Monday, August 14, 2017

Stones

“And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones.”          Matthew 3:9


It is often tempting
to rely on
the faith of others,
past experiences of awe,
rote practices now devoid of meaning.
But these are stones.
Too heavy to carry far,
they are designed
to make, to mark a path
forward. They are not
sitting stones
but rather
stepping stones
on the journey of spiritual growth.

“Move on, move on”
they say.
“Find new stones. Your life,
like a garden path, is a
collection of such stones,
of Ebenezers on which
to tread.”

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Place to Thrive

Recently, I confided to a friend my struggle with a basil plant. It had been trimmed and used for a number of months, and was pretty bare of leaves, and those it had were small. I had purchased a new, full basil plant because the existing one wasn’t able to contribute much to my kitchen, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw the old one in the trash. Early one morning, I took the plant outside and dumped the pot at the base of one of the trees along my street at the entrance to the building where I live. I made sure it was right side up and figured it would get rain and sun and have a chance to survive there.
 
For several weeks I watched it as I went in and out of my building. It began to perk up and put out new leaves. One day I noticed that someone had transplanted it to a planter outside the door of my building. It had been seen and loved and cared for. Now it is green and healthy, and I am glad that I placed it where I did and that someone else realized its potential and gave it a chance to thrive.

Psalm 40 reminds me of this plant:

I waited patiently upon the Lord;
   he stooped to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay;
   he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
   Many shall see, and stand in awe, and put their trust in the Lord.

Our lives at times are similar to that basil plant. Sometimes we find ourselves in places where life is hard, where the gifts we have to offer are not wanted or valued. Like the Psalmist, we may be in the desolate pit. I know I’ve been there, in that place of wilderness, of mire and clay, questioning my life, my worth, my gifts. God came and lifted me, in the form of community, friends who reminded me that I matter. Transplanted into a different environment, an environment of love and nurture, we can thrive. May we be those who help life to thrive, and when others are in places where they feel withered and worn, may we see and love and care for them.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Forty

Forty. It’s one of those biblical numbers. Forty years of wilderness wandering led by Moses. Forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness. Forty days from Jesus’ resurrection until his ascension. And others.

This forty wasn’t biblical, though. It was a forty I could hardly believe. Forty years since I graduated high school. At first, I thought the math was wrong. Surely we were getting ahead of ourselves! But then I did my own math and realized that it was really true that I graduated forty years ago, class of ’77.

I almost didn’t go to the reunion. I hadn’t seen anyone from my graduating class since our 20 year reunion, except for one classmate that I ran into at a book signing several years ago. I was friends with just a few on Facebook, but since I no longer live in my hometown, and had not attended one of the feeder elementary schools for my high school (which deepened relationships among many of my classmates) I was ambivalent about attending. Plus, I’d come out of the hardest couple of years in my life just a few months earlier. I wasn’t sure I was up to the conversation in such a large group that I hadn’t connected with in so very many years.

But I went. And I’m glad that I did. One of the unexpected gifts of the wilderness journey I went through and have come out of has been reflecting on who I am and where I’ve come from. Not necessarily where I geographically came from, but a looking back at my life, and deeply looking within, both with the aim of helping me to know myself more fully, and at the same time, know God more fully and how God has been present with me in the various seasons of my life. I’ve learned a lot, though there is still much more to learn.

I learned a little more this past weekend as I joined some of my classmates for the reunion. I was reminded of how our group shares a common geography. We all lived in a not too big area of East Point, Georgia. We were solidly middle class, for the most part. No country club memberships, no cotillion, no multi-week summer camps (at least I wasn’t aware of any of these among my classmates). I’m not criticizing any of these, and my children were the beneficiaries of some of these in the city I live in now, but it was not a part of my growing up years, nor that of the classmates I spent the most time with.

Maybe because of what we shared, I felt a bond with those who gathered, even the ones I had not been close to in high school, even the ones I didn’t get a chance to talk to at the reunion. As I drove the hour-plus drive home afterward, I reflected on my history. I’ll do more of that over the coming days and weeks. And I won’t let twenty years pass before I reconnect with the classmate-community that shaped my teenage years and influenced my life in many ways.

One of the elements missing from most of my adult life was that connection to high school and college friends. When I journeyed a difficult path I came to a greater appreciation of my friends. Friends were my lifeline when life’s circumstances seemed overwhelming. Gathering with my classmates, celebrating where we came from and where we are now, I know my web of relationships has grown. I look forward to deepening the friendships I renewed this weekend. I certainly claim the truth of Proverbs 18:24: There are persons for companionship, but then there are friends who are more loyal than family.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Bath

Another reflection arising from a slow, deliberate reading through 1 John.


God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them.   ---1 John 4:16b


I want to remain in the refreshing
bath of your love
until I feel it work all the way
through me—stickiness
of hurt soaked into the
softness of mercy, ache
of suffering soothed and transformed
into the replenishing
balm of wisdom. I emerge,
shriveled fingers and toes, from your
healing water
carrying with me
the cleansing grace
of your love.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Freedom From Fear

For our soul sits in God in true rest, and our soul stands in God in sure strength, and our soul is naturally rooted in God in endless love.    ---Julian of Norwich

To read the writings of Julian of Norwich is to read of the depths of God’s love for us. It’s hard to come away from her work without a sense of peace that dispels fear and anxiety about our relationship with God.

