Monday, November 30, 2009

The Waiting Time

Advent is the waiting time, the pregnant pause, full of anticipation and expectant longing. It is so easy to get caught up in the frenzy around us, the endless pressure to buy, buy, buy, get those Christmas cards out, make plans. I am trying to live into the gift of the waiting time, to notice the building anticipation and hope, to notice the ways that the Spirit has been and is preparing our world for an outbreak of love and peace and joy.

Here is a favorite poem of mine:

"The Wait"
It is life in slow motion,
it's the heart in reverse,
it's hope-and-a-half:
too much and too little at once.

It's a train that suddenly
stops with no station around,
and we can hear the cricket,
and, leaning out the carriage

door, we vainly contemplate
a wind we feel that stirs
the blooming meadows, the meadows
made imaginary by this stop.
- Rainer Maria Rilke

There is a single rose blooming in the backyard...Lo, how a rose e'er blooming, from tender stem hath sprung!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hope (Advent 1C)

I woke up one morning
and Despair was creeping under my door.
Days growing shorter,
wars growing longer,
debts piling higher.
I pulled up the covers
and went back to sleep.

I woke up one morning
and Anxiety was sitting on my chest.
Bills to be paid,
emails to be read,
pets to be fed.
I turned on the TV

I woke up one morning
and Fear was peering in my window.
Sunken eyes, gnarled hands -
the hungry, the destitute,
the rapists, the terrorists.
I closed all the blinds
and stayed in my room.

I woke up one morning
and Hope was beckoning me.
A fresh pot of tea,
a wagging tail,
a warm ray of sunshine.
I breathed her in,
and followed her.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Do not worry

"Do not worry," he said,
as they labored over hot stoves,
chopping vegetables, baking pies,
roasting birds, pouring wine.
Will there be enough?
Will there be something for me,
vegetarian, without nuts, gluten free?
"Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?'
or 'What shall we drink?'"

"Do not worry," he said,
as they arose before the sun,
filled their thermos with hot coffee,
bundled up, wallets ready,
off to the 4 am sales.
"Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we wear?'

"Do not worry," he said,
and all she knew was worry.
Her child was gay, Black, female,
Hispanic, poor, Muslim, hungry.
Face pressed against the glass,
watching them fill up with food and family.
"Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?'
or 'What shall we drink?'"

"Do not worry," he said,
as he folded up his mat,
piled all his belongings into a single cart,
began the long walk to his corner,
set up his cardboard sign,
tugging at the holes in his mittens.
"Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we wear?'"

 "Do not worry," he said,
as they stood in the hangar,
awaiting the body of their only child,
too young to have seen the horrors of war,
the breath of life gone too soon from her lungs.
"Can any of you by worrying
add a single hour to your span of life?"

"Do not worry," he said.
Words that seem so empty,
so removed from all the fear,
the hunger, the heartache,
the hate, the death.
"Do not worry, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.
Today's trouble is enough for today."

Give us today our daily bread...
Forgive us our debts, our many, many debts.
Today, today is enough trouble.
Tomorrow is another day.
And then tomorrow's tomorrow,
an unknown number of tomorrows.
"Can any of you by worrying
add a single hour to your span of life?"

"Do not worry," he said.
Let today be today, a day for giving thanks,
and for sharing all that we have. Today.
"Do not worry," he said.
Tomorrow will take care of tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Evening Prayer, by Thomas Merton

Today is Veteran's Day, and I give thanks for my grandfather, a WWII vet, who is in the evening of his life.  He has advanced Alzheimer's disease, and I pray that the night may come in peace. And for all who serve in our military, I pray for safety and wisdom. May all wars cease, may peace reign throughout the earth.

I'm taking a class in Thomas Merton and the Psalms. Today I have been reflecting on some of Merton's poetry in The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. Here is a lovely prayer that seems especially poignant this Veteran's Day:

EVENING PRAYER (Psalm 140, 141)

Lord, receive my prayer
Sweet as incense smoke
Rising from my heart
Full of care
I lift up my hands
In evening sacrifice
Lord, receive my prayer.

