Tag Archives: the Gospels

The Many Voices of the Spirit

Pumpkin in Woods

The wind was ferocious today,
howling around me as I stood among the boulders in the woods.
It pulled my voice away from me as I called to the dog.
It pushed the trees into each other,
crowding them together as they bent and chattered.
The wind demanded, not to be attended to (for what does the wind need of me)
but to be witnessed.

I thought of the Spirit, which Jesus said blows where it chooses,
blows with mystery, blows to be heard.
And I remembered that the Spirit wind speaks in many ways:
sometimes a whisper, so subtle it could be missed by distracted ears,
sometimes a roar, so impenetrable it cannot be avoided.

So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit, Jesus tells the faithful questioner.
They are coming from who-knows-where, going to who-knows-where,
endlessly liminal, always in between.
And I wonder: am I like that?
Even if I, too, also a faithful questioner, must ask again and again
How can these things be?
Even then am I also spirit-born and wind-blown?

I cannot always decipher the meanings of the Spirit’s many voices,
to translate the language of its whispers and roars.
But I can promise to stay right here, in the middle of the in-between,
to hear and bear witness.

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Filed under Lent, My Faith Journey, Spirituality

Loss & Despair on the Road to Emmaus

I’m reading the story of the walk to Emmaus over and over this week because sometimes the lectionary is a signpost that helps me remember the way I have come, that helps me find my way home again. Every time we cycle around to this story of Jesus strangely appearing to his friends on the road, I feel its fragmented in-betweeness, its unexplained mystery and desperate confusion.

It resonates for me because this is a story of loss and despair.

When Jesus comes upon the disciples, they are “standing still and looking sad,” and, though he already knows their hearts, he still asks them to share with him: What grieves you so?

The disciples ache for the friend and leader they have lost, so much that they can’t even perceive him as he walks among them. Hours pass as they tell and re-tell the story of their community splintering apart at his death. They don’t understand what has happened, and they’ve given up.

We had hoped, they tell this stranger. We had hoped that this man Jesus would save us, but we hope no longer. Everything is over now.

Of course, they’re wrong.

Everything is not over. Their hearts will “burn within them” as they look back on this day and realize they have spent it looking into the face of what they desire most, yet missing it all along.

But I love this story for that, for not passing over the heavy grief and hopeless sadness of the community that experienced Jesus’ death. They don’t just get to skip to the certainty of a risen Jesus: first they have to deal with the confusion of an empty tomb.

I’m glad this part of the story gets told because otherwise we’d be missing a critical piece of the narrative. Scripture is sacred to me because it gives words to the stories I already know as true in my own life, and this story is one that rings deeply inside of me.

Sometimes we are so shaken by the storms of life that we can do nothing more than stand still and look sad in the midst of it all.

Sometimes we are so blinded by grief that we cannot manage to hope for a future, even if that future has come to walk beside us and listen to our story.

Sometimes our hearts burn, so full do they become of that strange mixture of clarity and absurdity that comes from trying to process an experience of tragedy.

And always, no matter what, we have the opportunity to take the walk, however long, to Emmaus together.

– — –

What stories of scripture are resonating in your life right now? How do you see your community responding to its experiences of grief or loss? Who walks to Emmaus with you?

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Filed under Lectionary Reflections, My Faith Journey

Women of Advent

Winter Forest

I showed up 20 minutes late to meet my friend Mary at a small, hip coffee shop in the suburbs last week. We greeted each other warmly and chatted about our lives, curled around hot drinks to ward off the winter cold.

Although she is 15 years older than me, Mary and I are dearly connected friends who have shared similar pains in our lives over the last year. She feels like a kindred spirit to me, and these moments to catch up are sacred.

As we got up to leave, she handed me a copy of a Janet McKenzie painting of the Visitation between Mary and Elizabeth. It showed the two dark-skinned women, wrapped in layered shawls, standing close together with somber faces and closed eyes.

My friend pointed to the women and said, “Look, it’s us! We are both having something mysterious and new being born into our lives, we just don’t know it yet.”

The story of the visitation is a happy one: the delivery of good news, the treasure of shared experience. But the women in this painting look serious and intimate. Sometimes, my friend explains, joy is not smiley. Sometimes it is deeper, quieter. Sometimes the mystery we bear in our lives, though beautiful and good, is heavy and powerful.

My Advent expectation has been like that this year — more still than hectic, more weighty than cheerful.

I took the picture with me to my office at church, where I taped it up next to my computer. When I look at it, feeling my kinship with Mary, the expectant mother of God, and Mary, my friend who walks through life with me like an older sister.

I look at the faces of the women in this painting and I remember that it is holy to carry joy, even if it is carried quietly. I remember that newness will be born in me, even if I am solemn at its coming. And I remember that through the process of becoming, I will never be alone.

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Filed under Advent 2013, My Faith Journey, Spirituality