, trying to make sense of all the events of the day. When another traveller joined them, they shared everything they knew, expressing their wonder and amazement. They spoke from the heart, and as He, in turn, shared insights from the gospel, He set their “hearts burning within” them as they listened to His words.

Then He revealed Himself during the meal as He spoke words of gratitude and broke the bread. In this simple every day action, they recognize Him, and so feel Him in their hearts. As He departs from their sight, they know where they may always look to find Him.

He is here. Deep in our beating hearts that He shared with us, deep in our every day activities of making and eating meals together, walking, sleeping, caring for one another, teaching, cleaning up, telling stories and simply saying thanks. He is here, so close, so accessible, so much part of our humanity, yet transcending His flesh and blood by giving it up for us. To find Him,we need provide no sacrifice, need make no pilgrimage, worship at no special shrine, pay no indulgences. As we eat, as we drink, as we express gratitude, we feel His Spirit, recognizing He offered Himself as the sacrifice made on our behalf.

No other God would. No other God has. No other God is here, dwelling within us.

Lenten Reflection–The Invitation

When he takes it all away, will we love him more than things, more than health, more than family, and more than life? That’s the question. That’s the warning. That’s the wonderful invitation.
John Piper in “I Was Warned By Job This Morning”

The warning of the Book of Job is that it could happen to us too–everything we have strived for, cared about, loved and valued taken away. If we are stripped bare naked, nothing left but our love for God and His sovereign power over our lives, will we still worship His Name, inhale His Word like air itself, submit ourselves to His plan over our plan?

I know I fall far short of the mark. It takes only small obstacles or losses to trip me up so I stagger in my faith, trying futilely to not lose my balance, falling flat-faced and immobilized.

When I’ve seen people lose almost everything, either in a disaster, or an accident, or devastating illness, I’ve looked hard at myself and asked if I could sustain such loss in my life and still turn myself over to the will of God.

I would surely plead for reprieve and ask the horribly desperate question, “why me?”, girding myself for the response: “and why not you?”

The invitation, scary and radical as it is, is from God straight to my heart, asking that I trust His plan for my life and death, no matter what happens, no matter how much suffering, no matter how much, like Christ in the garden, I plead that it work out differently, more my own choosing that it not hurt so much.

The invitation to His plan for my life has been written, personally carried to me by His Son, and lies ready in my hands, although it has remained untouched for years. It is now up to me to open it, read it carefully, and with deep gratitude that I am even included, respond with an RSVP that says emphatically, “I’ll be there! Nothing could keep me away.”

Or I could leave it untouched, fearing it is too scary to open. Or even toss it away altogether, thinking it really wasn’t meant for me.

Even if, in my heart, I knew it was.

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ C. S. Lewis


Lenten Reflection–A Good Time

We want, in fact, not so much a father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven: a senile benevolence who, as they say, “liked to see young people enjoying themselves” and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all.”

There was a time when He wasn’t just a Father in heaven. He was the Creator who strolled along beside His creation in the garden. But we weren’t satisfied or “happy” enough with that.

Then, with all the trouble we had made for ourselves in our pursuit of a good time, He returned to try again to salvage His unsatisfied creation, coming to us borne from a woman, who raised Him with a man to guide and protect Him through to adulthood. He then walked beside us again, teaching, healing, helping, embracing and weeping alongside us. Few really listened, understood, believed a message of grace and forgiveness that can only happen at the price of rejection, sacrifice, suffering, death.

This was not exactly a “good time was had by all.”. We had our chance at that and blew it. There is no enjoyment in paying the cost of redeeming the fallen and broken but there is joy in the outcome. That takes a Father beyond any we can imagine–one who takes the wounds for us, leaving us unscathed.

Goodness prevails over good times. Every time.

Lenten Reflection–Birth of Dawn and Dew

Overcome us that, so overcome, we may be ourselves: we desire the beginning of your reign as we desire dawn and dew, wetness at the birth of light. – C.S. Lewis

My husband and I have just spent our first night in Japan, traveling to share some precious time with our son who teaches in Tokyo, and staying with our close friends of thirty years who are serving as missionaries here. With our internal clocks off, we woke at 2 AM, so over the last hour, I have watched Tokyo awake cold, gray and overcast, much like dawns at home in the Pacific Northwest Although there was not the visible ‘rising sun’ this ancient land is known for, a birth of light still happened just as it does anywhere on earth to erase the night, even above and despite the cloud cover.

I am overwhelmed by the vastness of the ocean we flew over yesterday, the hugeness of this city and its multimillions of people, by the fact we are able to be here at all in mere hours in this modern age of transportation. I am overcome that I can witness the dawn no matter where I rise, insignificant as I am, that I am able to feel at home even in far off lands.

May I be confident, no matter where I sleep or awake, I can be witness to a dawning, inevitable, that rises over a vast Kingdom without borders, without corruption, without alienation, without end.

No matter where I lie, I will be covered in its cleansing dew.