If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey toward the stars? —G.K. Chesterton
The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus,it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. Isaiah 35:1-3
We are mere seeds lying dormant, plain and simple, with nothing to distinguish us one from the other until the murmurs of spring begin, so soft, so subtle. The soil shakes loose frosty crust as the thawing warmth begins. Sunlight makes life stir and swell, no longer frozen but animate and intimate.
We will soon wake from our quiescence to sprout, bloom and fruit. We will reach as far as our tethered roots will allow, beyond earthly bounds to touch the light and be touched.
There is renewed hope seeded in the heart of man, ready and waiting to unfurl, with a precious fragrance that lingers, long after the petal has dried, loosened, and fallen to freedom.
Ample litany, sparing nothing I hate or love, not-yet-silenced, not-yet-fractured; not-yet-
I move my ear a little closer to that humming figure, I ask him only to stay. ~Jane Hirshfield “Not Yet”
To wait for the “not yet” is a hard sweet tension in the Christian life.
There is tension in knowing that something profound is happening–a vanishing sunset, a vernal equinox, a life change or transition, but the transformation is not yet complete, and I’m not sure when it will be. I am still unfinished business.
In a few weeks I will be reminded of what is yet to come. I will know the shock of the empty tomb. My heart will burn within me as more is revealed, through the simple act of bread breaking.
It is hard not yet having what I know will be coming.
But it is sweet to have certainty it is coming
because of what we have already been given.
Like the labor of childbirth,
I groan knowing what it will take to get there,
and I am full to brimming already.
The waiting won’t be easy;
it will often be painful to be patient,
staying alert to possibility and hope when I am exhausted,
barely able to function.
Others won’t understand why I wait,
nor do they comprehend what I could possibly be waiting for.
Yet we persevere together, with patience, watching and hoping;
we are a community groaning together in expectation of what is to come in the morning.
It is finished on our behalf.
By waiting and by calm you shall be saved,
In quiet and in trust your strength lies.
…hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. ~Romans 8: 24-25
Though snow still falls on shoots rising from frozen earth,
Though emerging buds stay encased in ice,
Though the song of peeper frogs is subdued and tentative,
Though darkness seals us in as hope feels lost~
Our words are spoken-
Our pleas are heard-
We wait patiently for
your love surpassing what we could ever know.
Even before we call on Thy name
To ask Thee, O Lord,
When we seek for the words to glorify Thee,
Thou hearest our prayer;
Unceasing love, O unceasing love,
Surpassing all we know.
Glory to the Father,
and to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit.
Even with darkness sealing us in,
We breathe Thy name,
And through all the days that follow so fast,
We trust in Thee;
Endless Thy grace, O endless Thy grace,
Beyond all mortal dream.
Both now and forever,
And unto ages and ages,
Amen ~Stephen Paulus “Pilgrim’s Hymn”
What a piece of work is a man!
…And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?” ~ William Shakespeare in Hamlet’s monologue
This dust left of man:
earth, air, water and fire
to quell the significance
of how we were made of dust
and the dust we will leave behind.
Only the transcendent hope
of eternal life restored
can breathe glory
into this, us,
the plainest of ash.
We therefore commit his body to the ground;
earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life,
through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body,
that it may be like unto his glorious body…
~Committal service from The Common Book of Prayer
What I know for sure is this: We come from mystery and we return to mystery. I arrived here with no bad memories of wherever I’d come from, so I have no good reason to fear the place to which I’ll return.
And I know this, too: Standing closer to the reality of death awakens my awe at the gift of life. ~Parker Palmer “On the Brink of Everything“
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.
Again I reply to the triple winds running chromatic fifths of derision outside my window: Play louder. You will not succeed. I am bound more to my sentences the more you batter at me to follow you. And the wind, as before, fingers perfectly its derisive music. ~William Carlos Williams “January”
It’s been uncharacteristically cold here for nearly a month and this morning the northeast wind is back, pummeling away at our windows.
This is cold that descends from the Arctic to blast through the strongest Carhartt clothing, sneak under drafty doors, and freeze pipes not left dripping. It leaves no one untouched and unbitten with universal freezer burn, mocking us with its discordant chilly chords.
A bitter cold snap ensures even independent fair-weather individualists must become companionable when the going gets rugged, mandating shelter with others for survival. It can even mean forced companionship with those we ordinarily avoid, with whom we have little in common, with whom we disagree and even quarrel, with whom sharing a hug or snuggling for warmth would be unimaginable.
Our nation is in just such a cold snap today, terribly and bitterly divided about the inauguration to come, each of us feeling battered and pummeled by the winds of change. If we together don’t come in out of the deep freeze, we each will perish alone.
Hope is all we have left as so much hot air is being generated by derisive voices, even in the chillest land…
The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be? My God, no hymn for Thee? My soul’s a shepherd too; a flock it feeds Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is Thy word: the streams, Thy grace Enriching all the place. Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers Outsing the daylight hours. Then will we chide the sun for letting night Take up his place and right: We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should Himself the candle hold. I will go searching, till I find a sun Shall stay, till we have done; A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly, As frost-nipped suns look sadly. Then will we sing, and shine all our own day, And one another pay: His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine, Till ev’n His beams sing, and my music shine.
~George Herbert “Christmas II”
A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end, has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox; that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded…
I mean that all the eyes of wonder and worship which had been turned outwards to the largest thing were now turned inward to the smallest…
It is true that the spiritual spiral henceforward works inwards instead of outwards, and in that sense is centripetal and not centrifugal. The faith becomes, in more ways than one, a religion of little things.
~ G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
It’s when we face for a moment the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know the taint in our own selves, that awe cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart: not to a flower, not to a dolphin, to no innocent form but to this creature vainly sure it and no other is god-like, God (out of compassion for our ugly failure to evolve) entrusts, as guest, as brother, the Word. ~Denise Levertov “The Mystery of the Incarnation”