elisabeth’s 1 October ( part 2

2 Oct

)
Mom was at zero cent meters dilated. zero. She screamed when Dr Xavier broke her water. Loud. But that was just the beginning.
From Zero to a hundred, and for 24 hours we travelled a hundred. Potissum drove. Mommy threw her wedding ring at me during the long dry night. ( I gave it back to her later, after your birth. )
The sun was just rising as you were coming. I saw it’s soft rays through the clear oval church like Wren glass as they wheeled you down the wide hospital corridor. The passage was long, marble and bathed in morning lights. A beginning.
October 2. And then we were in the delivery room. Elisabeth, you popped out fast. Mommy was crying and laughing; tears and smiles.
Today, at MSK, you work a short block from this, your birth. I was supposed to name our child if it was a girl ( we had a hard time with names: your mom is quite obstinate. She was naming the boy, but the birthing was so long and difficult, I gave her my naming ‘coupon’.
I never left her, except for brief bathroom minutes. I was quite aware and awake. Today, it seems a minute.
But here you are. We love you so, then, now and forever.
Mommy named you after her still borne sister, an absence filled. You are life itself.
Elisabeth is life.

elisabeth’s 1 October, part 1

2 Oct

your birth Elisabeth was a struggle, a living struggle. Priscilla, your Mom, was never happier or healthier, than the moment, from the first moments, she was with you. Walking, laughing, happy.- free. As I followed through teaching English to the Khmer people ( relocated from Cambodia’s killing fields to a massive South Bronx apartment complex -193rd street -all mailboxes broken -) Saturdays, your mother and you sat and watched TV in the Khmer children’s room. Your first TV? Women’s mud wrestling.
No chairs; you sat on a flat mattress. I taught standing for four hours on.The living room was large with wooden floors and open windows so summer mosquitoes could have their fill. You were there with us.
Elisabeth, as you work with your families, your patients, at MSK, the Khmer’s are with you. You were there. There.
Then, right after my September 2nd birthday, dr Strongin ( he had straight brown hair till the day of your birth, then a permanent wave ) placed your high risk lupus pregnancy mother in New York Hospital for, till your both. She, and you,, were away from me almost a month.
I drove our little orange VW Beattie down to mid town Manhattan from Parkchester in the Bronx (2033 McGraw Avenue ) everyday – but Saturday – to sped evenings with you.
Mommy loves super rich Vanilla Peppermint Park shakes. What a big ice cream parlour on the corner on 3nd Avenue. All your doctor pre birth visits ended up there. Vanilla on Vanilla.
Mommy had her own basement room at New York Hospital. Visiting her I always parked one block away by Sotheby’s Art Auction Gallery. Dead end street, at that time, and I always could get parking before 6 o’clock. Priscilla, your Mom, has a sonogram everyday. Everyday, but no birthing progress. ( I think you liked it inside. ) And then, they decided to induce with Potissum.

There were 4 partners with the OB/GYN practice, one woman, Dr James, and who would deliver you was based on timing. You and mommy were induced from ‘zero.’’ Strongin was there but didn’t break Mommy’s waters: Dr Xavier did, a chief resident or intern. They called for her over the loud speaker. She had the smallest hands on staff. ( The nurse told me when I asked, )
You were a ‘water hard broken water baby.’

lament, 1

30 Sep

A dictionary defines lament as both a noun and a verb,

  1. The definition of lament is an expression of loss, sometimes through artistic expression.An example of a lament is The Book of Lamentations in the Old Testament of the Bible.

verb

  1. Lament is defined as to feel loss, sorrow or regret, often expressed in a physical way.An example of lament is to feel sad and cry at a funeral.
  2. An example of lament is to wish you would have done something different with your life.

Another definition speaks of the artistic expression that a ‘lament’ creates from loss, grief or suffering. In the crime/murder novel ‘The Redbreast’, Jo Nesbo, the last sentence of chapter eight, at the book’s first part end reads: ‘He was still staring towards the booth when the relentless lament of the Volvo car horn behind sawed the day in two.’

The author chooses a key place to insert a lament, at the very end of the novel’s first section, subtitled ‘Earth to Earth.’ Harry Hole was, a Scandinavian policeman, has fired his weapon at another policeman erroneously thinking that person was as an assassin. His partner was to sound their car’s horn if she could identify as a policeman so he would not shoot. The external sound comes too late, and thus becomes Harry Hope’s lament, an internal cry that saws his soul in two.

