Trinity poem

holy-trinity-icon2_2Our little lives and minds so naturally focus on the me-my- mine

Sometimes our interest expands to the we-us-ours, but we’re mostly prone to “other” others, to “they” them, to keep “them” at arm’s length, outside the inclusive circle.

At times we step closer with “you,” but we are most comfortable with its imperative and accusative forms.

Ultimately, the “me” trumps all.

And so our minds boggle and balk at the Holy Trinity, the unity of Father-Son-Spirit in mutual dance, at the distinction and oneness of I-You-We forever and always embraced.

It’s a glorious mystery that beckons us to deeper secrets, for this Holy Circle, without disruption to its perfect sphere, extends hands to us and sees no “they.”

We are pulled into the dance, into abiding, into embrace, into partaking the nature of God.

We are filled yet made wholly us, and we learn that what we thought merely a fairy-tale hope–that ALL could be family, that peace could encompass ALL–is True.

The hope is Real.

For this the Son put on flesh: that we might know Father, Son, Spirit, our beautifully dancing God; that we, drawn in, might see all as “we,” and paradoxically discover—in the giving of “I” to “us”—that the “me” is best known.

The above is a poem I wrote about a year ago that I revised last week after reading these words by Catherine Mowry LaCugna. She was describing Rublev’s icon of the Trinity (seen above): “…the position of the three figures is suggestive. Although they are arranged in a circle, the circle is not closed. One has the distinct sensation … that one is not only invited into this communion but, indeed, one already is part of it. A self-contained God, a closed divine society, would hardly be a fitting archetype of hospitality.” #trinityclassns

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Trinity Class, posts 1 and 2

Hello everyone, I’m in a class on the Trinity right now, and one of our assignments is to post our reading reflections on Instagram. Since they’re already being written for public viewing, I’m going to also post them here. I’m super new to Instagram, so bear with me as I adjust to the 2,200 character limit! Blessings, Jen.

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The following quote is from Experiencing the Trinity by Darrell W. Johnson

“The God who is ‘us’ draws near to us so that ‘us’ can draw us into the circle of his ‘us-ness.’ The God who is Trinity draws near to you and me and draws you and me near to himself, so that you and I can participate in the life within the circle of the Trinity. …

What are the dynamics of this Relationship at the center of the universe?

The good news is the answer is not a total mystery. … For the Second Person of the Trinity has come to earth and taken on our earthliness, clothing himself in our flesh and blood. And, as one of us, he lives out, in human form, the dynamics of life within the circle of God’s knowing of himself. When we read the New Testament gospels we are reading the revelation of what goes on within the Trinity!” (from Experiencing the Trinity by Darrell W. Johnson, copyright 2002 by Regent College Publishing, page 77)

It is midway through January, and the Christmas tree, the garland, the lights are back in the storage closet.

But Nativity sets are still scattered throughout my house—a couple of them on my kitchen counter, one on a shelf in my living room, another on the piano. They will stay up all year long as reminders of the God who is Emmanuel, who is God with us, who so longed for us know him that the Son took on flesh and entered our broken, human story to reveal the true, full story of Life with God. He quickened a longing in our hearts for this full story, made a way for us to enter it, and is ever and always holding out an invitation to be drawn into the circle of the Trinity and know what life abundant truly is.

In the pages following the above quote, Johnson writes about seven words that, for him, “express the essential dynamics of the Life within the circle of the ‘Us.’” He chose these words: Intimacy, Joy, Servanthood, Purity, Power, Creativity, Peace. These are all revealed in the stories of the Nativity, in the life of the Son who in his living, loving, dying, and living again and always communicates to us—in ways we can grasp—the intimacy, joy, servanthood, purity, power, creativity, and peace of the Trinity. And through the grace of the Son, the love of the Father, and the fellowship of the Spirit, you and I—we—us—are being brought into that Life.

And so, to remind me to enter into and to celebrate this Life, the Nativity sets stay up.

Perichoresis

Our little lives, our little minds

So easily focused on the me, mine,

Sometimes expanded to the we, ours

But so prone to “other” others,

To “they” them—keep at arm’s length,

Outside the inclusive circle.

