To Walk Alongside

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thebuds

None of us can “mend” another person’s life, no matter how much the other may need it, no matter how much we may want to do it.

Mending is inner work that everyone must do for him or herself. When we fail to embrace that truth the result is heartbreak for all concerned.

What we can do is walk alongside the people we care about, offering simple companionship and compassion. And if we want to do that, we must save the only life we can save, our own.
~Parker Palmer writing about Mary Oliver’s poem “The Journey”

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Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.
~Eugene O’Neill

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We are born hollering and suddenly alone,
already aware of our emptiness
from the first breath,
each tiny air sac bursting
with the air of our fallen world~
air that is never enough.

The rest of our days are spent
filling up our empty spaces
whether alveoli
or stomach
or synapses starving for understanding,
still hollering in our loneliness
and heart
broken.

So we mend ourselves
through our walk with others
also broken,
we patch up our gaps
by knitting the scraggly fragments
of lives lived together.
We become the crucial glue
boiled from gifted Grace,
all our holes
somehow made holy.

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Shards of Mirrored Light

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photo by Joel DeWaard

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What is this unfolding, this slow-
going unraveling of gift held
in hands open
to the wonder and enchantment of it all?

What is this growing, this rare
showing, like blossoming
of purple spotted forests
by roadsides grown weary with winter months?

Seasons affected, routinely disordered
by playful disturbance of divine glee
weaving through limbs with
sharpened shards of mirrored light,
cutting dark spaces, interlacing creation,
commanding life with whimsical delight.

What is this breaking, this hopeful
re-making, shifting stones, addressing dry bones,
dizzying me with blessings,
intercepting my grieving
and raising the dead all around me?
~Enuma Okoro “Morning Reflections”

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As our region prepares for two wind and rain storms over the next three days, I realize how seldom we are compelled to face a power far greater than ourselves. We must ride it out, hoping the electricity stays on and the roof with it.

As invincible as we think we are, we need reminding we are mere dust, ready to blow away.  The immense power of the breath of God, whether typhoon, cyclone, tornado, or hurricane, or through the gentle filling of newborn lungs or the shriveled emptied lungs of the resurrected dead,  will rescue us from our broken shards of self.

This unfolding, this growing, is restoration of our imperfect reflection of His image.

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Striking the Balance

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Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride.
Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair.
Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance
because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness.
~Blaise Pascal

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We yearn for perfection,
to be flawless and faultless,
unblemished,
aiming for symmetry,
straight and smooth.

Life serves up something
far different
and our eye searches
for what is broken like us:
to find the cracks,
scratches and damage,
whether it is in
a master’s still life portrait
replete with crawling flying insects
and broken blossoms,
or in the not so still life
of those around us.

Somehow Christ bridges
Himself between God and us,
becoming a walkway for the wretched.

In the beginning we were created
unblemished,
image bearers of perfection.
No longer.
We bear witness to brokenness
with our shattered lives,
fragile minds and weakening bodies.
It is our leaks and warts
that stand out now.

To restore
our lost relationship with Him,
Christ strikes the balance;
He hung broken to mend us,
to lift and carry us across the gap,
binding us to Him
forever.

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Still Life With Flowers–Jan Huysum

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An Invisible Cloak

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On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
~John O’Donohue “Beannacht

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We all stumble, bearing the bruises and scars of our fall.
We all waken to gray days when there seems no point in going on.
We all are sucked into the darkest thoughts, tunneling ever more deeply.

In those moments, those days, those months, wrapped tight in love’s cloak of invisibility:
the darkness can swallow us no longer~
we follow a lightening path of contentment and encouragement,
our failing feet are steadied, the bland becomes kaleidoscope,
the way to go illuminated with hope.

May our brokenness be forever covered in such blessings.

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What Man has Made of Man

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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”
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As shy spring emerges from this morning’s haze,
I can’t let go the fog of lament
about what we’ve become
and the mess we’ve made of things:
man cannot fix man.

We are irretrievably lost
if repair was up to us.
We need our
heaven-sent rescue
~divinity clothed inside
a human soul~
fixed to bloom fully
in our broken hearts.

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Between Midnight and Dawn: Broken to be Given

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And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Luke 22:19

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him…
Luke 24: 30-31

 

God uses broken things.
It takes broken soil to produce a crop,
broken clouds to give rain,
broken grain to give bread,
broken bread to give strength.
It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.
~Vance Havner

 

Just as bread needs to be broken
in order to be given,
so, too, do our lives.
~Henri Nouwen

Jan_Davidsz_de_Heem_-_Vase_of_Flowers_-_Google_Art_Project
Jan Davidsz de Heem. Vase of Flowers, 1660 National Gallery of ARt

We yearn for perfection,
for flawless and faultless,
unblemished,
aiming for symmetry,
straight and smooth.

Life serves up something
far different
and our eye searches
to find the cracks,
scratches and damage,
whether it is in
a master’s still life portrait
replete with snails,
crawling flying insects
and broken blossoms,
or in the not so still life
of our next door neighbor.

In the beginning we were created
unblemished,
image bearers of perfection.
No longer.
We bear witness to brokenness
with shattered lives,
fragile minds and weakening bodies.
It is our leaks and warts
that stand out now.

To restore
the lost relationship with Him,
God provides the glue
needed to heal the broken.

He broke Himself
to mend us,
binding us to Him
forever.

And I might add:
a lonely snail wandering into sidewalk foot traffic,
crushed, cracked and dying, clinging to the pavement,
its broken shell a gift of metaphor
of our own leaking brokenness.

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During this Lenten season, I will be drawing inspiration from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn

The Work of Christmas Begins

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When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
~Howard Thurman from The Mood of Christmas & Other Celebrations

 

_______________________

All the Advent anticipation is spent, Christmas and New Years are past and I find my energy waning just as the work of Christmas is beginning.

Instead of the Twelve Days of Christmas it should be the Twelve Weeks, or better yet, Twelve Months– maybe the lights should stay up until St. Patrick’s Day at least, just to keep us out of the shadows, inertia and doldrums of winter.

As I sweep up the last of the fir needles that dropped to the floor from this lovely tree that I watered faithfully in the house for over two weeks, I too have been drying up, parts of me left behind for others to sweep up.   There has been the excitement of family brought together from far away,  friends gathering for meals and games,  special church services, but now, some quiet time is sorely needed.   The party simply can’t be sustained.  The lights have to go off and be pulled down, and the eyes have to close.

The real work of Christmas lasts year-long — often very hard intensive work, not always the fun stuff of the last month, but badly needed in this broken world with its homelessness, hunger, disease, conflict, addictions, depression and pain.

I walk into a winter replete with the startling splash of orange red that paints the skies in the evenings, the stark and gorgeous snow covered peaks surrounding us during the day,  the grace of bald eagles and trumpeter swans flying overhead,  the heavenly lights that twinkle every night,  the shining globe that circles full above us, and the loving support of the Hand that rocks us to sleep when we are wailing loud and need it.

And I am readied to do the real work of Christmas, acknowledging the stark reality of the labor to salvage this world begun by an infant in a manger.

We don’t need full stockings on the hearth, Christmas villages on the side table, or a blinking star on the top of the tree to know the comfort of His care and the astounding beauty of His creation, available for us without batteries, electrical plug ins, or the need of a ladder.

As I take down lights and ornaments, the memory of Christmas pulls me up from the doldrums, alive to the possibility that even I can make a difference, in His name, all year.

Every day. Twelve months. Life long.

And I’m ready.

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