A psalm of lament

God of grace, have mercy on us.
         Judge our evil, O God,
         and free us from our abominations.
The blood of the innocent is on our hands,
         the cries of infants are in our ears,
the sweat of cruelty pools on our brows,
         from the effort of our crimes
         against those those of tender age.

Break our hardened hearts, Loving God.
         Grant us holy anguish and grievous dread.
Gift us with sorrow and burden us with grief,
         and forgive our paltry resistance.
Give us the anger and hope to lament;
         give us voice to cry out, to weep, to rage.

Bless those we have hurt.
         Save them from our evil.
Heal and protect them.
         Accompany them in the darkness.

Forgive us for our complicity.
         We repent in dust and ashes.
Give us the courage to bear
         the horror we have caused.
Grant us wisdom to speak, and courage to act.
         Support us with your mighty hand to do justice,
         to assail the mighty, and to stand with the weak.
Break our hearts, O God,
         and if need be, break our backs,
         that we may cease our cruelty.
Convict us, O God, and turn us to kindness.
         Have mercy on us, that we may have mercy.
For you are a gentle God, kind and life-giving,
         and you redeem us from our fear and hate.
 

   —June 20, 2018

The other side

         When evening had come,he said to them,
         “Let us go across to the other side.”

               —Mark 4.35

You know, don't you, that he never simply means
the far side of the lake?

The other side.
The other side of the tracks.
The other side of the border.
The other side of life.
Beyond the familiar, the safe, the manageable.
The other side of the argument.
Another viewpoint.
The other side of the conflict.
The other side of yourself.
The other side of the veil. The unseen.
Let us go there.
Let us explore the dark side of our hearts.
Let us stand in solidarity with those who are “other.”
See the world in an “other” way.

Don't worry.
The Beloved will go with us.

   —June 19, 2018

Dance partner

In this season many pastors and churches
are changing partners.
You are dancing; you are not married.
               
Receive your partner with love.
Welcome them warmly.
Remember they're a person.

Open your heart.
Listen for the music.
Let the Spirit lead.

Remember who you are.
Honor who they are.
Listen for their song.

Forgive them already.
Walk with them.
Come to serve, not to be served.

Focus on serving the world.
Check your assumptions.
Make it work.

Embrace change.
Be willing to change.
Embody resurrection.

Begin with Yes.
Imitate Jesus.
Pray always.

Follow God with them.
Dance while the music lasts.
Let them go when it is time.

   —June 18, 2018

 

Smallest seed

         The reign of God is like a mustard seed,
         which, when sown upon the ground,
         is the smallest of all the seeds on earth;
         yet when it is sown it grows up
         and becomes the greatest of all shrubs,
         and puts forth large branches,
         so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.

                  —Mark 4.30-32

You are a tiny speck of God's infinite love.
When you let yourself be sown into this world,
given to low places,
what seems tiny unfolds,
miraculously multiplied
because it is God,
and becomes great,
a cedar of Lebanon, a mighty oak of love,
a safe refuge for the weary,
a source of life and comfort for the meek,
a welcome home for God's little ones.

We only see the seed,
but the unfolding awaits.

June 15, 2018

 

 

Getting old

Today I turn 65.
When Medicare was invented, 65 was old.
If I'm over the hill, I'm loving the ride.

Seems to me what we learn from aging
is pretty much what Jesus was teaching.
Finding God's grace in loss of power.
Slowing down.
Knees aren't everything.
Seeking joy in relationships, not things.
Forgiving yourself.
Trusting second chances. And third.
The wisdom of lived experience that overrules rules.
The grace of ripening.
Being present. Moving on.
Feeling the living presence of the unseen.
Courage to be gentle, and the firmness in that.
Blessing in dependency.
Befriending death.
Being OK with being drawn into a transcendent mystery.
Allowing change. Accepting loss.
Being a seed, slowly breaking open.
Knowing grace keeps coming in new ways.
Appreciating, not acquiring.
Being, not accomplishing.
Letting God do in you what you couldn't.
Beauty that has nothing to do with strength.
Confidence that weakness is not weakness at all.
Love of mercy.
Trusting that as your outer nature wastes away
your inner nature is being renewed day by day.

And ice cream. Jesus was all about that.
If there's one thing I've learned in 65 years, it this:
Treats for everybody.
Have some on me..

―June 14, 2018

 

 

A prayer for the church on earth

God of mercy, we pray for the church,
and for all who have a love-hate relationship with your church.
We pray for our struggle to be faithful, and our failure to struggle.
God, it is your love, not our opinions, that unites us;
may we bear fruits of justice, not judgment;
may we let go of being right for being loving,
and work for the mending of the world.
We pray for those for whom the church is an unsafe place,
and those who return again and again
to make gentle this bruised community.
We pray for those who are oppressed by the church,
who are too queer or angry or hurting or black or visionary for us.
We pray for hearts to hear your Word beneath the roar of our fears.
We pray for eyes to see the path of humility, grace and surrender
so often obscured by our pride, dogma and domination.
We pray for the honesty to confess our greed, our violence,
our white supremacy, our complicity with war and poverty.
We pray for your breathing Spirit alive and afire among us,
your beating heart among us, your mercy and grace among us.
Burdened by powers and privileges, we cry out for your Spirit:
awaken us. Heal us. Set us free. Help us follow Jesus.
Light our structures afire with your love. Burn our hearts.
Enflame our souls. Free our spirits to love outrageously,
to heal boldly, to confess and forgive with abandon,
to do justice with joy and hope and courage.
Make us people of mercy.
Give us faith to die, and die nobly,
and, gladly defiant of all that kills us,
to rise in your love, rise with grace, rise to serve,
to serve the lowly beautiful ones, your secret beloved ones,
our siblings, our strangers, our saviors, our Christ.
Bless your weird church, weirdest God, in the name of Jesus,
that we may be a blessing.
Amen.

