Child

                  Whoever welcomes one such child in my name
                                    welcomes me,
                  and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me
                                    but the one who sent me
                                            —Mark 9.37

                        

Not the mighty muscled Lord,
you come to me, God, small in the dark,
an orphan, fleeing, silent,
such tiny hands.
We walk by a wide sea, or is it a desert?
You crossed it
without knowing the future.
Can I bear without excuse
your enduring heartbreak,
your uncertainty?
What would you do
in these glaring streets, these chain link alleys,
without me?
You ask no greater courage of me
than to need no greater god,
to walk with you without words
into your childhood,
to hold your hand.

   —September 20, 2018

Overwhelmed

         Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts;
         all your waves and your billows have gone over me.

                        —Psalm 42.7

         When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
                        Isaiah 43.2

Hurricane winds have torn the air itself apart.
The sea and all its deep is heaped upon you.
The sod of grief laid down in silence buries you.
The diagnosis weighs, the fear
floods your veins, your heart, your lungs.
What you must do, a swarm of locusts,
noisily consumes your life.
You sigh, you weep, and sigh.

In the dark waters you pass through,
the devastated ruins where you lived,
I will be there.
Even as night closes it is my arms you feel
or do not feel.
I hold you, even now, I hold you close.
The sodden air, the trough of sorrow
open to the sky, the pleading heart,
is me, steadfast in you.
You will go on, in the tiny ark of my heart,
and after long enough for much to die
in this world and the next
we will begin again.

In the naked fields
birds return.


____________________
Weather Report

Forty days
beyond whose floods
new things emerge.
One hundred percent chance of rain
and bows.

   —September 19, 2018

Servant of all

         Whoever wants to be first
         must be last of all and servant of all.

                        —Mark 9.35

Come be the servant of the least.
The child, without status, power or place.
The addict, hopeless and broken.
Be the servant of the child molester,
the insane, the unnoticeable.
Be the the last among the unacceptable,
the forgotten, the wrong.
Not to shame yourself,
not to out-humble the humiliated,
but to love them,
to serve them for their sake
purely because you want them to be served.
And having imagined the grimy stranger
under the bridge don't forget
the co-worker, the spouse,
even the scared little voice inside you.
It's not expert self-abashment.
It's love.

   —September 18, 2018

Into human hands

         The Chosen One is to be betrayed into human hands...
                  —Mark 9.31

your hands,
the ones you use to button your shirt this morning
the Beloved in them brushing your teeth
choosing your breakfast food
wielding the knife
as you will in someone's heart sooner
or later buttering the toast
Christ judged and sentenced in your
hands steering where you do
pointing at certain people
or shielding your eyes from them
taking things manipulating things
the keyboard the phone the whip
blood on them his
your own maybe
the weaving of that crown of thorns
being so brutal on your
hands you hold hands with
you feed children with
you bless and caress and
close doors or open your hands are
doors you can open or close
the cross that can hold him
the grave that can't hold him
your hands that are always full because
he is holding them
your hands you decide with
you reach for the instrument
you pull the lever
you touch the wound
what will you do with
the Holy One in your hands
the simplest gesture
is the power of Christ
even trembling and unsure
holding him
fresh from the grave
like a baby
in your hands


―September 17, 2018



True

         What will it profit you to gain the whole world and forfeit your life?
         Indeed, what can you give in return for your life?

                        —Mark 8.36-37

In how many ways do you forfeit your soul?
For what borrowed thoughts,
what presumed judgments,
have you given away
what is you,
the dark I AM at the core?
What can counterfeit that beauty,
approximate that mystery,
replicate that once-in-a-lifetime You?

Oh, yes, the suffering of honesty is real,
the cost of being yourself is awful.
Almost as bad as not,
except for the stripping away of what isn't,
the loss of what was loss to begin with,
the death of all that isn't eternal of you,
with nothing left but divine light.

Come stand in this clearing,
exposed and true,
solitary yet embraced—possessed—
and let the word that began all things
burn in you.

