Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Sunrise

I went to a sunrise Easter service out at a ranch that belongs to some members of our church. The house is situated near the edge of high ridge overlooking a valley or maybe it is a canyon. Down in the distance, you can see deer browsing in the grass or wild hogs rooting around. From the back yard where we sat, the sun was coming up directly before us. A large wooden cross was in the middle of the yard. The pastor stood near it.

The ranch owners’ grown daughter told us a story about how she had a plan when she was nine years old, to go to town. It was cold, and she was angry and barefooted, but she was determined to get to town to find her mother, who had left her with her older sister for a few minutes to run an errand. Her plan was thwarted, of course, before she got very far down the road; someone called police, and they came and got her before something awful could happen to her. God has a plan, she said. His plan is dependable, unlike hers, based on love.

We sang a few songs and we had communion. Birdsong filled the air. It was cold, but the March wind was fairly still. I was happy to be there with all those people I love, praising God for his amazing love and his plan, based on love.

His plan is surprising in its simplicity. I used to think I had to work my way to him, that I couldn’t deserve his love. But I was surprised to learn that his love is free; I don’t have to work for it or deserve it. It is a gift. This is the surprise of Easter. He is risen, and he lives, not as a worldly king, but as the son of God, the one who leads us freely to his father through love. I want to live my life in the surprise of Easter.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Easter Communion

Easter Communion

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Pure fasted faces draw unto this feast:
God comes all sweetness to your Lenten lips.
You striped in secret with breath-taking whips,
Those crooked rough-scored chequers may be pieced
To crosses meant for Jesu's; you whom the East
With draught of thin and pursuant cold so nips
Breathe Easter now; you serged fellowships,
You vigil-keepers with low flames decreased,

God shall o'er-brim the measures you have spent
With oil of gladness, for sackcloth and frieze
And the ever-fretting shirt of punishment
Give myrrhy-threaded golden folds of ease.
Your scarce-sheathed bones are weary of being bent:
Lo, God shall strengthen all the feeble knees.

Hopkins (1844–1889) was an English poet, educated at Oxford. Entering the Roman Catholic Church in 1866 and the Jesuit novitiate in 1868, he was ordained in 1877. Upon becoming a Jesuit he burned much of his early verse and abandoned the writing of poetry. However, the sinking in 1875 of a German ship carrying five Franciscan nuns, exiles from Germany, inspired him to write one of his most impressive poems “The Wreck of the Deutschland.” Thereafter he produced his best poetry, including “God’s Grandeur,” “The Windhover,” “The Leaden Echo,” and “The Golden Echo.” Since Hopkins never gave permission for the publication of his verse, his Poems, edited by his friend Robert Bridges, did not appear in print until 1918. His life was continually troubled by inner conflict, which arose, not from religious skepticism, but from an inability to give himself completely to his God. Both his poems and his letters often reflect an intense dissatisfaction with himself as a poet and as a servant of God. Though he produced a small body of work, he ranks high among English poets, and his work profoundly influenced 20th-century poetry. His verse is noted for its piercing intensity of language and its experiments in prosody. Of these experiments the most famous is “sprung rhythm,” a meter in which Hopkins tried to approximate the rhythm of everyday speech.

(Borrowed from

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Doing, Doing, Doing

In today’s entry in My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote that God sows us by a whirlwind, flinging us out like a handful of seed pods. We must live by God's vision, Chambers says, and not lose it.

If we lose the vision, we alone are responsible, and the way we lose the vision is by spiritual leakage. If we do not run our belief about God into practical issues, it is all up with the vision God has given. The only way to be obedient to the heavenly vision is to give our utmost for God's highest, and this can only be done by continually and resolutely recalling the vision. The test is the sixty seconds of every minute, and the sixty minutes of every hour, not our times of prayer and devotional meetings.

Chambers says over and over in different ways that the vital thing is the relationship, the vision—being in love with Jesus. He bases that on the Bible; God is always more concerned about the condition of our hearts than what we do in his name.

Eight or so years ago, I was locked in a dentist’s chair having a crown done. I could see a little patch of sky, so I looked at it and prayed, and so kept my mind off my tooth and all that drilling. I was kind of at a place where I had been doing lots of things—Emmaus, mission trip, Sunday school teaching—and I didn’t know what to do next. I prayed, “Lord, what do you want me to do next? What, what, what should I do?”

And he answered, “Stop worrying so much about doing, and just be.” I interpreted that to mean he wanted me to just love him and be fully in the relationship with him.

As Chambers points out, we must let God fling us out and keep an eye on his cyclones. “If you select your own spot,” he says, “you will prove to be an empty pod. If God sows you, you will bring forth fruit.”

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Suicide Attempt

A woman I know tried to commit suicide this week. She is very sick now, with a terminal illness. A suicide attempt is a desperate cry for help, and hers is no different.

Life without God in Jesus Christ is empty of joy, full of despair, fear, and darkness. Life in God through Jesus Christ is strength to deal with terrible illness, hope even in the darkest times, joy beyond pleasure and happiness, and peace immeasurable by human understanding.

In John 14:27, Jesus says: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

My prayer is that this woman and her distraught family will open their hearts to his love. He is real and powerful.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

3:10 to Yuma

I just saw a terrific western movie--3:10 to Yuma, starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Based on a 1950s short story by Elmore Leonard, it has much depth. It explores moral, ethical, and spiritual questions in a gripping story that is an intense shoot-'em-up.

Here is an excellent review of the film, at this linked site.

The picture comes from this site.