I appear at the kitchen door, spiritual equivalent of a wet dog from a storm, tail tucked, trembling. You open your lives, this life, provide prayerful provision, a vigorous toweling down, a large bowl of kibbles. I curl up and sleep safe on the rug by your heart, the chapel that warms His, and so, restored, return to the weary world rejoicing, perhaps to provide a bracing swig from the fiery word, perhaps to lead a lost one home. ~Bonnie Thurston “Strays” from O Taste and See
How many times have I shown up muddy, cold, hungry and you invited me in, dried me off, offered me your supper, let me sleep warmed and safe?
How many times did I go back out into the world with every good intention of doing the same for other strays and yet get lost again myself?
You call me back, whistle me in, open the door to let me know no matter how much of a mess I’m in your hearth, your heart await my return.
Unless the eye catch fire, Then God will not be seen. Unless the ear catch fire Then God will not be heard. Unless the tongue catch fire Then God will not be named. Unless the heart catch fire, Then God will not be loved. Unless the mind catch fire, Then God will not be known. ~William Blake from “Pentecost”
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning. The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry, The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony Of death and birth.
Home is where one starts from. As we grow older the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated Of dead and living. Not the intense moment Isolated, with no before and after, But a lifetime burning in every moment
Love is most nearly itself When here and now cease to matter. ~T.S. Eliot from “East Coker”
Today, if we feel we are without hope, if faith feels frail, if love seems distant, we must wait, stilled, for the moment we are lit afire~ when the Living God is seen, heard, named, loved, known, forever burning in our hearts in this moment, for a lifetime and for eternity. Here and now ceases to matter.
In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls. This is the great reward of service. To live, far out and on, in the life of others; this is the mystery of the Christ, –to give life’s best for such high sake that it shall be found again unto life eternal. ~Major-General Joshua Chamberlain at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 1889
For Memorial Day 2019~
~standing in gratitude and reverence for the few who have suffered great loneliness and loss to secure the future and well-being of many, including unknown generations to come…
I hear the mountain birds The sound of rivers singing A song I’ve often heard It flows through me now So clear and so loud I stand where I am And forever I’m dreaming of home I feel so alone, I’m dreaming of home
It’s carried in the air The breeze of early morning I see the land so fair My heart opens wide There’s sadness inside I stand where I am And forever I’m dreaming of home I feel so alone, I’m dreaming of home
This is no foreign sky I see no foreign light But far away am I From some peaceful land I’m longing to stand A hand in my hand …forever I’m dreaming of home I feel so alone, I’m dreaming of home ~Lori Barth and Philippe Rombi “I’m Dreaming of Home”
In a daring and beautiful creative reversal, God takes the worse we can do to Him and turns it into the very best He can do for us. ~Malcolm Guite from The Word in the Wilderness
Sam does barn chores with me, always has. He runs up and down the aisles as I fill buckets, throw hay, and he’ll explore the manure pile out back and the compost pile and check out the dove house and have stand offs with the barn cats (which he always loses). We have our routine. When I get done with chores, I whistle for him and we head to the house.
We always return home together.
Except this morning. I whistled when I was done and his furry little fox face didn’t appear as usual. I walked back through both barns calling his name, whistling, no signs of Sam. I walked to the fields, I walked back to the dog yard, I walked the road (where he never ever goes), I scanned the pond (yikes), I went back to the barn and glanced inside every stall, I went in the hay barn where he likes to jump up and down on stacked bales, looking for a bale avalanche he might be trapped under, or a hole he couldn’t climb out of. Nothing.
I’m really anxious about him at this point, fearing the worst. He was nowhere to be found, utterly lost.
Passing through the barn again, I heard a little faint scratching inside one Haflinger’s stall, which I had just glanced in 10 minutes before. The mare was peacefully eating hay. Sure enough, there was Sam standing with his feet up against the door as if asking what took me so long. He must have scooted in when I filled up her water bucket, and I closed the door not knowing he was inside, and it was dark enough that I didn’t see him when I checked. He and his good horse friend kept it their secret.
