Friday, August 21, 2009



They say the layered earth rose up
Ancient rock leviathan
Trailing ages in its wake
Lifting earth mass toward the sun
And coursing water cut the rock away
To leave these many-storied walls
Exposé of ages gone
Around this breathless emptiness
More wondrous far than earth has ever known.

My life has risen layered too
Each day, each year in turn has left
Its fossil life and sediments
Evidence of lived and unlived hours
The tedium, the anguish, yes the joy
That some heart-deep vitality
Keeps pressing upward toward the day I die.

And Spirit cuts like water through it all
Carving out this emptiness
So inner eye can see
The soaring height of canyon walls within
Walls whose very color, texture, form
Redeem in beauty all my life has been
The darkness and the light, the false, the true
While deep below the living waters run
Cutting deeper through my parts
To resurrect my grave bound heart.
Making, always making, all things new.Align Center

—Parker J. Palmer, in The Weavings Reader

"L' Shana haba' ah b'Yerushalayim!"

It begins every year, in the weeks leading up to the celebration of Easter.
It is this indescribable hunger, this inner desire, this stubborn yearning...
To walk where Jesus walked...
To kneel in the Garden...
To stand on the Mount of Olives...
To look out over the Sea of Galilee...
To explore the streets of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem...
Every year, and even now, the emotions well up in my heart, the tears flood my eyes...
The desire never fully leaves.
But, after Easter, I place it once again on the back burner of my heart...
The Impossible Dream. It's always been just a dream. Until now! Now the cry of my heart rings... "L' Shana haba' ah b'Yerushalayim!" "Next Year in Jerusalem!" Next year, the Lord willing, I will walk the streets, pray in the Garden, sail on the Sea... and I can hardly wait.

Letters to Jesus: Judas

There is no way to explain it, except to say that the voices in my head screamed louder for my attention that the small voice in my heart! Today, for the sum total of thirty pieces of silver, I sold my soul to the devil himself! For forty days he tempted you in the desert. He promised you all the kingdoms of the world, did he not? And yet, you turned your back and walked away. But me? Not me, greed and the desire for power and recognition and influence have so dominated my very existence that I would betray even my best friend, my only true friend in the whole world, for an amount of silver that would buy no more than a small parcel of land. My fate has been determined by thirty pieces of silver for all of eternity.
What is wrong with me? What has so flawed my mind that these wretched, screaming voices are able to control my thoughts, my will and my very being. If only I could relive this day. If I could only take back that one act of….of….
O God, my sin is so great, my deeds so wicked, my betrayal so profoundly evil. I know it is useless to even ask for Your forgiveness. If only I could explain it, justify it, but I can’t. There is no excuse for what I have done to Jesus the Christ.
I have heard Your teaching. I know Your words of instruction. Oh, believe me; I have even contemplated following Your example. But it can’t be done! I can’t! I don’t know how. I don’t understand. It is as though my mind is clouded, veiled to the message You preach. There is this fog in my head and coldness in my heart. I am totally unable to comprehend this thing You call grace; the very thing that I have seen you extend to others time after time.
The voices in my head tell me I am nothing. I am not worthy; I will never be good enough. I am bad, I am evil, I am beyond hope or redemption. And, for some reason, it is easier to believe the loud, raucous and shrill voices than to believe anything You have said to me these last three years.
Jesus, I want you to know, for whatever it is worth, that I gave back the 30 pieces of silver. “Blood money” they called it, but I feel no better. I read the loathing and hatred on the Pharisee’s faces, as I did on everyone else’s…except Yours. Jesus, how could you continue to look at me with such love? I am shamed by it.
I must go now…the voices….they are summoning me once again…they are calling me to the precipice…to the abyss…it is time to end it. Thirty pieces of silver was my price. One piece of rope is my destiny.

Letters to Jesus: Mary of Bethany

Dear Jesus,

I trust that You will receive this letter before leaving Bethany. I must write quickly, if it is possible, there is so much in my heart that I wasn’t able to share with You yesterday. I must hurry because Martha thinks I am with the other women washing clothes. She is still angry with me because of what I did yesterday! But, I was so absorbed, “engulfed in myself,” (those are her words!) in showing You my love and gratitude and devotion that it was easy to pretend that I did not hear Judas’ words of condemnation and, I must confess, I really did ignore her when she whispered so loudly for me to come to her immediately. She was embarrassed, but I could not help myself, even in the face of his scorn and her fury.

Judas’ reprimand nearly pierced my soul and yet, I know he could never understand the depth of our love for You. He wasn’t there the day my brother lay three days cold and dead, deep in the family tomb. Nor did he see You weep when You witnessed the grief and despair and anguish with which Martha and I greeted You that day. We were so overcome when You finally returned to us in Bethany, but still we feared that it was too late, for even You, to help him.

Judas does not know the despair of one who had so recently lost the only brother she has ever known, the only one who even begins to understand my devotion to You, the only one, besides You, my dearest friend, who comes to my defense when I do something foolish or thoughtless. Nor will Judas ever be able to understand the utter joy I felt when You stood at the entrance of the tomb and called my brother’s name, “Lazarus! Lazarus!” And from the dead, he heard Your voice and today he is with us again, healthier and stronger than I have ever seen him in his whole life. Is it any wonder I fall at your feet whenever I am in Your presence? It is You who has brought such joy, such hope and such freedom into our lives.