At times we can step closer with “you,”

But we are most comfortable with its

Imperative and accusative forms,

And, ultimately, “me” trumps all.

And so our mind boggles at the Holy Dance

Of Father, Son, Spirit—

“I, you, we” embraced.

Mutual dance, distinct and one,

A glorious mystery.

Deeper secret still—that the perichoresis,

Without disruption to its perfect sphere,

Extends hands to us, and when,

Compelled by the gift of the Spirit within,

We respond, we are pulled into the dance,

Into abiding, into embrace,

Into partaking the nature of God.

In this we are consumed yet made whole,

In this we enter into choreographed freedom.

And we learn that what we thought merely ethereal

Is True, is Real.

For this the Son put on flesh:

That we might know Father, Son, Spirit,

our beautifully dancing God,

That we, drawn in, may see all as “we,”

And paradoxically discover—

In the giving of “I” to “us”—

That the “me” is best known.

Today I Awake

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The Garfield Conservatory is just down the street from our house–so beautiful! And free! This is the entrance to the fern room. (shot by Emily Underwood)

In the Daily Office app I use on my phone (The Daily Office from Mission St. Clare), yesterday’s hymn was “Today I Awake” by John Bell. (I’ve shared another of John Bell’s hymns, “Take O Take Me As I Am,” in a past post [click on the title above to see the post, which has the words as well as a link to a recording of the hymn].) Bell’s treatment of the Trinity is beautiful, and it reminded me of the book Delighting in the Trinity (this link leads to a blog post recommending that book–so good!)

I re-read this hymn all day long yesterday, and last night I found a Youtube recording of it so I could also hear the tune. Click on the title below to listen to the recording. Hope you enjoy as well.

Today I Awake” by John Bell

Today I awake and God is before me.

At night, as I dreamt, God summoned the

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Fish @ the Conservatory  (by Em)

day;

For God never sleeps but patterns the morning

with slithers of gold or glory in grey.

Today I arise and Christ is beside me.

He walked through the dark to scatter new light.

Yes, Christ is alive, and beckons his people

to hope and to heal, resist and invite.

Today I affirm the Spirit within me

at worship and work, in struggle and rest.

The Spirit inspires all life which is changing

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Another Conservatory pic (by Em)

from fearing to faith, from broken to blest.

Today I enjoy the Trinity round me,

above and beneath, before and behind;

the Maker, the Son, the Spirit together

They called me to life and call me

their friend.

What I need

mads eye

This is daughter Em’s work–she took this shot of her younger sister’s eye as part of her digital photo final exam. No relation to this post–just wanted to share.

I dabbled in studying the Trinity this past fall. I learned much, but learned more than anything that I’d merely left the shore to sit in a rowboat on the ocean’s surface in order to peer into the depths. I was able to see further into the water from the boat than I had on land but was also able to see that beneath me were fathoms upon fathoms of mystery and beauty.

I realized I could spend my life studying the Trinity and still be snorkeling in the shallows.

Yet even the shallows are amazingly wonderful! The very idea of a three-in-one God, a God who is three persons distinct yet sharing the same essence, so full of love for one another that this love overflows into and onto creation…

Is incredible, simply incredible.

As I read about and marveled at the Trinity, a conversation from a couple years ago kept coming back to me. I’d never forgotten this conversation because it made me uncomfortable. I left it feeling I’d said the wrong thing, but my studies of the Trinity gave me insight into why I said what I did.

My doorbell rang one day while the kids were at school, and I opened my door to find two women who wanted to tell me about their faith. They were both older than I, and even though I didn’t invite them in because they seemed a little nervous of the dog, I found myself wanting to fetch a chair for the older of the two, a woman older than my mother. We began with what we agreed on, and our talk was cordial. But then I asked them about Jesus. “What do you believe about him?”

Distress built in me as the older woman talked about a mere human who’d simply been so incredibly good that he was, so to speak, “adopted” by God. God’s son? Yes. But was he God’s eternal Son, ONE with the Father and the Spirit, of the same essence? No.

