That's Leonard Cohen singing in the background. I want a whole CD of different artists singing his "Hallelujah." I've been playing his music in the car as I've been making trips to Seattle and Shelton and Seattle and back home again. It has been raining and he has the perfect voice for weather like this. Never mind that the daffodils and crocus are a month ahead of themselves and the cherry trees are flinging themselves into bloom. Sometimes it's just a good day to hunker down and read a book or listen to music that brings the heart to the edge of tears.
We are full into Lent at the prison and in the past few days, I've dealt with a few men who have brave ideas about how to spend the season.
There is a man in the Closed Observation Unit (that's down in the Mental Health ward) that someone asked me to see and assess. "Be careful. He's been having a hard time staying clothed in there." Okay, I was warned. Ben was dressed when I saw him, standing straight in his white jumpsuit, staring at the wall, praying. He'd launched himself into a fast, said he was embarrassed that people were asking him about it.
He didn't want to talk to me about it. "It's personal," he said. So I offered him the "wisdom of the ages" and told him about others who have gone out into the desert to fast and pray. I didn't get specific and tell him about Simon who was a pole-sitter. But I did say that people go out to the desert to meet Mystery, to demand an accounting from God, to strip away what isn't essential. And, I said, "they come back from time to time to share what they have learned with others."
When he told me he was praying, I nodded. Prayer's a good thing to do. I told him there were a number of people who would be praying for him, named a few places on the globe where some of the partners live. "Why don't you choose a place on the map and pray for the people in that place? I think Haiti may be well covered, but Cameroon might need extra prayers."
He cracked a smile.
He's still fasting and praying, even though he knows that nine missed meals equal a food strike and things can get serious after that. I'll check on him in the morning and see where his prayer has taken him.
Chuy came to my office asking for a picture of Jesus on the cross. This being Lent, you'd think I'd have a whole collection, but I didn't that afternoon. I finally pulled a copy of the Stations of the Cross off the shelf, with one picture of Jesus crucified on the front cover. Chuy took it eagerly.
"I want to make a copy of this, a drawing, but with my face on it." He plans to have a ministry when he gets out of prison, helping people with the little things: delivering groceries, giving a ride to the doctor's office, dropping things off at the library. "But I want to have a t-shirt, like a uniform, so people know I do it in the name of Christ, that I am crucifying myself. That's what he told us: to crucify ourselves."
We talked for a bit about his heart's desire and then I reminded him that Jesus told us to "pick up your cross and follow me," nothing about crucifying ourselves. He looked puzzled. I told him his heart was in the right place, "But go look at the Last Supper story in John's gospel. Jesus washes feet and tells his disciples to do the same." Chuy's face burst into a grin.
"A washing bowl! A towel! Dirty feet! Hands doing the washing!" If he'd had a pencil, the drawing would have been done.
Enough suffering comes our way as it is. Just ask the Chileans and the Haitians. But washing feet? Certainly we can do that.
Just remember to come back and tell us what wisdom you have gained on your journey.