Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 25th

On the 20th, I posted a poem. The next night, I saw Jesus in a way I had not before and ever since then, I have been trying to bring it out into words. This is the best I could do. I wish I could do much better. I had to write it like a prayer in prose.

As I worked on it, this prayer stayed very much in my mind:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.



November 21st

In the evening, I wanted to be with you.

"Jesus!" I cried, reaching out. Nothing came into clear sight.

But you spoke- You have Me.

These words of assurance were rich, and I pondered them until my thoughts let go into sleep.

In the night I woke and reached out again for you. I found you on the cross, blood red and coming closer. That was not so strange, I’ve seen you there before, so I accepted and stretched out my arms, a channel for my love, awakened, to pour through.

When you returned the gesture- now that image, not encountered before- that one was too strange for me. I turned inward to the room, but I found you there blood red and brutally scourged, wide eyes staring white from your mauled face.

the slain lamb-

all my life I've known those words, but now I see the blood, the horror of innocence marred, the gaping wound, all the gore before had been hidden by the black and white print on the page.

When you give me these images, this vivid revealing, what do you want me to do with them?

What should I do with this?

These things- holy, precious, ineffable- far beyond my ability to comprehend, you place them in my arms and I'll hold onto you no matter how you come, but my legs can't hold the weight of the blood soaked

even my clothes became heavy when I hold you with my red slicked arms, blood in my hair against my face and you

you can't seem to move or speak, barely held together, pulled loose, still wearing the woven cruel crown, almost unseen in all the blood from the wounds

I gathered up all the pieces of you as gently as possible, placed my face against your mangled beard

I am the good shepherd, you had said.
I know my sheep and am known by them.

I repeat your words as I hold you-
you are the good shepherd and you give your life for the sheep.
no one takes it from you,
you lay it down of yourself.

you lay it down.

when you say love,
you mean the cross.

I asked you to teach me your language.
is this your language?

if I hold you close enough,
will you pull back together?
can you speak at all?

my beloved Lord,
I’m only your disciple
and I don’t understand what you’re saying
with your staring white eyes and your shivering
but I'm listening
I'm listening with all that I am to you.

do you have to go back?
but this already happened-
is finished.
how is this happening?

My mind is not keeping up, keeps falling back into the literal but then I remember how you suffer in and with the least of these and how they are dying right now, starving, beaten, thrown aside, unclean and unloved,
unseen by anyone but you,

how they are you.

So I pray.

“Let You be loved- let them be loved- let somebody love them- the outcast, the suffering, the dying, the unclean. Let someone put their arms around them and care for them and love them. Bring someone to care for them, so they are not alone, so You are not alone in Your terrible suffering. Don’t let them suffer alone.”

These words fall into your waiting ear, your Spirit, the words caught in your plans unknown but I know the ways you weave and work through and lift up, breathing through my prayer, my life, a small breath to join yours.

I want to take that terrible crown off you.
I realize suddenly-

It must have been Mary who actually did that, when you were already dead, your cold body collapsed awkward off the cross, she who had pulled out splinters from your small fingers and rocked you to sleep in the velvet stillness of the middle eastern night.

I think- a Catholic person would understand this better. I should be living in a convent, but I’m just myself and I’m taking those thorns off you.

The blood makes it easier. I can slide it off slowly, carefully, easing it out of your skin, through your hair and now I’m holding this, blood soaked, in my hand.

this can’t be happening
how is this happening?
this all so sacred that it’s simply not possible-

these literal thoughts are like rocks in the stream.
I keep bumping up against them.

I put the crown of thorns on the corner of the couch- I hang it there! -as if it were something we laid down for a moment because there was something else to do right then.

I have you bundled in the blanket. That blanket has been there from the first, when there were four walls and no windows. Now there’s nothing but open views, the stone floors and still that old beloved thing, in which you so often bundled me when I was bruised.

You are dark with blood and broken and still haven’t spoken. I can barely recognize your face and each time I see it, the words from Isaiah are blazoned across my understanding, pressing deeper than words, pressing into vision- the suffering servant that was mauled beyond human recognition, horrible, startling.

I want to knit you back together. With relief I remember your prayer, the prayer you taught your disciples when you walked with them, and they asked you how. Once you comforted me with this prayer, now maybe you are giving me the inexpressible gift of comforting you.

