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.
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. ~ G.K. Chesterton
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them. ~Lawrence Binyon from “For the Fallen” (1914)
We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields. ~LtCol (Dr.) John McCrae from “In Flanders Fields”
When you go home tell them of us and say – “For your tomorrow we gave our today” ~John Maxwell Edmonds from “The Kohima Epitaph”
To all our U.S. veterans over the centuries – with deep appreciation and gratitude–for the freedoms you have defended on behalf of us all:
My father was one of the fortunate ones who came home, returning to a quiet farm life after three years serving in the Pacific with the Marines Corp from 1942 to 1945. For the first time I have been reading his letters home to my mother over the last few months, realizing how uncertain was their future together. Hundreds of thousands of his colleagues didn’t come home, dying on beaches and battlefields. Tens of thousands more came home forever marked, through physical or psychological injury, by the experience of war.
We citizens must support and care for the men and women who have made the commitment to be on the front line for our freedom’s sake.
I’m unsure why the United States does not call November 11 Remembrance Day as the Commonwealth nations did at the WW1 Armistice. This is a day that demands much more than the more passive name Veterans’ Day represents.
This day calls all citizens who appreciate their freedoms to stop what they are doing and interrupt the routine rhythm of their lives. We are to remember in humble thankfulness the generations of military veterans who answered the call to defend their countries by sacrificing their time, resources, sometimes health and well being, and too often their lives.
Remembrance means never forgetting what it costs to defend freedom. It means acknowledging the millions who have given of themselves and continue to do so on our behalf. It means never ceasing to care. It means a commitment to provide resources needed for the military to remain strong and supported. It means unending prayers for safe return to family. It means we hold these men and women close in our hearts, always teaching the next generation about the sacrifices they made.
Most of all, it means being willing ourselves to become the sacrifice when called.
To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow…
Wither me to within me: Welt me to weal me common again: Withdraw to wear me weary: Over me to hover and lover again:
Before me to form and perform me: Round me to rill me liquid incisions: Behind me to hunt and haunt me: Down me to drown indecision:
Bury me to seed me: bloom me In loam me: grind me to meal me Knead me to rise: raise me to your mouth
Rive me to river me: End me to unmend me: Rend me to render me: ~Philip Metres “Prayer”
The truth is: though we prefer to gaze on fresh beauty, to ponder smooth youthful perfection rather than the pocked and wrinkled, the used-up and weary, our prayer desires His everlasting love even when we fall in frailty. We wither from the first day, readying for fruit to burst forth as we, torn and buried, are sown to rise again.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8
The cold grows colder, even as the days grow longer, February’s mercury vapor light buffing but not defrosting the bone-white ground, crusty and treacherous underfoot. This is the time of year that’s apt to put a hammerlock on a healthy appetite, old anxieties back into the night, insomnia and nightmares into play; when things in need of doing go undone and things that can’t be undone come to call, muttering recriminations at the door, and buried ambitions rise up through the floor and pin your wriggling shoulders to the wall; and hope’s a reptile waiting for the sun. ~Bill Christopherson “February”
Just when you think it is safe to go out in shirt sleeves and sweats, subzero wind chill blasts through your bravado and reminds you February is still WINTER on the calendar and in reality.
February can be a month of regret and recriminations, of “should-haves” and “should-not-haves” while waiting, frozen and immobile, for spring to bring us back to life. Like cold-blooded creatures, we need the sun to warm us up so we can move again. This sun today, bright as it is, only lights up our flaws and holes – no warmth whatsoever.
And it’s not just me struggling to stay upright in the storm. Our old red barn, waiting for its spring date with a talented rehab carpenter, hasn’t many roof shingles left after this latest blow, and a recent partial wall collapse in the wind prompted a neighbor to ask if we had meant to create a new door into our barn.
The old barn is kind of like how I feel at times: lacking a decent foundation, a bit shaky on my underpinnings, a lot sagging in the middle, broad in the beam and drafty where I shouldn’t be.
So much to be shored up, fixed, patched and restored. So much need for a talented Carpenter who knows how to mend and strengthen the broken and fallen.
They work with herbs and penicillin. They work with gentleness and the scalpel. They dig out the cancer, close an incision and say a prayer to the poverty of the skin.
…they are only human trying to fix up a human. Many humans die.
But all along the doctors remember: First do no harm. They would kiss if it would heal. It would not heal.
If the doctors cure then the sun sees it. If the doctors kill then the earth hides it. The doctors should fear arrogance more than cardiac arrest. If they are too proud, and some are, then they leave home on horseback but God returns them on foot. ~Anne Sexton “Doctors” from The Awful Rowing Toward God.
Let me not forget how humbling it is
to provide care for a hurting person
and not be certain that what I suggest
will actually work,
to be trusted to recommend the best option
including tincture of time,
wait and see,
try this or that.
Like other physicians who tumble off
at a full gallop, having lost balance
between confidence and humility,
I sometimes find myself unseated and unsettled,
returning on foot to try again to make a difference.
I was your rebellious son, do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.
So complete has your forgiveness been I wonder sometimes if it did not precede my wrong, and I erred, safe found, within your love,
prepared ahead of me, the way home, or my bed at night, so that almost I should forgive you, who perhaps foresaw the worst that I might do,
and forgave before I could act, causing me to smile now, looking back, to see how paltry was my worst, compared to your forgiveness of it
already given. And this, then, is the vision of that Heaven of which we have heard, where those who love each other have forgiven each other,
where, for that, the leaves are green, the light a music in the air, and all is unentangled, and all is undismayed. -Wendell Berry “To My Mother”
…and to think we enter this world screaming,
begging to be held and fed,
already needing forgiveness that sometimes,
comes from our entangled imperfect parents
who worry over and juggle and guide us
and who themselves, once prodigal,
weep too with the burden
of feeling unforgiven,
dismayed because they won’t get it right
no matter how hard they try
Thank God for the promise
of this Heaven of which we have heard
where Love freely given, never earned,
rises resplendent, in full bloom,
from earth’s fallen ashes.