Friday, April 27, 2012

what to tell your son on a rainy day...

Remembering rain drips indeterminate melancholy which is mostly wasted chasing the winter’s dirt off the windows. I turn to Knoffler and his chums. For me, he still knows how to suck the soothing pity that this moment deserves. McLachlan knows a thing or two about this state of mind but Eros is far too near in her voice.
I would line up the tapes one by one – all cued to the spot. The first song always was “We built this city” and the last one usually was left un-played. When mix tapes were actually cassettes compiled far more meticulously from other tapes.
I turn to well-worn pages in The Book of Melancholy. The wrinkled photo of a too-soon gone friend; the mischief still leaping off of his face. The longing for a childhood spent a world away. The trust of a friend broken. The breaking of friend’s trust. And again and again and again. Some pages turn slowly others flop past glommed together. Stop on the page where the man is clutching his throat for the revolution he is about to die for. Stay on that page and see that revolution is elusive. Skip to the picture of yourself on the day when those eyes are just coming to know the foolish dogma that your vigorous ignorance spewed. Shudder just a little.
“Why worry,” he moans, “there should be laughter after pain.”
The Book of Melancholy isn’t light reading for those interested in revving up the depression machine. It’s not about depression. It is about the humbling reflection that comes with the time and space on a damp quiet spring night. It is about recognizing that I am here right now and that is a very fortunate place to be. Melancholy can help you see the light of your circumstance if only because of the shadows that it evokes. Melancholy can remind you that valiant effort, though often unrewarded and even misplaced is still more honorable that feebleness.
“There should be sunshine after rain – these things have always been the same. So why worry now.”
Don’t lose the chance to fastidiously line up these reflections – all cued up ready to line up back to back. They speak a sorrowful narrative that is not easily told. They will haunt.  They will make you wince. But the morning comes to all – but perhaps a little brighter to those who have stared into the night…

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

time to put an end to the embarrassment

It is time again to hang him up on the cross – and once more we can put an end to how embarrassing it has been to see him walking around with us.
We’ll sing a song about the ‘wonderful cross,’ with nearly child-like glee while the roast simmers away in our kitchens at home. Why wouldn’t we be happy? We’re free! Well sort of…
“Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe,” the song nags and while our crimson stains are being washed white as snow, we are gently reminded of the debt we owe. So we throw a little extra in the plate or we sign up to volunteer at the next Monday’s cheesecake cabaret put on by the Ladies Aid group. Guilt assuaged we can slide gently back into our groove. Our Lenten observance is over so the chocolate, or video games, or whatever other gaudy triviality we have chosen to give up can wiggle its way back out of the closet. We’re done with him – he has fulfilled his purpose once again this year and we are grateful.
Grateful to stop thinking about what God living among us might mean. Let’s be honest. Since those darkest days of winter when we celebrated his birth by tossing trinkets at friends and relatives to appease our own notions of reciprocity, we have been trying to forget what him living with us might mean – how it might beg us to change.
And now we have him up on that tree again. We are relieved. Like recently elected politicians, we erroneously believe that our previous record is forgotten or better yet approved. And like said politician we forget the nature of the game we are playing. It is politics remember?
How easily and willingly we gather up the spectacle that is Easter. Like women assembling before a chic flick with tissues at the ready on every coffee table, we waddle (not that women waddle) into the pew again to have someone describe for us the agony and suffering that our Savior negotiated to accomplish our absolution. We want to feel darkness but only for an hour. Like thousands of Empire State Buildings going dark for an hour on Earth Day, we too go dark for an hour (regardless of how many birds are killed flying into us by mistake). 
It is cathartic. All of our misdeeds completely gone – removed – again. We splash the grace and mercy all over us like children in one of those shallow pools who do not realize that the water they are standing in only reaches their under-developed ankles – oh and it is full of pee. Is this really grace we celebrate? This cheaply fabricated lust for freedom from the dull consciences that barely prick our sensibilities about what is right and wrong – is this really grace?
Or is there a deeper magic than the split stone table upon which the lion once lay – bound and shorn? Can we like Lucy catch glimpses of the good and dangerous beast – now? Today?
The incarnate Christ embarrasses us. He lives simply – within and underneath his means. He lives kindly – healing, feeding the undeserving and even unintentionally. He lives courageously – against corruption, against deception couched in piety, against preconceived notions of what God might do. He lives faithfully – steady inside of darkness, disciplined in communion. These things show us up for the frauds we are. We don’t want him around to expose this any longer. We have suffered his condescension long enough. 
We are not brave enough to stand against injustice – God that would be wearisome. There is too much injustice in the world and we are not convinced that those suffering under its weight may not have deserved it in some way. We are not strong enough to live within our means – we can barely move the knuckles of our hand on the remote to switch off the television at night let alone resist the beckoning of the latest – Schticky? We are not devoted enough to carve out of our preoccupations the space to center ourselves at the feet of the teacher. He shows us up for the inconsistent errant scoundrels that we truly are. So is it any wonder that we relish (if ever so quietly) the reminders of the suffering he faced…
Yet he walks among us with grace afforded a life lived emulating his own. This is not an equation where every one of his actions matches one of ours or vice versa. It is not an accounting system of good deeds balanced off against carelessness or mistake. This is like when my dad taught me how to ride a bike. Demonstrating and then holding the seat and then washing off every scraped knee subsequently.
Instead we’ll haul him off that Roman standard and place him in a tomb. Then when it is over we’ll chuckle silently at Thomas’ doubt – while missing our very own. So glad that we are free…