Seek

Holy One,
give me grace
to reach out,

to seek you
in your usual
unlikely places:

the unfamiliar face,
the passing moment,
the fruitless interlude.

Deepen my trust
in the root beneath the snow,
the beckoning in the silence.

In the ordinary conversation
in the spaces between what isn't spoken
you reach out with such a quiet hand.

The beautiful instrument,
you breathe through it,
it becomes my body.

The unsuspected pause
swells with your presence.
By your grace, I notice.

I notice again.
By your grace,
I notice.

   —March 18, 2019


Gather me

         Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often have I desired
         to gather your children together
         as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,
         and you were not willing!

                           —Luke 13.34

Gather me, Mother Christ.
I am your wayward child,
impetuous and free,
defiantly lonesome,
wholly at risk without you.
Never mind my rebelliousness,
my fear of your fierce adoration,
how I disbelieve
how deeply I need your love
and how deeply you give it.
Gather me in, Mother Christ,
with all your little ones,
all of them.
Embrace me, hold me
long and gentle,
for I am tired and afraid
and will run no more.
I am willing.
Gather me in.

—March 15, 2019

Nevertheless

         They said, “Herod wants to kill you.”
         He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me,
          ‘Listen, I am casting out demons
         and performing cures today and tomorrow,
         and on the third day I finish my work.'”

                           —Luke 13.31-32

Crucified and Risen One,
give me your courage to hope in the face of evil.
Give me your patience to serve under stress.
Give me your faith to work for justice
in the face of threat and opposition.
Give me your pluck to persevere when it is hard.
Give me your love, for our love itself
changes the world.
May I meet fear with healing and hate with love,
side by side with you,
who die and rise daily with me.
Amen.

   —March 14, 2019

Fasting

         In the wilderness for forty days,
         … he ate nothing at all.

                           —Luke 4.1-2

Fasting, I am aware of my privilege:
food at every turn.
         May I never take it for granted.

I am aware of my desire,
my conviction that it matters.
         Set me free from believing I need what I want.

I am mindful of the hungry,
who will not break fast tomorrow.
         May I never eat without them.

I am habituated to fueling for the race,
consuming calories for a hectic pace.
         Slow me down tomorrow, too.

The longer I am hungry the deeper my desire,
the wider— not for food, for you.
         Deepen my hunger for you.
         Satisfy me, and keep me wanting more.

   —March 13, 2019

Come with me

         He was in the wilderness forty days,
         tempted by Satan;
         and he was with the wild beasts

                  —Mark 1.13

Come with me, God.
I am your little fearful child,
and I need you with me.
I mean to go deep into my blessed darkness,
where fears like fierce beasts prowl,
where gaping caves of wounds reach out
and pull me downward,
where desires lurk and haunt and taunt.
Come with me in your gentleness
to walk among demons
and see in them
in the light of your grace
the little children they are,
afraid and alone,
little child demons searching
for their mother
who is me,
becoming whole.

   —March 12, 2019


Mail Carrier

         How beautiful upon the mountains
         are the feet of one bringing good news.

                  —Isaiah 52.7

You mail carrier comes,
walks up to your house every morning
and slips this into the little box,
or through the slot—
not mindlessly listening to bad music
or counting the minutes till the route is over,
but with prayerful delight for each recipient,
imagining blessing left behind, satisfied.
What a fine way to live, eh?

   —March 11, 2019

Desert

         Jesus was led by the Spirit
         in the wilderness,
         where for forty days he was tempted.

                           —Luke 4.1-2

We water our desires like a garden,
they become a forest, we are lost in them.
We desire and we take.

So we leave the lush place where everything is given,
for the sparse land where everything is questioned.
We go alone with him
to that most alone place,
the empty place,
among the bones of our desire.
Everything exposed,
bare rock, long views, no cover.

And we live.
At that margin we finally come
to the center,
nothing but soul and flesh,
the creature that endures,
the solitude in which we are not alone,
the spring that wells up within,
that everything else obscures.

Coming back, our eyes are open.
Returning to the city's deserts
we know to dip from the the spring
flowing out.

