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

Thin thread

         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.

                             —Mark 10.25


All of your smarts
don't fit in the lifeboat.
Your accomplishments
are too heavy for this parachute.
Even your thoughts
are only junk in your pockets.
The ideas people have of you,
even your own,
make quite a pile,
don't they,
enough to fill a grave,
too big a pile
to fit through
the tiny door to heaven,
the little keyhole
into real life.
All that fits through
the needle's eye
is your soul.

Why are you
afraid of that?
Thread this realm
with your beauty.

You are a song,
it passes through,
whole and perfect,
and fills the world.

   —October 11, 2018


You lack one thing

         You lack one thing;
         go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor,
         and you will have treasure in heaven;
         then come, follow me.

                  —Mark 10.21

You lack one thing.
What is that one thing
Jesus knows you need
to lay your hands on
and set out to the curb?

What impedes your headlong rush into God's arms?
What treasure weighs in your pocket,
what railing do you cling to
even as you long to leap
over the tiny abyss between you?

Surely your riches, but more.
Your expertise? Your approval rating?
The despair that enfolds you
when you face the fright of the deep unknown?
The familiar failure that nestles you,
hides you from the risk, the ask, the new?

You won't find it reading this.
Go sit in silence and listen for the beckoning.
See what arises to stop you.
Then lay your hands on it, my friend,
tie it down and walk away.
The one thing you lack
is your freedom.


October 10, 2018



Angry at God

         My complaint is bitter;
                  God's hand is heavy despite my groaning.
         … I would lay my case before God,
                  and fill my mouth with arguments.
         … But on the left God hides, and I cannot behold God;
                  I turn to the right, but I see nothing.

                        —Job 23.2, 4, 9

How could God let terrible things happen?
OK, get it out. Say it.
God, you're a failure.

God can take it.
They've heard worse.

Now, what do you mean “let things happen?”
Should there be no suffering? No mistakes? No freedom?
Should God control every little thing?
No? Only the ones you choose?
Or by some obscure formula?
Only if you're good enough, or pray right?
Please, don't go there.

Stuff happens. Germs happen. Earthquakes happen.
Evil happens. People who hurt do awful things.
You know, don't you, God does do something about that.
God has sent you to heal, to do justice.

But who do you think God is anyway? Some guy?
God is not a person. God is Love.
Not just a loving person, but Love Itself.
The Divine Energy, the Heart of All Things,
not some guy at a control panel.
Love manipulates nothing but changes everything.
Love is the gravity, the light, the Oneness,
the air in which everything unfolds.
Even loss. Even evil.
Your very anger at God is God, loving, longing.

When you look and can't find God
you're looking for a guy.
Stop. Look for Love.
Love isn't “somewhere.” Love is,
weeping, singing, pouring forth in the darkness.
Let even your rage be love.
Let go of complaining about the darkness,
and let the light pour.

   —October 9, 2018


Christ cry

Rage and sorrow choke our throats.
The gladiator gloats
over his victim,
hand over her mouth again,
memory opened like a vein,
the sacred profaned,
her pain is yours,
(the crowd cries, horrified, for more),
this kind of blood
spilled like guts
and swept aside,
another crucifixion,
another woman's word:
This is my body.

The tender wound is scorned,
is disbelieved, and not received, unheard,
consumed without grace.
The sleek deny their own humanity
and hers,
aggrieved, feign victimhood,
and wield their sword.

Who made this memory the bread of hope,
who poured such courage into this fragility?

This sacred blank,
this muted word,
each stifled cry, is heard,
is heard,
and earth resounds.
This is the Christ cry,
uttered and received by God,
every wordless sigh of broken hearts,
where cries the agony of God,
the wrath of God, the hope of God.

Bread is blessed and broken,
body of the vulnerable one
who suffered for our sins,
in whom the witness lives forever.

We are not silenced.
Unbroken lines of martyrs sing us on.
The bread nourishes.
Even as we mourn and rage
we rise,
we speak.


