Tag Archive | darkness

This Little Light of Mine

 “This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine;”

my husband hums the familiar

tune as I sip my morning tea; later

he will sing with the church choir

this syncopated psalm of thanks

for little lights that bravely shine

in all the darkness encroaching

on our deeply troubled world.

I will not hear that joyful sound, but…

*

outside my window, a little

light shines quietly for me, a floral

candle of delicate, shimmering filaments,

lacy whiteness whispering its quiet radiance;

so unlike the neons of our gaudy

world of celebrities and ego tweets,

so unlike bright chandeliers

aglow with pomp and pride that

only shadow deeds of darkness.

*

Bless you, little light; shine on

in your wee corner of this vast

and anxious world; few will see

your radiant smile, but those who do

will quiet sing a psalm of thanks; will even

shine, perhaps, a little brighter themselves.

Light in the Darkness

El Greco's Savior

“Savior of the World”

El Greco ( 1541 – 1614)

A dark December day;

dark outside my winter window;

dark inside our too-still house;

dark through all the muscles

of my body, of my mind.

Bombs and missiles frighten

angels in the skies, and bullets shatter

trust across our neighborhoods and schools.

Darkness surrounds and swallows up—almost,

the candles of this waiting Advent time.

*

I turn to the icon* silent in my hands:

El Greco’s “Savior of the World.”

More darkness there:

     of eye,

          of eyebrows,

               of hair, of beard.

And framing all the Christ, a shroud of midnight black:

     threatening,

          brooding,

               dense.

*

I want to turn away, to find a brighter Christ,

the baby Christ of promised peace, the One

to bind and blind the darkness all around.

And then I see.

Behind the darkness, through the darkness, into the darkness,

a strangely halo-ed square of light

shines round the Savior’s face;

shines through his penetrating eyes;

shines onto his blood-red tunic;

shines across his hands, atop his blue-royal robe;

shines un-dimmed by the darkness;

shines in quiet confidence;

shines toward that time when darkness

will be no more.

For now, it is still dark around me.

For now, it is still dark within me.

But as I look into those tender, sorrowful eyes,

a little of that halo-ed light shines hopeful

into me; for now, that is

enough.

*****

*I know. El Greco’s “Savior of the World” is not “officially” an icon, but for me it has become one—even without the sanction of a higher authority.

Darkness, Dissonance, and Deliverance

HandsReachDownUp-283x300

Reflections on Psalm 34

(1)I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. (2)My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. (3)O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. (4)I sought the Lord and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. (5)Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. (6)This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble. (7)The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. (8)O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. (9)O fear the Lord, you his holy ones; for those who fear him have no want. (10)The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. (11)Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. (12)Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good? (13)Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. (14)Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. (15)The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. (16)The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. (17)When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. (18)The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. (19)Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord rescues them from them all. (20)He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken. (21)Evil brings death to the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. (22)The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

***

I usually begin my mornings with a Psalm. Quiet. Restful. Reassuring me of the intimate care of a God who is my Shepherd. Reminding me of God’s care for the needy as well as for me. Reminding me as well of God’s concern for justice among the nations. Praising this God who creates and sustains all that is and all that ever has been. Music for my soul.

Until I come to Psalm 34. Here the music becomes dissonant. Jarring, in fact, as I read of a God who rescues from every trouble (see bold verses above). From every trouble? Then, where, I wonder, where is that rescue for so many who long for God’s rescue?

I live with a chronic illness. I have a number of friends who are coping with chronic illnesses, a number of friends who are caring for a spouse or child with a chronic illness. I also read the morning paper, listen to the evening news, and see and hear the woes of the world piling one on top of the other. The dark side of life. All of us have experienced this to some degree. All of us have known something of the sometime absence and silence of God.

So Psalm 34’s claim of God’s “always-rescue” has been a problem for me. It’s an exuberant psalm, apparently written by King David after he had been delivered from the clutches of a foreign king. And I can understand the keenness of his joy. I, too, have had moments—haven’t we all?—moments of sensing God’s strong, delivering hand in our lives. But David’s promises in this psalm seem to over-reach. Spilling out their blissful pledges of God’s deliverance from every trouble, they seem to describe a world quite alien to the real world of illness and pain and evil writ so large across our lives.

Or do they? I’ve spent a good bit of time puzzling through this psalm, ranting at times, more quietly listening at other times. One thing has become very clear to me. The God of Psalm 34 is not a distant God, but rather a God who is deeply involved in all the ups and downs of our lives. A God with eyes and ears focused on our everyday lives. In the words of Walter Brueggemann, a God who is “present in, participating in, and attentive to the darkness, weakness, and displacement of life” (from The Message of the Psalms). I like the way folk musician Iris DeMent sings of this God as a God who reaches down, gets right down there on the ground to touch our pain.

