Strange Waters


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Today has been one of those days. Dealing with a hard mess. I’ve been uprooted once again in my life. Criticisms are in abundance these days. I’ve had to deal with a few crises. Tonight was a crises that turned out not to be a crisis. There are some people who freak out about emergencies in the moment and then afterwards are calm and relieved. I am not one of those people. I am calm and collected in a crisis. And then afterwards I freak out. Tonight I called 911 because I thought the building across the street was on fire. Turns out it was a swimming pool with lights that looked like flames, kept increasing and fogged up the windows. The main fireman was a real jerk and made me feel like a total fool for doing the right thing. But the panic kicked in after they left. I knew that would happen. This is not my first time calling 911. or my second. or my third. it almost wasn’t my fourth either but thankfully the most recent incident before today someone else did it. The subway wasn’t running to where I am living. So I had to take the streetcar. But unknown to all the people waiting in the freezing cold for an hour none were running either way. finally I got a taxi and payed out the $35 since it was well past midnight and I have to work tomorrow.

One of my profs is really into Bruce Cockburn music. Interestingly, he was the one who introduced me to Cockburn 8 years ago and who was instrumental in me leaving home (though he had nothing directly to do with it… he just made me think and question) and also in me staying a Christian. He doesn’t know either of these things. Anyways, he recently talked about how Cockburn uses intertextuality in his songs, meaning that he makes references using cue words. Two songs that illustrate this beautifully are Strange Waters and The Whole Night Sky.

I try not to use this platform to vent or rant. I figure you don’t need to hear my rants. But I’ve been thinking about the role of lament lately and how we need to recover this. There are psalms that throw a very angry fist at God demanding an answer or action. And then there’s the hard psalm that ends with a prayer to dash the Babylonian babies’ heads against the rocks. What do you do with that piece of Scripture which we call the word of God? I’m not sure I have answers. But I do think we can take our anger and our pain directly to God and he can handle it as we express it.

So here is my lament. It is filled with anger, pain, frustration, sadness, questioning, confusion and anything else that a good lament can hold. I do not offer this on here to make you, my reader, worry or feel sorry for me. God is good and faithful, and truth be told, lately I have been feeling his grace and blessing on my life in abundance. The psalms also hold a mixture of gratitude and angst. I know I am not alone in feeling angst, yet a peaceful gratitude. And I know God can handle all our pain and anger in its ugly form and so I offer this as a prayer to God and a prayer of solidarity with all those who want to follow God but are caught in the mire and mud of this messy life and who desperately need to offer prayers of lament, alongside the prayers of trust, praise and gratitude. The words of Cockburn are in italics.  There is a reference to Thoughts on a Rainy Day in my lament.

I’ve seen a high cairn kissed by holy wind/ Seen a mirror pool cut by golden fins/ Seen alleys where they hid the truth of cities/ The mad whose blessing you must accept without pity.

I’ve seen a high cairn kissed by holy wind. I have seen his work, his love, his grace. God’s spirit is here.

The alleys – which have become my cathedral – are the places where truth is found. Truth is on the margins, it is held by those who are rejected, abandoned, ostracized, alone. If there is any hope for the Western church, it is in it becoming more and more marginalized. To live as Christ taught, is to take up your cross and follow Him. I follow the One who was crucified, despised and rejected.

I’ve stood in airports guarded glass and chrome/ Walked rifled roads and land minds loam/ Seen a forest in flames right down to the road/ Burned in love till I’ve seen my heart explode.

Burned in love till I’ve seen my heart explode – with the drums of this amazing song pounding away in my head, the image of a bullet shattering my heart and blood spurting everywhere. I feel burned in loving and shot so my heart explodes. And while my heart is in shock, I must be strong once again not for me, but for others.

You’ve been leading me/ Beside Strange waters

These waters are very strange. I don’t want to be a leader. Heck I don’t want to be influential. Leadership and influence get one in trouble and caught in the mire and mess. I want to honour God – but this yoke is not easy nor is the burden light! Strange waters indeed!

and yet – God is leading. And he is leading me. And he is leading me, beside strange waters.

Not still waters. Not calm waters.

Strange waters. Uncertain waters. Tidal waters. Unknown waters.

What does it mean to follow one who leads me beside strange waters? What does it mean to trust when the seas are raging and threatening to engulf me?

Across the concrete fields of man/ Sun ray like a camera pans/ Some will run and some will stand/ Everything is bullshit but the open hand.

Everything is BULLSHIT but the open hand. Everything is meaningless save for following Christ. Everyone is out for themselves. It’s all bullshit. Except Agape love. School. People. Church. money. housing. friendship. BULLSHIT! Nothing but complete bullshit. Dung. Crap. The open hands of one who surrenders completely to God is the only thing safe from bullshit.

You’ve been leading me/ Beside strange waters/ Streams of beautiful lights in the night/ But where is my pastureland in these dark valleys? If I loose my grip – will I take flight?

There ARE beautiful moments – lights in the pervading darkness. Streams of beautiful lights in the night.

But this is no pastureland! No – this is no pastureland. it is a dark valley. Beside strange waters. Beside rough waters. Beside uncertain waters. Beside unknown waters. Beside rushing waters.

And look! See my tears – they fill the whole night sky.

Derailed and desperate/ How did I get here?/ Hanging from this high wire/ By the tatters of my faith.

If I loose my grip – will I take flight?

Sometimes a wind comes out of nowhere and knocks you off your feet.

Sometimes a wind comes out of nowhere and knocks you side ways.

And look! see my tears! They fill the whole night sky!

If I loose my grip – will I take flight?

Amen

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  1. Chris
    February 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Hey there’s not much more to say then when we were chatting last night. I’ll see you tonight. We’ll get a brew after.

    Stay strong 🙂

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