Doxology in the Darkness

Meditations on Good Friday, Stanislaus Rapotec
04 Oct 1913 – 18 Nov 1997

Good Friday, which remembers the crucifixion of Jesus, has been given a number of titles over the centuries. Some construe “Good Friday” evolved from a mistranslation of the German phrase “God’s Friday” or “Guttes Freitag.” 1290 is the earliest known use of “Goude Friday” found in a South English dictionary.

It has been called Holy Friday, Great Friday, Mourning Friday, Silent Friday, and even Long Friday.

Good Friday is good because it is so bad.

On Good Friday foundations were shaken, hopes were crushed, and the inconceivable became reality. Good Friday pulls the vaporous veil of life aside and reveals things often don’t go the way we want. Incongruence is the norm. The daily bits and pieces of living have been turned upside down.

It’s called “Good” because Jesus absorbed all the bad, dark, injustice, evil and sin of the past, present, and future into His own body, nailing it all to the cross so that we could be forgiven and freed.

It’s called “Holy” because the love demonstrated by Jesus at this moment causes a holy hush to blanket the world; we remove our shoes entering holy space. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

It’s called “Mourning” because our hearts break when confronted with the brutality that accosted Love. The emptiness we feel in the immediate aftermath of so great a tragedy bores deeper and deeper into our soul.

It’s called “Long” because Jesus’ friends didn’t know Resurrection Sunday would actually happen. They entered the silence of a long Friday night…a long Saturday…and a long Saturday night of despair and devastation. They cried out the opening word of Lamentations, “Echah” which means “How?”

How could this have happened?
How could you allow this God?
How will I ever find joy again?

But this is the journey of Good Friday. This is the journey of life. We must learn to sing songs in the night. We must learn to trust God has something better beyond the dark night. Brennan Manning said it this way:

“To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.”
~Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust

I am still learning this lesson, the lesson of whispering a doxology in darkness. In some moments I am surprisingly able, yet in other charcoal moments, the darkness overwhelms me… until I remember.

There is nothing about Good Friday that seems right, and that is the point.

On Good Friday, God dealt death, darkness, and devastation so fierce a blow that the upturned tables of life started to turn right side up.

The dominion of death was changed from a finality to a fermata.

The darkness of injustice was pierced with the Light of Love.

The dungeon of sin was given the keys to freedom.

We live in the “now and not yet” period where Love has pierced the darkness bringing about the capacity for heaven to invade earth. However, heaven and earth will not be united into the Oneness of God’s presence until Jesus returns again (Maranatha).

So, in the meantime, through faith, trust, and love, we push back the darkness as we learn to whisper doxologies in the dark.

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
~Psalms 30:5

Room 712

Thin spaces and Divine wrestling matches

Last week I was doing some work at my Planet Changer Uganda office located in Seeta, just outside the capital of Kampala. I knew it was going to be a busy week as I was picking up supplies with our Uganda director Moses and his wife Bena.

We needed bunk beds, mattresses, sheets, chairs and a handful of other supplies to get the rooms at the office ready for a team from SVA Church. They will be coming in January to help with water testing, GPS tagging of completed water systems and conduct community health and sanitation surveys.

As there was not a bed for me yet, I stayed at a nearby hotel, this would be my basecamp for accomplishing the long to-do list. While I was looking forward to some alone time with God while savoring some amazing Ugandan tea in the mornings, my experience ran on the twin rails of beauty and struggle.

Behind the door of room 712 I passed into a divine portal where I was about to wrestle everyday for a week.

While no place is truly holier than another, as God is found everywhere and within you, during my prayer, meditation and sleep time I entered into a thin space. A thin space is the Celtic way of expressing that you have experienced the presence of God in such a real and intimate way that the veil between the here-and-now and the presence of God is as thin as translucent paper. Room 712 became for me a Jabbok river of sorts confronting my greater and lesser angels.

In the morning, while I read, prayed and meditated, God’s presence was so tangible my entire body was humming with the energy of creation.

It was amazing…
A place I didn’t want to leave…
Like Peter, I said, “Let’s build three shelters and stay here!” when he experienced the transfiguration of Jesus right before his eyes.

I felt as if I might float away, I even checked once or twice to make sure I was still sitting in my chair! I wondered if I might float right into His throne room on the waves of His love and light.

However, while I slept, we wrestled for control of things I felt I might lose, things I might gain. My mind wouldn’t settle, I felt the weight of my thoughts on my chest like a cement blanket.

Was I jacob at the Jabbok river wrestling with the man who was really God? Would I cling until He blessed me? Who was I, and why did the night spaces become an MMA ring? Was I jacob or Monty or pastor or activist or or or. If I follow His lead and surrender all, who will I become? Will I like me? Will others like me?

While my mind worked to control scenario after scenario crashing through my mind, in the tumultuous silence I finally heard what my soul needed most: “I love you, You are mine.”

