Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A resolution (or a revolution)

“The last shall be first and the first shall be last.” This is exactly, when it comes down to it, why most people do not believe in grace. It is fucking offensive.”
Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint

My New Year’s resolution this year is simple

And there is only one

This year I am going to believe in grace!

I am going to believe that God has turned myself
and everyone around me
into the beloved Children of God

just by speaking
(and God spoke, and the world began, and Christ was born, and I am God’s child)

Buechner rightly notes that “IN HEBREW THE TERM DABAR means both "word" and "deed." Thus to say something is to do something. "I love you." "I hate you." "I forgive you." "I am afraid of you." Who knows what such words do, but whatever it is, it can never be undone. Something that lay hidden in the heart is irrevocably released through speech into time, is given substance and tossed like a stone into the pool of history, where the concentric rings lap out endlessly.”

In Jesus God spoke and said “I love you”
God spoke and said “I am in you”
God spoke and said “I am in everyone you meet”
God spoke and said “Love wins, always”

And so I am going to take God at God’s word

I am going to believe in grace
that God loves me and accepts me
that God is present in me
that God’s Presence rubs off and is somehow mysteriously present through me
in this world
and that I can make a difference

I am going to believe in grace
for that guy carrying a gun in McDonalds
for that knife wielding man who crashed and Hanukkah party
and tried to kill
for Donald Trump
for those obstructing justice
for those unacceptable and incompetent judges being put in our federal courts
for that person who shouts hate at a young Muslim girl
for that one who wants to refuse sanctuary for refugees and clamors for a wall
for that fearful one
that hateful one
That racist one
that 1%er greedy one

I am going to believe in grace
No matter how offensive that person is to me

I am going to believe in grace
Even though grace is offense
(and believe me, it is offensive to believe in grace
for those who hate, and exclude, you hoard, and kill)

I am going to believe in grace
And I am going to believe there is no limit to what God can do for them

For if I cannot believe grace for them
I cannot truly believe grace for me
(at least not without really claiming privilege and merit, which is just silly)

So this year
I am going to believe in grace

And I am going to believe in what grace can do
In me
In you
In them

For grace is both the end
And the beginning

Happy New Year

Sunday, December 29, 2019

In the hands of an angry God

“[the Devil]... stands waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it...”
                               Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

“God's grace is not defined as God being forgiving to us even though we sin. Grace is when God is a source of wholeness, which makes up for my failings. My failings hurt me and others and even the planet, and God's grace to me is that my brokenness is not the final word ... it's that God makes beautiful things out of even my own shit. Grace isn't about God creating humans and flawed beings and then acting all hurt when we inevitably fail and then stepping in like the hero to grant us grace - like saying, "Oh, it's OK, I'll be the good guy and forgive you." It's God saying, "I love the world too much to let your sin define you and be the final word. I am a God who makes all things new.”
Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint

“I know nothing, except what everyone knows - if there when Grace dances, I should dance.”
W.H. Auden, Collected Poems

We have a choice it seems

We are either people in a love relationship with a God of love
Sacred children
Being helped to live out our lives according to the original design
The original blessing
Of being creatures who reflect, in our very being, the Sacred

Or we are sinful lumps of clay in the hands of an angry God
Playing out the art of the deal
Where in fear we seek to placate One who is all too eager
To send us (and most others) into eternal torment

We are either loved (period) into communion, and then union (or reunion)
with the Sacred,
simply need to come awake to that love to enjoy it,
and be changed by it

(for love does change us, and Love [God] does make us new)

Or we are people who must believe the right things
Spout the right formulas (Jesus is Lord?)
Go to the right church
Vote for the right candidate
In order to be “saved”

I know it is complicated
This relationship with have with Sacred
We throw around all these big words
Justification, Sanctification, Atonement

And we talk about grace
But I wonder if too many people have lost the concept of grace
And replaced with faith as transaction…

With grace Jesus came to show us ‘the way’
To show us that God is love
And to show us that when we are awake to God we can live life a different way

With grace the cross is God showing us what God can do
With human hate and brutality,
God showing us that even when humanity does its worst
And kills
Love still wins, and brings life out of death
A beginning out of an ending

With transaction
Well honestly the birth of Jesus makes little sense
His teachings make less sense!
Give up all you have and give?
Be the servant of all?
Die to live?

