It’s Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday in New Orleans----and Ash Wednesday everywhere else. Feasting, debauchery, and sacrifice---what a holy mess. May I help us prepare in some small way? For feasting, I’m thrilled to give away some copies of Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers and 2 just-released audio versions (Details below.)
Have you seen it? The way we devour ourselves---and others? I walked down cannery row in Kodiak last weekend and almost caught this eagle, so consumed was he in his feeding. It wasn’t right, that I could have touched him, tucked his fierce body and laser eyes right under my own wings. His own desire for food, for bits of rotten fish, swallowed his instincts to fly. Where is his beauty, his nobility, his fearsome will to live?
Where is ours? Why are we so bent on consuming one another? (If you want to see a family consuming itself, go see “August: Osage County" and my post here on Fox News: What 3 Oscar-nominated Movies Teach Us about Family)
As I watched that movie and this eagle, I thought of another beast someone else stumbled upon:
In the Desert
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter-bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”1
Ahhhh, is not our own heart sometimes bitter, bitter when it should be sweet? In my recent travels, a woman came up to me after church after I had spoken. She told me, shaking, that she had walked out just five minutes into my message, offended that I had made a mistake in my reading of the scripture (I had accidentally omitted a line.) And she didn’t like my introduction. I was speaking on forgiveness----and, offended before I even began, she walked out.
How does this happen? How do we take our hunger out on one another? Because we do it to ourselves first. And sometimes we like this feast better than any other. Frederick Beuchner paints the scene:
"To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past . .. to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back---in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you."
Haven't we all feasted at this banquet table? After such a dinner, what does this clacking, toothy lot of us do? We spend all our energies keeping these sickly creatures—our hurts and our grudges—alive. And so we do.
But there is no food or health or life to be found here.
I give up. This Ash Wednesday I want to give up this starvation diet---consuming others, consuming myself. I want an ashen cross marked on my forehead as the sign of relinquishment, giving up a place at that table of death. Clearing a place at another table:
Look at your plate, look at your table.
Is Love being served?
Who is consumed and consuming?
Who is consumed and consuming?
Then find instead the body crushed
to flour and wine.
Go instead to the feast
where Love swallows no one
One cup at a time.
May we Choose the right Table
and be filled,
that we may fill others.
Then will the kingdom of love
Friends, some of these words come from Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers:Finding Freedom from Hate and Hurt, which is about much more than forgiving our parents (though that is surely big enough!) I want to spread the message of the Cross---that healing and forgiveness is possible in every part of our life and being. Would you help me do that? Here are some ways to help:
*Would you be willing to hop over here to "like" the new Facebook page, where I am posting hope-filled stories and quotes about compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and the living-out of the gospel??
*If you have a blog, I am giving away copies of the book to anyone who would love to write a review or highlight the book on their blog. (Thank you! Just let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org)
*I am giving away a book to anyone who signs up three willing friends or more to this place, friends who would be fed and happy here. (Use the subscribe button near the top---or send me their email addresses: email@example.com) Thank you!
*For the two kind, energetic people who sign up the most friends, I will send off the brand new audio book here (take a listen!) It's beautifully read, better than I could have done it. And again, just use the subscribe button or send email addresses. let me know here how many have joined us.)
If you can do none of these things, I thank you for listening, for reading, for your gracious presence at this table.
Yours, for the Kingdom, Ever So Gratefully,