Tag Archives: hope

EASTER | we mistake him for the gardener

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It’s comforting, really.
When retelling and rehearing the stories
of those before us
misunderstanding death
misunderstanding loss
misunderstanding power and popularity
misunderstanding endings
misunderstanding, seeing a gardener instead of
the dead man we put all our hopes in
the dead man we put all our hurts in
the dead man we put all our
proverbial eggs in the basket of
and then watched it all end.

But the story is still the same today as it was then.
When we think the story is over
When we think we’ve held our breath as long as we can
When we think we waited till the last minute for something
to crash in and save the day….

It’s then that we give up.
It’s then that we give in.
It’s then that we unclench our jaws
and our guts
and our lungs
and our hopes
and surrender to what is coming true
whether we anticipated it or not.

and it’s only then,
like it’s only on Easter morning,
that the impossible becomes true.

All the rules change.
All bets are off.
Life is death.
Humility is power.
Poverty is wealth.
Kingdom comes. Unexpected. Unrehearsed.

And we mistake him for the gardener.
Because we know better than to think people come back to life.
Or do we.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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us and them

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At the moment it becomes
“us” and “them”
we’ve lost.
we’ve thrown in the towel.
we’ve waived the white flag.
we’ve thrown the grenade.
we’ve waged the war.
we’ve fired the shot.
we’ve sold our sole.
we’ve eaten the fruit.

At the moment it becomes
“us” and “them”
we’ve allowed ourselves
the illusion that we aren’t all connected
the illusion that we aren’t all the same
the illusion that we aren’t all both Cain and Abel
the illusion that we aren’t all both perpetrator and victim
the illusion that we aren’t all,
ultimately,
the best and the worst of ourselves.

So at the moment that we choose
to buy into the lie
that it’s “us” and “them”
we buy into the lie
that we can treat others in ways
we would never allow our own to be treated.
that we can make choices for us that have consequences
we would never allow ourselves to be the recipient of.
that we can speak in ways that objectify others to an extent
we would never allow for those we love.

So at the moment that we choose
to buy into the lie
that it’s “us” and “them”
whether defined
by race
by income
by status
by guilt
by geography
by belief
by doctrine
by ideology
by education
by gender
by any of the other illusions of separateness that have
proven to be crutches since we
stabbed each other in the back when it all began
it is in that moment that
the very “us” we are hoping to protect
is lost to a state of
otherness that we thought
we were guarding against all the while.

At that moment,
we lose what we thought we were fighting for.

djordan
Pine Tree

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the beatitudes

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When you are empty and wondering if it was worth it, it means you’re valuing what God values.

When you are broken-hearted and swollen with tears, it means you are craving the kingdom and recognize its absence.

When you learn to think and fight and dream in third ways, it means you are beginning to grow your kingdom legs.

When you realize how far you still have to go and it leaves you moving humbly and curiously, it means you will become who you hope to become.

When you make room and offer love to those who should be kicked out and chewed out, it means you are learning to welcome yourself the way you’ve already been welcomed.

When you see beauty and hope and artistry in everything, it means you are learning to see with the eyes of your maker.

When you stand on the line between those fighting against each other and call for a ceasefire, you resemble your father more than you ever have before.

When you live in ways that speak to something deep and true and it lands you in hot water, it means you have found the ways of living that challenge the present and speak to the future.

When you live like me, and look like me, and forgive like me, and make peace like me, and love like me and get chewed out and spoken down to and looked crossways at and released from your position for, you’ve found what you’re looking for and you’ll never be happy again unless you live into what you’ve discovered. And don’t think you’re the first; you come from a long line of rule breakers.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

Add your own version of the beatitudes in the comments below. 

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more than our sorrow

we-are-more-than-our-sorrow
He sat down at the table with me briefly while I ate and he waited on food to go from the cafe. Since he knew of the chaos raging, not much had to be said. I looked up and tried to squint in the way we try to squint when working to hold back tears that we are tired of.

The same way we squint that usually fails when someone knows of the raging chaos.

As tears began to crack and run down the edge of my runny nose, he said, “It’s like a bomb got dropped in the backyard.”

More tears. Nods. Then conversation about weather, salads, and other things neither of us cared about.

