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

Anger, your friend

         Be angry but do not sin;
         do not let the sun go down on your anger,
         and do not make room for the devil.

                        —Ephesians 4.26-27

Anger is not a sin. It's a feeling.
It's not your enemy. It's also not righteousness.
Anger, may arise in the face of injustice, or happenstance,
or almost nothing at all.
But it is not “against” those things.
It's not about those things at all,
but about your response to those things.
Anger is a response to your powerlessness.
Otherwise you'd simply fix what was wrong.

Anger is your loyal friend: it's giving you a message
and won't leave till you get it.
So don't neglect or suppress your anger:
it will sit there and seethe in your mind's basement
and become toxic to you and others,
and, consciously or not, you will weaponize it.
Don't turn your anger against anybody, including yourself.
Just listen to it: it's telling you about your powerlessness.
And it's telling you what you care about.

Listen to your anger, and ask:
1. What is not right?
2. Do I really care about this?
This anger could just be a conditioned response.
But it's letting you know of your misplaced desire
for power ad control.
If this thing is not worth caring about,
You can let you anger be, without reacting to it. Just let it be.
And let yourself be powerless. (After all, you are.)
3. If I do care about this, what can I do?
Remember, you're still powerless.
But let your anger direct your attention to what you can do—
not to hurt, to avenge, or to make yourself feel less powerless,
but to make the situation better.
In action you will regain your power.
Then thank your friend anger.

   —August 8, 2018

 

Great wound

         No one can come to me
         unless drawn by the One who sent me.

                        —John 6.44

In the womb of stillness I begin to see:
how small my longings!
There is a deeper desire,
an invisible ocean current bearing me: You
yearning for me,
earth's gravity drawing me close,
so much grater than mine drawing earth.
What if I were to fall into this mystery,
that yours are the arms that reach?
How can I ever turn from you
if yours is the dark emptiness I fill,
the absence I complete,
yours the great wound
that I heal?
 

   —August 7, 2018

Confession

On this day, August 6, in 1945 we dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Three days later we did it again to Nagasaki.
These were not military targets like Pearl Harbor.
It was not a strategic battle maneuver.
They were civilian targets, like Dresden.
This was not done to end the war, but to signal our strength to Russia.
Over two hundred thousand people, almost all civilians, died.
It followed the firebombing of dozens of Japanese cities.
This is a day of remembrance of our Holocaust.

To confront evil in the world
we begin with our own.
Only in humble, honest confession
can we bring a heart of peace to the world.
Only in recognition of our own capacity to do damage,
to misuse power, to have others suffer for us,
can we change the heart of the world.
Only in acknowledging the pain we have caused
can we bring healing.
Only in honest sorrow can we seek honest joy.

For all who cause suffering, and those who endure it,
God have mercy.

Help us live with a heart pf peace.
 

   —August 6, 2018

 

One body

         Speaking the truth in love,
         we must grow up in every way
        into the One who is the head,
         into Christ, from whom the whole body,
         joined and knit together
        by every ligament with which it is equipped,
         as each part is working properly,
         promotes the body’s growth
        in building itself up in love.

                        —Ephesians 4.15-16

God, I offer humility and gratitude
for being part of such a glorious gift,
the Body of Christ, in all its riotous diversity.
You have given us this vast, teeming universe,
this beloved community, in which to embody your grace.
Give me confidence to trust my part in the whole,
to honor my gifts, to give my offering,
and to relish the strange harmony we make,
even in our differences.
Give me courage to honor the ones some would exclude,
to treasure their gifts, to tend the ligaments.

Help us, O Oneness, to be whole,
to speak only truth,
to grow continually,
and to build each other up in love,
and so attain the full stature of Christ.
Amen.

   —August 3, 2018

Bread of life

         I am the bread of life.
         Whoever comes to me will never be hungry,
         and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

                        —John 6.35

Go ahead, bring
your deepest hunger, your sharpest thirst,
your darkest yearning for health and happiness,
for peace of mind, for things to be your way.
These are branches. Where is their root?
Something deeper you know you want.

