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.