Lent Daybook, 29: Naked As We Came

Lent Daybook, 29: Naked As We Came

Welcome to a Lent daybook for these 40 days of prayer. Click through the title link to see the full post.

Look: Pennsylvania Coal Town, Edward Hopper - Source

Listen: “Naked as We Came” from Our Endless Numbered Days, Iron & Wine - Spotify | YouTube | Lyrics

Read: Psalm 31; Jeremiah 24:1-10; Romans 9:19-33; John 9:1-17

Pray: Collect for Fifth Sunday in Lent, Book of Common Prayer

Do: Fast from spending money, and feast on giving alms.

Read More

Lent Daybook, 23: That Nothing May Be Lost

Lent Daybook, 23: That Nothing May Be Lost

Welcome to a Lent daybook for these 40 days of prayer. Click through the title link to see the full post.

Look: Prodigal, Charlie Mackesy - Source

Listen: “Wandering Boy” from Dark Matter, Randy Newman - Spotify | YouTube | Lyrics

Read: Psalm 89:1-18; Jeremiah 16:10-21; Romans 7:1-12; John 6:1-15

Pray: Collect for Fourth Sunday in Lent, Book of Common Prayer

Do: Fast from taking offense. Feast on acts of forgiveness instead.

Read More

Bearing the Weight of Love: Week 2 Preview

SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT

Scroll to the bottom of this post to find today’s lectionary reading and collect. You can see all the previous Lent daybook 2019 posts here.

In February 2018 I was honored to speak at a couple events for Christ Church in Austin on how the discipline of Lent forms us to love. I led the group of artists and art-appreciators in an exploration of how the rhythms and disciplines of lament, confession, forgiveness, healing, prayer, hospitality, and generosity can form us as artists and people. Through the five Sundays of Lent that lead up to Holy Week, II’ll be sharing on the blog the background notes I used to prepare that Austin talk.. It’ll also give me the opportunity I haven’t taken before to share, in real time, some background to the images and music I select for the daily devotional posts.

Embodied agape versus artificial postures of love

Last Sunday I introduced the difference between artificial postures of love and the true cruciform movement of agape we find in 1 Corinthians 13. We can’t virtue signal cruciform love; we can only practice it daily with attention to a Christ-formed posture. What we embody will be formed by what we meditate - out of the heart the mouth speaks and so forth. For the first five Sundays in Lent, leading up to Holy Week, we’ll look more closely at 1 Corinthians 13, with special attention to verses 7 and 8, in order to consider the artificial postures of love. May what we meditate and practice this Lent help us to choose, instead, an embodied, cruciform movement of agape.

Tenebrae , Erica L. Grimm   source

Tenebrae, Erica L. Grimm

source

There are no short cuts to agape. It must be embodied with the sustainable, life-giving postures given us by our Creator, exemplified by Jesus, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Humans are plagued with the tendency toward artificial poses of love, which in the end deplete us and those we encounter. The only manner of movement for true agape is made up of a cruciform posture. In the greatest paradox of all, love is shaped by the cross.

If we use the poetic summary of agape in 1 Corinthians 13:7-8 - love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things - as our paradigm for embodied agape, we can consider the contrasting, artificial postures of love as a range of options, with the most extreme responses at the ends of a spectrum. In order to develop into the movement of agape, we can counter the attitudes and actions of un-love with specific spiritual disciplines that train us toward cruciform, life-giving love.


Love Bears All Things: it bears up anything and everything that comes

Artificial Postures: Range between numbness and sentimentality

True Embodiment: We learn to bear the weight of love through practices of lament and amazement.

Sentimentality: 5 quotations, 1 excerpt, & 1 poem

The Judas Kiss , Peter Koenig   source

The Judas Kiss, Peter Koenig

source

Sentimentality is the air I’ve breathed much of my church life. Frankly, sentimentality is the mother tongue of the United States. In Luci Shaw’s words below, this is a “conservatism that responds only to 'kitsch'. I’d like to point out that conservatism in this usage doesn’t necessarily mean a political or theological party, but the more technical definition of preserving an predetermined, established viewpoint with a resistance to changing that viewpoint for any reason. In this definition, we’re all guilty of our entrenched perspectives. We rely on symbols and ideologies in place of the more complicated work of learning new ways of understanding God, ourselves, and others. Sentimentality, as I understand it in this context, is a manufactured response without the labor of true emotional investment.

  1. “Sentimentality is only emotion you haven’t proven to the reader—emotion without vivid evidence.” ― Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir

  2. “The little everyday neglect of imagining other people well can add up to a lifetime of flawed, perverted vision, an expenditure of soul in a waste of emotionalism.” — David Dark, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything

  3. “Feeling sorry for the victims of injustice is not a prophetic act. We live in a culture that has replaced compassion with sentiment. Sentiment is mere feeling, disconnected from relationship. Sentiment is spilled compassion. It looks like concern; it could develop into compassion, but it seldom does” - Eugene Peterson in forward for Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice

  4. “When I teach poetry, especially poems I love, I go to great lengths to warn against the falsehoods of sentimentality. Legitimate emotion takes its form from intimate, intelligent, intentional engagement. Part of the training is to allow oneself to be touched deeply but not too easily, to learn to be both demanding and yielding, like a dancer with a skilled partner both equally committed to dancing well.” - Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies

  5. “Most people’s intuitions are drowned out by folk sayings. We have a moment of real feeling or insight, and then we come up with a folk saying that captures the insight in a kind of wash. The intuition may be real and ripe, fresh with possibilities, but the folk saying is guaranteed to be a cliche, stale and self-contained.” - Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

  6. "Stripped of religious and moral values, many contemporary artists who are self-conscious and creative, knowing that they are, but not knowing the why, see themselves as results of a cosmic accident. Much postmodern art, fiction, poetry, music, drama, and film represents the result of this unknowing and the fragmentation, cynicism, and personal chaos that result from it.