When I meet the man
On my way
When he starts to curse
And threatens me,
Lord, guard my lips
I will not reply
Guide my steps in the night
As I go my way.

Maybe he belongs
To some other Lord
Who is not so wise and good
Maybe that is why those bones
Lie scattered on his road.

When I look to the right and left
No one cares to know
Who I am, where I go.

Hear my prayer
I will trust in you
If they set their traps
On my way
If they aim their guns at me
You will guide my steps
I will pass them by
In the dark
They will never see.

Lord, to you I raise
Wide and bright
Faith-filled eyes
In the night
You are my protection
Bring me home.

And receive my prayer
Sweet as incense smoke
Rising from my heart
Free of care.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Beginnings

I give thanks for the joy and possibilities of beginnings. On Saturday, some dear friends celebrated their love by entering into marriage. Today, some other friends, on their anniversary, celebrated the birth of their new daughter. A great day for a birth, as it was for my father 62 years ago today. Over the weekend, the House of Representatives passed a landmark healthcare reform bill - a strong and important beginning. And 20 years ago yesterday, Germany experienced a new beginning as the wall was torn down and families and friends were reunited.
Today I celebrate and give thanks that each day offers new possibilities, new directions, new connections, new life, new beginnings.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gratitude times 3

There is a lot of pain here in Texas today, a lot of unanswered questions, grieving, and confusion over yesterday's shooting at Fort Hood . And now today I hear of more violence, this time in Orlando. I think that we as a people need to engage in reflection about how it is that our cultures continue to perpetuate violence. I am not saying to blame the system, but at some level we all bear some responsibility for being complicit in a culture that holds up violence as a solution to conflict.

Yesterday I had an interesting experience at the ophthalmologist's office. After a rather long wait, the doctor finally came into the exam room and started lecturing me about not following up, wondering whether I had gone to a different doctor or whether I had just stopped taking the pills she had given me. Well, she never gave me any pills, and I'd only seen her twice before, so needless to say I was very confused! I looked over at the chart and saw that the name was 1 letter different from mine!...anyway, once that was all figured out, we proceeded with the exam and I got the eyedrops I needed. And, the doctor realized that she needed to follow up with this other woman, as she had more serious medical issues, so they wanted to make sure she was okay. God can use our little mistakes to bring about good.

I am waiting for a friend/colleague to pick me up for lunch. I'm thankful for the chance to visit with her. And I'm thankful for relatively good typing skills, so that I can type with my eyes closed, as I have inflammation that makes it difficult to look at the screen for very long. I give thanks for continued nice weather (which means that we can keep our electric bills very low, in addition to just being lovely weather!). For sustaining breath and cuddly animals and loving family and friends.

I also want to give thanks for the life of Brother Blue, someone I didn't know but had the good fortune to hear tell stories once or twice. He was a gifted storyteller in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts, and he passed away yesterday. I know his stories and his presence will live on, as he joins the great story of history. Read a story about his life on

It is a day of pain, a day of worry, a day of struggle. It is also a day to give thanks, because it is out of the chaos that God speaks.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gratitude Journal 2

Before turning my attention to gratitude, I find I have to first acknowledge what's on my mind. I am feeling rather overwhelmed today, as I have much to do, and I've taken on a project which is turning out to be more challenging than I'd imagined. And my eyes are bothering me today, which puts me further behind. How fitting, as I have been working on a project about embodied spirituality and chronic illness. My body is so unpredictable.

This morning I am very thankful for dogs who were relatively quiet so that I wasn't awoken prematurely. For my cat Silly, sitting next to me now, who has been my faithful companion through divorce, illness, many moves; who makes friends easily, even with dogs. For beautiful, sunny, fall weather. For friends and colleagues who listen to me and help me clarify my thoughts and purposes.

This weekend I am going to a dear friend's wedding. I am offering thanks ahead of time for the opportunity to spend time with good friends and to celebrate the commitment and love of two wonderful people.