This Presence is surely a gift, but the troubles remain. So instead of singing so exultantly about God’s deliverance, why doesn’t the psalmist simply state what we all know—sometimes this ever-present God’s delivers; sometimes not. At least not in the way in which we would like to experience God’s deliverance. We (at least I!) would like for God to wave a magic wand and make our troubles presto-vanish in the wind. We (I!) do not like darkness.

But I’m coming to realize that maybe God’s deliverance is always real, but real in ways only apparent if we are humbly learning what David calls “the fear of the Lord” (v. 11), learning to live into an acceptance of the mystery of who God is and of who we are. Certainly, if the God who delivered David is truly there with us in the darkness, “near to the brokenhearted” (v. 18), eyes seeing us, ears hearing us (v. 15), that in itself is a consolation and an opening to deliverance. Realizing deep within our souls that we are not alone, not unseen, not unnoticed, but are accompanied by a divine Presence:

  • delivers us from the isolation that so often accompanies the darknesses of life,
  • delivers us from self-pity,
  • delivers and enables us to find a mindful acceptance of the disruptions of our lives,
  • delivers and opens us up to new resources, new inner strengths,
  • delivers us even to a new wonder at the Mystery in which we live and move and have our being.

In her book Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor tells the story of Jacques Lusseyran, who was blinded while still a young boy. He never was “delivered” from the blindness of his physical eyes, but Lusseyran learned to “see” a new light in his soul; learned as well to hear amazing things with his ears and developed a deep sensitivity to everything he touched or sensed around him. Certainly his life was limited by his blindness, but that very blindness also opened up his life, and I do believe that Lusseyran, like so many who have been “delivered” in unexpected ways, would gladly sing Psalm 34 and rejoice in God’s ever-present deliverance.

I pray that I may learn to do the same.

 

Man of the Night

nic-8

Burial of Jesus—Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea

(from the Church of St. Michael,Vienna, Austria)

The myrrh and aloes heavy, but we

manage, Joseph and I—not easy trying to

dispose this body under murkiness of night;

but then, I’m quite familiar with the dark,

more so than with the day; more at home with life’s

hard questions than with easy answers wrapped in

fringed and flowing robes of certainties, tapped out in

clear-cut formulas recited by us Pharisees. I do

admit, I have enjoyed the nods and bows, the special

seats in synagogues reserved for our flamboyant

piety; but shadows have haunted each dutiful

step, and hunger has gnawed at my core; the only

truth I’ve known for sure is that there

surely must be more.

*

Winding sheet now neatly wrapped around this

forlorn soul, our spices sprinkled freely all

around his nakedness, our sighs the only

dirge for him, echoed by some woman

tears from just outside our cave. We nod in

hushed farewell, to each other, to the corpse, to

all we’d hoped for from this man; we walk into the

mist; lone lily blooms along the path, the only

star in all the blackness of this night.

*

A night so like that other night when I had

slipped into his room to pick his brain, find some

answers for my restlessness; the night I left with

questions more than had been tucked into my robe when I

arrived; born from above? what was this

strangeness? what this Spirit wind that blew so

unpredictably? what this lifting up? and what this

love of God for all the unclean masses of the world?

*

Since then, I’ve watched and wondered, wished and hoped,

awash in all my doubts. Then, earlier today that cross, that

lifting up, that soldier cry “This man the Son of God!”

I kneel in heavy fog; wind whispers soft across my

brow; words tumble through the air;

“Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.”

 

Scripture references: John 3:1-21, John 19:38-42

Misty Morning Lament

misty morning

I wake to dampness

dripping from the eaves;

dank shadows lurk in

trees and creep across my

bed; my limbs hang limp, the

moisture seeping into bones;

my eyes are filled with gray as

far as they can see—not very

far; my world is almost gone.

A siren slices through the rain that

beats hard on my window, shouting

wet disdain for all our loneliness and pain.

Are we still here?  Have we, too,

vanished in this soggy mist?  The siren

moans again, its wail an echo of the

ancient cry, “O God, hide not your face from me.” 

O God, hide not your face;

shower our dark, O God, with your light,

reminding us that we are here;

reminding us that so are you.

Tiny Strength

011 - Copy

A solitary summer eve;

my world is hushed as fading sun

tucks itself into a bed of lavish green;

alone, I feel the starkness of the

coming night, the sudden stab of

fear to be, perhaps, unseen,

unheard in depth of coming

dark; and then he calls, my tiny wren,

pensive atop his shadowed post;

he, too, alone in fading light, alone but

singing yet against his fear, his song so

clear and bright, his piping strong and

bold, an evensong to chase away the

murk of night; and as he sings, the

ghostly edge of dark begins to fade; the

air around me breathes more peacefully;

and so do I.