And the cross becomes God
Enacting retribution
“Somebody has to pay”
I know, its complicated
There are those big words

But still transactional faith comes down to this
I have to earn my way into grace
(how is that for an odd statement)

I have to say those words
I have to get dunked
I have to do certain things

And then God saves me
I escape eternal torment

But it’s a transaction

Or else its in the fire I go
Or else my life turns to shit

But there is the problem.

When we enter the world of transaction
It taints everything….

We have God’s love, they don’t (not yet, not really)
We are in, they are out
We are saved, they are going to hell
We are loved, they are hated (by God)

And here is the thing I notice
This is the most powerful side effect of merit faith

It makes us cruel
Faith should not make us cruel
But wow

Even while we sing “just as I am”
We are thinking, “just as you are when…..”
When you get your life together
When you stop using
When you stop drinking

When you have become responsible, and have cobbled together
A living wage out of your three minimum wage jobs

I’ve done what I need to do
Now it is your turn
Suck it up!
Get it together

When you do, I will accept you
When you do, God will accept you.

When you do, then we can talk about healthcare
And food stamps
And housing
And when you do, then we will welcome you fully,
Into the circle of God’s love

Christians, who should be the most grateful and most accepting
And welcoming people in the world

Are all too often the ones
Demanding merit

Which brings us back to love
Not love earned
But love giving

That mysterious love we find clearly distinguished in the Bible
Agape love
Love without strings
Love unmerited

Love simply given

That is God’s love
We struggle to believe in it
For ourselves, or for others

And that love, when poured into us
By the Spirit

Should become our love
And that love
Is God saying to us and through us
"I love the world too much to let your sin define you and be the final word. I am a God who makes all things new.” (Bolz-Weber)

Saturday, December 28, 2019

start again

Come to Me/ Goo Goo Dolls

Come to me my sweetest friend
Can you feel my heart again
I'll take you back where you belong
And this will be our favorite song
Come to me with secrets bare
I'll love you more so don't be scared
And when we're old and near the end
We'll go home and start again


2019 comes whimpering to an end
It has been a year
I come to this place tired, dealing with pain
Angry, at times
Sad, at times
Rarely hopeful

I also come to this place understanding in a way I never have before

Which is perhaps the same as saying we are dust
And that death is as sure as taxes (unless you are in the 1%)

But is mostly a way to remind ourselves

That we are constantly connecting with life
With others
And with the Sacred in such a way

That we constantly let go
And hand in hand with Love
Start again
And again, and again

New Years is a pale shadow
Of a reality we are to live each moment of our lives

Letting go of what was
Dying, so to speak
And being born again
Into whatever is next

There are many “whatever is next” moments in our lives
And in those moments we feel fragmented and vulnerable
Tumbled about

But there is a next
And if we let the Sacred ‘feel our hearts’ again
Then that next can be transformation
A starting over, and over and over
A return home (in my father’s house are many rooms)

It is not just change
“Change of itself just happens;
spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go,
living in the confusing dark space for a while,
and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore.” (Rohr)

So in these last few days of 2019
So in these last days of a tumultuous decade
Where we have moved from despair, to hope and back to despair,
join me in looking back, but only briefly

Look back,
And then let go

Let go of the anger and guilt, disappointment and frustration
Let go of the failure
Let go of the old definitions
Let go even of the comfortable, if there was any

So that we can free, for God’s new thing
(and there is a new thing)

The witness is clear and persistent

Paul:  “one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3)

Jesus: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9)

Isaiah:  “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  (Isaiah 43)

And lest we forget, Paul, again
(2 Corinthians 5:17)  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

A lot has happened
More will happen still

Some of it will cling to us
Weigh us down

Some of it will seek to define us

But we are called by the one who make all things new
To take that Kierkegaardian leap of faith
Take the hand of the sacred
And step into what is new
Start again
And again
And again

God is doing a new thing
Can we not see it?

