Halloween

On Halloween we dress our children
as ogres and monsters
and the most frightening nightmares,
ill-fitting costumes
on these little innocents.

As we send them up
into the squares of porchlight
we ourselves stand in the dark,
dresses as fairy princesses
and knights in shining armor,
costumed in respectability.

But beneath our armor and tiaras
breathe the monsters of fear
and racism and violence,
and the demonic spirits
in whose thrall we name others as Other,
ogres who willingly abide slaughter
and feast on the pain of others.

In the dark we can't see
beneath the suits and crowns
how perfectly those costumes fit,
nor how beneath them
are soft bodies, hungry hearts,
and the fragile rising
hopes of children.

   —October 31, 2018


Fruit of gratitude

Begin with gratitude
         for all you have received,
         that you see and that you do not see.

Let your gratitude grow into trust
         that you are included in a great wonder;
         and entrust yourself to the grace you are given.

Let your trust blossom into compassion
         for all those who are also part of this oneness
         who have been excluded, used or targeted.

Let your compassion flourish into solidarity,
         knowing you are one with those who suffer
          and that their wholeness is part of yours.

Let your solidarity bear fruit in justice,
         working for freedom and fullness of life for all,
         against all evil and oppression.

And when you are most challenged
         by the forces of injustice,
         most weary and discouraged,

return to gratitude
         that you are guided, accompanied,
         empowered and saved;
         and entrust yourself to the undying love of God.

   —October 30, 2018

Not safe

Sitting with Jewish neighbors
at their temple in shock and fear
after a synagogue shooting,
feeling their heartbreak and vulnerability,
I confess: for a moment I felt safe.
I am, after all, not one of them.

I will never be shot for being black,
never be murdered for being Jewish or gay.
I am a white, male, well-educated,
middle class, able-bodied Christian.
I'm not the one they'll kill for being myself.
I'm glad that danger is not mine.

That, I confess, is my violence.
When I am glad of my safety,
when I hide behind my privilege
and separate myself from them,
when I think “them” and not “us,”
pretend I am not them
to feel safe—that itself is the violence.

We are one.
Our wholeness includes each other.
I do violence to my own being
when I separate myself,
when I welcome the safety of my privilege
and sever those I think are not part of me.

I am not free until all of us are free.
My only safety is to risk
for the sake of the safety of all.
My only way to be whole
is to be broken with the broken-hearted.
My only salvation is not to be safe.

   —October 29, 2018



Urgency

         Many sternly ordered him to be quiet,
         but he cried out even more loudly.

                        —Mark 10.48

There is a beggar, though blind,
who sees,
who with urgency born of wisdom
cries out,
but who is muffled by politeness,
silenced by looking good
and the terrible fear
of standing in need of the miraculous.
Among the crowd only the Beloved
is so fixed upon that voice.
What do you gain by stifling that cry?
Do you really believe
your heart won't persist,
cry out another way,
that the Beloved will not overrule
your deadly banality and listen?
The tragedy of a heart denied its God
will not endure.
The Beloved calls.
Beggar, you know what to do
to save your life.

   —October 26, 2018


Boxes

God, sometimes I am as one
trying to go up and down stairs
with huge boxes in my arms
and I can't see my footing, or other people.
I stumble. I drop things. I crash into people.

Help me set aside all my cargo:
emotions and beliefs that push and pull me,
heavy fears that unbalance me,
the way I want things to be, points to make,
how I want to be seen....

Help me set it all down and instead
carry only the song of your love,
and dance, light and lithe,
in your open meadow,

and, quick on my feet,
make way for others
who stagger and stumble…

   —October 25, 2018

Bartimaeus

Dearly Beloved,

                      Mark 10.46-52

Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting beside the Way.
             What is the Way you are beside: something incomplete,
             something not yet happening? Offer it to God.

He began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many sternly ordered him to be quiet.
             What has silenced you?
             What has kept you from rushing headlong to God?

Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.”
             
Imagine Jesus calls you.
             Jesus wants you. Wants you near.