    The tragedy is that so many Christians , in their revulsion at the perverse aspects of such art, shun all art, even that which may spring from a God-honoring imagination or a Christocentric consciousness. The other 'Christian' alternative is a conservatism that responds only to 'kitsch', a sentimental art of the Hallmark greeting card variety that cheapens true sentiment, turning it into sweetness and light or mere moralistic propaganda -- no teeth, no guts, no muscle, no reality. No real Christianity either, if we consider the Creator's work a our powerful, radical model.

    But 'kitsch' is easy. It is as accessible as a Thomas Kinkade painting, and as stereotypical. It is manipulative and narcotic, and by contrast it makes true art seem difficult or complicated. For true art is not all sweet reasonableness. It may project outrage, or make a creative statement as hyperbolic as Jesus' 'if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; if your right hand causes you to sin, hack it off and throw it away.' Such an image is meant to jolt, to shock, to sting, to push truth into our awareness in ways that show the freshness, originality, and surprise of the Creator." --Luci Shaw, Beauty and the Creative Impulse

Perform impossibilities
or perish. Thrust out now
the unseasonal ripe figs
among your leaves. Expect
the mountain to be moved.
Hate parents, friends, and all
materiality. Love every enemy.
Forgive more times than seventy-
seven. Camel-like, squeeze by
into the kingdom through
the needle’s eye. All fear quell.
Hack off your hand, or else,
unbloodied, go to hell.
Thus the divine unreason.
Despairing you may cry,
with earthy logic - How?
And I, your God, reply:
Leap from your weedy shallows.
Dive into the moving water.
Eye-less, learn to see
truly. Find in my folly your
true sanity. Then, Spirit-driven,
run on my narrow way, sure
as a child. Probe, hold
my unhealed hand, and
bloody, enter heaven.
— Luci Shaw, "The Foolishness of God", Polishing the Petoskey Stone
Women With and Without Children , Caitlin Connolly   Source

Women With and Without Children, Caitlin Connolly

Source

Numbness: 1 outstanding chapter title + 4 quotations from the prophetic imagination of Walter Brueggemann

The word “numbness” as a posture feels a bit awkward, but makes up for that with clarity. I’d considered replacing it with apathy, which would be true, but maybe easier to avoid detection. Living in a state of numbness is a temptation that, I suspect, most of us can understand. We fill our lives with things that limit our capacity to feel uncomfortable emotions. We reject stimuli that will heighten our awareness to the realities we’d like to avoid.

I’m using the term “numbness” because it’s the term Walter Brueggemann uses in Prophetic Imagination, and who am I to deviate? The contrast between numbness and sentimentality is tricky to separate. On some levels sentimentality can be used as a tool to remain numb to true emotion. I see the two terms as a contrast on the premise that sentimentality is a posture of emotionalism and numbness a posture of remaining emotionless, stoic. Both are artificial postures of true love that rob, as Brueggemann insists, us of our “capability for humanity”. I’m especially fond of the simple term of “amazement” Brueggemann uses as an antidote to numbness. Imagine a church community engaging in the loving response of amazement!

Guy Half Asleep , Lucian Freud   Source

Guy Half Asleep, Lucian Freud

Source

  1. A chapter title from Walter Brueggemann’s book, The Prophetic Imagination: “Prophetic Energizing and the Emergence of Amazement”

  2. “Jesus knew what we numb ones must always learn again: (a) that weeping must be real because endings are real; and (b) that weeping permits newness. His weeping permits the kingdom to come. Such weeping is a radical criticism, a fearful dismantling because it means the end of all machismo; weeping is something kings rarely do without losing their thrones. Yet the loss of thrones is precisely what is called for in radical criticism.” ― Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination: Revised Edition

  3. “When we think “prophetic” we need not always think grandly about public tasks. The prophetic task needs to be done wherever there are men and women who will yield to the managed prose future offered them by the king. So, we may ask, if we are to do that alternative constructive task of imagination, if we are to reach more than the most surface group prepared to be “religious,” where do we begin? What I propose is this: The royal consciousness leads people to numbness, especially to numbness about death. It is the task of prophetic ministry and imagination to bring people to engage their experiences of suffering to death.” ― Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination: Revised Edition

  4. “Clearly, human transformative activity depends upon a transformed imagination. Numbness does not hurt like torture, but in a quite parallel way, numbness robs us of our capability for humanity.” ― Walter Brueggemann, Prophetic Imagination: Revised Edition

