i am not my own (Abide with Me)





…fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens; Lord with me abide…

Both viruses and people get themselves into us, infect us, surprise us, and change us–both for good and ill. And when they depart we are left with that most complex simplicities of emotions, asking simply: what was that? The story, the episode, that previously seemed to exist with such continuity now seems so disjointed from all others that “the purpose” seems our only thought.

…When other helpers fail, and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, abide with me…

We wonder, we wander, seeking our Home, our Rest, our Selves. We recast our history in the eyes of this present trial, this present pain, this present darkness, and feel the twitch and fear that comes whenever we seriously consider all we’ve done before and all it represents within us–all the trials caused, the pains committed, and the darknesses within us.

Continue reading

The Suffering of The Holy Spirit


Anselm Kiefer-Landscape with a WingIf you’re like me, and were raised in the most previous generation of the American Church, the more painful parts of human existence didn’t really make an appearance in the course of religious conversations. There was talk about doctrine, and piety, and all “those people” that were sinners, but the only real insight that could be given to those that were hurting was that they needed to read their Bible more, trust Jesus more, sin less, so on and so forth.

Suffering was unconsciously assumed to be something outside of the everyday experience of the “victorious” and “justified and sanctified” Christian. People responded to the suffering of others with a cautious distance, thinking something had gone horribly wrong with their life, God’s providence, or their souls.

And then I had the privilege of sitting under amazing teaching in college that really brought suffering to the fore. I was encouraged that suffering was not “supposed” to be an aberration in life, but rather the expectation of how things are. We didn’t pursue it, but we certainly didn’t need to, because it would find us.

Continue reading

Resurrection Gives Us Joy in Lent & Death


La-Pieta-IYes, as cliché as it is, I’m watching the new Bible mini-series on the History Channel. I’m actually enjoying it. A few things are odd (the ninja angel, for one), and they made some interesting choices on what to leave out (was the extended Sodom sequence really worth cutting out the entire Exodus story, Wilderness wandering, and golden calf rebellion?). But there is still a sense of ownership, that this is our story.

(Side note: for those of us that study the Bible and don’t necessarily think historicity is the highest purpose for which it was written, it’s encouraging to still feel that feeling of identity-formation when encountering our story–even when it’s seen as “just” a story.)

Anyway, a review of the show is not why I’m writing today. I just had a brief thought I wanted to share.

In Episode 1 of the mini-series, we see Pharaoh’s son die at the end of the plague sequence. Watching him carry the pale, lifeless body of his son, it reminded me of Michelangelo’s la Pieta (a version of which you can see above). It was actually quite moving, and I was surprised that I only realized now the sadness of this part of the story. Continue reading

Lent & Repentance: Come & Mourn with Me Awhile


ash-wednesday-faces-of-the-faithful-photos

This is part of my 2013 Lent series: Reflections on Repentance.]

Last week was Ash Wednesday, which begins the church season of Lent. On that day, hundreds of millions of people (perhaps even as much as a billion) went to quiet services and got ash crosses finger-painted on their foreheads.

It’s a strange act, but perhaps the most striking one in Christian tradition. It’s certainly my favorite.

No matter how widespread Christianity has been in the world, I can’t imagine there was ever a time in which the public mark of ashes on one’s face did not stir some sort of double-take from passers-by. Even to this day, it’s the most counter-cultural and outward thing many American Christians widely do.

Ashen forehead crosses are one of the few Christian traditions that is still ours, and hasn’t been co-opted by the wider culture, and thereby watered-down in its meaning or force.
Continue reading

i am not my own




…fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens; Lord with me abide…

Both viruses and people get themselves into us, infect us, surprise us, and change us–both for good and ill. And when they depart we are left with that most complex simplicities of emotions, asking simply: what was that? The story, the episode, that previously seemed to exist with such continuity now seems so disjointed from all others that “the purpose” seems our only thought.

…When other helpers fail, and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, abide with me…

We wonder, we wander, seeking our Home, our Rest, our Selves. We recast our history in the eyes of this present trial, this present pain, this present darkness, and feel the twitch and fear that comes whenever we seriously consider all we’ve done before and all it represents within us–all the trials caused, the pains committed, and the darknesses within us.

Continue reading