Wednesday, July 26, 2017

pinning angels

Pinning Angels
by Troy Cady

My research concludes that
angels have lost their ability to fly;
their wings are now too small and weak
in proportion to their total body mass.
This applies across all breeds.
Just compare my specimens.
In trials of angels
aged three to six months
I found they are able to sustain flight for
an average of only 10.4 seconds
until they plummet to their death.
In my autopsy report I found
consistent bone deformation
due to premature overexertion.
Sociological surveys demonstrate
that most angels now die in adolescence;
the leading theory
is that teenage angels try to fly on their own
despite warnings to the contrary
by elder angels
who have learned that
all angels are now destined to a grounded existence.
If an angel happens to age beyond a thousand years
(which hasn’t occurred since
the dawn of modernity)
their wings become brittle
such that the least bit of flapping
can easily cause irreparable shattering,
commencing in the extremities
and spreading, tragically, to the very core
of their skeletal structure.
This was discovered
in a series of tests dubbed
The Excitability Index.
In brief, raising the hopes
of an Ancient causes them to implode.
See my study in connection
with last year’s Christmas season
for a more detailed analysis.
Regarding treatment,
there is no scientific consensus
beyond that of Aquinas
who links vocalization exercises
with longevity of life.
In this regard, isolation therapy
is now considered an obsolete technique
as multiple observers have demonstrated
the limited efficacy of angelic vocalization
absent a human recipient
(much like the phenomenon
that occurs when a tree falls in the woods
without human observation).
Upon further vocalization exercises
in densely populated urban centers
we have also discovered
limited angelic potency
despite proximity to human subjects;
I have dubbed my working hypothesis
the Aural Obstruction Theory.
Confirmation of this is pending
contingent upon further experimentation.
We are also consulting God
in this study and have filed a petition
to overturn the Angels Unawares Mandate,
since our understanding of angels
would be greatly enhanced
if we could more readily tell them apart
from the common human.
Despite several petitions, God hasn’t budged
and we have yet to find any loopholes in the law.
We are now running projections
to determine how long
humanity will survive
once angels become extinct;
current estimates predict
global destruction on par with
the Greenhouse Effect.
We will destroy ourselves
as we destroy our planet.
More research pending;
education is the best policy. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

reflections on grief

I know several people who are experiencing some gut-wrenching grief these days. I’m trying to give them the gift of just paying attention to their grief—validating it and being with them in it…not trying to “fix” it. I’m not sure I’m doing such a good job at it, but as I pray for them, I’m trying to keep in mind what they appear to be feeling and thinking at various points. Their thoughts and feelings appear to me to change from day-to-day, hour-to-hour, even minute-to-minute. Confusion is the word that comes to mind. Existential chaos. As I try to put myself in their shoes (which I can’t) this is what I hear, if imperfectly:  

Something cherished and irreplaceable has been lost. How could life betray us so? How to make sense of the violent chaos of existence? How can the world at one time hold so much promise, hope—joy like the rhythm of the tide, a not unexpected ebb and flow—suddenly bring this tidal wave, a sea change of heartbreak whose tears could fill an ocean basin to overflowing? Who could have predicted the earthquake, this tragedy, this ground shifting under our feet?

Did you know, God? Did you know this would happen? If you did, where were you—and WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP IT!?

Blind-sided. That’s what we were. Blind-sided. And now we’re just…blind with tears.

My mother has lost her memory of me. She’s no longer home. Two months only. My father may pass any day now. He only has…maybe a few hours of lucidity left…and then at most a few days of just breathing...and we a few days of just praying the pain keeps at bay. My love isn’t herself anymore. I don’t know what I did. Did I do something to bring this on? I don’t think so, but I’m not sure of anything anymore. Was it all a lie? What do I do? Where do I turn? Do I remember happiness rightly? Was I ever happy? I feel dead, numb. I feel angry. I’m afraid. I feel betrayed, duped. I don’t want to be fooled again, but how can I ever be sure of anything anymore? Who can I trust? What should I do now? My son, my brother, my friend is gone. Just like that. No parent should outlive their child. So much promise! So much life! Gone. Just…gone. Let me collapse. Just let me fall. I can’t stand it. How is it I feel I can’t breathe? My stomach has risen to my throat and my heart sank to my gut. Why am I breathing like this? God, help me breathe. Fill these shallow lungs. Where is the wind now?

You left a hole that will never be filled—wait: Who am I talking to? You’re gone. Can I talk to a hole? I don’t think so. But I want to. Oh, my God, I want to talk to you. I want to hold you and smell your hair again. I want to hear you laugh again. I want to stroke your hand, listen to your voice.

Please say you are in these tears. So many tears, on my face, in my soul, so many tears. Please say you are there. I miss you. I hurt for you. I love you.


