Between Midnight and Dawn: Not in Jest

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For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—
his eternal power and divine nature—
have been clearly seen,
being understood from what has been made,
so that people are without excuse.
Romans 1:20

 

Divinity is not playful.
The universe was not made in jest
but in solemn incomprehensible earnest.
By a power that is unfathomably secret,
and holy,
and fleet.
There is nothing to be done about it,
but ignore it,
or see.

~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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We weren’t conceived by random happenstance,
even those who are not welcomed
but wished or washed away before taking a breath.

We are here because we were earnestly needed and wanted,
by a power and divinity beyond comprehension
with a capacity for love and compassion
beyond anything in our earthly experience.

We aren’t a cosmic joke.
We aren’t pawns in the universe’s chess game.
We may look silly as we intentionally loll about in the smelly stuff of life,
or we may think what we say or do doesn’t matter a hill of beans,
but we are created to clearly see God for who He is,
and in whose image He made us.
He won’t be ignored;
we have no excuses.
It is time to open our eyes,
and see.

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Between Midnight and Dawn: A Different Way

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 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Luke 24 — The Road to Emmaus

 

 

A hidden path that starts at a dead end,
Old ways, renewed by walking with a friend,
And crossing places taken hand in hand,

The passages where nothing need be said,
With bruised and scented sweetness underfoot
And unexpected birdsong overhead,

The sleeping life beneath a dark-mouthed burrow,
The rooted secrets rustling in a hedgerow,
The land’s long memory in ridge and furrow,

A track once beaten and now overgrown
With complex textures, every kind of green,
Land- and cloud-scape melting into one,

The rich meandering of streams at play,
A setting out to find oneself astray,
And coming home at dusk a different way.

~Malcolm Guite “Prayer/Walk”

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Like so many, I tend to walk through life blinded to what is really important, essential and necessary.  I can be self-absorbed,  immersed in my own troubles and concerns, staring at my own feet as I walk each step, rather than looking at the road ahead, enjoying the journey.

Emmaus helps me remember how He feeds me from His word, so I hunger for even more, my heart burning within me.   Jesus makes plain how He Himself addresses my most basic needs:

He is the bread of life so I am fed.
He is the living water so I no longer thirst.
He is the light so I am never left in darkness.
He shares my yoke so my burden is easier.
He clothes me with righteousness so I am never naked.
He cleanses me when I am at my most soiled and repugnant.
He is the open door–always welcoming, with a room prepared for me.

When I encounter Him along the road of my life,  I need to be ready to take a different way than I originally planned: to listen, to invite Him in to stay, to share whatever I have with Him. When He breaks bread and hands me my piece, I want to accept it with open eyes of gratitude, knowing the gift He hands me is nothing less than Himself.

He is here, so close, so accessible, so much a part of humanity — as we walk, as we eat, as we drink, as we express gratitude — I feel His Spirit, recognizing He offered Himself as the sacrifice made on my behalf.

No other God would. No other God has. No other God is here, dwelling within us.

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

Between Midnight and Dawn: No Flower Can Wither

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For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  For,

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.
1 Peter 1:23-25

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How fresh, oh Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! even as the flowers in spring;
         To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring.
                      Grief melts away
                      Like snow in May,

         As if there were no such cold thing.

         Who would have thought my shriveled heart
Could have recovered greenness? It was gone
         Quite underground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown,
                      Where they together
                      All the hard weather,
         Dead to the world, keep house unknown.
         These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickening, bringing down to hell
         And up to heaven in an hour;

Making a chiming of a passing-bell.

                      We say amiss
                      This or that is:
         Thy word is all, if we could spell.
         Oh that I once past changing were,
Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
         Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Offering at heaven, growing and groaning thither;

         And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
         I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing. Oh, my only light,
                      It cannot be
                      That I am he
         On whom thy tempests fell all night.
         These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide;
         Which when we once can find and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us where to bide;
                      Who would be more,
                      Swelling through store,
         Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.
~George Herbert “The Flower”

 

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As they are meant to do,
the crocuses creep skyward,
snowdrops flourish,
the orchard tree buds swell
daffodil bulbs awaken bright from their autumn burial.

Bird song is plentiful again in the gray and frozen mornings
and frogs’ chorus rejoices again in the evenings.

There will be spring again in only a few short weeks,
despite how dark things feel now.
Exhaustion will be replaced by renewal
and fresh air filled with the sweetness of cherry and apple blossoms.

Our fields will grow lush and soft
with the sun warm on our horses’ withers.

It isn’t enough to celebrate the defeat of winter
by blooming where we are planted;
may we be forever past changing
by never withering again.

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

Between Midnight and Dawn: A Kind of Fasting

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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: A Terrible Clarity

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photo by Jim Randall burmachronicle.com

 

Romantic love is blind to everything
except what is lovable and lovely,

but Christ’s love sees us
with terrible clarity and sees us whole.

Christ’s love so wishes our joy
that it is ruthless against everything in us
that diminishes our joy.

The worst sentence Love can pass
is that we behold the suffering
which Love has endured for our sake,

and that is also our acquittal.
The justice and mercy of the judge
are ultimately one.

~Frederick Buechner

 

To see with terrible clarity
the Love we are shown,
the Love given freely to the undeserving,
the Love paying our ransom in full,
the Love enduring all for us~

this Judge convicts,
metes out justice upon His own head,
serves the whole sentence Himself,
sets us free
to see and share
the Love we are shown.

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Prepare for Joy: Blind-Hearted

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What is the crying at Jordan?
Who hears, O God, the prophecy?
Dark is the season, dark
our hearts and shut to mystery.

Who then shall stir in this darkness
prepare for joy in the winter night?
Mortal in darkness we
lie down, blind-hearted, seeing no light.

Lord, give us grace to awake us,
to see the branch that begins to bloom;
in great humility
is hid all heaven in a little room.

Now comes the day of salvation,
in joy and terror the Word is born!
God gives himself into our lives;
Oh, let salvation dawn!
~Carol Christopher Drake

A beautiful version of this hymn can be found at http://www.last.fm/music/The+Miserable+Offenders/+tracks and click to listen to What is the Crying at Jordan”

 

The road that took Him from wooden manger to wooden cross is one we walk in joy and terror through His Word.
He is given to us; He gives Himself to bring joy to our miserable and dark existence; He dies for us; He rises to give us eternal hope of salvation; He calls us by name and we recognize Him.

This mystery is too much for too many unwilling to accept that such sacrifice is possible, His sacrifice and the many parts of His body who continue to be oppressed and persecuted every day.  We are blind-hearted to the possibility that this Spirit that cannot be measured, touched, weighed or tracked can stir and overwhelm darkness.  We prefer the safety of remaining tight in the bud, hid in the little room of our hearts rather than risk the joy and terror of full blossom and fruitfulness.

Lord, give us grace in our blindness, having given us Yourself.  Prepare us for embracing your mystery.  Prepare us for joy. Prepare us to bloom.

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Listening to Lent — Sinking Down

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What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great ‘I am’;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.
~Southern Spiritual