While we don’t know Julian’s real name (the name we have for her is the name of the church in which she lived as an anchoress—St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, England), her recording of a series of visions given her by God is powerful because it provides us with an image of God as loving and merciful.

Consider the quote I’ve shared above. If you spend time reflecting on this, really allowing it to sink into your mind and heart, it is hard to not be filled with a sense of peace and an assurance of God’s presence and love for us. Words from one of John’s epistles come to mind: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. (1 John 4:18).

We can grow to a more mature faith in God when we move beyond fear of punishment and can allow our souls to simply rest in God, knowing that God loves us abundantly and endlessly. When we are not afraid, we become open to know that God IS love because we fall headlong into the endless love God has for us.

I encourage you to take some time this and reflect on Julian’s quote. Maybe copy it and put it somewhere that you will see during the day. It is a gift to your soul to find rest in God. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Like You

We know that when he appears we will be like him because we’ll see him as he is.
                                                                                                         1 John 3:2b

You, whom I so love,
   I want to be like you.
   I want to do what you do,
   love what you love,
   give like you give.
Like a child watches a parent
to copy what the parent does,
I want to copy you, but I am clunky,
your shoes too big for me,
your clothes hang loose on me,
your hat covers my eyes.
I smell your smells in these clothes.
I imagine myself filling them.
I see your smile. I see
your love for me, for my childlike
effort to follow you as faithfully
as I know how. Let me grow and know
you more deeply. Help me become
more like you.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Freedom

I am becoming,
uncurling like a fern frond.
It isn’t easy to become
who you were created to be.
Rocks get in the way and you have
to be patient until something
(or someone) moves them
or until you become sure enough
of your destiny that you have the
strength to push them aside
or maybe both happen at once.
But then, ah then,
you stretch out your leaves—
free!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Small Delights

Yesterday I sat at a stop sign, waiting for an opening in traffic so I could pull onto a busy road. As I was checking to the left, I saw movement closer to me. It was a sparrow, flying-hopping up to a seed head of crabgrass, raking the seeds off, then settling on the pavement below to eat what it had harvested. I stopped watching the traffic and instead watched the busy bird until a car pulled up behind me. It was a small delight, a breath of joy breathed into my day.

Later, I was walking across a shopping center parking lot when I saw a dragonfly. I stopped, (safely out of traffic) and simply watched its flight--hovering, then moving, then hovering—until it finally flew out of sight. It was another small delight, and I felt the breath of joy I had felt upon seeing the sparrow earlier.

On a recent walk, I found a petunia growing out of a sidewalk crack. There were no other petunias around, so I suppose this one sprouted from a seed that waited through the winter for its chance to germinate and grow. Its determination and patience brought a smile to my face—yet another small delight.

In a world where we seem to crave the constant stimulation of big, splashy and dramatic events, people and things, I relish these small examples of grace and life. Saint Thèresé of Lisieux had such an appreciation of small things. She said this, speaking of the different flowers—roses and lilies, contrasted with the more common daisies and violets: I saw that if all these lesser blooms wanted to be roses instead, nature would lose the gaiety of her springtide dress—there would be no little flowers to make a pattern over the countryside.

I believe that an appreciation for small things helps us to be more aware of the presence of God in all of life. It also invites us to a more permeating discipleship because we know the significance that the smallest act can have for the world as a whole. When we delight in the small, we are more likely to do the small things that, added together, make a big difference—picking up a piece of trash off the sidewalk, feeding the birds, acknowledging a homeless person by looking them in the eyes and speaking to them.

Thèresé described her mission in life as simply “to make Love loved.” To make Love loved opens us up to an appreciation of the small and simple in life. I would argue that it is more significant than a large, showy mission because it is purged of any pride, any desire for recognition or attention and is thus pure and holy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Belonging to the Truth

Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth. This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence.      
    1 John 3:18-19

Love well demonstrated happens when we belong to the truth. We belong to the truth when we know how much God loves us. When we know how much God loves us, we can love ourselves. When we love ourselves, we can love others. When we love others, we demonstrate love with both action and truth. The coupling of action and truth is important because our actions demonstrate love to the extent that we belong to the truth.

Belonging to the truth is different than saying you don’t tell lies. Belonging to the truth is a way of being, a permeating presence, the awareness that one is deeply rooted in, and drawing life from, the heart of Christ. When we are confident of God’s love for us, we dwell in the truth and our actions flow from that truth. There is integrity between inner and outer—inner truth and outer action.

Belonging to the truth is not moralistic. It is not incidental, that is, based on telling the truth in particular incidents. You can tell those who belong to the truth because their entire way of living emanates love. Moralists, on the other hand, emanate pride, which is fearful, judgmental and arrogant, highly concerned with controlling the perceptions of others. Moralists are focused on what others think of them and are often vocal about how moral they are. Those who belong to the truth are focused on God, acting out of their love for God, unconcerned about how they are perceived by others.

This story from the sayings of the desert fathers that illustrates the difference between belonging to the truth vs. not telling a lie:

It was said about one brother that when he had woven baskets and put handles on them, he heart a monk next door saying: What shall I do? The trader is coming but I don’t have handles on my baskets! Then he took the handles off his own baskets and brought them to his neighbor saying: Look, I have these left over. Why don’t you put them on your baskets? And he made his brother’s work complete, as there was need, leaving his own unfinished.

