Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Blessing for Anyone

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.' -Matthew 11:2-6

Blessed is anyone
Who is not offended.
But who could not take
Offense? When you tell
Us so bluntly to change
Completely. To give
Unsparingly. To seek
Eternally. To forgive
Lavishly.  To love
Unconditionally.
We are offended.
Our sensibilities, our schedules,
Our bank accounts, our desires,
Our politeness, our sense of propriety,
Our sense of self.
All Offended.
All Disrupted.
This gospel,
This good news,
This revolution
Demands so much
more than we think
we can bear.
So rather than claim it,
We find excuses
to be offended.
To critique, analyze, judge.
And there you are,
Grinning like a prankster,
Still offering with open arms
A blessing to anyone--
Anyone at all-- willing
To uncross their arms
Long enough to receive it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

the art of mending.

the art of mending.
a post election poem

we are torn apart
as if we had forgotten
we are one fabric--
cut from the same cloth
of flesh, bone, and desire.
Separate as we are
we cry like children
ripped from
their mother's arms
or an arm wrenched
from the body,
uselessly flailing.
We must now
take up the art
of mending--
threading our lives
stitch by stitch,
seam by seam
until we are bound
by the frayed truth
that has always been:
we belong
to each other.

Monday, May 23, 2016

the great day.

This poem by Carl Dennis is a gentle reminder that the great day may never come. We may never compose our opus. We may never make a pilgrimage to the place of beauty we've painted in our minds. We may never achieve the mystery or passion or success that we've imagined for ourselves. But each day offers an invitation to enjoy the here and now, with such adoration and wonder that it becomes extraordinary. This poem beckons us to take the good china off the shelf and feast on the banquet of life just as it is.

The Great Day

What if the great day never comes
And your life doesn't shine with vivid blossoms,
Just the usual pale variety?
What if the best china never seems called for,
Those dishes reserved for the friends you love the most
On the day they return from their endless travels?
To use them now, for the only occasions available,
Would be to confuse the high realm with the low.
But not to use them, doesn't that seem wrong too,
To leave the best wine undrunk in the cellar
For the next owner of your house to open?
What then? Can you will yourself to see a common day
The way a saint might see it, as a gift from heaven,
Or the way it appears from the window of a hospital
On the first morning the patient feels strong enough
To edge across the room and look out?
There on the street an angel policeman
Is directing the flashing mosaic of traffic.
Or can you see the day as the dead might see it,
Not the ones who'd rather rest but those delighted
To abandon the gardens of Hell, however fragrant,
For a chance at crossing the sea again in a storm?
The day their ship, long given up for lost,
Steams into the harbor, all flags flying,
Would be a day to be toasted with rose champagne
In heirloom glasses. Down the gangway they come,
A little thinner, a little unsteady,
Eyes wide in wonder at their rare good fortune.
Can you see what they see as they look around
Or feel what their friends feel waiting on the dock
Must feel as they run forward?
"Let me look at you," they keep saying,
Suspending their formal speech of welcome.
"You look good. You look wonderful."
~ CARL DENNIS in *Ranking the Wishes* © 1997, Penguin

Saturday, January 16, 2016

100,000 Versions of the Universe

At 3am I wake again to your crying;
piercing and insistent you urge me
from the warmth of bed into the familiar
darkness of the hallway. Your restlessness
pulls me forward down the now well-worn
path to the doorway of your nursery.

As soon as I lift your small form
from the crib, you lean into my body
and fall quiet; You burrow like an animal,
desperate only for my touch, as if my presence
were your air, your food, your water.
I hold you and we rock in the big gray chair
that was picked out when nights like these
were just a premonition and you were just
a dream growing in the dark soil of my body.

As we rock, you grasp at anything
you can grip in your tiny hand:
my hair, my finger, my ear.
You hold me tight, like a life preserver
as if the raft of one another is the only
thing keeping us from drifting away into oblivion.

Every now and again your eyes open
and you smile up at me with sheer
contentment and joy as if you can't
believe your luck; the same look of someone
who touches their fingers to their lips
after a first longed-for and unexpected kiss.

I think of the 100,000 versions of the universe
that do not contain this exact moment.
A universe where rational thinking compelled us
to wait a day, a month, a year to try to have children.
Another where I heard your cry, but chose
the lure of sleep instead, resting in the knowledge
that you would be fine until morning.
Another where my husband and I never met,
or loved, or chose this particular life and
are instead living in other houses, in other towns,
sleeping in other beds, next to people who are strangers.
Or the universe where you simply slept soundly
on this one night, unstirred by cutting teeth,
or cold toes, or shadows in the corner,
and we are both dreaming our separate
dreams on different sides of the wall.

