Archive | June 2014

Rhododendron Prophets


I listen with my eyes as

rhododendron prophets sing glad

fuchsia songs of summer days;

call me to prepare the way, to

level mounds of wintry gloom,

raise up dark valleys of my nights;

bask once again in life reborn beneath the

fingered rays of nearer sun, brushing

hope across my skin, burning faith into my

bones—for every now, for all that is to be

beyond the short-lived radiance of these blooms so

raucous in their joy.


Their life so short, but still they blaze and sing the

bliss of what’s to come; each rhodo-globe a cluster,

chorus bright of tiny flames of Pentecostal fire,

dreaming dreams and visioning renewal of the

earth, of me, of every creature, wave, and cloud;

vivid tongues that join as one to paint the world with

ecstasy that takes my breath away.


written in gratitude for Pastor John Havrilla

who has so colorfully sung to us of God’s love and renewal

on the occasion of his retirement


Waiting for God


To pray means to wait for the God who comes.

[God’s] coming is bound to his promise, not to our works or virtue.

God is thrust onward by his love, not attracted by our beauty.

[God] comes in moments when we have done everything wrong, when we have done nothing…when we have sinned.

(Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes)




Stretching Our Necks

Parmigianino-Madonna of long neck

Madonna of the Long Neck

Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola

(commonly known as Parmigianino)


          Recently I was introduced to this unusual painting by Parmigianino. A strange painting in the “mannerist” style of the 16th century. A rather awkward painting with those elongated bodies of the Virgin and the Christ child. But, in spite of this awkwardness, or maybe because of it, I find the painting quite haunting. Something about that long, long neck of Mary that calls for pause and reflection. What is Parmigianino suggesting?

          Parmigianino’s work reminds me of another painting that’s been very meaningful to me—a Russian Orthodox icon known as the “Virgin of Vladimir,” painted by an anonymous Greek artist in the 12th century and housed for 200 years in the town of Vladimir, Russia.

Virgin of Vladimir

           Here, too we have long necks—the long neck of the Christ child in Mary’s arms and the long neck of Mary herself. Henri Nouwen tells us that in icons like this an elongated neck represents the Holy Spirit, the divine breath of God. Spirit who gave Mary the intense inner strength and courage needed to fulfill her divine destiny. Spirit who accompanied Jesus to give him amazing determination and strength throughout his life and through his death.

          Parmigianino was clearly not painting an icon, and he was probably not focusing on the Holy Spirit when he painted his Madonna’s long neck. It’s more likely that he was simply highlighting Mary’s strength, a strength emphasized in the strong, tall pillar just behind her. But surely the strength that Parmigianino saw in Mary, the strength he accentuated in his painting, the strength that gave her courage to open herself to the newness of God’s dramatic activity in her life, surely that strength came from the Spirit of God, even as the angel Gabriel had promised: “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

          Long necks. Strong necks. Spirit-filled necks. Down through the centuries, so many saints have made our world a better place because they have let their necks be stretched by Spirit of God. Have let their lives be conduits for all the goodness that God longs to spill over our world. Some were giants of faith who influenced the history of the world. Many more were little people who quietly and faithfully made the lives of those around them brighter, caring for their needs and bringing God a little closer for them.

          Now it’s our turn. So here’s to longer necks for all of us. Here’s to Pentecostal Spirit breathing strength and courage into each of our lives. Strength and courage for our own inner healing. Strength and courage to help us move our world a little closer to the dream God dreamed when the world was freshly formed and Spirit’s Wind creatively and hopefully swept across its waters.