Weeds among the wheat

         Let the weeds and wheat grow together
         until the harvest.

                  —Matthew 13.30



Your difficulties belong.
What angers and seduces you,
what pains you or confounds you,
are pages of the book.
They are your teachers.
They are the rough desert
where your savior abides.

The story of grace
has many chapters,
and much suspense.
Read the whole book,
every page,
and keep in your heart
the gift of hope:
knowing there is wheat
among the weeds
the Faithful One
knows how to harvest,
knowing the story
isn't over yet.




                           —July 21, 2017
 

Child of God

         We are children of God.
         We have received a spirit of adoption.
         All of
creation has been groaning in labor pains
         and we ourselves groan inwardly while we wait for adoption,
         the redemption of our bodies.

                  —Romans 8.15, 22-23

How wonderful of Paul to mash up these metaphors,
that we groan inwardly in giving birth,
and we are also ourselves natural born children of God,
and also that we await adoption as children,
and we have already received adoption:
natural issue of God, chosen by God,
like God giving birth, and newborn:
starting new, being changed,
and belonging in ways that can't be changed.
All of that.
Children of God.

This is what everyone's groans are.
This is what everyone you meet
is dying to know.
Treat them so.



 


                                                         ―July 20, 2017

Presence

The sun processes up the aisle
carrying the Gospel.
   
Birds speak of the other world
in their own Latin.

A child looks up at me
with those two big brown universes.

A voice stands up in me
that knows how to do this.

What is this, even in my sleep,
but you, touching your lips to mine?


                           —July 19, 2017
 

Sowing

         A sower went out to sow. 
         Some seeds fell on the path...
         other seeds fell on rocky ground...
         other seeds fell among thorns...
                  —from Matthew 13.1-9

The candle doesn't trouble itself
with the journey of light.
The bird doesn't care who hears.

Beloved, you waste many seeds.
You offer kindness unnoticed.
You try seventy times to forgive, and fail,
and those you forgive don't repent.
You love the undeserving and unappreciative.
You try and try to get close to me,
yet feel no closer.
Your prayers fall on rocky ground.

My child, how much of my grace,
do you suppose, falls among thorns?

Beloved, it is the mystery of your faith
that you can not know
the life of the seeds you sow,
how far away, how much later,
in whose unseen heart
your love bears fruit,
thirty, sixty, a hundred fold.

Do not measure; do not judge.
Sow light. Sow light.



                           —July 14, 2017

Move in me

God of my breath,
may the leaves of your trees
in their billions
open in me.

The waves of the sea
eternally bowing in prayer
move in me.

The cry of the hawk
echoing in the canyon
resound in me.

The blessing rain
coming down like tears, like hair,
like a mother's milk,
come down in me.

Your love, billowing like clouds,
flowing like a stream,
breathing like prairie air,
open in me this day,
move in me this day,
resound in me this day,
bless in me this day.

Amen.      

                           —July 13, 2017
 

Sower God

         A sower went out to sow...
                  —Matthew 13.3

Sower God, what hard-worn paths of habit,
what packed-down roads drivennness
have I trod out across my life,
ruts that do not receive your seed?
Soften them.


What birds of desire
snatch up your seed
before it roots in me?
Calm them.


What shallow, rocky soil lies in my heart,
what refusal to open my depths and surrender?
Loosen me.


What thorns of bitterness choke your grace?
Let them wither, all of them.


And where is your lovely soil in me—
humble, human hummus—
thick with holy rot and death,
rich with all that has failed and fallen,
crawling with the secret worms of grace
that give life in the dark earth of me?


Find those places,
fall upon me,
sink in,
and flourish.


                                 ―July 12, 2017

Flesh and Spirit: Romans 8.1-11

OK, a little straight-out theology. God is Love. God is Mother, Heavenly Lover, source of all Being: “Father.” God's love is infinite and eternal. When God's love exists as pure energy we call it “Spirit.” When God's love is embodied, made finite and mortal, we call it “Christ.” (Remember energy and matter are interchangeable. E=mc2.) Christ is not an individual but all of God's embodied love, which is all of Creation: it's all God's embodiment of love, God's energy appearing as matter, Word made flesh.