I am not “good” in these situations. Scripture references, logic, and reasoning—all these flee, chased out by passion and fear. My brain scrambles to put together a clear plan, or to follow one of several I thought of after previous conversations like this one, but all I can do is send up a plea for help.

So, with these two beautiful women standing in front of me, brushing aside every question I had about Jesus being one with the Father, about Jesus being the Word that was in the beginning with God, I prayed. Holy Spirit, please come.

What came was not what I’d hoped for—a list of Scripture references clearly laid out. No, what came was sorrow. These women were unnecessarily trapped; they’d placed their hope in a lie. If Jesus was human only, if his death was accepted only because he’d lived a perfect life before it…

…then his sacrifice would have only made the way clear for himself, not for me, nor for these women. He would be no more than an example—“Look at him; do it exactly this way!”—an example we are incapable of duplicating.

I asked more questions, but the distress grew until it burst out of me: “But if Jesus wasn’t God, He couldn’t help me! I don’t want a human savior; what good would that do? I need God Himself to save me! No one else could!”

The rest of the conversation was still cordial, but they didn’t stay long after my comment. I told them I would love for them to come back, but I haven’t seen them again.

This is the conversation I kept remembering as I read about the Trinity this fall. I realized the longing I’d felt was not simply for a divine Savior. It was bigger, wider, deeper. It was for a Triune God who has such an excess of love within the Father, Son, and Spirit relationship that this love cannot help but overflow. It was a longing for a God who also longs for me; who deeply desires to restore the broken relationship with his creation and did this very thing through the Son; who draws us by the Spirit into true relationship with God, with neighbor.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of our God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit abide with us, now and forever.

Harmony restored

I chose this picture (taken recently at the dog park early in the morning) because it's beautiful for one thing and it also gives me a visual of unity. All the lines of the web meet and lead to the center.

I chose this picture (taken recently at the dog park early in the morning) because it’s beautiful and because it also gives me a visual of unity. All the lines of the web lead to the center. Not one tries to move off in its own direction.

It wasn’t major, simply one of those fairly normal interactions that often happen when families are trying to get out the door in the morning. She wasn’t happy with this. She wasn’t happy with that. She made a face at one thing and groaned at another.

And when we got in the car and she made one more slightly snarky comment, I shot back.

I regretted it the minute the words left my mouth.

Actually, it was one word in particular I regretted… Oh, I thought, that could sting.

I wanted to apologize, but that very second, the car door opened, and the rest of the crew tumbled in.

I prayed the entire way to church. Lord, give me a chance alone with her to say I’m sorry, to say I was wrong. And, somehow, please, restore this break I created in our relationship.

I dropped everyone off at the door and parked, still praying for an opportunity before church began. I couldn’t sit through an entire service with that rift between us.

But they were still in a clump when I entered, and I had to check one into children’s church. Then another asked me a question as we walked toward the sanctuary. We were getting closer, closer; our group was straggling into a line. I fell into step next to her.

Finally, right outside the doors, it was just the two of us. “I need to talk to you,” I told her, and we stepped aside.

I apologized, and then–what grace–she did, too.

We walked into our sanctuary with our rift repaired and our bond re-affirmed. The opening notes of “Behold Our God” accompanied us to our seats, and I sang with gratitude about the majesty of a God who is great enough to hold the oceans in his hands, whose voice makes nations tremble, who needs no counsel from anyone…

Who, despite being incredibly magnificent and powerful, so obviously cares about my relationship with my daughter. In the same moment that He dealt with world powers and stars and universal affairs, He also thought it a priority to heal a relationship between two individuals.

Amazing! I shook my head at the wonder of it.

We sang the “Gloria” next, the beautiful song we sing many Sundays that honors the Father and the Son and then ends with the unity of the three-in-one. As we sang, “Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father,” awe of the Trinity washed over me anew. THIS is why God cares about the harmony not only of the vast universe but also of our families. The Trinity is why God cares about each and every relationship we have. This is why He longs for unity in the Church and peace on earth.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (the Book of Common Prayer, “For the Human Family”)

Longing to Belong

Nearly two years ago, our family moved back to West Chicago from Sterling, Kansas.

