Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison (Part II)

Last night I shared a living room with good folks who are doing the very best they know how in light of the trials of this-here present life. They are biblically literate, strong-hearted believers who have found themselves in various and sundry disadvantageous positions. I suppose that no one (no not one, no not one) was promised an easy go of it, and I suppose it's the difficult go that proves one's true mettle. All mettles aside, though, I woke up last night with Mozart's Kyrie running amok in my noggin. It sounded something like this:

Thinking this kind of circadian-musical interruption to be some sort of a sign, I mustered some prayers for the friends who shared my living room (both last night and in nights gone by). In the event that you suppose me some kind of spiritual giant, think again. My prayers at this hour tend to be little more than a short series of "have mercies" stemming from some well-buried Catholic-Anglican roots.

Though the names and situations of last night's prayer were different than those previously prayed, I was reminded this morning of a piece I wrote in August of 2011. I'm re-posting it here today in the event that one of you might need something along these lines.

*****

Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison

Titus Lee came quietly, squeaking out a mere monosyllabic cry before being passed to his mother’s chest. His eyes are like unrefined coal, blue-black with flecks of brown around the edges. He has dark wisps of hair, olive skin, and delicate fingers. He is the fullest of all potentials.

Lord Have Mercy.

Jimmy called last week. He’d been caught in a series of affairs, he said. It had started with a colleague, moved to an internet lover, rose to a crescendo with a Craigslist posting. Jimmy called less to tell me that he was sorry and more to tell me that I might be hearing some things around town. And by the way, could I help him a little here and there with the legalities of the situation, he asked. There are always legalities.

Christ Have Mercy.

This morning I woke to the sound of the pounding iron fist. Flashes of lightening popped like exploding halogen bulbs and the walls of our tiny apartment shook. The rains have come after too many months without. Two miles away the community farm is coming back to life, and the farmhands are exhaling a collective sigh of relief. The corn and tomatoes have long since withered, but the fall crops are singing praise and promise. He makes all things new.

Lord Have Mercy.

*Photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis, Creative Commons via Flickr.

The Goodness of God (A Song)

I was called a man of faith not too long ago, and it seemed ironic to me in the moment. Lately, faith is hard. When I was a child, I recited my mass responses in a sing-song manner--"I believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." In those days, it seemed little more than a repetitive practice perpetuated by the Sisters of Mercy, nuns who struck the fear of Christ in the fourth-grade hearts of the non-participating. Some might say this kind of rote memorization is little more than manipulative programming; others might say it is training up a child in the way he should go. I'm not sure about either of those sentiments, but I have come to find the words of Psalm 27 in the granaries of my memory lately, and they have been a comfort.

It's been a long five months. We've been through the ups and downs of raising a sick child and there are days when I go back to the Psalms to remind myself of the goodness of God. It is a constant effort to recall the truth, to speak it to myself even when the easiest notions of God trend more toward agnosticism or deism. It's a constant effort to remember the power of the Gospel--that Christ is all-sufficient.

I've written this piece as a reminder. It's simple, much the way my faith feels these days.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MyQnIfyzYY&w=420&h=315]

*Amber is sharing a brief Titus update at her site for those of you who are following along.

Be Transfigured

This is a sort of continuation of the Double Edged Sword posts.  Follow the links to Part I and Part II. Yesterday, by, through, and in unity with the power of modern technology, I listened to an eclectic mix of sermon podcasts. A preacher with a southern dialectical swagger spoke more of football than he did of Jesus. He summarized the Gospel as if it were some kind of post-game victory dance. A Jesus jitterbug. He said Jesus came to free us from the drudgery of life, the pain of failure.

He was not alone. Sermon after sermon, preacher after preacher, the messages continued. "Are you living in blessing?" they asked. Some were more covert--"are you walking in obedience to Christ; have you ever walked in His favor?" For the most part, the preachers failed to define either obedience or favor. Instead, they resorted to emotional, tautological double-speak.

As if Christ the transfigured can be summed up without proper effort.

Even with proper effort, I reckon the summing up of Christ will have to wait until I see the fire in his heart. Or maybe just the nail-scars in his hands.

