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

Return

When you go to a peaceful place,
a for-off forest or a moment of prayer,
don't return to easily.
First really be there: take it in,
swallow its essence, breathe its spirit,
so it will be in you when you return.
Don't jump back into the panic and swirl.
Learn to amble through the chaos.
When you return from the ocean
keep its rhythms still in your ears,
its vastness still filling your eyes.

Rise from your prayers
still dripping with silence,
walk through your day at a prayerful pace,
trailing bits of God.

   —August 23, 2018

What the angels see

I wonder if the angels are disappointed
looking over the earth, seeing
how little progress we've made
after thousands of generations,
still barbaric and hateful,

or if they are just more patient
than most of us, knowing
what is coming, only slowly,

or if perhaps they do not think of time
at all but only see us as we are,
walking each on our roads,
each with our burden,
some dancing,
and that great, deep music
floating up out of us.

— August 14, 2018

Words of light

         Let no evil talk come out of your mouths,
         but only what is useful for building up,
         as there is need,
         so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

                        —Ephesians 4.29

God, you know what a temptation it is
to whine and complain. To criticize and judge.
Free me for something better.

Even in the shadow of evil and injustice
I can speak your grace,
I can utter your endless possibilities.

May my words be light, not dimness,
a sun that shines,
even in deepest darkness.

May my words build up and bless,
create space for newness,
be the living alternative to the evil I decry.

Speak your grace through me.
May I be a person of my word,
and my word be goodness.
 

   —August 13, 2018

Psalm 130

Out of my sea depths
         a cry, a wordless noise.
You hear, like a sound through the earth,
         Like my spine hears me.

If you measured, I would disappear.
         All of us would be too small.
But you allow us to fill you.
          So we fill you.

I hold open a space for you,
         emptiness in me that widens
like sky waiting for dawn,
          like the whole sky waiting,
and the dawn, rising,
         filling the whole sky.

We, your people, of your making,
         even, even in our clutter,
we are your open space
         where your light appears.
In your spaciousness
          we become new.

   —August 10, 2018

Being seen

This tree looks all the way into me
and recognizes there a tree.

The sea, its vast universe of green,
peers into my same depths, unfurling.

The silence of this world
finds itself in me, dark, settled.

Rapt, You gaze at me, deep,
and see yourself.


   —August 9, 2018