Friday, December 27, 2019

the gift of emptiness

I am made mostly
of coffee and empty spaces

and I wander through each day
perhaps, simply to stay awake
(hence the coffee)

but seeking
to let the Sacred dance in the empty spaces

it surprises me sometimes
how many empty spaces there are
in my soul

and I have come to realize, that these spaces
are a gift

they are the places I have chosen
to make room
to make room for the child of Christmas

once upon a time
my soul was stuffed
with ego, and ambition
with the need to please and be pleased

once my soul was littered
with my failures, and disappointments

once I was heavy
with fear, and regret
with greed

with all the miseries of humankind

and I still am
as people call evil good, and good evil
as money is deemed more important than people
as cruelty and retribution are gleefully embraced

and I still am
as I remember how I once failed so miserably
and allow myself to wander into the house of regret

but then
I think of the baby
Yes that one
That peasant boy
Crying for his mother’s breast

That one
Whose parents had to grab him and run
Run, run, run
From hate, from sword, from death
A refugee God

An immigrant God
Coming to me
Asking for space
Asking me to make room

Just a little room
That he might find a place to dwell

Asking only that I let love enter

I think of the baby
And I let go of that mistake
I let go of fear
I let go of anger

Space for the Spirit to move
Space for the wind to blow
For the fire of love to rage

For love to dance
To move through my tattered soul

The more space
The more God
The more space
The more grace
The more space
The more love

That is just the way it works
With our Dancing God

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Faith as transformational, not transactional

“Only love that continues to flow in the face of anger, blame, and indifference can be called love. All else is simply a transaction.”
                                          Vironika Tugaleva, The Love Mindset

[Faith] should never be merely transactional -it should be transformational
                                          Rasheed Ogunlaru, Soul Trader

We do not have a quid pro quo

That is just not the way the Sacred works

Oh, I know
There is all that covenant stuff
“I will be your God, you shall be my people”
“Thou shalt have no other God!”
“If you obey the Lord, you will be Blessed” (all that stuff in Leviticus and Deuteronomy)

But still

I think that is on us
That is where we go
It has to be a transaction
In order for God to love me, I have to earn it
In order for God to give to me, I have to earn it

That is how our human brains work
We think God thinks the way we think
We think God behaves the way we behave

And so we create (as Anne Lamott said) God in our own image

And we are profoundly and terrible transactional
There it is
Quid pro quo
You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours
You worship me, I’ll give you what you want

If God is transactional
Then God is really poor at math

Because if you look at how Sacred works?
It is not transactional
It is transformational

God creating the world we live in
          (An act of amazing generosity)
God sustaining
          (while we systematically destroy)
God emptying
          (while we are grabbing and grasping)
God coming down to the lowest level to serve
          (while we climb up, on other people’s backs)
God forgiving
          (while we wallow in resentment and retribution)
God reconciling
          (while we are soaked in enmity)

This is not a transactional story
This is not, primarily, quid pro quo

This is a love story
This is a grace story

This is Sacred
Working through creation
Working through Jesus
Working through the Spirit

To transform us
To make us compassionate
And generous

When we respond to love
We love God
And Love others
And even love ourselves

That is what transformation does!
It makes us new
It makes us people who don’t have to be transactional
In the way we are with God

We don’t have to be fearful
Worried that if we don’t “do it right”
Or have the right”theology”
Or mutter and utter the right “formula”
God will hate us, reject us
And torment us for all eternity

We don’t have to be transactional
In the way we are with others

We don’t have to demand that people become like us
Before we accept them
We don’t have to demand they look and think like us
Before we welcome them
We don’t’ have to demand they somehow meet a definition of “deserving”
Before we feed them
Clothe them
House them

Even as I walk down this path
I can hear the clamoring in my own head and heart
“Yes, but….”

