I go my way, and my left foot says ‘Glory,’ and my right foot says ‘Amen’: in and out of Shadow Creek, upstream and down, exultant, in a daze, dancing, to the twin silver trumpets of praise. ~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
This fevers me, this sun on green, On grass glowing, this young spring. The secret hallowing is come, Regenerate sudden incarnation, Mystery made visible In growth, yet subtly veiled in all, Ununderstandable in grass, In flowers, and in the human heart, This lyric mortal loveliness, The earth breathing, and the sun… ~Richard Eberhart from “This Fevers Me”
Every day should be a day of dancing and loveliness and breathing deeply, of celebrating the fact we woke afresh, a new start.
If I’m honest, I don’t always feel like dancing, my feet each going their own way and my head barely attached to my neck.
As I stumble about in my morning daze, readying myself for the onslaught to come, I step out and mumble “Glory” and then blink a few times and murmur “Amen” and breathe it out again a little louder until I really feel it and believe the ununderstandable and know it in my bones.
A little praise never hurt anyone. A little worship goes a long way. It’s the only way mystery becomes visible, tangible, touchable and tastable.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod? Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod. And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; And though the last lights off the black West went Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs — Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. ~Gerard Manley Hopkins “God’s Grandeur”
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Luke 13:34
…for him to see me mended, I must see him torn… ~Luci Shawfrom “Mary’s Song”
Today marks the crushing of Christ in the Garden of the Oil Press, Gethsemane.
“Gethsemane” means “oil press” –a place of olive trees treasured for the fine oil delivered from their fruit. And so, on this Thursday night, the pressure is turned up high on the disciples, not just on Jesus.
The disciples are expected, indeed commanded, to keep watch alongside the Master, to be filled with prayer, to avoid the temptation of the weakened flesh thrown at them at every turn.
But they fail pressure testing and fall apart.
Like them, I am easily lulled by complacency, by my over-indulged satiety for material comforts that do not truly fill hunger or quench thirst, by my expectation that being called a follower of Jesus is enough.
It is not enough. I fail the pressure test as well.
I fall asleep through His anguish. I dream, oblivious, while He sweats blood. I might even deny I know Him when pressed hard.
Yet, the moment of betrayal becomes the moment He is glorified, thereby God is glorified.
Crushed, bleeding, poured out over the world — from wings that brood and cover us — He becomes the sacrifice that anoints us.
Incredibly, indeed miraculously, He loves us, bent as we are, anyway.
VERSE 1 Let us praise Jesus, the Washer of Feet; Jesus, the Lordly who gave up his Seat; Jesus, the Maker of all that there is; Jesus, the Servant to all who are his.
REFRAIN We praise Jesus We praise Jesus
VERSE 2 Let us praise Jesus, the Blesser of Bread; Jesus, the Off’ring who suffered and bled; Jesus, the Royal who knelt in the dust; Jesus, the Priest in whose Blessing we trust.
VERSE 3 Let us praise Jesus, the Shepherd alone; Jesus, the Lover who gathers His own; Jesus, the Wounded who died for us all; Jesus, the Christ on whose goodness we call.
VERSE 4 Let us praise Jesus, the Savior adored; Jesus, the Sonnet of praise to our Lord; Jesus, the Gracious whose own life He gave; Jesus, the Lowly who came down to save.
God of our life, there are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down; when the road seems dreary and endless, the skies grey and threatening; when our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage.
Flood the path with light, run our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; tune our hearts to brave music; give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age; and so quicken our spirits that we may be able to encourage the souls of all who journey with us on the road of life, to Your honour and glory. ~Augustine of Hippo
The broken alabaster of your heart Revealed to Him alone a hidden door, Into a garden where the fountain sealed, Could flow at last for him in healing tears… ~Malcolm Guite from “Mary Magdelene: A Sonnet”
She has done what she could… ~Mark 14:8
Those final few days of His life may have been like this: the sky oppressive with storm clouds, the shouldered burden too painful, His soul weighed down, discouraged, disheartened. Each step brought Him closer to a desperate loneliness borne of betrayal and rejection.
But the end of that dark walk was just the beginning of a journey into new covenant:
He is anointed from the broken jar, His aching joints covered in perfume by one who believes and wants to help bear His burden.
Instead of rain, the clouds bear light, flooding the pathway so we too can come together to lift the load. Instead of loneliness, now arises a community like no other. Instead of stillness, there is declaration of His glory to the heavens. Instead of discouragement, He embodies hope for all hearts.
His promise fulfilled spills over our path, our feet, our heads. We too are drenched in gratitude, flooded with grace.
