• lenten journal: failure

    by  • March 30, 2015 • failure, lenten journal • 6 Comments


    It’s one of my favorite words. I did a search on this blog and it brought up sixty-four posts in no time at all. Several years ago, when I was doing a mass mailing of my resume in search of employment, Ginger said, “You fail better than anyone I know.” That sentence remains one of my favorite compliments.

    The accounts of Monday in that first Holy Week are rather sparse. Jesus appeared to have laid low. Perhaps he had some sense of the trajectory of the week ahead. I’m not one that thinks he knew exactly what was coming down and was just playing it out. I also think he was smart and aware and mindful of what was swirling around him. As I thought about him on this day, I could hear the Mamas and Papas singing in my head:

    monday monday
    can’t trust that day
    monday monday
    sometimes it just turns out that way

    On this Monday, I spent my lunch hour reading The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth by Bill Holm, which is one of those books I learned about because someone else (bell hooks) quoted him. The book is about his life, or his choice to live, in the small town of Minneota Minnesota and the first chapter is titled “The Music of Failure,” the title coming from a poem he wrote. He explains how it came about.

    Years ago, I traveled to Waterton, Alberta, the north end of Glacier Park, and spent a whole sunny, windy August afternoon sitting on a slope high in the mountain listening to an Aspen tree. I wrote a small poem about that experience:

    Above me, wind does its best
    to blow leaves off the Aspen
    tree a month too soon. No use,
    wind, all you succeed in doing
    is making music, the noise
    of failure growing beautiful.

    Holm weaves a melody of music and failure throughout the chapter in his description of Pauline Bardal, an Icelandic immigrant to Minneota, and his piano teacher. He speaks of her playing the piano at her siblings’ funerals and says, “Hymn singing seemed one kind of preparation for the last great mysterious failure—the funeral, when the saddest and noblest of church tunes could be done with their proper gravity.” I had hardly finished the sentence when these words came to mind:

    come ye disconsolate
    where’er ye languish
    come to the mercy seat
    fervently kneel
    here bring your wounded hearts
    here tell your anguish
    earth has no sorrow
    that heaven cannot heal

    We are following the footsteps of failure this week, which is the path to resurrection. As we walk together, listen for the wind in the trees, sing along with the hymns all creation is singing, and let us make the noise of failure growing beautiful.



    Blogging since December 2005


    6 Responses to lenten journal: failure

    1. Jay
      March 30, 2015 at 11:09 pm

      Wow- I love this arrangement. A perfect ending to a great Monday. Thanks Milton.

    2. March 30, 2015 at 11:09 pm

      Thank you Milty for the daily readings. They’ve given me so much to contemplate and meditate on during the Lenten season.

    3. March 30, 2015 at 11:41 pm

      Very beautiful thoughts. Your words have left me in a contemplative state.

    4. terryallebaugh
      March 31, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      I am reminded as I read your posting for today, Milton, that this week we remember that our guy loses big. From the eyes of the world, couldn’t be a bigger defeat, humiliation, loss, and death. It is a week of blessed failures, Thanks for reminding me to embrace failure, and thankfully to let my feet trod upon its path.

    5. Robert Farlee
      March 31, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks for mentioning Bill Holm. I first met him when I was playing organ at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, and he came up to talk hymns with me. He was a great soul, a living Viking, and I love his writing. And yes, I have known, and learned from, failure.

    6. Choralgrrl
      April 3, 2015 at 10:15 am

      So. Beautiful.

    Leave a Reply