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Reality

Someone asked me for this short paragraph from my sermon yesterday. I thought I might as well share it with you all, for what it’s worth. I was focused on the 23rd chapter of Jeremiah, which speaks of the challenges of leadership and the power of the Living God to help us.  I said, toward the end, these words:

“There is always hope, but it never comes without cost or pain or struggle. There is always a future, but never at the expense of our past. There is always Presence, but it is not always comforting and pleasant. There is always a way forward but it is never found by evasion or running away from the hard places.”

Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton

They are my words, not a quote. They come from my experience of life, both the good and the disappointing parts of myself I’ve known. I hope they help you. Two other great quotes I used:

I heard an ad executive on Ted Talks say this:  “Poetry makes new things familiar and familiar things new.”

And this one from G. K. Chesterton,  The Everlasting Man  “Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died. Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”  Don’t worry so much when things get torn up.

Or, as Leonard Cohen said in his wonderful lyric, “Anthem,”

Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen

Call and Response: Excerpt from Poems, Prayers and Unfinished Promises

In December, Mossy Creek Press released my new book, Poems, Prayers and Unfinished Promises.  I have been so gratified by the readers’ enthusiastic responses.  From time to time, I want to share a few excerpts with readers.  Since we are in the Lenten Season, I share this prayer, found on page 48:

A Prayer for the Beginning of Lent

Based on Psalm 42:8-11COVER PIC jpg

As a Baptist kid in the South, I had never heard of Lent, but I understood “call and response” instinctively. Someone sings and you sing back to them. In southern gospel, it was often something the basses and altos did, little descants under the melody, like a man and woman when they really speak and hear each other’s hearts. That’s the Lenten journey to me—get quiet, listen and when you finally pick up the song, sing back. You really have to train your ear to hear it.

“By day the LORD commands his steadfast love and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?” As with a deadly wound in my body, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”  Psalm 42:8-11 NRSV

 

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The Day Alabama Almost Died by Gary Furr Remembering April 27, 2011

Video still suspended on the internet, weathermen almost screaming fear and warning,

Maps lit up with horrible storms, bright, rotating monsters

And the skycams filming it

Dark rumbling cone of cloud, wider and firmer, roaring down,

Swallowing places we all recognized, this street corner, that road, this hospital and the University itself

Gobbled into darkness

We sat watching helplessly in what passes for our safe place

Terrified for people we know and can’t call or get to

Just sat there, watching, listening, praying in a basement or a closet

Now it lives on YouTube and in children’s nightmares

Fear comes out of nowhere, rumbling into a sunny place and wipes it out

We still remember .  How can you forget 63 tornadoes,

Taking down a state a town at a time?  Houses blown apart, unglued matchsticks

Flying everywhere.  That was the picture everyone shared

But it’s the million snapshots, most of them not taken

Sagging shoulders of an old man and his wife looking at the wreckage of sixty years

A family crying over photographs and precious pets and dead neighbors

Burying the body of a son or a mother or a friend

Who committed no crime against nature that took their life.

The foolish weakness of our lives pitted against something so vast that we shrank away

Our hearts melted, our schedules crashed, our computers went dead with no grid to hook to

Agendas changed, all the foolishness swept away into immediate priority

Only holding the people we love, finding the body of a lost daughter

Feeding a neighbor who was hungry and broke

Losing a job that blew away in a second.  Going to church when it mattered

Listening for God when God seemed gone

Oh, we remember a million snapshots, of a child calling, “I’m okay,” of a house that used to be

Where a neighbor and his wife died, their bodies snapped like twigs and tossed into an undignified heap

Diapers and receipts and toys and furniture, curtains and unrecognizable slivers, trashbags and deck chairs

Wood and metal and rope and canvas, slung in no pattern, no priority and with no respect for their value

Gone, gone, gone, a house, a town, a store where we shopped, a friend we knew,

A way of life we lived, a sense of safety with which we deluded ourselves

But some things still didn’t blow away—faith and hope and love survived

Love for strangers fired up strong and woke us up to one another.

But we stood for a moment, blown away like the pieces of our lives and our world

Dazed, disbelief, daunted, discouraged, disheartened, darkened in soul

For just a moment, to take it in.  We will never forget if we rebuild it all again

What happened that April day, when Alabama almost died.