Archive | March 2015

Song of Hagar: a Lenten Lament


Jean-Charles Cazin (1840-1901)

Some background notes for those who may be unfamiliar with the story found in Genesis 16:1-16 and Genesis 21:1-21:

  • Hagar was an Egyptian maid to Sarah, wife of Abraham, who had been promised a son through whom God would bless his descendants and the whole world.
  • When it seemed Sarah could not bear the child promised by God, Abraham took Hagar as his concubine, and she bore a son, whom she named Ishmael.
  • After Sarah finally did bear a son, whom she named Isaac, she insisted that Abraham dismiss Hagar and her son Ishmael, so there would be no competition for the prized inheritance.
  • Hagar then found herself abandoned with her son in the scorching deserts of the Middle East.


I wail a song of sorrow, of a grief that

stretches far beyond the stillness of these

haunted, bitter sands; my tears, the only

water in this endless barrenness—not

enough to keep me and my son alive.


I moan a song of fear, alone,

abandoned in this emptiness;

terrors harsh beneath a bruising sun that

wilts my dream of a tomorrow for my boy

whose eyes stare out his question,

“why, my mother, why?”


I howl a song of anger—did I not do

everything just right? or almost right,

at least? obey the master? bow to my

lady’s pride? cook the meals and

clean the tents? only to be cast

aside like offal from a sacrifice?

where are you, God? your promises

right now mere dust I soon will spread

across the body of my son.


I chant a mantra of my empty faith, of

questions many as the stars I see in desert

night; the gods of Egypt youth eclipsed by

God of Sarah—a God I can no longer trust;

once spoke with me—I thought—to promise

greatness for my son; his only greatness now his

anguished moans of thirst and fear of

death which ghostly hovers in his breath.


A voice? another desert song nearby? my ears

now playing tricks of angel promise shushing fear?

my eyes deceiving me? mirage of water

whisper-calling me to taste its sheer reality?

Dare I dip my soul again in faith?

Dare I taste the flowing Presence yet again?


I hum a quiet, timid hope, as water spills onto

my son to quench the thirst stretched

tight across his chest; as tiny drops of trust

distil in me to quell some of my

anger, fear—not all, but just enough to take one

desert step and then another one to help me

learn this desert way; to take my son into

tomorrow all unknown; believe that he, that

we, will never be alone.


Un-sheltered: A Lenten Meditation

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          The little sparrow peeks out the tiny door of our new bright blue birdhouse, and my heart skips half-a-beat. I find myself captivated by his wee head happily framed by his new-found shelter. How does such a tiny warm-blooded being, I wonder, survive in the frigid winds this winter has brought us? I do some checking, and I learn that he has a much higher metabolism rate and a higher body temperature than we humans have. That he probably grew extra feathers last fall, feathers coated with an oil that provides insulation and water-proofing. That when he fluffs his feathers, he creates air pockets that give him even better insulation. All of this helps, I’m sure, but still I’m happy that this little one has found some extra shelter in our little birdhouse.

          So many others I’ve seen lately in the news have not found the shelter they so desperately long for and need. There’s the shoeless orphan boy standing in the frigid snows of North Korea. The Syrian father brooming snow off the tent that serves as a temporary shelter for his refugee family. The aged Ukrainian man carrying a bucket of coal through the snow to try to keep his family warm while war rages through the streets of his town.

          All so defenseless in these Lenten days of arctic cold. I say a prayer for that North Korean orphan, for that Syrian father, for that aged Ukrainian gentleman. I say a prayer for greater justice and peace in our troubled world, and for all who lack shelter in these bitter cold late winter days.

          I look again at my sparrow’s tiny face. At the cold trees and the snow-covered ground. And I give thanks that the One to whom I pray is One who cares about shelter for all creatures. Cares enough that he un-sheltered himself and came to earth for us and for our salvation. Lived among us and taught us to care for each other.  Fed the hungry and healed the sick, all the while having no shelter for himself, nowhere to lay his head. I give thanks that he un-sheltered himself yet further on the cross, stretching out his arms, the very Wings of God, to shelter every tiny life through all of time, through all eternity.

          Mystery beyond comprehension.