I’ve noticed a sense of being caught between surveying the damage and trying to move. The quote housed about my desk that refrains often in my own mind and heart when things seems unbelievably devastating felt a little out of reach at this point. To quote it, even to myself, felt like cheating the grief and confusion and fury and loss that was gripping everything inside of me:

We fill the craters left by the bombs
And once again we sing
And once again we sow
Because life never surrenders. 

– Anonymous Vietnamese poem

I could not imagine myself filling the craters yet, much less singing and sowing because I could not yet fathom or feel the extent of the damage, I could not sense the size of the crater left by the bomb in our backyards. I could only survey the damage. And with every glance, its complexity became deeper and harder to wrap my hands around. I would find myself staring into the crater and disappearing in my thoughts. I was beginning even to have trouble remembering what used to be in it’s place. All I could sense and see was a crater. Impossible to fill.

But somewhere, a sense that we, in community, always fill the craters, kept me from jumping in completely to the loss. Phone calls to friends and mentors. Visits to kitchen counters and living room floors. Weeping and asking and not answering.

And then, somewhere, even while still surveying the damage left by the bombs, something somewhere insists that we are our sorrow, but we are also more than our sorrow. We are also our hopes and dreams and work and errands and children and families and lives and friends and promises of the future. “We are more than our sorrow” Thich Nhat Hanh says, and so we enter into the reality that is the only thing stranger than the reality of the chaos. We enter into the reality that we are all of these things at once, in our humanity, and we must be all of them at once to find a way to move.

And so we move.
Because we are more than our sorrow, even as real as the sorrow may be.

djordan
Michigan Ave, Chicago

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it begins with a baby God

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I remember well sitting on the long and curved wooden benches that creak with every move at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville several years ago. I was frantically scribbling lyrics of a song, the chorus ringing in my ears and head and heart for weeks to come. The phrases I remembered out of order I now know, of course, were these:

It’s true, kingdoms and crowns
a God who comes down to find us
and angels sing through the night
Hallelujah.
It’s true.

I’ve later memorized the lyrics from the album which later was released by Sara Groves. But I notice every Year that the album has become a part of my Christmas rhythm.

A few days ago, on a  couple-hour drive back from training, I found myself with blurry vision singing loud and raspy with teary eyes and a heavy heart. Don’t act like you’ve never done it. A lyric from the song I didn’t scribble down that night has come to bear much weight for me and all I find myself working on and with and through toward God’s kingdom come on earth as in heaven.

Heard it told, you think it’s odd
The whole thing fraught with complication
The play begins with a baby God
And all his blessed implications

I find myself in board meetings and counseling sessions, in conference rooms and churches, in arguments and gripe sessions, at parties and dinners,  I find myself noticing over and over again in multiple contexts that in following suit with the prayers we are bold to pray, Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we are more often than not called to play the game by wholly other, ridiculous rules.

Let’s address systemic sin, injustice, oppression, blindness and heartbrokenness with a baby God.
Let’s address self-centered, self-righteous, power-mongering and king-complexes with humility.
Let’s address loneliness, addiction, anger, despondency and bitterness with unconditional acceptance.
Let’s address greed, materialism, xenophobia, racism and ignorance with generosity, hospitality and forgiveness.

It’s makes no sense.
It feels all wrong.
It sounds as good a plan as the whole story beginning with a baby God.
And yet, when we hold our breath and close our eyes and take our steps
in wholly other and wholly odd directions with wholly other rules
kingdom comes, just like it crashed in
when the play boldly began with a baby God.

It’s true.

djordan
Pine Tree

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the it of it all

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I’ve had the conversation with others before
proud of myself, of course,
that I might have arrived at such brilliance
and yet I don’t seem to take it in actually
which suggests I’ve actually arrived at nothing.

It’s only in evening in the cold in the rain
finally driving home
that the reality actually strikes me
leaving a kind of embarrassing ignorance
looking back at me in the rear-view mirror
having been my guide far too long.

