Wednesday, April 27, 2011


There is a moment, indefinable even in it, when a subtle shift occurs and suddenly nothing is the same as it was. As kid growing up in Western Canada spring sprung like that. One day it was winter, snow piled high, creating its own landscape against the brilliant, crisp blue of the prairie winter sky – the next day it was spring, crocuses gamely pushing their way through the melting drifts toward the softer, warmer spring sky. But it was not seeing that signaled the turn. It was something deeper in the air – a texture, a quality not quite describable but deeply there. One lungful of that air and you knew – the long, still, season of death was over, life was on the way.

Nothing could rush the turning – all we could do was walk slowly enough to appreciate it and to notice the signs accompanying. The air had a different density, a somehow softer edge. Light had a quality, a brightness, a shimmer missing yesterday. The thermometer might objectively observe that today and yesterday are exactly the same. But we knew otherwise. Today may have the same degree, but it was headed in a different direction – it was trending warm. And even if the next few days gave the lie to the turn, we knew, with the begrudging patience shaped by years of observation, that spring would win over winter. We could endure an occasional late snowfall or sub-zero anomaly because we recognized the last ditch effort of winter to assert its dominance. But we knew it was all for show – a runner continuing around the bases after being thrown out at first. The game had changed.

Life turns like that, too. A moment when something indefinable but certain shifts – when nothing is quite the same ever again as it has been. There is not much to be done about it. Life happens. Resistance is futile – cling though we might to yesterday’s comfort, sooner or later we come to a certain knowing – it is a fading comfort. All around us things go on as if unchanged. But we know better. The time has come to lean into the new, to let the wonder of what will be unfold.

The fear is that we won’t be adequate for the new. But it doesn’t matter – the new is not waiting around for adequacy. Besides, as it turns out, it doesn’t matter at a level deeper than adequacy. The new rarely builds on the adequacy of the old – demanding its own skills, its own knowing, its own wisdom. Which, strangely, is the point. Adequacy is not in us. It comes to us with the new. Winter’s life is not enough for spring. But spring brings life adequate for itself. Our task in all of the turns is the same – let go and learn into the new. Such is the life of resurrection.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What's In A Name?

Fitful sleep – interrupted by night noises coming up from the streets, each bringing a fresh wave of terror. It is hard to sleep on alert. Or should have been… and again, the shame washes over them. If only…

The dull gray lightening of the eastern sky signals approaching dawn. Just moments ago the ground itself shook with the force of an earthquake. Taking advantage of the confusion, they began to slip out in ones and twos. Any more would be to invite notice. Returning to the homes that would be all the life they would ever know.

She slipped out with the other women. One last thing to do. One last service to offer. One last gift. The rush of Sabbath’s approach cut short proper preparation. Women’s work. Clinging to each other in the pre-dawn darkness they made their way down once familiar, now foreign, streets – into the valley and out the gate just after it had opened. Many passing this way were heading home from Passover – no one noticed them hidden in the crowd.

Separating from the crowd just past the mount, the women made their way into the garden they had left a life-time two days ago. They were worried. About the guard posted. About the seal. About the stone. Their love forged a courage that pressed on until they came to the final turn and… There!

The stone rolled away! The grave open! The guard gone! The seal broken! They ran – only Peter and John were left – they came, not believing the tale. John first – stops – Peter rushes in – its empty – save for the grave clothes, the head piece. John began to speak of resurrection! Such foolishness for a simple, broken-hearted woman. And then they all left – going back to their homes and places. But she had nowhere to go. He was all she had. And now, even his body was gone. She collapsed in tears – pouring out the anguish still oozing from her broken heart.

Gradually aware that she was not alone, she lifted her head and saw two men sitting in the grave. “Why are you weeping?” Answering them, she turns at the sound of a new voice. “Why are you weeping?” She pours out her grief to the gardener. “Tell me where he is – I will do right by him – I will take him away.” And then the silence thickened around her as she waited – eyes red and down cast. “Just tell me – so I know what to do…”

And then, the sound her heart had been tuned to hear caused her soul to vibrate with hope, her spirit to rise up in her with unspeakable joy beyond understanding.


Her name on his laughing lips was all the gospel she would ever need. “Why are you weeping?”

Saturday, April 23, 2011

In Between Time

The candles welcoming Sabbath had but little effect on the feeling of dark that pervaded the very air they breathed. Always before the cheery glow of tomorrow’s promise had been a reminder of who they were – God’s people, people of promise, people of a future with hope, a past with meaning – even in times when the present was too horrific to do anything but survive through. Those candles, bravely pushing back the deep darkness, spoke the gift of rest. But not tonight – not today. Today, the darkness loomed and swirled and gathered in force. The little Sabbath candles seemed to shrink before the assault. Perhaps, after all . . . after all . . . the dark would win out, the light would be gone. Forever.

Even the little light of the flickering candle was too much for some of them. The terror settled down deeply – gripping their hearts in its icy claws – would even the little light give them away? Hiding in the dark was easier that hiding in even this little light. Would the anger of the crowds, the brutal efficiency of the Romans, the belligerent righteousness of the rulers respect the Sabbath – or would they search until they found every last one of them? Scattered through the city in twos and threes, hidden with family, pockets of shame and shock – most sitting silently in the last place anything had seemed normal. Would a rented room become their last memory of freedom?

Sabbath stuck them in the city, but at dawn they would run – scatter to . . . wherever. Cursing themselves for hoping, for not listening to the warnings, for letting themselves get caught up in the possibilities. Shame and despair was so thick in the room it could be tasted – a bitter, rank, metallic taste no amount of wine could mask. All they could do today was wait in the dark.

