Creation

There's the Gold

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Last week I sat in the middle of the auditorium while the first Easter rehearsal was getting underway. It was a music run-through. In some ways it was just a following-through kind of rehearsal, beginning to do all the things they've been planning for the last couple months. No performance, really. Just practice. The vocalists and band were all situated on the stage to face one another, ignoring the rest of the room, focused on each other and the work ahead. Underneath work-lights, and sometimes even in the dark, they tuned and tested and chatted, readying themselves to cement harmonies and plan transitions. 

In some ways, it was the farthest cry from the celebration it will become in just a few days. 

But then they started the first song, and I started getting emotional. In the midst of the first verse of the very first song I was reminded of how good it is to do this work. I thought, “There’s the gold.”

I once walked into a working mine, into the dark of the cave and the cold. I watched as the men loaded onto an elevator, the lights affixed to their helmets shining back at me. I watched as the elevator descended into the earth and swallowed them whole. 

Making things feels like that sometimes because the things we’re most called to make means excavating our souls. With a sense of purpose we descend and begin to dig, and it often feels like all we have is a hard hat affixed with a light that’s begun to dim and flicker. We dig in the dark until we find what we came for. Then begins the even harder work of bringing it back to the surface, and once that’s done whatever we’ve found still needs to be fired and refined and finally made to shine. 

Making things is hard work.

But along the way we catch these glimmers, these flashes of light, these flickers that remind us why we started digging to begin with. When we’ve been digging in the dark for awhile those flashes sometimes seem even brighter. 

Or maybe we’re seeing them for what they really are. 

As I sat in that bare-bones rehearsal and the first song began to swell, I caught a glimmer of what will come to be. I felt for a moment just a little bit of what God is going to do. Every time that happens I am reminded again that any amount of digging is worth it.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father
Who art in heaven
hallowed be thy name.

That name,
The name we cannot tame,
And would not aim to try.

For your name’s above all names,
Relentlessly shows its fame,
And effortlessly holds its claim.

Your name it is holy.
Your name is the only
One that can
Be known as the I Am.

And so we stay
In your presence,
And we pray
Here in deference
And we ask:

May Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done.
It can be done;
It will be done;
The work’s begun

On earth
As it is in heaven

In you and me,
Friends, can you see
The we that we would be
If he’d not set us free
To be the we
That he
Can make us be?

Our lives are exchanged.
Our hearts have been changed.
Our passions rearranged.

And he has beseeched us,
Unleashed us,
Bequeathed us

The keys to his kingdom,
The work that must be done.
Here and now
We can plant and plow
He will show us how.

So don’t wait.
Don’t hesitate.
Don’t let it percolate,
Or let time confiscate
The power
We have in this day and hour.

My brothers and sisters,
We cannot resist this;
It is our existence
To become his assistants,
To make exchange,
To enact change,
To rearrange,
All in his name.

So that when we say,
“Give us this day
our daily bread,”

We mean instead:

Please, God, give unto us
The things that you have for us
That will make us victorious.

But first we must attend
To the things we must amend,
And the ways we still pretend
To be something other
Than the life you’ve uncovered.

So search our hearts and know us,
And show us
The brokenness in us.

Bring to mind our lapses,
And forgive us our trespasses.
Let the light of your face
Erase
My disgrace.
Replace
The trappings of this place
By the power of your grace.

For it’s by you we live
And give
As we forgive.
And choose not to pass judgments
On those who affront us
who trespass against us.

Perfection forgave us
And gives us
The means for forgiveness
Of others.

In your mighty name
Remove all our stains,
And precede us,
And lead us 
not into temptation
But
towards your redemption
Made possible by your preemption
of death.

Father, please deliver us
From evil
that may hinder us.

For we find ourselves connected
To the power that resurrected.
That power
It has seized us,
It frees us,
Sin flees us
because we have seen Jesus!

My mind cannot fathom
The wonder that can come,
That has come
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power,
And the glory.
For ever and ever
Amen.

See a performance of this piece.

Sure To Save

On March 29, 1869 two soldiers, Sgt. Adams and Pvt. McLoughlin, stood upon the shore of Newport Harbor. They braced themselves against Rhode Island’s biting, late-winter wind by pulling their blue, army-issued wool coats tighter around their shoulders. The young private blew a few hot breaths into his cupped hands before raising his gaze toward Fort Adams in the distance, which stood resolute against the ominous clouds beyond. 

They’d spent their short leave in the bustle of Newport, but they needed to get back to their posts before nightfall. The day had been unremittingly colorless and cold, and the rumble in the distance warned them that a storm was brewing. The harbor, though somewhat protected from the wild waters of the Atlantic, was infamous for becoming treacherous quickly.

But the two soldiers had hired a boy, a young sailor who’d sworn he’d be able to guide them to the safety of the fort in even the roughest weather. And they did really need to get back to their posts.

