I think there is no suffering greater than
what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God. ~Flannery O’Connor from The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor
And those are called blessed who make the effort to remain open-hearted. Nothing that comes from God, even the greatest miracle, can be proven like 2 x 2 = 4. It touches one; it is only seen and grasped when the heart is open and the spirit purged of self. Then it awakens faith. … the heart is not overcome by faith, there is no force or violence there, compelling belief by rigid certitudes. What comes from God touches gently, comes quietly; does not disturb freedom; leads to quiet, profound, peaceful resolve within the heart.
~Romano Guardini from The Living God
On my doubting days, days too frequent and tormenting,
I remember the risen Christ
reaching out to place Thomas’s hand in His wounds,
gently guiding Thomas to His reality,
so it becomes Thomas’s reality.
His open wounds called
to Thomas’s mind and heart,
His flesh and blood
awakening a hidden faith
by a simple touch
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29
Why worry about the loaves and fishes? If you say the right words, the wine expands. If you say them with love and the felt ferocity of that love and the felt necessity of that love, the fish explode into many. Imagine him, speaking, and don’t worry about what is reality, or what is plain, or what is mysterious. If you were there, it was all those things. If you can imagine it, it is all those things. Eat, drink, be happy. Accept the miracle. Accept, too, each spoken word spoken with love. Mary Oliver – “Logos”
Many reject him because they weren’t there-
how can they know
what was real without seeing and hearing him
with their own eyes and ears.
We read his words
and think about
how his voice sounded
in a crowd
of 5000 people so hungry,
and how his eyes teared
as he was betrayed
We weren’t in the garden
that day when he was mistaken
for the gardener
nor were we on the road to Emmaus
walking beside a stranger whose words
made our hearts burn within us
but we can imagine hearing our name spoken
and knowing it is him
or watching him break the bread
and recognizing his body.
We weren’t there
but we didn’t have to be.
If we can imagine what His Logos tells us,
it is plain and real,
a mystery of the heart
all of these things
all of these things
all these things
and so much more
I believe there are some debts That we never can repay I believe there are some words That you can never unsay And I don’t know a single soul Who didn’t get lost along the wayI believe in socks and gloves Knit out of soft grey wool And that there’s a place in heaven for those Who teach in public school And I know I get some things right But mostly I’m a foolChorus I believe in a good strong cup of ginger tea And all these shoots and roots will become a tree All I know is I can’t help but see All of this as so very holy
I believe in jars of jelly Put up by careful hands I believe most folks are doing About the best they can And I know there are some things That I will never understand
Chorus I believe there’s healing in the sound of your voice And that a summer tomato is a cause to rejoice And that following a song was never really a choice Never really
I believe in a good long letter written on real paper and with real pen I believe in the ones I love and know I’ll never see again I believe in the kindness of strangers and the comfort of old friends And when I close my eyes to sleep at night it’s good to say “Amen”
I believe that life’s comprised of smiles and sniffles and tears And in an old coat that still has another good year Ball I need is here
Chorus I believe in a good strong cup of ginger tea And all these shoots and roots will become a tree All I know is I can’t help but see All of this as so very holy
During these Lenten days, (and every day),
we are reminded of the gift of our first Breath
and the invitation in our last Breath.
We are asked stop living for self,
which can only lead to death,
and instead die to self,
so that we may live.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for My sake,
he is the one who will save it. Luke 9:24
First breath can come
Before even fully delivered
Encased and swaddled tight
Nose bubbling, mouth gaping, swallowing hungrily
Building up to a moist initial gasp~
Air-filled and sliding free
Hands clenched, then fingers spread,
Ready to grasp and hold on tight to life,
Arms reaching out to stop the fall.
A lifetime then spent holding fast,
Eventually toppling frail and
Slowly adrift, floating unmoored
Reaching for unseen fruit no longer needed
Breath comes ragged, at times silenced
Then gulp and sigh, ready to
Loosen grasp as anchor is lifted, and with
Last soft breath,
Delivered gently into the hand of God.