It was not an easy transition for me.

Though we lived in Sterling only three years, I felt I belonged in that tiny Kansas town more than I’d belonged anywhere else. I could be myself there, quirks and all. I felt that I fit, that there was a bigger purpose for my individual gifts.

Then we moved back to West Chicago—a place we’d already lived—and I felt launched into no-man’s land. I had to re-discover who I was, what I should be doing, and where I fit—all in the bigger context of suburbia with its many, unconnected worlds.

In October of our first year back, an editor friend offered to look over my adoption-story book proposal. We met; she gave me her very sage advice; and she said, “You know, there’s a theme running through this, and I think you need to let it shine more. This book is really about belonging.”

I missed the irony at first. How do I show the struggle to belong in this story? I wondered, not realizing I was living it out in my own life. But bit by bit, I started to see it. Then, though, came the feeling that I was the only one going through this. Everybody else has it all figured out, right? 

Um, no.

We all “long to belong.”

We all “long to be.”

We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We want to be integral to this bigger something, and we want to belong for simply being who we are, not for our talents or accomplishments.

At the same time we have a desire for significance in who we are individually. We want to be seen as important or needed or gifted. We want to be unique and special.

I call these longings the “we are” and the “I am.”

These two are perfectly combined in the person of God.

God is the complete “we are.” He is three IN one, completely inter-connected, with the same purpose, sharing the same “being.” Jesus said, “I and the Father (WE) are one.” In I Corinthians 13:14, this unity is called “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.”

Yet God also calls Himself the “I AM.” God is significant—He is significance Himself. He IS unique and special.

So our desires—to belong and to be—have holy roots.

But when they’re not fulfilled in the Three-In-One who combines them, they grow up twisted.

That describes most of us, most of the time. Look at me, we cry. See what I’ve done. See that I’m special.

OR we cry, Pick me, pick me. I don’t want to be left behind. I want to be “in,” not “out.” I want to belong.

And deep down, we really want both.

The only answer to them is found in our God, who calls each of us His “masterpiece,” who tells us that together we are His body, and there are no unnecessary parts. In Him, He says, “we live and move and have our being.”

God, help us to lose our earthly ideas of “i am” and “we are.” Help us to understand that being IN the “I AM” fulfills both our desires: our longings to “be” and to “belong.”

In the great “I AM,” we can be.

In the great “WE ARE ONE,” we can belong.

Our Passover

We are in the process of converting the 1970s cowboy-themed basement family room into Dave's and my bedroom (with office space for me!). When Dave painted all the rough wood, this crack-- in the shape of a cross--emerged!

We are in the process of converting the 1970s cowboy-themed basement family room into Dave’s and my bedroom (with office space for me!). When Dave painted all the rough wood, this crack– in the shape of a cross–emerged.

Younger daughter Maddie was looking at the calendar this morning. “Mom,” she asked, “why don’t we celebrate Passover?”

“Oh, we do, hon,” I answered. “We celebrate the biggest Passover of all.”

“We do? But Passover is today. It says so on the calendar.”

“EASTER is our Passover, sweetheart—Good Friday and Easter together. It’s the ultimate Passover. The very first Passover and all the celebrations after were pointing to THE Passover, when God allowed His firstborn to die so that we might live.”

God allowed His firstborn to die—so that we might live.

I am sitting across the table from my firstborn right now. She is eating her cereal; I am drinking my coffee. We have just had a conversation about how great I think she is, about how glad I am to be her mom (she really is a pretty cool kid).

And I am reminded of how God felt about His Firstborn:

“This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”

Can you imagine the gladness that enveloped the Trinity in that moment? The Spirit-Dove descending, the great voice shaking the sky, the Son letting the blessing of love and favor fall upon Him!

My heart is full as I write these words. My God knew full well what was going to happen to His Beloved when He spoke that blessing.

But for the sake of me and my firstborn and all my other children—and you and your beloveds, too—He suffered, as Father and as Sacrifice—that we might be set free to LIVE in HIM.

That He might whisper in our ears, “You are Mine! And I love you.”

Thank You, Passover Lamb.

Thank You, Father God.