Jesus fully embodied the Christ of God. He was not just Jesus of Nazareth, he was Jesus of Christ. He was Christ appearing as Jesus. We too are finite instances of the infinite love of God, just as Jesus was. God's spirit, which we see in him, is in all of us.

We don't naturally trust that. We succumb to the illusion that our “self” is this little individual enclosed in our physical body (Paul says “the flesh”). We are not so limited: we are actually part of God, members of the cosmos, instances of the embodiment of God's eternal and infinite love. Our “self” is actually part of Christ. We are the Body of Christ, and individually members of it.

Our ego is pretty sure we have to protect our little self and prove we deserve for God to approve of us, and earn our place in the world. (This is “sin.”) Our ego sees righteousness as being right, being good enough. But we are part of God; there is no such thing as being “good enough” or not. God gives us the righteousness of belonging to God. This grace sets us free from the hopeless, never-ending battle of trying to be good enough. We can let God's goodness be our goodness: our goodness is our Godness. In this way God gives us “righteousness” that we can't achieve on our own.

Christ appearing as Jesus comes to show us this. Christ Jesus occupies our sin: Christ occupies our distrust and alienation from God, and endures our judgment and suffering. In occupying our sin, God does not condemn us, but condemns and disarms our sin: God overcomes our distance from God by becoming the gap between us. Even though Jesus becomes our sin God still loves him, not because he is “good enough,” but because God is love, and because Jesus is God's.

Christ Jesus occupies our whole life, even our death. And God raises Jesus from the dead because the eternal Spirit that is God is in him. And that same Spirit that was in Jesus is in us. Since God's spirit is in us, that spirit also gives life to us and even raises us from the dead just like Jesus.

So: we let go of our little doomed flesh-contained “selves” (“deny yourselves”) and live in the Spirit, as part of the whole infinite Christ of God. We live “in Christ.” To set our minds on the flesh is to enslave ourselves to the survival of our egos, and restrict ourselves to the puny power of our fears and desires. This will always kill us. But to live in the Spirit is to allow God's infinite power to live in us and give us life that is eternal. God's power becomes our power. It's the power to love as Jesus loved. It changes our lives, which changes the world.

This is what I have in mind when I read Romans 8.1-11:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending God's own Beloved in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, God condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
 
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to God. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, God who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through God's Spirit that dwells in you.



                           —July 11, 2017

Receiving you

            “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
            we wailed, and you did not mourn.”

                           —Matthew 11.17

            A sower went out to sow,
            and some seeds fell on the path...

                        —Mathew 13.3

Not my own song,
insistent in my head,
but yours
may I hear,
and harmonize.

Not my purposes
for which I've already laid out a path,
but your fruit
flourishing in me
may I receive
and let root.

You are singing.
You are sowing.

Help me listen.
Help me receive.

+

Breath prayer: Receiving … you

+
         
                           —July 10, 2017
 

Wave

The weather was changing. It was a regular day, neither ominous nor auspicious. He was playing in the surf, not far from his family lazily oblivious up on the sand. A good-sized wave of green, jovial as the others, reared above him. He tried floating over it but miscalculated: he was ahead of it, and it was closer to breaking than he thought. It lifted him up like a playful grandfather raising a child to his shoulder, then pitched him down into an explosion of foam.

An ocean's wave is not a child's wave. In the chaos and tumble of the spillout you have no control; there is no up or down. A roiling mass of seawater digests you until it is done. All you can do is wait.
 

This was not a huge wave; he'd been tossed by bigger ones than this. But it had its way with him for a few seconds. He thought of himself in that seething froth of water, a living being hidden in the chaos, a body not water. He was alive. And then it occurred to him─and he knew it was an odd thought─ that he could drown. He knew he was overreacting. But for one second something in him imagined he was near death, and he became desperate for air, for control, for time, for life. Something in him pulled at the sky, though he didn't know where it was─and reached for earth, though that was lost to him, too. His helplessness infuriated him, then saddened him, then intrigued him.

Powerless over the force of the water jumbling him about, he was aware of an even greater force within him, also not under his power, reaching out for life. It was not his will; it was given. And unmistakably there was yet another force, another grasping, another desire, pulling at him, a yearning not his own, a mind that was in yet beyond the water, that came from wherever the sea comes from, reaching for him as if finally able to get at him here in this cataract. Never had he so deeply wanted life, or suspected that life so deeply wanted him. The two yearnings tugged at each other under the roiling water. Something like trust blossomed. He was amazed to feel an awe, a reverence for those clasped hands, that twinned yearning, and a desire for it even more than for air. He waited. The wave spit him up like Jonah.