Come out of sadness From wherever you’ve been Come broken hearted Let rescue begin Come find your mercy Oh sinner come kneel Earth has no sorrow That heaven can’t heal Earth has no sorrow That heaven can’t healSo lay down your burdens Lay down your shame All who are broken Lift up your face Oh wanderer come home You’re not too far So lay down your hurt Lay down your heart Come as you areThere’s hope for the hopeless And all those who’ve strayed Come sit at the table Come taste the grace There’s rest for the weary Rest that endures Earth has no sorrow That heaven can’t cureSo lay down your burdens Lay down your shame All who are broken Lift up your face Oh wanderer come home You’re not too far Lay down your hurt lay down your heart Come as you are Come as you are Fall in his arms Come as you are There’s joy for the morning Oh sinner be still Earth has no sorrow That heaven can’t heal Earth has no sorrow That heaven can’t healSo lay down your burdens Lay down your shame All who are broken Lift up your face Oh wanderer come home You’re not too far So lay down your hurt Lay down your heart Come as you are Come as you are Come as you are Come as you are ~David Crowder
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying,“This is my body given for you;do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him… Luke 24: 30-31
God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. ~Vance Havner
Just as bread needs to be broken in order to be given, so, too, do our lives. ~Henri Nouwen
We yearn for perfection, for flawless and faultless, unblemished, aiming for symmetry, straight and smooth.
Life serves up something far different: our eye searches to find the cracks, scratches and damage, whether it is in a master’s still life portrait replete with snails, crawling flying insects and broken blossoms, or in the not so still life of pontificating political figures.
In the beginning, we were created unblemished, image bearers of perfection. No longer. Now we bear witness to brokenness with shattered lives, fragile minds and weakening bodies. It is our vulnerability and need for healing that stand out now.
To restore our lost relationship with Him, God applies the glue of grace to seal our cracks and heal our bustedness.
He breaks Himself to mend us, to glue us firmly in place, bound to Him forever.
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. ~Martin Luther
There is big excitement in C block today. On the window sill, in a plastic ice cream cup a little plant is growing. This is all the men want to talk about: how an apple seed germinated in a crack of damp concrete; how they tore open tea bags to collect the leaves, leached them in water, then laid the sprout onto the bed made of Lipton. How this finger of spring dug one delicate root down into the dark fannings and now two small sleeves of green are pushing out from the emerging tip. The men are tipsy with this miracle. Each morning, one by one, they go to the window and check the progress of the struggling plant. All through the day they return to stand over the seedling and whisper. ~Nancy Miller Gomez “Growing Apples”
As a child I was fascinated by the early 1800’s story of John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) who traveled on foot around the eastern United States creating nurseries of apple trees. When our family traveled in Ohio and Pennsylvania in the 1960s, we visited places that claimed to have apple trees planted by John Chapman. I marveled at how one little seed planted in such confident faith had the potential to produce decades of fruit and hope for generations of folk.
My two childhood farms had old apple trees–gravensteins and transparent varieties–good for climbing in and always great as scratching branches and shady snoozing spots for the horses and cows. One had a platform fort where I spent hours sitting munching on apple cores, surveying the fields and enjoying watching the animals standing beneath me, relaxed, napping, chewing cud and swatting flies.
When we bought our farm here in Whatcom County over thirty years ago, there were left a few antique variety apple trees of a once vital orchard. They were aging, with bent and broken branches and hollowed trunks, but still continued to produce fruit, great for baking, sauce, cider and winter storage. We’ve lost a few of the old trees over the years to the wind and elements, though now nearly a century old, the survivors keep providing.
It seems God has accepted I follow my own appleseed trail, so no matter what may happen in my own life, if I’ve planted a seed that takes root, there will be fruit and hope for the future. The Lord Himself continues to plant seeds and words in the midst of a world going to pieces.
Some day fifty years from now, a kid sitting high up in the branches of an apple tree, contemplating life and its meaning, will have an apple to munch and words to chew.
“O the Lord is good to me and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need- the sun, the rain, and my appleseeds- the Lord is good to me!”
This year’s Lenten theme for Barnstorming:
God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, and accepts us as we are. But by His grace, He does not leave us where we are. ~Tim Keller
The tree of life my soul hath seen, Laden with fruit and always green: The trees of nature fruitless be Compared with Christ the apple tree.
His beauty doth all things excel: By faith I know, but ne’er can tell The glory which I now can see In Jesus Christ the apple tree.
For happiness I long have sought, And pleasure dearly I have bought: I missed of all; but now I see Tis found in Christ the apple tree.
I’m weary with my former toil, Here I will sit and rest awhile: Under the shadow I will be, Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive, It keeps my dying faith alive; Which makes my soul in haste to be With Jesus Christ the apple tree.
It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty. To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives him glory too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, gives him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should. So then, my brethren, live. ~Gerard Manley Hopkins – Poems and Prose of Gerard Manley Hopkins
Thanks in large part to how messily we humans live, this world is a grimy place.
As an act of worship, we work at cleaning up after ourselves. Hands that clean toilets, scrub floors, carry bedpans, pick up garbage might as well be clasped in prayer–it is in such mundane tasks God is glorified.
