lenten journal: god is in the roses


    When I get to work on any given afternoon, I have to walk through a wall of sound to get into the kitchen. The big boombox that sits on top of our giant mixer is blaring the Spanish AM station loud enough to curdle the milk. The good news is I get there at two and the guys who like listening to “La Recha” leave at three; that’s when I change it to NPR so I can get my news fix until dinner service begins. By about four o’clock I was weary of the endless analysis of Hillary’s victories and Obama’s delegate count and blah, blah, blah. I had heard most all of it on Morning Edition. There wasn’t much new to say, so they just repeated themselves and I started looking for listening alternatives. I noticed one of our take out boxes holding six or eight CDs, which I had never see there before, so I went looking for tunes and found “Black Cadillac,” the CD Rosanne Cash recorded after her parents died.

    I’ve been a big fan of hers for years, so I was glad for the chance to hear what she had to sing, even if it was going to be background music. About three songs in, Ramon said, “What kind of music is this?”

    For lack of a better label, I said, “Country music.”

    “I like this a lot,” he replied.

    I did, too. The record is full of grief and searching and love and even hope. When things slowed down at the end of the evening, I pulled out the liner notes and began to read the lyrics I had only been able to catch in bits and pieces, and I found this song, “God is in the Roses”:

    God is in the roses
    The petals and the thorns
    Storms out on the oceans
    The souls who will be born
    And every drop of rain that falls
    Falls for those who mourn
    God is in the roses and the thorns

    The sun is on the cemetery
    Leaves are on the stones
    There never was a place on earth
    That felt so much like home
    We’re falling like the velvet petals
    We’re bleeding and we’re torn
    But God is in the roses and the thorns

    I love you like a brother
    A father and a son
    It may not last forever and ever
    But it never will be done
    My whole world fits inside the moment
    I saw you be reborn
    God is in the roses
    And that day was filled with roses
    God is in the roses and the thorns

    The images of God in the beauty and the pain is resonant even beyond the words. My sense is she wrote the song out of her grief rather than trying to make a theological point, so she ended up a lot closer to the truth of who God is and where God is in our lives. And her singing the truth brought me comfort.

    Ginger and I are living days of roses and thorns as we settle in here in Durham, sliding back and forth between the grief of all we left behind in New England and all that is unfolding here and getting caught in the crunch of all the details that have to be attended to in order to make home mobile, at least for a time. We are not living the level of grief Cash knew in losing both her parents, but we are grieving, even hurting sometimes, alongside of feeling hopeful and excited.

    And so I learn again the rose and the thorn draw life from the same stem.


    PS — There’s a great live performance clip of the song here.

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