Pilgrim’s Lullaby

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Unexpected Shelter

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Gods and Dragons

Yesterday there was a dragon in the sky. Seriously. It was up there, right next to the fluffy white flying pig with the small bum. Just ask my daughters, they’ll tell you. We all saw it as we sat on a park bench munching potato chips and getting brain freeze from our Slurpees. We also spied a mermaid, two dancing insects and a replica of our little dog Jack.

You have to spend a little time if you want to see dragons, what with them being shy, secretive creatures. Pigs with tiny heinies are rarer still.

Lately I haven’t had room in my schedule for dragon hunting, but then neither have you, I suppose. The theory is that the same hours are given to each of us, daily. Given that truth, it would be more accurate to say that I haven’t spent much of my time looking up. Sometimes life dictates the direction of our attention. Recent events such as funerals, board meetings, friends’ health concerns and career changes have set my eyes more or less horizontally. Some details have absolutely demanded my involvement, and for the most part I’ve been glad to be included.

But horizontal vision too long held becomes short-sighted, and to find magical beasts you have to look to the distance, and up.

Some people would say that it wasn’t a dragon that I saw, but a simple cloud. Perhaps they are correct, but it’s a rare cloud that produces wonder and joy just by the seeing of it. As I sat there yesterday looking up, I was reminded that the cares that burden my soul and bend my shoulders are not worrisome to dragons or gods. They carry on regardless.

Gods, you say?

Well, says I, actually “God”, singular. I’m a monotheist, which means while my imagination can conjure scaly winged beasts, my worldview holds that there is one God who is over all. He is full of mystery, but not secretive. Transcendent, and closer than a heartbeat.

Seeing the dragon was nice. Reclaiming the perspective that God is not far off? That he is willing to share my burdens, and still has time to tame dragons? That was priceless.

Even as I write this I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted, but there are clouds in the sky and I may be able to carve out a moment to look heavenward. There’s no telling what I’ll see, if I’ve got the heart-eyes for it.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the skvy above proclaims his handiwork.”
Psalm 19:1 ESV

Healing Trees

There is a safe space provided by friends and family who understand the pain and heartache of life in general, and the Way of the Cross in particular. I wrote this poem in thanks to God, for the benevolence showered on me by their presence in my life.

If you have ever allowed me to share in your angst, this is for you. I love you. Thank you for your vulnerability. When you need it, may you find peace and rest under the Healing Trees.

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For those of you on mobile devices who find the picture too small, here is the text:

Healing Trees
by Bill Scarrott

Heaven has hills where trees do grow
When desperate prayers are sown below.
Alas we rarely tarry there
In forests angels long to know.

There the Gardener takes a knee,
And one by one tends each small plea
With hands that still bear sacred scars,
Bringing to life a Healing Tree.

Covered there from the storms you fear,
Sheltered ‘neath leaves of answered prayer,
A sapling from your own pain grows
Near streams that flow with grace to spare.

Someday others will rest and hide
Under great branches tall and wide
Where the Gard’ner watered a seed
Shaped like that lonely tear you cried.

Breathe

Dear Self,

There are nights when you lay your head to rest, feeling like you’ve held your breath all day. Without being cognizant of it, you’ve subjected yourself to a slow emotional and spiritual suffocation – your soul choked off by the cares that come from simply existing.

So much time is spent critiquing your own worth. Have you sucked all the nectar out of this day? Were you a good enough husband, an employee that contributed well to the project and the team, a benevolent and patient father? What if you weren’t a good enough Christian today? Did you fail to communicate grace?

People are watching. Others are succeeding, and you feel that you should be able to as well. You need to do more. Achieve more. Be more.

Choke.

Sputter.

Gasp.

Consistent, purposeful breathing is essential for life, both physically and spiritually. It seems obvious, right? But I wonder if perhaps you’re not spiritually asthmatic. While the oxygen you need to sustain your soul is all around you, at times I feel as though you’ve been trying to suck it through a stir stick.

So here is my advice to you, self, when you start to turn blue.

First of all, don’t panic. Don’t fret. Running around like a caffeinated squirrel is not going to help. Stop for a second. (If you’re on the freeway, use an off ramp first, then stop for a second.) Seriously, physically, stop.