Making not a whimper or a bark when I called out his name, passing that stall at least 10 times looking for him, he just patiently waited for me to open the door and set him free.
It’s a Good Friday.
The lost is found even when he never felt lost to begin with.
Yet he was lost to me. And that is all that matters. We have no idea how lost we are until someone comes looking for us, doing whatever it takes to bring us home.
Sam was just waiting for a closed door to be opened. And today, of all days, that door is thrown wide open.
Though you are homeless Though you’re alone I will be your home Whatever’s the matter Whatever’s been done I will be your home I will be your home I will be your home In this fearful fallen place I will be your home When time reaches fullness When I move my hand I will bring you home Home to your own place In a beautiful land I will bring you home I will bring you home I will bring you home From this fearful fallen place I will bring you home I will bring you home ~Michael Cardh
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
I Here something stubborn comes, Dislodging the earth crumbs And making crusty rubble. It comes up bending double And looks like a green staple. It could be seedling maple, Or artichoke, or bean; That remains to be seen.
II Forced to make choice of ends, The stalk in time unbends, Shakes off the seedcase, heaves Aloft, and spreads two leaves Which still display no sure And special signature. Toothless and fat, they keep The oval form of sleep.
III This plant would like to grow And yet be embryo; Increase, and yet escape The doom of taking shape; Be vaguely vast, and climb To the tip end of time With all of space to fill, Like boundless Yggdrasill That has the stars for fruit. But something at the root More urgent than that urge Bids two true leaves emerge, And now the plant, resigned To being self-defined Before it can commerce With the great universe, Takes aim at all the sky And starts to ramify. ~Richard Wilbur “Seed Leaves”
Now the green blade rises from the buried grain, Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain; Love lives again, that with the dead has been: Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.
When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain, By Your touch You call us back to life again; Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green. ~John Crum from The Oxford Book of Carols
Over the last several weeks, roots have become shoots and their green blades have risen chaotically, uneven and awkward like a bad haircut. And like a bad haircut, a few days of further growth will make all the difference — renewal will cover all the bare earth, breaking through crusty rubble to reach up, heaving and healing, aiming for the sky.
There is nothing more hopeful than the barren made fruitful, the ugly made beautiful, the devastated restored, the dead made alive.
The fields of our broken hearts recover; love is come again.
Beauty, to the Japanese of old, held together the ephemeral with the sacred. Cherry blossoms are most beautiful as they fall, and that experience of appreciation lead the Japanese to consider their mortality. Hakanai bi (ephemeral beauty) denotes sadness, and yet in the awareness of the pathos of life, the Japanese found profound beauty.
For the Japanese, the sense of beauty is deeply tragic, tied to the inevitability of death.
Jesus’ tears were also ephemeral and beautiful. His tears remain with us as an enduring reminder of the Savior who weeps. Rather than to despair, though, Jesus’ tears lead the way to the greatest hope of the resurrection. Rather than suicide, Jesus’ tears lead to abundant life. ~Makoto Fujimura
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” John 11:33-36
Daily I see patients in my clinic who are struggling with depression, who are contemplating whether living another day is worth the pain and effort. Most describe their feelings completely dry-eyed, unwilling to let their emotions flow from inside and flood their outsides. Others sit soaking in tears of hopelessness and despair.
This weeping moves and reassures me — it is a raw and honest spilling over when the internal dam is breaking. It is so deeply and plainly a visceral display of humanity.
When I read that Jesus weeps as He witnesses the tears of grief of His dear friends, I am comforted. He understands and feels what we feel, His tears just as plentiful and salty, His feelings of love brimming so fully they must be let go and cannot be held back. He too is overwhelmed by the pathos of His vulnerable and visceral humanity.
Our Jesus who wept with us becomes a promise of ultimate joy.
There is beauty in this: His rain of ephemeral tears.