Get in the chariot

         Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch...
               —Acts 8.27

In Acts 8.26-40 God sends Philip along a desert road, where he encounters someone least like himself: a foreigner who has been sexually mutilated, serving as a high government official. The Ethiopian eunuch is of a different race, ethnicity and language from Philip. He is sexually different, and of a different social class. The eunuch is reading scripture and has a question. Philip engages him in conversation The eunuch invites Philip to get in his chariot and sit beside him. Philip does, and in the ensuing conversation the eunuch asks to be baptized, which Philip does. Then he magically disappears and the two go their separate ways.

We are most naturally attracted to people just like us, but the gospel sends us out to join the journey of people who are different. Way different. To really proclaim the grace that transcends boundaries of deserving, privilege and control, we have to transcend our own boundaries. We have to share the journeys of others, especially those who are not like us. (One way racism persists is that white folks don't befriend people of color.) It's in the boundary-crossing that we experience the grace that is beyond our ability, control or deserving.

So we stop and talk to the homeless person on the street, or the laborer cleaning the hallway. We befriend someone who is incarcerated, or gender non-conforming, or an undocumented immigrant, or of a different religion, or who has a mental illness—or just someone who's left out. We don't just wave at them on the way by. We get in the chariot and sit beside them. We engage them in relationship. We journey with them. We see beneath the stereotypes (including these I just listed) and see the person who like the eunuch has questions, cares about things, and seeks God. Then it is they who minister to us. They enrich our world. That's where grace happens. Even miracles.

Who are those people who are different who God might be sending you to? What are the differences you hide behind? Who are the unlikely ones who God is asking you to accept, and journey with? Run alongside. Get in the chariot.

   —April 26, 2018

Prune me

         "I am the true vine, and my Abba God is the vinegrower.
         God removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.
         Every branch that bears fruit

       God prunes to make it bear more fruit.”
                        —John 15.1-2

Loving God, Vinegrower of Life,
I bring to mind with gratitude those ways you bear fruit in me,
where your grace blossoms into blessing.
Receive my thanks.

. . .

Wise vinedresser, show me what in me does not bear fruit,
what impedes the flow of your grace in me:
fears and resentments, desires, habits and attachments
that do not bear the fruit of your love,
dead branches that no longer serve you.
Help me see.

. . .

God of mercy, prune me with your grace.
Help me release all that does not bear fruit,
and let go of what diminishes your love in me.
Help me repent.

. . .

God of peace, help me trust your spirit flowing in me,
blossoming forth with your glory,
bearing the fruit of your presence.
Help me love.

. . .

Amen.

   —April 25, 2018

Love, not fear

          There is no fear in love,
          but perfect love casts out fear.
                —1 John 4.18


I bathe in the river of your love.
It washes away all fear
of being judged, inadequate or punished.

I let your river flow through me,
not my love but yours,
flowing to all the world, even the unlovable.

In your love I am not afraid
to love, to risk,
to be carried away by the river.

In love I will coerce no one
or make them afraid,
but only set them free.

Give we wisdom to notice
when I am afraid
and to choose love instead.

In your perfect love I am not afraid.
I am grateful.
I am free.

   —April 24, 2018

Vine and branches

         I am the vine and you are the branches.
                  —John 15.5

You are the vine and we are your branches,
one with your life and rooted in your heart.
Flowing with grace, with life you fill us,
strengthened that nothing can break us apart.

You are the vine and we are your branches.
Deep in our hearts your life is flowing through.
Rooted in you, we grow and flourish.
You live within us, and we live in you.

You are the vine and we are your branches.
One common blood flows though all of our veins.
We all are part of one another.
We all are branches of one living vine.

You are the vine and we are your branches,
flowing with power greater than our own,
bearing your fruit to all Creation,
till all the seeds of your love have been sown.

[A song. Write me for the music.]
 

   —April 23, 2018

Psalm 23 meditation

Shepherd me, Love.
         Lead me out from my attachments.

Lead me to the green meadow of your heart,
         your deep well of peace and nourishment.
         