He found himself rocked like a newborn in swirling seawater, washed. He almost wanted to go back, to go under, to go deeper, overwhelmed again, and touch that yearning. But all he could do was wait. In the water wasn't where it would be now. It would be in him, as it always had been. It would be up there on the beach, back in the city, silently swirling in his days, the falling and rising, his reaching and the reaching for him through the chaos, under the unseen waves. He wouldn't be able to explain it; that was another mastery he would not be given. It would have to change him. He would have to become innocent all over again, and again and again.

He wanted joy, he wanted sadness, he wanted it all. He walked up the sand. The weather was changing.



                           —July 7, 2017

"Save me!" - a conversation

God, you love me purely, but I don't trust that.
I've been brainwashed by self-centered fear.
It's an instinct, a reflex, an addiction. I can't stop it.
It has taken over me. I'm not even in control.
I believe the right things, but I don't live them.
I don't do the good I mean to, I do the evil I hate.
I'm not even choosing; my fear is.
I'm on the right side in good versus evil,
but I keep scoring for the other team!
In my mind I think I'm faithful to your love,
but in reality I'm being controlled by my sin.
I've been kidnapped. My heart has been hijacked.
I can't get out of this. Trying harder doesn't work.
I'm trapped. I'm doomed.
What a wretched person I am! Who will rescue me?

         Come to me.
         You are weary and heavily burdened.
         I will give you rest.
         Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
         for I am gentle and humble in spirit,
         and you will find rest for your souls.
         For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Thanks be to God, through the Beloved, Jesus Christ.

            •
I admit I am powerless over my sin
            and my life has become unmanageable.
I believe a power greater than myself
            can restore me to wholeness.
I choose to turn my will and my life over to the care of God
            as I experience God.

            •
God, it is not my goodness,
but your goodness in me
that saves me.

            •
Breath prayer: Not my goodness … but yours

            +

[Romans 7.14-25; Matthew 11.28-30; The 12 Steps of AA]
         



                           —July 6, 2017
 

Come to me

The Word at the center of our faith
is no secret knowledge,
no law or demand
that sets the righteous apart from the reprobate.
It is an invitation:
         “Come to me,
         you who are weary and heavily burdened,
         and I will give you rest.
         Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
         for I am gentle and humble in spirit,
         and you will find rest for your souls.
         For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The giver of all life speaks to you,
one in whose presence your soul is at rest.

You are given rest
whether you feel it or not.
Set down your burdens.
Follow the voice.
This is faith, not that you believe,
but that you come.
Be with the One who Wants You.

Give in.
And if it seems too vain a hope
that there is actually anybody there,
just live as if it were true.
Try on the yoke of love,
and know that you are yoked.
Bear the burden of light,
and know it doesn't come from you.
Watch for the One who learns beside you.
Seek whatever presence in the world
might say such words as these,
and you will meet the one who does.

[Matthew 11.28-30]

                           —July 5, 2017
 

Dependence Day

God, I confess my idolatry:
the illusion of independence.         
On this day I declare my dependence.
I am free. I am capable, and responsible;
but I am dependent.

I am dependent on generations, on neighbors,
on peoples I can't know, in many lands,
on nations and their peace,
on the earth and its fruits, its bees,
its invisible currents.
I am utterly dependent on you,
your grace, your guidance, your sustenance.

I am not independent, even of my enemies.
May I be mindful of my oneness
with all my human family,
with this whole umbilical Creation,
with you, who are my only freedom,
my life and my being.

         
                           —July 4, 2017

Aprayer of examen for our national holiday

            [Trust that you are not alone as we pray]



We call to mind all that is good in our nation,
all that is in harmony with your grace.
We give you thanks for the gifts you give us,
celebrate the work of your spirit,
and open ourselves to your desire.

            •

We call to mind all that is hurtful in our nation,
that is out of harmony with your grace.
We share in the cries of the hurting,
repent of our complicity in injustice,
and open ourselves to your desire.

