What is pertinent is the calmness of beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, its own greatness, and feels no need to shout it… For a great many people, the evening is the most enjoyable part of the day. Perhaps, then, there is something to his advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day. After all, what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished? ~Kazuo Ishiguro from The Remains of the Day
Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it. ~Danny Kaye
Every moment is a fresh beginning. ~T.S. Eliot
I am ashamed to admit I squander time looking back, yearning for a day that has long since passed, tossing off these present precious hours as somehow not measuring up to what came before.
Even when I believe things will never change, they will, and I will.
There have been over thirty-six years of such days in this farm country, one flowing gently after another, and every single one have been exactly what I’m looking for.
I shall toss my heart ahead and set out after it, each moment a fresh beginning and blank canvas, making the best of what remains of my day.
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All shall be Amen and Alleluia. We shall rest and we shall see. We shall see and we shall know. We shall know and we shall love. We shall love and we shall praise. Behold our end, which is no end. ~St. Augustine “Resurrection Prayer”
The journey begins when Christians leave their homes and beds. They leave, indeed, their life in this present and concrete world, and whether they have to drive 15 miles or walk a few blocks, a sacramental act is already taking place…
For they are now on their way to constitute the Church, or to be more exact, to be transformed into the Church of God. They have been individuals, some white, some black, some poor, some rich, they have been the ‘natural’ world and a natural community. And now they have been called to “come together in one place,” to bring their lives, their very world with them and to be more than what they were: a new community with a new life.
We are already far beyond the categories of common worship and prayer. The purpose of this ‘coming together’ is not simply to add a religious dimension to the natural community, to make it ‘better’ – more responsible, more Christian.
The purpose is to fulfill the Church, and that means to make present the One in whom all things are at their end, and all things are at their beginning. ~ Father Alexander Schmemann from For the Life of the World
As the calendar approaches Holy Week, this week can feel somewhat like an ending of how things have been, or perhaps it is the wrap-up of the beginning of my awareness of my need for Christ’s redemptive power in my life.
I’m feeling very “in-between” right now – already but not yet.
Nevertheless, this is a world without end and I trust God’s leading me – from my beginning to an eternal life with Him.
In a different context, but nevertheless not so different as we are still a world at war with one another:
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. ~Winston Churchill
Glory be to the Father, Glory be to the Son, Glory be to the Holy Ghost, As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
This year’s Lenten theme for Barnstorming is a daily selection from songs and hymns about Christ’s profound sacrifice on our behalf.
If we remain silent about Him, the stones themselves will shout out and start to sing (Luke 19:40).
In His name, may we sing…
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The soul’s sap quivers. There is no earth smell Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time But not in time’s covenant. Now the hedgerow Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom Of snow, a bloom more sudden Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading, Not in the scheme of generation. Where is the summer, the unimaginable Zero summer?
We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. Through the unknown, unremembered gate When the last of earth left to discover Is that which was the beginning;
And all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well When the tongues of flames are in-folded Into the crowned knot of fire And the fire and the rose are one. ~T.S. Eliot – lines taken from “Little Gidding”
As a grade school child in November 1963, I learned the import of the U.S. flag being lowered to half mast in response to the shocking and violent death of our President. The lowering of the flag was so rare when I was growing up, it had dramatic effect on all who passed by — our soul’s sap quivers — something very sad had happened to our country, something or someone had tragically ended, warranting our silence and our stillness.
For twenty years since 9/11/01, our flag has spent significant time at half mast, so much so that I’m befuddled instead of contemplative, puzzling over what the latest loss might be as there are so many, sometimes all happening in the same time frame. We no longer are silenced by this gesture of honor and respect and we certainly are not stilled, personally and corporately instigating and suffering the same mistakes against humanity over and over again.
We are so bent. Will we ever be mended again?
Eliot wrote the prescient words of the Four Quartets in the midst of the WWII German bombing raids that destroyed people and neighborhoods. Perhaps he sensed the destruction he witnessed would not be the last time in history that evil visits the innocent, leaving them in ashes. There would be so many more losses to come, not least being the horror of 9/11/01.
There remains so much more sadness to be borne, such abundance of grief that our world has become overwhelmed and stricken. Yet Eliot was right: we have yet to live in a Zero summer of endless hope and fruitfulness, of spiritual awakening and understanding. Where is it indeed? When will rise again the summer Rose of beauty and fragrance?
