Threshing floor

Nothing is preordained.
The Fates are only wishes.
(Gift is better than destiny.)
But more impends for you, world,
than you imagine.
The gravity of grace
draws us always
toward blessing.
Those who have a heart for you
are already moving
in early morning dark.
There are those
who do not know
their welcome for you
waits within them.
Dear world,
you widowed foreigner,
precious Ruth, bereft,
worn fine by hard journeying,
your faithful love
completes you.
The light that will guide us all
ripens in your guts.
You are about
to be redeemed.
Go down to the threshing floor.
Blessing awaits.

   —November 9, 2018


My feral faith

Sometimes my feral faith
goes creeping through the shadows,
among the vines and brambles
shunning house and town,
scrupulously avoiding you.
I practice absence like a monk,
a yeti of the spirit.
Proud of my independence,
my furtive invisibility to you.



But You are the wilderness, aren't you?
You are my hunger,
you are my silence,
you are my absence,
you are the padding of my feet on the forest floor,
aren't you?

   —November 8, 2018

A prayer for the days to come

Eternal God,
         give us wisdom
         to see the big picture.

Creating God,
         give us imagination
         to live differently.

Patient God,
         give us perseverance
         for the long haul.

Suffering God,
         give us courage
         to work for justice.

Gentle God,
         give us humility and trust
         to practice non-violence.

Hopeful God,
         give us confidence
         in the power of love.

Crucified God,
         give us faith to reach out
         to you who are always rising.

Loving God,
         give us your grace
         for the days to come.

   —November 7, 2018

Copper penny

         A poor widow came and put in
         two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.

                        —Mark 12.42

Your copper penny is enough.
Your one vote. Your one prayer.
Your one little good deed.
Any gift given with love
is filled with God
and so with infinite power.

In faith, give the copper penny.
Trust each one.
And give many.

Imagine a life full of such miracles.


_________________


         A prayer for election day

God of love, as we vote today
may your love and courage and hope prevail,
and after the votes are counted,
may your love and courage and hope prevail.

   —November 6, 2018


Choice

         Jesus said, “Beware of the scribes... who devour widows’ houses...
         … This poor widow has put in more
                  than all those who are contributing to the treasury.
         For all of them have contributed out of their abundance;
                  but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had,
                  all she had to live on.
         … Do you see these great buildings?
                  Not one stone will be left here upon another;
                  all will be thrown down.”

                        —Mark 12.38-13-2

Preachers like to use the story of the widow's mite
as a tale of generosity:
“See, you should give everything to the church!”

Yes... but. Notice how the story is situated.
It's not just about the widow.
It's about the powerful who abuse the poor.
And Jesus' judgment of power structures:
“It's all coming down.”

The story is about the contrast
between generosity and greed,
between love and fear,
and which side God is on.

It's about the choice you must always make.
Tomorrow those of you in the US will go out and vote.
You will choose between love and fear.
(And yes, non-voters, to stay silent
is to continue the widow's oppression.)

All of us will go out and make choices today.
The choice will always be between love and fear.
Generosity or greed. Welcome or refusal.
Sharing or selfishness. Reconciliation or blame.

Jesus calls us to judge ourselves.
The contrast is stark.
Do you live by love or fear? Choose.

Then put in everything you have,
all you have to live on.

   —November 5, 2018

Lazarus

         “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man
         have kept this man from dying?”

                  —John 11.37

No.
Even the "Son of God"
can't save his most beloved friend
from death and suffering.

When Mary confronts him
he has nothing to say.
He weeps.
Brokenhearted,
he stands with the grieving in grief.
This is where he has come,
and why.

Your wisdom will not arise
from near misses,
but in the deepest failures,
your healing
not from near the wound
but deep within it,
your salvation not beside the cross
but on it.

Decline the narrow escape.
Thomas says,
"Let us go and die with him."
Let him lead you through the shadowed valley,
the full descent, the utter loss,
to the place too late.

Only there, defeated and helpless,
without excuse or recourse,
fully wrapped in the cloths of death,
do we hear the radiant voice:
"Come out!"


―November 2, 2018

All Saints Day

This All Saints’ Day,
sing praise for the unnamed, the unknown saints,
the quiet faithful who kept the flame alive,
mothers who gave life,
grandmothers who said prayers,
fathers who taught their sons
the courage of gentleness.
Thank God for all who have worked for justice,
who have offered healing and hope,
who have practiced generosity and courage,
who have kept the candle burning.
Praise God for all those who have suffered,
who have borne the light when it was hard,
the victimized and exploited,
who yet remained God's Beloved.
And thank God for those who did nothing special at all,
who were simply the children of God,
made holy by God's love in them,
made saints by being created in God's image,
who shone by being themselves,
who honored the light of God within them,
living their lives instead of others' demands.
Praise God for that flame in you,
burning right now, steady and bright,
giving light to those who follow.
Give thanks, and pass on the light.

   —November 1, 2018

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