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

In the Midst of Joy: Everything Sad Becomes Untrue

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Just after the climax of the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee discovers that his friend Gandalf was not dead (as he thought) but alive.
He cries, “I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself! Is everything sad going to come untrue?”
The answer of Christianity to that question is – yes.

Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.

Embracing the Christian doctrines of the incarnation and Cross brings profound consolation in the face of suffering.
The doctrine of the resurrection can instill us with a powerful hope.
It promises that we will get the life we most longed for,
but it will be an infinitely more glorious world
than if there had never been the need for bravery, endurance, sacrifice, or salvation.
~Pastor Tim Keller in Reason for God

 

And so we awake, rush to tend the dead and find death emptied out.  He is standing, walking, eating, calling us by name.  What He came to us to accomplish is done: nothing is the same and everything is changed.  We need no longer hide in darkness, fear death,  dwell in loneliness,  starve and thirst, despair in impossible situations because only He can do the impossible.

Because everything sad has become untrue by His bravery, His endurance, His sacrifice for our salvation.

All is fresh and made new.
Christ, yes God become man, Christ is risen indeed!

 

Awake, thou wintry earth,
Fling off thy sadness;
Fair vernal flowers laugh forth
Your ancient gladness:Christ is risen.

Wave, woods, your blossoms all,
Grim Death is dead;
Ye weeping funeral trees,
Lift up your head.
Christ is risen.

Come, see, the graves are green;
It is light; let us go
Where our loved ones rest
In hope below.
Christ is risen.

All is fresh and new,
Full of spring and light;
Wintry heart, why wearest the hue
Of sleep and night?
Christ is risen.

Leave thy cares beneath,
Leave thy worldly love;
Begin the better life
With God above.
Christ is risen.
~Thomas Blackburne  An Easter Hymn

 

 

Waiting in Hope: Brought to our Senses

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By these three days all the world is called to attention.
Everything that is and ever was and ever will be,
the macro and the micro,
the galaxies beyond number and the microbes beyond notice –
everything is mysteriously entangled with what happened,
with what happens, in these days.…
Every human life,
conceived from eternity and destined to eternity,
here finds its story truly told.
In this killing that some call senseless
we are brought to our senses.
Here we find out who we most truly are because
here is the One who is what we are called to be.
The derelict cries, “Come, follow me.”
Follow him there?
We recoil.
We close our ears.
We hurry on to Easter.
But we will not know what to do with Easter’s light
if we shun the friendship of the darkness that is wisdom’s way to light.
~Richard Neuhaus from Death on a Friday Afternoon

 

 

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So many killings in the last two weeks — needless, heartbreaking death at the hands of others — people abruptly wrenched from their routine lives, their families left with empty arms and filling eyes spilling endlessly with tears.

Such senseless tragedies, we say, recoiling and withdrawing as if we can close our ears to more bad news.  How to make sense of deaths that arise from the darkness found in every soul?

This is the day in between when nothing makes sense;  we are lost, hopeless, grieving.

Yet we are brought to our senses by this one Death, this premeditated killing, this senseless act that darkened the skies, shook the earth and tore down the curtained barriers to the Living Eternal God.
The worst has already happened, no matter how horrific are the events that fill the headlines.

Today we are in between, stumbling in the darkness but aware of hints of light, of buds, of life, of promised fruit to come.

The best has already happened.  Happening now even when we are oblivious.

We move through this day, doing what is possible even when it feels senseless.  Tomorrow it will all make sense: our hope brings us face to face with our God who only does the impossible.

 

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The Holy Saturday of our life must be the preparation for Easter,
the persistent hope for the final glory of God.

The virtue of our daily life is the hope which does what is possible
and expects God to do the impossible.

To express it somewhat paradoxically, but nevertheless seriously:
the worst has actually already happened;
we exist,
and even death cannot deprive us of this.

Now is the Holy Saturday of our ordinary life,
but there will also be Easter, our true and eternal life.
~Karl Rahner “Holy Saturday” in The Great Church Year

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In the Midst of Sorrow: A Terrible Question

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And now brothers,
I will ask you a terrible question,
and God knows I ask it also of myself.
Is the truth beyond all truths,
beyond the stars, just this:
that to live without him is the real death,
that to die with him the only life?
~Frederich Buechner from The Magnificent Defeat

 

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I live each day to kill death;
I die each day to beget life,
and in this dying unto death,
I die a thousand times and
am reborn another thousand
through that love.
~Julia Esquivel, Guatemalan poet and theologian

 

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…{His is} the love for the enemy–
love for the one who does not love you
but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain.
The tortured’s love for the torturer.
This is God’s love. It conquers the world.
~Frederich Buechner from The Magnificent Defeat

 

This is God with a man’s beating heart,
who bleeds from open wounds of a man’s skin,
while nailed to a tree,
considering His torturers below
and forgives them.

This is God with a man’s dry tongue
thirsting for relief
who ensures His love for us
will never run dry.

This is God with a man’s compassion
who grants grace to another who
confesses his guilt and shame.