Fill me with your breath again,
         breath of your Spirit.

Lead me in your way,
          not mine,

even through darkest canyons
         shadowed by death,

for your presence is my safety,
         your will my comfort.

You invite me to your table with my enemies
         to share with them your grace:

gift that overflows,
         blessing that makes life beautiful.

Lead me where goodness and mercy go;
         then on every road
         I will still be at home in you.
 

   —April 20, 2018

Eternal life

         We know that we have passed from death to life
         because we love one another.

               —1 John 3.14


The grave is skin.
You can stay inside it,
or choose to become infinite.


You are the bird, not the nest.
Give yourself, and there is nothing
left to entomb.


Once you die,
an angel,
you can pass through walls.


When your life becomes nothing
but love
no one can take it from you.


Death is a barbed wire fence.
Love is a song,
it hangs in the air long after.


Death is a thick wall.
Above, the bird flies far
to a beautiful land in need of birds.
 

   —April 19, 2018

Wolf

         The hired hand, who is not the shepherd
         and does not own the sheep,
         sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—
         and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.

               —John 10.12

I don't see it coming.
It lurks, beyond awareness,
moves through the underbrush
on tough, forest-wise paws,
smells what I can't, knowing,
an ancient species.

It scatters and snatches
my innocent goodness.
Fear chasing down love.

Let me gaze at you, wolf.
Know you, name you,
learn your ways.

Who is it, then,
who stands between me and my wolf?
Who alone can tame the wild,
not stone this one (there will be more),
but make my wolf lie down with the lamb?

Let me learn the voice of my shepherd.
Let me listen and follow,
and even through the shadowed valley
stay close.
 

   —April 18, 2018

What you do

It's a long road.
This is what you do.
You've worked to get here.

Maybe training for a marathon,
or working for justice.
Maybe parenting.

People don't get it,
why you do this,
why you do it and do it,

why the early rising,
the repeated drills,
the ceaseless effort.

They don't get why I cheer
so loud, get choked up,
make a fool of myself.

You give yourself
to something greater,
to the long road, and your soul,

taken up, is enlarged,
your presence deepened.
Changed, you live in a changed world.

Andrea nailed the Boston Marathon.
Tomorrow she'll return
to her cancer patients,

to the long road,
with love and guts.
And already I am changed.
 

   —April 17, 2018

Cheer

This morning we'll be out in the rain cheering our niece Andrea, running the Boston Marathon. Thirty thousand runners, for almost that many reasons, sploshing through the wind and rain for 26.2 miles. Elite athletes will run it in a couple of hours. Some people will take 6 or 8 hours. It takes a lot of commitment, perseverance and spirit.

Second only to the commitment, perseverance and spirit of the runners is the commitment, perseverance and spirit of the spectators. They'll stand out there for hours and hours even in the rain cheering all along, cheering every runner, cheering indiscriminately, selflessly, cheering with admiration, hope and encouragement.

I cheer today for everyone who is on a long, hard journey—physical, mental, legal, relational, medical, professional, marital, artistic, spiritual—whatever their marathon is. And I cheer for everyone who is out there cheering them on. This is what God means for life to be like: all of us cheering all of us, everyone wanting everyone to do their best, hoping for victory for each of us, encouraging, believing in each other, sharing hope and amazement. Maybe even a little inspired by each other.

Cheer somebody on today. Cheer indiscriminately. You don't know what long, hard journey they may be on. And trust this: when you're in the thick of it, struggling to keep going, slogging against wind and rain and exhaustion, you may not hear it, but God is there, cheering you on, believing in you—maybe even a little inspired. Keep your head up.
 

   —April 16, 2018

1 John 3.1-3

         A paraphrase for meditation


Love, what love you give me.

I am your beloved child.

You hold me. You adore me.


People may never see my true self

because they don't see you.


I am yours, now, in this moment.

I let go of who I should be.

I dwell in this moment, and your love.


The more clearly I see you
         I reflect you.

This is my true self.

In my hope in your pure love
         I become pure love.
 