   —March 8, 2019

Temptation

         For forty days he was tempted by the devil.
                           —Luke 4.2

God, I confess
I want the power
to make things as I wish them,
to turn stones to bread, this to that,
to have the world as I desire, not as it is.
         I renounce my hunger for power.
         Your love alone is my power.

I confess
I want to manage what others think of me,
I want authority, status, belonging,
the kingdoms of the world.
         I renounce my hunger for status.
         You lone are my belonging.

I confess
I want the security of freedom from pain,
from risk, from sacrifice,
as if I could leap from a height and be unhurt.
         I renounce my fear of suffering.
         You alone are my security.

Spirit of love,
be my power, my security, my belonging;
overwhelm the fears of my ego
and re-direct my desires,
that I may trust you, belong to you,
and bear your love alone.

         I breathe your love.
         I breathe your love.
Amen.

   —March 7, 2019


Dust [Ash Wednesday]

The Beloved knelt down
and scooped dust up from the earth
and bent down and kissed that dirt,
laid tender lips on yours
and breathed into you
and there you are,

dirt breathing,
breathing God.

Attend to the breath,
it sings,
attend to the dust,
without its grit
the breath can't sing.
Watch how you try
to be one without the other.
Attend to getting along.

The wind blows all dust,
eventually scatters it.

Sing, dust,
while you can.

  —March 6, 2019


Shrove Tuesday

I used to wonder what “Shrove” meant.
I thought of boats shrove up on shore.
Or a boat shrove in on the rocks.
Maybe a shrove of wheat.
Or the shrove you put over a dead body.

Then I learned to shrive is to hear a confession,
and to grant absolution,
and to impose penance.
Which, all together, are as mixed up as before.
If I really grant absolution—forgiveness—
there is no penance, no obligation.

But maybe to shrive means
to see clearly, you and me together,
what is out of harmony in my life,
and see together how to get in tune.
To see what gets in the way of perfect love
and to start to move it out of the way
so by God loving in me I can be perfected in love.

Confession is being mindful:
I am becoming pure love,
still on the way.

God, I am sorry: I am pretty messed up.
“Oh, child, you're more messed up than you think.
But you're mine, and I love you, and you're lovely.
Now let's work on this.”

   —March 5, 2019


Go in

         You desire truth in the inward being;
         therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart
                  —Psalm 51.6

         Whenever you pray,
         go into your room and shut the door
         and pray to your Life-giver who is in secret.

                  —Matthew 6.6


Go in,
into that inner chamber
beneath the where of you
and the how of you
and even the who of you
to the great I Am of you,
where hums your secret self,

the holy darkness
at the center where
God radiates out into you.

Go into that dark room
where your forgiveness
lies like a sleeping child;

like a child who has loved you
since the day she was born,
the Beloved waits to greet you.

   —March 4, 2019

Listen to him

         “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
                  —Luke 9.35

Listen for the One amid the others,
the one who awakens something lovely in you.

If you don't turn from this clanging world to listen
you won't hear him.

Listen for the voice that calls you Beloved,
the voice that calls you to love.

Listen to the voice that speaks of Creation's wholeness,
that beckons you to completion.

A voice that leads you toward others,
not your own rising above and away.

Listen to the song of the immense flowering within you,
the risk and passion you can dance to.

You will hear it in stillness, not in frenzy,
in silence, not in noise.

You will hear it from those who are belittled,
not those who are honored by this besotted world.

The Beloved will not speak of success,
but death and resurrection.

Listen for one who speaks with hope and delight,
listen to him. Listen to him.

   —March 1, 2019

I have seen the risen church

          While he was praying, the appearance of his face changed,
          and his clothes became dazzling white.
          Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him.
          They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure,
          which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

                            —Luke 9.29-31

Jesus has just told his disciples the powerful will kill him.
He is about to “set his face toward Jerusalem.”
We are in the shadow of the cross.
In that awful place when Jesus prays
he speaks with Moses and Elijah about his “departure”—
let's not be polite about it: his terrible death.
And in that awful place what do the disciples see?
Even before his horrible death
they see him already resurrected, shining in glory!
The Transfiguration is not a proof-of-Jesus'-divinity video.
It's a resurrection appearance, before the resurrection.
Jesus, having given himself to God, is already infinitely alive.
That's the promise that bears him onward.