  5. “Numb people do not discern or fear death. Conversely, despairing people do not anticipate or receive newness. ... The language of amazement is against the despair just as the language of grief is against the numbness.” ― Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

A violinist plays in the rubble of Jonah’s tomb,  Muhammad Hamed   AMEEN MUKDAD, A VIOLINIST WHO LIVED UNDER SO-CALLED ISLAMIC STATE FOR TWO-AND-A-HALF YEARS, PERFORMS AT NABI YUNUS, A SHRINE IN EASTERN MOSUL, IRAQ, FOLLOWING LIBERATION, 2017. MUHAMMAD HAMED / REUTERS ( SOURCE )

A violinist plays in the rubble of Jonah’s tomb, Muhammad Hamed


AMEEN MUKDAD, A VIOLINIST WHO LIVED UNDER SO-CALLED ISLAMIC STATE FOR TWO-AND-A-HALF YEARS, PERFORMS AT NABI YUNUS, A SHRINE IN EASTERN MOSUL, IRAQ, FOLLOWING LIBERATION, 2017. MUHAMMAD HAMED / REUTERS (SOURCE)

What’s required for agape? Practice Amazement & Lament: 4 poems

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
— Gerard Manley Hopkins, "God's Grandeur"
i thank You God for most this amazing day
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky
and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
— e.e. cummings, "i thank you God for most this amazing day"
And so you died as women used to die, at home, in your own warm bedroom, the old-fashioned death death of women in labor, who try to close themselves again but can’t, because that ancient darkness which they have also given birth to returns for them, thrusts its way in, and enters. Once ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. Where can we find such customs now ? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned. That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted. Can you hear me ? I would like to fling my voice out like a cloth over the fragments of your death, and keep pulling at it until it is torn to pieces, and all my words would have to walk around shivering, in the tatters of that voice; if lament were enough.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, from "Requiem for a Friend"
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
— William Butler Yeats, "Second Coming"
Haji Rahila Jafarova and Lala Ismayilova are professional Yezidi mourners from Azerbaijan. Photo: Hugo Glendinning, courtesy Artangel and Taryn Simon Projects.   Source  [ H/T }

Haji Rahila Jafarova and Lala Ismayilova are professional Yezidi mourners from Azerbaijan. Photo: Hugo Glendinning, courtesy Artangel and Taryn Simon Projects.

Source [H/T}

Languages of Lament

If we are to “retrieve the lament that we omitted” as Rilke dramatically claims, how do we begin to relearn the language? Here’s what I’ve gathered as my own devoted response to that question.

Pietà,  Anto Carte   source

Pietà, Anto Carte

source

  1. Silence and Listening

  2. Affirm meaning and welcome wisdom

  3. Articulate your outrage

  4. Submit yourself to be present with pain and grief

Silence & Listening: 1 personal anecdote, 2 links from the blog archives, & 3 quotations

  1. “Grief is living in the suspended note of silence.” - my daughter-in-law’s beloved Aunt Laurel reflecting on the loss of her husband to cancer

  2. Suffering in Silence (From 2010, as we waited for God’s still, small whisper into the loud anxiety of our unemployment.)

  3. Fear of Silence (My first attempts at a discipline of silence which sound rather awkward to me now, but possibly helpful to remember.)

  4. “In reading a recent novel, I myself was convicted by a comment the mother makes to her adult daughter: ‘My dear, you’ve missed so many opportunities to say nothing.’ We do miss these opportunities, as well as opportunities to say less and say it more judiciously. And so we miss particular delights of finding words and speaking them into silences big enough to allow them to be heard.” - Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies

  5. “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” - Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude

  6. “To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.

    Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.” - Henri Nouwen, Ministry and Spirituality

  7. “Being with a friend in great pain is not easy. It makes us uncomfortable. We do not know what to do or what to say, and we worry about how to respond to what we hear. Our temptation is to say things that come more out of our own fear than out of our care for the person in pain. Sometimes we say things like "Well, you're doing a lot better than yesterday," or "You will soon be your old self again," or "I'm sure you will get over this." But often we know that what we're saying is not true, and our friends know it too.

    We do not have to play games with each other. We can simply say: "I am your friend, I am happy to be with you." We can say that in words or with touch or with loving silence. Sometimes it is good to say: "You don't have to talk. Just close your eyes. I am here with you, thinking of you, praying for you, loving you." - Henri Nouwen, The Ministry of Caregiving

    Affirm meaning & welcome wisdom: 2 quotations, 1 excerpt, & 2 poems

  1. “The defense against shame, guilt, and mourning leads to emotional emptiness in the individual and, in consequence, to psychological and political immobility, to a lack of ideas and imagination in society.” - Margarete Mitscherlich-Neilson, The Problem of Loss and Mourning

  2. “ Walter Brueggemann sums it up well when he says, "Only grief permits newness." Those who do not want the new are afraid of grief -- they deny it to themselves and suppress it in others. But grief permits newness because grief, mourning and tears are not expressions of powerless acquiescence. No, it is the numbed-out sleepy old mumblers of "peace, peace" who have acquiesced and are powerless because history is closed for them. Rather, grief, mourning and tears function as radical critique of the present order, because such mourning refuses to cover-up and insists that we confront the brokenness, oppression, failed expectations and empty promises of the present.” - Brian Walsh, Subversive Christianity

  3. “But to serve any discipline of art, be it to chip a David out of an unwieldy piece of marble, to take oils and put a clown on canvas, to write a drama about a young man who kills his father and marries his mother and suffers for these actions, to hear a melody and set the notes down for a string quartet, is to affirm meaning, despite all the ambiguities and tragedies and misunderstanding which surround us.

