Prepare for Joy: Cry Out!

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A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Isaiah 40.6-8
I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.
Luke 19:40

So much conspires to keep us silent:
Faith thought unfashionable
A crutch for the weak
Outmoded, obsolete,
Outrageous belief.

Far easier to worship the earth
Or each other
Or nothing at all
Rather than exalt the
Living God Everlasting.

His name no longer spoken
At school or work,
Acknowledged one hour a week
By some,
Forgotten by most.

Sing of His glory
In joy and gratitude
Even if lacking harmony,
We are not to be silenced
While we have tongues.

If we do not shout and cry out loud,
Nor spread branches at His feet,
If too worried what others might think,
The stones will cry out and will not stop,
As He, in deepest sorrow, weeps for us.

 

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Prepare for Joy: Substitution Allowed

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For the essence of sin is
man substituting himself for God,
while the essence of salvation is
God substituting Himself for man.

Man asserts himself against God and puts himself
where only God deserves to be;
God sacrifices Himself for man and puts Himself
where only man deserves to be.

Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone;
God accepts penalties that belong to man alone.
~John Stott, The Cross of Christ

Our struggle with God, from our first breath,
is wanting to forget we are made from dust, molded from mud,
and will return to the ground, no matter what.
Between the womb and the tomb is the choice of acting
as though we own the earth and somehow it owes us everything because we exist,
or whether we tread lightly, knowing each breath, each morsel, each day
is an undeserved gift granted by Him taking our place.
When we acknowledge that His heart on earth bled
so that ours will continue to beat,
so that we may laugh, cry, love and worship–
only then we are right with God,
instead of insisting we be God.

His heart for ours. A substitution made perfect.

tulip12

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Prepare for Joy: Stewarding the Fields

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It is not our part to master all the tides of the world,
but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set,
uprooting the evil in the fields we know,
so that those who live after us may have clean earth to till. 
What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.
~J.R.R. Tolkien — Gandalf in The Return of the King

There is no end to what a field will throw up to thwart the harvest:
stones that rise from the soil,
fences that topple,
thistles and brambles that take over once they gain a foothold,
varmints that undermine.

We do what we can to keep it clean for those who come next,
not knowing what will be,
preparing for the worst, and praying for the best.

dromara3

mournemountainmeadow

Prepare for Sorrow: Pounding on the Door of the Soul

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This morning when I awoke,  I first read the essay below by Morton Kelsey from the Lenten devotional book Bread and Wine.

Only afterward did I read the news about the possible intentional crashing of a German airliner by an apparently rogue co-pilot, killing all 150 individuals on board while the captain was locked outside the cockpit, pounding on the door trying in vain to open it to prevent the destruction.   Imagining the fear and panic of all on board in their final minutes sits heavily on us all;  here is yet another reason to contemplate the darkness of the human condition as we move toward the reality of Good Friday next week.

May the souls of the tragic and innocent victims find rest in God; may we who are yet living answer the pounding on the door of the cellar of our darkened souls:

 

Scratch the surface of a human being and the demons of hate and revenge … and sheer destructiveness break forth.

    The cross stands before us to remind us of this depth of ourselves so that we can never forget. These forces continue to break forth in many parts of the world now, and many of us would like to forget how in some places in the United States we treat a person whose skin is black.

    Again and again we read the stories of violence in our daily papers, of the mass murders and ethnic wars still occurring in numerous parts of our world. But how often do we say to ourselves: “What seizes people like that, even young people, to make them forget family and friends, and suddenly kill other human beings?” We don’t always ask the question in that manner. Sometimes we are likely to think, almost smugly: “How different those horrible creatures are from the rest of us. How fortunate I am that I could never kill or hurt other people like they did.”

    I do not like to stop and, in the silence, look within, but when I do I hear a pounding on the floor of my soul. When I open the trap door into the deep darkness I see the monsters emerge for me to deal with. How painful it is to bear all this, but it is there to bear in all of us. Freud called it the death wish, Jung the demonic darkness. If I do not deal with it, it deals with me. The cross reminds me of all this.

    This inhumanity of human to human is tamed most of the time by law and order in most of our communities, but there are not laws strong enough to make men and women simply cease their cruelty and bitterness. This destructiveness within us can seldom be transformed until we squarely face it in ourselves. This confrontation often leads us into the pit. The empty cross is planted there to remind us that suffering is real but not the end, that victory still is possible…
~Morton Kelsey from “The Cross and the Cellar”

 

barnlatch

Prepare for Joy: A Reflection of God’s Face

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“Save me from all oppression, conspiracy, and rebellion; from violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared.”
~The Book of Common Prayer

It used to be that people feared a sudden, unprepared death,
because they feared meeting God sudden and unprepared.
Now, we only fear death —

because we don’t fear God.
Turn on any street corner, walk through any airport, sit on the edge of any hospital bed, and you can see the glorious wonder of it:
All the faces of humanity carry the image of God.
What if deciding to end a human life is somehow the desecration of God’s image?
What if a human life is not only a gift of grace right till the end – but is a reflection of God’s face right till the end?
~Ann Voskamp from “A Holy Experience” in a blog post about the death of her friend Kara Tippetts from breast cancer

Such hard news this week:
A plane goes down in the French Alps, killing unsuspecting travelers, some so young, who had no thought of meeting their God that day.
A wife and mother, who has known for months she was dying, prepared herself and her family and left this world on God’s terms, not of her own volition.

What is man that we are His reflection, His face mirrored in ours,
whether we are old and dried up and wrinkled beyond recognition,
or we are a floating conceptus, yet to implant and thrive?

It is not up to us; we are not our own, but belong, body and soul, to Him.

quinceflower

Prepare for Joy: Keep An Open Mind

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I think there is no suffering greater than
what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe.

I know what torment this is, but I can only see it,
in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened.
What people don’t realize is how much religion costs.
They think faith is a big electric blanket,
when of course it is the cross.
It is much harder to believe than not to believe.
If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this:
keep an open mind.
Keep it open toward faith,
keep wanting it,
keep asking for it,
and leave the rest to God.
~Flannery O’Connor from The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

 

And those are called blessed who make the effort to remain open-hearted.  Nothing that comes from God, even the greatest miracle, can be proven like 2 x 2 = 4. It touches one; it is only seen and grasped when the heart is open and the spirit purged of self. Then it awakens faith.  … the heart is not overcome by faith, there is no force or violence there, compelling belief by rigid certitudes.  What comes from God touches gently, comes quietly; does not disturb freedom; leads to quiet, profound, peaceful resolve within the heart.
~Romano Guardini

 

On my doubting days, days too frequent and tormenting,
I remember the risen Christ
reaching out to place Thomas’ hand in His wounds,
gently guiding Thomas to His reality,
so it becomes Thomas’ reality.
His open wounds called
to Thomas’ mind and heart,
His flesh and blood
awakening a hidden faith
by a simple touch.

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Prepare for Joy: Reason to Lament

 

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I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?
~William Wordsworth from “Lines Written in Early Spring”
As shy spring emerges from this morning’s haze,
I can’t let go the fog of lament
about what we’ve become:
man in the midst of the muck
cannot fix man.
We await the joy of a
heaven-sent rescue —
divinity clothed inside
a human soul.

morningmist22115 jasmine

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