Practice gratitude

Gratitude, the yoga of the gods,
may sometimes take a little practice.
Each day, select one thing to be grateful for:
a cup of water, a wisp of green,
sun on stone, a friend's memory,
gravity, so we do not float away....

Hold your gratitude like a seashell in your hand,
and rehearse it. Come to it new again
and feel the surprise, like water colder
than you thought, or warmer.

Each day add to the things
you allow yourself to tumble into gratitude for,
until you become grateful for everything,
for the rust on the lock, the sun on the broken glass,
the silence after the bird song,
for the grace hidden in ugliness,
for the Presence waiting in emptiness,
for the blessing enfolded in troubles.

Become universally and equally grateful
for everything, until your gratitude becomes
meaningless, as will your desires and expectations,
until none of that is real: only the seashell
you hold in your hand with unspeakable,
unshakable gratitude.

                           —May 22, 2017


What she can teach you

Walk upwind in a fierce rain
            and understand hope.

Watch the river receive itself and give
            and know something about love.

Ponder a stone and its memories
            and know your belonging.

Witness the green shoot part the earth
            and see yourself.

Sit under one tree in many seasons
            and learn death's other name.

Listen to the desert's silences
            and let your heart fall open.

Behold a lilac surrender its scent
            and become wise.

Listen to the bird's song
            and hear, hear your own.

No part of this realm disputes its belonging.
            Learn, and rejoice.

Let the ocean wear you down
            until you are sand and wind.

Lie on the earth for she will receive you,
            and remember, always.

You came from her, and she loves you wildly.
            Learn what she can teach you.


                           —May 19, 2017

To an unknown God

            God made us … so that we would search for God
            and perhaps grope for God and find God—
            though indeed God is not far from each one of us.
            For “In God we live and move and have our being.”

                           —Acts 17.26-28

God, this darkness is discouraging.
I don't know where this is headed.
This tunnel feels deathly, a grave.
I grope and I do not find.

But you are not a hermit hiding.
You are not a small being
You are Being, my being.
I am not far from you: I am in you.

This darkness is you.
The empty air I feel, the wall, is you.
Even my groping is you, moving in me.
Even my sorrow is your yearning.

Breath prayer: + Here … you are +

                           —May 18, 2017

Account for your hope

            Always be ready to explain your hope
            to anyone who demands an account from you.
                        — 1 Peter 3.15

Be mindful of how God has acted with grace in your life. Be prepared in every moment to bear witness to God’s grace, for at any turn such accounting may be demanded of you — not by threatening inquisitors, but by thirsty beggars. Be attentive lest you miss the grace that passes before you, whether as small as a single birdsong or as broad as the rising sun of your own life restored. Be grateful, lest these pearls have been thrown to swine. And be ready to speak of it in the grandest or simplest words or deeds. You have not invented your own hope; it has sprung, green and living, from the grace that has rained upon you, has welled up from deepest springs, has come to you in steadfast rivers. Treasure this hope with the highest honor: not to hoard it, but to share. For at any moment you may be the one to offer such living water to one whose lips are parched, who in their thirst may act haughtily or even with anger, but whose heart thirsts for hope. Be ready. God’s grace is infinite, and it alone is the source of all our hope. Be ready, lest the miracle escape you.

             — May 17, 2017


             I will ask God, who will give you another Advocate,
             to be with you forever.

                           —John 14.16

Not a judge or prosecutor,
but a defense attorney.
I believe in you.
I see your beauty, your glory even,
better than you.
I will advocate for you
against those who accuse,
against every obstacle,
against the voice in your head
that says you're not good enough.
I will counsel you
in every challenge and disappointment.
You don't have to call for me;
I am here. Forever.
I will advocate for you
against your uncertainty,
your fear and shame,
for the sake of that person
that even to this day
is still hidden.
I am the Yes of God
within you.

