…Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you… Ezekiel 2:6
In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? ~John Stott
Today I will make wild blackberry cobbler, facing down the brambles and briers that thwart my reach for the elusive fruit. I gather more berries than scratches to prove that thorns must never win and I must not yield to them.
Painful thorns have always been part of life. They barricade us from all that is sweet and good and precious. They tear us up, bloody us, make us cry out in pain and grief, deepen our fear that we may never overcome them.
Yet even the most brutal crown of thorns did not stop the loving sacrifice, can never thwart the sweetness of redemption, will not spoil the goodness, nor destroy the promise of salvation to come.
We now simply wait to be fed the loving gift that comes only from bloodied hands.
“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?” ~J.R.R. Tolkien as Samwise Gamgee wakes to find his friends all around him in The Lord of the Rings
“The answer is yes. And the answer of the Bible is yes. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue.” ~Pastor Tim Keller’s response in a sermon given in an ecumenical prayer service memorial in Lower Manhattan on the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11.
In our minds, we want to rewind and replay the sad events of a tragedy in a way that would prevent it from happening in the first place.
We want those in a broken relationship to come back together, hug and forgive. The devastating diagnosis would be proven an error, only a mere transient illness. When a mass casualty event happens, we want the dead and injured to rise up again. The destructive earthquake becomes a mere tremor, the flooding tsunami is only one foot, not over thirty feet tall, the hijackers are prevented from ever boarding a plane, the shooter changes his mind at the last minute and lays down his arms, the terrorist disables his suicide bombs and walks away from his training and misguided mission.
We want so badly for it all to be untrue. The bitter reality of horrendous suffering and sadness daily all over the earth is too much for us to absorb. We plead for relief and beg for a better day.
Our minds may play mental tricks like this, but God does not play tricks. He knows and feels what we do. He too wants to see it rewound and replayed differently. He has known grief and sadness, He has wept, He has suffered, He too has died. And because of this, because of a God who came to dwell with us, was broken, died and then rose again whole and holy, we are assured, in His time, everything sad is going to come untrue.
Our tears will be dried, our grief turned to joy, our pain nonexistent, not even a memory. It will be a new day, a better day–as it is written, trustworthy and true.
May it come.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. Revelation 21: 4-5
We do not want merely to see beauty…
we want something else which can hardly be put into words-
to be united with the beauty we see,
to pass into it,
to receive it into ourselves,
to bathe in it,
to become part of it. ~C.S. Lewis from The Weight of Glory
Each day brings headlines that tear at us, pull us down and rub us into the mud. We are grimy by association, sullied and smeared.
Yet in our state of disgrace, Beauty is offered up to us.
In His last act with those He loved, Jesus shared Himself through a communal meal,
then washed and toweled their dirty feet clean, immersing them, despite their protests, in all that is beautiful and clean.
He took on and wore their grime.
It is now our turn to wash away the dirt from whoever is in need. He showed us how.
And on those hot afternoons in July, when my father was out on the tractor cultivating rows of corn, my mother would send us out with a Mason jar filled with ice and water, a dish towel wrapped around it for insulation.
Like a rocket launched to an orbiting planet, we would cut across the fields in a trajectory calculated to intercept— or, perhaps, even—surprise him in his absorption with the row and the turning always over earth beneath the blade.
He would look up and see us, throttle down, stop, and step from the tractor with the grace of a cowboy dismounting his horse, and receive gratefully the jar of water, ice cubes now melted into tiny shards, drinking it down in a single gulp, while we watched, mission accomplished. ~Joyce Sutphen “Carrying Water to the Field”
It was a special responsibility to carry cold water out to my father when he was on the tractor. Yes, he could have carried a thermos-full along with him all day but then he would not have seen his daughter walking carefully from the house over the fresh-turned dirt, he would not have an excuse for a short break to wipe the sweat from his face or survey the straightness of the furrows, he would not have lifted her up to sit beside him on the tractor and allowed her to “drive”, steering down the rows, curving around the killdeer nests so their young are spared.
Such a special responsibility to nurture someone hard at work who doesn’t stop to refill themselves. It happens rarely any more – whether field or factory or the family home. What wondrous love to carry water to those who thirst; what wondrous grace fills furrowed lives.
thank you to Kate Steensma of Steensma Dairy for these photos of young kestrel falcons
I caught this morning morning’s minion, king- dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing.
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion. ~Gerard Manley Hopkins “The Windhover – To Christ Our Lord”
We do indeed hold our hearts in hiding, trying to protect that tender core of who we are from being pierced and shredded by the slings and arrows of every day life.
Yet to live fully as we are created to live, we must fling ourselves into the open, wimpling wings spread, the wind holding us up hovering.
We take our chances, knowing the fall to come. Our wounds shall be healed, even as they bleed.
Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither. ~ C.S. Lewis from The Joyful Christian
The night sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. ~J.R.R. Tolikien, The Return of the King
We long for a heaven that feels so elusive;
we who are so weary
and with so much need
seek out Light so seemingly
beyond our reach.
Yet by reaching beyond the here and now
we find heaven descended to us
in His incarnate earthliness.
No shadow cast in this worldly darkness,
and no iron nails
can quell the beauty
of His everlasting brilliance.