Blossom Cheeks

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Lined with light
the twigs are stubby arrows.
A gilded trunk writhes
Upward from the roots,
from the pit of the black tentacles.

In the book of spring
a bare-limbed torso
is the first illustration.

Light teaches the tree
to beget leaves,
to embroider itself all over
with green reality,
until summer becomes
its steady portrait
and birds bring their lifetime
to the boughs.

Then even the corpse
light copies from below
may shimmer, dreaming it feels
the cheeks of blossom.
~May Swenson “April Light”

 

Only a week ago we waited
on corpse light~
a mysterious illumination that came alive
on a bright Sabbath morning,
taking bare stubs of people.
begetting them green,
bursting them into blossom,
their cheeks pink with life,
in promise of faithful fruitfulness.

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Blooming in your Hand

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Imagine a world, this ridiculous
tentative thing blooming
in your hand.  There in your hand, a world
opening up, stretching, after the image
of your hand.  Imagine
a field of sheep grazing, or a single sheep
grazing and wandering in the delight
of grass, of flowers
lifting themselves, after their fashion,
to be flowers…

its prancing taking it far into the field
where, free of the other, it leapt for
no clear reason, and set out walking
through a gathering of flowers, parting
that grip of flowers with its face.
~Scott Cairns from “The Theology of Delight”

And so should we leap,
for no clear reason other than
we are held in His outstretched open hand,
blooming His image,
delighted and delightful.

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Prepare for Joy: He Emptied Himself

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Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
 
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2: 6-8

 

[The Incarnation is like] a wave of the sea which,
rushing up on the flat beach,
runs out, even thinner and more transparent,
and does not return to its source but sinks into the sand and disappears.
~Hans Urs von Balthasar from Origen: Spirit and Fire

 

This is a week of emptying.  It is impossible to approach tomorrow’s supper and His anguished prayer without feeling hollowed out, our empty spaces then filled to the brim with grace. More over, through commemoration of these historical events, God on earth once again empties Himself onto our earthly soil and into our fleshly souls.  He washes our dirty feet, feeds us at His table, and pleads for our forgiveness when we deserve none of it.  He loses Himself in us.  Through Him,  we are welcomed home, whole and holy.

Hollowed, then hallowed.

 

Let him kneel down, lower his face to the grass,
And look at light reflected by the ground.
There he will find everything we have lost.
~Czeslaw Milosz from “The Sun”

 

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Prepare for Joy: Blown Away

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It has been a relatively warm wet week in the northwest, so it seemed reasonable after finishing up farm chores last night to leave the large rolling north-south doors wide open in the barn where the horses are housed.  Then I woke suddenly at midnight hearing powerful gusts of a southerly wind buffeting the house.  Knowing what havoc a wind can do inside an open barn, I went out in pajamas and muck boots to roll the doors closed before the storm could reach inside, a true barnstorming as has happened here before on Holy Week…

 

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 on Monday morning, all was calm. The barn was still there, the roof still on, the horses where they belonged and all seemed 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.

On Sunday he rode in on a donkey softly, humbly, and wept at what he knew was coming.

Yesterday, he withered the fruitless tree and overturned the tables in his fury.

Today the plans are made to betray him.

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

On Thursday, he kneels as a servant, pours water over dusty feet, presides over a simple meal, and then, abandoned by his friends,  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, breaks bread with broken hands, 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 I was before blown away and now replaced, renewed and reconciled.

So shall his spirit storm within us as he has said, again and yet again.

 

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Prepare for Joy: His Penetrating Gaze

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To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. 
To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God.
To live all of life coram Deo is to live a life of integrity.
It is a life of wholeness that finds its unity and coherency in the majesty of God.
It is a life that is open before God.
It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord.
It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance.
It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.
R.C. Sproul

 

As we walk together through Holy Week and beyond into the holiness of every day,  may we be under the gaze of God, under the authority of God, open before God, captivated by the Word of God.

And we walk away from the gaping grave knowing our purpose: whatever we do, wherever we do it, it is to be whole and holy before Him.

Coram Deo.

Prepare for Joy: Cry Out!

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A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Isaiah 40.6-8
I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.
Luke 19:40

So much conspires to keep us silent:
Faith thought unfashionable
A crutch for the weak
Outmoded, obsolete,
Outrageous belief.

Far easier to worship the earth
Or each other
Or nothing at all
Rather than exalt the
Living God Everlasting.

His name no longer spoken
At school or work,
Acknowledged one hour a week
By some,
Forgotten by most.

Sing of His glory
In joy and gratitude
Even if lacking harmony,
We are not to be silenced
While we have tongues.

If we do not shout and cry out loud,
Nor spread branches at His feet,
If too worried what others might think,
The stones will cry out and will not stop,
As He, in deepest sorrow, weeps for us.

 

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Prepare for Sorrow: Pounding on the Door of the Soul

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This morning when I awoke,  I first read the essay below by Morton Kelsey from the Lenten devotional book Bread and Wine.

Only afterward did I read the news about the possible intentional crashing of a German airliner by an apparently rogue co-pilot, killing all 150 individuals on board while the captain was locked outside the cockpit, pounding on the door trying in vain to open it to prevent the destruction.   Imagining the fear and panic of all on board in their final minutes sits heavily on us all;  here is yet another reason to contemplate the darkness of the human condition as we move toward the reality of Good Friday next week.

May the souls of the tragic and innocent victims find rest in God; may we who are yet living answer the pounding on the door of the cellar of our darkened souls:

 

Scratch the surface of a human being and the demons of hate and revenge … and sheer destructiveness break forth.

    The cross stands before us to remind us of this depth of ourselves so that we can never forget. These forces continue to break forth in many parts of the world now, and many of us would like to forget how in some places in the United States we treat a person whose skin is black.

    Again and again we read the stories of violence in our daily papers, of the mass murders and ethnic wars still occurring in numerous parts of our world. But how often do we say to ourselves: “What seizes people like that, even young people, to make them forget family and friends, and suddenly kill other human beings?” We don’t always ask the question in that manner. Sometimes we are likely to think, almost smugly: “How different those horrible creatures are from the rest of us. How fortunate I am that I could never kill or hurt other people like they did.”

    I do not like to stop and, in the silence, look within, but when I do I hear a pounding on the floor of my soul. When I open the trap door into the deep darkness I see the monsters emerge for me to deal with. How painful it is to bear all this, but it is there to bear in all of us. Freud called it the death wish, Jung the demonic darkness. If I do not deal with it, it deals with me. The cross reminds me of all this.

    This inhumanity of human to human is tamed most of the time by law and order in most of our communities, but there are not laws strong enough to make men and women simply cease their cruelty and bitterness. This destructiveness within us can seldom be transformed until we squarely face it in ourselves. This confrontation often leads us into the pit. The empty cross is planted there to remind us that suffering is real but not the end, that victory still is possible…
~Morton Kelsey from “The Cross and the Cellar”

 

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