In this example, the compassionate brother said the handles were left over, when, in fact, they were not left over, but the ones he needed to make his own baskets complete. A moralist would say he told a lie, and yet he demonstrated compassion and showed he belonged to the truth. To have given the handles to the brother, telling him they were his only handles, would have been prideful and made the despairing brother feel worse than he already felt.

Those who belong to the truth know that they belong to the truth by grace alone, not merit, so they are humble and can extend grace to others. Because they aren’t concerned with what others think of them, they are free to act out of love for God and love for others, actions that come from a heart of love that is confident of God’s love for them. There is congruence between their inner being and outward doing—they belong to the truth because love permeates both their inner being and outward doing. They aren’t perfect; they still fall short, but because they know deeply God’s love for them, they can humbly acknowledge their failure and receive God’s grace with gratitude.

Moralists, who are often quick to tell you that they don’t lie, are actually living a lie because there is not congruence between their inner being and outward doing. While their outward doing may appear “correct,” it comes from a heart of fear, pride and self-righteousness. It is a façade that masks their inner fear.

May we know the truth of God’s love for us, and live lives of congruence that demonstrate our belonging to the truth.  Such a life is a life of compassion, freedom and joy!


Monday, June 12, 2017

Be Careful How You Pray

Be careful what you pray for . . . is the first part of a saying we’ve likely heard. It came to my mind recently when reading a person’s comment to the prayer request of another. I was surprised by the pray-er’s assumption that she knew what the requester needed. While not about prayer, a quote from Wendell Berry offers a valid warning to us when we pray for others:

We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. And this has been based on the even flimsier assumption that we could know with any certainty what was good even for us. We have fulfilled the danger of this by making our personal pride and greed the standard of our behavior toward the world—to the incalculable disadvantage of the world and every living thing in it.

Have you ever shuddered at the way someone’s prayer assumed to know what was best for another? Or was ignorant of all the facts? Is it right to pray for a marriage to be saved if one spouse abuses the other? If an elderly cancer victim is ready to cross the threshold into heaven, do you pray for them not to die?

In early May I attended a Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation on the Georgia coast. One of our presenters, Sister Kathleen Flood, was asked how we should pray for others. The question was prompted by the uneasiness of presuming to know the need of another. Sister Kathleen offered a lovely response. She said when others ask her to pray for specific outcomes, she responds, “I will hold you in prayer.” She went on to tell us that she lifts the person’s name to God in her prayer time, but does not attempt to direct God toward a specific response.

Her answer reminded me of a healing story of Jesus. When Jesus was teaching in a crowded house, friends of a paralyzed man took their friend up on the roof, made a hole in it, and lowered their friend in front of Jesus. They didn’t ask Jesus to heal their friend. They simply placed him at Jesus’ feet.

Their example is a good one for us. Rather than giving God directions about how to respond to another’s need (which, when described as I just have, sounds as presumptuous as it really is), can we simply place our friend in God’s presence and trust that God knows what our friend needs?

In addition to not presuming we know better than God the need of another, such a way of praying relieves us of “pray-er’s guilt.” An example of this is when you pray for another to be cured and they die and you wonder if you didn’t pray hard enough or say the right words, as if there is a magic formula you have to utter to get the prayer to “work.”

Because God is God and we are not, and because sometimes our prayer requests can come with our own selfish agendas, simply holding another in prayer to God is prayer enough. Such a prayer prevents a superfluity of words, and teaches us the humility of letting another go to God’s care and keeping. Let us hold one another up to God, trusting that the One who made us knows our needs.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Listen

As for you, what you heard from the beginning must remain in you.
                                                                                                                                1 John 2:24a

Long before I was in the womb, long
before I was even an egg—when I was alive
only in the mind of God—
God whispered into me her dream for me.
The word I heard from the beginning
brought me into being.
It remains in me, a spark, which,
ignited by self-knowledge, fills
all of me with light and life.
Listen, my heart.
Listen.
What stokes my fire?
What makes my soul dance?
What nourishes my joy?
Listen.
These reveal how God’s dream
resounds in me. May my life
sing its unique song into the void
I was created to fill.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Perfection: A Matter of Heart

Perfection, then, is clearly not achieved simply by being naked, by the lack of wealth or by the rejection of honours, unless here is also that love whose ingredients the apostle described and which is to be found solely in purity of heart. Not to be jealous, not to be puffed up, not to act heedlessly, not to seek what does not belong to one, not to rejoice over some injustice, not to plan evil—what is this and its like if not the continuous offering to God of a heart that is perfect and truly pure, a heart kept free of all disturbance?

I read this quote in a book of daily wisdom from contemporary and ancient monastics. It is a restating of Paul’s most famous writing, his words about love in 1 Corinthians 13. Though Paul does not use the word perfection in that chapter that is so familiar to us, to love and live with a pure heart could be a good definition of perfection.

Often, our focus is on achieving outward perfection. We want to be thought well of by others and we may act to achieve that end rather than from the desire to love God well by cultivating a pure heart. I know I have sometimes acted in a way not in accordance with the desire of my heart because I wanted to present a good outward appearance. Yet the dissonance within, created by going against the grain of my heart’s intuition, did violence to my soul.

