Lenten Grace — He Got Up

photo by Emily Gibson
photo by Emily Gibson

So what do I believe actually happened that morning on the third day after he died?
…I speak very plainly here…

He got up.  He said, “Don’t be afraid.”

Love is the victor.  Death is not the end.  The end is life.  His life and our lives through him, in him. Existence has greater depths of beauty, mystery, and benediction than the wildest visionary has ever dared to dream.  Christ our Lord has risen.
~Frederick Buechner

marchdawn3

Since this moment (the resurrection), the universe is no longer what it was;  nature has received another meaning; history is transformed and you and I are no more, and should not be anymore, what we were before.
~Paul Tillich

photo by Emily Gibson
photo by Emily Gibson

Lenten Grace — Barnstormed

(Emily’s note: I’ve been asked how my blog came to be named “Barnstorming” — most assume it is a doctor-farmer’s twist on “brainstorming” which didn’t occur to me until someone mentioned it to me.  Instead, the name has nothing to do with brains, baseball teams, politics or daredevil piloting of small airplanes.  It has everything to do with a storm taking place in our barn at the beginning of Holy Week a few years ago.  This is a repost.)

An unexpected southerly wind hit suddenly late Sunday night, gusting up to 40 miles an hour and slamming the house with drenching rain as we prepared to go to bed. Chores in the barn had been done hours before, but as we had not been expecting a storm, the north/south center aisle doors were still open, and I could hear banging and rattling as they were buffeted in the wind. I quickly dressed to go latch the doors for the night, but the tempest had done its damage. Hay, empty buckets, horse blankets, tack and cat food had blown all over, while the Haflingers stood wide-eyed and fretful in their stalls. A storm was blowing inside the barn as well as outside it.

It took some time to tidy up the mess after the doors were secured but all was soon made right. The wind continued to bash at the doors, but it no longer could touch anything inside them. The horses relaxed and got back to their evening meal though the noise coming from outside was deafening. I headed back up to the house and slept fitfully listening to the wind blow all night, wondering if the metal barn roof might pull off in a gust, exposing everything within.

Yet in the new daylight this Monday morning, all is calm. The barn is still there, the roof still on, the horses are where they belong and all seems to be as it was before the barnstorming wind. Or so it might appear.

This wind heralds another storm coming this week that hits with such force that I’m knocked off my feet, swept away, and left bruised and breathless. No latches, locks, or barricades are strong enough to protect me from what will come over the next few days.

Yesterday he rode in on a donkey softly, humbly, and wept at what he knew.

Today, he overturns the tables in his fury.

Tomorrow he echoes the destruction that is to happen.

Wednesday, he teaches the people to prepare them, then rests in anticipation.

On Thursday, he kneels, pours water over dusty feet, presides over a simple meal, and then, abandoned,  sweats blood in agonized prayer.

By Friday, all culminates in the perfect storm, transforming everything in its path, leaving nothing untouched.

The silence on Saturday is deafening.

Next Sunday, the Son rises and returns, all is calm, all is well, all set to right.  He calls my name, my heart burns within me at his words and I can never be the same again.

Barnstormed to the depths of my soul. Doors flung open wide, the roof pulled off, everything blown away and now replaced, renewed and reconciled.

May it be done as he has said, again and yet again.

Lenten Grace — One Far Fierce Hour

photo by Anna Blake, Infinity Farm
photo of Edgar Rice Burro by Anna Blake, Infinity Farm

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings…

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
G. K. Chesterton from “The Donkey”

Palm Sunday is a day of dissonance and dichotomy in the church year, very much like the donkey who figured as a central character that day.  Sadly, a donkey gets no respect, then or now– for his plain and awkward looks, for his loud and inharmonious voice, for his apparent lack of strength — yet he was the chosen mode of transportation for a King riding to His death.

There was a motley parade to Jerusalem: cloaks and palms laid at the feet of the donkey bearing the Son of God,  the disorderly shouts of adoration and blessings, the rebuke of the Pharisees to quiet the people, His response that “even the stones will cry out” knowing what is to come.

But the welcoming crowd waving palm branches, shouting sweet hosannas and laying down their cloaks did not understand the fierce transformation to come, did not know within days they would be a mob shouting words of derision and rejection and condemnation.

