28 January 2008

Almost Home.

Sometimes, Mary Chapin Carpenter knows just what to say.

These are from her song "Almost Home."

I saw my life this morning
Lyin' at the bottom of a drawer
All this stuff I'm savin'
God knows what this junk is for
And whatever I believed in
This is all I have to show
What the hell were all the reasons
For holding on for such dear life
Here's where I let go

I'm not running
I'm not hiding
I'm not reaching
I'm just resting in the arms of the great wide open
Gonna pull my soul in
And I'm almost home

I saw you this morning
You were staring back at me
From an ancient photograph
Stuck between some letters and some keys
And I was lost for a moment
In the ache of old goodbyes
Sometimes all that we can know is
That there's no such thing as no regrets
but baby it's all right

I'm not running
I'm not hiding
I'm not reaching
I'm just resting in the arms of the great wide open
Gonna pull my soul in
And I'm almost home

And there's no such thing as no regrets
But baby it's all right

I'm not running
I'm not hiding
I'm not reaching
I'm just resting in the arms of the great wide open
Gonna pull my soul in
And I'm almost...

I'm not running down
I'm not hiding out
I'm not reaching here
I'm just resting in the arms of the great wide open
Gonna pull my soul in
And I'm almost home

21 January 2008

Up to the Mountain - A tribute to MLK

Here are the words of my friend Matt, who says everything more beautifully and hopeful than I ever could.

I've been thanking God for the audio-recording technology of the 60s that can carry his voice over all of these years. I'm in awe of the man. I wonder if God ever wove a betters set of vocal chords. The man's voice could make you believe that Peace put skin on and started talking, and he could string words together in the most beautiful and powerful and truthful way I've ever heard (in my book he might come in second, only to Abraham Lincoln).

The man was a prophet. I have no doubt about that. I believe that God was whispering in his ear just as much as he was whispering in the ears of the Old Testament prophets and the writers of the New Testament. Maybe that seems silly, but maybe God still loves to raise people up to lay His dream out in front of crooked people and crooked nations.

Yesterday as I was running, I listened to Beyond Vietnam - a speech King gave exactly one year before he was murdered. It's haunting. So much of what he speaks about Vietnam is true of the situation in Iraq. So much of what he speaks about the United States of the 1960's is still terribly true of the United States in 2008. And I think that's what I'm getting at….

For God's sake, don't celebrate today as the day of a black man whose dream for black people came true. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a child of God who longed for God's dream for humanity to become a reality. It's the same dream that prophet after prophet delivered to Israel, and prophet after prophet they killed. A dream that we would see everyone as a child of God - the poor and the rich; the black and the white; the capitalist and the communist; the American killed in the World Trade Center and the pilot who hijacked the plane; the American soldier and the Iraqi child killed by American bombs; Martin Luther King, Jr. and James Earl Ray.

He said America was a nation that was sick, that racism and the war in Vietnam were only symptoms of a deeper sickness. I think America is still very sick, and could still stand to listen to his diagnosis. He was done with war and violence and ready to lay down his life for his enemies and men that hated him. He was broken and flawed and had the world on his trail (not to mention the F.B.I.) to point out those flaws- but I long to be like him - to have that fire in my belly, and that willingness to lay my life down for God's dream.

So pull out your Bibles today, read through the prophets (God's "I have a dream speeches), and if you are my friend at all - do not let this day go by without digging into some of MLK's words.

thanks for the reminder, matt.


a fountain of blessings

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

17 January 2008

A word or two from Henri Nouwen

Every morning before I get started, I read two day books. The first I have already quoted here, at the Cafe', focuses on Madeline L'Engle's works. The second is called Bread for the Journey. It is filled with the thoughts and reflections of the wonderful Henri Nouwen (If you haven't heard about him, read Reaching Out or The Wounded Healer to start).

Today is the first day of my second semester of seminary (round two, ding ding--as they say). I'm excited and ready for a routine. I'm a little apprehensive about the work load (we have an extra academic class this semester). Mostly, I'll be glad to see friends again.

Nouwen's reflection for today put my worries to rest.