The “it” of it all,
I’ve said proudly to others before
isn’t only in the everything-working-out-ness
isn’t only in the everything-happening-right-ness
isn’t only in the everyone-getting-along-ness

The “it” of it all
is actually in the middle of
the things-struggling-to-work-out-ness
the things-not-really-happening-right-ness
the people-not-completely-getting-along-ness

and in that push and pull
and in those ups and downs
we see our true selves
and we see their true selves
and we find deep effort
and we discover true longing
and we stare our own confusion and frustration and struggle in the face
while staring our own humanity and the humanity of others in the face

and we decide
against all odds
to seek first his kingdom anyway
in the things-struggling-to-work-out-ness
in the things-not-really-happening-right-ness
in the people-not-completely-getting-along-ness

because so much more than the places
where all works out and
where all happens right and
where everyone gets along

we are likely to find the truth of the kingdom
and the “it” of it all
in the mess and the muck
in the paperwork and the policy
in the everything but the “it”
of the day to day
the fuss
the finance
the meetings
the schedules
the people
the stuff
that we’ve been thinking all this time
only gets us to the “it”
when in fact,
it is the “it” of it all.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

Photo “People in Motion” by Dennis Chunga

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stumbling toward healing

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The promise brought in by time is hardly ever known beforehand, and even if it were we wouldn’t have the slightest idea what the promise meant. We can’t know until it’s time to know, and we can’t be healed until we’re ready, really. Healing becomes available, but time brings the promise. We can attempt to rush it if we want to, but we’re likely swinging in the dark.

Rev. Becca Stevens’ most recent book, Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling captivated me earlier this year (as written about here). While reading this book, I knew that one of my very closest friends would soon be ordained in November, and I also knew that he was learning more about what it means to anoint those we love, those who are hurting, those who are dying, and those who are wandering with oil.

I love the notion that anointing with oil is a kind of prayer made physical. We put our hands and fingers in oil, smear it on the flesh of those we desperately want something better for, and then hold out hope that Jesus wasn’t killing time when he said that we would take on the kind of life-bringing and truth-telling that he had been doing. We pause for a moment as flesh and flesh separated only by a thin space of an ancient substance. And somewhere in that thin space rests the deep hope and the breath-stealing promise that God shows up when we come together and ask him to.

So we know we don’t know what we’re doing, but like most things worth doing at all, when we show up and do them even while admitting that we are fumbling our holy way through something we don’t understand, God shows up.

Of course God was already there.
Of course healing isn’t buried in the molecules of oils.
But God shows up in a way that he hadn’t already,
and we even become bold to ask him to in ways we hadn’t already.

And so I woke up early the morning of his ordination, pulled out the random collection of olive oil, essential oils and Shea butter, and headed toward the stove. Fumbling over a pan and these tiny bottles that feel like tools I don’t know how to use, I followed Stevens’ recipe for anointing oil. That is, I followed it until I decided I wanted to change amounts and add other things.

Slowly the kitchen started filling up with the scents of rose pedals, grapefruit, rosemary, olives, bergamot, and lemon. I stood over the stove, noting how time has passed and the truth is a little clearer and healing has come at its own damn speed no matter how much I was ready for it to hurry up, and watched a tear drop into the oil.

Even while making my first batch of oil, without anointing and without meaning to pray, God shows up and reminds me that all this time, through the two years waiting to know what promise was on the other side of waiting in grief, I reminded of a the words a friend prayed over me two years ago in Cape Town while pushing in on my chest: “God is holding your heart, Don. He wants you to know this. And he is shaping it. And he is thrilled at what it is becoming. And when you think he is not paying attention, I pray  you will remember that he is holding your heart in his hands. He will push and prod and squeeze, but he is perfectly gentle and perfectly stern. And it is his hands that your heart is held.”

Those words came at a moment when the ground was cracking open and I was most unsure where to stand. I see now that the sky was cracking open as well, and my heart has been in very good hands through all the cracking. And the promise is a little clearer now on the other side of waiting things out.

I gave my friend the small jar with the few ounces of oil in the parking lot after the ceremony, stumbling over words about a gift and an experience and process that has been years in the making. That bottle made it to a worship service the next morning, was used to first pray a blessing over his daughter, then to pray words over those being confirmed. Those being confirmed happened to include not only people I have grown to love, but also people who have loved me and walked with me over these last two years.

Just as the scent of the oil filled the space, the reminder that if I’m willing to stumble my way through things I don’t fully understand while asking God to show up, he is good and ready to do so. And he is holding on to our hearts. And he is breaking them over the things that break his very own. And we are, all of us, stumbling toward healing in one way or another. And we can only stumble toward it in the company of others. And we can’t be in a hurry.

Well, we can be in a hurry, but it’s a waste.

Healing always comes.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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