Aside

Holy Saturday Series

Holy Saturday, and you are my littlest girl and though I’d trade my crumbling bones to keep you safe
the statistics do not look good for you

I bend to kiss your sleeping breathe
And know the night will come
When I trace the dark path to your bed and find you curled away from the world
And from me. A closed body
postured in defense, like the great lion round her cubs

And I will not know
If you will ever sleep again
The way the psalmist slept
The way a king sleeps
The way a child sleeps
Body opened to the world like the great blue heron who lifts to flight
As with all mothers
I will offer my help
And hope against all hope
That you find the middle place
And that you’ll Get through
not over or around
through
and that this shall all be well
that Gethsemane wood raises, transfigures your wounds

So go ahead, sleep through Saturday little one
no need to rush
linger long
and lay like a tree whose arms stretch wide towards the morning star
flail your soft arms like a crossroad
leading one way to Golgotha the other to Zion
lay like Rio’s Rendentor benedicting through the night
lay like muntins that divide light on a pane of morning glass
lay like a kite as it silhouettes it’s spine against a brilliant sun.

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Holy Saturday

 

It’s Holy Saturday
8 pastors and elders and friends
sat in creaking oak rockers
and thrifted Queen Annes.
They pressed their hands on my back
and head and shoulders
pushing the prayers in.

their hands were heavy
and warm.  And I hope the warmth is holy,
that it’s the beginnings of resurrection
for my faith and
in my pelvis.

i asked God to grind his fists into the sockets
“go deeper” (please)

they use my name when they pray
and I do not like it’s sound.

and then God speaks through failing lips
I have given you a birthright.
and have sealed you with it
and it means beloved.

The elder’s hands now drip with fragrant oil
to anoint my head
and then my hips

I ask God to use his hands to sew the cartilage back in place
“no plastic and steel, no thread”

Have you considered how much I love you?

we end with prayers for joy.
we sing “the joy of the lord is my strength”
and then we laugh the song once more through.

all the while in my heart I see my brother Jesus
and he looks like me
and our capes fold and flap violently
as we near the throne.

Maybe tomorrow,
Easter,
I will be healed.
“Go deeper, please.”

 

The First Supper

We’re all headed towards Zion
where they say we shall at last
be city dwellers.

Eternally quadrated,
placed
 in a kingdom
that will have no end

It will rise from the land
made with true atoms
be 
marked with holy pairs of footprints
which cross paths with
Peter
Theresa,
King
dad

civic encounters
and happenstance reunions 
of
royal men and women all
orbiting His throne.

and after we’ve worshipped
we return home for supper.

But can there be bread
without vast fields of wheat
tended by a holy farmer
who prefers a rural life?

and what about the wine?
stomped from concords
harvested from vineyards
so vast
 they sustain an abundant cup

and what about the yeast,
do they belong in the New Jerusalem?

yeast for bread
yeast for wine
holy chemistries 
seen today already,
not yet aged to perfection

They are minor prophets
to help us believe
that
 flesh
when given the time
will turn
will rise.

Ode to the Flower Farmer

You muddled through your thesis on landscape and soul and body

But you never published a book,

You never even wanted to, or maybe you did

And yet

By the time I pass the rusted outside porch fridge

To move through the lamp-lit kitchen

And enter your living room in the country,

Full with an old hymnal and plenty of afghans,

I am ready to write on your walls

Tender, forthcoming, bucolic

Words on plaster in support

Of this best-seller

Set on an old tobacco farm

A memoir

Sun wrinkled, honest, incandesant with just enough

Cast-iron and lace

To stand the test of time.

 

Even when the oaks have fallen

And the snapdragon no longer goes to seed

when your back suffers to straighten, after years submitted not

to typewriter

but to field and to prayer

this will all matter.

Because you have written

A life

Shorn

From what you’ve been given,

Not what you’d imagined.

This one does it all

And not out of defiance or ambition

But accepting

discipline and grace and circumstance

you are crafting

A story

That will keep us reading

Until the end.

IMG_1123

 

 

 

Nowhen.

