Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Newtown again, at Taliban's hand

Dear God,
This is Kelley.

"Taliban Massacres Students..." Newtown happens again. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Newtown, Connecticut
kelleyrenz

Whose gentle God are you?
We ask through gritted teeth
This metaphor of great compassion
‘neath our feet.

Madness has come to change us
Put questions in our mouths
We fling them at You with such force
We want answers now.

You pick them up. You cradle them
As heartbreak makes us shout
Trauma fills our outstretched arms
O God, send evil out.

We pull you down, O Gentle Shepherd
We throw stones, O Prince of Peace
For Your sheep are no longer with us
And we who live find no relief.

You make no sound in Your defeat?
Our agony too much for metaphor?
We wipe our hands of fairy tales
Can we follow You no more?

But what through tears our visions focus
What is this wood thrust into ground?
That shakes our earth around its setting
And Son of Man hangs from it down?

There are no scars; His wounds still fester
A crown of thorns sits upon His head
New soldiers now, they circle ‘round Him
Like us, all He can see is red.

Awake! We sleep. Our anger blinds us
His mystery courses through our veins
The cross still stands, the nails still fasten
But this is not all that remains.

Time’s no matter in God’s thinking
For that Sacred Heart still beats
Our anger silenced, our faith kindled
As Christ climbs down from that damned tree.

His passion adds sense to what we suffer
His rising takes sorrow and eases its bite
His justice stands guardian to every life's value
"It is finished..."
We can rest –
God will make it all right.


Monday, December 15, 2014

God Can Breathe!

Dear God,
This is Kelley.

The Huffington Post's subject line in my email has rattled me the past week. I've seen these titles in its bannerline:  Jesus Cannot Breathe; God Cannot Breathe. Though these are attention getters, I sorely disagree with them!

God Cannot Breathe?

What a mortal prediction
This saying, “God cannot breathe.”
Poignant in its profundity,
But, oh my God, it leaves
    so much room for derision.

We stifle ourselves,
Shoving vinegar soaked rags into our mouths and biting hard
Making God into our image
We pretend to be Spirit’s bard
    We welcome the confines of hell.

But God breathes just fine!
And He’d roll His eyes if we hadn’t made it such a wounded mess,
Our pointed fingers on hollow hands
Insist on capturing in words what refuses to be confessed.
    We pretend to lose our minds.

We’ll return to laugh with God.
His rumbling roar will knock our Babel down,
Our tragedies will shrivel on their vines
As Spirit – who is Breath itself – comes ‘round
    This suffocation’s fraud.

I walk in solidarity with the parents of those young men killed. I walk in solidarity with the police officers who face violence and human beings at their worst every day. We must, however, refuse to hang our heads but always be looking toward You, Lord! You are not out of breath; You are not out of wisdom; You are not out of control. We are. And so we must look to You, You who will always enable us to breathe!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Christian's "world"

Dear God,
This is Kelley.

You took Al home last week, Lord. You took Mary home two weeks ago. Today, You will take more into Your presence, depriving loved ones of fathers, mothers, sisters, family, friends right at the time when we contemplate Your coming, not Your leaving.

But we are so black and white, aren't we? Very little is black and white with You. You are about as gray as they come! For, You are understandable, and You are incomprehensible. You are loving, and You are confounding. You are here one moment, and out of touch the next.

Revelation shows us, I think. In Your command for us to "come up here" (4:1; 11:12), You are reminding us we don't live on earth alone. We live, too, in Your kingdom. And Your kingdom has come, is coming, and will forever come, a bit more of the confounding part of You.

Al is no more "gone" from us than You are! Mary is still within earshot. Rose dances with You and, please, forgives me and watches over us. I don't know what kind of "intercession" Your natural/supernatural order gives to those who have gone before us. The communion of saints belief is not spelled out with such particulars. But, knowing You, knowing how relational You are in Your very being as trinity, knowing how much we need one another (and that is Your doing too), I cannot believe these who go before us are without some activity in relation to us.

O, help us to "come up here," Lord! Help us to live on the level that You call us to! May we not look so low that we forget a Christian's "world" contains both heaven and earth. Both are here. We walk in both.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Let's not be average Christians

Dear God,
This is Kelley.

You know I read recently that William Temple said the most dangerous person in the world is an average Christian. That has been bugging me. It bugs me when I'm overloaded with things to do -- cooking, cleaning, painting, upkeep. It bugs me when I'm doing everything but my job -- writing and planning, teaching and witnessing for You. But, what I'm forgetting is that I can do everything, including the cooking, cleaning, painting, and upkeep --and even the exercising and playing! -- with the knowledge that I am attempting to be better than average!

I must not conclude that average means not being seen, not getting headlines for valor, not fasting for 40 days, or leading a movement for the betterment of humanity. Not doing these things is not what Temple meant. The average he was repulsed by was and is the so-so attitude many of us give our practice of our faith. It is the lackadaisical approach to Matthew 25. It is putting the practice of our Christianity on the same level as our efforts to be "successful."

We are to be the hands that transform the world, the eyes that can see its change, the minds that insist on finding ways, the hearts that deliberately forgive and choose to love again, again, and again. We are to be the ones who don't count how often we give, who refuse to give up to despair, who proclaim shock at any word of lost causes.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
(Isaiah 55:8-11)

This is what we are to give witness to at every moment: You are here; You are at work, transforming and lifting up all we do that must be done, if we lift it up to You in order to do so. It is our attitude, our passion, our joy, our faith. In short, it is our eager expectation for the transformation that You, indeed, will bring about.