You may be poor, sick or in prison,
but you will not lack this life I give you.
Real bread, substance of living,
nourishing your inward being,
the heartbeat of your soul,
the breathing in and out of my Spirit
I give to you.
Come to me. Open your heart to me.
Nothing in the world can sever
my umbilical love.

   —August 1, 2018

Bread that lasts

         Do not work for the food that perishes,
         but for the food that endures to eternal life.

                           —John 6.27

Beloved, what do you work for? What do you seek?
What do you put yourself out for,
expend effort, trade other things for?
Does it give you life? Does it last?
Does it lead you to deeper life, life in me?

Those little bits of power and control,
they're not all that filling, are they?
That safety and security, not having to think,
doesn't really taste all that good, does it?
The esteem, the little confining place of belonging—
it's junk food, isn't it?

Take and eat.
Better than earned or stolen,
than made or found,
the food that is given tastes best of all.
Feast on this, offered in love.

Open the mouth of your heart, child,
and nurse at the breast of this moment,
to the deep nourishment here in this air,
what feeds and fills and strengthens you.
Nurse from my breast,
take in my divine self for food,
let the Bread that is this life become you.

Drink deeply of me.
You are what you eat.


July 31, 2018

Honesty

         Nathan said to David, “You are the man!
                        —2 Samuel 12.7


God, give me courage
to look at myself honestly,
to see in myself
the corruption I judge in others.
Hold me accountable
to your justice,
and to your mercy.
Amen.

   —July 30, 2018

 

Jericho Walk

Together we walk around the ICE building
with its walls a thousand miles thick
where behind smoked windows and drawn shades
they interrogate the refugees,
they work their detentions and deportations.
We walk there, and up and down the street, and we pray.
I pray toward the closed windows, toward the passersby.

God, let our spirits be softened.
Open the borders of our hearts.
You who make room in yourself
for us to come out into your spaciousness
and know the freedom of ourselves,
create space in us for each other.
Open our hearts.
We are ourselves only in each other.
Even these hard faces are mine.
Bring down the walls that imprison us
from the rest of us,
that close us in on our halved selves.
Bring us through our Red Sea.
Borderless wind, set us free.
Spirit of love, open our hearts.

   —July 27, 2018

Power over

         David was walking about on the roof,
         and he saw a woman bathing;
         the woman was very beautiful,
         Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.
         David sent messengers to get her,
         and she came to him, and he lay with her.

                        —2 Samuel 11.2-4

David, up on the roof, knows he has power over,
and doesn't know.

The crown has a mind of its own.
He who wears it can't see how it uses him.

As the king rules the horse,
the crown rules the king.

Bathsheba, powerless, is used, and knows it,
though Uriah will not not survive to know.

David knows, but is blind
to the power power has over him.

Beware the man
who is not protected from his own power.

   —July 26, 2018

Crossing

         They saw Jesus walking on the sea
         and coming near the boat,
         and they were terrified.
         But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

                                 —John 6.19-20

In the difficult crossing,
the passage to the other side,
the opposing wind,
you are the peace that walks through the chaos,
the presence terrifying in your calm,
upsetting in your resolve.
In the darkness on the sea of Creation's beginning,
Spirit breathing wildly over it,
the edge of a world,
you are the clarity.
You are the serenity piercing the jagged night,
somehow not just local, but encircling.
Fear is the oar I cling to, the wind I fight.
Straining, I resist the trust that all shall be well.
Beneath the howl of the wind, the waves' roar,
the pounding of my heart, I hear, I hear
quiet and present, so near,
your placid voice: “It is I.”

You are in the boat with me.
The new creation is upon me.
I am borne, I am on the other side.

   —July 25, 2018

Loaves and fishes

         “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.
         But what are they among so many people?”

                                 —John 6.9

There is someone here
who has only a shred of faith and mostly just questions,
but what is that beside a God so vast?

There is a woman here
with a broken but yearning heart,
but what is that in a life of such sorrow?

