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weeping muchness

“…and the waters prevailed much much upon the earth”

Thinking about grief. And loss. And tears.

I’ve heard it said that the key thing to remember about the story of the Garden of Eden is not that it happened but that it happens.

I think the same is true of the story of Noah.

It happens.

We are deluged and we weep a flood of tears until our life is awash with the grief. “And it rained for forty days and forty nights…and the waters increased…and the waters prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth…and the waters prevailed exceedingly…”

Literally “much much.”

The Hebrew word is m’od. “Muchness, force, abundance.”

“…and they prevailed, the waters upon the earth, fifty, a hundred days…”

It’s as if in the fountains of the deep bursting open the earth itself wept a flood over all the loss it had experienced. A flood of the infinite muchness of grief that drowned everything.

I don’t know that we can improve on the image.

Or on the metaphor of its aftermath.

“…the fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped…the rain from heaven was restrained…the waters returned from off the earth continually…and the waters decreased continually until the tenth month…the tops of the mountains were seen…”

Grief in all its intense depths waxes and wanes.

How long it takes for us to dry out!

But even when the comforting dove returns bearing the sprig of hope, of solid ground underfoot again, your life coming to rest again on it’s highest peaks, and as you muster the courage to peek out the lone window, you see a world still dominated by water, just within more manageable, more measured bounds.

Grief remains. It always remains. It can still quickly cloud up overhead and rain a river. It still has the depths of the Marianas Trench you can get lost in, and undertows that can suddenly sweep you in and out.

But there is dry land now too.

And green.

breathe child

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2014 in haverings, Suffering

 

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exit stage right, left, front, back, i don’t care just let me out of here

One more bit of my writing this week from Genesis. More time with Noah and the Mrs. in that ark of his. Like the previous post, this will appear on my devotions blog in a few weeks and like the previous post I just can’t wait…
exit (1)

“Go out.”

Now there’s something we seldom wait for.

We like coming and going on our time table,
thank you very much.

How many times have we scene it play out in the movies? Someone is told to wait – wait for the signal, wait for the order, stay put until…but no, the forlorn character can’t wait, but steps out, often fatally, putting everyone and everything in jeopardy. We squirm and shout our brains out at the screen, the passion intensified, no doubt, because deep down we know that’s what we do.

Who wants to wait for it for 40 + 150 + 150 + 40 + 7 + (please, enough already! not another digit! you hear me!) + 7 (dang! you had to, didn’t you!). Seriously, who wants to wait for that? Especially during the final two sets of seven while Noah plays with his birds? I mean, think of it.

Think of Noah’s unnamed wife.

she who's name must not be spoken...

she who’s name must not be spoken

Look up “stir crazy” and you’ll see a picture of Noah’s wife with “unnamed” in the caption.

Can you hear her voice?

“Why don’t you just crawl out the port hole? For once in your life be a man! Stop your whirling and twirling and show some initiative. Do something constructive. Do something!

Maybe Noah didn’t need his wife to say this because he was busy thinking it himself. Perhaps she bore all of this delay and suspense sitting stoically in her recliner right beside his. Maybe not. And maybe this explains what (spoiler!) happened with Noah’s son Ham. Ham was just exposed too long in the box and he spoiled (told you).

But the fact is God shut them in. And God told them when it was time to leave.

God shuts us in.

exitGod opens the door and says, “Go out.”

We don’t like that. Well, we like the “Go out” part. We just don’t like waiting for it.

We don’t like that maddeningly frustrating counsel of James – it’s so un-American, so in-human:

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (James 1:3 in the Message; thanks Eugene Peterson for making this annoying counsel even more annoying).

We don’t like our faith-life forced into the open. And one challenge at a time from one direction. Please. And we reserve the right to do all we see fit to get out of things prematurely and then pat our own backs at our remarkable initiative and “faith.” How many of our prayers for healing and recovering for ourselves or others are driven by our own myopic desires to escape the box we’ve been shut up in, as we lower our tresses (or tell others to lower theirs), Rapunzel-like, through the port hole to make good the escape? And we shout “Just believe!” as we urge them or ourselves to rappel down the side of the box.

Oh, what faith (aka insanity) it takes to wait for his “Go out” even though we risk our box becoming our tomb. Because that healing, liberating, life-giving word comes – even though we fear we’ll be a-molderin’ in the grave before we hear it. In his time. At the right time.

It comes.

Wait for it.

And once you’ve heard it. Get. Out.

What are you waiting for?

Avram

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in Faith, Genesis, haverings

 

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i wait

Spent the past four days in Noah’s ark. At least that’s how it felt. Hadn’t gotten much writing done the past four weeks, so I was making up time, pretty much sequestered. With Noah. In his claustrophobic box. Genesis 5-11.

Want to share a sample that will appear on my devotions blog in mid-August. Don’t want to wait…

Waiting.waiting (1)

Let us attempt a definition.

To wait is to suffer through interminable, frustrating, immobilizing inactivity in the midst of a pressing desire to move that is practically bursting out of your chest.

And we hate it.

Every.

Aggravating.

Minute.

Of.

It.