    Aeschylus writes, “In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

    We see that wisdom and that awful grace in the silence of the Pieta, in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poems; in Poulenc’s organ concerto, but we do not find it in many places where we would naturally expect to find it. This confusion comes about because much so-called religious art is in fact bad art, and therefore bad religion…. Some of those soppy pictures of Jesus, looking like a tubercular, fair-haired, blue-eyed goy, are far more secular than a Picasso mother and child. The Lord Jesus who rules my life is not a sentimental, self-pitying weakling. He was a Jew, a carpenter, and strong. He took into his own heart, for our sakes, that pain which brings ‘wisdom through the awful grace of God.’” - Madeleine L’Engle, Walking On Water

  4. I first read these poems in the [Kenyon Review: “We are pleased—as we are saddened—to present … Brett Foster’s final poems to our readers. Brett died on November 9, 2015, at the age of 42.”]

I most remember her saying, since it haunts
me practically every moment I’m awake,
that we’re hoping for years and not just months
when it comes to remission. For godssakes,
do you know how much my once self was affronted?
But in that present moment, “Whatever it takes,”
I said, becoming an utterly different person, stunted
by surgery, complicated recovery, and new stakes
now with this sudden diagnosis. And then, more:
she adds that, given my young age, and the aggressive
state of the spread cancer, I probably cannot expect
a natural span of life, although this outlook is born
of statistics, something but not everything when living’s
involved. I resolve to be fiercely alive, defiant object.
— Brett Foster, "First Meeting with the Oncologist"
The nurse practitioner who substitutes
for my regular doctor (thanks to a holiday)
amazed us with her free way of speaking.
We marveled at what she so freely revealed,
compared with my circumspect oncologist.

I remember most of all her description
of a CT scan when it’s bad or “dirty,” how spots
of white infiltrate the body’s imagized
inner spaces. “Sometimes there is so much
white that it just lights up the whole scan,”
she said. And so this visualized blizzard
covers the body’s fields and highways,
its needed and contained organic landscape.
A whiteout without an ounce of repose,
”snow-crash,” like a television’s blank face.

Where do we go, or what do we do,
when this is what we know or is thought
through? There’s nowhere to go, I suppose,
and one must wear the leaden heaviness
of that whiteness, must be willing to be led
to that particular nowhere and bearing.

This is just one of the million images
that besiege our lives, along with God-
made imago that frames us, in which we thrive
in our being and growing and going, yet sometimes
allowing our belittling. What do we consist of
finally? And what do we permit to represent
our depths? Eventually everyone must see,

must be, a complicated, compromising image,
all the more esteemed in complication, still glorious
in its gift existence, compromised and glorious.
— Brett Foster, "Whiteout"
CHRIST DRIVING THE MONEYCHANGERS FROM THE TEMPLE , REMBRANDT VAN RIJN   SOURCE

CHRIST DRIVING THE MONEYCHANGERS FROM THE TEMPLE, REMBRANDT VAN RIJN

SOURCE

Articulate your outrage (discerning a call to righteous anger): 1 Scripture, 1 excerpt, 4 quotations, 1 poem

  1. Amos 5:16-17:

    “Now again, my Master’s Message, God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies:

    “Go out into the streets and lament loudly!
    Fill the malls and shops with cries of doom!
    Weep loudly, ‘Not me! Not us, Not now!’
    Empty offices, stores, factories, workplaces.
    Enlist everyone in the general lament.
    I want to hear it loud and clear when I make my visit.”
    God’s Decree.”

  2. From Marilyn McEntyre “Strategies for the Word Wars”: (How to write prophetically without adding to polarization / subversive strategies):

    “… articulate your outrage. I want to just tell you a quick story here before I go on, which is that a few years ago I gave a course on poetry on prayer at a seminary, and I gave them the assignment when we did poetry and protest of going home and thinking about at least one public concern or issue that got them to a place of complete outrage, thinking to myself, I have a long list. But three of them came back and said this was really hard, I couldn't get there. I said why not? And one of them said well, it just seems like what we're trying to do is be nonjudgmental. So, we had a long conversation about neutrality is complicity and so on, but I do think it's really important to find the outrage and claim it.”

  3. “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.” - Elie Wiesel, "Nobel Acceptance Speech," Dec. 10, 1986

  4. “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge—even wisdom. Like art.” - Toni Morrison, "No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear" in The Nation (March 23, 2015)

  5. “The hour has come for everybody, for all institutions of the public sector and the private sector to work to get rid of racism. And now if we are to do it we must honestly admit certain things and get rid of certain myths that have constantly been disseminated all over our nation. One is the myth of time. It is the notion that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice…. There is an answer to that myth. It is that time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I am sorry to say this morning that I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme rightists of our nation—the people on the wrong side—have used time much more effectively than the forces of good will. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, "Wait on time." - Martin Luther King, Jr., "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution (March 31, 1968)" in A Testament of Hope

  6. “We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, and straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison

  7. “Wage Peace” by Judyth Hill

Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.