   —April 13, 2018

Startled

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.

         Jesus himself stood among them
         and said to them, "Peace be with you."
         They were startled and terrified,
         and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
                  —Luke 24. 36-37

Still after all the proof and rehearsals
you startle me.
When I'm forgiven,
or given the opportunity to forgive,
when my wounds shrink under your hand,
when the long unmapped road of grief
leads into a gentle meadow,
I'm not sure what I'm seeing is real.
When you stoop into the wreckage of my life
and reach out to take my hand,
when I have betrayed you and you come to me,
wounded but whole, and bless me,
I can hardly believe.
In my shattered ruins you pick up the pieces,
you gather the dust and breathe life into it
and it takes living form
and it is me, and I am alive and free.
You will understand, then, if like a newborn
I am bewildered, maybe even terrified,
before I come to myself and,
squinting in the light,
cling to you with all my might.

April 12, 2017

 

 

Eastering prayer

Merciful One,
I enter the garden of your presence
open to the mystery of your love.
The hurt I have caused and the hurt I have borne
I lay to rest in the tomb of your grace.
All resentment, shame, dread and anxiety
I wrap in the linens of your mercy.
All distrust and defiance
I lay in the ground of your patient redeeming.
See if there be any evil in me,
and in your tender mercy lay it to rest.

Dawning One,
let Christ rise in me,
free of all fear, free of the power of doubt
and the shroud of the past.
Let Christ rise to new life in me,
wounded but whole,
radiant, forgiving and alive with your love.
Create me anew: by your grace let there be light.

This is the day you are making;
let me rejoice, and be glad in it.

   —April 11, 2018

Witnesses

         “Thus it is written,
         that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,
         and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed
         in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
         You are witnesses of these things.

               —Luke 24.46-48

What do you talk about when you come back,
bodily risen but still wounded, from the grave?
Forgiveness.

The repentance we preach is not forced on others,
it's our repentance,
turning from from retribution to forgiveness,
from self-protection to self-giving.
When we forgive, we offer resurrection.
Christ is risen in the body
of those who forgive in this world.

Forgiveness is where resurrection takes form,
where wound becomes blessing,
where lives become actually new,
where people become free,
lured by astonished fishers out of graves into light.
The new self is freed from the old life;
anger no longer has dominion.
Justice rises not from the cross of retribution,
but the empty grave of grace.

Members of the crucified and risen Body of Christ
are not afraid to be wounded in offering forgiveness.
No suffering can stop us:
we have already died and gone to heaven.
We are as fearless as angels.
We are witnesses of these things.
 

   —April 10, 2018

Start here

Those mornings when you wake up burdened,
already thinking Oh why bother,
start here:

thank God for one thing.

One person whom you love will do,
though even a remarkable coincidence is acceptable.
You don't even need to go into peaches,
the color blue, or migratory birds,
or a child's laugh you heard the other day,
let alone the angelic speech of nerve synapses
or the inscrutable ballet of spiral galaxies,
or God's outlandish love for you.

Just one thing to give thanks for.

Then resolve to live the day
in adequate gratitude for that one thing,

and begin.
 

   —April 9, 2018

Easter walk

       While it was still dark,
         Mary Magdalene came to the tomb...
                           —
John 20.1


Light out of darkness is the primal dance,
all things dance.

God made love with this world
to create it,

freedom
its bones,

becoming
its being,

the one love
of all things.

The face of the earth is the bottom of the Red Sea,
slaves turned free.

God has already kissed this passage,
its losses a flowering seed.

All falling
is into.

What dies starts over,
received into Love's enlarging,

guilt a stone
turned to light,

grief and dread a jar of myrrh,
given away.

Become a wrought vessel
for God's alchemy.

All our life is a long walk
in the dark

toward a grave
already empty.

   —April 6, 2018

The mark of the nails

         “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands,
         and put my finger in the mark of the nails
         and my hand in his side,
         I will not believe.”