And that is exactly what I needed to hear.

Sometimes The Answer Is No

I like saying yes.
Perhaps that is because I am a pleaser at heart.
I also tend to root for the underdog in most situations.
I think that is why I am still a #mariners fan.

Today I have been hiking through the rural farming district of Tororo Uganda. My purpose here is to locate and assess potential water springs that my organization #planetchanger might protect in order to provide clean water for communities who have none.

My heart and soul long to say yes to every community I visit. As I hike down to the watering hole, women and children are scooping murky water and pouring it into a smattering of jerry-cans that lie around that they will then lug a great distance to their huts and homes.

When they see us arrive, their eyes light up with hope. Perhaps fewer babies will die, maybe fewer community members will get cholera or some of the sickness if we work with them to protect the spring and provide clean water.

I like saying yes.
But, sometimes, I have to say no.

Today, we were climbing down a bouldery hill into an area where people were collecting their water from a dirty spring, but that was all they had access to.

The hike was long and hot, the trail was small and awkward, and the spring site was really large. This would be a hard project for us to complete.

On the way to the spring, I passed by a series of graves. This one gave me a gut punch:

I “really” wanted to say yes to this project. No momma should have to lose a 1 one-year-old baby because of water sickness.

After the assessment was finished, it was clear that this water site would be too large for us to do. The cost would be huge, about 10 times the cost of a normal water project. The road needed to access the water spring was so bad that we could not get the bricks (hard-cores) and materials needed anywhere close to where they needed to be. When you operate on a small budget, sometimes you have to say no.

So, the answer to this one was no.

And that hurt my soul.

I paused as I walked back past the graves. Most of the people buried there we 36-42 years old. Also too young to die. I looked again at the grave of the one-year-old and said, “I’m sorry.”

I argue with God a lot in moments like this.

I wish I had been born into a family with millions, or, I figure God could at least throw me a PowerBall win so I could say yes to more projects that inspire hope and create healthy thriving communities. But I wasn’t, and the PowerBall hasn’t hit for me.

While visiting a potential water project site a young man named John Richard Omsungu said,

“You see our conditions in Africa. We are surviving on God’s nature (natural water supply). We need spring protection for clean water. Please, will you help us with getting clean water? 

While my NGO Planet Changer is small, and although we operate on a small budget, we have accomplished some amazing things that truly humble me.

Since 2011, we have protected approximately 50 springs in rural Uganda, bringing clean water to tens-of-thousands. Communities that are now healthier and have hope. Communities that have come together to help build their water system with our National staff creating sustainable solutions that they are proud of and helped create. That continues to inspire me.

So, I like to say yes.

Today I had to say no to some potential projects.

But, I also said yes to the next round of water systems that we will able to accomplish together with the people who will benefit from their creation.

Thank you for helping me say yes to as many opportunities as possible when you invest in what we do at www.planetchanger.org

Today I heard “thank you-thank you-thank you” from many men and women who we have partnered with to bring clean water to their communities. I tend to find myself saying the same words back to them back in these moments. “Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life. We are all one no matter where we are from, and at Planet Changer we know that #waterislife.

Together we are Inspiriting hope!

5 Great Quotes About Community

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I have a love hate relationship with “community.”

As a person who falls a bit more into the introverted side of personality yet works as an ambivert (both intro and extroverted), choosing to connect is not always an easy choice. I recharge best alone, and living and working in a world of people I notice my energy levels deplete pretty fast. The last thing I want is to connect with more people.

However, I have also noticed a tendency towards depression when I choose to isolate too much, and it is actually people (community) that have been the key to re-infusing my energy levels, remind me what is true, and love me as I am…and this is life-giving.

Experiencing real community in a culture that is immersed in rabid individualism is rare and scary but oh so powerful. In community we cultivate our “others-ness” which opens the path of love that is only available when we are authentic, vulnerable and real. This creates a spiritual and emotional connection that is a greenhouse for affection, trust, risk, honesty and love…these things require that we open ourselves up in community, with-and-for-others, resulting in a mutual if not global effect.

Here are five great quotes I came across concerning community today…chew on them…

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
― John DonneNo man is an island 

 

“People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.”
― Wendell BerryThe Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

 

“A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets. Community is only being created when they have recognized that the greatness of man is to accept his insignificance, his human condition and his earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness. The beauty of man is in this fidelity to the wonder of each day.”
― Jean VanierCommunity And Growth

“Each of us must rededicate ourselves to serving the common good.  We are a community.  Our individual Fates are linked; our futures intertwined; and if we act in that knowledge and in that spirit together, as the Bible says: “We can move mountains.”
Jimmy Carter

 

“When I am with a group of human beings committed to hanging in there through both the agony and the joy of community, I have a dim sense that I am participating in a phenomenon for which there is only one word….”glory.”
M. Scott Peck