We know from scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments that God is more concerned with the state of one’s heart than with actual deeds done. You can cross all the spiritual ‘T’s and dot all the spiritual ‘I’s and leave God unimpressed. The prophets chastised the people to attend to their hearts rather than cover all the bases with their sacrifices, and Jesus spoke of those who clean the outside of the cup but leave the inside full of filth.

Why do we give more weight to outward acts rather than attending to the state of our hearts? I believe there are several reasons. Pride is a strong force, and we can be recognized by others as “good people” based on what we do, even if we harbor hatred and bitterness within. Ease is another motive—it’s a lot easier to do an outward something, even something difficult, than to commence the long path of inward change and growth, which requires much discipline. I’ve encountered many who, when challenged to begin a practice of self-reflection, look within, dislike what they see, and choose not to go any further down that path. In her book, The Interior Castle, Teresa of Avila speaks of this propensity with colorful metaphorical language. She talks about the snakes, vipers and venomous reptiles we encounter as we begin the journey inward, and how we have to persevere to get past these.

The most important work we can do for God is the work of allowing our hearts to be changed. It is through purity of heart that our outward acts become pleasing to God. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Our Inherent Interconnectedness

Sometimes life lessons come from the simplest items. Recently for me, it was an apple core. Let me explain.

On Wednesdays, I bring my lunch to work. The schedule for that day makes it difficult to go out for lunch and we have a wonderful courtyard with tables and chairs, flowers, and abundant shade. I enjoy being outside anyway, so it’s always a pleasant break in the day.

Last Wednesday, I noticed an apple core in the chair next to mine. I bring apples most weeks, and place the core at the base of a plant, since I know the core will compost. A squirrel knew it had found a treat, carried it to the table and sat in a chair like a person to dine! While I didn’t get to see the actual event, I enjoyed the mental image it brought forth.

On Tuesday mornings, we have a service of morning prayer in our prayer center. Many mornings I enjoy sipping my coffee prior to prayer while looking out the windows of the prayer center. A fence of brick lattice is visible outside the windows, and the windows also overlook the courtyard. I often see squirrels and birds, and when the season and weather cooperate, I get to see the sun hit the side of our sanctuary building. There is a particular spot on the brick fence that is often littered with acorn shells, evidence that a squirrel has had a meal there.


When I looked out the window yesterday, there was an apple core in that spot! I laughed out loud, thinking about how much my lunch leftovers are being appreciated by our church’s nearest neighbors. It was a reminder, a lesson for me about how all creation is connected, that every act we take affects others, whether we are aware of it or not. We know it if we remember our science lessons—the trees produce oxygen we need to breathe, and we produce carbon dioxide that the trees need to breathe. Yet we don’t always live like we know this, or else we would be more careful about our environment.

This is only one example of how our lives depends on the lives of everything and everyone else. We are dependent on one another far more than many of us realize. People you will never meet made your clothes, tended and harvested your food and assembled most of the products you use every day. When we act as if some people don’t matter, as if they are disposable, we harm ourselves, not only our way of life but also our souls.

All we do, for good, for ill, or simply unknowingly, has a ripple effect, just as we are affected by the actions, beliefs and choices of others. An apple-eating squirrel reminded me of that. May we all be more aware of our interconnectedness and live every day with care, remembering that our neighbors include all of creation.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Three Haiku from Ireland

On Easter Monday, I traveled to Ireland for a writing retreat, giving my blog a rest while generating fresh ideas for future posts. Today I offer three haiku written in the ruins of the church named for St. Colman Mac Duach.


Ancient prayer grows
from the stone. Small fern speaks life
into hopeful hearts.


Warmh of holiness.
Sanctuary of silence.
Eternity speaks.


I offer my heart
on this ancient altar as
prayers seep from stones.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Yes!

2 Corinthians 1:19-20

Christ is risen and so am I:
   my first thought on waking today.
What great surprise—
   the powers that rule are overthrown
   not by force but by love.
Greed, jealousy, hate, fear outwitted.
Peace, joy, grace, abundance flow
drowning the armies of small-mindedness.

Sing, dance, praise the God of life,
the God of love,
the God of YES!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Holy Saturday

1 Kings 19:11-13

Holy Saturday recalls those times of waking up
to find no miracle. What you hoped was a dream
isn’t.
The pain of loss sharp, acute.
The storm has wreaked its havoc.
Life as it was is gone
forever.
Shock and disorientation immobilize.
The mind too numb to imagine new.
Be still.
Wait.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Forsaken

Mark 15:33-34

It may be the aloneness after death,
when all have returned to their homes
and you are left with memories and emptiness.
It may be the grind of medical treatments
that ravage body and spirit
by their seeming neverendedness.
It may be a child's innocent request for candy
that makes the heart ache,
weighed against unpaid bills and an empty refrigerator.
It may be the weariness of living
with misunderstanding, betrayal and false accusation.
It may be the daily fear of deportation
or bullying or prejudice.
It may be the experience of exile with no place to go
or a caregiver who receives no respite.
It may be a man who hangs on a cross.

