Listening to Lent — Look on this Mystery


Come and see
Look on this mystery
The Lord of the universe
Nailed to a tree
Christ our God
Spilling His only Blood
Bowing in anguish
His sacred head

Chorus 1
Sing to Jesus
Lord of our shame
Lord of our sinful hearts
He is our great redeemer
Sing to Jesus
Honor His name
Sing of His faithfulness
Pouring His life out unto death

Verse 2
Come you weary
And He will give you rest
Come you who mourn
Lay on His breast
Oh Christ who died
Risen in paradise
Giver of mercy
Giver of life
Sing to Jesus
His is the throne
Now and forever
He is the King of Heaven
Sing to Jesus
We are His own
Now and forever
Sing for the love our God has shown
~Robbie Seay

This in-between day
after all had gone so wrong
before all will go so right,
puts us between the rock
and the hard place:
all hope, love and faith is squeezed from us.

Today we are flattened,
dried like chaff,
ground to pulp,
our destiny with death sealed.

We lie still
as sprinkled spices
try to delay inevitable decay,
wrapped up tight,
stone cold and futile.

A rock placed
so we are caught in between-
entombed, inside,
our bodies like His-
weeping outside,
cut off and left behind.

We cannot know what is to come
in the dawn tomorrow
the stone lifted and rolled,
giving way,
the separation bridged,
darkness overwhelmed by light,
the crushed and broken rising to dance,
and inexplicably,
from the waiting stillness He stirs
and we,
finding death emptied,
are moved.


Listening to Lent – Through the Gloom

sunset32314Death shall not destroy my comfort,
Christ shall guide me thro’ the gloom;
Down he’ll send some heav’nly convoy,
To escort my spirit home.

Oh, hallelujah! How I Love my Savior,
Oh, hallelujah! That I Do.
Oh, Hallelujah! How I love my Savior!
Mourners, you may love him too.

Jordan’s stream shall not o’erflow me,
While my Savior’s by my side;
Canaan, Canaan lies before me!
Soon I’ll cross the swelling tide.

See the happy spirits waiting,
On the banks beyond the stream!
Sweet responses still repeating,
“Jesus! Jesus!” is their theme.
~American Folk Hymn

There are families in despair
just down the road apiece from us:
the uncertain earth gave way and slid far,
overcoming houses and the people within.
The missing outnumber the known dead.
The searchers struggle on quicksand;
The mourners drown
in enveloping inevitability.
There is no where to turn,
no comfort to find
but that we belong,
body and soul,
to our Savior
who came to fetch us
from the muddy flow of our lives.

Listening to Lent — Out of the Ashes


It was the day the world went wrong
I screamed till my voice was gone
And watched through the tears
As everything came crashing down

Slowly panic turns to pain
As we awake to what remains
And sift through the ashes
That are left behind

But buried deep beneath all our broken dreams
We have this hope

Out of the ashes
Beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
We will see it with our own eyes
Out of these ashes
Beauty will rise
For we know joy is coming
In the morning

In the morning
Beauty will rise

So take another breath for now
And let the tears come washing down
And if you can’t believe
I will believe for you

‘Cause I have seen the signs of spring
Just watch and see

Out of these ashes,
Beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
We will see it with our own eyes

Out of this darkness
New life will shine
And we’ll know joy is coming in the morning

In the morning,
I can hear it in the distance
And it’s not too far away
It’s the music
And the laughter of a wedding and a feast

I can almost feel the hand of God
Reaching for my face to wipe the tears away
You say “It’s time to make everything new
Making it all new”

This is our hope
This is a promise
This is our hope
This is a promise

It will take our breath away
To see the beauty that’s been made
Out of the ashes
Out of the ashes

It will take our breath
To see the beauty that He’s made out of the ashes
Out of the ashes
Out of the ashes
~Steven Curtis Chapman

Three years ago today
the unthinkable happened
off the coast of Japan
the earth moved
and waters swelled
and swept thousands away.

Whole villages leveled
to nothing but rubble,
even a year later
as we stood within the foundations
of former homes filled with sand
and broken crockery
there could be no response
but tears.
Life interrupted.