Father, I offer you these many griefs on behalf those I love who have lost so much. I have nothing to add but: Hear them! Carry them! Bear them on your shoulders, in your heart. Hear the cries they cannot put into words. And surround them with friends who can be with them in their pain as much as is possible. Do not leave them abandoned.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

burying peters-son

burying peters-son
by troy cady

what if resurrection
hinges on loving the dead

what if God gives free lessons
on kissing corpses
like learning mouth to mouth
with mummies

what if all we needed to practice
was the art of the
open kiss of opened lips,
a face full of ground’s gravel

whose side would i take?
the living or the dead?

“disgusting!” the critics would say.
“unbiblical!” the christian.

they’d call me in for an interview.
“whose side are you on?” they’d ask.

“the Hurting,” i’d say.
“the hurting? they’re not hurting.
they’re dead,” they’d say.

they’d strike me
and, hearing no prophecy,
would begin to prophesy
on my behalf.

“crucify!” they’d shout.
“he’s good with words
but he never tells us plainly
what he thinks
and when he does,
it’s heresy.”

they’re at my side
with a spear,
thrusting epithets.

so here i am now
slain in the grave
on the side
of the dead
who will rise
like brides
full of passion
for their Beloved,
king of the grave,
king of the crucified.

Friday, July 14, 2017

what children would say

Dear Grace: What God Says Through Children to Today’s Church
by Troy Cady

A good portion of the New Testament consists of letters sent by Christian leaders to congregations in a variety of cities throughout the Roman empire. Paul sent letters to the Christians in Ephesus, Galatia, and Colossae, to name a few. Peter sent letters to Christians in a variety of provinces.

Generally speaking, these letters were filled with admonitions to believers living in a specific context and the admonitions were aimed at helping Christians know how to live in a way that was both a) different from the culture and b) identified with the culture.  The church as the Body of Christ is intended to resemble Christ in that Jesus was both fully human (identified with us) and fully divine (different from us).

By the indwelling Spirit of Christ, followers of Jesus are enabled to imitate their Lord. That is, they are able to live in such a way that identifies with society but also stands apart from certain self-destructive tendencies in society. This is how the church is able to be a hopeful, loving presence in places and situations laden with despair and hatred.

It’s hard being a Christian. We tend to lean more towards one aspect of what it means to be a Christian than the other: either we identify too much with the world-system or we hardly ever identify with it. Those who identify too much do well to remember that without difference…we don’t make a difference. Those who identify with the world too little do well to remember that we can only love the world to the extent that we relate to people and engage the real world. If we are too separate, we fail to love; if we are too enmeshed, we hold forth little hope that things can change.

This summer at our church we are carrying on this great tradition of letter writing for the purpose of discerning how we can be both in the world but not of the world. Each week, a different leader at our church reads a letter to the congregation that grapples with how we can live faithfully in the way of Jesus that engages with the world as we experience it in 2017 (since a lot has changed since the first century A.D.!).  

Since I have the privilege of working with children, I have engaged them in this exercise, too. Each week I tell a story from the Bible and in our wondering time I ask them: “What does God want the church to know through this story?”

It should come as no surprise to us that the children have some amazing and wonderful things to say. I look forward to sharing with you on occasion what God says to the church in 2017 through them. Here are a couple of examples.

On the first week, we looked at the story of creation and this was the short letter the group created:

“Dear Grace,
God made everything to make a song. God made us because he loves us and God is still creating something new for tomorrow. Remember: even though you can’t see God, he’s still there. Love, Grace Kids.”

Last week we looked at the story of Noah and one boy in preschool offered this bit of wisdom when asked what God was saying to the church through the story. He said:

“Dear Grace,
New life comes after death. Love, R—“

This Sunday we’ll be looking at the story of Abraham and Sarah—and the Great Family they started. I can’t wait to hear what the kids have to say!

I’m sure you’ll agree their words are a much-needed reminder to the church in 2017. My prayer is that the adults will take it to heart, that the adults will learn to receive the kingdom of God like children.

That is why I said to them two weeks ago: “It’s important for the church to hear what you have to say. God has given you a voice and God wants you to use it. I wonder what makes your voice unique. I wonder what others need to hear from you. You have a voice and God wants you to use it. Speak up for what’s true and good, beautiful, right and loving.”

There was a moment of silence as they took in that message. And then the silence was broken as one child asked: “I wonder what your voice is, Mr. Troy.”

I said, “I want to use my voice so that others will hear your voice. It’s important for others to hear your voice.”

I pray it will be so.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

the sparrow

“Two for a penny.”
That’s how much he sold me for.
Half a penny.
That’s how much I was worth.
On my own, next to nothing.

Who was this Man
at the market?
And what did He want
with two homeless sparrows?
Those eyes, kind and compassionate,
peered into our small cage.
For the first time in a long time
I stopped beating my wings
against the bars.
For the first time in a long time
I was still and silent
under His gaze.