   —September 14, 2018

Horoscope

If today is your birthday,
you are possessed of a great beauty
both the seen and unseen, which, though a gift of God,
you have claimed only through some really hard work.
You have attained a wisdom that only comes
through wrestling with deep doubts and anxieties
and overcoming obsessions that have threatened
to derail the power of your life.
You have given birth to a singular blessing,
under difficult circumstances.
You have done this on your own,
yet surrounded by love.
If today is your birthday,
this day will be like every other,
though it will be a day for self-discovery,
a day in which you will be loved,
whether or not you feel it,
an auspicious day to give yourself to the world,
which will receive you with delight
despite the under-appreciation of some.
If today is your birthday
the gifts that await you today are courage,
gratitude, trust, harmony, clarity, humility
and calm resourcefulness,
and the assurance that someone loves you.
And when today is not your birthday,
these things will also be true.

   —September 13, 2018

Who do you say I am?

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.


         Jesus asked them, Who do you say that I am?”
                        —Mark 8.29

Jesus is God's best selfie,
and humanity's true DNA.
Jesus is the great overlapping.
Jesus is God's fragile hope set loose in the world,
God's vulnerability surviving among us,
the living wound of the Beloved.
Jesus is the tear in the world where we see through to God,
what we look like when we let the Divine burn in us.
Jesus is the living bit of love that every empire trips over,
the peasant who shatters the world,
the victim who ruins our judgments
and leaves us with nothing but mercy.

                        •

Jesus is my wizard, my teacher, my elder,
my big brother and little sister,
my comrade, my accomplice, my troublemaker, my trickster.
Jesus is my healer, my lover, my peace,
and not mine.
Jesus is my possibility. The flavor of God.
Infinite mystery in an old shirt.
Jesus is the coach who expects almost too much of me,
and is never disappointed.
Jesus pushes me out of uncomfortable places,
and pulls me into them.
Jesus invites me into the world's wound
deep enough to find light.
Jesus is always dying so I get the hang of it.
And rising.
Jesus is always a step ahead of me
except when he's disappeared into me, waiting,
always pouring God out at my feet,
always weeping and joyful and curious.
Jesus is always setting me up on blind dates with God,
and then coming along just to watch.
He's got heaven all over him like pollen on a bee's legs.
Jesus is my glasses, my hearing aid. Also my hard hat.
Jesus has light spilling out all over, especially through
those holes in his hands.
Jesus has a million questions, and most of them are the same one:
“Do you know how much I love you?”

   —September 12, 2018

Unfinished business

        Who can detect their errors?
                  Clear me from hidden faults
.
                                    — Psalm 19.12

September 11 is not a bad day to think about the hurt we cause. Last night our church hosted the synagogue's Rosh Hashanah dinner, attended by several other churches as well. We talked about racism. I was talking to the group about the story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman, and said something about “the Jews” in a way that sounded like “you people,” and it felt hurtful to some of the Jewish people. The rabbi felt it, too, and took me aside and called me on it. I suggested that we have our conversation in public, for everyone to hear. So we did. I had to acknowledge what I had said and the impact it had had. Because impact trumps intent. It doesn't matter that “I didn't mean it that way.” It felt the way it felt. Our relationship meant more than the point I was making. I had to take responsibility for that. I had to re-state my point, but more importantly, I had to heal the relationship.

But. It wasn't completed. We had the conversation, and the rabbi and I hugged, and we moved on— but something was missing. I realized afterward I never actually said the words “I'm sorry.” I didn't stop and tend to their hearts. I failed at the very thing we were trying to teach: to take responsibility to heal what is wounded, wherever we can.

That my failure, or at least half-success, bothers me, is probably more helpful than had I “done it right”—or even not made the mistake in the first place. It humbles me, and keeps me from thinking I'm the “good guy” who doesn't need to learn. It motivates me to be more ready next time to set aside my agenda and be ready to see where I have hurt others, and enter into the vulnerability of saying I am sorry, and ask forgiveness.