I close with a modified prayer by John Wesley: Bless, O God, my parents, my sister and brother, my friends and relations, my faith communities, and all that belong to this family; all that have been instrumental to my good, by their assistance, advice, example, or writing; and all that do not pray for themselves. Amen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Gratitude Journal

I have never kept a "Gratitude Journal," but it seems that as this is the season of Thanksgiving, it is time to start.

I have to begin by acknowledging that my heart is very heavy today. Once again, a "popular" vote has overturned the rights of human beings to have legitimacy and benefits for their committed, loving relationships. It is a failure of our system. My prayers and thoughts and hopes go out to all who have seen their rights so painfully stolen from them.

My heart is also thankful today: For the Breath of life that awoke me from a night of restful sleep. For friends who give me pastoral advice in making difficult decisions. For a warm bowl of oatmeal and a hot cup of tea. For the opportunity to engage my coursework in integrative and stimulating ways. For each and every person I will come in contact with today.

And I am thankful for victories - the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The expansion of anti-discrimination laws to include LGBT persons in Kalamazoo, MI. The election of the first African American mayor in Newton, MA, where I once lived. And I'm thankful I belong to a denomination that does not take gender or race or sexuality into account in discerning who is called to ministry.

For these things and many more, today I give thanks to the One who is giving life and is even now transforming the world.

Monday, September 28, 2009

30 somethings on roller skates

The other night I joined several former high school classmates for a night of mayhem at the roller skating rink. When we were growing up, it was the place to be on Friday nights. Sometimes my parents would decide we were going to have a family night, and I would be so upset, because if I wasn't at the skating rink, I was a NOBODY (at least that's what I thought).

The skating rink hasn't changed a bit - the pizza tastes the same; the carpet is peeling off the walls; and the skates look about 20 years old. In fact, one of the guys in our group was merrily skating along and lost a wheel!

As children on that rink, we learned some things that would serve us well when we faced the world as adults - how to take risks, like skating backwards or asking someone to join us for the couples skate. How to get up after a fall. How to come back and try again, even after suffering a sprain or broken limb. How to lose ourselves in the moment as our feet flew around the rink. And perhaps most importantly, how to do the hokey pokey.

While the place hasn't changed, by the grace of God, we have. Many of us barely knew each other, if at all, in our youth. Some of us are (or have been) married and partnered, some have children. Over the years we have grown and are finding our paths and are learning to trust and love ourselves.

As we gathered that night, I didn't feel worried about what others might think of me as I tried to stay on my feet. While I often forget it, one of the blessings of becoming an adult is being able to relish small accomplishments. The skating rink still has things to teach me. The first time around the rink, I hugged the wall. The second time around, I fell. Getting up is tough! But I was determined to skate, and I didn't fall again. Others in our group were more graceful, dancing and skating backwards. I was content with staying on my feet. What an accomplishment!

I'm so grateful for a chance to reconnect with old friends and make new (old) friends, to laugh and reminisce together, to talk about our past and future journeys. And I hope that old skating rink continues to bring people together and teach life's lessons. But it's probably time for some new skates.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Universal Access

This sermon is also available on video

This morning is a communion Sunday. In the church in which I was raised, we celebrated communion every single Sunday. It wasn't church if we didn't have communion. In fact, because communion fell before the sermon, it was not uncommon for a family to go to church and leave right after communion, knowing that even though they hadn't stayed for the whole service, they had at least done the important part (before heading off to the beach). It didn't take long for the church leaders to figure out that people would stay for the whole service if they put communion after the sermon.

I later learned that it was possible to have a meaningful and sacred worship service without necessarily celebrating communion. However, the centrality of the Eucharist table, first learned in my childhood, continues to form and feed my Christian faith.