They called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”
              
Recite these words to yourself.
              Take heart; get up, your Love is calling you.

Throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
              
Your souls is not as timid as you:
              casting your safety aside, leaping, unseeing, to the Beloved.

Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
              
Let him ask you.
              And again.

“My teacher, let me see again.”
              
What would you see?

Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.”
              Your crying out, your soul's leaping,
              your blind begging is holy.

Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

               What is the new Way you will follow on?

Pray this all day long without ceasing:
             “Jesus, Beloved of God, have mercy on me.
             “Jesus, Beloved of God, have mercy on me.”

 —October 24, 2018


What do you want?

         Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?”
                        —Mark 10.51


When you discover the deepest desire of your heart,
         you find that it is God’s desire
                  to give it to you.

The question is not a trick or a test.
         It is an invitation.
                  It is an awakening.

What you you want?
         What do you really want?
What do you really want?

Already God's desire,
          a seed in darkness,
unfolds.

   —October 23, 2018


What to say

Some days, like his morning,
I sit down here and the page is blank
and I don't know what to say.
There are a couple thousand of you
waiting to hear a Word,
and my mind is blank,
and the page is blank.
And I wait... and nothing comes.

And I pray, "God,
what do people need to hear from you today?"
And I wait...
until I hear this:
that this question―

"What do people need to hear from you today?"―
is what we need to hear.

That each day we are sent into this world
to be a channel of God's Word,
God's healing, empowering, life-giving Word,
and we don't always know how that word is pronounced,
how to convey it, what to say,
until we enter the day and meet the people.
That a good way to live a day
is to live it continually asking,
"What do people need to hear from God?"
and to live the day listening,
listening for God's word,
not my own gripes and likes,
not my own opinion, but God's Word,
and to speak that word
to whoever needs to hear it.

And the word is probably not made up,
but drawn from deep within,
if you're really listening―
kindness, probably, or courage, or challenge, or hope―
a gleaming creation hidden in the silence
and spoken into the blank page of the moment,
a possibility they didn't know they knew
until you said it.

October 19, 2018

Disposable shopping bag

The great cathedral, reliquary of dust,
stones slowly vanishing, not one on another,
tumbling over eons, glacial, archaeological,

the vast city built on a plan now lost,
underfoot, abandoned, inhabited instead
by the unknowing, ghostly, unmoored,

the shirt you loved longest, tattered like a map of Grecian isles,
a screen, threads gently departing one from another,
and the years it recalls, also faded, emptied,

the characters you've played, all victory and debacle,
the strength to bend this world to you—all is paper wrapping.
Your flesh, your proof, your precious dust—all go.

Let them go, let them be, or not be. The husk gives way.
The miracle, that most is, lives in the seed.
You are the growing child within your aging womb,

the love your flesh inhabits, unfolding, unending,
renewing, chrysalis after chrysalis, your Creator
every moment breathing, “Let there be light.”


October 18, 2018

Job

         Then the Holy One answered Job out of the whirlwind:
         “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth,
         when the morning stars sang together
         and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy??”

                        —Job 38.1, 4, 7

God doesn't belittle Job
or criticize him for his lack of knowledge.
God reminds him
that his life, even his suffering,
is part of a great, grand wonder,
that Job is himself a vast marvel
of which only a little bit
is Job.

Oh, Universe, you,
don't be made small
by your anguish.
You are not your pain.
You are more immense,
more wondrous, more beautiful.
Your brokenness is held
in our infinite Oneness
and even your peace
unfolds beyond you.

   —October 17, 2018


Last is first

         The New Human came not to be served but to serve.
                        —Mark 10.45

James and John want to sit at the head table with Jesus.
The others are indignant, not because that's wrong,
but because they want those seats.

We all do. We think our faith is for us.
We think we get saved one at a time.
The soil of my sin is that I think I'm myself,
not all of us.

We are members of the Body of Christ.
Last is first and first is last
in this circle
because you are we.
Each of us is all of us.
Vine and branches.
One suffers, all suffer.
To take care
is to give care.

