why we need to sing the hard hallelujah

In a fallen world, we trip and break our hearts.

And isn’t this when our hard shells shatter and when the bells peal and isn’t this when everything cracked must break into the broken-hearted hallelujah?

All these days bookending summer, prefacing fall, these gold, glory-heavy days, I watch light fall in the the orchard soundless.

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The light, the air, it’s right saturated with summer’s blaze. I can see this standing at the sink. September’s gilding. The blades, the trees, the apples hanging off limbs by thin threads of stems, they are all steeped in the humid June nights, the height of July’s noonday drone, the quiet warmth of August rains. I wonder, when I turn, do all these trees clap their hands?

I wonder how, when things are full, how they ripen and fall away, a gift to the earth, a hardly quavering of leaves.

I wonder if I am still an Easter child and if Hallelujah is still my song?

I watch Littlest One spread a feast in the orchard.

It’s almost a year to the day that she did this same thing and I came. We had spread patches out over the orchard’s carpet. She had poured tea.Her brother had tumbled and rolled. I had been burnt out. I had kindled. The day had flamed, the light and the sun and their eyes.

Her hair is longer, her laughter deeper, and she is serving button tea this year and this year I come a bit undone, I come fallen and I come broken, poverty and Guatemala and fallenness breaking me, and I come not sad.

God ordains broken things to make all things whole.

Skies break wide to water the earth and kernels break open to nourish with bread and hearts break soft, a sacrifice to God.

The earth must break open to be a womb for a seed. And God breaks down altars so that His broken Son might be lifted high and made ruler of everything. It’s over the face of the deep and the hearts right broken that God hovers close.

It’s the broken-hearted He binds up, swaddles near, the weak that He wields as His strength.

It’s a life broken like a jar that can anoint Him with alabaster worship. She asks me to hold the teddy bear with the torn arm, the broken neck.

What would you say but yes? I am no longer afraid of broken things. Of being a broken thing. I hold her busted up bear. A sparrow calls in the far pear tree. I must only remember that now is my time to sing.

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That’s what I want to say. I have seen slums and I have seen sin and I have seen the rich dirt-poor in soul and this world is a vaulting sacred dome. What can you say but yes?

She tells me to sit in the rocker. I rock. The bear with the busted head and arm and heart, it sits with me. It rocks with me. I watch her. Her hair is threads from heaven’s tapestry and her hands a milk white innocence and why are we here? Why are we the ones with shoes and dolls and real wood walls? Why do we drink clean water and why do we have grass and trees and space and why do we have time to play? Why do we have sheets on our beds and a real table and floors that aren’t dirt?I wonder and it hurts.

Wonder is a state of mind in which . . . nothing is taken for granted,” writes Abraham Heschel. “Each thing is a surprise, being is unbelievable. We are amazed at seeing anything at all; amazed . . . at the fact that there is being at all . . . Amazed beyond words.”

Is this what brokenness really is? A state of wonder? When we are broken, we take nothing for granted and we are astonished by breath and being and the most simple extraordinary grace. When we are broken, being at all is the wonder, everyday grace is the miracle, and we see that this is what is real: everything is a staggering gift.

This is what is real.

“Would you like more tea?” she asks, the red yarn of the Raggedy she has crooked under her arm, dipping into the cup’s water.

Yes. I say. More.

She hands me the cup and I take it carefully. This is the only way to to do anything. I will walk carefully and I will walk gently and I will walk with reverence, in humility and aware of grace everywhere, and I will walk with gratitude.

Isn’t this our vocation in this world?


To give thanks.

Yes, we will cook and we will clean and we will make with our hands and build and dig and grow, but our real vocation in this world is giving Him glory, always giving Him thanks in all things. Mostly always giving thanks. How else can we rightly respond? What do we rightfully deserve?

This is hard and we do well to call it our work. Perhaps the hardest work of all. I can see grimy faces of children in the doors of tin shacks. She stirs button tea. How do we express honest gratitude when our hearts are shattered?