The old Old Testament scholar says,
“The church in word and by steeple clock
announces what time it is and that we must live in God’s time.
But the king would have it be like a casino in Las Vegas where
there is no clock and no time,
no beginning and no end,
no time to speak
or to answer,
but only an enduring and unchanging now.”

Now.
the no time.
when we get lost in the
nowhen of
malls
airports
and
big box outlets
which like prisons
and schools
make little to do about views.
Tiny panes veil the moving sun
and so it is now forever there.

This is not the way our God would have it.
He makes a case for great panes
and with time-wrinkled hands
we pull the curtain and crane
to see                                                                                                                  the sun has gone down.

We hope
then whisper,
“o let there be light,
make something new
again.”

Conventional Beauty

There was a time when it was beautiful.
I was 7, and 18, and 25
and the scene always captivated me as we passed by
70 miles an hour —
brilliantly wide as long fields of corn,
row after row passing so                                                                                   evenly, masterfully, quickly,                                                                                     that I couldn’t stare for very long without
experiencing their effect,                                                                                      trance-like ocular weariness,
weariness that comes from the taking in of too large,
too much
beauty.

These days my eyes get tired for all sorts of reasons
but this is different.
Many years ago,
gazing at the crumbling Antiguan ruins,
and even now, into his twin blue lakes

I have learned that when something is that beautiful,

like the volcano rising up from lake Atitlan
and messy rows of maize at the base,
like the view of village children dancing their folkloric steps
in rainbowed traditional garb,
like the slow moving butterfly of the ordinary people
moving forward for wine and bread and then round back,
wing-shaped to their pew,
I cannot take it in.

I blink
and turn away.

like I do in the Volkswagon to save me from getting dizzy
as we flame by the stunningly massive and perfectly parallel
rows of corn.
A lateral testament
to genetic superiority–
but the bees are not impressed,
and there are no birds.

Yes, this is different.
I do not turn from the fantastic proportions
because of beauty
but from horror,
like the soldiers of a bruised or brainwashed master race
lined to march unto death
stunningly massive and perfectly parallel
so big it’s hard to look away
the size breeds a curiosity
that only knows better once the rows turn
cruciform.

images

An unlikely way

It’s infrequent at best that I’ve had the privilege of witnessing someone convert to Christianity. I have ideas about what it would look like. In fact I have a few people in mind who I suspect are on their way into discovering Christ and his reign.  But I wish I knew how people are most likely to be drawn into the kingdom.

Yes, the Spirit does an inward miracle; conversion is always because of the Spirit.  And yes many are born into families, which is often or sometimes a help.  But for one who is relatively new to the ways and world of God’s church, is it through visiting a local church and being warmly welcomed by people and the Word of God?  Is it in university that a person might likely be open and exposed to God’s people who bear witness to the life of Christ?  Of course yes, and yes, and yet, I can’t get away from the belief that a person is most likely to experience conversion by encountering a small group of people who live in physical neighbor-like proximity to each other who seek to announce the coming of God’s kingdom.  In my mind they do this by making  kingdom life visible through living an alternative way.  I believe that a small community of neighbors who collectively hope towards and live in anticipation of God’s total reign live counter to and even in critique of North American culture, with its bent towards consumerism, competition, individualism and the like.

I know that my faith has been transformed in part by brushing up against such sub-communities.  In such places, there tends to be a low apologetic tone outside of the church walls but a greatly visible alternative way of living in the everyday.

Both in their horizontal relationships to people and to God’s creation but also in their heart’s slow move towards holiness, these people seem to be caught up in a strong breeze that brings with it unlikely realities like reconciliation, restoration, recovery, beauty, creativity, compassion, sacrifice, justice and obedience.  Also, I’ve yet to encounter a subcommunity seeking to live out God’s kingdom life in the most elemental places in society who have not also made it their business to care for the least in their neighborhoods.

I want to be a part of such a community.  I want Calkins Ave., and Lake Drive and Orchard Hill and Baldwin St. to be pulled together by a common longing for the Kingdom which visibly announces to our neighbors that Heaven is on its way to Earth.  I think it’s fair to call this way of living, prophetic.  It is prophetic because it is announcing an alternative way which offers both critique and hope.  It is announcing what is to come on behalf of heaven.