Humble service
is the only way to be yourself.
The Beloved of Heaven
kneels at our feet.

   —October 16, 2018


Your answer

God, Beloved Mystery,
I prayed to you and never felt your answer,
and then I realized I was not seeking you,
I was seeking the feeling.

This silence is not you ignoring me.
It is your answer.
You are present,
even beyond my sensing,
gazing at me in love,
as if to say without words,
"Peace, child,
I am here."
You gaze, beholding me,
too adoring to speak.
Holding me is enough for you.
So I wait, opening.
Your heart, a tide,
rises.

October 15, 2018



Who can be saved?

         Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel
                  to go through the eye of a needle
         than for someone who is rich
                  to enter the realm of God.”
         “Then who can be saved?”
         “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God;
                  for God all things are possible.”

                                          —Mark 10.25-27


Funny how they're sure
there must be some way to get ourselves saved,
that somehow it must depend on us.
But if you're drowning and you can save yourself
that's not being saved,
that's swimming.
Being saved is receiving what you can't do for yourself.
Even by being righteous, holy and deserving.
Even by being a slightly good person once in your life.
You can't give yourself life.
You can only receive it, like birth, like breath.
Life itself is impossible without God.

Who can be saved?
All of us, since it doesn't depend on us at all. At all.
Give up trying to deserve it.
Give up trying to get it, manage it, control it,
understand it, or accomplish it.
Just receive it.
Let go of everything you cling to, all those possessions,
even both your goodness and your undeserving,
so your hands are open.

   —October 12, 2018

Thin thread

         It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle
         than for someone who is rich to enter the realm of God.

                             —Mark 10.25


All of your smarts
don't fit in the lifeboat.
Your accomplishments
are too heavy for this parachute.
Even your thoughts
are only junk in your pockets.
The ideas people have of you,
even your own,
make quite a pile,
don't they,
enough to fill a grave,
too big a pile
to fit through
the tiny door to heaven,
the little keyhole
into real life.
All that fits through
the needle's eye
is your soul.

Why are you
afraid of that?
Thread this realm
with your beauty.

You are a song,
it passes through,
whole and perfect,
and fills the world.

   —October 11, 2018


You lack one thing

         You lack one thing;
         go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor,
         and you will have treasure in heaven;
         then come, follow me.

                  —Mark 10.21

You lack one thing.
What is that one thing
Jesus knows you need
to lay your hands on
and set out to the curb?

What impedes your headlong rush into God's arms?
What treasure weighs in your pocket,
what railing do you cling to
even as you long to leap
over the tiny abyss between you?

Surely your riches, but more.
Your expertise? Your approval rating?
The despair that enfolds you
when you face the fright of the deep unknown?
The familiar failure that nestles you,
hides you from the risk, the ask, the new?

You won't find it reading this.
Go sit in silence and listen for the beckoning.
See what arises to stop you.
Then lay your hands on it, my friend,
tie it down and walk away.
The one thing you lack
is your freedom.


October 10, 2018



Angry at God

         My complaint is bitter;
                  God's hand is heavy despite my groaning.
         … I would lay my case before God,
                  and fill my mouth with arguments.
         … But on the left God hides, and I cannot behold God;
                  I turn to the right, but I see nothing.

                        —Job 23.2, 4, 9

How could God let terrible things happen?
OK, get it out. Say it.
God, you're a failure.

God can take it.
They've heard worse.

Now, what do you mean “let things happen?”
Should there be no suffering? No mistakes? No freedom?
Should God control every little thing?
No? Only the ones you choose?
Or by some obscure formula?
Only if you're good enough, or pray right?
Please, don't go there.

Stuff happens. Germs happen. Earthquakes happen.
Evil happens. People who hurt do awful things.
You know, don't you, God does do something about that.
God has sent you to heal, to do justice.

