with Jesus dead and gone
descended to hell
quiet settles over the neighborhood
nothing to parade about
nothing to kill for
no one and nothing
to follow nor lead
gets to work
cracking open the crust
while the sultry wind
and the “can’t wait to procreate”
flits in and out
and the rest of us sleep on
He calls us friend
telling us to love each other
as he loves us
knowing we are more likely
than to stand by
to run from the table
than stay to the end.
Tearing the bread
dipping in the common cup
we look each other
in the eye
could this night be different?
I am spending many more hours than I have
if you count the hours spent
as ones you can afford to give away
sitting in my window seat
watching the spring birds
juncos, sparrows, goldfinch, hungry woodpeckers
today the first house wren
yesterday the outsize flicker
early and late in the day
the robin shouts
to get my attention
which is the only thing I have to give.
This past week Dorrie and I went to a wonderful concert of chamber music. The three instruments were; a bassoon, a french horn, and the piano. The group was La Corrente. Most of us; both listeners and musicians, were gray-haired.
The music was complex and emotional. The concert finished with a talk back with the audience. One of the musicians commented on how different it is for her to play music that she has played for many years. In her youth she concentrated on learning proper technique. She played as close as possible to what she understood to be the intent of the composer. As she matures musically her playing has changed and deepened. Now she plays with her own full self in conversation with the music. She did not say, but might have said, “What do I have to lose now? What I have gained!”
All week I have been thinking about that concert and those musicians. I have been thinking about how I have changed in my professional and faith life. I have more than a bit of gray in my hair. I have not much to lose and a lot to gain.
In truth I do have a lot to lose and I cannot stop that loss. I am more freely playing around in my life. This “playing in the gray” is taking me to a deeper place in my relationships; with God and family and friends and neighbors. Not without mistakes and stumbling around. But oh so much more alive.
This Sunday we will be hearing the familiar story of The Prodigal Son (the younger) and the grumbling son (the elder) and the “I’ve seen it all and get to do what I want to do” parent. As I play around this week with the story and as it mingles in with my week I resonate today with the elder son, who after a few more years on the planet, still grumbles but now he can also debate and cry and engage fully with the parent. Perhaps his story is the same one he has been singing from his youth (“It’s not fair”) but maybe he is more free now to risk talking back.
The younger child seems stuck in a habitual childish relationship with his parent. First he ran off. Now he is wheedling his way back home to be fed. This fits with the times in our lives when we are too anxious or immature in our faith lives to stray from the prepared notes. When the prodigal son comes home it is as though he has never left. Which first sounds comforting. On a second reading it sounds boring to me and dead.
Those women were so happy playing music together this week. Look at their faces. They admit that they have no idea if they will continue with a concert series or if this will be a one shot event. After all, there is not much music written for bassoon and french horn and piano! And yet all that does not seem to matter. In fact it gives them freedom to play around, converse freely with each other and us and to be fully present.
Prodigal means extravagant and reckless. Having or giving something away on a lavish scale. It makes me think of how our gray days can be wild days – full of creativity and new connections. Risking going to a deeper place. Grateful that we have stayed alive long enough to come to life.
In just about 6 weeks Dorrie and I will be heading out to our sabbatical and vacation adventures. We will be having quiet time, traveling time, time to visit family and friends, and especially, time to immerse ourselves in the big outdoors. As we grow closer to the start of our “time out of time” which is how I am imagining the sabbatical, we are looking at our baggage. What will fit in our backpacks and in our tiny trailer and what we will be giving away now or along the way.
Lent is a perfect time for “letting go” so we can grow closer to each other and to God, and it is a good time to reflect on what burdens are in fact ours to carry, wherever we are. How providential that I am starting to pack up during this long season that is focused on preparing ourselves for Resurrection; but not before giving a whole lot up.
This week I came across a reflection on the classic book Pilgrim’s Progress. The book begins with “Christian” at the start of his journey. Barry Moser painted a picture of Christian in Moser’s illustrated version of the book. The painter has the traveler bent over with the weight of his backpack. “Behold, I saw a man clothed with rags…a book in his hand, and a great burden on his back.”
The weight of our backpacks are as varied as each of us. For some of us the weight is light as we have dropped off quite a bit during our lives. For other’s like Christian, the weight bends us almost to the ground.
Regrets. Obligations. Treasures. Grief. Mis-steps. Anxiety and fears. Maps. If only. Opportunities missed. Letters unanswered. Injustice ignored. Losses endured.
I have my share of all of these. And I also have my share of another kind of weight. The weight that is more like “weightiness” or fullness of being.
Joys. Gratitude. Perspective. Connections. Daring. Surprises. Mercy. Love that is almost unbearable in it’s immensity. Laughter that doubles me over. Foolishness. Grace.
One type of weight does not wipe out the other. The combination makes the whole pack so full that I wonder how I can even get out of bed, never mind on the road, with all that is on my back. And yet…laying it all out like this, and knowing that I can only see the tip of what it is that I am carrying and what I might put down, I am grateful that Lent is a long season and that the sabbatical time is coming closer. Time to rest and be restored. Time to open to something new. Time to let go and let God in.
On my walk today along Water Street
two (not just one but two)
pileated woodpeckers hammered away
at the tops of the trees
filling the air with sound
their bellies with food
my eyes with the shock of red
flaming in the sun.
I stood in silence
neck craned back
awash in grace
as the river rushed along
paying no attention
to the three of us.
God is in the details.
If only I could remember that
when I am obsessing over what to do next.
And when I lay in bed
my mind tripping over this and that
as though by racing through the maze
I could find the essential detail
that would make it all come out right.
Like Job, flattened by God’s question
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me if you understand.”
I am diminished
charged with little.
Given no details.
Just this: Go there.
Do one thing.
Leave the rest to me.