                        —John 20.25

The true redeemer is the Wounded One
with the stigmata of the oppressed.
Unless you find him among the incarcerated,
hear her voice in the trafficked and abused,
you have not found redemption, but relief.
Unless you sense others' pain in your ease,
someone's death by drone strike in your security,
someone's suffering in your white privilege,
someone's poverty in your cheap fruit—
unless you see the marks of the nails,
you have not found the Crucified and Risen One.

Unless you see the Beloved's brokenness
in your fearful desires and hurtful habits
it's not your Savior who has risen.
Unless your Christ bears the scars
of your own behavior it's not you they will save,
not your sin borne off to hell, your betrayal forgiven,
not your life changed, but somebody else's.

And unless your despair is swallowed up in forgiveness
and your greed changed by gratitude
and your heart emptied out in love and courage
you don't believe, you just wish.

But when this drops you to your knees, blessed are you.
Rejoice, for you stand before the Living One
who offers you new life.
 

   —April 5, 2018

Stumhle, Thomas

         Thomas (who was called the Twin) said,
         “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands,
         and put my finger in the mark of the nails
         and my hand in his side,
         I will not believe.”

               —John 20.24-25


Seeker, twin of Tomas, keep searching.
Keep looking to see; keep stretching out your hand.

Your questioning is not refusal; it is loyalty,
faithfulness to the Presence, not the rumor.

Don't let some preacher tell you what to think.
Seek the living Christ who moves your hand, who trembles it.

Don't fall for the happily ever after Jesus,
the It was nothing, I'm fine Jesus:

seek the true suffering Christ, whose wounds you can feel,
whose marks sting you, whose forgiveness saves.

The Beloved isn't testing you, but will reach out a hand
and give you what you need for your next step.

Don't require yourself to believe any but your heart.
The next step isn't likely a leap of faith

but to stumble upon love and fall to your knees
crying ,”My Beloved, my Sovereign, my Life-Giver, my God!”
 

   —April 4, 2018

Easter leap

Oh! The rejoice of it! Oh, the amaze!
The Gift, the uplift! Alleluia-ful Day!
We thank you for Wonderful, Easter-ful Love
that we are the risen-up subjects of.

You've emptied the grave of us. Oh, what you've done!
The cross you've uncrossed. The big bang re-begun!
Now earth is made heaven, the prison the garden.
The sepulcher dances, set free of its burden.

Our graveful of misses and messes are blessed,
our Didn't undid, and our No you have yessed.
The Can't and the Shouldn't made vanishing small
and death and its scariness not there at all.

Poor death has its rules, but Easter's response
is that God can and will do whatever God wants.
There's no How to explain or Therefore to defend;
there's only your mercy and grace in the end.

The blessingful cross and the emptyful tomb
spread their arms and say Yes and say Hope and make room.
Your love sets us free and undoes what was done,
brings each me back to thee, and makes ones into one.

This Day! of impossible made into Yes,
made into Receive, into Trust, into Bless.
The angels are partying on our behalf.
Then what can we do but, oh, weep and, yes, laugh?

Ah! The leap and the bow and the fling of this day,
we dance and we sing what we can't really say.
How to thank you with thanks for the gift that you give
we can't say or believe: we'll just have to live.

   —April 2, 2018

Christ is risen

         They went out and fled from the tomb,
         for terror and amazement had seized them;
         and they said nothing to anyone,
         for they were afraid.

               —Mark 16.8

Our Sunday morning Alleluias won't be enough.
We will fail to tell this mystery.
Only language honest enough to fail can speak
God's grace.

Christ is risen, and escapes us—
escapes our words, our deeds, our lives—
and yet comes to us: our failure the sign
of God's victory.

Before our failure Christ is risen,
beyond our failure Christ reigns supreme,
in our very failure we are saved
from capacity.

Fearless of our weakness now
we are bold to lay down our life, and falter,
hoping only for God to love magnificently
in us.

Christ is risen. Let terror and amazement
carry you. Let your words fall like petals.
Let nothing suffice to tell the unspeakable
but the light in your eyes.

   —April 1, 2018