The Urgency of Her Life

DSC01046

All the urgency of her life builds in the
quiet energy before a storm comes
and the dog roams, agitated and aimless.

Breathing is hard and small moments
start to ache when the clouds break
and black rain pours down cold.

This girl curled on my chest in the early days,
when I was certain, before our hands released
and she began praying for me before bed.

Of course I knew I wouldn’t forever stir
her chocolate milk and watch her stretch
on tiptoe for her pancakes and syrup.

Still, the backs of her knees seem too new
as she walks ahead, her life calling out
in the same way she once cried for me.

May This Cup Be Taken

IMG_1718

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.  “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.  So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?  Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.  Rise!  Let us go!  Here comes my betrayer.”  (Mt 26:36-46)

In studying this scene this past weekend, and what Jesus meant when he referred to “this cup,” I came across what I think may be the most beautiful, compelling, rich, pieces of writing I have ever read.  This was written by Everett Harrison in his book A Short Life of Christ:

The final explanation for the cup which alone gives promise of throwing light on the dark mystery of the garden experience, contends that what convulsed the Savior was the fear of separation from God due to becoming the sin-bearer for men. He had long contemplated from afar what this would mean to him, but now the hour was upon him and it was overwhelming. He began to gaze into that cup and discern its awful contents. He had gladly companied with sinners and gloried in it, but now he was to be counted a sinner, standing in the sinner’s place, bearing the sinner’s curse. The darkness of Gethsemane’s night presaged the blackness that would enshroud Golgotha. The awfulness of the prospect before the Savior began powerfully to affect him. It was an utterly new experience. Strange terms are used to describe it – his perplexity, his amazement, and then his agony, with his soul writhing in the torment of having to be identified with sin, that thing he hated most of all, for it was so foreign to his nature. In line with this, we note that the one reference made by Jesus in a specific way to Isaiah 53, made just before going to the garden, singles out this very aspect of his sufferings: “For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was reckoned with transgressors'” (Lk 22:37). When to this is added the realization on his part that death in the place of sinners would entail separation from a holy God, the cup must indeed have seemed too bitter to drink.

The impulse to escape became a passionate urge, a desperate cry – “Let this cup pass from me.”  The reality will be worse than the anticipation. I cannot endure it. Is there no other way? Right here is where Satan’s part comes in. Read again the last two verses of John 14. The RSV puts it thus: “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me: but I do as the Father has commanded me…”  Note the description of Satan as the ruler of this world. We recall in this connection also Luke 4:13, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.” That time has now arrived. Jesus is horrified by what he sees in the cup. Satan will seize this moment of shrinking and weakness. He will renew his offer of a throne of glory, with all the kingdoms of the world ready to serve the Master. Perhaps Jesus will see now the wisdom of accepting so generous an offer at so low a cost. Thus Satan can snatch an eleventh-hour triumph. It is harder for Jesus to resist now than at the beginning, for this is zero hour. Some of his disciples, at least, are armed. He has many friends in Jerusalem. Plenty of pilgrims will rise to lend a hand for the memory of the triumphal entry is still fresh.

But the Son of God cannot, will not, do this thing. Blocking the way is the will of his Father, and he has bowed before that will all his days. He cannot refuse it now. He must embrace it as never before and find in the sweet will of God the blessed antidote to the bitterness of the cup. The will of God is never so precious as when it costs dearly to embrace it. Abraham found it so on Moriah’s hill. So did Jesus amid the deep shades of Gethsemane.

There is no doubt about it, Gethsemane was the Savior’s preparation for Calvary. On the cross he yielded up his body as a sacrifice for sin, but here in the garden he anticipated that hour by yielding up his will, the very kernel of his existence.

I can only weep in thankfulness and awe.

The Sounds of My Soul

DSC02051

If the sounds of my soul
were the kind you could hear,
you might begin to understand.

There is this song that plays at the center
of an awakened soul, changing with the
light in the sky and the nearness of love.