   —June 13, 2018

Seed growing secretly

[Mark 4.26-29]
         
The mystery of God
is as if someone scatters seed on the ground,
         letting it go, letting it go,
         allowing what is fecund to return to its source;
and she sleeps and rises, dies and is raised,
         surrenders to the unseen, and returns,
         endures the dark loss, the helpless awakening;
and the miracle grows in that unseen place,
         the gravid darkness, life-giving grave.
         Something beyond, beneath, does this,
         and the sower knows she doesn't know how.
It emerges slowly, the grace:
         first a promise, then a sign,
         then the whole thing in its fullness.
And when the time is ripe,
         when the fruit gives itself up,
she enters with the sharp blade
         that separates seed from chaff,
because now is the time.

You are the seed to be scattered, dead and buried,
         and raised, transformed, and given over.
Your life is the seed, you let go of it,
          and after much dying and rising
          it produces, you know not how.
We are the seed, God's people,
          and only after much death and resurrection
          do we become life-giving bread.
God is the seed, growing secretly in you,
          bearing fruit abundantly.
God's promise is the seed in this world,
          God's grace, silently flourishing beneath our feet.
          ripening, ripening.

   —June 12, 2018

 

Marriage

Recently Beth and I celebrated our 38th anniversary.
Faith is a lot like a long marriage.
It takes time. It takes commitment.
It gives more than it takes.
There are good, easy times, and some hard ones.
You lean to trust that.
You learn to trust the Beloved.
You learn to trust yourself.
You learn to think of the Beloved
more than you think of yourself.
You learn.
It's not a thing you have, it's a way you live,
a way you be yourself, a way you grow,
entwined with another, evoked, reflected.
You come to see yourself more clearly,
more blessed, more gifted, more beloved.
You learn the long road of forgiveness.
You discover the walled garden of vulnerability,
the power of letting go, the sweet fruit of gentleness.
You learn the thousand shapes of love.
You share in something eternal.
You experience the grace and gratitude
of making something grand together
neither of you could have done alone.
Every day, you say thanks.
 

   —June 11, 2018

Taking a break

I'm going to take a break for a couple days.
Every once in a while it's important to be useless.
That's the point of Sabbath, that you sit and do nothing,
since it's God and not you
who made you, who keeps you, who sets you free.
Even if you do good work, even if people need you,
like Jesus sometimes you go away just to go away.
You lose a little of your self-importance.
You renew your God-importance.
You just sit on the park bench with God.
You breathe.
You are God's Beloved.
No reason.
Just because
God is like that.


___________________
Weather Report

Clearing.
Enjoy the moment.

―June 6, 2018

Who you are

         Even though our outer nature is wasting away,
         our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

               —2 Corinthians 4.16

         
The great cathedral, reliquary of dust,
stones slowly vanishing, not one on another,
glacial, archaeological, yet prayers still hover,

the vast city built on a plan now lost, underfoot,
abandoned, inhabited now by the unknowing,
descendants of descendants, but still dancing,

the shirt you loved longest, tattered like Grecian isles,
a screen, threads gently departing one from another,
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 husk.
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, is in the seed.
You are the growing child within your aging womb,

the love your flesh inhabits, unfolding, unending,
renewing, chrysalis after chrysalis, your tender Lover
working every wound and find and step into a gift.

This is who you are, the river, not the bank,
the flowing, heaven's breathing, new, and new,
and every moment singing, “Let there be light.”

   —June 5, 2018

 

Prayer for an end

Unfailing heart,

walk with me
on this path not made yet.

Make as you do
of this darkness
evening and morning,
a day.

Let this end
unfold
as you yourself become

and with me
rise anew.

   —June 4, 2018

 

The light, not the jar

         We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ...
         It is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
         who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge
         of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
         But we have this treasure in clay jars,
         so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power
         belongs to God and does not come from us.
         We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed....
                  —2 Corinthians 4.5-8


Here is the secret to happiness:
you are not the jar.
You are the light.

The jar cracks and breaks.
The light spills out.
Nothing can hurt the light.




Breath prayer:

Godly ∙ ray

June 1, 2018

Original One

         Original One,
you for whom so may things
are our desperate substitute,
the only
         One Thing
at the heart of all things,
who we abandon
for so many replicas,

I am astonished
at your abundant generosity,
on this street watching so many
kinds of beauty,
         you

endlessly
         in us
replicating
yourself.