Thank you for coming to my defense. I knew You would and that is another reason why I was able to keep silent, even when angry words were on the tip of my tongue. How many times have You defended me when Martha would have liked to shake me for my “thoughtlessness.” Jesus, if she could only understand how impossible it is to stand in front of a hot oven when Your precious voice is so muffled and far away in another room. I can hardly stand the thought of missing one thought, one teaching, one blessed word of love and encouragement from Your lips. I do not understand how her heart keeps from dragging her into Your presence as mine does.

I wonder if Martha and I will ever understand each other. How can two sisters, joined by flesh and blood, be so different in temperament and spirit? Will we always be such a mystery and frustration to each other? (Father God, help me to love and understand my dear sister as You do!)

Martha says that if I would spend more time helping her and less time at Your feet, that I wouldn’t draw so much unwanted attention to myself. I know that would make her happy but, Jesus, when You are with us it is as though I am compelled to sit at Your feet. Martha says my “head is in the clouds” when You are near, but how could I ever explain to her the fear that I feel deep within my heart; The fear that we will soon have to say good-by to You. I have seen it in Your eyes, such unspeakable sorrow, I know You will not be with us much longer.

I think You have been trying to prepare us for Your departure for many weeks now. I know it frustrates You that no one seems to listen to You when You speak of it. None of us can bear the thought of You leaving and we do not fully understand why You must go. (God, give me the wisdom to understand Your will and the strength to accept it.)

I think Lazarus has some inkling of what is to come, there is sorrow in his eyes, as well. By-the-way, he was not at all angry with me yesterday. Unlike Martha, he says the nard belonged to me and how I chose to use it was no one else’s business. He agreed with You, the poor will always be among us and they will indeed be hungry again, but You will not always be with us and that spikenard was the only thing I had that was anywhere near precious enough to pour upon Your tired and weary feet. (Dear God, if I am to be called a foolish woman, let it be for Jesus’ sake!) I am sorry that Martha was angry and embarrassed, but I will confess to You alone, that I would do it all over again just to see the look of pleasure and approval in Your eyes.

And then, as I knelt there before You and my tears spilt upon Your feet, I looked into Your eyes again, and it was as though all the mysteries of the ages were hidden deep within Your soul and I was unable to fathom the depth of Your sorrow…or Your love. Alas, I am not at all like You. You seem to have the ability to look into the heart and soul of any one of us and know what we are thinking and how we are feeling. Sometimes I wonder if you know the words I am about to speak before they even leave my mouth! Martha is so sure that you can “read her mind” that I often wonder if that is why she hides in the kitchen so much when You are near!

I laugh every time I think of the way you hid her broom yesterday afternoon when she wasn’t looking. Even though she rolled her eyes and made that noise she always makes when she is disgusted with me, I know that she was pleased when you grabbed her hand and dragged her in to sit with the men. I know she loves you as much as I do-it just isn’t as easy for her to say it, but every time she cooks a meal or serves you a cold glass of wine or turns down Your bed in the guest room, she is saying, “I love you, too, Jesus.”

Oh dear, I hear her calling me and I do not think she wants to tell me how much she loves me just now! I must hurry, dear Friend, You remain, as always, in my thoughts, in my heart and in my very being. (The aroma of spikenard so fills our home and my hair still, that it is as though Your presence continues to linger with us, even yet this morning. May the sweet aroma of Your presence fill my life forever.)

Your Devoted Servant,

Mary of Bethany

Reminder from Jacob: On Allegiance

Jacob had been with me for several days and fortunately he is able to keep himself entertained for long periods of time, because Grandma had a lot to get done. By Tuesday afternoon, I was so proud of him and pleased to have accomplished so much that I promised to take him to Blockbuster and get him a movie to watch while I had a church board meeting that evening.

Silly me! I should have known better. If I had really been thinking I would have insisted that he pick a movie from the assortment that I already had…what was I thinking? You see, the problem is that Jacob and I have the complete opposite tastes in movies! Radically different tastes.

Jacob is into all things spooky, scary and violent. He loves zombies, monsters and skeletons, ghouls and goblins and blood sucking vampires. And me, as a person who grew up with paralyzing fear and disabling panic attacks, well I was overly cautious about what my children watched and read and saw and experienced. Determined, I was, to make sure that fear never entered their lives like it had mine. Then I find myself paired with a child who loves it all and I have a dilemma of my own making!

So, after we wandered the aisles for at least 30 minutes with no decision made, I began to get impatient with Jacob and aggravated with myself for putting us in this predicament…I should have known better. Finally, I said, “Five more minutes and then we’re outta here.” (Even as I kept steering him away from the “weird” stuff and he kept finding his way back.)

We left Blockbuster that afternoon without a movie. I told Jacob he would just have to pick one of mine. He didn’t fuss much. He was very quiet as we started home, too quiet. He was obviously pondering something and soon it came forth. “Grandma,” he sighed, “Are you ONLY a fan of God?”

I am still not quite sure how he correlated the two or how he pieced that together with our movie selection fiasco, but he did. And you know what? I liked it. I told my kids, “That’s what I want written on my grave marker. ‘Grandma, are you only a fan of God?’”

I pondered that for many days. Where does my allegiance lie in all things? And, is it true that I am “only a fan of God?” Well, pretty much and with good reason. And with that I am content.

Psalm 73:23-26
Yet I am always with You; 
You hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with Your counsel, 

and afterward You will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but You? 

And earth has nothing I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart may fail, 

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.