Breath prayer:    +    Yes    …    within    +

                           —May 16, 2017

No longer grains

I have spent so much for this shell,
         this seed casing,
and then, safely contained,
         strained at the walls of my tomb,

while inside this little shell
         is the living I AM.
Beneath the stone
         is the light.

The little green leaves unfolding
         on the forest floor
in their unfurling are nothing
         like the seed.

Let me die—my little one, my “me”—
         and in death emerge into life,
into you, the wholeness of you,
         the river of you, never unflowing,

one with this earth and its breathing,
         its wind and tide and seasons,
these creatures who know me,
         these stars who sing my name,

and my sisters and brothers,
         my other selves
in this risen life,
         no longer grains but bread.

                           May 15, 2017

God's own beloved

            You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood,
            a holy nation, God’s own beloved,
            in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts
            of the One who called you out of darkness
            into God's marvelous light.

                           —1 Peter 2.9

Your being chosen isn't a privilege; it's a job.
It's not a prize for your ego.
It's ground for humility and gratitude.
It's healing for your shame, your hopelessness.

Remember: what is your story?
What are God's mighty acts in your life?
What was the darkness? What is the light?
Be amazed again. Dwell on that.

Now: how will you proclaim?
How are you called to be a priest of light?

+ God, may everything I do
proclaim your mighty acts
and shine with your light. +

                           —May 12, 2017


I in you in God in me

            I am in my Abba, and you in me, and I in you.
                           —John 14.20

Love is God.
God is the Lover and the Beloved
and the Love that flows between.

Love is infinite; all things exist in God.
Christ is the embodiment of love,
part of God and yet also an out-reaching.
You are God's beloved,
and the embodiment of God's love;
you are in God, and part of Christ;
God is in you, and part of you.

Of course this is confusing.
All is con-fused.
There is only one thing,
and you are in it.
It is love.
Be in it.

Breath prayer:     In    …    love

                           —May 11, 2017


I am the way

            Thomas said, “How can we know the way?”
            Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
            No one comes to Abba God except through me.”

                           —John 14.5-6

A zen koan.
People have used it to imagine Jesus answering a question he wasn't asked.
He was not being asked which religion will get you saved.
Not comparing one ism with another,
after all, he was Jewish, talking to Jews.
It's not that there is one religion, one “way” and no other way;
there is no “way” at all. No set of rules. No formula. No ism.
Not even Christianity.
There's only relationship. Presence. Love.
He's not selling a religion, he's offering himself.
Jesus is not trying to convert you.
He's inviting you to love him.
“John,” the story's author, sees Jesus as the embodied love of God,
the Word made flesh.
God's koan.

Love is what Jesus means by “me.”
The only way to God is through God's love.
Love is the way, the truth, and the life.

Forget religion.
Christ hides in all of life and whispers,
“Love me.”

Breath prayer: + love … me +

                           —May 10, 2017


Preparing a place

            In my Abba God's house there are many rooms....
            I go and prepare a place for you;
            I will come again and will take you to myself,
            so that where I am, there you may be also.

                           —John 14.2-3

Jesus is not talking about being dead and entering into the afterlife.
            He's talking about entering into this life, being really alive.
God's house is not death. It's God's presence.
            It's this life. This moment.
The Beloved goes before you into this moment,
            is here in this moment before you are,
and makes room for you,
            opens a space, blesses your belonging.
The Gracious One comes to you:
            leaves the place of divine certainty and perfection
and meets you where you are, in your uncertainty,
            your limitation, your partiality,
and takes you to himself,
            gathers you into his heart,
so that where he is,
            not where he's going to be after he dies, or you do,
but where he is—right here, right now,
            in the intimate presence of God—
you may be.

What if you were to enter your life?
            It's ready for you.
What if, in gratitude and humility,
            you were to live it welcoming others
into the many rooms
            of God?