Now pray. Say something like, “Hi, God. I was just wondering if you’ve got the Earth spinning faster than normal?” His answer will probably be along the lines of, “Hi back! I love you. The Earth is just fine, thanks for asking.” It’s good to be reminded that everything doesn’t go atomic if you take a moment to get your poop in a group. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in the city of Philippi, saying “…Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus…”

Doing this often has saved your sanity in the past, remember? It has opened your eyes to the ways that God’s patience and love is manifested all around you. Remember when God spoke to you as you took a moment to seek him during church today? He didn’t ask anything of you at all. He just wanted to remind you that he loves you! And then he helped you enjoy the rumble of that v-twin engine, good conversation, artery-clogging Mexican food, a playground filled with kids, buddies to chuck around a football (even though football has always intimidated you). You got wrapped up in your wife’s smile and the knowledge that your children feel safe and loved in your presence. And you had a nap.

…Each in its time…

…No rush…

…Beautiful…

I know that life isn’t easy, self, but it doesn’t have to be complicated, okay?

Just breathe.

Palm Sunday Poverty

If you read the story of Jesus in the Bible, there comes a time when he enters Jerusalem and is greeted with praises and fanfare. His reputation has gone before him. Willingness to heal the sick, encourage the marginalized and annoy the religious hoity-toities has made him the Prophet of the People, and they come out in droves to shout hosanna (literally “save, we pray”, but used as expression of adoration), spreading palm fronds and coats before him. We celebrate that moment – called the Triumphal Entry – on this day of the Christian calendar, Palm Sunday.

Part of my religious upbringing sat upon my shoulder in church this morning, whispering to me the importance of worshipful and praisey emotions while stabbing a pitchfork of guilt into my ear, because I wasn’t feeling the evangelical mojo.

On the other shoulder sat the grace of imagination, and with my Pastor’s help I transported myself back a couple thousand years so that I could partake in the original festivities. There I was, on the road to Jerusalem, the city reflecting my soul in so many ways. Pride and praise, infidel and religious, sacrifice and extortion, foreign armies in charge of way too much.

And Jesus weeping, loving, worthy of more than I have to give. Today I am the poor of Jerusalem, but somehow he comes for me too.

When the Prince of Peace approaches the city of your soul and you have very little with which to offer a decadent welcome, just put before him whatever is in your hands or on your back. Palm branches, coats and burdens pave the road for the coming of Messiah.

Lay yours down…

“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:2 English Standard Version (ESV)

Living With Questions

The first time I saw a man coming undone was in High School. One of his children was in the hospital undergoing spinal taps, and I sat there with the other students, stunned into silence on our cheap hard seats as he asked us…

Why…?

He was my Religion teacher and he taught me more about faith in those classes than I had learned in years. He kept asking – with anger and tears – the same question each day, and he continued to receive in response about 30 blank stares from children whose faith had not yet been tested. Day after day. Class after class. Bitter silence on top of sterile quiescence.

Trying to be objective, I peel back layers of memory and wonder if I’ve ever received a life-giving answer from anyone who hasn’t first learned to live with questions. I think not.

These days, I hear many questions and very few answers. “Why is that Christian such an ass?” “What will happen next?” “When will the anxiety and depression go away?” “How will I find another job?” “What is next for my loved ones?”

God, why…?

I share some of the same queries and would appreciate some answers, but what’s more important is that I am a part of a community that doesn’t fear a lack of answers. Like my high school instructor, my family of Truth Seekers keep coming back, continue asking. Step after step. Snotty Kleenex after snotty Kleenex. And I love them for it.

Like a question without an answer, I penned some lyrics this week for which there is no melody. It is for some dear friends who are learning to live with questions. “It’s okay to not be strong,” I would tell them, and you. “Don’t give up,” I would say.

And then I would sit with you awhile.

Song In The Darkness

We all want to live on the mountain
Arms lifted high to our God and our King,
But You’ve said the path to that glory
Comes when we share in Your suffering.

Give me a song to sing in the darkness
Like the one Mary sang as they laid You to rest
A harmony born in the womb of this sadness
A lullaby for every heart worn and hard-pressed.

We all want to drink from the fountain
Of joy that Your resurrection can bring
But for now faith is just me waiting
In the tomb’s pain for my Easter King.

Give me a song to sing in the darkness
Like the one Mary sang as they laid you to rest
A harmony born in the womb of this sadness
A lullaby for every heart worn and hard pressed.

You’re not far off
You see my pain
You’re the God who died and rose again.
You’re not far off
You see my pain
You’re the God who died and rose again.

This is the song I sing in the darkness
Like the one Mary sang as they laid you to rest
A harmony born in the womb of great sadness
For God who loves me ever and gave me his best.