As soon as they set off dark clouds descended on them. The late-evening light withered into darkness, the wind began to howl, and the waters around them begin to roil and spill over the sides of the boat. 

The men were soldiers, not sailors. They had little experience with the grey, icy waters that churned beneath them, and they were beginning to see that their 14-year-old guide was far less experienced than he’d led them to believe. The rain lashed against them, soaking them to the bone, their heavy coats growing even heavier. As the wind spun them round and the waves toss them side to side, the three men became disoriented, uncertain whether the safety of the fort lay ahead or behind. 

Then through the squall they saw the faintest glimmer of light. 

From the lamp room of the Lime Rock Lighthouse a light shone faithfully—as it had since the day the Lewis family had first been given the task of caring for it. 

But if the three beleaguered men felt any sense of relief, it was quickly dashed as a mighty wave overturned their boat and tossed them into the icy water.

Meanwhile, in the lighthouse sat Ida Lewis, the eldest daughter of the light keeper. She was sick with a cold and trying to keep warm by the stove as the wind howled outside, forcing the shutters to crash against the house in an irregular staccato. 

Then Ida heard something, panicked shouts mingled with the howling wind and rain.

In a flash, she was out of her chair, throwing open the door to the fury of the storm outside. From the lighthouse’s perch atop the craggy island, she could see men in the water, struggling to find handholds on the upturned keel of a boat. She knew that the billowing waves would soon take the men out into open water.

Without stopping to put on a coat or shoes, Ida ran out into the night. 

She clambered over the rocks, slick with rain, and into her rowboat. As she pushed off from shore the wind and freezing rain threatened to drive her back, but she rowed with all her might. 

Wave after wave crashed over the bow, nearly sinking her, but the men’s desperate pleas gave her the strength to press on, her progress painfully slow. 

By the time she reached them there were only two souls left to save. The young sailor had slipped under the water almost as soon as their boat had capsized. But to save Adams and McLoughlin, Ida summoned all the strength in her 103-pound frame and dragged the nearly-unconscious men into the boat with her, lifting them over the stern as her father had taught her in order to minimize the risk of capsizing herself. 

When Ida finally reached the safety of the lighthouse she was frostbitten, Adams could hardly walk, and McLoughlin was unconscious. Yet in the end, both men lived. 

The men she plucked out of the storm that day were counted among the total of 18 lives that Ida would save throughout her life in the lighthouse, first as the child of the light keeper and then as the light keeper herself.

Of her, a poet once wrote:

In this world there’s none beside her,
none more true and brave.
In the tempest, on the wave,
none more sure to save.

In our lives the tempest and the wave will surely come. Be they disappointments, tragedies, worries, or unanswerable questions, each of us will have moments where we’ll find ourselves overcome by the roar of the squall and the rush of the tide. We will lose our way. Our lives will be caught up and capsized. 

And in the midst of those storms we may even see a light burning steady and true, but we find ourselves hopeless to reach it. We feel too far, too weak, too lost. 

But the glorious truth is that the light keeper’s child has already come to our rescue. He’s left the safety of his home, rowed out upon the troubled sea of our world, and braved the worst storms of this life so that we who are shipwrecked can be saved.

In the tempest, on the wave,
none more sure to save.

To see a performance of this story visit willowcreek.tv

Behind the scenes photography by Tyler Hoff

Primary source:
Skomal, Lenore (2010-06-15). Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter: The Remarkable True Story Of American Heroine Ida Lewis. Globe Pequot Press. Kindle Edition. 

Fight the Headlines

Have you looked at the news of late, at what new calamities the world can create all plastered on the front page as if we're all upon the stage of some Greek tragedy?

There is a crazed racket of noise voiced by the newspapers and news anchors on televisions, all repeating renditions of doom and gloom that leave little room for hope.

Wars rage on the very first page, and the page after that asserts that this or that spat will in fact become a war tomorrow.

And on page three are the refugees who flee those wars only to wash up on shores where they're not wanted.

Page four has more, from terrorist acts to economic collapse lined up by first drafts of a peace accord that went ignored while everyone went on fighting.

And all of this unease has high degrees of complexities, which means that we can't easily solve the world's pollutions with simple conclusions or quick-fix solutions. And so all of my disillusions only grow.

And I ask: What have we done to the world we come from? When hopelessness pervades the prayer that I've prayed is that we won't we have to lie in the bed that we've made.

And we cry out to God for Mercy. And his answer to us is His son, Jesus.

For on Friday a crown of thorns sat upon his brow but by Sunday an empty tomb held the promise that now the worst of kinds of news can be redeemed and infused with hope.

Jesus, Silence the news and the views of those who would tell us that the world will come to nothing for you are the thing the world will come to. You. Only you.

These headlines that roll on will not be the words that I stand on for my hope is built on the one who gave me breath and whose power conquered death!

Yes, death has been swallowed up in victory! So fear and these headlines have nothing on me. And in the face of whatever news I might be given I will declare this one headline: "Jesus has risen!"