And so I silently praise the monsters under the bed,
and the stoplights, and the floor plans, and the meaningless words
typed or exchanged over cups of too hot or too cold coffee, and
the hundred doors that opened or shut with such precision, and
the split second decisions and coincidences and happenstances
that all added up to this particular moment,
in this particular chair,
in this particular universe
with you.

Friday, December 25, 2015

the honest prayers of Christmas

This year one of the most powerful things about the Christmas story for me has been the reality of God entering a broken world through the incarnation. Through the gospels we get glimpses of an ancient world very much like our modern one: with corrupt religious institutions, oppressive governments, and flawed, brave, hopeful, loving, terrified, broken people. Too often at Christmas we sugar coat the gospel into something warm and fuzzy. I do it every year as I watch 100 Christmas movies, sing all the carols, buy and wrap all the presents, and almost convince myself that these activities are what the season is really about. But scripture doesn't tell a warm fuzzy story. It tells a story of a God becoming vulnerable to a violent, corrupt, beautifully broken world. What has struck me particularly this Christmas is that God doesn't need us to pretend to be okay. Christ enters an imperfect world. God doesn't need our lives to look like a picturesque scene in a snow globe. Christ enters into our fear, our doubt, our longing. In Jesus, God enters the world just as it is. Flaws and all. So this Christmas Eve at our 11pm worship, when we lit the candles for the last time, instead of a traditional pretty prayer, I wrote these honest prayers of Christmas, reflecting on the hurts and longings of people in the real world and how Jesus, God enfleshed among us, can still change everything.














Reading One - Hope


Another job interview, another rejection… and at home, another and another and another bill that has to paid. The pile just keeps getting bigger: mortgage payment, water bill, electric bill, car payment, insurance, student loans, credit cards. They just keep coming and I don’t know what I am going to do. I feel like I am letting everyone down. Maybe if I had made different choices we would be a different situation. Maybe if I had worked harder. But I can’t go back in time, here I am without a job, with all this credit card debt, with a family I am letting down. Sometimes it feels like I will never be enough, like I should just give up. I am at the end of my rope. God, if you can hear me, I just need to know there’s hope. I just need to know things could get better tomorrow. Could you please open a door? If you can come and redeem the whole world, you can redeem me right? You can help me and my family get back on our feet? God, if ever there was a time for you to show up, this is it. I need some money to help me get by. I need a job. I need a way forward. I need a little Hope. Most of all, I just need You.



Reading Two - Peace

I remember seeing fire and hearing loud noises. Booms and crashes and explosions, that made my ears ring like there was a bell inside my head. We had to pack everything we could carry and get out as quick as we could. Now we are living here in this crowded camp with all these other people, just waiting, trying to figure out when we can go home again. Mommy said to be brave, so I am trying. I miss my room and my nightlight. I miss my bed and my toys. Mom and Dad say home is wherever we are together, and most days I believe them. Home isn’t a place, it is the people you are with. Like when my silly sister tickles me until we are both laughing so hard we almost can’t breathe. Or when my Dad tells me the best stories where I am a hero who wears a cape and flies in the sky. Or when my mom sings me to sleep. I want everyone in the world to feel at home, to feel safe and loved like I do with my family. I guess that’s what it means to have peace. They say that when I grow up I can help make the world a better place, and I can’t wait. If all of us worked together, I know we could do it. We could make every place home. Tonight that’s what I want: peace, not just for my family, but for everybody in the whole world. Peace, so there’s no more bad guys. Peace, so one has to run away anymore. Peace, so no one ever feels alone.



Reading Three - Joy


Finally, here we are. Christmas Eve, the marathon of the last month is finally finished. Instead of feeling happy, I mostly just feel relieved that it’s over. We put up the lights and decorated the tree. Hundreds of cookies have been baked and frosted and eaten. I made the costumes for the Christmas play, we went to the kids concerts, we stopped by as many parties as we could fit in, we sang all the carols, and sent all the cards. We visited Santa, not once, not twice, but three times. I’ve bought and wrapped the gifts; And still it feels like everyone always wants one more thing. And my to do list keep getting longer and longer. Always more laundry to do, more food to buy, one more errand to run, one more thing to fit in the schedule. I love my family more than anything in the world. They are my life, but sometimes I feel so overwhelmed, so tired. When do we get to just sit and enjoy each other? I know this is supposed to be the most joyful time of the year, but sometimes I feel like I’m just going through the motions. In the midst of all this busy-ness, how am I supposed to find real joy? If I could ask for anything this year, that’s what it would be it. Enough time to stop and experience real rejoicing. So, Jesus, that’s what I’m asking for. Tonight, would you bring us the real joy of Christmas?