Artistically, the author wants us to experience the character’s internal and the external despair at the same eternal moment. This grief comes at the book’s opening and will be the identifying trope of the character: a never ending grief; a despair; an internal world beyond any hope. The car’s sound can be heard, Harry’s cry cannot. It can only be represented by a screech.

The lament’s use here is a signpost to the essential and radical nature of lament: it is a cry that does not and will not end. It is overflow of deep sorrows that will continue through life and into death. Overflow in this context does not mean ‘waste’ but riches that flows out again and again to be of use, of never ceasing expression. Nesbo’s use of lament seeks to flow Harry’s unspoken cries, his self-silencing, into us, his readers, his feelers.

Laments overflow by their design, their. They are cries, sometimes with words, at times with groaning, or silences but they always flowing.

Laments are everlasting. Ever lasting.

laments

29 Sep

What is a lament? A lamentation? Who assumes, takes on the lamentation cries? … beginning today I will begin a 12 part series on the nature of laments, from the Bible to Gilgamesh; from Snow White to the Harry Potter series; and the voices of 21 refugees to those without audible voices. The silenced and the self-silenced.

Where to begin?

I have chosen a twelve part structure as it parallels a narrative in twelve chapters, the book Ecclesiastes.

At a glance Ecclesiastes may seem a puzzling choice to structurally frame an exploration of laments. Yet, it is a pastor/teacher text in its essence that is seeking, through whispers and cries, the meaning and natural radix of life. Ecclesiastes is a teacher’s lament, their cry, as author journeys. It has 12 sections, or steps if you will, that traces its author’s movements as they seek. Life, itself, is the result of this stepping. Ecclesiastes 12:8 cries out,

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Everything is meaningless!”’

and this cry is in a real sense the ‘goad’ of 12:8, the words sharpen as a lamenting spike to meaning,

“The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—-given by one shepherd.”

Goads have the purpose of keeping sheep and cattle focused on the path they are to tread: to look neither right or left but to walk steadily. One shepherd’s goads, their words, lead to cries as they penetrate our heart, or mind, our spirit and soul. laments are the cries of our journey.

We begin tomorrow.

questioning Jesus, Mark 16, ‘Who will roll back the stone… ?’

22 Sep

Mark’s gospel ends with an essential question concerning the stone at the tomb. Jesus’s stone. Our stone. death’s stone. The Gospel, the story of Jesus’s bodily resurrection, rolls away all stones, all life’s stone. All.

1-3 When the Sabbath was over, Mary. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They worried out loud to each other, “Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?”

4-5 Then they looked up, saw that it had been rolled back—it was a huge stone—and walked right in. They saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed all in white. They were completely taken aback, astonished. 6- 7 He said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Now—on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.” 8 They got out as fast as they could, beside themselves, their heads swimming. Stunned, they said nothing to anyone.

9-11 [After rising from the dead, Jesus appeared early on Sunday morning to Mary Magdalene, whom he had delivered from seven demons. She went to his former companions, now weeping and carrying on, and told them. When they heard her report that she had seen him alive and well, they didn’t believe her.

12-13 Later he appeared, but in a different form, to two of them out walking in the countryside. They went back and told the rest, but they weren’t believed either.

14-16 Still later, as the Eleven were eating supper, he appeared and took them to task most severely for their stubborn unbelief, refusing to believe those who had seen him raised up. Then he said, “Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all. Whoever believes and is baptized is saved; whoever refuses to believe is damned.

17-18 “These are some of the signs that will accompany believers: They will throw out demons in my name, they will speak in new tongues, they will take snakes in their hands, they will drink poison and not be hurt, they will lay hands on the sick and make them well.”

19-20 Then the Master Jesus, after briefing them, was taken up to heaven, and he sat down beside God in the place of honor. And the disciples went everywhere preaching, the Master working right with them, validating the Message with indisputable evidence.]

Note: Mark 16:9-20 [the portion in brackets] is contained only in later manuscripts.

questioning Jesus, ‘rest’

21 Sep
Andrea Solario (c.1524) Mary Magdalen

Today, 21 September I wish to move deeply into Mark’s gospel by seeing Jesus’ burial from Luke’s narrative. There is a beauty to reading gospel events from different narratives. Questions should be, are raised, yet as one mediates on these queries, answered arise from times with the word. Reading the the word is calling on God, our Lord, to speak, to respond, to answer our spoken and unspoken questions.

