Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Poem for a Friend

"All and All"   for FB

And so shall all things lost
Be restored to us 
(and more than restored),
And the memory of loss erased from our hearts.
And the Joy that 
We only now glimpse,
In moments all too short,
Shall swallow up the void
That we feel all too deeply
And all too often.
And all, all, shall
Finally, infinitely, eternally,
Be well.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Father Cole

Jim Cole is a priest.  He is a priest in the Reformed Episcopal Church and serves as assistant priest at the Chapel of the Cross in Dallas, Texas.  He serves with me, a curate, in the same parish.

Jim and I both grew up in Gainesville, Texas, and maybe that is where our bond began...though unknown to us.  Our greater bond is in our faith and union in Christ and in the ministry of the Church.

For Jim is, above all else, a minister in the Church of Christ.  He has all the marks of this ministry:  Love for God and His Word, love for the people of God, and love for the Liturgy of the Ancient and Historic Church.  This is where he shines- like a beacon on a desolate shore.

Like me, like all of Christ's ministers, Jim has his weaknesses- "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power might be of God, and not of ourselves."  He and I are bound by our remaining sins, our innate weaknesses and ignorances, our inability to reach beyond ourselves in all of these things.  But, Christ, who alone is Holy, is pleased to use our pitiable weakness for his glory.  "That no flesh should glory in his presence."

The thing that overshadows and covers all of this in Father Jim (and I hope in myself) is that he LOVES.  He loves God and he loves people- all people and especially the people of God.

Vance Havner (an old Southern Baptist friend of mine from years ago) used to tell this story.  He went to pastor a small rural church in North Carolina as a young man.  He had not been there for long until he began to hear people talk about "Brother Brown," a former pastor.  "Brother Brown" this and "Brother Brown" that.  One day, Havner (not a little intimidated by this long-gone pastor) visited one of his parishioners in a field where the man was plowing.  After sharing small talk for a while, Havner ventured the question,  "What was so special about Brother Brown?"  After pausing for a moment, the man said,  "Wall, I expect he jist loved us."

That, that, is Jim Cole.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Happy Life

"Well, I just want you to have a happy life," she said.  She loves me and her wish was not misplaced.  ("She" is my wife's mother- and mine.)

"I guess that I have come to have a different idea about a 'happy life' than the one I used to maintain," I replied.

The fact is I do have a happy life.  I am reasonably healthy.  The woman I have loved for over forty years is still in my life and still loves me.  Our children are healthy and happy.  We have a grand-child who is the embodiment of Christmas morning, with all the presents under the tree.  I have deep and lasting friendships with fine men and women.  I work with my head and my hands, making paintings and sermons, forging iron and carving wood.  I am surrounded by hundreds of books. I make music and poems.  And,  I know God and am known by Him.

All of that is happy and makes for a happy life.

But, my life has been marked from its beginning by deep tragedy and profound sorrow.  I have known many afflictions that have diminished me, broken me, and humbled me.  (The same things have enriched me, rebuilt me, and calmed me.)  I have a deeply melancholic temperament that hides beneath a jolly, loud, and laughing personality.

In all this, I have come to think, as the author of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes says, that happiness is not something we make or possess.  It is something that comes.   It comes in short seasons, in small spurts, and sometimes, these last for a few days or so.  Then, the cares, the labors, the fears, and the weariness, the "vanity" of it all return- and we plod on.  The happiness is the gift of God, the surprise of human existence, the thing that makes the rest bearable and endurable.  We take it as it comes and give thanks.

I spent a happy day of ten hours or so with "She."  I thank her for her wish, wish the same for her, and am grateful that her remark got me thinking, and, I hope, thinking more deeply and clearly about the "happy life."