Maundy Thursday

Today we honor the first of the last.  The last time Jesus gathered with his friends.  The last meal they shared together.  The last bread broken and wine poured.  The last time simple elements of grain and grape were just that.  Grain and Grape.  After today, they are forever sacrament.  Forever holy.

In my mouth I can taste the bittersweet wine.  This day that consecrates a sacrament that has restored me life.  And exploded it.  This sacrament that tastes like homecoming with an aftertaste of challenge.  

This sacrament that I hold so dear; today I remember that for some this table has meant oppression.  

I tear my clothes and wail at the violence done in the name of the One that feeds people from this table.  The One who came as a Jew.  Who lived as Jew.  Who died as a Jew.  The One who died so the world might live–His name now repurposed as a weapon.  Today I remember that the One is not always in the buildings with steeples or those who wear crosses.  Sometimes the One is in the camps surrounded by barbed wire.

“Where is God now?”
And I heard a voice within me answer him:
“Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows. . . .” (Elie Weisel, Night)

Holy Monday–Listening for the Sacred Story

I wonder what it was like Holy Monday.

Was there tension in the air?

Thick and sticky humidity foreshadowing the thunderstorms about to roll in?

I sit here this Holy Monday…slowed almost to a standstill.  Time somehow changed its passing.  I see the day lilies poking their green heads through the front landscaping.  Where have the last four years gone?  It’s been a whirlwind of life and love.  Of family and profession.  Of breaking out of the cocoon to flap in the breeze.  I’ve spent so many days flapping.  Convinced myself that only my wings could keep me afloat.  I forgot to trust the breeze.  To savor the sweet smell of spring.  To sail on the current of another’s flutter.  

But today.  On this Holy Monday.  This Holy Monday I perch on a branch to stop and drink it all in.  It’s not time to do; it’s time to be–be-ing; in the being I am breathing.  Discovering a joy for words I thought had abandoned me forever.  Words cobbled together in other times and other places.  Words telling other people’s stories:

The Lord called me before I was born / while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. / He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; /  he made me a polished arrow in his quiver he hid me away. / And he said to me, “You are my servant. Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” /  But I said, “I have labored in vain, / I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; /  yet surely my cause is with the Lord, / and my reward with my God.” (Isaiah 49:1-4)

So many mornings my eyes and heart rush over the words of the prophets.  I convince myself I don’t have time to sit.  Time to ponder.  Time to pray.  The truth is I don’t want to pause.  These stories…these stories somehow are also mine.  Stories that remind me I am part of the fabric of a tale much larger than the small moments I see.  Stories that remind me the flying has less to do with the flap of my own wings and more to do with knowledge and trust of wind and sky and community.  Stories that remind me I am connected to the thousands of stories ever told.  

I’ve spent four years flapping in the breeze and on this Monday, I pause to read.  To savor the words of other stories.  

There’s something in the sitting.  The savoring.  The stillness.  And I know that through this loss of womb, words will be born from barrenness.  Words and sacred story.

Thin Places

Sojourning God,

The world waves palms in Your honor this weekend.

We re-enact the crowd cheering You forward.

Within a week

we stand by and watch the journey

that leads from the table 

to the cross

to the tomb.

Whether we turn our heads away

and hide in our homes;

stand silently on the streets;

Whisper of Your whereabouts;

Deny Your power in our lives;

or collapse at the foot of the cross–

this week is one of thin places.

Places where You reach us.

Remind us in this week of grief and challenge

that it is in these thin places

–the most raw

–the most desperate

–the most human

that You are most present.

Amen.

Ophelia Resurrected

I had all intentions of blogging Tuesday on my four day trip to North Carolina, the land of sweet tea, biscuits and gravy, and Cookout milkshakes.  I even took some photos of my meals along the way and was prepared to confess that it started well (by well I mean written down and “counted” and ended in a biscuit sandwich with egg, cheese, and bologna with a side of fries and who cares.  And then my week happend.

Monday night my hard drive crashed, so Tuesday when I took my baby to the doctor, they told me, it’s gone.  Everything.  And I need to order a new hard drive.  I’m trying not to think too much about how much was on the hard drive that hasn’t been backed up on the server due to a.  my laziness, off-site work, and frustration at the complexity of getting things to the actual server and b. the fact that our back up hasn’t been backing up for quite awhile, and I haven’t pursued it.  So, needless to say, my post was delayed.  And now I can no longer write about the journey into the land of Carbohydrate Temptation.  I have to write about stuff I don’t want to look at or think about.  I need to come clean about some of my struggle with other challenges…namely disability, abuse, and death.  Talk about a serious turn for a blog that usually focuses on my weekly weigh-ins.  So, look at this as a long two paragraph disclaimer and warning.  If you don’t want to read about the previous three things–DON”T GO HERE!  Look away and come back next week.