Forsakenness is the darkest of days,
the deepest pit, the absolute emptiest . . . hopelessness.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

God Who Understands

Psalm 56

When life abruptly changes
   God have mercy on me.
When friends become betrayers
   God have mercy on me.
When I have been wrongly accused
   God have mercy on me.
When the next step is utterly dark
   God have mercy on me.
When I feel alone in the wilderness
   God have mercy on me.
When I struggle to trust you
   God have mercy on me.
Remind me of your faithful love,
   God of mercy.
Be my companion, my savior,
   God of gentleness.
All my hope is in you,
   God who overcomes.
You have traveled the path of suffering yourself
   and you travel it with me.
Thanks be to you, O God.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Entombed

John 11:1-44

Jesus, I think of you crying at the grief of your friends,
Martha and Mary, and over the death of Lazarus.
Even in your tears you were disparaged by others.
We can be so cynical and mean to each other.
Maybe your tears were also because of that.

Today, Christ, you still cry for those entombed and those
who love them, whether the tomb is death,
prison, disease, oppression or fear.
You cry for the cynics, the proud and powerful who
do not even know they are dead, who are unaware
they are entombed by their pride, their power, their hate.
The stench is terrible and you cry.
But you do not turn away.
You remove the stone.
You call us out of the tomb.
You unbind us and set us free.
You have the power to speak us into life.
Are we listening?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Exuberance

Jeremiah 31:2-13

Grace in the wilderness!
A foretaste of freedom, of life
abundant, new, filled with surprise!
God-sized gifts, deepest longings met,
my heart bursts with love and praise.
Loved with a love that lasts
forever. Forever! Home—
extravagant garden of God’s heart.
I dance and dwell in gratitude,
laughter my song of joy!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Songs of Praise

Psalm 148

Rambling robin song greets me in the early morning darkness.
Wrens and mockingbirds belt out their praise and I wonder—
how does the wren bring so much volume from its tiny body,
how does the mockingbird remember all the songs it sings?
When I’m lucky, I hear the soft lament of the song sparrow,
reminding me that lament is also praise.
And in the morning light the starlings’ song makes me smile.
Each bird sings its praise using its unique voice, and so it is with us.
What song am I given to sing?
What song is yours?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Arboretum

Genesis 2:4-14

Season after season I walks these paths.
Always they are fresh, offering me
something new, hawking their wares loudly or
coyly challenging me to discover what’s changed
since last I ventured here. My eyes, ears and feet
argue—who will lead the way? So much to see,
so much to hear—I’m almost frozen in place taking it in,
though my feet, like police, say move on, move on.
For all I see, I still miss much.
My brain cannot process all the sounds I hear, and my feet
never get to walk as far and fast as they’d like.
With such abundance in one small place
I cannot fathom the superfluity of God in all the world.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Welcome

Luke 19:1-6

“. . . come down at once. I must stay in your home today.”

Possessions and demands once occupied my life—
stuff to do, stuff to tend. Schedule and home
clutter weighed me down, wearied me.

Simplicity of home and heart now allows for spontaneity.
Lightness of spirit makes for hospitable space. I have room
for laughter, love, tears and koinonia—room for what is
most precious.

Welcome friends.
Welcome love.
Welcome life.
Welcome Christ.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Threshold

Genesis 32:6-12

Sometimes the threat seems bigger than we can address.
We feel small and alone even surrounded by people who love us.
Sometimes way forward is impossible to see, and we feel trapped—
unable to go back and afraid to take a step into an unknown future.
That is when memory gifts us (if we let it)
with experiences from earlier times when we were in a similar place
and lived through it by God’s faithfulness.
Jacob came full circle, beginning with a desert promise,
recalled as he stood at another desert threshold.
Life gives us many such places—thresholds,
points of uncertainty, tension and challenge—places of coming
full circle, of familiar unfamiliarity, where we know
we may be afraid, but we won’t be alone.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Awareness

Psalm 36:5-9

Today I will drink
from God’s river of pure joy.
My spirit shall dance!

Today I will bask
in God’s light until I see
that all bear God’s light.

Today I will live
within the Trinity dance
as all creatures do.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Signs and Wonders

Daniel 4:1-8

Generous God, I cannot begin to name
all the signs and wonders you have shown me,
especially in the recent past. Kindnesses
sent when I was at my lowest, surprises when a
word read affirmed or clarified an earlier thought,
opportunities more abundant than I could have imagined.
Some were truly improbable—
the red bird that crashed into a window beside me.
As it lay on the ground and drew its last breath, I was given
the answer to a troubling question. The dream that revealed
something I could not have known any other way.
The weight of unseen hands on my head, blessing me
for a journey I didn’t know was coming.
You are a God who constantly surprises.
Thank you for all love’s expressions, for the way
you reveal yourself time and time again. Amen.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Bread

Matthew 6:9-13

Bird song, fresh air,
time to sit quietly,
meaningful work and meaningful people
to do it with,
laughter, coffee, exercise,
relationships of depth and knowing
and flowers—these are gifts
that feed my spirit, radiate
God’s presence, nurture my heart.
These are my daily bread.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Junaluska

Job 9:1-12

Holy One, I remember how I felt, lying in bed,
awake, unable to sleep. Each night
I managed only a couple of hours.
Those were interminably long, lonely nights.
I ached for your comforting presence,
but though I knew you were present
I found no warmth, nothing to ease the void
of darkness.