When I was growing up, only those who had been baptized by their own choice (in other words, not as infants) were considered Christians, and only Christians were welcome to partake of the Lord's supper. I have memories of going up to the church building on Saturday night to help my parents prepare communion for the Sunday worship service. My brother and sister and I, even before we had been baptized, would fill the little communion cups and place the matzoh crackers into the trays and feast on the crumbs and leftover juice. The next morning, we would sit respectfully in the pews, watching everyone else take their bread and drink their juice, our mouths watering, wishing for another taste. If we tried to sneak a piece of bread, someone was sure to give us a reproachful look. We were not welcome at this table.

Many years later, I joined a church affiliated with the Disciples and UCC traditions. In this church, every week when we gathered at the communion table, the pastor said these words: "This is God's table. Whether you are baptized or not; whether you believe a little or you believe a lot; you are welcome at this table.” I remembered myself as a young girl, wanting a place at the table. What a relief it was to know that I did not have to hope for crumbs. No, I was welcome to feast at this table.

The Gospel of Mark tells the story of a Greek woman, a Gentile woman, an outsider, who was used to hoping for crumbs. She knew her place, and she was used to waiting her turn. But not this time. This time, her role as a mother outranked her ethnic heritage. Her young daughter was very ill, filled with an unclean spirit. Perhaps it was a mental illness, perhaps a bacterial or viral infection or some other ailment. Determined to find healing, this mother heard that Jesus, a man who was rumored to have healing powers, was staying in her town. So she went to him, willing to sacrifice her pride for the sake of her daughter. What mother wouldn’t do the same?

I don’t know whether she was surprised by Jesus’ response to her request: "Let the children eat first. It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She will not let anything stand in her way, not even being called a DOG by a holy man. Undeterred, she shot back, "Yes, Sir, but even the dogs get to eat the crumbs that fall from the table."

Now we might wonder, did he really call this woman a dog? Did he really seem to deny healing for her daughter? Healing that he had so readily offered to his own people? Why would he do that? Scholars have endlessly debated Jesus' motives for these harsh words. Perhaps he was testing her or his disciples. Or perhaps, he truly believed that the blessings of the kindom of God were first and foremost for the people of Israel, and that they did not need to share all that they had worked so hard for.

Regardless of what we imagine were his motives, what I notice is this: Jesus was having a debate about health care. He was ready to deny treatment for this woman’s daughter’s condition. But she wouldn’t let him walk away.

We don’t have to look far to find stories of people in our own time who won’t be ignored. A single mother with two children, and no child support. She’s barely making ends meet, and she worries that she won’t be able to afford her monthly health insurance premiums.

An elderly woman forgoes her medication in order to eat. Another, having lost his life savings and overwhelmed by medical bills, files for bankruptcy.

"It is not right to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."

"Yes, Sir, but even the dogs get to eat the crumbs that fall from the table."

In this nation, we find ourselves in a polarizing healthcare debate. We could spend time talking about policies, about economic realities, about democratic values, and about the role of government. Those things are being debated in the public sphere, and they are important. But that’s not what I want us to consider today. The question is, Who has access to the table?

The Gospel of Mark sandwiches this healing narrative between two accounts of Jesus feeding a multitude. In Mark's Gospel, as Jesus showed what the kindom of God looks like, he spent a lot of time doing two things: feeding people and healing people. These two things, food and health, are essential to abundant human living. In God's world view, people should have universal access to everything they need for a full and abundant life. Sometimes it’s too easy to be satisfied with just the crumbs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2008, 17% of persons in the United States under age 65 were uninsured. Nearly 9% of children under age 18 were uninsured. It would be easy to say, "if 17% are uninsured, then that means that over 80% are insured." And should those 80% have to share their bread with the ones who won't stop nipping at their heels? Why can't they be satisfied with the crumbs?

Just as this woman was not satisfied, we, the church, have to keep struggling. We have to keep pushing for universal access, for everyone to have all that they need for full and abundant life.

I don't want to leave out the rest of the story in our reading today. Jesus was deeply moved by this woman's persistent faith. This encounter represented a turning point in Jesus’ ministry, when he realized that there was more than enough bread and more than enough room and more than enough resources for everyone to have a place at the table of universal access.

