Monthly Archives: January 2014

A Place for Resurrection

I read the story of Canaire, an Irish woman who lived as a hermit in a hut she built in the south of Ireland back in the early 500’s. One night she had a vision in which she saw all the church communities of Ireland spread before her and each had a pillar of fire standing next to it. Some fires rose higher than others and one rose above all the rest. This was on the island of Inis Cathaig (Scattery Island) and she thought “That will be the place of my resurrection.” So, she traveled there.Scattery Island2

Some people look for the place where they will retire. That’s a big consideration in Lancaster. People here have told me how they moved from Hawaii or Florida or New York City to be in one of the retirement communities here. That was one of the things Beckie and I had no expectation of when we moved here, that this was a retirement Mecca. Some people look for the place where they will die. That might be with someone like family or in one’s hometown. Canaire is the first person I’ve heard of who moved to find the spot from where she’d be resurrected.

Once a week Christians are called to celebrate – to remind themselves with rejoicing – that Jesus rose from the dead and lead the way into life after life. Every Sunday is an Easter. We’re supposed to hang onto that I think. Famously, Wendell Barry in his “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer’s Liberation Front” calls us to practice Resurrection. We, of all people, have a reason to do that. We have reason to not be predictable to our society, to not fit into its profit margins or to be assumed as a human resource rather than a human being.

Some people look for the end. They flip to the back of the book when the mystery is still before them, sometimes when it is at its height. They don’t get lost in the variety of emotion flowing into them from the story. They try to control, to handle, to keep it down to a minimum. They flip to the back of the book to steal assurance that it will end well, instead of allowing life to play out.

But Christians are told to trust the Storyteller, to trust that the end is in hand and not to worry, to read the promise that is found between the lines of daily experiences. It makes me think that we’re supposed to pick the place of our resurrection for today. Not thinking about from what place under the dirt will Jesus call me, but, from where will my soul be called again into life today? Will it be in the way I respond to my co-worker’s attitude? Will it be in the way I speak into the face of a bigot? Will it be in the tip I leave? Will it be what I pick up and throw away that I never dropped? Will it be in giving up depression for a moment and smiling in response to daylight? Will it be in planting what I can never harvest?Sequoia



Elaborate and intricate expressions of personal joy inhabit the pages of what are called the “illuminated” gospels that came from Ireland and England. People took years to express the fullness of their hearts in an artistic experience of a letter or a word or a small group of words. How do I do that?Lindisfarne 1

If I’m not the monk carefully designing geometric patterns and filling them in with specifically chosen colors, how do I allow the truth and beauty of God’s good news to shine through my life? What if it is in typing in an office? What if it is collecting others’ garbage? Is that as worthwhile? What if it is never recognized by others for what it is saying from my heart?

There is a lesson about light that goes unnoticed that comes from the theater. Lighting designers in the theater know that the only people who should notice the lighting work of a play are other technically involved artists who work with lights. If you’re just a member of the audience and you walk away from a performance commenting on how the lighting affected the presentation, the lighting designer has failed. Lighting, at its best, is experienced but never noticed. It just creates.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

That sounds almost like an oxymoron. How can any act of creation be defined as “just,” as “simply.” Creation, bringing something new and life-enhancing into existence, is so amazing. How can we describe as it as seemingly effortless?

It isn’t and never will be. It makes life. That is, it makes living happen well. And when you come alongside someone who really knows what they’re doing in their behind-the-scenes role, you can see how much goes into their act of making life.

A friend of mine, an actor, came to rehearsal one day and was immediately put off by the rug on the stage and colors of the set pieces that made the walls of the “room.” He made a couple of off-hand comments, joking but pointedly suggesting that someone had no idea what they were doing. None of the colors worked with each other. Everything clashed. The lighting designer basically told him not to worry (and to just work on his part, thank you very much). Later, when my friend was sitting in the seats watching others in rehearsal in that same setting, he suddenly realized that nothing looked 2 All the colors fit beautifully together. The lighting changed everything and made it all work. He never challenged the lighting work after that.

Jesus tells his followers at one point not to worry about living out their faithfulness in secret, behind-the-scenes. He says, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” God knows how lighting works. He knows that his light is shining through us. He’s the one we aim to please. Even if no one else knows it is going on, they experience it and it is creating life. What a wonder.


Be It Resolved…

Resolutions… I’ve never been big on these. I think that spending the time working on stuff, trying to recreate ourselves doesn’t usually touch the issue. Not the real issues that should be faced. But I’m rethinking resolutions for this year.
What I’m rethinking isn’t the choice of what to change, but the truth of change for people who follow Jesus. What if the power to change isn’t already within us, like I hear gurus telling me? What if we don’t really have the kind of temptation that it seems we do, like I hear the pulls and draws within myself? What if, and here’s what I’m getting at, what if we are already prison
People who follow Jesus have been given freedom. We weren’t promised solutions. We weren’t promised clarity that would come after we followed the (whatever number) 7 or 3 or 10 steps. We were promised freedom. What if the problem we face with eating or losing control or being self-centered is that we simply “shrug” our spiritual shoulders and continue doing what we did before? What if we haven’t walked out of the prison cell even though the door has been opened?
There is a moment in the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia when a group of dwarves are invited to enter the new, recreated life of the New Narnia and they remain sitting in a shed in the dark because they refuse to believe that there is anything other than that. The door is there and available to them. They can walk through it. They choose to remain in the shed, with their eyes shut, talking to themselves.
I’m going to try something different.
I’m going to recognize my temptations, admit that they are that sincerely, but recognize that they no longer have power over me because they aren’t the ruling power in my life. It’s kind of choosing to learn something instead of telling myself over and over that there’s no way I’m ever going to understand this thing. It is a giving over to the life I was promised and, expecting that when I do, it is going to be there.
You know, this is different than deciding I’m going to be good or I’m going to shape up or I’m going to not be or not do… whatever. It’s even a little different from deciding I’m going to live like this is the first day of the rest of my life. It’s not quite the same as seizing the day or living life to the fullest or making the most of things. It is, or at least it feels like I’m choosing to get to know God better. It seems like that to me because it has to do with accepting him at his word, that what he’s told me is true and I’ll live like that.open_prison_door
It feels different than a resolution. It feels like I’m listening better.