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.
The bus releases you beside the bakery at 5 AM. His light’s on. You can smell the secret life of bread– the russet brawny shoulders rising in the pan, yeast swelling yearning toward croissants, pretzels, braided curls of challah. You give the baker money, he gives you a loaf. Neither of you can say the mystery you share like lovers. You shyly nod and bear your loneliness to work in helpless hands. Whatever it is, you can not explain the one thing that matters. You break his bread at noon and fling it toward frozen ducks on the millpond and you awaken from what you’ve been. You want to be bread broken. ~ Jeanne Murray Walker “Baker” from Pilgrim, You Find Your Path By Walking
We all harbor mystery; oftentimes we can’t even decipher what is in our hearts, much less communicate it to another. Breaking open may be the only way to reveal it but that can be too much for even the strongest of us.
We are not a mystery to God. We are transparent as shattered glass to Him when we are opaque to ourselves and others.
He knows our comings and goings, where our cracks are and where the glue continues to hold in what has already been repaired.
Most of all, He knows Himself what it means to be broken to feed others – flung and woke — even for those who turn their backs to a meal to freedom.
Through fellowship and communion with the incarnate Lord, we recover our true humanity, and at the same time we are delivered from that individualism which is the consequence of sin, and retrieve our solidarity with the whole human race. By being partakers of Christ incarnate, we are partakers in the whole humanity which he bore. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer from The Cost of Discipleship
On this Maundy Thursday we are called to draw near Him, to gather together among the hungry and thirsty to the Supper He has prepared. He washes the dirt off our feet; we look away, mortified. He serves us from Himself; we fret about whether we are worthy.
We are not.
Starving and parched, grimy and weary, hardly presentable to be guests at His table, we are made worthy only because He has made us so.
The cup and the loaf You beckon me close to commune Like fruit on the vine crushed into wine You were bruised Broken and torn crowned with scorn Poured out for all
Chorus: All my sin All my shame All my secrets All my chains Lamb of God Great is your love Your blood covers it all
I taste and I drink You satisfy me With your love Your goodness flows down and waters dry ground like a flood Let mercy rain Saving grace Poured out for all
My sin, not in part You cover it all, You cover it all Not in part, But the whole You cover it all, You cover it all It’s nailed to the cross. You cover it all You cover it all And I bear it no more You cover it all. ~Allie LaPointe and David Moffitt
The smell of that buttered toast simply spoke to Toad, and with no uncertain voice;
talked of warm kitchens,
of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings,
of cozy parlour firesides on winter evenings,
when one’s ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender;
of the purring of contented cats,
and the twitter of sleepy canaries. ~Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
I’m not a practitioner of the ancient art of aromatherapy for medicinal purposes but I do know certain smells transport me more effectively than any other mode of travel. One whiff of a familiar scent can take me back years to another decade and place, almost in time traveling mode. I am so in the moment, both present and past, my brain sees, hears, tastes, feels everything just as it was before.
The most vivid are kitchen smells, to be sure. Cinnamon becomes my Grandma’s farm kitchen full of rising breakfast rolls, roasting turkey is my mother’s chaotic kitchen on Thanksgiving Day, fresh baked bread is my own kitchen during those years I needed to knead as therapy during medical training.
Sometimes I have the privilege of holding infants whose skin smells of baby shampoo and powder, so like the soft velvet of my own childrens’. The newly born wet fur of my foals carries the sweet and sour amnion that was part of every birth I’ve been part of: delivering others and delivering my own. My heart races at the memory of the drama of those first breaths.
The garden yields its own treasure: tea roses, sweet peas, heliotrope, mint, lemon verbena and lemon blossom take me back to lazy breezes wafting through open bedroom windows in my childhood home. And of course the richness of petrichor: the fragrance of the earth after a long awaited rain will remind me of how things smell after a dry spell.
I doubt any aromatherapy kit available includes my most favorite farm smells: newly mown hay, fresh fir shavings for stall bedding, the mustiness of the manure pile, the green sweetness of a horses’ breath.
Someday I’ll figure out how to bottle all these up to keep forever. Years from now my rambles will be over, when I’m too feeble to walk to the barn or be part of the hay harvest crew any longer, I can sit by my fireplace, close my eyes, open it up and take a whiff now and then and remind me of all I’m grateful for. It’ll take me back to a day just like today when I cooked in the kitchen, held a friend’s sweet infant, moved hay to the horses and cleaned the barn:
I’ll breathe deeply of the smells that speak to me with no uncertain voice.
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough. Matthew 13:33
An infant is a pucker of the earth’s thin skin; so are we. We arise like budding yeasts and break off; we forget our beginnings. A mammal swells and circles and lays him down. You and I have finished swelling; our circling periods are playing out, but we can still leave footprints in a trail whose end we do know. ~Annie Dillard from For the Time Being
…be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it. Paul Harding in Tinkers
We are all mixed together within the Word, created to bud and swell and yield and rise and transform the dough around us, even when we are hurting and frozen and drenched and dry.
Like yeast, we can make a difference to all that is flat and unyielding. May it be so.
May my eyes see, my ears hear, my heart understand. He prepares me with parable.
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.”
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.
We yearn for perfection,
for flawless and faultless,
aiming for symmetry,
straight and smooth.
Life serves up something
and 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 our next door neighbor.
In the beginning we were created
image bearers of perfection.
We bear witness to brokenness
with shattered lives,
fragile minds and weakening bodies.
It is our leaks and warts
that stand out now.
the lost relationship with Him,
God provides the glue
needed to heal the broken.
He broke Himself
to mend us,
binding us to Him
And I might add:
a lonely snail wandering into sidewalk foot traffic,
crushed, cracked and dying, clinging to the pavement,
its broken shell a gift of metaphor
of our own leaking brokenness.
During this Lenten season, I will be drawing inspiration from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn
The sacred moments, the moments of miracle, are often the everyday moments, the moments which, if we do not look with more than our eyes or listen with more than our ears reveal only…a gardener, a stranger coming down the road behind us, a meal like any other meal. But if we look with our hearts, if we listen with all our being and imagination.. what we may see is Jesus himself. ~Frederick Buechner
We can be blinded by the everyday-ness of it. A simple loaf of bread is only that. A gardener crouches in a row of weeds, trying to restore order in chaos. A wanderer along the road engages in conversation.
Every day contains millions of everyday moments that are lost and forgotten, seemingly meaningless.
We would see Jesus if we only opened our eyes and listened with our ears. At the table, on the road, in the garden.
There is nothing everyday about the miracle of Him abiding with us.