―October 8, 2018



The good and the bad

         Shall we receive the good at the hand of God,
         and not receive the bad?

                        —Job 2.10

Blackberries ripen on their stalks,
gathering the summer into their goblets,
swelling their many-globed breasts
with purple sweetness, each little black bead
a dark universe of goodness,
and their thorns, their claws are sharp
and will seize your arm and not let go.
It will hurt to glean these luscious gifts.

A friend told me yesterday how I had hurt him.
It pained me to hear, and I rejoiced to hear,
to be able to mend things.
Every part of the story belonged.

We spend so much of our lives
not in our lives but in our wishing,
choosing between form and color
but not choosing the life before us,
parsing out the parts we like
and the parts we don't,
bending over our workbenches
with our tweezers,
pulling out the little satisfactions
from among our judgments and desires,
our monocles blinding us to real life
and its marbled pain and wonder.

The adjectives are in our heads
but life, unlabeled, passes before us.
There are no parts.
Our judgments are another life, not this one.
Real joy stops dissecting and reaches in.

   —October 5, 2018


Ac a child

         Whoever does not
         receive the reign of God
         as a little child
         will never enter it.

                        —Mark 10.15

Not as: cute, innocent, pure.
More like: vulnerable, at risk,
powerless, weak and unsure,
easily overlooked,
worth little to the Empire
(will you be this?),
last to be counted,
first to be hurt.

As a child, awkward, still learning,
always a beginner,
necessarily open,
dependent, reaching upward,
needing to be led,
willing to be carried in arms.

As a child, uncomprehending
of what it has taken
to save you.

As a child, beloved
without your having
made yourself so,
fiercely beloved.

   —October 4, 2018

To such as these

          Let the little children come to me; do not stop them;
          for it is to such as these that the realm of God belongs.

                        —Mark 10.14

The realm of God does not belong to those who earn it,
only to those who receive it as a gift,
who are willing for it to be given away,
who know it exceeds their grasp,
who have seen others enter ahead of them,
and have not complained,
those who have no title to it,
who have no status, no standing.
Not the cute innocent ones we have in mind,
but the ones we have overlooked and excluded.
God has given God's own dominion away
with the most love to those we have forgotten.

The Reign of God is the everyone-ness of life.
It will not happen by thinking of yourself.
To enter the Realm of God
give it away.

   —October 3, 2018

Let them come

         “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them.
                        —Mark 10.14

The little one in the refugee camp.
Let them come.
The one in church, squirming.
The one having a tantrum:
that one, too, is holy.

Why is it hard for you
to let the snotty kid
be in line in front of you?
What are you thinking?

Le them come
to the Christ in your heart,
the child playing, pure of joy
and full of beauty.
The child wondering, asking,
gazing without opinion.
The one crying, feeling deeply,
profoundly present.

The child within you,
seeking, coming home,
the child just now waking,
the child in you who is small,
who is awkward and unsure,
wounded, yearning,
with open arms—
child, come
and be blessed.

There is only one child.
Let them come.

   —October 2, 2018

Before and after

Before the neighborhood
this hillside was wilderness
where I used to play.
I wish I had a picture.

After the paint job I wish I'd taken
a Before picture to lay along the After
to marvel at the difference.
It's always after the remodel,
after the fire, the new addition,
that we wish we'd thought to get a Before,
sometimes to remember and sometimes
because we don't,
but now it's too late.

Friend, now is the Before.
Notice this now, while you can,
because it won't be this way forever
and whether you rejoice or mourn
you'll want to have noticed,
to have been here.

   —October 1, 2018

Maine woods, late September

The summer was warm, and autumn is late,
the dooryards still green, the harvest time waits.
The first hint of orange occurs to some trees,
the first thoughts of gold to spend,
but they haven’t yet committed to turning.
Some leaves they let go, but not many, not many.
The full blush of autumn is not yet upon them,
its funeral, its pyre, its riot, its feast.
The reds and yellows are still coiling their springs,
embryos of generous abandon. They are faint
among the confident greens, but they're there.
It will take time, but time will come, and the changes.