So, if an image, a word, a moment in the gospel narrative strikes me, I question it by reading another view of the same event. In this moment I am reading Luke’s description of Jesus’ agony and burial. And I see my Lord telling me, ‘rest.’ Rest.

Luke 22 ‘An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.’ 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

The disciples are not named here except by their emotion: exhausting sorrow. They sleep to no longer feel. Jesus cannot sleep. His sorrow is so richly felt that his sweat is stood of blood. Exhaustion is jest beginning; more of his blood will spill, flow,

Luke 23 55 ‘ The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.’

When I see ‘but’ at the beginning of a sentence, I sit up. A change, a reversal, a new, completing idea is arriving:

the disciples slept due to physical and emotional exhaustion, but the women who saw Jesus’ tortured body rested. How could they rest after seeing his flayed being?

They rested in obedience to the commandment, in obedience to the word .

Rested because they choose to live by the, but, the new way: Thy way is rest; and it will be done.

Luke 10: 42 defines this way to Martha who was anxious and busy in preparing her home while her sister Mary sits at Jesus’

….” but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

The good portion is sitting with the word at Jesus’ feet. This is the ‘but.’ This is what the women have done, they have rested in the shadows of Jesus’ crucifixion death. After preparing his oils, they rest.

Obedient, they sleep.

questioning Jesus, Mark 15, his death

18 Sep
Rosso Fiorentino. Descent from the Cross. 1521. Oil on wood. 375 × 196 cm. Pinacoteca Comunale di Volterra, Italy.

in a previous post I shared on Pilate and his desire to ‘people please.’ as I read Pilate for my life learnings, I can see myself when I was a people pleaser, and am a people pleaser. He plays to the crowd; he half listens; he tries to use questioning to manipulate.

‘People Pleasers’ are really trying to please themselves. They/I want approval, applauding, reverence. Please others, receive accolades, silent or spoken. Bathe in them; become their praise. And no washing of hands can remove their, this, stink,

‘What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.

14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Now, after being turned over to the Roman soldiers, the whole centurion company , probably some of those who arrested Jesus in the Garden, are called to come to….

16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers.17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

In these moments before Jesus’ crucifixion, clothing and words are put on and then taken off Jesus. Did they, the soldiers, have an expensive purple cloak just lying around? And why bring the whole company in for this flogging?

To cover Jesus with the worst: blood and spite; false words and curses; and they touch his body to clothe, unclothe and clothe him again. They cover Jesus with thorns and whips; false praises and cheers, worship.

They cover Jesus to uncover him.

Now, to Jesus crucifixion, Jesus’ death,

21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”).23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.25 It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: the king of the jews.27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!”31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! 32 Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

Questions from others have now become exclamations: strong, forceful, sure answers. They, the soldiers, the teachers of the law, passerbys and chief priests mock Jesus deeply, as ‘this Messiah.’ Mocking here only serves to please each in the crowd, which is usually themselves.

Will no one love, pity, empathise this dying man? –

The Death of Jesus

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

The Burial of Jesus42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached,43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.’

Joseph, Mary- Joseph’s mother- and Maru Magdalene, love Jesus. He, Joesph, takes Jesus’ body down, cleanses and clothes it in linen clothe, with tears. He carries our Lord’s body to the cave tomb.

Jesus as a baby was born in a manger he was wrapped in swaddling clothes. In death his birth is mirrored back to us. Why?

So we can feel how much Jesus feels is. His first and last moments are human, intensely human. Full of passion: emotions.

Jesus loved his earthly life. He always shall as he loves us fully, completely. His life,

true, true death.

questioning Jesus, Mark 15, ‘a better resurrection’

17 Sep

How can I, or anyone, face sufferings and death; betrayals and despairs; defeat and sadness?
Abandonments?

One Easter Sunday Tim Keller taught on ‘a better resurrection.’ He used Hebrews 11 as his text.

The first time I heard Tim teach in person it was in a men’s Bible study on faithful men. He spoke that night to approximately two dozen men in the basement of a Seven Day Adventist Church. One verse, ESV: “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”

Tim spoke about ‘holy fear,’ and how this type of holiness leads to faith. Tim’s essential point: faith is trusting when in a deep fear.

He took questions after his teaching and I asked, how did you know moving to NYC to plant Redeemer Presbyterian Church was the right move, God’s will. How did he know? Three boys; leaving a tenure teaching profession. How did he know? How did Noah know? NYC is a graveyard for church planters.