Having healed this woman's daughter, Jesus continued on his way, only to encounter another person in need of healing. This individual was deaf and could not speak. Jesus' prayer for this person was simple yet profound: Ephphatha! Be opened! But perhaps the miracle of opening had taken place before Jesus met this man. In his encounter with the courageous foreigner, Jesus' own ears were opened, and he himself could now speak more fully the truth of universal access in the kindom of God.

Every week we pray together for loved ones who are ill. The author of James says that prayer is not enough. “If any are in need of clothes and have no food to live on, and any of you says to them, "goodbye and good luck. Stay warm and well fed," without giving them the bare necessities of life, then what good is this?”

And if one of our members or other loved ones could not afford necessary treatment: medications, tests, a surgery – would we not join together not only to pray for that person, but to find a way to ensure that they had access to resources and treatment? Why then would we not do the same for all of God’s children?

In a recent letter to the editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, our own pastor K wrote that we love God by loving our neighbors, and that all of us together have the resources to provide health care for everyone. There is enough bread; there is enough room; there is enough for all at this table.

This is the amazing and miraculous message of the Gospel on this day: We don't have to pay anything or work or do anything to earn our place at this table. We don't have to sit around on the outside, hoping that there will be a few crumbs left after God's children have had their fill of bread. Whoever you are, and wherever you find yourself on the journey, there is a place for you at this table. This is an open table, where we can find health and wholeness and all that is essential for abundance of life.

And this is the challenge of the Gospel today -- that no one has to do anything to deserve a place at this table, and that we are called to hear with open ears and speak with open mouths and work with open hands so that everyone can have access to food and health and all that they need for abundant life. Ephphatha! – be opened. May it be so. Amen.

Sermon as prepared for delivery, September 6, 2009 @ First Congregational UCC in Fort Worth, TX

Friday, July 24, 2009

An Exercise in Self-Love

Poem written for a presentation on Womanist theology

I love my body!

I love my skin color, my hair, my eyes.

They are beautiful.

Not because anybody else said so,

But because they are mine,

And I am beautiful.

I love my blonde, hard-to-see eyebrows

My mouth that doesn't eat meat

My vocal chords that let me sing

I love my breasts, one a little bigger than the other

My hips, one a little higher than the other

The dimples on my rear end

My life-giving womb,

My pleasure-giving genitals

I love my asthmatic lungs

My arthritic ribcage

I love my heart

And my dark, dark liver.

I love the scar on my knee from falling off my bike

The calluses on my heels because I love to wear sandals

I love the arches in my feet

And every single one of my toes.

I love my body!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Prayer for Easter Sunday

Great Living God, God of Resurrection and of New Beginnings, we honor you on this Easter Sunday.

You teach us to look for life amongst death, hope in the midst of fear, love when surrounded by hate.

You know what it is to lose someone…a child, a trusted friend, a lover. You walked with Mary in the Garden, and you know the pain of the disciples, waiting in the upper room.

And through the power of Christ's resurrection you give us power to have new life, new beginnings, new relationships, and you give us hope of reunion with those we love.

You know what it is to be afraid, of death, of illness, of violence. Just as you were present with Jesus on the cross, you are present with us even now.

And your perfect love drives away our fear, calling us to be, like Jesus, bold in the face of our fears.

You know what it is to witness destruction…both natural and human-made. You mourn with us the loss of lives and homes and ecosystems as a result of tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, and the wars we wage.

And as the green blade rises from the seemingly-barren earth, you break forth with new life, fresh life, peaceful and creative life.

You know what it is to suffer injustice, to be oppressed because of skin color or gender or sexual orientation or age or class. You suffered alongside the Hebrews; you worked with those who were sold into slavery, you cry with those who are persecuted in Iraq and Uganda.

And even now your Christ is setting us free from prison, breaking the chains that keep us in hell, giving us wings that we, too, may set the oppressed free.

You are a God of Resurrection life, love, hope, and justice. We praise you on this holy day and pray that you will give us grace to live as Easter people.

