Listening to Lent — The Bud of the Wood

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O Deus, ego amo te,
O God I love Thee for Thyself
Nec amo te ut salves me,
and not that I may heaven gain
Nec quod qui te non diligent,
nor yet that they who love Thee not
Æterno igne pereunt.
must suffer hell’s eternal pain.

Ex cruces lingo germinat,
Out of the bud of the wood of the Cross
Qui pectus amor occupant,
wherefore hearts’ love embraces
Ex pansis unde brachiis,
whence out of extended arms
Ad te amandum arripes. Amen.
you lovingly take us. Amen.
~Prayer of St. Francis Xavier  “O Deus Ego Amo Te” 18th Century Traditional

Suddenly, in the last week, buds are forming everywhere.
From seemingly dead wood, standing cold and dormant,
there springs new life.
What could be more lifeless than a cross piece of timbers
built specifically for execution?
Yet life sprung from that death tree,
an unexpected and glorious bud,
ready to burst into most fragrant blossom.

Rather Be a Hammer

frost125143I’d rather be a hammer than a nail
Yes, I would, if I could, I surely would…
~Simon and Garfunkel from “El Condor Pasa”

If I had a hammer,
I’d hammer in the morning,
I’d hammer in the evening,
All over this land,
I’d hammer out danger,
I’d hammer out a warning,
I’d hammer out love between,
My brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.
~Lee Hays, Pete Seeger

Strangely enough~
it is the nail,
not the hammer,
that binds together
creating the strength
the safety
the permanence of
foundation and roof.

The hammer is only a tool
to pound the nail in
where it is most needed
where it won’t be forgotten
where the hole it leaves behind
is a forever reminder
of what I, as hammer, have done
and how I am forgiven.

 

Crimson Fingers

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…God’s not nonexistent; He’s just been waylaid
by a host of what no one could’ve foreseen.   

He’s got plans for you: this red-gold-green parade
is actually a fairly detailed outline.  
 
…it’s true that my Virginia creeper praises Him,   

its palms and fingers crimson with applause,   
that the local breeze is weaving Him a diadem…
~Jacqueline Osherow from “Autumn Psalm”
 
 
 
 
The crimson leaves creep over the brow of our ancient garage in growing streaks and flowing streams, crawling alongside to reach new destinations.
This old building was once a small church at the turn of the 20th century,
moved just a few hundred yards from the intersection of two country roads
to this raised knoll.

It is fitting that every fall this little cedar-paneled church,
emptied of sermons and worship
full of our boxed and stored lives,
weeps red.

 
Every autumn these bloodied fingers reach out
to touch and bless,
clasp and envelope:
Do not despair.
He’s got plans.
Plans that give hope.

I must follow.

 
 
Oh, feed me this day, Holy Spirit, with
the fragrance of the fields and the
freshness of the oceans which you have
made, and help me to hear and to hold
in all dearness those exacting and wonderful
words of our Lord Jesus Christ, saying:
Follow me.
~Mary Oliver from “Six Recognitions of the Lord”
 
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Lenten Grace — The Tears of God

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

From two authors who have lost children, reflecting on what today, Good Friday, means to them:

God is not only the God of the sufferers but the God who suffers. … It is said of God that no one can behold his face and live. I always thought this meant that no one could see his splendor and live. A friend said perhaps it meant that no one could see his sorrow and live. Or perhaps his sorrow is splendor. … Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it.

How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us? You have allowed rivers of blood to flow, mountains of suffering to pile up, sobs to become humanity’s song–all without lifting a finger that we could see. You have allowed bonds of love beyond number to be painfully snapped. If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.

We strain to hear. But instead of hearing an answer we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God.
~Nicholas Wolterstorff  in Lament for a Son

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photo by Josh Scholten

“My God, My God,” goes the Psalm 22, “hear me, why have you forsaken me?”  This is the anguish all we of Godforsaken heart know well.But hear the revelation to which Christ directs us, further in the same psalm:

For He has not despised nor scorned the beggar’s supplication,
Nor has He turned away His face from me;
And when I cried out to Him, He heard me.

He hears us, and he knows, because he has suffered as one Godforsaken. Which means that you and I, even in our darkest hours, are not forsaken. Though we may hear nothing, feel nothing, believe nothing, we are not forsaken, and so we need not despair. And that is everything. That is Good Friday and it is hope, it is life in this darkened age, and it is the life of the world to come.
~Tony Woodlief from “We are Not Forsaken”

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Lenten Grace — We Must Choose

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Jesus,
Apple of God’s eye,
dangling solitaire
on leafless tree,
bursting red.

As he drops
New Eden dawns
and once again
we Adams choose:
God’s first fruit
or death.

—Christine F. Nordquist “Eden Inversed”

It has always been a choice
no longer forbidden
we are invited to first fruit

He offers Himself
broken open

so our hearts
might burst red
with Him

Lenten Grace — The Uses of Sorrow

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
~Mary Oliver, “The Uses of Sorrow”

The bright sadness of Lent
is a box full of darkness
given to us by someone who loves us.

It takes a lifetime to understand,
if we ever do,
this gift with which we are entrusted
is meant to
hand off to another and another
whom we love just as well.

Opening the box
allows light in
where none was before.
Sorrow shines bright
reaching up
from the deep well
of our loving
and being loved.

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.