I can feel my soul clawing its way back toward merit theology
Because that is how I have been programmed
By the world
By the church

And yet
The manger
And yet
The cross
And yet

And that chance
To begin again
And experience God’s new thing
That comes
Not just at the beginning of every New Year
But at the beginning of every new day

That comes
Every moment

I breathe in
Breathe out

In the end there is only God
There is only Love

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

the work of Christmas

“When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people, to make music in the heart.”
                               Howard Thurman

It is somehow fitting that Christmas morning
Started foggy and cold

It is also fitting that the sun broke through
And flooded the frozen forest
With gold

That is the way Christmas works

Christmas is Love, Light, Laughter
Breaking into the grayness of life

Breaking through the hate
And the fear
The anger

Breaking through all that darkness

And bringing us
Something new

You will hear some cry
Jesus is the reason for the season (and of course Jesus is)
You will hear some cry
Jesus was born to die

Funny how even when God comes
Breaking all the rules
Emptying the God self
To be among us

We still want to go to the old
We still want to make it all a transaction

God can only love us if Jesus dies
We have to respond a certain way, mouthing certain phrases
Believing certain things
In order to be saved from eternal conscious torment

Have we learned nothing from Christmas?
Have we learned nothing from Jesus

The Jesus way is radically non transactional
That is why so many will never really get it
(although they will try, and I expect God will honor that, because that is how God is)

That is why certain leaders
Who understand nothing but “I win you lose”
Who are totally committed to quid pro quo
Will never “get Jesus”

Here is Christmas
Distilled down to its basics

Jesus came, lived, and died to show us the possibilities,
to show us what love can do,
to show us a new (non transactional) way of doing life.

Jesus came to show that God invests in us
In our world
God loves us

God hopes we respond in love
God hopes his love “rubs off” on us
And makes us people who love

But the bottom line
God loves us
There is no transaction here

There is only grace
And our grateful response to grace

Which changes everything

We can live in grace and not change (sadly)
But we miss out on so much
We miss out on love
We miss out on generosity
We miss out on joy
We miss out on peace

We can live in grace and not change
Or we can live in grace
And like the Magi, go home another way

We can live life immersed in love
Permeated with love
Giving love

Without demands
Without requirements

It is the God thing to do

So in the end it doesn’t matter
What color a person is
What sexual orientation
What nationality
What faith

It doesn’t matter if they have uttered the proper formulas
Or if they have earned, anything
This is the message of Christmas
This is the truth, that underlies it all

“When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks, the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people, to make music in the heart.”

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The birth of love

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn—
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.
                        Madeline L’Engle

The Christmas seasons asks us to embrace such foolishness and paradox
and a most unlikely cast of characters

I wonder indeed, if in this time
The divine synergy of Christmas would be allowed to emerge
That coming together of such disparate and strange elements

Perhaps Joseph would have been arrested for trafficking
As he attempted to transport that poor, pregnant child
Across a state line.

Perhaps they never would have made it to the city
Their Ford Escort stalled by the side of the freeway

Perhaps the manger would have been a dumpster instead of a barn
with the child nestled among cardboard
And half eaten Big Macs.
His birthplace illuminated by blinking neon
Or the flashing lights of a police cruiser.

Perhaps those gathered to see this thing which had come to pass,
And embrace the hope would be the outcasts
The homeless, ragged, dirty hungry ones
male, female, black, white, all
Sober, drunk, high

Young black men, looking over their shoulders for the police
White bearded veterans, their Vietnam caps pulled low over tired faces
People struggling with depression or psychosis, moving slowly
Over medicated, under medicated, hopeless and afraid
Immigrants, fearful

Drawn to this place by something
Tugging at their hearts

Only to be dispersed by the wail of a siren
Shattering the stillness
And overshadowing
The wail of frail humanity

Perhaps the magi would not only be late
But never show, arrested by ICE and
Detained in an INS camp
Or trapped on the other side of a wall

Perhaps the innocents would still die
Not by violence, but by neglect
The services they needed to live cut by
Legislators more concerned with power and wealth and ideology
Than with people

And yet, it seems
 the Sacred has a way of being born
In all times
And in all places
And in all people