“Our Father,” I whisper to you, and just at the mention of His name, love warms through you from the inside out, visibly easing your pain. How much you love Abba! Your love for each other is the most beautiful thing I have ever glimpsed.

With relief, I settle you carefully closer and pull all my thoughts together, because I am going to pray this as slowly and deeply as I know how to do it.

“Our Father, who art in heaven…” As I speak, all your lessons are coming back to me, lit up.

“Which does not mean some kind of distance or any kind of aloofness, it means Abba is the Father of us all, not like this divided and fallen world, but above it in perfect love, in perfect good, in wholeness- loving the world and his all children so much that he sent you, his only begotten son, to reconcile the world back to himself through the cross.”

We pause to wonder at this perfect goodness of Abba, how he claims each one of us in love as his own, his beloved child.

“Hallowed be Thy name,” I continue in a whisper. “Which means that his name should be set apart from all other ideas and concepts about god, so that his true nature shines forth, as the one and only Living God, who looks just like you, whose name you made manifest, whom you glorified, and who glorifies you.”

We pause to pray that Abba’s name be set apart and to shine forth, so all can see and come into His light and be found, welcomed and healed.

“Thy kingdom come,” I whisper. “Like yeast kneaded into bread, like seed breaking open, the tender sprout breaking through the ground and growing slowly up toward the sky, opening up, and spreading out strong branches into places of rest.”

We pause to see it, pockets of his kingdom breaking out in quiet places, taking root, making places of safety, healing, seeing and loving one another, something so vast being knit together under the radar, something that will break through into perfect day.

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” I whisper, “that is- with the wholeness of love, faith and hope- by self-sacrificing love- having the mind of you, which is to empty oneself, not grasping at glory or a high place, but giving one's life up for another. As this is done with faith, hope and love in heaven, with joy, so it should be done on earth.”

We pause to consider the incomparable beauty of this, how it would remake this world, how beautifully his kingdom would show forth, and we pray that it may be so.

“Give us this day our daily bread… Our Heavenly bread, our Living Bread…”

How can I put into words what I know in that moment? You are the true manna- taken, blessed, broken and given. The mystery is profound and yet perfectly clear.

You lift you head, stretch out your bloody arm, and look straight at me.

Your eyes of depthless humility and love are saying-

I have held nothing back. I have given Myself.

I am shattered.

What can I do?

What can I say?

What I have left is so young I can’t stand aside from myself, so young I can’t hide. I offer my comfort with no sense of the ridiculous. I forget that I’m not enough for any of this.

“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” I continue when I can.

It’s as though this line in your prayer is the hinge upon which everything else opens or closes. Our sins are like encircling chains that are tangled all over, like the catching arms of briars knotted one to another and stuck together.

We must release each other.

Freely we have been given, freely we must give.

Jesus has brought our brothers and sisters up out of the grave-

return to them their inheritance,

unbind them and let them go.

“Lead us not into tests, but deliver us from evil,” I finish, and as I do, I know that you have.

I know it by the open, bleeding wounds you bear, by the blood that has soaked through me as I have held you. You bore the brunt of it.

My shield and defender, Redeemer and Savior, you stood in my place and took it on yourself and thereby undid death and darkness. The worst that could be done was not enough-

You won.

"For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory," I breathe, because the truth of this is so overwhelming to me that I can barely speak at all.

When I sit up in bed, I see that it is four o'clock in the morning. I have no idea how long I've been awake. I'm exhausted and overwhelmed, tipped into awe that won't settle.

I go right back to you, and you meet me there- whole, healed, scarred and full of joy.


“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven:

“I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

John 12:27-32


Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.

Crown Him the Son of God, before the worlds began,
And ye who tread where He hath trod, crown Him the Son of Man;
Who every grief hath known that wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for His own, that all in Him may rest.

Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye at mysteries so bright.

Crown Him the Lord of life, who triumphed over the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save.
His glories now we sing, who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of heaven: One with the Father known,
One with the Spirit Through Him given From yonder glorious throne.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou hast died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail Throughout eternity.

Crown Him the Lord of lords, who over all doth reign,
Who once on earth, the incarnate Word, for ransomed sinners slain,
Now lives in realms of light, where saints with angels sing
Their songs before Him day and night, their God, Redeemer, King.

-Crown Him with Many Crowns, lyrics by Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Thring