This is God with a son’s love for His mother
who entrusts her future
to the care of His beloved friend.

This is God with a man’s debt to carry
who pays it all,
finished and done.

This is God with a man’s frailty and fear,
feeling forsaken,
conquering death and hatred
by dying for us.

This is God with a man’s last breath
giving His spirit into the hands of His father
and in so doing, ensures we live forever.

 

~dedicated to the brutal murders of over one hundred Christian college students in Kenya this week in yet another persecution of our faith~

 

Prepare for Sorrow: The Unstilled World

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If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.
~T.S. Eliot from “Ash Wednesday”

 

In my beginning is my end. Now the light falls
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope.
~T.S. Eliot from “East Coker”

 

On Maundy Thursday, I arrive back to the beginning,  six weeks later returning to Eliot:
“the unstilled world whirled/About the centre of the silent Word.”

This day:

a day of disquiet and silence,
of Christ taking towel and water to disciples’ dirty feet,
of bread broken and fruit crushed and consumed,
of anguished prayer and the kiss of betrayal,
of stilling the sword,
of watching those He loved run off in fear
and deny they ever knew Him.

In my beginning is my end.
And now the light falls and the darkness begins.
We wait, sorrow-filled, our unstilled souls stilled
by our betrayal, our denial, our hopelessness without Him.

 

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Prepare for Joy: He Emptied Himself

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Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
 
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2: 6-8

 

[The Incarnation is like] a wave of the sea which,
rushing up on the flat beach,
runs out, even thinner and more transparent,
and does not return to its source but sinks into the sand and disappears.
~Hans Urs von Balthasar from Origen: Spirit and Fire

 

This is a week of emptying.  It is impossible to approach tomorrow’s supper and His anguished prayer without feeling hollowed out, our empty spaces then filled to the brim with grace. More over, through commemoration of these historical events, God on earth once again empties Himself onto our earthly soil and into our fleshly souls.  He washes our dirty feet, feeds us at His table, and pleads for our forgiveness when we deserve none of it.  He loses Himself in us.  Through Him,  we are welcomed home, whole and holy.

Hollowed, then hallowed.

 

Let him kneel down, lower his face to the grass,
And look at light reflected by the ground.
There he will find everything we have lost.
~Czeslaw Milosz from “The Sun”

 

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Prepare for Joy: Blown Away

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It has been a relatively warm wet week in the northwest, so it seemed reasonable after finishing up farm chores last night to leave the large rolling north-south doors wide open in the barn where the horses are housed.  Then I woke suddenly at midnight hearing powerful gusts of a southerly wind buffeting the house.  Knowing what havoc a wind can do inside an open barn, I went out in pajamas and muck boots to roll the doors closed before the storm could reach inside, a true barnstorming as has happened here before on Holy Week…

 

An unexpected southerly wind hit suddenly late Sunday night, gusting up to 40 miles an hour and slamming the house with drenching rain as we prepared to go to bed. Chores in the barn had been done hours before, but as we had not been expecting a storm, the north/south center aisle doors were still open, and I could hear banging and rattling as they were buffeted in the wind. I quickly dressed to go latch the doors for the night, but the tempest had done its damage. Hay, empty buckets, horse blankets, tack and cat food had blown all over, while the Haflingers stood wide-eyed and fretful in their stalls. A storm was blowing inside the barn as well as outside it.

It took some time to tidy up the mess after the doors were secured but all was soon made right. The wind continued to bash at the doors, but it no longer could touch anything inside them. The horses relaxed and got back to their evening meal though the noise coming from outside was deafening. I headed back up to the house and slept fitfully listening to the wind blow all night, wondering if the metal barn roof might pull off in a gust, exposing everything within.

Yet in the new daylight on Monday morning, all was calm. The barn was still there, the roof still on, the horses where they belonged and all seemed to be as it was before the barnstorming wind.

Or so it might appear.

This wind heralds another storm coming this week that hits with such force that I’m knocked off my feet, swept away, and left bruised and breathless. No latches, locks, or barricades are strong enough to protect me from what will come over the next few days.

On Sunday he rode in on a donkey softly, humbly, and wept at what he knew was coming.

Yesterday, he withered the fruitless tree and overturned the tables in his fury.

Today the plans are made to betray him.

Tomorrow, he teaches the people to prepare them, then rests in anticipation.

On Thursday, he kneels as a servant, pours water over dusty feet, presides over a simple meal, and then, abandoned by his friends,  sweats blood in agonized prayer.

By Friday, all culminates in the perfect storm, transforming everything in its path, leaving nothing untouched.

The silence on Saturday is deafening.

Next Sunday, the Son rises and returns, all is calm, all is well, all set to right.  He calls my name, breaks bread with broken hands, my heart burns within me at his words and I can never be the same again.

Barnstormed to the depths of my soul. Doors flung open wide, the roof pulled off, everything I was before blown away and now replaced, renewed and reconciled.

So shall his spirit storm within us as he has said, again and yet again.

 

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