Monday, April 23, 2012


K. Norris says in The Cloister Walk that often the people who know the exact cost of something, have no idea of its value. 

Who knows what the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive nard was thinking?  She wasn’t preparing Him for burial as Jesus Himself suggests.  She was not, as some authors have suggested, breaking open and emptying her dowry, hoping for a spouse (though that is what she ultimately got spiritually).  She was not even giving Jesus a gift, for surely she knew that this man poorly appreciated the world’s treasures.  There was not even extravagance in this gaudy display.  She knew, as we all know, that extravagance relies on the audience and Jesus is not impressed…with the oil.

What did she bring?  Fragrance. 

This money is being wasted, sending all those people to Africa.  With that much money we could build a school there.  Why, we could put in twenty wells with that much money.  A van.  They really need a van.  Why wasn’t that money given to the poor?

The world looks and never sees.  The world listens and never hears. 

A child’s tin can phone conversation across the dining room table or her gathering of weeds to garland your hair carry an unseen weight of glory to which the world is forbidden or is unable to bear.  The world in its poverty can only see what could be and not what is. 

The fragrance of nard filled the room.  Missionaries’ hands hold foreign dirt and hands.  Missionary fingers plait honey brown hair into peace and loved-ness.  Missionary feet miss the goal with balls of rags and all feet rejoice that no one fails alone.

Fragrance.  The fragrance of love is much too dear to be sacrificed for houses or vans.  The weight of a forehead kiss brought 5000 miles for a sleeping child in acacia shade trumps many schools or wells.

Don’t weary yourself with the world’s concerns.  Bricks and mortar can never sweeten a sad and desperate world.  Let love walk beggarly and empty pocket-ed if it must into other’s darknesses for a ragged love will fill more stomachs than bread.  Speed the missionaries on.  If they need more money to dig the well, there is enough to go around… if there is love enough.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

God's Absence

Though God's absence is a common experience for most Christians, it is always fresh and frightening for those in the throes of it.  Mother Theresa prayed to truly enter into Christ's passion on the cross and spent the next 50 years feeling God's abandonment.  For most of us, God's kindness is that we feel His presence more than not.  For me personally, though, it is more often the depth of the emptiness that assures me that I was made for filling. Today, well, for months now actually, Jesus is asleep on the cushion in the back of my boat.  It is a gift to sail alone - with Him nearby - though I would like some conversation.  It is a great disciplining to pray to a empty ceiling, to pray to a God with flat affect.  It is important for me to pray though, learning again that I don't require His feedback to believe that He hears.  It is a comfort to pray knowing that He doesn't require my affect or gyrations or goosebumps or heavy heart or goo-ness for Him to be moved.  It is nice to be a part of the swell when worship explodes with such inward force that expression just happens.  It is nice to be able to surf down the face of that wave, exhilarated and free with a power behind you that is huge and scary and so amazing that you go after it again and again.  The bigger those incredible waves, the sadder it is when swells still.  When you just sit there.  And sit there.  And sit there.  Doldrums.  The ocean is still just as deep.  The water is still water.  There is still surf somewhere.  But it is hard to keep believing that swells will come  It is disheartening to look toward the horizon and see calm.  Time to swim, I guess.  And hope.