The wait crept on – and on. Minutes and hours collapsed into one another – memories flashed without insight – words spoken without understanding – weeping would erupt from a broken heart, the sound of dying dreams filling the still, candle-lit air, adding to the weight of waiting. Never a Sabbath like this. Never a rest like this. Never a darkness like this. Impossible to be present to the day. Yesterday’s horror and tomorrow’s terror pressed into every seam. Darkness inched deeper and deeper with each labored breath.

Would it ever be light again?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lenten Prayers - Gluttony

This Lenten journey has been a long, perhaps painful, one as we have been forced to slowly consider those things which, if left untended to, will lead us to death. Today we come to the last stop on the journey and consider gluttony - the temptation to "feed the soul with the body's food," in Maxie Dunham's evocative phrase. As we reflect on our tendency to drift into compulsive consumption disorder, we come to realize that gluttony is not just about food, but about all the ways we try to fill the empty spaces with that which does not satisfy. Such reflection gives us the opportunity to stop, to confess, to receive forgiveness, and to repent by the grace of God. Next week, resurrection! This week, chosen dying. And so, we pray.

Oh God, creator and giver of all my appetites and desires, forgive me when I try to satisfy my hunger for You with anything but You.

Forgive my exaltation of the desires of body and mind to idolatrous levels demanding obscene piles of foods for both. Forgive me the full-focused, obsessive pilgrimage for exactly the right vinegar or coffee or CD or…, and the picayune critique of the vintage waters, and the need to have things "just so."  Forgive me the trained inability to wait, even for a moment, for what I want - what I have convinced myself I deserve. Forgive me for entertaining myself into mindless oblivion. Forgive the relentless quest for the new, the best, the latest, the revolutionary - when what I have, works well.

Oh God, help me to recognize my flat-lined existence as a cry for deep life which will only be found in life's grand adventure with You. Help me to find as much pleasure in your provision of bread and water as in your provision of much more. Teach me the ways of waiting. Enable the discipline of hungers and desires so that they serve rather than rule. Lead me to simple, sparse joys. Let me enter joyously and fully into the feasts that celebrate community, and into the fasts that create separation. Guide my paths into places of satisfaction in You - and You alone.

O Lord, Jesus Christ, You are the Son of God. I am a sinner. Please, have mercy on me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lenten Prayers - Lust

Of all the stops on this Lenten journey, this is perhaps the most difficult. It strikes at the heart of identity and shame. It peels back the polite layers and uncovers hidden places in our hearts. It is tempting to not pray in the first person, to pray in generalities. But this temptation is so pervasive in our culture, and so virulent in its power to destroy, that I must take the risk. You will find me here - not everywhere, but somewhere. Perhaps you will also courageously find yourself. And if you do, would you join me at the foot of the cross where confession and forgiveness lead to repentance and newness of life?

Oh God, creator of all we are as persons - desires, hopes, dreams, longings, bodies - all. Forgive me for the many ways I reduce myself and my fellow travelers to objects in my hungry quest for false satisfaction.

Forgive me for the secret fantasies which turn people into property for my satisfaction. Forgive me for the way that, in my quest for love I settle so easily for lust - satisfying a deep thirst with the salty water of ongoing longing. Forgive me the second long look which turns beauty into a collection of parts. Forgive me for the hidden sins of the mind where elaborately constructed fantasy of relationship prevent me from investing fully in the gifts you have given in those around me. Forgive me the continual obsession with unreachable perfection - in myself and in others, a conforming to the world's ways that surely results in the crushing death of collapsing possibilities. Forgive me the deceptions and justifications which allow me to go where I should not go and see what I should not see.

O Lord, please help me to invest in the hard, self-sacrificing choices of love rather than to take the shortcuts of lust which lead me where I don't want to go. Teach me the unspeakable value of myself and my fellow travelers so I am not tempted to regard myself or them as anything less than the image of God. Grant me modesty of thought and the ability to blush without shame at things which ought not be spoken. Give me courage and strength to turn away.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lenten Prayers - Avarice

The schedule keeps pushing us faster and faster in this spring time. So demanding are the urgent and needed things, that it becomes difficult to pay attention to important things. Life is like that - seducing us with its relentless push onward to thinking that doing is the same as being. But it is not. And that is why Lent is important. It forces a deliberate slow down, if only for a few moments, to consider where we have been, where we are, and more importantly, who we are. In our journey through the seven deadly temptations we have come to what might well be the besetting sin of Western civilization - avarice, the commanding desire for more and more, coupled with the dissatisfaction with enough. And so, we pray.

O God, Who is all that I will ever need, forgive me for living as if that were not so.

Forgive me for the covetousness which simply wants what someone else has. Forgive me for the greed which wants more of it than anyone else has. Forgive me for the avarice which, having it all, still wants more - permanently unsatisfied. Forgive me for the selfishness at the root of them all. How empty a universe filled with nothing but me. Forgive me the grasping grip of anxious hunger, seeking satisfaction in what is not You. Forgive me for the craziness that leads me to believe that having more will make me happy - and that more yet will make me happier still. How deadly is such algebra. Forgive me for such surrender to the spirit of this age.

O Lord, please loosen the grip of my icy heart on what is not mine so that I can live generously, freely, not defined or limited by what I cling to. Show me the freedom of owning nothing and enjoying everything - and especially the everything that is at hand. Help me learn that You are my source, You are my life, You are my all in all, You are my sufficiency, You are my adequacy, You are enough. Teach me enough. Let me be content with that. Enable me to be courageously, fearlessly generous - open hand and open heart.

O Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Son of God. Have mercy on me, a sinner.