We pray because of Jesus, the Risen One, Alleluia, Amen.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reckless Grace: A Sermon for Maundy Thursday

I recently discovered a blog by United Methodist licensed local pastor. He often posts haikus based on the lectionary.
One of the Maundy Thursday haikus begins, “Smelly ol’ bunions.”
That’s right, smelly ol’ bunions.
We’ve gathered here, on Maundy Thursday, from the Latin mandatum, the new commandment. We will break bread, drink wine, and wash each other’s feet. Yet I’m standing here talking about bunions??

But you know the way the conversation often goes…
“Next week we’re doing foot washing at my church.”
“I don’t know if I could do that.”
“It’s a little strange, but not so bad, because I always go and get a pedicure the day before.”

So, did you get your pedicure? Did you put a little baby powder in your shoes tonight, to make sure that your feet don’t stink?

Or did you just show up, smelly ol’ bunions and all? says that “many people may unnecessarily suffer the pain of bunions for years before seeking treatment.” Bunion symptoms can include pain or soreness, inflammation and redness, a burning sensation, and even numbness. Bunions hurt, and they’re embarrassing, so we live with them, doing our best to keep them hidden.

Are you ready tonight to put those ugly, sore spots on display…and not just show them off, but actually let someone touch them?

Are you willing to be that vulnerable?
What if I’m washing your feet and instead of gentle water, I pour salt on your wounds?
What if I push too hard?
What if I wrinkle my nose and turn away in disgust?
Will you risk it?

For Jesus and his disciples, having their feet washed was just part of the expected routine. Time and again their feet were washed by slaves in the households of their hosts. This was normal. It was nothing new to have your feet washed by a slave. If there was no slave, then you washed them yourself. The feet were dirty, and they had to be washed.

Over 10 years ago I spent some time in West Africa, and the journal I carried with me is still tinged brown from the dirt. I imagine it was like that in Jesus’ day…everything covered in dirt, and what it must have been like to be the household slave who had to kneel down and wash the dirt, sweat, and manure off the feet of a free person – someone who was free to travel, free to roam the streets and do as they liked.

But one night, the gospels tell us, Jesus becomes vulnerable and takes a risk. On that particular night, Jesus receives grace. Not unmerited favor, as we’ve often heard it defined. Grace. The empowering presence of God enabling him to live out his calling.

The gospel text tonight and every Maundy Thursday is not the institution of the Lord’s Supper found in the synoptic gospels (we use the 1 Corinthians reading to cover that), but the washing of the disciples’ feet found in John. And yes, we’ll come back to that night of foot washing. But before that night, there was another night, when grace was poured out on Jesus. You know the story.

According to John, it was 6 days before the Passover, and his dear friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were hosting a party for him. He had just given them the greatest gift they could imagine…Lazarus had his life back, and Mary and Martha had regained their brother…and thus their economic security. Jesus brought healing and hope to many people, and it was only natural that there would be dinner parties in his honor.

But he didn’t know that there was something different about this night. Mary broke from the tradition and did something unexpected, something exceedingly extravagant. A year’s wages, poured out on Jesus’ feet.

Judas reacts strongly, pointing out that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Now John clearly had a low opinion of Judas, to say the least. According to John, Judas didn’t care about the poor, but was a thief who stole from the common purse.
But regardless of Judas’ motives, can you imagine?

Before I came to seminary, my employers paid me $32,000 per year. I once had the opportunity to listen to and even meet Bishop Desmond Tutu, one of my spiritual heroes. If I had taken $32,000, bought perfume with it, and poured it out on Bishop Tutu’s feet, even he might have chastised me for my foolishness. Most people would agree that it would be a ridiculous thing to do. If you have that kind of money lying around, why not give it to the church? Why not give it to AIDS research in South Africa? Or – start a scholarship fund for seminary students?

Mary was wasteful – extravagant – with this full pound of nard. Very likely, it was left over from Lazarus’ burial. And to those in Lazarus’ house, it must have smelled like death.