Breathe in terrorists
and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.

Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.

Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.

Make soup.
Play music, memorize the words for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief
as the outbreath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.

Swim for the other side.
Wage peace.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious:
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.

Celebrate today.
— Judyth Hill, "Wage Peace," written on September 11, 2001
DAVID KIRBY AND HIS FAMILY, 1990  (THE PHOTO THAT CHANGED THE FACE OF AIDS)   BY THERESE FRARE   SOURCE

DAVID KIRBY AND HIS FAMILY, 1990 (THE PHOTO THAT CHANGED THE FACE OF AIDS) BY THERESE FRARE

SOURCE

Submit yourself to be present with pain & grief: 6 quotations

  1. “The fact that Jesus weeps and that he is moved in spirit and troubled contrasts remarkably with the dominant culture. That is not the way of power, and it is scarcely the way among those who intend to maintain firm social control. But in [John 11:33-35] Jesus is engaged not in social control but in dismantling the power of death, and he does so by submitting himself to the pain and grief present in the situation, the very pain and grief that the dominant society must deny.” ― Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

  2. “Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable conditions for humanness. In the arrangement of “lawfulness” in Jesus’ time, as in the ancient empire of Pharaoh, the one unpermitted quality of relation was compassion. Empires are never built or maintained on the basis of compassion.” - Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

  3. “As Christians we are always in tension - in an anguish and at the same time in bliss. This is mad, ridiculous. But it is true - accepting the dark night just as we accept the brilliance of the day. We have to make an act of surrender - if I am in Christ, there are moments when I must share the cry of the Lord on the cross and the anguish in the garden of Gethsemane. There is a way of being defeated, even in our faith - and this is a way of sharing the anguish of the Lord. I don't believe that we should ever say, 'This cannot happen to you.' If we are Christians we should go through this life, accepting the life and the world, not trying to create a falsified world.” ― Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray

  4. “...one of our great spiritual guides, Theophan the Recluse [saint in the Russian Orthodox Church], says: 'The awareness of God shall be with you as clearly as a toothache.” ― Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray

  5. “This kind of prophetic criticism does not lightly offer alternatives, does not mouth assurances, and does not provide redemptive social policy. It knows that only those who mourn can be comforted, and so it first asks about how to mourn seriously and faithfully for the world passing away.” ― Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

  6. “Jesus, the Blessed One, mourns. Jesus mourns when his friend Lazarus dies (see John 11:33-36); he mourns when he overlooks the city of Jerusalem, soon to be destroyed (see Luke 19:41-44). Jesus mourns over all losses and devastations that fill the human heart with pain. He grieves with those who grieve and sheds tears with those who cry.

    The violence, greed, lust, and so many other evils that have distorted the face of the earth and its people causes the Beloved Son of God to mourn. We too have to mourn if we hope to experience God's consolation.” - Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart

Meditations and practices for the coming week

The daily office lectionary for the Book of Common Prayer will lead us into Jeremiah and Romans for the Old and New Testament readings while we remain in John for the Gospel readings. We’ll read along with the weeping prophet and the rational apostle as each offers words about the reality of God’s judgement and the provision of mercy He makes for us if we’ll receive it. Each day the Psalms offer a prayerful counterpoint to the responses we see to Jesus and his teaching from the people surrounding him on his way step by step to the Cross.

I’ve tried to suggest one practice a week that can fit along with whatever other fasts you may be undertaking this Lent. There’s merit in committing simply to one fast for the entire forty days. For example, we give up processed sugar and alcohol and then fast from one meal on Fridays. Traditionally, the Church sets aside Lenten Fridays, the weekday of Jesus’ crucifixion, to abstain from eating meat or to a partial (one meal) or whole fast (24 hours without solid food). You can read more about this tradition and its spiritual implications here, here, and here.

Sometimes we need a little help imagining what a fast can look like and how it might produce good fruit in our lives. Each week this Lent, I’ll share one specific suggestion for fasting one habit in order to feast on a corresponding practice. You might decide to stay with that fast for the entire forty days, or you might choose just one or two days to try what I’ve suggested.

Fast emojis & social media symbols.

Feast on the language of lament and amazement instead.

This week we’ll fast replacement symbols for language - emojis and social media “likes” - and feast on the language of lament and amazement instead.

Pay attention, in particular, to the Psalms in each day’s post. Gather words of lament and amazement to use throughout the day. Consider the characters in the other Scripture passages each day. Pay attention to the verbal and non-verbal responses they use. You can even keep a thesaurus handy throughout the week. Whenever you’re tempted to use an emoji or social media symbol, stop and ask yourself the following question:

  • Where does the need to do this come from?

  • If this conversation was happening face to face, what is it I most want to say to this person?

