~May Swenson from “October”
~May Swenson from “October”
A sudden light transfigures a trivial thing, a weather-vane, a wind-mill, a winnowing flail, the dust in the barn door; a moment,- -and the thing has vanished, because it was pure effect; but it leaves a relish behind it, a longing that the accident may happen again.
~Walter Pater from “The Renaissance”
The accident of light does happen, again and again, but when I least expect it. I need to be ready for it; in a blink, it can be gone. Yet in that moment, everything is changed and transformed forever. The thing itself, trivial and transient becomes something other, merely because of how it is illuminated. And so am I, trivial and transient, lit from outside myself, transfigured by a love and sacrifice that I can never expect or deserve. I need to be ready for it.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
- Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”
Sometimes it is enough to kneel in the grass to capture the right light at the precise moment it is sent from above. It is prayer to be blessed so, prayer to pay attention, prayer to be grateful for that moment. I find myself on my knees often these days because it all will be gone too soon, much too soon.
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live
Now your burden’s lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain
So sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live
And like a new born baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk sometimes we fall
So fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live
Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain
Then cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live
Ohh, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside
Then dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live
And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on glory’s side
And fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live
~Chris Rice “Untitled Hymn” (click link to hear this hymn which was sung at Linda’s funeral)
Our little church family lost one of its own last weekend. Linda wasn’t in her usual seat last Sunday morning, which was notable. When a family member later couldn’t reach her on the phone, it was discovered she had slept all the way to heaven sometime in the night.
Hers had been a final heartbeat that only God knew would happen, and when.
We miss our sister in Christ and she was missed again this morning as we sang and prayed and heard God’s Word to us; we miss her gentle smile and her ready willingness to help whenever needed. We miss her dedication to a Savior who, by His grace, reshaped her life from self to selfless service and sacrifice. We miss her love and caring for the rest of us who worshiped alongside her.
Yet we are comforted by what she has left behind: the flower gardens around our church that Linda tended faithfully for years, the crocus and tulip bulbs we know will come up next spring as they will continue to do, to remind us of renewal and resurrection. Linda got down on her knees to work the soil to create beauty, falling on her knees in gratitude for forgiveness she had known and been shown. She cried, she sang, she danced, and now, now she has flown to Jesus long before we were ready for her to leave.
We raise our tearful faces to see her love passing by.
Go in peace, Linda. You have found joy on glory’s side.
Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
that witnessing presence.
~Denise Levertov “Witness”
Even on the days like today when the mountain is hidden behind a veil of clouds, I have every confidence it is there. It has not moved in the night, gone to another county, blown up or melted down. My vision isn’t penetrating enough to see it through cloud cover today, but it will return to my line of sight, if not tomorrow, perhaps the next day. I know this and have faith it is true.
On the days when I am not bothering to look for it, too preoccupied so walk right past its obvious grandeur and presence, then it is reaching out to me and calling me back. There are times when I turn a corner on the farm and glance up, and there it is, a silent and overwhelming witness to beauty and steadfastness. I literally gasp at not noticing before, at not remembering how I’m blessed by it being there even at the times I can’t be bothered.
It witnesses my lack of witness and still stays put to hold me fast yet another day. And so I keep coming back to gaze, sometimes just at clouds, yearning to lift the veil just one more time.
This is the wilderness time,
when every path is obscure
and thorns have grown around the words of hope.
This is the time of stone, not bread,
when even the sunrise feels uncertain
and everything tastes of bitterness.
This is the time of ashes and dust,
when darkness clothes our dreams
and no star shines a guiding light.
This is the time of treading life,
waiting for the swells to subside and for the chaos to clear.
Be the wings of our strength, O God,
in this time of wilderness waiting.
– Keri Wehlander from “600 Blessings and Prayers from around the world” compiled by Geoffrey Duncan
…faith finds food in famine, and a table in the wilderness.
In the greatest danger, faith says, “I have a great God.”
When outward strength is broken, faith rests on the promises.
In the midst of sorrow, faith draws the sting out of every trouble,
and takes out the bitterness from every affliction.
The table set for us in the wilderness may not be what we hope for nor expect. Only faith can sustain us when the cup is bitter and the meal disheartening. We may choose starvation and thirst rather than eat and drink of trouble and sacrifice.
Even Jesus asked that the cup be taken from Him. Yet He drank from it and handed it over to us.
Even as Jesus walked to Golgotha, breaking under the burden and about to be shattered, He is prepared to hand His body over to us.
He has eaten at this same table so we are no longer alone in the bitter wilderness.
And so we, sharing our hunger, our thirst, our fear, our sorrow and our pain, can say, “We have a great God.”
Discipleship is not limited to what you can understand – it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own understanding, and I will help you to comprehend.
Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. In this way Abraham went forth from his father, not knowing where he was going. That is the way of the cross. You cannot find it in yourself, so you must let me lead you as though you were a blind man.
Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire – that is the road you must take. It is to this path that I call you, and in this sense that you must be my disciple.
~Martin Luther, quoted in Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship
Plunging describes the leap of faith into unknown depths when we’d rather choose to remain safely on shore sitting on a comfortable bench. The water wraps around like a sheath and doesn’t let go. It is a shock to the system, it takes our breath away, it is immersion into completely unfamiliar territory.
We aren’t pushed into the deep, we are led. It isn’t where we choose to go, but where we must go, not knowing to where we go.
May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
― Thérèse de Lisieux
To love another person is to see the face of God….
~Victor Hugo from Les Miserables
And he [John] will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this?
Luke 1: 17-18
If God’s incomprehensibility does not grip us in a word, if it does not draw us into his superluminous darkness, if it does not call us out of the little house of our homely, close-hugged truths..we have misunderstood the words of Christianity.
How can I be sure?
How can I trust this is true even when it doesn’t make sense in my every day world?
How can I trust God to accomplish this?
These are not the questions to be asked; he was struck mute, speechless until immersed in the reality of impossibility and then he sang loudly with praise.
Instead, we are to ask, like Mary:
How can this be?
How am I worthy?
How am I to be confident within incomprehensibility and calm in the midst of mystery?
How am I to be different as a result?
It is when we are most naked, at our emptiest, that we are clothed and filled with God’s glory.
We do not need to be sure.
We just need to be.