            •

We thank you for all who share in prayer for our nation,
and who share in your spirit of justice and mercy.
Your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
May the Empire of your Love
overthrow our human powers and dominions.
May we be faithful citizens of your Realm of Grace.
Amen.


                           —July 3, 2017

 

A cup of water

            Whoever gives even a cup of cold water
            to one of these little ones
            in the name of a disciple
            —truly I tell you—will not lose their reward.”

                        —Matthew 10.42



The Holy One will come to you today
little and weak
and in need.

You will recognize them at first
by your fear and antipathy
and only then see their need

and remember that spring
gushing up in you
to eternal life.


                           —June 29, 2017

 

Romans 6.12-23, my version

Watch out for the power of your ego and its fearful demands. Any aspect of yourself can be an instrument of your distrustful instinct for self-protection. Don't let yourself be used like that. Make yourself available to God as those who have been brought from death to life. Make every aspect of yourself available to God as an instrument of justice. Selfish desire will have no power over you. You don't have to be good enough for God. You're already beloved.

So does that mean you can do whatever you want because God will love you? Well, no. You see, in reality you are not as free as you think: you are being played— either by your selfish distrust, which is a kind of death, or by God in you, which leads to a beautiful life. Be grateful to God! You used to be controlled by your selfish fear, but now you have been trained in a new way: you have been set free from fearful self-protection and have learned to be guided by your relationship with God.

I'm using these metaphors because of our natural human limitations. In the old way of living any aspect yourself would be a tool in the hands of your sin—your deepening fear, separation and inauthenticity. But now every aspect of your life is available to God as an instrument of justice and healing, willing to be continually perfected. When you are a tool of your distrust you are free all right: free from being controlled by God. Well, what good is it to feel free to do things that make you ashamed? That's just a kind of death. But you are free from your ego: you are an instrument of God, and that's how we become holy and perfect in love. That's how we experience life that is infinite. Trying to earn God's approval just earns us death, but trusting God we receive infinite life as a free gift. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Beloved.

+

God, make me an instrument of your peace.

+

        

Abraham's questions

            Abraham went and took the ram
            and offered it up as a burnt offering
            instead of his son.

                           —Genesis 22.13

 

            1. Letting go

God promises Abraham offspring, waits till he's 100 years old to finally give him one son, then asks him to sacrifice that son. That's a pretty big ask. We need to face the question Abraham did: What do you want more: God, or the things you want from God? Even if those things are very good, they're not God. What are the blessings you hang onto tighter than you hang onto God? Can you let go? Will you?

                        ...”You can have all the world, give me Jesus...”

            2. Trusting

God is personified in this story. God doesn't really make specific “promises” of certain delayed outcomes (like having offspring—or being married or surviving disease...) then “keep” them. God also doesn't ask us to do one thing, planning all along to have us do something else. God is love, and love doesn't make deals or play tricks. God does not withhold blessings, though it often takes them time to unfold, and it takes us time to see them. Like the sun “promises” to shine by always shining, God “promises” to care for us and provide for us by always doing so. Do you trust that? Will you trust that even at the risk of losing a great deal?

                        ...”There's no better way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey..”

            3. Changing
 

A God who asks Abraham to kill his own son just to show his loyalty sounds like a really sick Mob boss. But when this story first arose, maybe 3500 years ago, child sacrifice was quite common. “Abraham” isn't an individual; he's the community. This is the story of how the ancient Hebrews outgrew child sacrifice. God never did want them to sacrifice children, but it took a long time for them to see that and find a better way: just sacrifice animals, not people. This is a story about how religion changes. How has God changed your religion? How might it still be changing?

                        … “Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me...”


                                        —June 27, 2017

Drink deeply

Drink deeply of this life, my friend.
Don't sip to make it last
in fear of running out.
The waiter keeps coming by,
refilling our glasses.
Drink deeply of who you are,
the magnificent happening of you.
Drain the glass.
Take big swigs of this day,
swish it around in your mouth a little,
even the hard or boring parts,
you are alive, and it's good.
Each moment drink it in.
Drink deeply of the grace God gives you,
the blessing, the presence, the love,
refilling your glass before it's half empty.
Taste it. Savor it. Have some more.
Even if you do it as a game,
to make the waiter reappear again and again,
drink it in.
Look at you, filing yourself up
with God.



                           —June 26, 2017