It’s the first few lines of So What and
Bach’s Goldberg Aria Variation No. 2 with
Gould’s barely audible humming.

It’s Glass’ haunting Island and
the Marche Funebre of Chopin’s Sonata No. 2
all the way to the end.

It’s the play in Louis and Ella together,
the promise in Sentimental Mood, and
the hope in Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

But it’s also beach waves and bamboo chimes,
Grieg’s Wedding Day, Ray Brown on the bass,
and Chet Baker on his horn.

Oh, that you would hear the sounds of
this enlivened soul and know what I mean
when I ask you to listen.

A Journey Into Silence

 

This silence is too loud.
I should unlock my hands.
Don’t breathe that fast.
My job title should be slightly different.

This silence is too long.
My cheek itches.
I shouldn’t have used those words.
I wish he would see me differently.

This silence is too deep.
I wonder if she loved me.
She ignored me.
I was little, I didn’t know.

This silence has gone too far.
Don’t keep walking that way,
It’s too close, it’s too close!
Open your eyes, break the silence!

IMG_0390

No, the clouds are moving so fast
and the grass tickles the backs of my knees,
making me laugh, my hands behind my head.

Oh! The sun beats down on my six-year old toes
and I close my eyes tight, dizzied by the
size of the sky and how I don’t see where it ends.

This silence is too beautiful.

Psalm 23

 

IMG_1390

I cannot remember the words.
Though I walk through the valley of death.
Your rod and your, oh I can’t think of the word!
Fear no evil.

My body shakes and sweats.
I can’t control any of it, the
way it wails, stuck in this
one single minute that will not pass.

I cannot remember the words.
You anoint my head and there is
a table with my enemies.
Green pastures.

My hands grab my head.
The throbbing pain threatens
to overtake me completely
with the strain of coughing out my guts.

I cannot remember the words!
Psalm 22, Jesus cries out.
Psalm 24, lift up your head.
Shadow of death.

My head rests on the cold toilet.
Tears are running down and
no one is here. No one is coming.
Quiet waters.

Help me, Lord!
Jesus. Lord Jesus.
Help me, stop this, heal me!
Comfort me.

My eyes open to the sun
Settling in squares on the floor.
The pain is quiet, the throbbing still.
He makes me lie down in goodness and love.

 

Opened

IMG_0069.JPG

No one ever walks around in my neighborhood. Especially when it’s raining. We have cars to get us where we need to go, you see. Until the day I read Jesus’ words about the good Samaritan and decided to take his command to “go and do likewise” seriously. Then suddenly, I see that there is at least one person, a woman, who walks to work, carrying a heavy bag and sheltering herself from the cold rain with a flowered umbrella. When she gets in my car, God’s presence rushes in with her, stronger than the stormy breeze outside and she says she speak only a little English. I feel like I’ve known her, Maria, all my life and when I drop her off at the home where she works, I feel a loss. Tears trace the corners of my smiling mouth, the fullness of God there in that breath of a moment. Oh, what the eyes see and the soul experiences when they are opened.

Return to Your Rest

IMG_1718

The clock ticks,
each moment a reminder
of the uncertainty of now.

The wind rattles,
each bang an interruption
of an idea never born.

The rain pounds,
each drop a harbinger
of the coming storm.

A child cries.
A dog barks.
A siren blares.

Silence seems but a symphony of noises,
and I am gasping for air.

Oh, return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.

 

Being Transformed

IMG_2162

The deep pain it is to be molded,
fingers pressing in and around,
kneading the spots that are sensitive
and sore to the touch.

The potter shapes and forms,
coaxing his subject and speaking softly
as he works this would-be treasure
into a new creation.

The outside begins to reveal its purpose
and the potter could stop,
but he pushes on and the clay’s
insides scream to be let alone.

The fire is too hot and too much
of the old self seeps out,
leaving a seemingly empty vessel
for which there is no going back.

The potter eyes his formation,
stronger now because of his hands,
but still unsure and resistant
of this being transformed.