When will beauty rise
out of the ashes of such trouble?
When will the joy return
with hope and promise?

The only answer:
it already has.
Out of the deepest trouble
and darkest night
came life.
Death interrupted.

Time to take another breath
and then another.

Be and Be Better



When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always

Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.
~Maya Angelou from “When Great Trees Fall”

When I need to be restored,
humbled and forgiven,
I walk back to the woods on our farm
to stand before the great beings
cut down in their prime
over one hundred years ago,
their scarred stumps still bearing the notches
from the lumbermen’s springboards.

Old growth firs and cedars
became mere headstones
in the graveyard left behind.

They existed, they existed,
their grandeur leaves no doubt.
I leave the woods and come back
to the world better
because they existed.


Places in the Heart


Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist,
and into them enters suffering,
in order that they may have existence.
Leon Bloy

I see these new heart chambers forming every day.
Spaces filling overwhelmed as if water frozen,
with hurt
and loss
and despair.
So I try
to help patients let go of
their suffering,
let it pass, let its ice melt down,
allow it to pass through,
forgiving, forgiven,
their hearts changed
by a grace
flowing warm
from new found gratitude.


photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,

as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,

so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,

knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.
~Denise Levertov

This week three local families find themselves in freefall,
losing a child to mangled metal,
one moment so much alive,
the next irretrievably gone.

It must feel like solid ground has dropped away
like those dreams of falling
when wakened by startled thud
upon a pillow.

May God’s embrace
cushion their hard landing,
His unearned grace sufficient
to keep them afloat in a vast ocean of tears.

A Canticle for Advent: Nor Say Nor Sing

Rachel Weeping by Salvador Dali

Rachel Weeping by Salvador Dali

1. Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child.
By, by, lully, lullay.

2. O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

3. Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young, to slay.

4. Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.
~traditional Coventry Carol

“A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are not”
Jeremiah 31:15

This sad and somber lullaby foreshadows Jesus’ death, as it is sung by the mothers who lose their innocent sons to Herod’s murderous attempt to rid himself of a king born under a star.  As much as we do not want to think of death at Christmas, it happens still.  There are thousands around the world who will die in the coming few days, some reaching the end of a long life on earth, others tragically passing too soon and too young.

This lullaby is for the grief-stricken who can only listen and lament, nor say nor sing.

Only a Passer-by



woods4No more walks in the wood:
The trees have all been cut
Down, and where once they stood
Not even a wagon rut
Appears along the path
Low brush is taking over.

No more walks in the wood;
This is the aftermath
Of afternoons in the clover
Fields where we once made love
Then wandered home together
Where the trees arched above,
Where we made our own weather
When branches were the sky.

Now they are gone for good,
And you, for ill, and I
Am only a passer-by.

We and the trees and the way
Back from the fields of play
Lasted as long as we could.
No more walks in the wood.

~John Hollander “An Old Fashioned Song”





An Oath of Loyalty to Life


It is…the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life…
The man who kills a man kills a man.

The man who kills himself kills all men.
As far as he is concerned, he wipes out the world.
~ G.K. Chesterton

Suicide rates globally have climbed 60% in the past forty years,
particularly in developed countries.
Based on the distress of the patients I see every day,
the easy contemplation of suicide,
if only a passive “I wish I were dead”,
there will be no slowing of this trend.

…when there is no sense of loyalty to life, as stressful and messy as it can be,
…when there is no honoring of the holiness of the created being,
…when there is no resistance to the buffeting winds of life,
only a toppling over, taking out everything and everyone in the way,
…the world is wiped out, all people killed in one act of self-murder.


The Changeless Seal of Change

The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The ghosts of her
Departed leaves.
The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.
And yet the world,
In its distress,
Displays a certain
~John Updike from “A Child’s Calendar”


Yea, I have looked, and seen November there;
The changeless seal of change it seemed to be,
Fair death of things that, living once, were fair;
Bright sign of loneliness too great for me,
Strange image of the dread eternity,
In whose void patience how can these have part,
These outstretched feverish hands, this restless heart?
~William Morris, “November”