Even here
Even now

no matter how hard we might try
We cannot keep
The sacred from being birthed

Monday, December 23, 2019

all heaven is about to break loose


Tis the night before
The night before

an odd day
without expectation

no quiet stillness
no starry night
no angel choir
no voice echoing in our chamber of fear
be not afraid

this day we trod
we trod
through the debris of life
head down
merely putting on foot in front of the other

that all heaven is about to break loose

we think of common things
of bills to be paid
of marriages unraveling
of children struggling
health failing

we think of taxes (damn Caesar anyway)
and of hunger
and cold

we struggle with the hungry ghosts
of fear and greed
we battle with forces within and without
that pull us into
hate, and racism, and exclusion

and so step by tired step
we plod

eyes fixed on the dusty
manure scattered ground

that all heaven is about to break loose

halting for a moment
at a busy street

to watch a young girl pass by
walking the walk of the very pregnant
a man, her lover,
her husband perhaps,
or maybe her father,
hovering at her side

then walking on again

that all heaven is about to
break loose

Sunday, December 22, 2019

be not afraid

Dear God, please reveal to us
your sublime

that is everywhere, everywhere, everywhere

so that we will never again
feel frightened

my divine love, my love
please let us touch
your face

St. Francis of Assisi


The angels came

They came to Zechariah
and he was afraid
struck dumb with the enormity of the visit

they came to Mary
and she was afraid
although the moment was pregnant with promise

they came to Joseph
and he was afraid
and perhaps puzzled, and even a little humiliated
this was deep stuff
and did God think he, Joseph was a fool?

they came to shepherds
who must have decided that the last batch of wine
had gone a little bad
and who must had looked incredulously at each other
as the skies shone
“Whoa!  Look at that, dude!”

The angels came
and there was fear

but also hope
be not afraid
be not afraid
be not afraid

for you have God all wrong
all wrong
you can be in awe
you can and should be overwhelmed
you should feel the power and presence
and be driven go beyond who and what you are

propelled into a world new
a life new
a heart new
a mind new

but be not afraid

for this God is love
and if you don’t believe it
soon God will prove it

God will come
not growling and threatening
not in power on the clouds

but crying and
reaching for his mother’s breast
a little gift of love
the sacred wrapped up in ragged cloths
and soon, needing to be changed

and you can touch
God’s face

Saturday, December 21, 2019


Just sit there right now
Don’t do a thing.  Just rest

For your separation from God
Is the hardest work in this world.



dark of night they sat
not so noble
not so wise

covered with dirt
and the oil of sheep
a little stinky if all were said

dark of night they sat
perhaps silent
perhaps filling the stony hill
with the sounds of ribald song

dark of night they sat
lowest of the low
with thoughts of God perhaps
or only with thoughts
of cold and hunger
and rejection

perhaps the stars shone
or a brilliant moon

I have my doubts
that they were seeking God that night

but God was seeking them
and in that seeking

those who simply sat
and watched sheep

looked up in surprise and wonder
reached out dirty hands
and touched God

Friday, December 20, 2019

Jesus, the unexpected

There he is.  In the temple again
Causing trouble
Speaking very differently from other preachers
Speaking with authority about sorrow, anxiety, sickness and death
Penetrating the dark corners of human existence
Shattering illusions
Make no mistake about it
This is a dangerous man
                     Martin Bell, The Way of the Wolf

There he is in the manger
Surrounded by animals
Surrounded by outcasts and losers
Surrounded by Magi, heretics from afar

There he is already
On day one
Jesus the revolutionary

Hanging about on the fringes of society
God, slumming it

So it began
And it never changed

Interesting isn’t it, how no one of note showed up
When this king was born
No priests
No Sadducees
No Pharisees

No one with power
No one with wealth

Just those outside the circle of blessing

So it began
And it never changed
He called his disciples from the working poor
He hung out with aliens and outcasts
With Romans, and tax collectors
Widows and lepers
The cripples and the mentally ill

He said he came to set the prisoner free
He said he came to heal the sick

And he said he came to find and save lost

But who were the lost?