If you discover that finding language (including silence and physical presence) especially difficult try this exercise:

Divide a piece of paper into four columns headed with the words “I’m sad with you”, “I’m amazed with you”, “I love this about you”, “I’m celebrating with you”. In each column write all the ways you know to convey each truth. Put this list where you can see it and revisit it. Intentionally use these worlds and phrases throughout the week.*

  • What do you notice about yourself and yourself and the way you relate to others in their experiences?


*Exercise adapted from Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s chapter “Controlling the Tongue”, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

Screen Shot 2019-03-01 at 11.47.21 AM.png

On Saturday we’ll connect with An American Lent from The Repentance Project. It's God's kindness that leads us to repentance, and in His kindness and provision for reconciliation, He invites us to make confession and ask for forgiveness on behalf of not only ourselves but our forefathers and mothers.

I’ll highlight a few of the reflections that most caught my attention, but you can subscribe to receive daily reflections from An American Lent.

Lent 2019 on Spotify:


Second Sunday in Lent - Lament Over Jerusalem

Today’s lectionary readings & prayer: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Second Sunday in Lent
Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted II,  2016, Kehinde Wiley  See the entire Lamentation collection  here .   Source

Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted II, 2016, Kehinde Wiley

See the entire Lamentation collection here.

Source

Lent Daybook, 6: Zeal

Lent Daybook, 6: Zeal

Welcome to a Lent daybook for these 40 days of prayer. Click through the title link to see the full post.

Look: Glory, Roger May - Source

Listen: “Redemption Day” from American VI: Ain’t No Grave, Johnny Cash - Spotify | YouTube | Lyrics

Read: Psalm 45; Deuteronomy 9:4-12; Hebrews 3:1-11; John 2:13-22

Pray: Prayers of the People (Form VI), Book of Common Prayer

Do: Fast from TV / Entertainment this week. Read instead!

Read More

Love & Unlove in the Stories of Lent: Week 1 Preview

FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT

Scroll to the bottom of this post to find today’s lectionary reading and collect. You can see all the previous Lent daybook 2019 posts here.

In February 2018 I was honored to speak at a couple events for Christ Church in Austin on how the discipline of Lent forms us to love. I led the group of artists and art-appreciators in an exploration of how the rhythms and disciplines of lament, confession, forgiveness, healing, prayer, hospitality, and generosity can form us as artists and people. Through the five Sundays of Lent that lead up to Holy Week, II’ll be sharing on the blog the background notes I used to prepare that Austin talk.. It’ll also give me the opportunity I haven’t taken before to share, in real time, some background to the images and music I select for the daily devotional posts.

Woman at the Well , 1975, Sadao Watanabe

Woman at the Well, 1975, Sadao Watanabe

In February 2018 I was honored to speak at a couple of events for Christ Church in Austin on how the discipline of Lent forms us to love. I led the group of artists and art appreciators in an exploration of how the rhythms and disciplines of lament, confession, forgiveness, healing, prayer, hospitality, and generosity can form us as artists and people. I’m going to share on the blog what I shared through the five Sundays leading up to the beginning of Holy Week. It’ll also give me the opportunity I haven’t taken before to share, in real time, some background to the images and music I select for the daily devotional posts.

Lent is about recognizing God’s heart for us and the gaps between what we understand about His heart and what we actually receive. The art, stories, and practices of Lent train us away from the false dichotomy of “religious and secular” toward discerning the difference between what poet Wendell Berry calls “sacred and desecrated” places. I’ve begun to refer to this difference as defined by love and unlove.

Since 2006, I’ve been recording on this blog how I, as a full-grown adult, came to discover that the world isn’t split between religious and secular. In the words of Dallas Willard, there is “no division between the sacred and secular except what we have created.” I continue to hear the initial call to worship for this blog from another poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and I continue to address every common bush as a bearer of God’s glory. In the holy seasons of Advent and Lent, I make space for artists, musicians, and poets who’ve, throughout human history, often unwittingly, pointed our collective attention to the embodied evidence of an invisible God.

My hope for the liturgical daybook posts in Lent and Advent is to continue to train my eyes and ears to the voice of love that echoes God’s heart, as the Book of Common Prayer invites us, to learn to love what God loves.

Lent: what are the stories & practices?

The Samaritan Woman at the Wel l, Annibale Carracci   Source

The Samaritan Woman at the Well, Annibale Carracci

Source

To inhabit Judeo-Christian tradition is to live our lives in intimate relation to a repertoire of stories that shape our hopes, our self-understanding, our notions of history, and the stories we invent, which necessarily borrow their deep structures, imagery, and language from the foundational stories that beget them. Those elements of story are a rich inheritance.
— Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies

No season of the liturgical year has been more formative in my healing journey than Lent. While, my religious background trained me well in the reality of sin, death, and crucifixion, it did not provide much in the way of liturgical or devotional practices for lament, grief, and confession.

Of course, personal and global suffering permeate every day of our lives in one way or another. We live in a broken body on a broken earth, and the Church calendar doesn't intend for us to ignore the entire spectrum of human suffering and joy based on the liturgical season. Instead, the cycle of fasting and feasting, celebration and lament provides practice, piece by piece, to form us wholly as Christians. Through each season, year after year we meditate specific portions of Scripture to steadily and incrementally learn the whole story of God and His people. We do this to counter our own tendencies to embrace only the parts of God’s story with which we are most comfortable.  

