High Noon in the Valley of the Shadow

The air shimmers with heat as the camera pans, taking in the dusty red desert and the windswept blue sky. It settles on a man wearing long leather chaps, gun belt slung low on his hips. There’s a soft jingle of spurs as the focus shifts to a outlaw, all dressed in black, facing him twenty paces away. The outlaw shifts his balance and his fingers twitch above his holster. The look on his face—is it murder, or is it fear? The focus shifts back to the gunslinger standing with shoulders relaxed, unperturbed, humor in his eyes. He tips his hat.

The acrid taste of gunpowder stains the air, and before the smoke fades the outlaw’s on his black horse, riding it hard out of town. The camera spins past faces in the storefront windows to a freckled young boy yelling victoriously, hurling rock after rock after this beaten man—“Go on! Don’t you come back again!” Newsboy cap, dirty white shirt under suspenders, pants too short,  dusty black leather shoes. He’s been playing at Gunslinger for years already. His pistol’s fake, but he knows how to use it. And he knows he doesn’t need it. All he needs are these rocks, the triumph in his heart, and the victor behind him. He shouts insults, daring the outlaw to come back and fight like a man. He knows his town’s protected and he’s got nothing to fear.

Crank it up. Close your eyes. When you hear the boy shout, take up your rocks and shout with him.

He is risen. Death’s been defeated.
The stories are true.


In celebration of Easter, Andrew is giving away a free download of this song on his Facebook page.

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Finals, finally

This morning i intended to wake at 6:30 (and be coiffied and preened), spend time with Scripture and prayer and coffee after showering, and then dive into writing and reading. Instead, i hit snooze twice, made tea instead of coffee, and at 9:am, i am just about to begin today’s work. i have a whole book to read and internalize before the end of the week, when i hope to test out of one seminary class. Classes begin next Monday. i feel overwhelmed, and i know i did this to myself.

But in the mail this morning was my Molehill and a note from a Rabbit. That Molehill moved me to intercession, and the Rabbit-note moved me to tears and gave me the courage i needed to finally open an envelope i received before Christmas. i feared it—it lurked in the corner of my mind and whispered failure to me. It was the final exam for the class that broke me last semester. But after that note, i went to it. i held it in my hands. i poked my finger under the flap and tore it, then slipped the blue book from the envelope.

When i saw the grade, i laughed. When i saw the note at the end of my essay, i laughed again.

Then, a month and a half after the end of my first semester, i checked my grades online: An A in each class.

Grace. Hope. Resurrection.

When melts the sun

When melts the sun into glory
and all earth is suffused by its rays
When the clouds dissolve and the trumpet resounds
at the sight of the Ancient of Days
One kiss from His mouth will shatter our shame
One touch will wake up the dead
And we, with our faces alight with His love,
will trample our glories for His glories instead.

The Budge-Nuzzard and the coming resurrection

It hurts to die but each time I’m raised again and I’m something new, something I don’t recognize, something I never expected. I’ve gotten no better at avoiding the pain, but maybe, just maybe I’m getting better at trusting in the coming resurrection.”

I have indeed gone to action. That sweet abode of my arrival is now but a dollop of memory within my upper head. I must confess that in my weaker moments, I have longed for it and three times now have turned back to seek my solace within. But at length I have turned my back on my turning back and hence have come far and now gloan upon it.”

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.
Trust in the L-RD forever,
for the L-RD GOD is an everlasting rock.”

Finals are on Tuesday. i am tired. i am struggling to focus. i can’t remember why i began this journey, one which terrified me and thrilled me only three months ago and now just makes me bone-weary. How did the first half of the semester, full of excitement and voorish glee, turn into this slog? i wonder: Can i make it? i wonder: Do i want to?

“i hope it’s good for your soul.”

Well, you weren’t kidding. i wasn’t thinking at all of my soul when i started; that exhortation took me by surprise. i didn’t even burn everything i own, but it is hard anyway. And one of the most remarvelant surprises of this journey has been discovering what a source of strength and spiritual formation lurks in the ludicrous lobidiousness of The Budge-Nuzzard.

i do want to turn back. That sweet abode of my arrival seems so homely and comforting. But i will keep turning my back on my turning back. If there is a resurrection at the end of this, i want it. G-d is an everlasting rock and i can trust Him to help calm my mind and tempt it not to wander. And maybe, just maybe, one death at a time, i’ll learn to trust the coming resurrection.

Next week, i will have come far enough to begin the gloaning.

