Lenten Grace — Then Water Enters

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten
Rebuked, she turned and ran
uphill to the barn. Anger, the inner   
arsonist, held a match to her brain.   
She observed her life: against her will   
it survived the unwavering flame.
The barn was empty of animals.   
Only a swallow tilted
near the beams, and bats
hung from the rafters
the roof sagged between.

Her breath became steady
where, years past, the farmer cooled  
the big tin amphoræ of milk.
The stone trough was still
filled with water: she watched it  
and received its calm.

So it is when we retreat in anger:  
we think we burn alone
and there is no balm.
Then water enters, though it makes  
no sound.
~Jane Kenyon from “Portrait of a Figure Near Water”

There is a balm badly needed for souls scorched by their own anger.

Allowing anger to smolder only leaves us awash in ashes.  I am witness through my own eyes how my indignation inflames like an “inner arsonist”, leaving behind the shadows that forever cloud my vision.  I will not see clearly until I stop feeding the fire.

Time to let the water enter in, to flood and cool the flame, to cleanse, renew and forgive,  to restore a calm, silent and serene.

That is the balm badly needed.  That is the balm freely given.

I just need to apply it to where it hurts the most.

Lenten Grace — Emptied and Hollow

photo by Kathy Yates
photo by Kathy Yates

Experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow;
you catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I am often unprepared for the rush of challenges each clinic day brings.  Each call, each message, each tug on my arm, each box of kleenex handed over, each look of hopelessness  —  I am emptying continuously throughout the day.  If I’m down and dry, hollowed to the core with no more left to give, I pray for more than I could possibly deserve.

And so it pours over me, torrential and flooding, and I only have a mere cup to hold out for filling.  There is far more cascading grace than I can even conceive of, far more love descending than this cup of mine could ever hold, far more hope ascending from the mist and mystery of doctoring,  over and over again.

I am never left empty for long,  grateful for a hollow hallowed.

Lenten Grace — Streams in the Desert

photo by Kathy Yates
photo by Kathy Yates

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
    the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
    grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
Isaiah 35: 5-7

And so we will not remain mere dust in the ground.

The dry wilderness bubbles with streams and gushes with falls.
The barren grows fruit.
The impossible becomes possible.

We are paradox.

Once dead, we live again.

photo by Kathy Yates
photo by Kathy Yates

Lenten Grace — Peace Among the Rocks

photo by Kathy Yates
photo by Kathy Yates

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks…

…And let my cry come unto Thee.
~T.S. Eliot from the conclusion of “Ash Wednesday”

Too many daily distractions prevent me from being still and seeking peace in my earthly life.  I constantly want to build up, to tear down, to keep moving, I care too much, I care too little — anything to avoid being like an inanimate rock.  There is always the awareness that everlasting stillness will come soon enough, much too soon, in the grave, in the forever of my becoming dust.

Yet even among the rocks they fail to stay rooted in place;  they are washed away with the waves, moved at the mercy of the tide, landing somewhere new and unfamiliar only to be stilled, then shifted once again.

Let my peace be among the rocks, to be picked up and moved where He wills, to settle where I am placed until the time comes to move again.   Let my peace be in the knowledge He has control, not I.

And so I cry out.
Even among the rocks
Even among the rocks

photo by Kathy Yates
photo by Kathy Yates

Lenten Grace — Rain on Dust

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”
~Charles Dickens as “Pip” in Great Expectations

Lent humbles the hardest of hearts by softening and readying us through our tears.  We weep to read again of Christ’s walk on the parched road to the cross, where our tears are as welcome as a cleansing rain — tears meant to renew and restore the dust beneath His feet.

When we cry for Him in His sacrifice, experience His rejection and sorrow, we empty out our bitterness, our pride, and our ingratitude.  Our tears gently cushion His footsteps.  We prepare ourselves to follow on this difficult and arduous road, fitting our foot to each print He has left behind, knowing exactly where it will take us.

Our tears make us better than we ever have been and will set us right.

We weep in joy that we have His tear-stained footprints to follow.

Wild Harbinger of Spring

croci13

Welcome, wild harbinger of spring!
  To this small nook of earth;
Feeling and fancy fondly cling
  Round thoughts which owe their birth
To thee, and to the humble spot
Where chance has fixed thy lowly lot.
        ~Bernard Barton—To a Crocus.

crocus13

Hail to the King of Bethlehem,
Who weareth in his diadem
The yellow crocus for the gem
    Of his authority!
        Longfellow—Christus. Pt. II. The Golden Legend. IX.

Lenten Grace — Dust as Equalizer

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

It comes equally to us all,
and makes us all equal when it comes.

The ashes of an oak in the chimney
are no epitaph of that oak,

to tell me how high or how large that was;
it tells me not what flocks it sheltered while it stood,
nor what men it hurt when it fell †
and when a whirlwind hath blown
the dust of the churchyard into the church,
and the man sweeps out
the dust of the church into the churchyard,
who will undertake
to sift those dusts again,
and to pronounce,
This is the Patrician,
this the noble flower,
and this the yeomanly,
this the Plebeian bran.
~ John Donne

And we shall all look the same when the end comes
sifted through His hands
blown on with His breath
bled on in His sacrifice–
Varied as we are now in life,
we shall, in death, become One in Him.

Amen