The ghosts swarm. They speak as one person. Each loves you. Each has left something undone.
Today’s edges are so sharp
they might cut anything that moved. ~Rae Armantrout from “Unbidden”
The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are… Here is the world.
Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
Don’t be afraid.
I am with you.
~Frederick Buechner in “Wishful Thinking and later” in Beyond Words
Seventeen years ago
a day started with bright sun above
and ended in tears and bloodshed below.
It is a day for recollection;
we live out remembrance
with weeping eyes open,
yet close our eyelids
to the red that flowed that day.
The day’s edges were so sharp
we all bled and still bear the scars.
“I make them warm to keep my family from freezing;
I make them beautiful to keep my heart from breaking.”
–From the journal of a prairie woman, 1870
To keep a husband and five children warm,
she quilts them covers thick as drifts against
the door. Through every fleshy square white threads
needle their almost invisible tracks; her hours
count each small suture that holds together
the raw-cut, uncolored edges of her life.
She pieces each one beautiful, and summer bright
to thaw her frozen soul. Under her fingers
the scraps grow to green birds and purple
improbable leaves; deeper than calico, her mid-winter
mind bursts into flowers. She watches them unfold
between the double stars, the wedding rings. ~Luci Shaw “Quiltmaker”
It could be the world was made this way:
piecemeal, the parts fitting together
as if made for one another~
disparate and separate,
all the edges
coming together in harmony.
The point of its creation
to be forever functional,
a blanket of warmth and security
but its result is so much more:
beauty arising from scraps,
the broken stitched to broken
to become holy and whole.
(all quilts here are on display this week at the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden)
We’ve exhausted the strawberries with only a few “everbearing” continuing to produce through the remaining hot days of summer. The raspberries too are drying up with leaves curling. The mountain huckleberries have had their hey-day. The blueberries continue strong and juicy.
And now blackberries, free for the picking, hang in mouth-watering clusters from every fence line, long roads and ditches, just begging to be eaten. Blackberry vines seem like trouble 90% of the year–growing where they are not welcome; their thorns reach out to grab passersby without discriminating between human, dog or horse. But for about 3 weeks in August, they yield black gold–bursting unimaginably sweet fruit that is worth the hassle borne the rest of the weeks of the year.
Thorns are indeed part of our everyday life. They stand in front of much that is sweet and good and precious to us. They tear us up, bloody us, make us cry, make us beg for mercy. In fact, man has died by thorns and been killed for the sweetness.
Yet thorns did not stop salvation, did not stop goodness, did not stop the promise of redemption to come. We don’t even need to wait to be fed and no one need die: such a gift as this was dropped from heaven itself.
My friend, old and passing, said, “There is more to life than staying alive. Don’t rescue me too much.”
On his farm, twelve miles out
by rough gravel roads, he is done with plowing, spraying, harvesting.
But he is not done watching the sun sink below the windbreak or listening to the nighthawks above his fields.
Don’t make him move to town.
There is more to tragedy
than dying. ~Kevin Hadduck “A Note to His Doctor”
Look, the world is always ending somewhere.
Somewhere the sun has come crashing down.
Somewhere it has gone completely dark.
Somewhere it has ended with the utter quiet that follows the news from the phone, the television, the hospital room.
Somewhere it has ended with a tenderness that will break your heart.
But, listen, this blessing means to be anything but morose. It has not come to cause despair.
It is simply here because there is nothing a blessing is better suited for than an ending, nothing that cries out more for a blessing than when a world is falling apart.
This blessing will not fix you, will not mend you, will not give you false comfort; it will not talk to you about one door opening when another one closes.
It will simply sit itself beside you among the shards and gently turn your face toward the direction from which the light will come, gathering itself about you as the world begins again. ~Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace
Today I honor the passing of a beloved pastor in our small community of local churches:
Pastor Ken Koeman, who rests today in the arms of Jesus.
He had only a few weeks between doing his vigorous daily work to absorbing the reality of a devastating diagnosis to accepting there is more to life than living, and a greater tragedy than death.
He never lost the hope he knew abounds in heaven and eternal life.
He was never done watching the Son.
Sir, we would see Jesus. (John 12:21)
Lord Jesus, we know Ken sees you now
and as he did in life, he points the rest of us to you.
We humans contribute to the world’s gloom,
like dark shadows on a dark landscape.…
But now this man from Nazareth comes to us
and invites us to mirror God’s image,
and shows us how.
you too can become light, as God is light.
What is all around you is not hell,
but rather a world waiting to be filled with hope and faith.
This world is your home as surely as the God who created and wrought it is love.
You may not believe it, but you can love this world.
It is a place of God.
It has a purpose.
Its beauty is not a delusion.
You can lead a meaningful life in it. ~Jörg Zink “Doors to the Feast”
In this dark world we search for inspiration and a sense of purpose in the most unlikely places:
this past week, we were awestruck by the devotion of a mother killer whale in nearby Puget Sound who has carried her dead baby on her nose for over a week, unwilling to abandon the lifeless body to the sea.
There is tragic beauty in such demonstration of profound love, a recognition of our own losses and helplessness in the face of death.
We too are carried by our Savior through His relentless devotion and love for us, never to abandon us.
Even in the face of loss and consumed by the darkness of the world, we love as we are loved, body of His body.
HOW TO SWIM AN ELEGY
Lo, let that night be desolate;
let no joyful voice come therein.
Let them curse it that curse the day,
who are ready to rouse up leviathan.
Although I favor the open mind, I certainly do not advocate that the mind should be so open that the brains fall out. ~Arthur Hays Sulzberger — New York Times publisher from 1935-1961 from “Freedom of Information”
I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world. — Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems, Volume Two
Few things are as condemning in this day and age than being accused of being close-minded. In religion and politics, the most zealous liberals and hard-core conservatives are the least likely to see another point of view, much less tolerate it.
There is no chance of growth or redemption when there is no openness and willingness to change, to admit one could be a little bit misinformed or just plain wrong.
But I’ve known those who are so open-minded, there is nothing left inside their head but “whatever”:
~~It doesn’t matter, anything goes, if it works for you, who am I to judge, it’s a free country, consenting adults and all that~~
No boundaries, no barriers, all windows flung ajar and liberating breezes coming and going, no foundational beliefs, and then common sense is hopelessly robbed blind.
It is a terribly empty void to behold.
As for me, moderate middle-of-the-road person that I am, I strive to remain unlocked and ready to answer the knock on the door of my convictions and opinions to see who or what may be there, to be receptive to some possibility other than what I think I see and know.
In reality I’d rather be open-hearted over open-minded. It is far riskier, this bleeding of the heart until empty when touched, bruised or pierced. Perhaps a lot messier too.
Intentional bleeding, not accidental. Such a Love spilled from an open beating Heart followed by a flood of profound and forever undeserved Grace.
May that Heart break at the folly of our emptiness and never again close to the world.
Have you ever noticed how much of Christ’s life was spent in doing kind things – in merely doing kind things? … he spent a great proportion of his time simply in making people happy, in doing good turns to people.
There is only one thing greater than happiness in the world, and that is holiness; and it is not in our keeping. But what God has put in our power is the happiness of those about us, and that is largely to be secured by our being kind to them.…
I wonder why it is that we are not all kinder than we are. How much the world needs it. How easily it is done. How instantaneously it acts. How infallibly it is remembered. ~Henry Drummond from The Greatest Thing in the World
Sure on this shining night Of star made shadows round, Kindness must watch for me This side the ground. The late year lies down the north. All is healed, all is health. High summer holds the earth. Hearts all whole. Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone Of shadows on the stars.