    —May 31, 2018

 

I sat down to my prayers

I sat down to my prayers
and I heard angels singing at the window.

I got up to look
and there was only light.

I returned and there was
a lion sleeping in my chair.

I let my prayers
go where they will.

My prayers are wild,
I do not argue with them.

Beloved, you bend over my chair
and behold your likeness.

   —May 30, 2018

Do good or do harm

         Jesus said to them, “Is it lawful
         to do good or to do harm on the sabbath,
         to save life or to kill?”
         But they were silent.
         He looked around at them with anger;
         he was grieved at their hardness of heart

               —Mark 3.4-5

Harm is being done by racism, violence and greed.
Unless you resist it, you assist it.
There is no neutral position.

Is it faithful to let evil go on,
or to stand against it?
Silence is hardness of heart.

Does your faith lead you
to tolerate it, or to intervene?
There is no neutral position.

Evil will tolerate your anguish
as long as you tolerate evil.

In no choice do you save the world,
but in every choice you do good or do harm.

God give us the faith and courage
not merely to lament the harm we do,
but to do good.

   —May 29, 2018

Memorial Day

To honor soldiers who have died
is to confess the monster of our violence.
Regardless of how noble,
they are victims of our fear and rage.

Remember fallen soldiers,
and those who have fallen at the hands of soldiers,
those who have given their lives
and those who have taken,
those who have served in war,
and those who have served in peace,
giving of themselves without violence
for the sake of justice.

Let this be a day not of celebration
but repentance.
In memory of all who have died
by the violence of nations,
we pray for peace
and live in peace.

   —Memorial Day, 2018

 

Open

O Holy Trinity,
you who are beyond all,
and at the heart of everything,
and living in me,
I open myself to you.

You are the Lover
and the Beloved
and the Love flowing between.
I am yours,
and part of you.

O, Thou Mystery,
I give you my wonder.
All I seek to understand
I set aside,
only to be present in you.

O Beloved Presence,
I confess my need.
You are kind,
saving me
from what is brittle.

O Flowing Grace,
your compassion for all beings
is already in me.
I release my small desires
and open myself,
a clear and wiling vessel
for your infinite beauty, patience,
love, courage, and delight.

   —May 25, 2018

 

Spirit of adoption

         You did not receive a spirit of slavery
         to fall back into fear,

         but you have received a spirit of adoption.
               —Romans 8.15

You have a Word to speak,
         a song to sing,
         word of yourself, song of God.

The stage awaits you.
         What are you afraid of?

They won't like your word?
         So? Their likes, hidden from you,
         are already different from yours.

You aren't a slave to their likes.
         You only imagine those chains.

You fear they won't like you.
         You'll be all alone, unloved.

Child, you are already adopted:
         chosen, belonging, beloved.

What can they do to that?

Remember whose you are
         and
         sing.

   —May 24, 2018

 

Newborn again

         No one can see the Realm of God
         without being born again from above.

               —John 3.3

Womb-nestled, bathed in God,
wrapped in heart-throb, heart-warmed
in umbilical darkness.

Waiting without knowing for the unknown,
unaware of boundarylessness,
enslumbered, unimagining.

Then, unwilled, thrust and kneaded,
potter-thrown and pushed by pulsing music,
through a grave-thin valley shriven.

Drawn by darkness into light,
uttered out into the world,
choiceless, falling into the air.

So much ceased or left behind, or cut,
the warm and safe, contained,
the unknown known of who you were.

Borne, bare and blinking into brightness,
into arms, into hope, into a life
reaching out in all directions.

Needy, nursed, and crying, held,
a stranger, named, a pain and a delight,
set free and still belonging.

New and tender, weak, at risk,
unknowing, small, and wondering,
the only wisdom learning.

Beginning, now, and now again,
each breath, a birth of love,
and God alone your mother,

each of you the center of the other's life,
both changed, both rapt, and bound,
your calling now to be, and hers to love.

Held in her arms through every wind.
Borne on her back,
and carried where she wills.

   —May 23, 2018

 

Send me

         Then I heard the voice of the Holy One saying,
         “Who shall I send, and who will go for us?”
         And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

               —Isaiah 6.8

I am an unclean person, living among the unclean.
Our complicity in oppression and injustice is deep.
Our privilege is an entrenched addiction.
No angel can cauterize my racism with a single burn.
No single vision can open my eyes all the way.
But I can be led. I can grow. I can risk for God.
I can let the Spirit light my fuse and send me out
to witness, to speak out, to proclaim justice.

My resistance to public witness is my resistance to the Spirit.
That's the limit of my faith, the edge of how far I'm willing
to be guided by the Spirit, to experience God,
to be vulnerable for the sake of the vulnerable, to be born again.
Out on the street, speaking your mercy, at the limit of my power,
there is where I will be born again, a new person,
a dependent infant in your strong and loving arms.

Your Spirit burns in me, and either it burns me up,
or it sends me out with light and warmth to the people.
Yes, I am unworthy. Yes, I am unprepared.
Yes, I am a little afraid. But send me.
Touch me with your fire, and send me.

   —May 22, 2018