There are a number of families in the East Hills neighborhood who also are asking, “What does it mean to seek the Kingdom here in 49506, USA?”

I am so glad.  I think something’s happening, I think that Holy Wind is catching up the air of our streets and our anticipation rises with it.  I think we are being summoned.

But this all feels tentative, and slightly imaginary. Partly because we are busy with schedules to keep and kids to put to bed, and partly because we all have our idols.  I’ve got mine.  (See almost all of my other posts).

Old Testament Scholar, Walter Brueggemann in his book The Prophetic Imagination encapsulates both my longings and my failings when it comes to the conviction that I with my community can be different.   Here’s a taste:

   As every vibrant subcommunity knows, the defining prerequisite for such a subcommunity is a conviction that it can and will be different because of the purposes of God that will not relent.  A deficit in that conviction, to which we are all prone, will produce despairing conformity, an atmosphere making the prophetic profoundly unlikely (xviii).

Yes.

A visit from Tom and Karen:  ones who inspire me towards prophetic life.

A visit from Tom and Karen: ones who inspire me towards prophetic life.

too many pieces

It’s 12:42 a.m.
I am a wake.
a 3 year old
a 2 year old
and a 35 year old
are all asleep because
“that’s what we have to do if we want it to be tomorrow”
Miriam did not buy this anymore than I do.
8:30pm She’s crying in her bed, I can’t do this, i can’t fall asleep!

9:30pm still crying and I become an angry mom
i lob empty threats about sweets and spankings and get no where
“Miriam, no more, you have to sleep, or else this and that.”
When she had no more excuses for why she could not sleep
(the closet door moved, I need a blanket over my light even though it will start a fire. . . )
And when I had no more ammunition (No cookies in church on sunday, i’m gonna call your dad)
I opened the door,
livid.

(breathe)

“Can I show you this miriam?”
I can tell she’s wondering if this is a cruel trick.
Nope. I’m all out of fight and so I show her the bathroom
reorganization project
“You and Lucy now have your own drawer”
fresh with it’s own rusted muffin tin to host the
six different sorts of hair bobbles that girls collect, no matter the continent.
After Miriam carefully added a brush and a bottle of no tears shampoo to her drawer.
without effort, she went into her room, crawled beneath her quilt,
sang a few more rounds of “Matchmaker” and fell asleep.
And now it’s 12:52.
Whether it was the admittedly obsessive organizing escapade that had me sorting buttons and hairpins                                                                                            and where do all those pennies come from anyways?
or the tidal wave of anger and angst that managed to mangle my inner world a week early,
whether it was the literal 4 foot pile of mending I uncovered as I hauled out the innards of my sewing cabinet,
it echoed from inside,”I can’t do this.”
and then the memories began to play like an old projector film against the back of my eyelids, or maybe more like those red plastic binocular shaped toys that cycled through tiny photos of Disneyland and Niagra falls

first a simple shot of the inside of mom’s kitchen cabinet that housed a weird assortment of casserole dishes. I do not like that they are not organized.

Then a shot of my dad bending around the back door to reach for his keys on the infamous night he tried to end his life.

The photo switches to my childhood best friend’s wedding, it will be this June and I will see all of the people I can’t remember.
And this calls to mind my old cello teacher, first the one who lived an hour by traffic away and then the one who was refurbishing a money pit with her husband.

I remember that it used to bother me more,
the fact that Nate could casually run into old coaches and high school acquaintances.
But i don’t think I mind so much anymore that my worlds from Vancouver, and Houston and Honduras and Wheaton are slipping past readily available memory rooms and into the basement files of my mind where they are probably going to mildew and get ruined, which is the state of my childhood scrapbook unearthed this week.
“Lord,I would ask tonight,
if you wouldn’t mind holding it all,
each of the worlds that somehow do piece together in your hand
with room enough for a few stray buttons and a 4 foot mound                                     of mending.                                                                                                                                            IMG_4737