All creatures are doing their best to help God in His birth of Himself.
Enough talk for the night. He is laboring in me;
I need to be silent for a while,
worlds are forming in my heart. ~Meister Eckhart from “Expands His Being”
The first day of spring is a traditional celebration of the rebirth of nature’s seasonal rhythms, and God’s inner renewal of our hearts.
I know some new spring mornings are pitch black with blustering winds and rain, looking and feeling like the bleakest of October mornings about to plunge into the death spiral of deep autumn and winter all over again.
No self-respecting God would birth Himself into something like this: a dawn as dark as night.
But this God would.
He labors in our darkest of hearts for good reason. We are unformed and unready to meet Him in the light, clinging as we do to our dark ways and thoughts. Though we are called to celebrate the renewal of springtime, it is just so much talk until we accept the change of being transformed ourselves.
We are silenced as He prepares us, as He prepares Himself for birth within us. The labor pains are His, not ours; we become awed witnesses to His first and last breath when He makes all things, including us, new again.
The world is reborn — even where dark reigned before, even where it is bleakest, especially inside our broken hearts now healing.
It is not only prayer that gives God glory,
Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam,
whitewashing a wall, driving horses,
everything gives God some glory
if being in his grace you do it as your duty. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give Him glory, too. God is so great that all things give Him glory if you mean that they should. ~Gerard Manley Hopkins
Thanks in large part to how messy we humans are, this world is a grimy place. As an act of worship, we keep cleaning up after ourselves. The hands that clean the toilets, scrub the floors, carry the bedpans, pick up the garbage might as well be clasped in prayer–it is in such mundane tasks God is glorified.
I spend an hour every day carrying dirty buckets and wielding a pitchfork because it is my way of restoring order to the disorder inherent in human life. It is with gratitude that I’m able to pick up one little corner of my world, making stall beds tidier for our farm animals by mucking up their messes and in so doing, I’m cleaning up a piece of me at the same time.
I never want to forget the mess I’m in and the mess I am. I never want to forget to clean up after myself. I never want to feel it is a mere and mundane chore to worship with dungfork and slop pail in hand.
It is my privilege to work. It is His gift to me.
It is Grace who has come alongside me, pitching the muck and carrying the slop when I am too weary, and most amazing of all, cleans me up as well.
I owned a slope full of stones. Like buried pianos they lay in the ground…
What bond have I made with the earth, having worn myself against it? It is a fatal singing I have carried with me out of that day. The stones have given me music that figures for me their holes in the earth and their long lying in them dark. They have taught me the weariness that loves the ground, and I must prepare a fitting silence. ~Wendell Berry from “The Stones”
What does it take to move a stone?
When it is an effort to till the untillable,
creating a place where simple seed can drop,
be covered and sprout and thrive,
it takes muscle and sweat and blisters and tears.
What does it take to move a stone?
When it is a day when no one speaks out of fear,
the silent will be moved to cry out the truth,
heard and known and never forgotten.
What does it take to move a stone?
When all had given up,
gone behind locked doors in grief,
and two came to tend the dead,
but there was no dead to tend.
Only a gaping hole left
Only an empty tomb
Only a weeping weary silence
broken by Love calling us
and we turn aside to greet Him
as if hearing our name for the first time.
Now the green blade rises from the buried grain, Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain; Love lives again, that with the dead has been: Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.
When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain, By Your touch You call us back to life again; Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green. ~John Crum from The Oxford Book of Carols
Over the last several weeks, roots have become shoots and their green blades are rising chaotically, uneven and awkward like a bad haircut. And like a bad haircut, another two weeks will make all the difference — sprouts will cover all the bare earth, breaking through crusted mud to create a smooth carpet of green.
There is nothing more hopeful than the barren made fruitful, the ugly made beautiful, the dead made alive.
The fields of our broken hearts recover; love is come again.