First death

This week i had my first opportunity to truly practice resurrection.

My first attempt at writing this post sounded much too heroically tragic. i came face to face with the wretchedness of my own pride on Tuesday, and it unraveled me. i knew i needed to write about it—to be honest. But my first instinct when i began typing was to glorify myself even in failure.

i am smarter than anyone i know. Call it perfectionism; say i am a high achiever and have high standards for myself, but the truth is that i am prideful. Tuesday my mental image of my perfect self was fractured by a grade i did not expect. It felt unfair. It felt surreal. Surely, it was a mistake. It was not. i failed to earn a grade worthy of myself, and in so doing i was forced to face what was in my heart that i should consider certain grades worthy of me, rather than humbling myself to make my work worthy of such grades.

When i began seminary—even as i was applying—i held clutched in my hands the hope of resurrection. i reminded myself that resurrection requires death. The first time i missed a single point on a quiz i told myself this. It is okay to die. Dying is a prerequisite for the remaking you desire. But even while saying this, i was working against myself. i had flung myself down the steep steps of seminary (see how noble that sounds?), but rather than allowing G-d’s grace to tandem jump with me, or to catch me at the bottom, or even to let me crash that i may be resurrected, i was blowing frantically at the ground as if i could keep myself aloft through my own effort.

To be blindsided by this grade was a grace. It sent me to my face, wracked with shame, and it forced me to acknowledge my pride. i wanted to be resurrected? to be remade? My redeemer (baruch atah, Adonai!) is so eager to redeem me that He will not wait even a whole semester before beginning the process.

As i lay on my face in the chapel, weeping into the carpet, i knew i had a choice. i could feel sorry for myself, even paint myself as a victim of unfairness. Or i could own my sin, celebrate this first death, and look forward to resurrection.

On my hands i wrote truth, truth that after repeated washings has not yet faded.

It hurts to die but each time i’m raised again and i’m something new, something i don’t recognize, something i never expected.”

Practice resurrection.”

Go now with me and define my becoming.”

“Love.”

Today i was listening to Sixpence None the Richer—the album which came out as i was beginning my undergraduate, the most beautiful album i’ve ever heard, an album soaked through with despair and grief and pain and, yes, hope of healing—and was met again by grace.

The Harvester is near. His blade is on your skin
To plant a new beginning: Well then, let the cut begin.”

Resurrection requires death. But death, if i trust His good intentions more than my own sufficiency, will always result in resurrection.

Let the cut begin.

Essaying

For some months now, i have been grieving Peet the Sock Man. His brokenness. His need. His glory. His inability to hold onto his glory when his failures rise up and name him again and again. His desperation. His aloneness. His unwillingness to let his sin define him, even as he has lost all sense of himself.

Peet says to me things i have not yet begun to understand. Glorious, broken, beautiful Peet.

Themes of brokenness and redemption crack my heart open and hollow me out.

Because my heart is so raw when i read his story, because i know beyond a shadow of a doubt that his story is my own, i have been struggling to put into words what Peet means to me. But i want to know what he means. i need to, because i have a deep sense that what he says, in his sweet gibbering way, is about hope. Hope amidst despair. Hope that shines like the dawn.

The last two weeks i have been reading and rereading things that speak Peetness to me in the hopes that they will help me wrap my brain around my heart and give it words. Giorgio Agamben, an Italian philosopher, was recommended to me as a starting place for thinking about redemption in a pre-Christian world, and i ought not to have been surprised to find Peet there. Darren Aronofsky’s Noah paralleled some of Agamben’s imagery. Hutchmoot addresses by Jennifer Trafton and Travis Prinzi spoke volumes to me; Jennifer’s in particular set my heart ablaze and made new thoughts come out of my ears—thoughts about what Peet, and we, are perhaps becoming. What if the stories are true? In studying Scripture, i was suddenly thrust back into memories of George MacDonald’s The Princess and Curdie, and found such a parallel between Peet and Lina that i wondered how i had not seen it before.

i still don’t know how to say what Peet says to me. But my heart is leaping in holy breathlessness as these thoughts and hopes pour through me.

The fourth and final Wingfeather book is on its way. The public release date is July 22, but Kickstarter supporters—over 2100 of us—will be receiving our copies in early May. My hope was, and is, to make a stumbling attempt to express the hope that Peet gives me before i find out how Andrew would answer the question of what he (and we?) are becoming. But my heart is tangly, and my words so inadequate. i must write; i must—but can i?

i know that Peet must die. But that is not why i grieve him.