Tag Archive for: Lent

The Unrecorded Miracles

I read today’s lenten gospel passage, John 2:1-2. The story recounts how Mary strong-armed her son into performing the first recorded miracle at the wedding feast. I considered the passage, and this is what came. Enjoy.

***

The Unrecorded Miracles

These are the secret miracles:

the boy at the window
greeting the sun before
its eyelashes opened
over the mountain;

dirt drawings of
simple birds, his
blowing of that
dust to flight;

the neighbor widow’s
full flour sack, oil jar,
her house rich in
bread and laughter;

His tiny hands above
my belly, how a word
stopped the bleeding
as he wept with me

for my son, his brother;
his tears blotting
my feet, hem drying
tiny baptismal pools.

I’ve carried these
like water in jars, waiting
for the word to age
memories into wine.

 

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Ash Wednesday

“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Who’s sin is covered!”
—Psalm 32:1

Today is a day of ashes, a day to remember that we were dust and to dust we shall return.  In that, we consider the ends of our nature, the temporal nature of our desires. How does sin so easily entangle? How is it wound into all of us?

In the recognition of our ashenness, we can still find joy in this: Ash Wednesday marks a season of reflection on Christ’s march to the cross, his death, burial, and resurrection.  In this march, through this march, on the far side of the march, he set everything right–us, earth, heaven, the whole shebang. In this, he took the ash of everything and turned it platinum.  So as we remember our ashenness, as we recognize the lusts of the flesh and do what we can to kill them, let’s not forget: salvation is coming.

Can you hear it?

“O Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with Psalms.”
–Psalm 95:1-2

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There is no Easter Friday

There are some churches, I have heard, who have opted for Friday and Saturday Easter services. This, I suspect, is to make space for this weekend’s capacity crowds, or to facilitate more convenient Easter brunches. I’ve been thinking about these services, though, and I can’t shake the notion that without commemorating the climax of crucifixion, or the tension of death, the Gospel’s plot is flat. Discounting death and lament neuters the resurrection.

There’s no such day as Easter Friday or Easter Saturday. Without the lament of death, or the stench of the grave, there can be no celebration of resurrected glory.*

*This is not to say that those who regularly meet on Fridays or Saturdays should be ashamed of celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Nor is this to say that those who celebrate a strict Holy Week should take pride in following rote tradition. Instead, the point is commemorating each facet of the Gospel story with intention.

*****

And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him,they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him,wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Question: What do you see in the Cross of Christ?

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Parade of Questions

It was a daddy-date, just the two of us. Ian and I sat at U.S. Pizza Company, the home of the non-artisanal, non-organic, thin and crispy crust pizza. This is not your upper-crust fare; instead, it is the stuff reminiscent of the late-night college cramming sessions (of both chemistry formulas and junk food).

Pizza is among Ian’s favorite foods, which should come as no surprise. I don’t suppose I know a single seven year old who does not hang the hope of the world on cheese pizza and chocolate donuts. Couple either with chocolate milk from a square carton and you have a meal worthy of grade-school Valhalla.

A trim waitress with bright eyes and blond hair brought the pizza to the table. She bent down to Ian’s eye-level, and with a smile said, “will this work, buddy?” He stared only at the steaming cheese, oblivious to her striking beauty, and with eyes big as pizza pans gave an elongated, dramatic “yeeeeeesssss….”

We sat in the joint and talked about school. I asked him whether he was enjoying it, and he said mostly. “Some of the kids are starting to cuss,” he said. “They’re trying to make me do it, too.” I asked him whether he had joined their attempts at grown up language. He stopped eating, gave me the furrowed brow of surprise and said, “are you crazy?!? Those words are bad!”

That was that. I am raising a rule-boy.

Half a cheese pizza and three cups of Sprite later, we sat talking, when I overheard one of the waitresses saying, “the parade is starting!” She was standing by the large windows in the front of the restaurant, and looking out toward Dickson Street, where I could see candy and beads flying through the air. Ian was letting his food digest, so I asked him if he’d like to take a peek at the parade. “There’ll be candy and beads,” I said. Innocent as a lamb, he said, “candy? Sure. Let’s go.”