This week my church, the “United “ Methodist Church,
just voted to exclude and persecute gay people.
OK, so that's that. We're not United any more.
We have officially abandoned the gospel of love.
For many of us our hearts are broken.
We are in the shadow of crucifixion.

In this awful place what do I see?
I see that God in grace makes life out of death, victory out of failure.
I see the church, risen.
The terrible death hasn't come yet,
but already the light of resurrection illumines our way.
God is at work, unseen and victorious,
even as the soldiers of death pull on their boots.

It is time for the church to die and rise.
We will suffer; some will suffer greatly.
But we will go on, and God will raise us up,
and the radiant Body of Christ, crucified and risen,
changed into a new form, will shine.
Love will prevail. It will not be defeated. Love cannot be voted down.

In all your struggles—for justice in the world,
or for peace in one neighbor's life—
whatever your failures, whatever ruinous collapses you foresee,
know this: before the tragedy, before the awful descent,
in love you are already risen, already shining.
Go in peace. Go with courage. Go in hope.

January 28, 2019

A lament for your house


O God, you built your house with skilled hands.
         You fashioned it with strong beams,
a roof and a bed and a table for all,
         and a name at every place at the table.

But now your enemies have taken your dwelling;
         they have seized it for themselves.
They have walled off its rooms,
         and have thrown out your children,
they have planted thorns by the doorways
         and posted sentries at the gates,
that none may enter but by hatred,
         that none may dwell here but in fear.
Your beloved, cast out, go homeless,
         your children walled out from your love.
You who dwell in your people
         have no home now, but wander the streets.

Woe to those who have shut the temple door;
         their house now a prison.
Woe to those who have done evil dressed in priestly robes,
         their house is forever empty of love.

Loving One, receive our sorrow,
         and fashion it into wisdom.
Mighty One, hold our rage,
         and grow it into courage.
Creating One, take our despair
         and turn it to hope.
O Homeless One, gather the refugees
         fleeing the house of hatred.
Shelter the condemned,
         and bless them with your glory.

Open our eyes to see, God,
         that from the rubble of injustice
you are building a beautiful house
         with strong beams,
a roof and a bed and a table for all,
         and a name at every place at the table.
For your love will prevail,
         now and forever.

 —February 27, 2019


Psalm of perseverance

God of love, Creator of heaven and earth,
         of all that is and is yet to be,
your power shines in each person on earth,
         each is an image of your love.

You who breathe in us with love,
         whose strength is mercy and grace,
give us courage to be steadfast in love,
         and resolve to stand for justice.
You do not give up on your people,
         though we struggle to find our way;
even from the ruins of defeat         
         you raise us up in love.
In the face of hatred your love
         remains beautiful and mighty and pure.

Heal those who are wounded,
         who bear the scars of injustice.
Sustain us in your mighty grace;
         empower us with your tender care.
Even when our hearts are broken,
         even when our hands grow tired,
the might of your love be our power,
         our joy, that carries us on.

Bring into being by your grace
         what only your grace can create.
Your eternal delight be the beating of our hearts,
         your patience our strength to endure.
Your hope be our hope,
         your love be our nerve.
God of love, when the world is afraid to love,
         let us love, and the world becomes new.
Let our endurance be your praise
         our love your victory,
O God of our hearts,
         and ruler of the universe.

   —February 26, 2019


Psalm of the accused

O Love, you are the breath within my breath,
         the urge that beats my heart.
You hold me in the inner folds of your delight;
         my name is the prayer upon your lips.
I praise you, who praise me, too;
         I sing your grace, your absolute love.
Though others speak of me with hearts of war
         and see in me their deepest fears,
you, Love, alone, are my mirror and my name;
         you are my root, and I your leaf, your fruit.
Your Word to me is courage,
         your name for me Beloved,
         and your judgment deep delight.

My enemies assail me according to strange law,
         in courts and sanctuaries they accuse my soul.
They seek to cut me off, to amputate my life from them;
         they cast me in darkness and invite my doom.
But it is you they rail against,
         your grace they tremble at;
it is your love that frightens them;
         it is you, O Rejected One, they see in me,
your tenderness they fear,
         your powerlessness they scorn.