Tim replied, I visited NYC; then we came again Kathy and I, without the kids; we prayed with close friends and sort counsel, but, bottom line?

Romans 8. We trusted that all things, all work together for good for those who trust God. We trusted that even if we failed that God had something better for us.

A better resurrection in the midst of failure.

And that is what the Father had in mind for us as his only son passed to death on the cross: a better, eternal resurrection. Hebrews 11,

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Together, band – aided together, we are made perfect with Jesus.

We are becoming perfections. How?

By the perfect resurrection of trusting, faithfully trusting, our Father, even as we are being crucified, abandoned.

resurrections are coming.

questioning Jesus, Mark 15 – ‘my God my God, why have you abandon me?’

16 Sep

Last night, 15 September, I was speaking to a dearly, dearly loved brother in Jesus on the phone. Adam asked me as we were studying Mark 7, why are some people hear, like during this virus, and others not?

Three studies for figures at the base of a crucifixion by Francis Bacon

This question is akin to: why is there sufferings, deaths ? why am I healed and not another? why ..?

Why is the hardest( with ‘how’ ) question to answer. There is no yes or no with why. No simple sentence.
Why deserve, need, long and deep thought; complex and draft and designed paragraphs not a sentence or a word.

Jesus asks his Father here not to do something, a request, as, Father, remove this cup if possible? No. This is a different type of question, a prayer filled ‘why’.
Jesus doesn’t need a rescue. He is the rescuer. And Jesus knows why he is abandoned by God and friends; by disciples and the crowd; by us.

He is abandoned so that when I am abandoned my friends and family; by daughters and son; by unfaithful loves, I will know and know deeply that he knows how I feel because he felt similar emotions. He was abandoned.

Me, abandoned. By mother, at birth, and father at marriage; by twin and sister, her husband and family. By daughters.

Abandoned. Alone.

Except for him. Except for Jesus. He knows. Here, below, is a description of his abandonment,

‘Pilate gave the crowd what it wanted, set Barabbas free and turned Jesus over for whipping and crucifixion.
16-20 The soldiers took Jesus into the palace (called Praetorium) and called together the entire brigade. They dressed him up in purple and put a crown plaited from a thornbush on his head. Then they began their mockery: “Bravo, King of the Jews!” They banged on his head with a club, spit on him, and knelt down in mock worship. After they had had their fun, they took off the purple cape and put his own clothes back on him. Then they marched out to nail him to the cross.
The Crucifixion
21 There was a man walking by, coming from work, Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. They made him carry Jesus’ cross.
22-24 The soldiers brought Jesus to Golgotha, meaning “Skull Hill.” They offered him a mild painkiller (wine mixed with myrrh), but he wouldn’t take it. And they nailed him to the cross. They divided up his clothes and threw dice to see who would get them.
25-30 They nailed him up at nine o’clock in the morning. The charge against him—the king of the jews—was printed on a poster. Along with him, they crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left. People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament: “You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days—so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross!”
31-32 The high priests, along with the religion scholars, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him: “He saved others—but he can’t save himself! Messiah, is he? King of Israel? Then let him climb down from that cross. We’ll all become believers then!” Even the men crucified alongside him joined in the mockery.
33-34 At noon the sky became extremely dark. The darkness lasted three hours. At three o’clock, Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”’

If I am in a band, I am in a group, as the band of brothers. Jesus, I am with you; you are with me. Running, walking, we are together.

I am not abandoned. I am with you.

questioning Jesus, Mark 15, Pilate

15 Sep

Jesus is brought before Pilate, the new Roman authority. Wishing to begin well, to win over the populace, Pilate is nothing if not pliable, mutable. He has one essential question for Jesus, himself, and the people,

Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.

2 Are you the king of the Jews?”asked Pilate.

You have said so,” Jesus replied.

Pilate voices the question, Are you the king of the Jews? Present tense; open and clear. Yes on no. And no mater how Jesus responds, death.

3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

5 But Jesus still made no reply,and Pilate was amazed.

6 Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him.11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.

12 “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.

14 Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

How is the crowd speaking. They are shouting. Jesus has blasphemies their holiday; has no met their kingly expectations. They scream louder. The shout again and again.

This is their answer, crucifixion. They hear; they answer. The question is settled, sorted.

Crucifixion.