How in a world of cancered babies and dumpster children, of BMW’s and celebrity sequins and my hot water and teddy bear tea in an orchard , in a world of disparity and disease and death, how do we authentically give thanks, how do we still sing the broken-hearted hallelujah?

Yes, this is what I want to say. This is the way to sing the broken-hearted hallelujah: To do the very work that Christ did in the end, to take up the vocation of the Last Supper. To take all as grace and give thanks.

But there is more, because Christ did more: We must then break the bread and we must then give the bread and what is greater in this life than to be bread for another man?

This is our hard work in the world — to sing the hard hallelujah. I realize that this is part of the singing: it isn’t enough to say I give thanks if I don’t give.

She leans over her quilt covered table to tell me that this is her party, her last party of the summer with her dolls and her bears out in the orchard.

I want to tell her that I will do all that I can to make this world a better place for her, her children, all the legacy and children and generations that are still to come, that I am willing to be broken and given, that I will love God in as many ways I know how. I hold her busted bear close.

But I do wonder — Can I claim to love God in as many ways I know how, to give thanks to God in everything, if I refuse to be broken, to be broken down and handed around? Can I claim that of all these vain things that charm me most — that I sacrifice them, for the children, for Him, to bring Him true glory? Can I claim to love God in as many ways I can when I don’t wring everything from this one beating heart to protect little children, of whom is the very Kingdom of God? Have I really done all I can do?

How can I receive the gift of this moment, and this, and this, and not reciprocate? How can I not make my life an offering?

Giving thanks is more than a folding of the hands and murmuring relief. Giving thanks means to give… to live broken and given.

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She is sing-songing to her Raggedies now, passing around her plates of apples, fruit plucked from the garden. I think I can hear the deeper singing, the ancient refrain and from the ground under me, from the center of the earth and it is asking me to respond. How His love flow mingled down —- and what of mine? How does my love flow away from these clenched hands? How does my love and sorrow meet? If the whole realm of nature would be an offering far too small, is that my excuse to give very little? Yes, I say yes, love so amazing, so divine, it demands my life, my soul, my all.

Ring the bells, ring the hallelujah bells, and we the Easter people, we sing the hard and broken-hearted halleljuah and this is our calling in the world.

Last week I broke and I remember words I wrote when the snow was falling deep in the orchard, words I wrote in my book for the seekers and sojourners, but this week I go looking back through my book to find them because He gave them too for me:

“I know there is poor and hideous suffering and I’ve seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. But I have lived pain and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of peonies in June and the song of crickets on summer humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives.

How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is Joy Who saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does.

The brave who focus on all things good and all things beauty and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to the all the world.”

~One Thousand Gifts, A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

I sit at her orchard feast and I return to Eden and the light keeps falling, falling.

And when she passes me my plate, I take up the vocation of the Last Supper — to take all as grace, to give thanks, and be broken and handed out.

She asks me if we can sing together.

What would you say but yes?

:::
#1872 – #1884 endless thanks for the common endless gifts

Bandages on my blistered heels, after a week of walking

The wounds of last week that heal me

A heart shattered for a fallen world

clean air in the lungs of my children

Clean water in my kettle

Clean toilets that flush

A Farmer’s arms at the arrival gate

Your beautiful arms stretched out to poverty chained children this week

God’s everlasting arms underneath the world

For Lindsey and Amanda and Gypsy Mama and Shaun and Patricia — our hearts fused into His this week

For the beautiful faces of Guatemala — your hopes are mine

For a pastor who brings heaven to the holes — I will never forget how experiencing the love of God is what makes us give like God

Our work in the world:
to give thanks,
to be broken and given,
to sing the hard hallelujah

:::

Related:

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Pre-ordering One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are gives this book’s message a real chance at staying alive…

A book for teas: Mud Pies and Other Recipes: A Cookbook for Dolls

How to be broken and given: Consider giving to a child through Compassion

A Remedy for Burnout

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Photos: singing hallelujahs in the orchard with Great-Granny made Raggedies and Gram-made bears
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