And you, O God, with love and healing hold me;
         you save me from their demons
         and shield me from their rage.
Even as I cry for justice, and stand for dignity
         among their hail of hate,
you stand with me, you bear their scorn,
         you sing my name in quiet gentleness,
         you cast your rainbow over me.
Hold me in your peace, and fill me with your love,
         that even in their midst I may sing your mercy
         and radiate your grace.

   —February 25, 2019


Prayer for an argument

         If I have not love
         I am nothing.

                  —1 Corinthians 13.2

God of love, may we approach one another
with the intent to love, first and last,
and submit all our intentions to love.

May our intent be to heal, not to win,
to bless, not to curse, to join, not to divide.
Help us do your will, not ours.

May we listen humbly,
speak honestly
and discern obediently.

Save us from justice without mercy,
righteousness without humility,
victory without love.

May we examine our own righteousness
more vigorously than others'.
May we demonstrate your goodness, not our own.

May we honestly examine our norms and expectations,
our judgments of those who are different,
our exclusion of those who threaten our superiority.

May we be mindful of every person's wounded need
to be loved, to be included, to be honored,
every person's desperation to be good enough.

May we remember your justice is love,
your command is mercy,
your judgment is grace.

God of love, give us wisdom that is love,
fill us with courage that is love,
empower us for victory that is love alone.

By your spirit help us to do no harm,
to do all the good we can,
and to stay in love with you.

We pray in the love and the company of Jesus,
who served in love, who died for love,
and who rises in us with victorious love. Amen.

   —February 22, 2019


Sow me

         What is sown is perishable,
                  what is raised is imperishable.
         It is sown in dishonor,
                  it is raised in glory.
         It is sown in weakness,
                  it is raised in power.

                                    —1 Corinthians 15.42-43

Sow, me, Holy One,
         your seed in this fertile world.
I will be sown perishable,
         weak among mortals.
My words will be hollow,
         empty graves,
from which you rise
         in glory.

I will be sown broken,
         seed cracked open,
and a form not strictly myself
         with power not mine will rise.

My witness will be without force,
         laughable to all but the saints
who will laugh with joy,
         who will come out
singing and bewildered
         in their grave wrappings.

I will be sown surrendered,
         and the earth receiving me
will blossom forth,
         my body become immense,
my song uncontained,
         strength ungrasped.

Sow me, Holy One,
         a seed of you,
and in my falling into the ground,
         sinking into the ground,
mercy breaks all known
         and unknown bounds.

   —February 21, 2019


Don't fret because of the wicked

         Do not fret because of the wicked;
                  do not be envious of wrongdoers.
         Commit your way to the Holy One;
                  trust in God, and God will act.

                                    —Psalm 37.1, 5

Beware the temptation to outdo an evil one,
to beat the wicked at their own game.

The saint does not resist the devil
by becoming a more devout devil.

(You only think you envy the wrongdoer;
like them you think they're getting away with it.

You can't see the frightful abyss within,
the hell they are fighting to escape.)

Your compass is set to a different star.
Don't let them turn you.

Set your heart on compassion,
even facing a wrongdoer:

it will make whatever game they are playing
a different game.

Let the Crucified one play your character;
it will change the meaning of the play.

You needn't pimp up the power of God.
Trust love to do what you cannot.

   —February 20, 2019


Kind to the wicked

         Love your enemies, do good,
         and lend, expecting nothing in return.
         Your reward will be great,
         and you will be children of the Most High;
         for God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
         Be merciful, just as God is merciful.

                                    —Luke 6.35-36

God is pure kindness.
No anger, no hate,
no retribution.
No petulant need
to be proven right.
No need to be mean
to those who are mean.
God is no mere guy
who knows how to be nice
and how to be cruel—
no, God is the power of love itself,
the life-giving force
of pure kindness and mercy.

Be grateful that God is so kind to us,
who are ungrateful.

How strong our urge to dilute love
with something else.
What an affront to our judgment,
this infinite, unalloyed mercy!
The immensity of God's kindness
destroys our tiny ideas
of right and wrong (mostly wrong),
this love so generous to the ungrateful.

Repeat this daily,
breathe continually this mystery:
God is kind to the wicked,
kind to the wicked,
kind to the wicked.

   —February 19, 2019