Why these three things?  Well, I suppose the death of my hard drive, the fact that it’s Disabities Awareness Week at the school I work at, and the reality that next week is Holy Week might play into it.  And much as I like to avoid the reality of the end of Holy Week, and let me tell you, I do, this year I can’t.  Though I love Lent, the contemplation, the introspection, the journey,  I always seem to want to skip over Good Friday.  (Why we call it good still baffles me.)  Spending a whole week preparing for a day of death–and not a pretty, die in your sleep at age 80 mind you, we’re talking painful, crushing, soul-killing death–there have been years where this was too much.  I couldn’t go there because I lived there.  And that’s why I needed to write about this.  You see, there are people sitting in the pews, walking on the street, standing in the pulpit who have lived a year or a lifetime on the cross .  What are you talking about?  Year on the cross–surely no one has experienced the kind of pain of Jesus. Some might be thinking.  That’s true.  No one can experience another person’s pain exactly.  But I think the thing that makes the story of Christ so very powerful is the fact that human life is filled not only with joy, not  only with laughter, not only with mistakes, not only with betrayal, but also with suffering.  Sometimes so much so, it’s hard to bear witness.

This week has been a week of bearing witness to this kind of suffering.  Tuesday night I had long phone conversations with both my parents.  Both lamented about my niece (We’ll call her Ophelia.)  You see, we knew before Ophelia was born this past June that it wasn’t going to be easy.  She had a heart condition that was going to necessitate open heart surgey at birth, six months, and two years.  So, we prayed for a miracle, and when Ophelia arrived, she had more complications than the doctors thought.  And my sister and brother-in-law made the courageous decision to take Ophelia home and forego surgery, and we were all told Ophelia would not live past a month.  And we prayed for a miracle.  Well, we got our miracle.  Ophelia lives.  No heart surgery and no heart change, she lives.  Like Lazarus, Ophelia continues to live.  Like the Lazarus in Carrie Newcomer’s song,  the life isn’t exactly the miracle I thought.  You see, touch no longer comforts her, eating appears to give her tremendous pain and provokes horrific cries, and her body, fists, and face contort in what looks like rage.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there are also many moments of grace with Ophelia, and she is loved beyond measure by us all.  But to watch a 10 month old cry in agony day after day and be able to offer no more than a crib, well that’s hard for an auntie.  I can only imagine how hard it is for her mom and her dad.  To have spent 10 sleepless months.  That’s rough.  To have spent 1o sleepless months with no real sense of what’s next, how to proceed, or how to alleviate the situation, that my friends is suffering.  And so as we approach Good Friday, it seems it’s been a year of the cross for them.  In a house holding what many have named the miracle baby lives a family who may not see it that way.  And I can’t help but wonder what really witnessing this suffering would mean rather than trying to move Ophelia to resurrection to ease a community’s (and my own) anxiety.

And it’s not just Ophelia’s suffering that’s been on my mind.  You see yesterday was one of those days.  I couldn’t escape it.  I was also asked to share a poem at F&M’s Take Back the Night.  An evening to bear witness to the crucifixtion of persons sexually assualted.  It had been several years since I’d been to a Take Back the Night, and honestly, yesterday I wasn’t really feeling like going much less reading a poem.  These nights are long.  Painful.  Exhausting.  Telling my story hurts.  Especially looking in faces of women and men who understand me without my saying a word.  But I said yes.  And in the finding of the poem, preparing for the night, listening to the stories, sharing mine, and sitting with a young woman afterward, I realized that something miraculous has indeed happened.  You see for many, many years I tried to ignore the pain and suffering of sexual abuse.  And then for many years, I lived with the feelings, in what I think of as “years of the cross” where I lived as if I was who I was inspite of what happened.  Over the last year, I’ve started to tell people I am who I am because of what happened.  For me this is the resurrection moment.  As I read my poem last night, I realized the poem  is a eulogy to myself.  To the death of a little girl.  It is a huge loss and one that needed to be grieved and mourned.  I needed to live through my own Good Friday experience before I could ever live in the joy of Easter.

And here’s the thing about Good Friday experiences.  They suck!  There’s no glory in it.  They are painful.  They mean living through the thoughts and feelings we’re not supposed to have–you know the “my God why have you foresaken me” thoughts the “I’m pissed these people can’t even stay awake with me” feelings, the “Please take this away from me” moments.  It’s got all of those.  And getting to resurrection means naming and claiming them.  Now folks, that is hard work.  It is not for the faint of heart.  But here’s the other piece.  It’s not only hard on the person suffering.  It is also hard work for the community.  It means pat answers, spiritual platitudes, and a desire to live Holy Week like someone else’s story won’t do.  No, bearing witness to the crucifixtions in your community means living Holy Week.  It is not about shame, blame, or calling someone else a name.  It’s about having courage. To bear witness.  To stand at the foot of one another’s crosses.  To annoint one another’s wounds.  To seek our place in the story.  It is what makes us pilgrims and not tourists on life’s journey.  How else can we hope to taste resurrection if we have not had the courage to hold one another’s cups of suffering or to take a sip of our own?

Quotations for the week;

I aught to be grateful to drink from the grail / But I don’t be belong on either side of this veil.–Carrie Newcomer

I mourn for her death / because no one else will / for he left an unmarked grave and no witnesses to tell.–Megan Malick