The manger gives us the answer
Those who did not find their way to the manger were the lost
Those who did not leave all behind and follow the carpenter were the lost

Herod was lost
The Sadducees and Pharisees were lost
The rich were lost
The arrogant were lost

Not the poor,
Not the sinners
Not those who knew they needed saving

Jesus was a minister to the poor
Jesus was a prophet who challenged the very
Structures and ideologies that kept them poor

He redefined lost
He redefined blessed

And nothing has changed
I suspect Jesus is not to be found in the great cathedrals
In the auditoriums of the megachurches
With their smoke and lights
And audio visuals
And pretentious preachers

I suspect Jesus is not to be found in the halls of power
In Congress
Or the White House
Or in the Board Rooms of big corporations
Or in the corner offices of the obscenely wealthy

Not because Jesus doesn’t want to be there
But because when one is full of power
And focused on wealth

There is little room for “the way”

When one has it all
The last thing one wants, is one who
Calls one to “give it all up”
(Just as the rich young ruler)

The last thing one really wants is “the way” revealed in the manger
The way revealed by Jesus

That way that demands sacrifice
That way which asks us to give all we have and follow
Which asks us to take care of the poor, whether we think they deserve it, or not
And welcome the stranger, whether we are comfortable with them, or not
Which asks us to give to receive
Be to servants rather than rulers

Which asks us to die in order to live

So there he is
In the manger
He looks harmless now
But already the signs are there
This is a dangerous man

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Mary, Mary

There is a reason Mary is everywhere. I've seen her image all over the world, in cafés in Istanbul, on students' backpacks in Scotland, in a market stall in Jakarta, but I don't think her image is everywhere because she is a reminder to be obedient, and I don't think it has to do with social revolution. Images of Mary remind us of God's favor. Mary is what it looks like to believe that we already are who God says we are.
                                                              Nadia Bolz-Weber

Who does God say that we are?
That we are people, much like Mary, who are carriers of God, pregnant with the sacred,
and ready
to Birth God

Ready to be the place where heaven touches earth

Yes, Mary’s role was singular, and yes, she birthed God in a unique and special way
But in those words, which she spoke to Elizabeth
Her story become our story

“My soul magnifies the Lord”

Those words, may say it all.
“My soul magnifies the Lord.”
Magnifies implies make bigger, make greater, enlarge --an image that Mary's burgeoning pregnancy with the messiah certainly makes fitting.  Perhaps it is better to say that to magnify is to make something more easily seen.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,” means that through Mary the Sacred became, more visible,
more concrete.  Mary made God more easily seen.  She brought us Jesus, who was the Sacred in our midst. 

I believe that one of the things that Mary is intended to teach us, is that we too are to be souls who magnify the Lord.  That we too are meant to be people through whom the Sacred becomes real.  People who make it so that others can see God more clearly.

If the Bible is a reliable witness, God works through the ordinary, the common, to become present in the world.

It is not through amazing, brilliant, outstanding people that God works
It is through me and through you,
through the way we choose to live our lives and practice our faith, that God makes Sacred Presence felt in this world.

Each one of us, through our words and our actions, through all that we do, magnifies God. We magnify God’s being with our own bodies. We magnify God’s action with our own practices. We magnify God’s word with our words in the world.  We magnify God’s love with our love.

Of course we must be clear.  This is not, ultimately, about us.  God is the one who acts.

What we do is take God’s love and give it hands and feet and hearts and minds. We collaborate with God in the divine actions of lifting up of the lowly, feeding the hungry.
This is “our job”, as those who would follow the Christ

So a good question to meditate on in the remaining time before Christmas might be: how do I magnify the Lord?  How can I, magnify the Lord?

It is through human beings, through human flesh, this fragile and easily broken substance that salvation happens. It is through us that God works. It is through us that God is magnified.

All it takes is willingness

I love the way Madeline L’Engle puts it in the poem, After the Annunciation

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child.

None of this makes sense
Especially not the idea that we can make God present
That WE can make God present

With all of our problems and failings
All our doubts and fears


Our participation in this miracle
For it is a miracle
Is not logical

Perhaps God should have had better judgement

But God chose us
And all God asks of us
As illogical as it seems
Is what he asked of Mary

All God asks for is our “yes”

But when we say yes
heaven touches earth

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

what happened? after the manger

“Christmas is not a reminder that the world is really quite a nice old place. It reminds us that the world is a shockingly bad old place, where wickedness flourishes unchecked, where children are murdered, where civilized countries make a lot of money by selling weapons to uncivilized ones so they can blow each other apart. