A Bright Sadness: Through a Glass Darkly

A cross and nails are not always necessary.  
There are a thousand ways to kill him, 
some of them as obvious as choosing where you will stand 
when the showdown between the weak and the strong comes along, 
others of them as subtle as keeping your mouth shut 
when someone asks if you know him.

Today, while he dies, do not turn away.  
Make yourself look in the mirror.  
Today no one gets away 
without being shamed by his beauty.  
Today no one flees
without being laid bare by his light.
~Barbara Brown Taylor

 

teahouseceiling

Shame is considered old-fashioned these days;
too erosive to self-esteem,
a drag on our self-worth,
an inconvenient truth.

Yet how else do we see ourselves
through the glass darkly
than to see our shame convicted,
and be convinced in our guilt:
our darkness exposed
by a Light that reveals all shadows,
forgiving as it illuminates all –
there is no place to hide,
nor should we want to.

 

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For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1Corinthians 13:12

 

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An Advent Paradox: Loose a Heart Bound By Shame

 

Here is the mystery, the secret,
one might almost say the cunning, of the deep love of God:
that it is bound to draw on to itself
the hatred and pain and shame and anger and bitterness and rejection of the world,
but to draw all those things on to itself is precisely the means,
chosen from all eternity by the generous, loving God,
by which to rid his world of the evils which have resulted from human abuse of God-given freedom.

~N.T. Wright from The Crown and the Fire

 

 

We cling to the mystery of His magnetism for our weaknesses and flaws.
He came in love to loose up our hearts ~
hearts completely bound up in shame and guilt.

He willingly pulls our evil onto Himself and out of us, freeing us.
Hatred and pain and shame and anger and bitterness
disappear into the fiery vortex of His love and beauty,
until evil is left in ashes.

We are let in on a secret, this mystery of His incarnation:

by torching the dirty messes of our lives in the refiner’s fire,
we are purified,
we too are wholly reborn.

 

 

 

 

Christ whose glory fills the skies
Christ the everlasting light
The son of righteousness arise
And triumph o’re these shades of night

Come thou long awaited one
In the fullness of your love
And loose this heart bound up by shame
And I will never be the same

So here I wait in hope of you
All my soul’s longing through and through
Dayspring from on high be near
Day Star in my heart appear

Dark and cheerless is the morn
Until your love in me is born
And joyless is the evening song
Until Emmanuel has come

So here I wait in hope of you
All my soul’s longing through and through
Dayspring from on high be near
Day Star in my heart appear

So here I wait in hope of you
All my soul’s longing through and through
Dayspring from on high be near
Day Star in my heart appear
~Christy Nockels based on the Charles Wesley hymn “Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies”

Turn Aside and Look: To Lift My Face

snowyfir 
The rain this morning falls

on the last of the snow

and will wash it away. I can smell

the grass again, and the torn leaves

being eased down into the mud.
Today I want

to resolve nothing.

I only want to walk

a little longer in the cold

blessing of the rain,
and lift my face to it.
~Kim Addonizio “New Year’s Day”
snowywoods

…with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed:“I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.
~Ezra 9: 5-6

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Our prayer for cleansing during these Lenten days requires that we admit our guilt, shame and disgrace, and nevertheless we willingly turn aside from our ways and face the Lord.  He will rain blessings down on our upturned faces.  Salvation is coming.

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Lift up your face, lift up your face
Salvation is calling, salvation is calling

You have fallen so far now
You don’t even know how, you are going to survive
(But) Just above the horizon
A new light is shining, breaking through the darkest night
Love is coming and it’s calling out your name

You feel like your life is fading
You’re tired of waiting, for your moment to arrive
But tomorrow will bring a song that you can sing
And your hope is gonna rise
Love is coming and it’s calling out your name

Oh yeah…
Do you hear Him calling?
Can you hear Him calling?
He’s calling out your name
He’s calling out your name

Can you hear Him calling?
Can you hear Him calling now?
Oh, can you hear Him calling you
He is calling you now
He is calling out your name

Just above the horizon
A new light is shining
Salvation’s on its way
~Third Day

Between Midnight and Dawn: A Kind of Fasting

drizzlethorn

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
Isaiah 58: 6-9

*****************

Is this a fast, to keep
                The larder lean ?
                            And clean
From fat of veals and sheep ?

Is it to quit the dish
                Of flesh, yet still
                            To fill
The platter high with fish ?

Is it to fast an hour,
                Or ragg’d to go,
                            Or show
A downcast look and sour ?

No ;  ‘tis a fast to dole
                Thy sheaf of wheat,
                            And meat,
Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife,
                From old debate
                            And hate ;
To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent ;
                To starve thy sin,
                            Not bin ;
And that’s to keep thy Lent.
~Robert Herrick from Works of Robert Herrick , Vol. II  1891

**************************

The purpose of Lent is to arouse.
To arouse the sense of sin.
To arouse a sense of guilt for sin.
To arouse the humble contrition for the guilt of sin that makes forgiveness possible.
To arouse the sense of gratitude for the forgiveness of sins.
To arouse or to motivate the works of love
and the work for justice that one does out of gratitude for the forgiveness of one’s sins.

To say it again—this time, backward:
There is no motivation for works of love without a sense of gratitude,
no sense of gratitude without forgiveness,
no forgiveness without contrition,
no contrition without a sense of guilt,
no sense of guilt without a sense of sin.

In other words, a guilty suffering spirit
is more open to grace than an apathetic or smug soul.
Therefore, an age without a sense of sin,
in which people are not even sorry for not being sorry for their sins,
is in rather a serious predicament.
Likewise an age with a Christianity so eager to forgive
that it denies the need for forgiveness.

~Edna Hong from “A Look Inside” in the anthology Bread and Wine

*********************

Not even sorry for not being sorry for our sins.
Smug.
Apathetic.
No grief-rent hearts beating here.

It is time to fast a kind of fast that is not about our own deprivation
but about providing for others’ hunger and nakedness and need.
It is time to fast a kind of fast that sets the oppressed free
and turns away from hate and conflict.
It is time for our hearts and lives to be circumcised,
for thorns to pierce our smugness,
for us to forever bear the mark of forgiveness~

We need a kind of fasting forgiveness — badly, hungrily, guiltily.

Let Light break forth like Dawn.

lightanddark

 

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

 

Prepare for Joy: Laid Bare

graymirror

A cross and nails are not always necessary. 
There are a thousand ways to kill him,
some of them as obvious as choosing where you will stand
when the showdown between the weak and the strong comes along,
others of them as subtle as keeping your mouth shut
when someone asks if you know him.

Today, while he dies, do not turn away. 
Make yourself look in the mirror. 
Today no one gets away
without being shamed by his beauty. 
Today no one flees
without being laid bare by his light.
~Barbara Brown Taylor

 

Shame is considered old-fashioned these days;
too erosive to self-esteem,
a drag on our self-worth,
an inconvenient truth.

Yet how else do we see ourselves
through the glass darkly
than to see our shame convicted,
to be known in our guilt,
our darkness reflected
by a Light that reveals all shadows
and forgives as it illuminates.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1Corinthians 13:12

sunsetappletree2

Preparing for Joy: Rend Your Heart

dillymoment

“Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love
Joel 2: 12-13

There is no motivation for works of love
without a sense of gratitude,
no gratitude without forgiveness,
no forgiveness without contrition,
no contrition without a sense of guilt,
no sense of guilt without a sense of sin.
~Edna Hong

 

We must start with a torn heart; there is no other way to finding and sharing joy.
It isn’t enough to “do good” because we are “good” as the secular world would suggest.
We aren’t good enough, not by any stretch, and never will be — just look at the headlines, at the video of slaughtered sons, husbands, fathers, beheaded by sons, husbands, fathers.

We can never love enough on our own until our own heart owns our own sin, and we bring those broken heart pieces back to its Creator for His fix and glue.

sin –> guilt –> contrition –> forgiveness –> gratitude –> love –> joy

The only true pathway to joy.  Everything else is a shortcut to nowhere and nothing.

Sharing the Guilt

dusk1176

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression.
In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged.
And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air
– however slight –
lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.
~William O. Douglas

Be careful whom you choose to hate.
The small and the vulnerable own a protection great enough,
if you could but see it,
to melt you into jelly.

~Leif Enger from Peace Like a River

Do you know why this world is as bad as it is?
It is because people think only about their own business,
and won’t trouble themselves to stand up for the oppressed,
nor bring the wrong-doers to light.
My doctrine is this,
that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop,
and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.
~Anna Sewell from Black Beauty

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