It’s why we have multiple self-checkout lines in our superstores. Who wants to wait for the checker to tediously, slowly drag each item across that scanner as they make small talk with that person ahead of you (you know, the one with the 30 items in the 15 items or less lane and a stack of coupons and at least four items that have to be researched in depth for a price)? Who has the time? The lack of late night self-checkout lanes is one of the key reasons I stopped shopping at a certain local superstore. Fair trade and social justice issues? Would that I were so deep (who has time for that?). I just got tired of waiting all the live long night (it’s amazing how long five minutes can be when it’s after midnight in a superstore). Now they have a half dozen new ones open all the time, right by the door that’s open all night. Brilliant. And virtually wait free.

Bliss.

waitingBut here’s the interesting thing. Noah waited. For forty days and forty nights it deluged. He waited. For 150 days the waters rose. Noah waited. Six months. God remembers – though the only way Noah probably could have known that was by the sound of a new wind blowing outside his claustrophobic box. For another 150 days the water recedes. He waits. The ark makes landfall on Ararat and peeking out the one porthole he spies new peaks. He waits as another forty days pass. Then he sends the raven. He waits. Another seven days. He sends the dove and she returns. Another seven days. He waits…

Here’s the cool thing in all of this Noahic waiting.

The Hebrew word translated “wait” here doesn’t mean listless, frustrating, immobilized and immobilizing inactivity. It actually means to whirl, to twirl, to dance. Yes, it can also mean to writhe in terror. Perhaps it was an earthy mixture of both, just as it is for us as we too wait in our stinking box peering out through our single porthole in the midst of our mess.

Seeing this gave me a completely fresh picture of Noah in that box of his.

No stoic reclining, this. He writhed. He twirled. He danced a dance brimming with the mixed melodies of fright, tired-of-waitingfear, anger, joy and anticipation. He writhed with all of creation as it was smothered in watery darkness; he twirled with delight at the sound of that mother of all blow-drying winds; he did hand springs when at last he felt the boat connect with solid ground below and when the top of those mountains could be seen.

Waiting is a dreadful, writhing dance of anticipation and suspense.

The challenge is to let ourselves feel it, to enter it, to express it, as we, with Viktor Navorski passionately chant,

“I wait!

navorski

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2013 in Genesis, haverings

 

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Painting: Feces or Frescoes?

You have to wonder about this. Is this the way God intends to give Abraham children, through a slave woman rather than his wife? And it doesn’t make it any easier that Hagar is Egyptian. Is it through the Egyptians, of all people, that God is going to get things done?…What does God think of this arrangement? We don’t exactly know. He never steps in and says, “How dare you take matters into your own hands like this. You should have waited until I told you what to do!” Could God have been okay with this? 

Screwing up is deep in Israel’s genes; God carrying them along regardless is deeper still.

Genesis for Normal People, Peter Enns and Jared Byas

Alas, a film is a creature made of many different parts and pieces, the script being a vital one, and I cannot say with a good conscience that this film ever overcomes that one fatal flaw. That being said it isn’t completely destroyed by it either. So we’re left here in essence with a masterpiece painted in shit. Scott can try his hardest to make something beautiful out of it, and he does, but no matter what he’s still painting with shit. I can only hope that for the sequels he’s given some actual paint.

Film review of Prometheus by theblog Simply Film
http://simplyfilm.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/prometheus-review/

I thought about cleaning up the more pungent and potentially offending language from the Prometheus review by Simply Film. But the very edginess and pungency of it is what struck and stayed with me. Even the more religiously acceptable “crap” doesn’t quite do. I’m also counting on the reader’s ability to roll with it. As it were.

How often a director has to overcome the flaws of the script he is given.

A masterpiece painted in shit.

Viewers of Prometheus can judge how fitting such a judgment is of that film. I am struck by how fitting such a description is of humanity in general.

The review converged with my reading of Genesis for Normal People by Peter Enns and Jared Byas. Their observations and questions quoted at the top of this post concerning Abraham’s decision to use his Egyptian servant girl as a surrogate wife and mother (at his wife Sarah’s suggestion) dovetail beautifully with the review. All of those storied patriarchs – Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah and Rachel (and Bilhah and Zilpah – ohhhh this gets messy indeed, doesn’t it?), Joseph and his brothers – provide less than high quality elements with which the Master Artist can paint his masterpiece, don’t they? Funny how, thanks to Calvin and his kin, we tend to think of God has handing us the script that we are fatalistically predestined to play out, hopefully reciting the lines to his sovereign satisfaction. What a turn to see us essentially handing the Artist the rather pungent palette “script” of our own often muddled and befuddled lives only to see Him make a masterpiece of it still.

Feces painting.

Yes, we have an Artist who can handle all the fecal matter we present in our dodginess, our prejudice, our inattentiveness, our bigotries and biases, our just plain and all too often sanctimonious nastiness – what Paul refers to as “the works of the flesh” which I think Peterson in his Message captures most pungently:

Repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on…

And we do.

Humanity brings him a full palette. Regularly. Daily. Would that such a supply stopped with the patriarchs of Genesis. But it doesn’t. We carry on the tradition rather nicely. Especially in too many sacred halls. Which is one of the reasons Genesis can still so speak to us if we let it. And he still paints a masterpiece for eyes that can see it (even if you have to hold your nose just a bit).

And if that is what the Great Artist of Life can do with feces, just imagine the frescoes he can produce when we actually supply him with paint. The paint of faith, hope, and love. What Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit,” again captured well by Peterson’s pen:

He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Imagine what he can do with such a palette.

It’s nice to know that he can do some of his finest work with feces. That means there’s a wonderful and redemptive hope for each of us.

But think of it.

Just imagine what the Artist can do if we will but bring him paint.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2012 in musings

 

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