So there’s Jesus, his bunions on display in all their glory. So often we read this passage as if Jesus is nonchalantly accepting her anointing. When Judas protests, Jesus says, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.”

But this is not a statement made lightly. Jesus knew that the end was near. He’d heard the rumors, and he’d stayed away from Jerusalem as long as possible. He knew that the path he had chosen would lead to agonizing state sanctioned torture and, ultimately, execution. At a dinner that was supposed to be a celebration of Lazarus’ resurrection, Jesus received extravagant, reckless grace that he knew would give him strength to face his impending death.

Several days later… - though it probably seemed more like a lifetime –Jesus had been greeted with palms and great fanfare as he rode into Jerusalem. And his predictions about his coming death were starting to seem more real to his disciples.

Several days later, they sat down to a meal together. They had done this many times before. It was Passover time, and they knew the drill – the food they would eat, in what order, the words they would say, the songs they would sing.

As she had done at her home back in Bethany, perhaps Martha was serving the meal. And maybe as Martha placed food on the table, Jesus remembered that night, just a few days ago, when Mary had wildly and earnestly anointed his aching feet.

The smell of death still in his nostrils, Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet. Then, just as Mary had wiped his feet with her hair, he wiped the disciples’ feet with the towel that was tied around him.

When it was Peter’s turn, he was embarrassed. Had he known, he would have gotten a pedicure and made sure there were no bunions showing. He would have put a little ointment on his feet that morning so they wouldn’t smell so bad.

His toes curled up, and he tried to hide his feet from Jesus. “Surely not, Lord! You will never wash my feet!” Perhaps he thought that Jesus would realize how vulgar his feet were, how improper it would be for him to allow his Master to wash his feet. He couldn’t believe that the others had allowed Jesus to do it.

Jesus’ answer stunned Peter: “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” O-kay! He was not expecting that one. “Well then, wash my hands and my head, too!”

Now, I don’t know whether Jesus is exasperated here… or amused… or perhaps just tired of the struggle. This band of ruffians willingly followed him, and they’re still completely clueless. So, he says, “You took a bath, didn’t you? So you are clean, except for your feet.”

But…But…not all of you are clean. He knew that he had poured out the waters of extravagant grace on even the one who would betray him.

Throughout the evening, Jesus must have been replaying the events of the past several days in his head.
The overwhelming smell of the perfume used to anoint the dead;
the shouting of the crowds;
the feel of the wobbly colt under his frail, tired body;
the crunch of palms underfoot;
the thunderous voice from heaven;
his repeated attempts to warn his disciples of the days to come.

After he had washed their feet, he put on his robe, and returned to the table. He said to them, “Do you know what I have done?”

Do you know? Do you know what it is to be anointed? Do you know what it is to have your feet washed? Do you know that you have had grace upon grace poured over you?

He doesn’t say, it is your duty to serve, even when it hurts. Or, give of yourself and keep giving until you have nothing left to give. He says, do as I have done to you.

It could have been Mary’s voice. Mary, who had received grace in the resurrection of her brother Lazarus, poured out grace upon Jesus when he needed it most. “Do as I have done to you.”

As Jesus looked at Judas, who needed, perhaps most of all, to receive his grace, “Do you know what I have done?”

We all stand with the disciples as those who have been called and sent. We are not here to begrudgingly put our hands in the water and try to keep a straight face as we kneel to wash one another’s feet.

“Do you know what I have done?”

We’re here tonight to put our smelly ol’ bunions out there for all to see. Are you, like most bunion sufferers, unnecessarily suffering pain because you can’t bring yourself to be vulnerable?
Have you suffered abuse?
Are you ashamed of your imperfections?
Are you afraid to take a risk, for fear that you might be hurt again?
Or, have you just gotten used to the numbness?

The invitation of the gospel this Maundy Thursday is to come to the basin…
vulnerable, frightened, confused, hurting…
Just come.
And allow grace to be poured out all over your tired, dirty, imperfect feet.

