"Telling the truth…"

My favorite Frederick Buechner book of all time is the small volume “Telling the Truth: the gospel as tragedy, comedy, and fairy tale.”  Now, Buechner is a master, and I love his way of articulating timeless, heavy, old truths in ways that are thoughtful, deep, and fresh.  I may post more on the book itself later (once I get another copy – it’s one of those books that you need to buy multiple copies of, so you always have one or two around to give away).  I bring this up because it seems to be a theme that has been running through my life – that of truth telling.

I found in the library today “The Courage for Truth” by Thomas Merton.  It consists of his letters and correspondence with Evelyn Waugh, Boris Pasternak, Ernesto Cardenal, Henry Miller, and Walker Percy among many others.  And while I haven’t started it yet, a blurb on the back caught my eye: “it shows the crystallization of [Merton’s] belief that speaking the truth is an obligation which ultimately brings persons of integrity into confrontation with power structures and vested interests…  these letters also testify to Merton’s conviction that contemplation is the source from which all action should flow.”

And as I look at what I write, I am brought back to my desire to tell the truth about what I see, what I think, and how the world works.  To tell the truth of my story, and to tell the truth of the stories that intersect with mine.  So maybe this will be my exploration of what it means to tell the truth – my journey as I strive to find the courage to tell the truth – and my joy as I am able to tell the tragic, comedic, and fairy tale aspects of this good news that shouts from the rooftops that no matter our brokenness and ugliness, God loves us anyway, and the story of stories will one day end happily, hope against hope, dream against dream.

An Easter Sermon

…First and last alike, receive your reward.
Rich and poor, rejoice together!

Conscientious and lazy, celebrate the day!
You who have kept the fast, and you who have not,
rejoice, this day, for the table is bountifully spread!

Feast royally, for the calf is fatted.
Let no one go away hungry.

Partake, all, of the banquet of faith.
Enjoy the bounty of the Lord’s goodness!

Let no one grieve being poor,
for the universal reign has been revealed.

Let no one lament persistent failings,
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death,
for the death of our Savior has set us free…

~ St. John Chrysostom

(yes, I have put this up here before. but I needed to remember it again…)

Happy Easter.

He is risen…

Bleeding daylight

Something about Tuesday nights makes me want to sit down and write… (that’s not entirely true. I may not want to write, but it’s times like that I need to sit down and make myself tell stories and share life, thoughts, and ideas.)

That said, I manage to put it off to super-late, and am falling asleep… so, in light of that, quick vignette for the day…

Dang it. No vignettes for now… I think my problem is that lately I have been seeing connections everywhere – I haven’t been able to take things in isolation – and the individual instances of the day to day aren’t representative of the whole – of what moves my heart, excites me, challenges me, relaxes me, makes me angry…

I was reading recently that writing is about making choices – beginning with a blank page (or screen) and filling it – choosing which words go where, what stories to tell or not tell, what details to fill in or leave blank… and my choices have been paralyzing me lately.


I’ve been re-reading Gary Haugen’s “The Good News about Injustice” with this Servant Team who’s now here – this morning we say down and discussed the first part – I forget how good it is, and the hunger for justice that it wakes in me… Since then, a couple of songs by different Bruces have been resonating with me…

Bruce Springsteen singing a classic from the great depression – sung again shortly after Hurricane Katrina… the chorus is simple, poignant, and true “How can a poor man stand such times and live…” – and at the end the Boss sings “gonna be a judgement that’s a fact, a righteous train rolling down this track…”

Bruce Cockburn (a favorite, and proof that good things can come from Canada) has some great songs – two in particular have played over and over in my head today. In one (called “If I had a rocket launcher“), he sings “I don’t believe in guarded borders and I don’t believe in hate. I don’t believe in generals or their stinking torture states… I wanna raise every voice. At least I’ve go to try. Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes. Situation desperate, echoes of the victim’s cry…”

“Water rises to my eyes…” When I walk the streets of the favelas, and truly see what is going on like I did tonight, water rises to my eyes. Longing for hope, longing for change. And we do what we can. It is so little, and the need is so great. Many refuse what we do offer – an evening off the street, some food, talking, medical care, prayer… and yet, we keep offering.

Ran into a young boy named Tiago* who used to be on the streets downtown. I hadn’t seen him for almost a year – he’d graduated from the downtown streets to the favela streets. That means more drug abuse, more violence, closer ties to traffickers… I stopped and talked to him this evening amidst the smells, smoke wafting, crack, coke, and marijuana mingling as pushers yell out and offer free samples to 10-year olds… My heart burns. When I call him by name, he smiles, and is shocked. “You remember me. You remember…” it’s not enough to pull him away from the crack, but for a second, he is touched.