None of us will always be perfect. Even Jesus goofed up. The call is to be open, to assume we have hidden faults, and to be ready to atone—not to defend ourselves, not to “get it right,” but to tend to the relationship. That it feels unfinished as as it should be: it is. Be open. Be ready.

   —September 11, 2018


Rosh Hashanah

         Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year,
         a day of repentance and new beginnings.


         You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
                  
—Micah 7.19


Love, I confess,
I am a hoarder,
surrounded, bound, packed by stuff
I don't need,
fears and habits,
attachments and accessories.
They only diminish my space.

I come to throw them away
into you, O Divine receiver
who carries them off,
who buries them in the depths of your sea.
Here, O Graceful One,
is my accumulation.

Ah, the delight of throwing,
the wonder and gratitude
that the more I release,
the lighter my load,
and yours!
 

   —September 10, 2018

Becoming a beginner

         A Gentile woman, of Syrophoenician origin, begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
                        —Mark 7.26-30

Jesus starts out in a typical unthinking racist mode, and the woman opens his eyes. It changes him. What Jesus models is not having it all figured out, but willingness to grow and change.

I've been a pastor for 38 years and I feel I'm just starting. It's not just self-improvement. It's allowing myself to be re-shaped by a Wisdom greater than me, a Grace born of mystery and given in love. It's being taught by losses, mistakes and people who don't know as much as I do. It's being wiling to see things for the first time. It's being wiling to find myself in the wrong, without judgment, and turn in a new direction.

I think of how many conversations I enter already an expert, knowing what I want to hear and say, not ready to be caught up or taught something new, not really approaching the other as a person, but as a collection of facts I already know. How much of myself do I feel pressure to have already figured out instead of discovering as the mystery of myself unfolds?

I watch my four-month old granddaughter Maggie. I can't imagine how much she's learning—not just information, not even just skills, but how to live. I am too, if I would follow Jesus. Maybe that's another dimension of what it means to “enter the Realm of God as a child.” I'm not very good at it. I still think I know a lot. I'm still a beginner at becoming a beginner.

God, help me shed my smooth expertise. Give me wisdom to not know. Give me courage to be wrong, to ask, to look bad, to see for the first time, to discover the way and to turn, to turn, and take it. Help me to become a beginner.

 

   —September 7, 2018

Already here

Beloved,
all that stands between me and you is my mind
with its insatiable demands, intrusive prodding,
not satisfied to be with you, but wanting proof,
the right feeling, the glib understanding.

The earth does not chat with the oak tree.
My roots do not say what they see
far in the depths of you,
my soul in the empty space you've made for me,
my body floating in the lake of your presence.

My mind is only in the way
since I am already here
held in the womb of your darkness,
borne in the arms of your silence.
I am already here.

   —September 6, 2018

Be opened

         They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech;
         and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 
         He took him aside in private, away from the crowd,
         and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 
         Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him,
         “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 
                        —Mark 7.32-34

Be opened, ears
that I may hear
what the Beloved is whispering to me.

Be opened, lips
that I may sing
of the grace I behold.

Be opened, heart,
to the mystery that unfolds,
the love that abounds.

Be opened, friend,
to me, and who I am,
and who you may be.

Be opened. mind,
to all that exceeds
what you already know.

Be opened, soul,
to this world
and its grace.

Be opened, self,
to be healed,
to be changed.

Be opened, heavens,
to receive us,
to commune here with us.

Let this be today's prayer:
Ephphatha!
Be opened!
 

   —September 5, 2018

When Jesus was changed

         Please, I beg you, cast the demon out of my daughter.
                  It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.
         Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.
                  For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.
                           —Mark 7.26-29

Jesus lives in an exceptionalist culture,
believing "we" are better than others.
Blind to that betrayal of our oneness,
deaf to its lack of compassion,
he calls the woman a dog—a racial slur.