And then, when you know what it is that Christ has done, you will be able to live into the new commandment, this mandate:

“Love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”

The table is set; the water is ready.
Won’t you come tonight, and receive God’s reckless, exceedingly extravagant grace?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Striving for Easter

She wasn’t sure how long she’d been screaming, and she couldn’t fathom why no one responded to her screams. Until she woke up, and realized no sound was coming from her open mouth. She opened her eyes, but it was too dark to see. She didn’t know how long she’d been unable to see. There was something constraining her, so that she was unable to move to the right or left, as if she were wrapped in layer after layer of some impenetrable shroud.

Choked by fear, she longed for sleep, but the memories flooded her mind; she could not quiet the voices.
-How could you be so stupid?
-I only do this because I love you.
-You’re too sensitive.
-Just wait until your father gets home.

Blood was running from her side—she didn’t remember that wound. She had several open wounds on her body, but she wasn’t sure where all of them came from. Her father had a wound just like the one on her side. When she gingerly touched it, she saw her father wince as his daddy’s belt came down on him. Another place, on her thigh, and she heard her grandmother’s cries in the darkness. A wound near her breast, that of every woman she’d known who felt pushed down, trying always to prove themselves, but never considered good enough.

There were bruises on her feet, her arms, her cheeks. These bruises she remembered on the man she married, in the hope that he would dress her open wounds, but he had too many of his own.

Then there was the ache in her heart, the crushing feeling on her chest, so she felt she couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t stand it anymore, couldn’t move even enough to dress her own wounds; she had to get out. So she started pushing, clawing, scooting. So closed in and so dark, yet there was the faintest hint of light ahead. A desire to see what was out there.

The bindings scraped at her wounds, stuck to her skin. Sometimes she would stop to weep, unsure whether she could go on. But the harder she pushed upward, the more light she could see, and the looser the binds became. Small shafts of light started coming in, and if the light touched a wound, she felt the bleeding stop. The wound was still there, but not as raw.

Sometimes the light got so bright it burned her eyes, and she scooted back down into the darkness, to the comfort of her pain. The rawness of her wounds returned, but it was familiar to her. The salty taste of her tears was comfort food.

But then she’d feel the weight on her chest and, fearing suffocation, she’d start back up, curious to see what the light would reveal. The air became lighter, and smelled fragrant. As the light grew brighter, she felt herself drawn to it, and lifted somehow towards it.

Suddenly, her binding fell loose, and she blinked at the radiance. She had never seen such color or breathed such freshness! The wind came and picked her up, and she found she had wings. She opened them, and drifted along, but her heart started beating faster, frightening her, so she settled on a quiet place, looking for her bindings. Unable to find them, she contemplated making new ones, but the wind came again, and she couldn’t resist it.

Swallowing her fear, she let herself glide, and she was overwhelmed by the bliss of freedom. Looking down at her wounds, she saw only scars, felt only dull pangs where the raw bleeding had once been. Indeed, her whole being was transformed, and she smiled, laughed even, letting the wind lift her and carry her to new and greater heights than she had ever achieved.

October 2003
Written for a Domestic Violence Awareness worship service

Saturday, February 14, 2009


For some time I have been contemplating starting a blog, and instead of thinking about it any longer, I'm just going to jump right in. In this blog I hope to reflect on being, becoming, embodiment, breathing, creating, seminary and ordination, and whatever else might happen to come up. I hope that Be(com)ing will serve as a conversation starter, a place where I can raise questions and you can respond and add your own thoughts and questions.

So, by way of a quick introduction, I am a 31-year-old woman in my 3rd (out of 4) year of seminary, working on my MDiv and in care for ordination in the United Church of Christ (UCC). I currently serve as a youth director and student assistant pastor for a wonderful UCC church, and I am believe I am being called to intentional interim ministry.

My next post will be some of my thoughts and questions on incarnation, reincarnation, and whether or not our bodies and souls are separable/inseparable/both.

Until then, peace be with you.