Bruce Cockburn has another song (“Lovers in a dangerous time…”) – in it, perhaps my favorite line in any song, ever…

– “When you’re lovers in a dangerous time, sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime. But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.” –

That’s what I’m still doing here in Brazil. Kicking at the darkness…

An Easter Meditation – Part Two…

So many people have said it so much better than I can. But, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to jump in and say it all again – less eloquently perhaps, but no less heartfelt.

I’m not really sure where we go from here. On Friday I talked about entering into the pathos of Jesus’ death. Sunday is supposed to be a day of joy and awe. He is ALIVE! Jesus, who was dead, is dead no more. He lives. He breathes. The heart that grew still and cold beats once more. The blood that thickened in his veins now runs warm and fast. His toes crinkle. He sneezes. His chest rises and falls. He begins to sweat and itch and be hungry and thirsty. It’s too much for me to take in.

Why is that? I think it’s because I want it to be true so badly. But, I am afraid of getting hurt. I am afraid of fully committing to this belief because I fear what it will try and draw out of me. I hesitate and hem and haw and commit to it 80 percent… Keeping that bit in reserve so I can try and keep my heart safe. I want Jesus’ ressurection to be true. I believe it is. But I can’t imagine what it looks like… I can’t imagine Jeferson standing up, laughing his laugh and smiling his smile and singing with his voice, and being stubborn and a brat and angry and hurt and tired and cold and happy and joyful and just so fully himself. I want to. But that hope seems so far away. I can’t imagine what it would be like to see my mom walk into the room again – to hear her laugh with her entire body, to see the love in her eyes, to have her put her arms around me and feel like a little child again – to grin when she gets frustrated again, and be sad when I’ve dissappointed her and to have her be her old self, before she got sick – to hear her scream when Dad would throw her in the water or watch her glow with righteous indignation and action when the poor, abandoned, and weak were left without an advocate, and were abused and exploited and taken advantage of… Oh, to see them again.

But all we were left with is memories. Only their absence is present. Until that day when Jesus came back to life, defeating death. Two thousand years ago, something changed. The disciples, who cowered in numb broken fear, received the scare of their lives. Their hope was dead. But all of a sudden, everything changed… He’s alive. He’s alive!

And in that hope of his resurrection, we know that death has been defeated. There is hope, not only for the life to come, but for this life now! His eternal, Kingdom life fills us in the here and now, transforming us into something beautiful – flawed and broken, yet being repaired – becoming who we were born to be… Becuase of Him we have hope. Becuase of who Jesus is – his beauty, his life, his death, his resurrection, his promises – we have hope. Because of him, everything has changed. And there’s no going back to the way things used to be.

In celebration of Easter, I want to post the lyrics to one of my oldest favorite Easter songs. I remember listening to it when I was a child, and it never failed to run chills down my spine. It’s kind of long, and a bit cheesy, so you don’t have to read it… but it does hold a special place in my heart, and if you ask super nicely, I’ll sing it for you next time we’re together, if you really want me to… =) Here it is –

He’s Alive! – Don Francisco

The gates and doors were barred, and all the windows fastened down,
I spent the night in sleeplessness and rose at every sound,
Half in hopeless sorrow, half in fear that day
Would find the soldiers breakin’ through to drag us all away.

And just before the sunrise I heard something at the wall.
The gate began to rattle and a voice began to call.
I hurried to the window, looked down into the street,
Expecting swords and torches and the sound of soldiers’ feet.

There was no one there but Mary so I went down to let her in.
John stood there beside me as she told me where she’d been.
She said “They’ve moved Him in the night and none of us knows where.
The stone’s been rolled away now His body isn’t there!”

We both ran toward the garden. Then John ran on ahead.
We found the stone and empty tomb just the way that Mary said,
But the winding sheet they wrapped Him in was just an empty shell,
And how or where they’d taken Him was more than I could tell.

Well something strange had happened there, just what I did not know.
John believed a miracle, but I just turned to go.
Circumstance and speculation couldn’t lift me very high
‘Cause I’d seen them crucify him, and I saw him die.

Back inside the house again, the guilt and anguish came.
Everything I’d promised Him just added to my shame,
When at last it came to choices I denied I knew His name.
And even if He was alive, it wouldn’t be the same.

But suddenly the air was filled with a strange and sweet perfume.
Light that came from everywhere drove shadows from the room.
Jesus stood before me with his arms held open wide,
And I fell down on my knees and just clung to Him and cried.

He raised me to my feet, and as I looked into His eyes
Love was shining out from Him like sunlight from the skies.
Guilt and my confusion dissappeared in sweet release,
And every fear I’d ever had hust melted into peace.

He’s alive! He’s alive! He’s alive and I’m forgiven!
Heaven’s gates are open wide!
He’s alive! He’s alive! He’s ALIVE!!!!!