There is someone here
with a tiny bit of love and hope,
but what is that for someone spending years in prison?

There is a very ordinary person here
with a little prayer and some compassion,
but what is that among such great evil?

         And he took them and gave thanks
         and distributed them, as much as they wanted.
         And after everyone was satisfied
         they gathered up the fragments,
         and they filled twelve baskets
.

   —July 24, 2018

 

A plea

Dear God,
I'm getting tired of your mystery.
I feel distant. I can't get to you.
Like digging in sand that keeps caving in.
Like running and getting nowhere. Reaching but not touching.
There is a thin crust of ice on the surface of my soul.
I want to break through and come to you, to dive into you deeper.
I want to be more here. More present. Deeper in.
What is holding me back? Is it my discipline?
My need to surrender more? May scatteredness?
My over-anxious ego?
Break my ice, God. Break through. Melt me. I want more.
Come to me.


Beloved,
I am here. You are here. You are in me already.
Where do you think you want to go?
Where do you think I am?
I am the sand. I am the ice. I am the space.
I am the longing.
Just stop. Here we are.
Here we are.

I love you.

   —July 23, 2018

 

To hell with modesty

To hell with modesty.
Moderation be damned.
I want you wholly, monstrously,
every last scoop with sprinkles on top.
I desire you flagrantly,
I will hog more than my share,
and completely overdo it.
I fling away any flimsy veil of propriety,
I drop any claim to permission.
I just want you.
I have no shame.
Fill me.

Save me,
before my fear of my desire
swallows me up in a dull, protective,
deadly piety.

   —July 20, 2018

Temple

         You are built together spiritually
         into a dwelling place for God.

                           —Ephesians 2.22

Tourists come to admire the temple,
to take pictures and buy mementos,
but it's not on their maps.

Pilgrims come seeking
their separate peace in it,
but they they can't find it.

Eventually the army arrives,
ordered to destroy the temple,
but it has vanished.

It isn't here, or there,
it isn't in a place,
it isn't a thing.
It is empty space.

It is the love between us.
It is not something that “is,”
but something that happens.
Like gravity that exists
only between objects in space,
the dwelling place of God
exists only in the love
we hold between us.
It is eternal.
When we enter that holy space
among us
which God creates
we enter God,
and nothing can remove us.

In the cool of the sanctuary
we listen to the music
and we breathe.

―July 19, 2018

One body

         Within Christ's own body
         God has created one new humanity
         in place of the two, thus making peace.

                        —Ephesians 2.15


Unless you can feel it,
the one sinew running through our breath,
the one nerve in which we all throb,
unless you know in the worst terrorists
yourself,
and see in the most foreign face
your own heart looking out at the world,
unless you know in your gut
the demagogue, the refugee, the infidel
as part of yourself,
unless you feel in the loveless the Beloved
surely as in you,
you do not yet inhabit your body
and can't yet be
the one
we already are.

   —July 18, 2018

 

Solitude

         As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd;
         and he had compassion for them,
         because they were like sheep without a shepherd;
         and he began to teach them many things.

                        —Mark 6.34

Jesus has sent the twelve out to surrounding towns to heal and call people to repentance. As they are at it, Mark reminds us of the death of John the Baptist, and the cost of discipleship. When they return, rejoicing in their successes, Jesus invites them to a deserted place for some solitude. But a crowd greets them there, and Jesus responds to their needs.

We might think how frustrating, how exhausting for Jesus, seeking solitude and instead being accosted by a needy crowd. But Jesus is not exhausted. He has not been out healing; the disciples were. That's why he sent them out, so he could get some solitude. He was ready.

We are called to join God in the healing of the world. But we are not called to drain ourselves. Our ministry, our healing and teaching, come from our solitude. First we receive God's blessings and grace, then we pass them on.

         God, help me seek your presence
         in solitude and quiet
         so that I may serve you in the hustle and bustle.
         By your Spirit I breathe in,
         so that I may breathe out.

 

   —July 17, 2018