Here is what he said:

Often we want to be somewhere other than where we are, or even to be someone other than who we are. We tend to compare ourselves constantly with others and wonder why we are not as rich, as intelligent, as simple, as generous, or as saintly as they are. Such comparisons make us feel guilty or ashamed, or jealous. It is very important to realize that our vocation is hidden in where we are and who we are. We are unique human beings, each with a call to realize in life what nobody else can, and to realize it in the concrete context of the here and now.
We will never find our vocations by trying to figure out whether we are better or worse than others. We are good enough to do what we are called to do. Be yourself!

So I'll take Nouwen's advice and stop comparing, feeling inadequate or any of the other things that stand between me and God. Maybe it's the pilgrim way. Maybe we're all pilgrims.

blessings for the way,


16 January 2008

It's snowing in Atlanta, on the eve of my second semester in seminary. Classes start tomorrow, yet there is that inevitable buzz of hope that class will be canceled. It's a routine thing, here in the south, for it sleet or snow a little and for everyone to pray hard that night to not have to go to work or school the next day.

There's a magic about snow that will envelop you if you're open to it. It's a calmness, a hopefulness, a grace that floats down and makes even the cold beautiful. In Copenhagen, it snowed a fair amount, and every time it did the snow carried with it renewal and new meaning. (read about one of those experiences here).

In choir practice today, we were singing the Pilgrim's Hymn as the snow really began to gently glide to earth. We all gasped as we looked out of the windows of the chapel, surprised and glad to be touched by God in such a visual way. Then we sang these words:

Even before we call on Your name
To ask You, O God,
When we seek for the words to glorify
You hear our prayer;
Unceasing love, O unceasing love,
Surpassing all we know.

Glory to the Father,
And to the Son,
And to the Holy Spirit.

Even with darkness sealing us in,
We breathe Your name,
And through all the days that follow so
We trust in You;
Endless Your grace, O endless Your grace,
Beyond all mortal dream.

Both now and for ever,
And unto ages and ages,

And with the swells of the music came swells of snow and God was there and it was good.

Sometimes I think I'd like to be a pilgrim--that this title is more that sufficient and worthy.

a pilgrim's blessings, then.

03 January 2008

For Christmas, my parent's gave me a copy of a fantastic little day book called Glimpses of Grace. It is a collection of Madeline L'Engle's writings compiled and edited by L'Engle authority (and retired Elon professor) Carole F. Chase. This is the piece for January 1st. It's fitting for us now because in this time of horrors and despair, we have the hope of the stars and in the God who created them.

But we rebel against the impossible. I sense a wish in some professional religion-mongers to make God possible, to make him comprehensible to the naked intellect, domesticate him so that he's easy to believe in. Every century the Church makes a fresh attempt to make Christianity acceptable. But an acceptable Christianity is not Christian; a comprehensible God is no more than an idol.

I don't want that kind of God.
What kind of God, then?

One time, when I was little more than a baby, I was taken to visit my grandmother, who was living in a cottage on a nearly uninhabited stretch of beach in northern Florida. All I remember of this visit is being picked up from my crib in what seemed the middle of the night and carried from my bedroom and out of doors, where I had my first look at the stars.

it must have been an unusually clear and beautiful night for someone to have said, "Let's wake the baby and show her the stars." The night sky, the constant rolling of breakers against the shore, the stupendous light of the stars, all made an indelible impression on me. I was intuitively aware not only of a beauty I had never seen before but also that the world was far greater than the protected limits of the small child's world which was all that I had known thus far. I had a total if not very conscious, moment of revelation; I saw creation bursting the bounds of daily restriction, and stretching out from dimension to dimension, beyond any human comprehension.

I had been taught to say my prayers at night: Our Father, and a long string of God-blesses, and it was that first showing of the galaxies which gave me an awareness that the God I spoke to at bedtime was extraordinary and not just a bigger and better combination of the grownup powers of my mother and father.

This early experience was freeing, rather than daunting, and since it was the first, it has been the foundation for all other such glimpses of glory. And it is probably why the sound of the ocean and the sight of the stars give me more healing, more whole-ing, than anything else.