Spiritual formation of the liturgical year: “I did not make it, but it is making me.”

When we celebrate the liturgical seasons, we grow not only in our knowledge of Scripture, but we learn also to embody its life-giving truth. In the wisdom of our Church mothers and fathers, informed by the collective memory of millennia of Jewish feasts and fasts initiated by the Creator, each liturgical season marks itself with daily, physical practices.  

Lent is a forty day lesson in what it means to be bodies cursed by death and decay. If you've ever received the cross-shaped ash on your forehead, you've heard the pastoral reminder of the real and sad state in which we find ourselves: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

From Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, we follow the account of Christ as he makes His way to the Cross. Throughout Lent, we recognize and mourn the curse of sin and death that has separated man from God, even as we are invited to carry our cross and follow Christ on the road of suffering. We grow in humility and gratitude with the Lenten practice of remembering that once we were alienated from God and lived as people with no hope, and we seek mercy for those still living in that separation.

We focus our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies toward the outrageous, relentless, mercy-pouring love of God. We do this with an open gaze to all the places acts and attitudes of unlove diminish the love of God. We let the liturgy train us year in and year out, and we humbly accept assistance from the rest of the created world as we develop a prophetic imagination of love.

Love is the goal. The stories and practices of Lent help us “love up love”.

Love is not what you try to do to transform the other person or what you do to compel love to come forth in him; it is rather how you compel yourself. Only the person who lacks love imagines himself able to build up love by compelling the other.

The one who truly loves always believes that love is present; precisely in this way he builds up. In this way he only entices forth the good; he ‘loves up’ love; he builds up what is already there. For love can and will be treated in only one way - by being loved forth.
— Søren Kierkegaard
Unknown  Source

Unknown

Source

A couple of years ago, we had the opportunity to hear poet Christian Wiman read at an event in Manhattan. Wiman knows the reality of suffering from his own family history and his current incurable illness. During the talk he shared his experience of dodging the intentions of many Christians who’d have used his experience of suffering - his personal Lent - to compel love to come forth in him. He said something that Brian’s reminded me often in our own attempts to love others: “Proclamation outside of loving is like having a conversation with someone using a megaphone.”

This is not the way Christ compels love, and we’re invited to learn from Him.

How can our life and work “love up love”? 1 Corinthians 13

In this year’s lectionary readings the final Sunday before Lent took us to 1 Corinthians 13, one of the most well-known portions of Scripture. Instead of reserving the Apostle Paul’s poem for marriage ceremonies only, we are invited into the wonderment of true love for every relationship and circumstance we face in life. Married love is one beautiful reflection of love, but only in the way it demonstrates the crucified love of Christ. Jesus is the love of the Father “poured forth” for us. That’s the astonishment Paul invites us to consider, and we must consider it in the relationship of the Lenten cross.

Theologian Fleming Rutledge, in her premise that the crucifixion is the “touchstone” of authentic Christian love, by which everything else gains significance, states:

The Corinthian church is an important test case because that congregation seemed unable to locate itself correctly with regard to the crucifixion. They placed themselves either beyond the cross, as though already raised from the dead…, or above the cross, as though suffering was behind them and beneath them … rather than in the cross. These problems, in Paul’s judgment, were the cause of the Corinthian Christians’ deficiencies with regard to love. That is why he wrote the famous thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians… Sentimental, overly “spiritualized” love is not capable of the sustained, unconditional agape of Christ shown on the cross. Only from the perspective of the crucifixion can the true nature of Christian love be seen, over against all that the world calls “love.” The one thing needful, according to Paul, is that the Christian community should position itself rightly, at the juncture where the cross calls all present arrangements into question with a corresponding call for endurance and faith.
— Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ
epectase05.jpg

When we read 1 Corinthians 13 in the context of what it means to bear witness to the “sustained, unconditional agape of Christ shown on the cross”, we receive a deeper sense of purpose for our daily relationships and encounters with the world.

How does this apply to loving up love with our devotional attention? A yoga analogy

A good yogi will teach students the difference between an assortment of yoga poses and what is known as asana, a manner of embodied movement. Asana is made up of a collection of poses that are done with attention to position and posture. If the pose is incorrect, asana won’t be achieved. I’m barely versed in the art of yoga, but I’ve learned enough to know what happens if I practice incorrect postures. Instead of receiving the benefits of health and relaxation, my body hurts and I avoid the mat for weeks.

From what I understand, yoga is not intended as a collection of random, individual poses. Left to themselves, and without attention to posture and connected movement, individual poses are unsustainable, potentially harmful, artificial positions. Held together as a collection of attentive movement, asana, the poses embody sustainable, life-giving postures that create strength and provide the benefit of physical rest and harmony.

What does this have to do with love and devotion?

Day 6, Sacrifice/Embrace, 2010 , Nicola Green   Source

Day 6, Sacrifice/Embrace, 2010, Nicola Green

Source

The subtle but substantial difference between artificial yoga positions and the correct manner of yoga movement provides an analogy to the difference between artificial postures of love and the true cruciform movement of agape we find in 1 Corinthians 13.

