Long yellow rushes bending above the white snow patches; purple and gold ribbon of the distant wood: what an angle you make with each other as you lie there in contemplation. – William Carlos Williams,January Morning – XII
For the past eleven days, millions of us wake reluctant to contemplate the headlines:
At what cross purposes are we now?
What right and left angles have been sharpened in the night?
What blowing snow covers a multitude of sins, hiding what we know lies beneath?
And when, O God, will a naked and merciless January yield to the more welcoming light of Your spring?
To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world. ~Karl Barth
There is much shouting and gnashing of teeth going on in our country right now. Some from the streets, some from computer keyboards and screens, and some from inside the halls of government and a certain white house.
We need to stop shouting and clasp hands in prayer.
Prayer is always easier for the youngest among us. It can be amazingly spontaneous for kids — an outright exclamation of joy, a crying plea for help, a word of unprompted gratitude. As a child I can remember making up my own songs and monologues to God as I wandered alone in our farm’s woods, enjoying His company in my semi-solitude. I’m not sure when I began to silence myself out of self-conscious embarrassment, but I stayed silent for many years, unwilling to put voice to the prayers that rattled in my head. In my childhood, prayer in public schools had been hushed into a mere and meaningless moment of silence, and intuitively I knew silence never changed anything. The world became more and more disorderly in the 60’s and 70’s and in my increasingly indoctrinated mind, there was no prayer I could say that would make a difference either.
How wrong could I and my education be? Nothing can right the world until we are right with God through talking to Him out of our depth of need and fear. Nothing can right the world until we submit ourselves wholly, bowed low, hands clasped, eyes closed, articulating the joy, the thanks, and the petitions weighing on our hearts.
An uprising is only possible when our voice comes alive, unashamed, unselfconscious, rising up from within us, uttering words that beseech and thank and praise. To rise up with hands clasped together calls upon a power needing no billions and no weapons and no walls ~ only the Word ~ to overcome and overwhelm the shambles left of our world.
Nothing can be more victorious than the Amen, our Amen, at the end.
And so you have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of it, and you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by moment … a life in the breath and pulse and living light of the present… ~Wendell Berry from Hannah Coulter
My clinic days are filled with anxious people, one after another after another. They sit at the edge of their seat, eyes brimming, voice shaky. fingers gripping the arms of the chair.
Each moment, each breath, each rapid heart beat overwhelmed by fear-filled questions: will there be another breath? must there be another breath? Must this life go on like this in panic of not knowing what the next moment will bring?
The only thing more frightening than the unknown is the known that the next moment will be just like the last.
It seems a serious deficit of acknowledgment of NOW, no recognition of a moment just passed that can never be retrieved and relived. There is only fear of the next and the next so that the now and the now is lost forever.
Such worry and angst is more contagious than the flu virus rampant in the waiting room.
I mask up and wash my hands of it throughout the day.
I wish a vaccination could protect us all from our unnamed fears.
I want to say to them and myself:
Stop wishing away your life.
Stop wanting this moment, this feeling, to vanish.
Stop expecting some one, some thing or some drug must fix it.
Stop being blind and deaf to the gift of each breath.
Just stop this moment in time
And simply be.
I want to say to them and myself:
this moment is ours,
this moment of weeping and sharing
and breath and pulse and light
and yes, sometimes despair.
Shout for joy in it.
Celebrate it for what it is.
Be thankful for tears that can flow over grateful lips.
Stop me before I write
out of my own anxiety,
yet another prescription
you probably do not need.
and be blessed–
in the now and now and now.
Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again,and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy?
Power. Greater power than we can imagine,
abandoned, as the Word knew the powerlessness of the unborn child,
still unformed, taking up almost no space in the great ocean of amniotic fluid,
unseeing, unhearing, unknowing.
Slowly growing, as any human embryo grows, arms and legs and a head, eyes, mouth, nose,
slowly swimming into life until the ocean in the womb is no longer large enough,
and it is time for birth.
Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity,
Christ, the Maker of the universe or perhaps many universes,
willingly and lovingly leaving all that power
and coming to this poor, sin-filled planet to live with us for a few years
to show us what we ought to be and could be.
Christ came to us as Jesus of Nazareth, wholly human and wholly divine,
to show us what it means to be made in God’s image.
~Madeline L’Engle from Bright Evening Star
It’s the season of grace coming out of the void Where a man is saved by a voice in the distance It’s the season of possible miracle cures Where hope is currency and death is not the last unknown Where time begins to fade And age is welcome home
It’s the season of eyes meeting over the noise And holding fast with sharp realization It’s the season of cold making warmth a divine intervention You are safe here you know now
Don’t forget Don’t forget I love I love I love you
It’s the season of scars and of wounds in the heart Of feeling the full weight of our burdens It’s the season of bowing our heads in the wind And knowing we are not alone in fear Not alone in the dark
Don’t forget Don’t forget I love I love I love you ~Vienna Teng “The Atheist Christmas Carol”
There is no longer a void or darkness upon the face of the deep. The stars need no longer to hold their breath.
Instead Grace has come in the face of Jesus the Son, through God the Father who moves among us, His Spirit changing everything, now and always.
Do not be afraid.
You are not alone in the dark.
You are loved.
And who has seen the moon, who has not seen Her rise from out the chamber of the deep, Flushed and grand and naked, as from the chamber Of finished bridegroom, seen her rise and throw Confession of delight upon the wave, Littering the waves with her own superscription Of bliss, till all her lambent beauty shakes towards us Spread out and known at last, and we are sure That beauty is a thing beyond the grave, That perfect, bright experience never falls To nothingness, and time will dim the moon Sooner than our full consummation here In this odd life will tarnish or pass away. ~D.H. Lawrence “Moonrise”
A seventy-year supermoon reassured me this morning, before it settled, vanishing into a bed of low clouds.
~a beacon does shine in the dark, luminous~
I could not sleep last night, tossing in turmoil at how inadequate I feel to the juggling task I face daily. I fear dropping even one ball amid dozens that must stay in the air.
Yet this lambent ball, this holy sphere of the night, remains aloft, floating, to rise again and again to light our darkness. No dropped ball here nor will there ever be.
It isn’t just up to me. I must remember.
~a thank you to Lindsey for her gift of this beautiful word, and how it lit up my day
Outside the house the wind is howling and the trees are creaking horribly. This is an old story with its old beginning, as I lay me down to sleep. But when I wake up, sunlight has taken over the room. You have already made the coffee and the radio brings us music from a confident age. In the paper bad news is set in distant places. Whatever was bound to happen in my story did not happen. But I know there are rules that cannot be broken. Perhaps a name was changed. A small mistake. Perhaps a woman I do not know is facing the day with the heavy heart that, by all rights, should have been mine. ~Lisel Mueller “In November” from Alive Together
It does not escape me~
(I wake every day knowing this)
the earthquake happened somewhere else,
a windstorm leveled a town,
a drunk driver destroyed a family,
a fire left a house in ashes,
a missing child finally found at the bottom of a cliff,
a flood ravaged a village,
a devastating diagnosis darkens
someone’s remaining days.
No mistake has been made,
yet I wake knowing this part of my story
has not yet visited me,
the heavy heart
that should have been mine