And I,
I walk through these woods, ripening, and I know.  
Already tomorrow smiles in me, glowing.
A single tree, fearless, throws its beauty to the sun. 
Apples redden.

   —September 28, 2018

Ballerina on crutches

Some days I feel like a Pulitzer winning novelist
whose manuscript has been eaten by beetles
and whose typewriter has been thrown into the sea.
I feel like the greatest husband on earth
in the Alzheimer's ward trying to pick out my wife.
A world class musician who's just had a stroke.
A holy saint trapped in the body of—well, me.
A prima ballerina on crutches.
I feel extraordinarily gifted,
and unable to live it out.
Whether it's luck or fault or fate matters not.
The crutches are real.

But I am a prima ballerina,
and I am resolved,
even with these damned crutches,
to carry myself with grace.
Some odd divine intent prevails.
I am still a saint; so I am resolved
to live with a shred of kindness showing.
In my corner of the world,
even if this is all in my head,
that's a noble calling,
and, when I can pull it off,
God being in it,
something of a miracle.

September 27, 2018

Pluck it out

         If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
                  —Mark 9.47


My eye of judging,
deciding this is bad or good,
unable to see without opinion,
pluck it out.

Hands of my heart that grab and cling,
hands of wanting and seizing,
feet of opposing, of running away,
and their eye, cut them off, cut them off.

The eye that is the mind that is the heart
that is not a heart of peace―
the eye of war,
it causes me to sin.

The eye of resentment,
the eye of greed,
the eye of deserving,
sew it shut forever.

The eye that sees only from my place,
only for my gain,
sees myself without the world,
pluck it out.

Rob me of my cynical eye,
blind me of my distrust,
let me rest my hand on yours
with its white cane and lead me.

Close the eye that already knows,
and let the eye that is mindfulness look,
let me not see,
but behold.


―September 26, 2018

The same hive

        John said to him, “Teacher,
         we saw someone casting out demons in your name,
         and we tried to stop him,
         because he was not following us.”

                        —Mark. 9.38

I'm not in the same hive as those bigoted disciples—
am I?, with my pious bigotry
against those who are not in my hive?

What will it take for me to embrace
with heaven's fullness those who are not like me,
who see it differently?

It may take slowing down and listening,
holding my fallibility like a torch,
being more curious than right.

And maybe tending to the person, their story,
what is right and true in them,
even cloaked in all the wrong dressing.

And maybe looking for where grace happens,
in whatever form, even strange ones,
for grace always wears the shabbiest costumes.

And maybe listening for God
who is not pronouncing but calling,
even in the wrong people, calling to me.

Tending to God,
who works even through misguided people,
even me.

   —September 25, 2018


Your story

You have your story,
the knife that stays in the wound,
a tapestry of hidden pain
made of twisted threads of silence,
turned backside out, unseen.
No one wants to hear,
the wall keeps its secrets.
Behind your lips the darkness
is a tomb, still deepening.
A body wrapped in stiff linens.

But the Beloved wants to hear.
Knows the story, of course,
having suffered it.
But waits patiently at the table,
sits resting in the silence,
like his hands in his lap,
belonging there.
Lends courage for the telling,
remembering the men and their stones,
the crown of harsh words,
the women running from the garden.
Stands weeping outside the tomb.
And waits for the Lazarus moment
of your story coming out,
alive, and changed.

   —September 24, 2018

Wisdom and mercy

         Show by your good life that your works are done
         with gentleness born of wisdom.
         The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable,
         gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits,
         without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

                        —James 3.13, 17

God,
let gentleness be the air I breathe,
wisdom the well I drink from:
wisdom from you,
pure as a mountain spring,
wiling, not willful,
the wisdom that is mercy,
a strong river of grace
a tree with life-giving fruits.
May mercy be my muscles
and gentleness my bones,
and your wisdom the breath
within my breath.
Calm and resourceful,
I face the world
with courage and love
born of your grace,
gentleness born of wisdom.

   —September 21, 2018