There are no short cuts to agape. It must be embodied sustainable, life-giving postures given us by our Creator, exemplified by Jesus, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Humans are plagued with the tendency toward artificial poses of love. The only manner of movement for true love is made up of a cruciform posture. Love is shaped by the cross.

Embodied agape versus artificial postures of love

We can’t virtue signal cruciform love. We can only practice it daily with attention to a Christ-formed posture. What we embody will be formed by what we meditate. Over the next four Sundays, leading up to Holy Week, we’ll look more closely at 1 Corinthians 13, with special attention to verses 7 and 8, in order to consider the artificial postures of love. May what we meditate and practice this Lent help us to choose, instead, an embodied, cruciform movement of agape.

This is the model I shared in Austin last year. If we use the profound poetic summary in 1 Corinthians 13:7-8 as our paradigm for embodied agape, we can consider the contrasting, artificial postures of love as a range of options, with the most extreme responses at each end of the spectrum. In order to develop into the movement of agape, we can counter the attitudes and actions of unlove with spiritual disciplines that train us toward cruciform, life-giving love.

  1. Love Bears All Things: it bears up anything and everything that comes

    Artificial Poses: Numbness or Sentimentality

    Embodiment: Bearing the weight of love through practices of lament and amazement

The spectrum of artificial postures for this aspect of love could be described as numbness at one end of the span and sentimentality on the other. Embodied agape requires counter practices of lament and amazement to bear the weight of true love.

     2. Love Believes All Things: is ever ready to believe the best about every person

Poses: (Aggressive) Exclusion or (Passive) Tolerance

Embodiment: Making space to believe the best of every person through practices of hospitality.

The spectrum of artificial postures for this aspect of love could be described as exclusion on one end and prescribed tolerance on the other. Embodied agape requires counter practices of Christ-formed hospitality to make space in our hearts, minds, and lives to believe all things in love.

    3. Love Hopes All Things: its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances

Artificial Poses: Cynicism or Idealism

Embodiment: Keeping hope alive through the nourishing practices of confession and examen.

Cynicism and idealism mark the opposite ends of the artificial attempts for this aspect of love. We keep hope alive in an embodied posture of agape when we practice regular examen and confession.

     4. Love Endures All Things: it endures everything without weakening

Artificial Poses: Individualism or Collectivism

Embodiment: Expanding our capacity to endure the cost of love through practices of reconciliation.

Individualism and collectivism are two artificial attempts at a love capable of enduring all things. We expand our capacity to endure the cost of embodied agape through practices of reconciliation.

Meditations and practices for the coming week

The daily office lectionary for the Book of Common Prayer will lead us through most of Deuteronomy chapters 8-11, Hebrews chapters 2-4, and the Gospel of John chapters 2-4. We’ll see the accounts of Moses caught between the presence of God and the rebellion of his people at the same time as we observe Jesus in a similar place between the work of his Father and the hard-hearted religious leaders. We’ll remember accounts of rescue even while we watch the seed of betrayal beginning to take root in the hearts of the people who’ll send Jesus to crucifixion. Holding up the Old Testament account of God’s handing over the 10 Commandments of the Law to Moses to John 3, one of the most famous passages in all of the Bible, is an arresting comparison. The Law held up to the Fulfiller of the Law reminds us that we have been rescued, we are being rescued, and one day will be forever rescued. Each day the Psalms serve as a descant weaving throughout with reminders of God’s steadfast love even in the places of our deepest grief.

I’ve tried to suggest one practice a week that can fit along with whatever other fasts you may be undertaking this Lent. There’s merit in committing simply to one fast for the entire forty days. For example, we give up processed sugar and alcohol and then fast from one meal on Fridays. Traditionally, the Church sets aside Lenten Fridays, the weekday of Jesus’ crucifixion, to abstain from eating meat or to a partial (one meal) or whole fast (24 hours without solid food). You can read more about this tradition and its spiritual implications here, here, and here.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fast TV & Entertainment this week.

Feast on reading instead!

Sometimes we need a little help imagining what a fast can look like and how it might produce good fruit in our lives. Each week this Lent, I’ll share one specific suggestion for fasting one habit in order to feast on a corresponding practice. You might decide to stay with that fast for the entire forty days, or you might choose just one or two days to try what I’ve suggested.

This week, I’m encouraging us to fast from television (or another form of entertainment) in order to read some poems or good books instead. Pray for God to gift you with a rested mind and an enlarged imagination for His good gifts in the world.

Suggested reading to feast on this week:

We’ll also devote Saturdays to connecting with An American Lent from The Repentance Project. It's God's kindness that leads us to repentance, and in His kindness and provision for reconciliation, He invites us to make confession and ask for forgiveness on behalf of not only ourselves but our forefathers and mothers.

On Saturdays, I’ll highlight a few of the reflections that most caught my attention, but you can subscribe to receive daily reflections from An American Lent.

Lent 2019 on Spotify:


First Sunday in Lent - The Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness

Today’s lectionary readings & prayer: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer, Collect for First Sunday in Lent
Temptation of Christ ,  Sadao Watanabe

Temptation of Christ, Sadao Watanabe