I spend time every day carrying buckets and wielding a pitchfork because it is my way of restoring order to the disorder inherent in human life. It is with gratitude that I’m able to pick up one little corner of my world, making stall beds tidier for our farm animals by mucking up their messes and in so doing, I’m cleaning up a piece of me at the same time.
I never want to forget the mess I’m in and the mess I am. I never want to forget to clean up after myself. I never want to feel it is a mere and mundane chore to worship with dungfork and slop pail.
It is my privilege. It is His gift to me. It is Grace that comes alongside me, to keep pitching the muck and carrying the slop when I am too weary to do it myself.
It was like a church to me. I entered it on soft foot, Breath held like a cap in the hand. It was quiet. What God there was made himself felt, Not listened to, in clean colours That brought a moistening of the eye, In a movement of the wind over grass.
There were no prayers said. But stillness Of the heart’s passions – that was praise Enough; and the mind’s cession Of its kingdom. I walked on, Simple and poor, while the air crumbled And broke on me generously as bread. ~R.S. Thomas “The Moor” Collected Poems: R. S. Thomas
This is a Sabbath morning when I’m surrounded by His stilling presence~ when God is felt, neither seen or heard, overtaking me within each breath taken, following the path of each glistening tear, feeding me manna from sky and body, becoming the ground reaching to meet my foot with each step I take.
At lunchtime I bought a huge orange— The size of it made us all laugh. I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave— They got quarters and I had a half.
And that orange, it made me so happy, As ordinary things often do Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park. This is peace and contentment. It’s new.
The rest of the day was quite easy. I did all the jobs on my list And enjoyed them and had some time over. I love you. I’m glad I exist. ~Wendy Cope “The Orange”
I close my eyes, savor a wafer of sacred cake on my tongue and try to taste my mother, to discern the message she baked in these loaves when she was too ill to eat them:
I love you. It will end. Leave something of sweetness and substance in the mouth of the world. ~Anna Belle Kaufman “Cold Solace”
Each day brings something special to my life, so I peel it carefully to find what hides inside, all the while inhaling its fragrance then carefully, slowly, gently lifting it to my mouth to savor it, knowing only love, only loving, could taste this sweet.
The church, I think, is God’s way of saying, “What I have in the pot is yours, and what I have is a group of misfits whom you need more than you know and who need you more than they know.”
“Take, and eat,” he says, “and take, and eat, until the day, and it is coming, that you knock on my door. I will open it, and you will see me face to face.”
He is preparing a table. He will welcome us in. Jesus will be there, smiling and holy, holding out a green bean casserole. And at that moment, what we say, what we think, and what we believe will be the same: “I didn’t know how badly I needed this.” ~Jeremy Clive Huggins from “The Church Potluck”
Perhaps a celebration at the end of a long cold winter month Possibly a need of respite from a month of dieting Likely a response to bad headline news day after day: A potlatch, a potluck, a communion of comfort food.
What to bring? What soothes stomach and heart?
Macaroni and cheese, with drizzled bread cubes on top Beef stew chuck-a-block with vegetables and potatoes Buckets of fried chicken Greenbean casserole Meat loaf topped with ketchup Tossed Caesar salad Tator tots drizzled with cheese Jello and ham buns
Home made bread, steaming, soft Whole chocolate milk And ice cream sundaes
Nothing expensive Or extravagant Or requiring going into debt to pay.
A fitting ending to a Sabbath of worship, After meeting for prayer and hymns and the Word; When times get tough, when we feel all alone, When we drown in discouragement.
This is time for connecting congregation and community, For huddling against life’s storm Forgetting our worries for a time And sharing God’s comfort food, all together, misfits that we are, Smiling to know — we all badly needed this.
The old church leans awry and looks quite odd, But it is beautiful to us, and God. ~Stephen Paulus “The Old Church”
The church knelt heavy above us as we attended Sunday School, circled by age group and hunkered on little wood folding chairs where we gave our nickels, said our verses, heard the stories, sang the solid, swinging songs.
It could have been God above in the pews, His restless love sifting with dust from the joists. We little seeds swelled in the stone cellar, bursting to grow toward the light.
Maybe it was that I liked how, upstairs, outside, an avid sun stormed down, burning the sharp- edged shadows back to their buildings, or how the winter air knifed after the dreamy basement.
Maybe the day we learned whatever would have kept me believing I was just watching light poke from the high, small window and tilt to the floor where I could make it a gold strap on my shoe, wrap my ankle, embrace any part of me. ~Maureen Ash “Church Basement”
There could be so much wrong with the church overall, comprised as it is with fallen people with broken wings, looking odd and leaning awry, determined to find flaws in each other’s doctrine, rituals, tradition, beliefs.
What is right with the church: who we pray to, why we sing, whose body we comprise so bloodied, fractured, yet healed despite our thoroughly motley messiness~ Our Lord of Heaven and Earth rains down His restless love upon our heads.