E-Letter #158

Posted by on Mar 6, 2014 in Devotions | 0 comments

The bike trail, covered with the detritus of the recent winter storms, clogs my grandson’s training wheels, bringing his four-year old energy to a screeching halt. “Wanna go look at that tree?” I ask him, hoping to divert his disappointment. “It looks like it got hit by lightning!”  I boost him into the crook of the shattered tree, its raw v-shape newly created by the God of the Storm’s gift of an unexpected bolt of electricity piercing a night sky. “What’s this?” my grandson asks as he pokes a scaly patch of moss-green growth torn from the tree trunk split by the fury of a midnight storm. “I’m not sure,” I respond, “but it looks like a resurrection fern.” “What’s that?”  he asks, shimmying his body tighter into the tree’s wedge for a closer look.  “It’s a plant that turns green whenever it rains, and the rest of the time it looks dead,” this faux-botanist sighs.


As Jesus makes his way down the stone-littered mountain trail after his electrifying conversation with the prophets, Moses and Elijah, do the synapses in his brain fire off in all directions as he imagines all the possible paths his life can take? When he arrives at the bottom of the mountain, does he scan the chaotic scene before him – men, women, an innocent young boy, his trusted disciples wrestling with detritus of mental illness– and grieve the power of a shattered mind and a broken body to distort faith? “Why couldn’t we heal the young boy with epilepsy?” the disciples ask.  “Because you’re not taking God seriously,” Jesus responds. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” (Mt. 17:19-20, The Message)


As I prepare for our Ash Wednesday service, the synapses in my brain fire off in all directions as I ponder all the possible paths our 40-day Lenten journey can take. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust… the recognition of our mortality is the humble starting place for us believers who struggle with the detritus of our lives.  How fragile we are, I think as I picture a master potter gently blowing the ashes from his clay pot, a work of art whose fragility becomes more pronounced in the process of firing. “A broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise,” we fervently pray with the Psalmist as shards of our mortality blacken our foreheads. (Ps. 51:17)


In the valley of the shadow of death, a kernel of faith “greens up” in the shards of a  father’s brokenness. “I believe!” he desperately tells Jesus who is standing over his writhing son. “Help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:24)  It’s a poppy seed confession of faith; one that blooms in the  detritus of a shattered mind, a broken body, a crushed spirit, a shredded soul, a wrenched heart. Just a thimble of belief in the power of the fractured edges of Love to heal broken hearts, scripture tells us, is more than enough to make whole the cracks in our fragile bodies made of clay. It is the resurrection promised faux-botanists who cling in trust to the newness that follows the unexpected storms in their lives.