Breath prayer: + welcome … home +

                           —May 9, 2017


Glorious becoming

In spring these spangled woods
are raucous with birds,
O sing a new song unto the Lord,
and the trees try on their prints and florals
before summer's solids,
open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise,
their shades and kinds of green,
the lime and lemon greens,
russets and ochres,
handing out their devotional leaflets,
let my prayers rise before you,
the oaks opening their little umbrellas,
the beeches their praying hands,
the blossoming trees scattering confetti
among the chanting peepers and
ferns unfurling the scroll of the Word,
let every living thing praise you.
And you, wanderer, are no less a part
of this burgeoning world,
this myriad of unfoldings,
I try to count them—they are more than the sand,
this world in its glorious becoming.

Weather Report

as a front of freedom and delight
brings divine brainstorming
in the inward regions,
clearing, as time passes,
into all of who you are.

                           —May 8, 2017


Dark valley

             The shepherd goes ahead of them, 
             and the sheep follow.
                           —John 10.4

             Even though I walk through the valley
             of the shadow of death
             I fear no evil.

                  —Psalm 23.4

Usually when we pray “The Lord is my shepherd” we have in mind that God provides for us and protects us. When we pray about the valley of the shadow of death we mean an unfortunate place we've unwillingly found ourselves. But what if the Loving Shepherd leads us intentionally into the dark valley? What if Psalm 23 is not only about comfort, but courage? What if it is not meant to direct our attention toward ourselves, but toward God and God's will?

Imagine that the “paths of righteousness” include the arduous road of working and even sacrificing for justice and compassion. That the shepherd restores our soul because we've poured it out. That the table prepared for us is not in our safe sanctum but among our enemies. That Jesus is leading us to be with those who dwell in the shadow of death, not from a distance, but there in the valley with them. That Jesus is leading us to do justice despite persecution, to enter into the world's wounds, to be in solidarity with those who suffer. Is that not what it means to take up our cross and follow him, to follow him into the shadow of death?

“It's just consequences to suffer for our bad choices,” says 1 Peter 2.20, “but it opens us to God's grace to suffer for doing good.” The one prize we hold most dear is to be near the Beloved. So we don't beg for the easy path, the still waters and green pastures. We pray for the grace to listen, draw near and follow, even if the shepherd is marching into the valley of shadows. We pray for more than our own comfort. We pray for the healing of the world. So we pray to follow the Beloved, even into dark places, knowing that even there we are led, we are blessed, we are renewed.

Breath prayer: Following you … I fear not

―May 5, 2017

Praying Psalm 23

Loving One, I will let you shepherd me
            to where you choose, not I.

You are what I need.
            Transform my desires.

My heart as still as the waters,
            I wait.

I am grateful for these green pastures;
            deepen my gratitude.

Lead me in the way of justice
            even through the shadow of death.

Along your via dolorosa
            comfort me.

To this rich table of your grace
            invite my enemies.

I accept your anointing.
            I drink of your cup.

Goodness and mercy are mine;
            mine, your presence.

                           —May 4, 2017


Other sheep

             I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
             I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.
             So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

                           —John 10.16

I am doing my best to follow Jesus. I listen prayerfully for his voice. I continually question my fears and desires, because I know how hard it is to discern God's voice from my own ego. I test my understanding of God's call by searching scripture, reflecting on my experience, learning from the traditions of the church, and listening with others. I know I can be mistaken, but I stake my life on my devotion to Jesus as I believe he leads me.

I imagine others are doing the same. Yet some of them seem to be following in the opposite direction. What I do they abhor; what they do I can't join in. What I care about doesn't move them. What they're obsessed with seems both petty and destructive to me. I'd rather argue about something that mattered, something life-giving. They seem to be moved by fears and wounds more strongly than trust and love. But I can't judge. All I can do is love them, and follow the voice I hear.

My Methodist Church isn't very United these days. Some Methodist sheep believe others “do not belong to this fold.” I don't understand. I have no solution. But I know we are one flock not in our opinions, but in the shepherd's love. So I keep my eye on the Shepherd of Love, and listen for his voice.