*****

I snuck from the office with a good friend. He's a linear fella, a logical man who knows when to speak and when to hold his tongue. He's had a spiritual awakening of sorts and it's come at the perfect time. He's on the uptick and dragging me with him.

We talked about modern preaching and the fundamental shifts in the expressions of the church. "Did you hear about the church meeting in the bar that straddles the Florida/Alabama state line?" he asked. I told him I hadn't. "The bar tender says that some congregants order bloody Marys as soon as they walk into the sanctua... er... bar. Oddly, they serve grape juice for communion."

"Of course they do," I said. "I reckon we over-contextualize everything."

We sat for a few minutes and he read to me from his journal. "I'm not a writer," he said, "so don't hold the style against me." He then proceeded to read one of the most thoughtful and well-written pieces about prayer and suffering. "What if God's best for me is not the 'best' as I see it," he read, "will I still give God glory and see him as good?"

When he finished, I put words to the practicalities of that kind of theology. "The way I see it, there are two God-options. Either God is completely and all-together good--whether in loss or victory--or He is heedless and improvident."

I thought about that statement on the drive home last night. I'll choose to believe in God's goodness, even when my life doesn't seem victorious. I'd rather serve a God of purpose than one of occasional and perfunctory niceties.

*****

The boys greeted me at the door with their usual "Daddy" war-cry. I fought my way through hugs and clamorous day-long narrations and found Amber on the far side of the kitchen. She hugged me. I patted her rear.

On my way to the closet, my phone alerted me of a waiting email. I changed clothes and checked the message. It was from Jordan and Keri Clark, friends of ours from college. Emails from them are holy experiences, moments that require a pause and a deep breath.

Jordan and Keri have lost two children to a rare genetic disease. We've followed news of their losses over the years, watched as they've patiently and faithfully served the God who could have healed, but didn't. The substance of the email is personal, but I will tell you this--Jordan and Keri see God as abiding in love, kind, and merciful.

Some might lament their lot, say it's tragic. I see their lot, the way they've used it to become more conformed into the recognizable image of Christ, and I say they are beautiful.

If only I had the courage to ask for that kind of conformity.

*****

Modern preacher, don't talk to me about victorious living. I'm done with that pipe-dream.  Speak of contentment in plenty and want, pain and suffering. Preach Christ-esteem, conformity, sanctification. Show me mercy, grace in action. Bring me a cup of cold water. Share your journal with me. Send me an encouraging email.

Be transfigured.

Then, I'll listen.

A Modest Hope for Titus Lee (Part II)

I was stumbling through my archives last night and ran across this prenatal piece I wrote for Titus Lee.

I imagine that he'll grow quickly. We all do. He'll learn to eat solid food soon, learn to say "scared" instead of "scarwed." He'll have a first grade Sarah. They'll be destined for marriage until he meets his fourth grade Emily, and so on. He might play piano or guitar or he might dunk a basketball. In high school, he might be in show-choir like his momma. They'll sing Smells Like Teen Spirit, and he'll tell us how much he loves that kind of classic rock. In college, he'll major in partying until he meets Jesus. Or maybe he'll major in Jesus from the get go. That'd make me proud. He'll marry, have children, work a job. I hope he eulogizes me at my funeral. He'll say I wasn't perfect, but hopefully he'll say "he was a good man; he was my dad."

We hold more loosely to those old modest hopes these days. Now, Amber and I chart growth in ounces and wonder when Titus Lee will stomach solid food. I think that's all the better.

 

There are lessons to be learned in the rearranging of hopes: the fierceness of a mother's resolve; the faith that extends to doctors and friends; the joy found in a toddler's smile.

Titus Lee has taught me well. I never thought to hope for that.

More Than Meager Graces

image source

Molly Beth and I sat in the hospital cafeteria; she was mashing macaroni and cheese under her plastic fork. "We had a baby chicken a few weeks ago," she said. "It got a foot disease or something so its momma kept pecking it to keep it away. It died." She said this matter-of-factly, like she was explaining the mechanics of a seesaw, or why all kids...

Continue reading at A Deeper Story.