The wise woman counters.
She takes the insult, owns it, and re-imagines it.
Defends her dignity, her daughter.
Comes back at him as a peer, a rabbi arguing texts.
Invites him into a new awareness, a new place.

He is bested and he knows it.
He has been changed, and he appreciates it.
She has opened his eyes.
He suddenly sees her not as a "type," a Gentile,
but as a person.

He goes on from there
to heal a deaf man, crying, "Be opened."
You wonder who he's talking to.

         ●

God, give me courage to me see my bias,
and confront my racism.
Give me grace to see others a persons, not objects.
Give me faith to grow,
trusting wisdom is not superior knowledge
but radical openness,
in the spirit of Jesus, who changed.


―September 4, 2018

 

 

Labor Day prayer

God bless those who labor,
who with their bodies make this world a better place.
Bless those who labor too long, too young, or too hard,
who bear the danger, dirt and drudgery we won't,
who pick our fruit and weave our shirts,
harvest chocolate, package shrimp,
and cleanse our cities of our waste.
Bless those who are exploited, enslaved or abused.
Bless them; satisfy them; give them rest.
Give us gratitude for all who labor for our sake.
And bless the labors of our hands and hearts,
the labors of our words and votes and dollars,
that by our labors and your grace
we too may make this world a better place.
Amen.


___________________
Weather Report

Not what you asked for,
since the rain that spoils the parade
helps the farmer.

―September 3, 2018

Vessel of your love

Beloved,
Beloving,
may I be a vessel of your love today.
I am flawed and inadequate,
but you have chosen to bear your love
into the world through me.
No matter my shame or fear,
no matter the resistance of others,
let your love shine in me.
To all, the intimate and the stranger,
ally and enemy, welcoming and bristly,
let me convey your love,
for their sake (which is your sake),
not my own.
Not my own skinny passion,
but your deep, life-giving love
flows through me each moment.
May I fill to overflowing
with you
for the sake of the world.
Amen.


August 31, 2018

 

 

Eyes

Look with your two eyes and see
what is before you.
Observe as you would a beautiful blossom
this person speaking to you.

Now close your eyes and see
with the eyes of your heart
their silent words, their soul,
their light shining.

Now close those eyes and see
with your third eye
everything in them, yourself in them,
God, waiting, becoming.
 

   —August 30, 2018
 

Gemstone

         Whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile...
         It is what comes out of a person that defiles.

                        —Mark 7.18, 20

A beautiful stone, a gem of great value,
is treated with contempt and thrown into the mud.
Has anything changed?

The marvelous colors are still there,
the opalescent beauty,
marbled with light.

Though mud be thrown at you
you will not become mud.
What is holy remains, undefiled.

Take your soul to the river,
wash yourself in the tender love of the Divine
and marvel at your colors.

Bear yourself with the confidence of the gemstone.
Some may see mud,
but you know, you know.
 

   —August 29, 2018

Here

There's a little kid
in your head's back seat whining,
“Are we there yet?”

The answer is,
“No, we're here.”

Running, counting the miles
and quarters of miles,
in a long meeting, watching the clock,
calculating how much remains,
halfway there, almost done—
isn't where you are, but where you aren't.
You're not a fraction of there.
You're wholly here.

Uncomfortable haul
or lovely walk by the seashore
doesn't matter.
Let it go. Ignore the little kid.
Be here.

This step. Now this one.
Infinity unfolds.
 

   —August 28, 2018

Canoe

Curious God,
I will be your little canoe,
just big enough for you
and whatever grace you pack for the journey.
You paddle me where you will.
Surely I will drift,
and slip sideways in the wind,
but that too is your Spirit,
and you will right me as we go.
In still or troubled waters I will trust your touch,
surrender to your leading,
and go where you paddle me.
And when I find myself upside down and out of sorts
I will know you are portaging me to the next passage;
I will trust, and wait, and let you carry me,
until again, by your grace,
it is I who carry you.


―August 27, 2018