Outside, the folks of Fayetteville lined the street, stretched their arms upward and said “beads here! Beads here!” The parade processional was just making its way down the street, and a Little Guys Mover’s truck was at the head. It was adorned with shiny, plastic beads on the passenger side mirror, and a woman from inside was tossing candy and stringed necklaces to the crowd. She threw me two tangled strands and I offered them to Ian. He recoiled. “Necklaces are for girls,” he said. I put them over my head.

As the parade rolled on, a float came with a sign denoting it was the “Love Shack.” A structure had been constructed on the back of a trailer, and women danced under it while throwing goodies to the crowd. A public address system blared, “the love shack is a little old place where we can get together.”

Ian looked at me, confused by the bawdy dancing women and asked, “what is that daddy?”

“I’ll tell you when you’re older, son.”

Float after float came down the street, and we watched them pass. This was the family-friendly Mardi Gras parade our town holds every year. It’s a small parade, boasting no more than fifteen floats, and the candy and beads flow like milk and honey. A gang of roller-derby girls skated behind a float of purple-headed fairies in matching tutus. A vintage Ford truck cruised, blaring Willy Nelson. A trailer hauled a local band that played an old Doobie Brother’s tune.

Beads, beads, and more beads, the floats were generous with the crowd. Finally, Ian asked, “what’s all this about?”
“Tuesday,” I said, “is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. It’s the last day before Lent, the day that we feast on whatever it is we will fast from so that we can draw closer to God.”

“What’s Lent,” he yelled over the band.

“It’s the season where we remember our need for repentance; it’s the season just before Easter!”

Ian stopped and looked at me. “So this parade–they’re having a big party because they’ll have to give up parties soon?”

“Something like that.”

“Daddy?” He paused. “Are they throwing a party for sin?”

I stood on the side of Dickson and held the tenderness of his question. Sometimes, I think having childlike faith means asking the most uncomfortable questions.

*****

In this month’s Tiny Letter (my once-a-month, insider newsletter delivered straight to your email), I’ll be discussing the Lenten season, the darkness of my heart, and the discipline of quiet reflection. Look for the newest edition later this week (the week of February 15). And if you sign up today, you’ll receive a FREE DOWNLOAD of the song “Train Wreck.” It’s a song I wrote about pain, loss, and the love of God.

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 *Photo by by André Banyai, Creative Commons via Flickr.

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Holy Week Reflection No. 1

“The true light which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. ” ~John 1:9-10

It is Holy Week, the week commemorating Jesus’ march to the cross. I reflect on his story, his sacrifice, and if I’m honest, sometimes I do not understand it all.

Last night, we watched a television rendering of The Bible, watched as Samson brought the house down on the Philistines. The voice-over narration said that God had used Samson to fulfill his promise to the Israelites,  to free them from the violence of the Philistines. Isaac turned to Amber, whispered, “mama, why did God have to kill all those Philistines? Why couldn’t he have just made them a promise, too?” Amber paused over the question, then mustered, “it’s the way God’s glory was most shown. But to be honest, buddy, sometimes I don’t understand it all either.”

It’s the genuine question, the honest struggle that begs a genuine answer. Often our attempts to answer these questions lead only to more questions; quandary leads to quandary. But as sure as there are questions, there is the true Light which enlightens.

If only we will let it.

“He came to his own and his own people did not receive him.”  ~John 1:11

Questions find their answers in the true Light, the Light that exposes the dark places in Jew and Philistine alike, in us. He came to bring the light first to his brothers, to his kin who were the enslaved of Rome. They’d lit candles of their own making, though, and had no need for further illumination. Theirs comfort was in the types and shadows they’d always known.

So they tried to snuff him out.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” ~John 1:12-13

He came into the darkest, back-woodsest, most hopelessly enslaved province in the world. He came as a light, first, to the low people, the shepherds, and later to the lepers, harlots, and children. He came to the powerful and rich too, came to reform their hearts. He shared his light with Zacchaeus, the wee-little tax collector. He reached out to Nicodemus one dark midnight. He blinded Paul, the Pharisee of Pharisees, on the road to Damascus.

Some of them received him, by God, and they are the founding fathers of the faith. They came with their own questions, their own doubts, and their own struggles. But they received him, nonetheless. They believed and became children.

As we move through Holy Week, I’d like to ask a series of questions. These are more for me than anything, but I thought I might share them with you, too.

Question: How do we actively receive him today? How do we allow his light to illuminate us in the modern context?

*****

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