I will continue to follow as I am led, and not divert. I will not follow other sheep; I will follow Jesus. I'll let Jesus lead his sheep, including those I don't agree with. I'll get to know them, listen to them, help them, love them and pray for them, but I won't follow them, or ask them to follow me. I'll follow Jesus.

I ask my Shepherd to keep speaking. I lay my heart open to listen. And I will follow. Whatever the difficulty, whatever the consequences, I will follow.

Breath prayer: Love … lead


                           —May 3, 2017


The shepherd's voice

             The shepherd goes ahead of them,
             and the sheep follow
             because they know the shepherd's voice.
                           —John 10.4

Gentle shepherd,
you who lead me to abundant life,
to live so others also may follow
and find green pastures:
help me know your voice,
recognize your calling,
hear my name.
Give me grace to listen
for your voice,
deep within,
so quiet, yet so clear,
the voice of One who leads,
leads to still waters,
leads through deathly valleys,
leads through all suffering, all joy,
leads to abundant life,
you whose very life is a leading,
whose love is a voice,
speaking to me,
speaking in me.
I quiet my soul.
I listen.

I listen for you.

I listen … for you.

                           —May 2, 2017


The Lord is my shpherd

            You are my shepherd.

Not my fears. Not my desires.
Not the machinations of my ego.
Not my group and its partisans,
my nation, my party, my church.

You alone lead me in your path:
not the path of being right,
but the path of loving.

Help me to discern your leading.
Grant me the humble attentiveness
to see you loving, and to join you loving,
to love and to forsake all other ways.
Grant me the courage to follow,
even through the darkest valley.

I follow you, like a lamb;
and following me
come goodness and mercy.

Breath prayer: Shepherd me … in love

                           —May 1, 2017


New song

            You have been born anew,
            not of perishable but of imperishable seed,
            through the living and enduring word of God.

                           —1 Peter 1.23

I am your infant in your arms

My flesh your holy vessel
For this eternal flowing

Carry me where you will
On the mountain of your back

I am your body made into singing
Each breath a new beginning

Sing me into this world
This living, beloved world

Breath prayer: + Your Word … born new +

                           —April 28, 2017

Green song

         Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
         he interpreted to them the things about himself
         in all the scriptures.

                  —Luke 24.27

The Beloved walks beside you,
murmuring in your ear.
His Teachings unfold
like spring beneath your feet,
his word a green singing
in every stone and leaf,
beyond your ears, beyond them.
You can't originate it.
You have to listen.
In the stranger's words,
the loved one's tone of voice,
in the brief pause,
the little snake of doubt,
the silence of the dishes in the sink,
you have to listen.
Only later will you recognize it,
the truth you've known all along,
the voice you remember,
the word that awakens you,
your holy name,
the song of life.

                                     -- April 27, 2017

Easter: seed

The seed of you,
released in life's gracious sowing,
descends in darkest soil,
where the fingers of God,
earthy and rank,
smelling of root and rot,
work open your shell,
pry loose your outer being
and let you spill into earth,
blood outflowing its veins.
Hands of darkness hold you
still, deathly still,
longer than you want,
close and unknowing,
until you are earth.
The grave that enwraps you
knows it is purely in the hands
of the One who changes everything
into life,
who has the only power.
In time the original light,
set free, swells in you,
and who you are,
who God is in you,
drains upward into light,
and a green blade appears,
changed, bewildered and radiant,
still yet to become freely
what you shall become.

The light in you knows this,
and proclaims
even to your own amazement
as you fall,
the good news.

                                —April 26, 2017

The road

         Were not our hearts burning within us
         while he was talking to us on the road,
         and opening the scriptures to us?"
         —Luke 24. 13-16, 32

Don't expect to arrive at a place of knowing.
You are on the road of discovering, my friend,
and the flame in your heart
will only inconstantly let you know
that there also walks the Beloved, who yearns
only for this one passionate delight
above all the glories of heaven:
every moment, even the least memorable,
the least noticed at all,
simply to be with you.

                  —April 25, 2017