Reading Four - Love

This has been the hardest Christmas season of my life. The first one without my Betty. The kids have been wonderful, bringing me to all the family functions, trying to include me in the festivities. But at each happy event, it’s hard to smile, when all I feel is grief. Everything reminds me of her. Every song, every decoration, every place we go, and thing we do. After so many years with one person, they become an extension of yourself. What’s the point of any of this without her here? I miss her hand on mine, I miss her reading the paper in the morning and telling me the news, I miss sitting quietly together at the end of the day as we drank a cup of tea. I even miss the things I always thought I hated. Those terrible hard as a rock ginger snap cookies she would make every year, the way she sang Christmas Carols a little too loud and a lot off key, the way she’d nag me to put up the Christmas lights even when it was cold as death outside. I try to convince myself to be joyful. I know she is in a better place, singing with all her gusto in the heavenly choir. I know she’s looking down on me, telling me to just snap out of it already. This is the season of Love afterall. Time to remember the love of Jesus that is present all around us and all that. But, to be honest, it is all a lot harder than I thought it would be. God, I have to wonder how can I experience the season of love with a broken heart? Will you please come and heal this ache in my heart and just help it to hurt a little less? Will you teach me how to love this life again? Betty used to say “God is Love.” I could sure use some of that love right now.



Reading Five - Emmanuel, God with Us

O my beloveds, how amazing it is to see you through the eyes of a baby. You look so beautiful. I am so excited to be with you in this wonderful and broken world. I know this life can be so hard, sometimes it feels like more than you can bear. That’s why I’ve come. To bear it with you. To feel the hurt for you. To hold you when you feel alone. Look at me, my loves. I am here to heal your hurts, to bind up the broken-hearted, to give hope to the hopeless. I’ve come to be with you. No matter what. When you are lost, when you are afraid, when you are anxious. I am here. Even when you forget me, when your lives are too busy, and your minds are too full. I will wait for you. I want you to know that hope, peace, joy and love are possible. I’ve come so you can experience all that and more. I have come to love you, I have come to save you, I have come to light a candle in the darkness. I have come to change the world.








Tuesday, December 9, 2014

blessing for a mother-to-be.

A friend shared this beautiful blessing by John O'Donohue with me during my pregnancy and it became a prayer that I read almost daily as I lived into the truth of it.  I'm always so thankful when poems can provide a container for what I am experiencing, and for the words carefully crafted and sewn together by others that are somehow able to express something beyond words.

I share this with others, hoping it will be as much of a treasure for you as it has been for me:

"Nothing could have prepared
your heart to open like this.

From beyond the skies and the stars
This echo arrived inside of you and started to pulse with life
Each beat a tiny act of growth,
Traversing all our ancient shapes,
On its way home to itself.

 Once it began, you were no longer your own.
A new, more courageous you, offering itself
In a new way to a presence you can sense
But you have not seen or known.

It has made you feel alone
In a way you never knew before;
Everyone else sees only from the outside
What you feel and feed
with every fiber of your being.

Never have you traveled farther inward
Where words and thoughts become half-­light
unable to reach the fund of brightness
Strengthening inside the night of your womb.

Like some primeval moon,
Your soul brightens
The tides of essence
That flow to your child.

You know your life has changed forever,
For in all the days and years to come,
Distance will never be able to cut you off
From the one you now carry
For nine months under your heart.

May you be blessed with quiet confidence
That destiny will guide you and mind you.

May the emerging spirit of your child
Imbibe encouragement and joy
From the continuous music of your heart,
So that it can grow with ease,
Expectant of wonder and welcome
when its form is fully filled

And it makes it journey out
To see you and settle at last
Relieved and glad in your arms.

Monday, November 24, 2014

more than surviving.

There are about a thousand books, blogs and articles about having a newborn. Nearly all of them make the experience sound utterly terrible. They inform you about how much the baby will cry endlessly and poop and be in constant need. They tell you how you as a parent will likely feel angry, stressed, tired and depressed. They tell you about all the awful things your body has had to endure because of pregnancy and birth and how you are not likely to ever make a full recovery. They warn you that this time in your life may bring about distance or resentment between you and your spouse. Most of them offer well meaning tips and advice about how to get through this difficult time and survive being a parent to a young child.

But here is the thing: I want to do more than survive. I want to be fully present. I want to experience the fullness of this time in my life in all of its beauty and difficulty. I want to hold it, to treasure it, to drink it in. I want to translate the language of his gurgles, his cries, his laughter into poetry. I want to learn from these rich moments and carry the wisdom I gain into my future. I want motherhood to rub me raw, and then add new layers, and transform me into a new, better, deeper, more creative version of myself.