He regarded me with grace and a grin.
“I’ll take those two,” he said.
Did he see something in me he loved?
Were my colors delightful in his eyes?
I had no song to sing; was it my size
that made him smile?

He paid the price
and reached into our cage
with both hands,
opened like the door.
It was late afternoon.

His hands were dirty
with traces of sawdust,
hard-working and trustworthy.
I can’t explain why,
but I wanted to be in those hands.

He held me tightly
and carefully all at once.
Just right, like he knew
what it was to be a sparrow,
small and fragile.

And as soon as he held me,
he set me free.

All that time, I had lived
in the shadow of the Temple,
but never enjoyed its shelter.

I flew straight
for the altar of incense.
Who can explain it?
Something of the fragrance here
reminds me of the One
who bought me.
Something of the scent
puts a fresh prayer in my chest.
It is only a small piece
in the grand scheme of things,
but I have found a home here
above its smoke,
where I catch the wishes
of the Priest,
who has caught the desires
of the People,
crying out to God for deliverance.
The aroma clings to my wings,
so all day long, every day,
I catch countless prayers
and carry them to the sky,
singing a new song—
the song of incense, bittersweet.

I may die tomorrow,
but I will die in joy—
for one day with God
is better than all that time
I spent living in a cage.

the sparrow
by troy cady
after Matthew 10:29 and Psalm 84:3

Friday, June 9, 2017

when God is silent

Think of a friend who is hurting.
Your friend comes to you with their pain.
They can’t make sense of it, so they come to you with their pain.
They pour out their pain, and ask you to say something.
But you know that anything you say to them in that moment
will fall short of the full love you want them to know.
You know that sometimes the most loving thing you can do for your friend

is to listen to their now-wordless pain,
to just sit with them in silence,
to be with them,
to be with them,
a true friend
without words.

Even a good word to a person in pain
falls short of the goodness of simple presence,
the goodness of loving silence,
an embrace without a word.

We sometimes wonder why God is silent.
We think, “God, if you love me, speak!”
But sometimes the most loving thing God does for us is just
to be present to us and to listen.

I know this sounds crazy to some of you but
I think God wants to love us
more than God wants to speak to us.
If God is love
and God is sometimes silent
God’s love is sometimes silent.
Don’t fear;
the sorrow that has no language but silence
is surely embraced by the silent Presence,
the God of loving silence.


When God is silent
a reflection by Troy Cady

Monday, May 15, 2017

how we got here

How We Got Here
for Dad, on your 80th birthday
from Troy, with love

            Yesterday our drive started in full sun and took us through a twilight of shifting colors—but with each increment of time it felt as if the beauty of those moments would last forever.
            God made the light in color, at once deepening and unchanging. We don't know how it happens, but we meet eternity in this place of passing time. Suddenly, a lifetime becomes this twilight.
            The sun was brilliant at one point, drawing our eyes to its rich, dense light as it set slowly. A bank of clouds like slate obscured the topside, and it seemed as if the sun was attached to the sky’s cathedral stone, delaying the onset of twilight in mercy.
            The sight of the setting sun prompted the family to try to capture it on camera as we drove to see you. But you can’t capture these moments like that. We could no sooner bottle the ocean than photograph the dusk of the day. So, we kept driving, contenting ourselves that the mind’s eye can hold these moments better than a smartphone.
And as we drove, the sun began to merge with the horizon. I drove as if I could reach that horizon but the horizon kept moving, elusive, like hope…present but always out in front calling to a changing landscape.
We hit La Crosse and drove through that stretch of road that bends and curves. The terrain there swells wildly, unpredictably. The river divides the states and the water widens in places, drawing our eyes to its flowing stillness.
When the sun and the horizon meet, the sky changes color again. The finest artist could not canvas it. There are too many colors to mix. Deep blues and purples, like lilacs. Orange like a robin’s breast, gold richer than Solomon. Red like blood. Amber that drips like honey, both sweet and strong—a gentle kiss. There are so many colors to see in this twilight and the textured hues were multiplied in the water. We tried again to capture the colors with our cameras, trying to keep these moments.
We can’t.
Most times these sacred mysteries are right next to us but we don’t even notice them. But yesterday God graced us with the gift of recognition.

Recognition that the road has been long.
Recognition that it hasn’t always been easy.
Recognition that we took for granted the lion-share of the day.
Recognition that, nevertheless, the day was rich and full of life.
And recognition that the day isn’t over yet.
And there is beauty in this place for these moments
that we want to capture with our cameras, but can’t.
The recognition is a grace and we know God is here by that grace.

We know God is here because we are here to share these moments together, however brief they may be. We know God is here because he’s given us the beauty of this day, this time together to enjoy the changing, breathtaking colors of twilight.
And we are assured that the God of this twilight will be the same God of the night. However we got here, it was by Love and wherever the road takes us it will be under the canopy of that same Love, a horizon we will never reach, but is present, all the same.

Happy birthday, Dad. We are glad to be with you for this time.