We must return, as people of faith to Eliot’s still point to which we are called on a day such as today. We must be stilled; we must be silenced. We must grieve the losses of this turning world and pray for release from the suffering we cause and we endure. Only in the asking, only in the kneeling down and pleading, are we surrounded by God’s unbounded grace and His Rose may bloom recognizable again.
there are no words there is no song is there a balm that can heal these wounds that will last a lifetime long and when the stars have burned to dust hand in hand we still will stand because we must
in one single hour in one single day we were changed forever something taken away and there is no fire that can melt this heavy stone that can bring back the voices and the spirits of our own
all the brothers, sisters and lovers all the friends that are gone all the chairs that will be empty in the lives that will go on can we ever forgive though we never will forget can we believe in the milk of human goodness yet
we were forged in freedom we were born in liberty we came here to stop the twisted arrows cast by tyranny and we won’t bow down we are strong of heart we are a chain together that won’t be pulled apart
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O Lord, The house of my soul is narrow; enlarge it that you may enter in. ~Augustine of Hippo
…the miracle of God comes not only from above; it also comes through us; it is also dwelling in us. It has been given to every person, and it lies in every soul as something divine, and it waits. Calling, it waits for the hour when the soul shall open itself, having found its God and its home. When this is so, the soul will not keep its wealth to itself, but will let it flow out into the world. ~Eberhard Arnold
…small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:14
When I feel squeezed through a narrow passage, compressed by the pressures of life from all sides, discouraged by limitations, unable to clearly see ahead or behind, longing for wide open spaces, of being able to once again do anything, go anywhere, feel anything I please~
I remember how this path was a choice, it is the way I will go, one step at a time. No one, certainly not God, promised an easy journey.
Yet He promised He would light the way to walk alongside me so I do not dwell in darkness.
For hours, the flowers were enough. Before the flowers, Adam had been enough. Before Adam, just being a rib was enough. Just being inside Adam’s body, near his heart, enough. Enough to be so near his heart, enough to feel that sweet steady rhythm, enough to be a part of something bigger was enough. And before the rib, being clay was enough. And before clay, just being earth was enough. And before earth, being nothing was enough. But then enough was no longer enough. The flowers bowed their heads, as if to say, enough, and so Eve, surrounded by peonies, and alone enough, wished very hard for something, and the wish was enough to make the pinecone grow wings; the wish was enough to point to the sky, say bird, and wait for something to sing. ~Nicole Callihan “The Origin of Birds”
We were created to be enough, but for us enough was no longer enough so we reached for more.
We ended up stripped and stark — as if fall and winter would be the ending of all things, but of course they are not. We will not sleep forever.
When I am down to my bare and broken essentials — the bleak and muddy and the too-early dark — I am the pinecone in the dirt wishing for the strength of wings and miraculously granted the gift of flight and a voice to sing.
I know this darkness is not the ending.
Never has been. Never will be.
Whence comes this rush of wings afar Following straight the NoÎl star? Birds from the woods, in wondrous flight Bethlehem seek this Holy Night
“Tell us, ye birds, why come ye here Into this stable, poor and drear?” “Hast’ning, we seek the new-born King And all our sweetest music bring.”
Hark! how the greenfinch bears his part Philomel, too, with tender heart Chants from her leafy dark retreat Re, mi, fa, sol, in accents sweet
Angels and shepherds, birds of the sky Come where the Son of God doth lie; Christ on earth with man doth dwell Join in the shout, “Noël, Noël!” ~French Carol
My friend, old and passing, said, “There is more to life than staying alive. Don’t rescue me too much.”
On his farm, twelve miles out
by rough gravel roads, he is done with plowing, spraying, harvesting.
But he is not done watching the sun sink below the windbreak or listening to the nighthawks above his fields.
Don’t make him move to town.
There is more to tragedy
than dying. ~Kevin Hadduck “A Note to His Doctor”
Look, the world is always ending somewhere.
Somewhere the sun has come crashing down.
Somewhere it has gone completely dark.
Somewhere it has ended with the utter quiet that follows the news from the phone, the television, the hospital room.
Somewhere it has ended with a tenderness that will break your heart.
But, listen, this blessing means to be anything but morose. It has not come to cause despair.
It is simply here because there is nothing a blessing is better suited for than an ending, nothing that cries out more for a blessing than when a world is falling apart.
This blessing will not fix you, will not mend you, will not give you false comfort; it will not talk to you about one door opening when another one closes.
It will simply sit itself beside you among the shards and gently turn your face toward the direction from which the light will come, gathering itself about you as the world begins again. ~Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace
Today I honor the passing of a beloved pastor in our small community of local churches:
Pastor Ken Koeman, who rests today in the arms of Jesus.
He had only a few weeks between doing his vigorous daily work to absorbing the reality of a devastating diagnosis to accepting there is more to life than living, and a greater tragedy than death.
He never lost the hope he knew abounds in heaven and eternal life.
He was never done watching the Son.
Sir, we would see Jesus. (John 12:21)
Lord Jesus, we know Ken sees you now
and as he did in life, he points the rest of us to you.
This dandelion has long ago surrendered its golden petals, and has reached its crowning stage of dying – the delicate seed globe must break up now – it gives and gives till it has nothing left. The hour of this new dying is clearly defined to the dandelion globe; it is marked by detachment. There is no sense of wrenching; it stands ready, holding up its little life, no knowing when or where or how the wind that bloweth where it listeth may carry it away. It holds itself no longer for its own keeping, only as something to be given; a breath does the rest… ~Lilias Trotter from “The Dandelion”
The farm is covered with them now; momentary perfection standing ready to break apart and fly whether jostled by human or animal, breeze or breath.
The sacrifice of one becomes a gift of millions. A breath started it all and ends it all.
How can it be when nothing is left, everything is gained?