The donkey knew because he had been derided, rejected and condemned himself, yet still kept serving.  Just as he was given voice and understanding centuries before to protect Balaam from going the wrong way, he could have opened his mouth to tell them, suffering beatings for his effort.  Instead, just as he bore the unborn Jesus to Bethlehem and stood over Him sleeping in the manger,  just as he bore a mother and child all the way to Egypt to hide from Herod,  the donkey would keep his secret well.   Who, after all,  would ever listen to a mere donkey?

We would do well to pay attention to this braying wisdom.  The donkey knows.   He bears the burden we have shirked.  He treads with heavy heart over the palms and cloaks we lay down as our meaningless symbols of honor.   He is servant to the Servant.

A day of dichotomy — of honor and glory laid underfoot only to be stepped on.   Of blessings and praise turning to curses.  Of the beginning of the end becoming a new beginning for us all.

And so He wept, knowing all this.  I suspect the donkey bearing Him wept as well, in his own simple, plain and honest way, and I’m quite sure he kept it as his special secret.

Lenten Grace — It is All Those Things

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

Imagine him, speaking,
and don’t worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it is all those things.
Mary Oliver, from “Logos”

Many reject him because they weren’t there,
how can they know
what was real without seeing and hearing him
with their own eyes and ears.

We read his words
and think about
how his voice sounded
in a crowd
of 5000 people hungry
and how his eyes teared
as he was betrayed
and rejected
and nailed

We weren’t in the garden
that day when he was mistaken
for the gardener
nor were we on the road to Emmaus
walking beside a stranger whose words
made our hearts burn within us
but we can imagine hearing our name spoken
and knowing it is him
or watching him break the bread
and recognizing his body.

We weren’t there
but we didn’t have to be.

If we can imagine it
it is plain and real
a mystery of the heart

all those things
all those things
and so much more

Lenten Grace — Every Stone Shall Cry

photo by Kathy Yates
photo by Kathy Yates

Yet he shall be forsaken,
And yielded up to die;
The sky shall groan and darken,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
For stony hearts of men:
God’s blood upon the spearhead,
God’s love refused again.

But now, as at the ending,
The low is lifted high;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
In praises of the child,
By whose descent among us,
The worlds are reconciled.
~Richard Wilbur from “A Christmas Hymn”

Reading the news from around the world, I could be convinced we’re all mute and dull as rocks, inconsequential and immobile, trod upon and paved over, forgettable and forgotten. I could believe there exists no pulse in our stony hearts.  I could believe we are incapable of love as we turn away from a God descending to lie with us on the ground where we lay.

Yet even the low are lifted high by His descent– every stone, yes even the dumb and lifeless,  shall cry out in community with Him, even the silent will find a voice to praise.  Even my own voice, meager and anemic,  shall be heard.

No longer forgotten.  In fact, we never were.
So hard to reconcile but if the stones have known it all along, so should we.

 

Pale Spring

photo by Chris Lovegren from our farm hilltop, Easter Sunrise 2012
photo by Chris Lovegren from our farm hilltop

“So fair, so cold; like a morning of pale spring still clinging to winter’s chill.”
~ J.R.R Tolkien

Clear and sunny skies on the second day of spring were full of deception today — no warmth emanates from a dimming sunlight stark with shocking briskness from a chill wind.

It’s all show without actually delivering the goods.  We have clawed our way out of winter, trying to shake off the frost and leave it far behind, seeking out encouraging sightings of buds and blooms and blossoms.

Maybe tomorrow morning, or perhaps the next.

Just maybe.

Or not.

twins
Twin Sisters from our farm hill, photo by Emily Gibson

 

Lenten Grace — Yet Rise it Shall

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the fallen leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall–the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
~Christina Rossetti from “A Better Resurrection”

I remember panicking as a small child when my mother would help me put on or take off a sweater with a particularly tight turtleneck opening, as my head would get “stuck” momentarily until she could free me.  It caused an intense feeling of being unable to breathe or see, literally shrouded.  I was trapped and held captive by something as innocuous as a piece of clothing.

That same feeling still overwhelms me at times, and not only when I wrestle with pulling something snug over my head.  I’m still held captive, but not by a turtleneck.  I’m frozen in a winter of my flaws and deficiencies, bruised and fallen and fading in my struggles to be freed.

There is no salvage without new life quickening within me.  There is no freedom without spring sap flowing, His life blood rising in what is left of my dried husk.

And rise it shall — the confining shroud discarded and cast aside.

Now, once again,  I can breathe.