Prepare for Joy: The Broken Image

 

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What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your
shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

T.S. Eliot from “The Wasteland”

There is justifiable fear in and of this broken world —  as when a mountain blasts part of itself into the sky on a quiet Sunday morning or when a wall of water washes away everything in its path after an otherwise survivable earthquake.

I have seen the aftermath wasteland of Mt. St. Helens decades later as the land slowly rejuvenates from the ashes.  Now after four years (today) the villages surrounding the beautiful city of Sendai, Japan leveled in a tsunami of devastating power are rebuilding from the dust and mud.

Fear is never the end of the story.  It is part of the story, but dust that is breathed upon becomes Love that heals.  Only a handful of dust, but it has come to repair this broken world.

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Prepare for Joy: Shedding the Earth

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You come to fetch me from my work to-night
When supper’s on the table, and we’ll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea);
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.
~Robert Frost “Putting in the Seed”

The Seed is rising, no longer buried in this mortal soil.  No more crumbs, only feasting.  We are invited.

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Prepare for Joy: Impossible Bloom

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… it seemed as if the tiniest seed of belief had finally flowered in me, or, more accurately, as if I had happened upon some rare flower deep in the desert and had known, though I was just then discovering it, that it had been blooming impossibly year after parched year in me, surviving all the seasons of my unbelief.
~Christian Wiman from My Bright Abyss

 

To blossom, despite dryness and drought when feeling merely and sincerely dead — this is Christ’s call to us.  We are not dead but alive in Him, an amazing impossible flowering.

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Prepare for Joy: Opened Like Leaves

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I came to your door
with soup and bread.
I didn’t know you
but you were a neighbor
in pain: and a little soup and bread,
I reasoned, never hurt anyone.

I shouldn’t reason.
I appeared the day
your divorce was final:
a woman, flushed with cooking
and talk, and you watched,
fascinated,
coiled like a spring.

You seemed so brave and lonely
I wanted to comfort you like a child.
I couldn’t of course.
You wanted to ask me too far in.

It was then I knew
it had to be like prayer.
We can’t ask
for what we know we want:
we have to ask to be led
someplace we never dreamed of going,
a place we don’t want to be.

We’ll find ourselves there
one morning,
opened like leaves,
and it will be all right.
~Kathleen Norris “Answered Prayer”

 

When I struggle with how to pray
I fall back to asking for strength
to cope with whatever is to come,
rather than pray for what I hope,
a prayer of the terrified,
the worried and the weak.

How is it with God, all things are possible,
He asked for the cup to be taken,
knowing it would remain in His Hands.
His will
will be done,
even when terrified,
worried, and weary.
So instead of closing off,
as I would have done,
not wanting to go somewhere
I don’t want to be,
He opened up Himself
like a leaf,
the earth becoming His flesh,
His flesh one with the tree.

And it was all right.
It will always be
all right.

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Prepare for Joy: Dissolve My Hard Heart

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My love is weak,
my heart imperfect,
so I have great need of You.
I need your strengthening and your comfort,
your instruction and your freedom.
Let your love dissolve my hard heart.
Let your love lift me up.
Let your love reveal to me joy beyond imagination.
Let my soul exhaust itself in singing praises of your love.
~Thomas Kempis “A Prayer of Need”

As we gently transition here in the northwest to spring, with backlit sky and buds opening to the new light, there are plenty of places around the country still deep and frozen under feet of snow.  The hardness it takes to outlast winter can weaken the the most enduring loving and warm heart.

And too there is a hardness in the hearts of people of faith when we watch our brothers slaughtered while singing praises of their love for God, captured children placed in cages, women sold into slavery.  We want to somehow rise above such senseless violence and not resort to it, not become one with extremism yet feeling helpless to stop it.

For this our God died, carrying man’s terrible burden of sin and selfishness to the grave, burying it deep and leaving it there.  We still weep and lament, we still suffer and groan, whether near the rolled-away stone, or for the 21 kneeling Christians on a far-off beach several weeks ago.  We can respond with joy that we recognize Him when He calls our name.  He knows us, each and every one.

We may be exhausted, but lifted up and dissolved by the gentle softness of His love.

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Prepare for Joy: Easter Up

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There is a fragrance in the air,
a certain passage of a song,
an old photograph falling out from the pages of a book,
the sound of somebody’s voice in the hall
that makes your heart leap and fills your eyes with tears.
Who can say when or how it will be
that something easters up out of the dimness
to remind us of a time before we were born and after we will die?

God himself does not give answers. He gives himself.
~Frederick Buechner from Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale

 

The wild plum trees have been blooming now for a couple weeks and the flowering cherries are about to burst.  This despite 20 degree nights after nearly 60 degree days.  It is winter at night and the perfumed air of spring permeates the day. Such extreme variability is disorienting, like standing in a spotlight in a dark room.

Yet this is what eastering is like.  It is the awakening out of a restless sleep, the opening of a door to let in fresh air, the rolling back of the stone that has locked us in.

He is not only risen.  He is given.

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Prepare for Joy: Breathed On

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And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Genesis 2:7

We are, as breathed on dust, called into the service and company of another, called to do work other than our own. This creature, formed of dust, is entrusted with the garden, with all the animals, and with all living things. Our creatureliness binds us to the role of steward, friend, and companion of all other creatures who share our fragility.
~Walter Brueggemann from “Remember You Are Dust”

 

As a farmer, I feel pretty close to the dust I’m entrusted to steward.  I carry it around under my fingernails, on my boots, my skin smudged in unexpected ways and places.  It clings to me, not wanting to let go of one of its own as I return indoors.  Sunbeams in our house swirl with released dust motes given new life through solar energy, each mote a source of fragile strength, plain beauty, complex simplicity.  Such joyful dust dance makes me reluctant to get out the dust rags and cleaning solutions.

Even so,  I know all about the cleansing needed in this grimy world.  The dustiest parts of me lie far deeper than my shedding skin — the breathed-on dust that innervates, circulates and motivates me.

Christ has come to be the dust rag;  I will cling to Him as He comes to clean house.

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