It was then that I had to draw on faith, on resources
within, on memories that testified to your love and provision.
And friends, who loved me in the day so I could last through the night.
A place I love so much, that had been a thin place
felt heavy, thick and barren of all it had ever given me. I moved
as one moving in bitter cold—hunched, stiff.
Job, I hear your anguish, and the memory of mine rises up in accord.

I have learned this:
what seemed insurmountable called forth faith, perseverance,
and courageous hope. I have learned that scars can make us beautiful
if we will allow them to be seen.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Rock

Psalm 18:1-2

Unshakeable God, when I think of you as
rock, refuge and fortress,
I need not be afraid. You
shelter me when I am weary,
when I have been stoned by
words and deeds of others.
You shield me, you keep me safe.
You sing my soul’s destiny to me
when I am wrongly labelled.
I entrust my life to you,
you who know my heart. I live
to sing your praise, you
my rescuer, my rock, my refuge!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Strawberry Witness

Psalm 34:8

A strawberry preaches, testifying of God.
The red tells Jesus’ humanity—he bled
because he was human. Heart-shaped,
a reminder of the sacred heart of Jesus, my refuge, my home.
Tiny seeds an emblem of the divine seed
within each of us that, with intention, grows
so that Christ is seen in us.
When halved, symmetrical white lines speak of God’s
care and attention to the smallest detail of our lives.

What remains hidden is its nutrition—a benefit received
when eaten. Like Christ, looking at, knowing about, admiring
does not equate to being open to receive.
When I taste and see, God’s sweet, juicy goodness
fills me, changes me, nourishes me.
Thank you God, for the witness of strawberries!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Prayer

Mark 14:36

On the other side of suffering, I see your transforming work, O God. But when I read this single verse, Jesus’ plea to you, I go back to my season of suffering and my wish to run away from it.

A wise guide spoke hard truth to me when she said to stay with my pain. Let it be my teacher. I did not want to hear those words, but I received them. I lived them, through days and weeks and months, walking the thin line between despair and hope.

I did not numb myself to the pain, but felt it as fully as I was capable of feeling it. And even for that, I was derided by the same ones whose words and deeds had already exiled me.

But because I did not numb myself, did not avoid the pain, I now sing with unfettered joy the song of salvation and new life. I am redeemed and reborn! Thanks be to God! Amen.

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Lived Psalm

Psalm 23

Loving God, I have lived this psalm.
Not the flowery King James Version, but the straightforward Common English one.
You have kept me alive through my darkest hour,
leading me to restful waters—the river, the marsh, the lake—
when I was so very dry within,
when tears had wrung me out.
When I lost almost everything
I came to know that you are everything.
I lack nothing for I have you.

Though others proclaimed me worthless,
you welcomed me to a lavish feast,
feeding me love in heaps and mounds,
overflowing, extravagant love.
You bathed my broken soul with oil,
gratitude spills out of my full heart!
I now know that you never stop pursuing me.
We will always dwell together.
My home is found in you!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Emmanuel

Matthew 1:23

Holding the day lightly, here
at its commencement, clean page
not crammed full of plans,
I want to leave large room
for God to be with me.
Not as the persistent weed growing
in an impenetrable wall,
or the penny in a parking lot that I
acknowledge but do not take with me,
or the perfunctory blessing said before I
mindlessly eat my food.
Today I want to marvel at sky
with the wonder of my elderly friend
who praised it from the hospital window.
I want to breathe into a tight muscle,
fully aware of my body’s shape in that moment
on my yoga mat. I want to savor the silence
before the day shakes itself awake.
I want to see all who cross my path,
sensing the energy of communion
with the whole human family.
I want to be fully present to food and friends and flowers,
and the feel of wind on my skin, and to know,
in every breath, every blink, every beat of heart,
that God is with me.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Faithfulness

Hebrews 11:1-12

Steadfast God,
you faithfulness to us calls forth
our faithful response to you.
In all ages, we witness your tender care to your creation
and creation’s faithful response to you.
From Abraham to Noah to Ruth,
to Jeremiah, Hosea and Esther—
you challenged them to see a future they could not imagine.
Because of your faithfulness
they responded in faithful obedience.
The woman who touched Jesus’ robe,
the centurion who trusted Jesus’ authority,
Paul, whose dogged faith sustained him through countless hardships—
these examples of faith flow from your faithfulness to them.
The early Christian martyrs, and martyrs and saints in every age
saw beyond their lives and trusted in what they could not see.
They lived as those prepared to die,
and in their dying they went forth to live.
Steadfast God, may your faithfulness to us
call forth our faithfulness to you
that we may be numbered among the faithful. Amen.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Deliverance

Exodus 6:5-8

Lord, I have lived under burdens,
making bricks without straw, taking on
impossible tasks, struggling under demands
too great for me. I have forgotten
who I am,
who you created me to be, falling
instead into a shape ill-fitting my soul.
I have not lived as your chosen,
but have chosen instead to enslave myself
to an image not mine to live.
You saw my predicament.
You heard the cry of my soul, even before
I was aware that my soul was crying.
You delivered me with signs and wonders,
feeding my starved soul with love, with community,
with your presence and peace.
My soul is taking the shape of your chosen, the shape
you dreamed for it.
Who I am is seen and known and I am learning to listen
to my soul’s whispered truth.
Your faith in me is making me well.
I live to sing your praise with my life!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lament

Psalm 22

My God, my God
have you left us all alone?
have you turned away from our anguish?
Do you not see what is happening?
Snarling dogs pounce on the weak—
besting the aged for food,
tearing families apart,
trampling the gentle,
attacking the poor.
When they lose a crumb from their enormous loaf
the rich blame the hungry for their “loss.”
They trust might and weapons, feeding on these
until they are glutted,
while compassion and mercy fade into oblivion.

But the new day reminds me that you are constant.
You have not abandoned us. It is we
who have abandoned you, trusting in wealth and weapons,
in power and possessions, and not in your ways,
which work like yeast, steady, unseen.

Expand our hope, grow our compassion,
crowd out our fear, fill us with love
until we sing praise,
until our lives ring true,
until we resist evil.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Song of Praise

Revelation 4:1-11

Holy, holy, holy!
Creator God, you are holy!
In the orange fire of sunset,
in the vivid pink of sunrise,
in the indescribable blue of spring sky,
your glory bursts forth.

Holy, holy, holy!
Christ Jesus, you are holy!
In you, we see God’s heart for us—
love we cannot fathom,
patience filled with grace,
forgiveness that bids us live with joy.

Holy, holy, holy!
Spirit, you are holy!
In the stillness of early morning,
in the silence of a chapel,
in laughter, tears and love of community,
your presence is palpable.

Holy, holy, holy!
Wrapped in Trinity’s holiness
may we too be holy,
lifted by love to deep devotion,
challenged by grace to grow in grace,
filled with joy irrepressible.

Holy, holy, holy!

Monday, March 20, 2017

First Day of Spring

1 Thessalonians 5:12-14

In the birds’ songs your Spirit sings
friendlying this dark before dawn.
Today the equinox! And now the light
outlasts the night. All leans toward light,
toward spring, toward life.
My soul too bends toward light,
dainty as a dandelion seed,
sturdy as an oak. The Spirit lifts
and awakens me as its feathered chorus
sings this day into being. A new day,
a new season, a new opening to grow in God.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hunger

Hosea 6:1-3

Some crave travel, their attention given
to planning trips to myriad destinations.
Some follow their palates—exploring the endless varieties
of foods and flavors.
Some collect, studying, scouring to find the next piece
of their growing assemblage of dolls,
wines, coins, cars or antiques.
Others devote themselves to stopping the aging process
through exercise, treatments and diet.
Let my hunger be for this:
to press on to know the Lord,
who is infinitely unknowable,
always surprising, ever revealing,
as close as my breath,
as vast as the cosmos.
Let my life be given to the
presence and pursuit of God.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Presence

Isaiah 41:10

When all seemed hopeless,
when the path I envisaged washed out before me,
through days of distress and nights of sleeplessness and tears,
when I was exiled from what had been my life,
even then, when it was so dark that I could not feel your comfort
I knew you were with me.

As I lay at the bottom of the pit,
my identity smashed, feeling worthless
and very small,
you sent an angel, and another
and in the dark depths they pieced together
my shattered self, slowly.
It took months, but more angels came. They
knitted my broken self together,
each working a different way, but all
from you and for me.
Freed from that dark pit, I live.
I live!

God of the broken, you have strengthened me,
you have helped me,
you have held me with
your righteous strong hand.
I am loved.
I am yours.
I am grateful.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bless the Lord

Psalm 78:1-4, 52-55

Bless the Lord, O my soul
for God, the faithful
does not leave me alone,
but is always with me
through storms and sunshine.

Bless the Lord, O my soul
for God, the nurturer
led me through my darkest hour
so I could endure my trial
and emerge with stronger faith and love.

Bless the Lord, O my soul
for God, my advocate,
who knows the truth of who I am,
and surrounds me with friends who know this truth
so I can claim it for myself.

Bless the Lord, O my soul
for God, the merciful,
who does not hold my failures against me,
whose memory of my sin is short
and whose love is long and generous.

Bless the Lord, O my soul
for God, the playful,
who fills my life with laughter,
who revels in relationships
of mutuality and depth.

Bless the Lord, O my soul
for God, the creator
of coffee, chocolate and wine,
of sunrises, oaks and sparrows,
of color, music and mountains.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Speed of Growth

Mark 4:26-32

Let nature take its course—
not a popular word in a society of speed.
Consumed with size and strength and speed,
we are like mechanics, manipulating the
engine of life to meet our demands for
more, faster and bigger. We override the
Creator, who glories in the smallest flower,
the speed of a snail, the delicate strength of a spider web.
We want bigger chickens, faster answers, more choices.
We cannot content ourselves with a Kingdom that grows by itself,
that revels in smallness, that is revealed in the simplicity of seeds
and birds and bread.
Life begins small and is only authentic when unforced.
Depth and strength require time, not speed.
The Kingdom comes in its own time.
Let Nature/God take its course.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Authority

Isaiah 9:6

A child is born to us,
a son is given to us,
and authority will be on his shoulders.

Advent’s reading draws us to the child;
in Lent I think of the man
and his shoulders, stretched apart on the cross.
A paradox—authority submitting
to crucifixion. Power becoming
powerlessness, allowing evil to have
its way. If the story stops here
the world’s way wins.
And isn’t that how it seems at times?
We struggle to see Sunday in the world’s events
or in our own particular lives.
Remember, when it seems dark, that
powerlessness overcomes power.
True authority comes with a heart,
not a fist.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Wounds

They treat the wound of my people
   as if it were nothing:
   “All is well, all is well” they insist,
   when in fact nothing is well.   – Jeremiah 6:14

One verse given today.
One verse.
Yet it speaks truth with force,
for all is not well. Humanity is wounded.
People fleeing their homes looking for hope,
people hungry, longing for food,
people sick, praying for medicine and treatment—these
are the wounded we see. But there are others.
People who close borders,
people who blame the poor,
people more concerned about dollars than neighbors—wounds
of privilege fester unseen. Heartlessness causes wounds to
stagnate and stink, like the Dead Sea.
Wounded people everywhere.

God, give us hearts that hurt for others,
heal our wound of uncaring.
Disturb us, shake us awake until we see your face
at our borders, in the clinics, on the streets,
in struggling schools, at the grocery store.
Give us eyes to see you with love, not contempt.
May we not rest until all is well
and all are well.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Visual Praise

Psalm 147

Sing songs of praise to God
   for the glory of creation!
Do not keep silent
   in the presence of God’s diversity!

Birds and bugs, fish and flowers,
   trees and their fruit, seasons and weather,
stars and soil, vegetables and oceans,
   animals of every color, shape and disposition,
and people of every hue and size and belief—
   you made and love them all!
We all reflect your glory,
   though some would deny it in themselves and in others.

May I see you today
   in every bird and everybody,
in every leaf and in my food,
   in sun and clouds and wind,
in water and blossoms and bugs,
   even in the small, the irritating and mean.

May I see you today in every moment and person and place.
Give me eyes that praise you
with love and adoration for all you have made.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Praise

Psalm 36:5-9

How do I express my love to you, O God?
You surprise me daily with the depth of your love for me.
You make a way for me and go with me as I walk its path.
Some love you for what you do for them.
But I love you for who you are, a love forged in the wilderness,
where I was led but not abandoned. You were with me there!
My heart erupts with love for you O Lord,
O lover of my soul!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Endurance

James 5:7-11

O God, waiting is hard. But harder than waiting is unknowing.
With the Psalmist I cry “How long?” And will the journey even take me
to a place I want to be? It seems all I see is the interminable question mark.
Yet in the waiting, in the unknowing, I experience compassion and mercy.
There is hope for fruit from the seeds of suffering. So Lord, cultivate in me
patient endurance and courage. Maybe these are the fruits you want to give me.
If so, may I feast on them until they nourish and strengthen me.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Questions and Faith

Habakkuk 2:1-3

Compassionate One,
I remember a book title I once read: Swift, Lord, You are Not.
I hear your call to wait, to trust,
yet as I watch a nation’s heart turn to stone
I wonder when the tide will turn.
How many more children will come home to find their parents taken away?
How many creatures have to die before we realize our dependence on clean air and water?
How many people will be attacked and killed before we realize that killing others doesn’t allay our fear?
As the fist of power squeezes tighter,
how many more will be crushed by its greed, its hate, its oppression?
God of the ages, help me to take the long view—
to remember that empires fall when power corrupts,
to see that plants grow from the decay and rot of what has died,
to look at you on a cross and to see the empty tomb beyond.
Evil may seem strong, but you are stronger,
though your way is not the way of the world.
You who are the way, the truth and the life,
may we know that your way is power in powerlessness,
your way is strength in weakness,
your way is nonretaliation to violence,
your way is resurrection through death.
So I will trust;
I will do what is mine to do;
I will not let my heart turn to stone.
I know you will take small acts of faithfulness
and multiply it many times over.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Home

John 1:1-5, 14a

Home—not a building, but
relationship. You made your
home among us. Though you had
no place to lay your head,
you were at home with us.
Home, likewise, is for me relationship,
for when I had no place to rest
I found my home in you.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Pieces

Ecclesiastes 3:1-20

My life—a jigsaw puzzle,
each piece necessary, but alone
lending no clue to the larger picture
and no box to guide toward completion.
Some pieces that appear to go together
don’t. Unlikely combinations surprise me.
Yet each piece a season, an event—some light,
some dark, but all unite,
making whole. Hope is learning to see
as the Puzzle-Maker sees, the
Imago Dei scattered across the table,
slowly coming into view as I connect
each piece. To see myself
fully human, fully
beloved when the image is not
what I imagined it would be—this
is the key to working
without a box, the key to
becoming whole.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Be Still

Psalm 46

When all around me shakes,
keep me, hold me that I may be
unshaken in your hands,
able to see with nonanxious
clearness, with steady heart
that you are God
and I am not, so I can
be still in my soul.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Confession

Isaiah 40

God, whose way leads through
wilderness, whose desert path
uproots us out of ordinary time,
forgive us when we choose
complacency over change,
ease over transformation,
numbness over attentiveness.
We prefer the false security of
easy answers, blame and prejudice
rather than the disciplines of
understanding, patience and
accountability.
Hold us in the desert long enough
to clear our vision, change our hearts,
gentle our judgments.
Hold us accountable even as you
hold us in your hand.
Flatten our mountains of pride.
Raise the ones we have despised.
Make our desert sojourn fruitful—
harsh enough to soften us, to turn
us to you in utter dependency,
so we will know that you show
your power in gentleness,
your strength in compassion,
your greatness in proximity.