to live

Here
Forgiveness for us
who did the very thing.
Love for us
who hate.
Refuge for us
who wander, who flee, who are lost.
Mercy Compassion Joy Rest Healing Strength
Presence Welcome Trust Friendship
Healing Peace Reach
Life
all the things
breaking through
the stone
“Now go and tell and do
likewise”
Here in the darkness,
dawn
Him
We to live
this HOPE

Advent 2015: interruptions and fear

Over the last month, what has stood out to me as I meditate on the Christmas story is perhaps a reflection of what this year has been like both globally and personally: the prolific amount of interruptions in the lives of the people in the Christmas story.

I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. Can you imagine the complete change in Elizabeth and Mary’s plans – on both ends of their lives? But they welcomed the (unusual) interruption with a willingness and an anticipation that I doubt I could have.

Then there’s the innkeeper. All the inns in Bethlehem were full (a good problem for them of course), and he could easily turn away this interruption as others had done (that most likely wouldn’t benefit him). But he didn’t, and we remember him as the man who didn’t turn away the Messiah.

Then the shepherds, living their regular daily lives, watching their sheep. Probably frightened out of their wits when an unbelievable amount of angels filled the skies. Sounds story-book really. Still, after the sky emptied, they went to the manger and found Jesus there – just as the angel had said. And from then on: lives interrupted, never to be the same. But they ran to welcome this Messiah everyone had been waiting hundreds of years for.

True, this was about a good interruption, for a hope that brought joy and peace. But it still meant the unknown, a change not planned for, fear, possible rejection, a pause for an indefinite amount of time or a completely new direction. For the wise men, they packed up everything in search of something they weren’t even sure of.

And the list goes on: Simeon, Anna, Mary and Joseph again on their way to Egypt, Herod. oh. wait. Herod. This guy… like them, he was also interrupted and also afraid. And out of his fear, insecurity, jealousy, he reacted in the opposite extreme.

But here’s the crux – where it hits home, because sometimes I’m more like Herod than Mary. No, I’m not killing toddlers, but I have often responded to fear with fear. And that isn’t a solution. It only creates more fear in us and others.

Honestly, most of the interruptions in our lives aren’t the good kind. Most of them don’t promise good news, hope and joy. Most of them do bring fear, the unknown, possible rejection.

When I read the Advent story, I’m also comforted by the amount of times Gabriel has to tell everyone “Don’t be afraid”. Because Mary was. Zechariah was. Joseph was. The Shepherds were. Who wouldn’t be? Who isn’t when it’s the unknown, the unpredictable, the unplanned?

These are the words I cling to in my life. And the fact that they were afraid – even in the face of good news. Like it’s okay.

The thing is -we’re going to be interrupted. By outsiders – like Mary and Joseph did to the innkeeper. Or personally, like Joseph who found himself marrying a pregnant girl (not with his child).

And being afraid is natural.

Maybe that’s why the words of “o little town of Bethlehem” have really caught me this year:

Yet in thy dark streets shineth The everlasting Light; The hopes and fears of all the years Are met in thee tonight.”

We’re not alone. I believe there is One who meets our fears, takes our fears, and in the end, changes it to hope. And if you don’t believe in the Christmas story, the essence is still true – we’re not alone and we are – in the end – part of what the Christmas story is also about: hope. Our response to our fears is so key.

It’s finding the willpower, the fight to respond to that fear with “let it be” (Mary), or respond with the right thing to do even though others around you may whisper against you (Joseph), or it inconveniences you (the innkeeper), or you don’t understand it (Zachariah)… Or maybe you make the choice to hurt others (Herod).

I know it’s not profound. I know that this can sound over-simplified. I know I haven’t faced the situations that others have, but I hope that I will not add to their pain by reacting wrongly out of my own. I can only hope (and I know not always, not always will it work out so easily) that I can bring hope for others.

He is.

My annual Easter poem, with gratitude… 

He is concerned with

a knowing for
the woman at the well
the surprise of a girl who hides for too long
from the whip every time she draws
the water she needs the whispers that sting her skin, piercing the heart
she’s claimed not to have … in the past

But he knows her.
He knows her.
And that’s all that he said.

He is concerned with
reassuring
the one who’s faith trusted his robes
deep in the crowd that pressed,
resting in a waking of power
that heals
the priest in the night
baffled and blundering
the blind men
begging to see
“Where have they taken him, please?”

He is concerned with peace
with giving back
the ear that went missing
with changing
the Sabbath
the temple
the curtain revealing
the code that he’s breaking
that shook all of us–white-washed tombs–
empty

He is concerned with
forgiveness
understanding
for we who have no clue what we are
doing or demanding
(asking “what is truth?”)
in life
in death
in love
in
intolerance for the man called a king
loved a man called a thief
and met him in heaven that hour.

He is concerned with looking
Through our wine and vinegar offerings
deep in the heart in the tears
to the water, the blood
Asking us from his position of death

to ‘take care of each other’

Then crying out that He – forsaken –
finished all the taking

that we all deserved
to take.

Residue

I heard the beginning line* below at a conference, and it caught my attention – it’s from Archibald MacLeish’s modern rendition of Job called J.B. And it started this line of thought…

“Blow on the coals of my heart”*
O God.
Let not my love grow thin
when weariness wastes the withered will.
Give me the foolish courage to answer (and even ask?) the question:

“Am I still breathing?”
Fogging a mirror that reflects
Mildewed eyes. Let not ‘faith’ become a tired word
A common degradation (that offends
or obscures or absorbs).
Let me grow angrypassionatejoyfuldevastatedoverwhelmed
Hammer the fear that lulls me to sleep
Wake me with a whisper
And let me gulp the wind.

Dis-unraveling

Could a well-oiled, put-together puzzle, complex
in its structure and solution
withstand an earthquake
of questions and doubt?

Yes. I think it could.

Could the one who created this world
setting natural and spiritual laws in motion
stand under a barrage of
angry pontification or
sobbing accusations or
reasonable considerations?

I think he would.

If we think we see a crack in our foundation
isn’t it okay to peer down into it
pick at it?
Are we so afraid that this scab
would reveal an anemic system
or a suffering of hemophilia,
gushing unfounded and diluted answers?

Sure.

There’s a sense of safety
in never questioning,
security in full acceptance
but a complete contentment
with cryptic concessions
can only in the end
be disingenuous

Could it be

daring and disturbing
frighting and fruitful
spacious in mind and moral and mystery
even Truthful…
to say
“I need to see and touch the scars”?