But who do you think God is anyway? Some guy?
God is not a person. God is Love.
Not just a loving person, but Love Itself.
The Divine Energy, the Heart of All Things,
not some guy at a control panel.
Love manipulates nothing but changes everything.
Love is the gravity, the light, the Oneness,
the air in which everything unfolds.
Even loss. Even evil.
Your very anger at God is God, loving, longing.

When you look and can't find God
you're looking for a guy.
Stop. Look for Love.
Love isn't “somewhere.” Love is,
weeping, singing, pouring forth in the darkness.
Let even your rage be love.
Let go of complaining about the darkness,
and let the light pour.

   —October 9, 2018


Christ cry

Rage and sorrow choke our throats.
The gladiator gloats
over his victim,
hand over her mouth again,
memory opened like a vein,
the sacred profaned,
her pain is yours,
(the crowd cries, horrified, for more),
this kind of blood
spilled like guts
and swept aside,
another crucifixion,
another woman's word:
This is my body.

The tender wound is scorned,
is disbelieved, and not received, unheard,
consumed without grace.
The sleek deny their own humanity
and hers,
aggrieved, feign victimhood,
and wield their sword.

Who made this memory the bread of hope,
who poured such courage into this fragility?

This sacred blank,
this muted word,
each stifled cry, is heard,
is heard,
and earth resounds.
This is the Christ cry,
uttered and received by God,
every wordless sigh of broken hearts,
where cries the agony of God,
the wrath of God, the hope of God.

Bread is blessed and broken,
body of the vulnerable one
who suffered for our sins,
in whom the witness lives forever.

We are not silenced.
Unbroken lines of martyrs sing us on.
The bread nourishes.
Even as we mourn and rage
we rise,
we speak.


―October 8, 2018



The good and the bad

         Shall we receive the good at the hand of God,
         and not receive the bad?

                        —Job 2.10

Blackberries ripen on their stalks,
gathering the summer into their goblets,
swelling their many-globed breasts
with purple sweetness, each little black bead
a dark universe of goodness,
and their thorns, their claws are sharp
and will seize your arm and not let go.
It will hurt to glean these luscious gifts.

A friend told me yesterday how I had hurt him.
It pained me to hear, and I rejoiced to hear,
to be able to mend things.
Every part of the story belonged.

We spend so much of our lives
not in our lives but in our wishing,
choosing between form and color
but not choosing the life before us,
parsing out the parts we like
and the parts we don't,
bending over our workbenches
with our tweezers,
pulling out the little satisfactions
from among our judgments and desires,
our monocles blinding us to real life
and its marbled pain and wonder.

The adjectives are in our heads
but life, unlabeled, passes before us.
There are no parts.
Our judgments are another life, not this one.
Real joy stops dissecting and reaches in.

   —October 5, 2018


Ac a child

         Whoever does not
         receive the reign of God
         as a little child
         will never enter it.

                        —Mark 10.15

Not as: cute, innocent, pure.
More like: vulnerable, at risk,
powerless, weak and unsure,
easily overlooked,
worth little to the Empire
(will you be this?),
last to be counted,
first to be hurt.

As a child, awkward, still learning,
always a beginner,
necessarily open,
dependent, reaching upward,
needing to be led,
willing to be carried in arms.

As a child, uncomprehending
of what it has taken
to save you.

As a child, beloved
without your having
made yourself so,
fiercely beloved.

   —October 4, 2018

To such as these

          Let the little children come to me; do not stop them;
          for it is to such as these that the realm of God belongs.

                        —Mark 10.14

The realm of God does not belong to those who earn it,
only to those who receive it as a gift,
who are willing for it to be given away,
who know it exceeds their grasp,
who have seen others enter ahead of them,
and have not complained,
those who have no title to it,
who have no status, no standing.
Not the cute innocent ones we have in mind,
but the ones we have overlooked and excluded.
God has given God's own dominion away
with the most love to those we have forgotten.

The Reign of God is the everyone-ness of life.
It will not happen by thinking of yourself.
To enter the Realm of God
give it away.

   —October 3, 2018