Friday, April 20, 2007

Responding to the Killings at Va Tech

Yesterday I received an email from a co-worker who is also an alumnus of Virginia Tech. The email told the stories of one of the families who lost daughter in the on-campus killings earlier this week. Since I don’t usually watch the news, I had only read a few headlines about this painful event. Her email put a human face on this story. By humanizing this story, I could enter into the grieving at the loss of lives. Below are a few thoughts that came to mind as I reflected. I would hope that we would not simply observe the pain of those grieving families but may we also weep with those who weep.

There are pains so deep, so crushing, so horrible that our thoughts cannot contain them. We think if we can just explain them, define them, categorize them, or even spiritualize them, we will somehow gain power over them.

But we won’t.

Evil is real. The dark terror of evil cannot be contained by our minds, our media, or even our government policies. In a world of enlightened ideas and unlimited progress, the reality of evil continues to strike. And if we’re honest, we know that evil strikes through even our own hearts.

What do we do when a horrid evil is unleashed before our eyes? How do we respond? If we were still human, we would respond by grieving, moaning, and crying out in agony and despair. But we’ve forgotten how to mourn. We’re too sophisticated for lamentation.

Instead, we watch the news. We collect information, analyze it, dissect it, and reduce the horror of evil to some manageable bit of data that is stored with all the other bits of data that crowd our mechanized brains. God have mercy on us and teach us to weep with those who weep.

Facing the sudden tragic loss of lives, we are mystified. Questions cloud the heart and mind: Why? Why the suffering? Why the obscene evil? But there are some questions we simply cannot ask. The book of Job reveals the futility of asking, “Why must we suffer?”

Sure we can theorize and theologize and spiritualize, but all our wrangling brings us no closer to real answers that feed the human soul. Instead of asking “why suffering” and “why evil,” our souls long to ask another question, “Where are you God?”

Where is the absent God in our despairing heart of darkness?
Despised and rejected.
Stricken and afflicted.
Wounded and bruised.
Hanging on a cross.

He is bleeding and dying and entering into the deepest depths of human pain and suffering. Though we fall under the weight of suffering, we cannot fall lower than the “Man of Sorrows.”

He embraces us in our suffering. He enters into our mourning. He teaches us to pray rightly, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”

For just a few moments, let go of the need to know; the need to answer why; the need make sense of tragedy. Let go and follow the pattern of Jesus who truly weeps with those who weep and suffers with those who suffer.

Jesus can teach us to mourn, to grieve, to ache at the pain within us and around us. He can restore our humanness. He can free us from the tyranny of information without love and restore us to loving bond with brokenhearted. He can teach us let go of our need for quick empty, solutions to evil and pain. He can teach us to cry and grieve and wait upon a comfort that can only come from the Spirit of God.

O LORD, God of my salvation,
I have cried out day and night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
Incline Your ear to my cry.
For my soul is full of troubles,
And my life draws near to the grave.
I am counted with those who go down to the pit;
I am like a man who has no strength,
Adrift among the dead,
Like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom You remember no more,
And who are cut off from Your hand.
You have laid me in the lowest pit,
In darkness, in the depths.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
And You have afflicted me with all Your waves. Selah (Psalm 88)

My eyes flow and do not cease,
Without interruption,
Till the LORD from heaven
Looks down and sees. (Lamentations 3:49-50)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Celtic Christianity

For the last several years, I've been leading retreats on Celtic Christianity, focusing primarily on the written texts that survive from the fifth to eighth centuries as well as a little later stuff. We cannot fully see inside their world, and we're always in danger of substituting our own perceptions for reality (of course that is a danger with all history), there is still value in exploring these ancients poems, prayers, liturgies and more.

In 2005, I started working on a book exploring St. Patrick's Breastplate. I wrote drafts of the first two chapters, but then my health took a turn for the worse, and I stopped writing. Recently, I decided to pick up the book and start writing again. In order to help jump start myself, I've decided to post chapters on scribd. So if anyone is interested, here are links to Chapter One and Chapter Two.

Saturday, April 07, 2007



I feel the strain of Coltrane’s Sun Ship
clashing, rattling hacking at
my thoughts, my bones, my soul.
Dissonant energies tug through
myriadic movements
that grate my focus
to fleeting distractions
of blurred activities.
Nonstop sloth.
Gasping, choking spitting,
I jump and jerk forward,
one step closer to nowhere.

Falling I sleep, exhausted from nothingness.

In the 2 am stillness, I hear a bird
allure the coming day.
This pied piper welcomes
the hope of light with heaven’s secrets.
Morning melodies
call me forth
from a tomb
(a womb)
to new rhythms.
Step by step by step.
Breath by breath by breath.
Shalom encircling me.
I begin learning
the true slowness of
one thought, one word, one act.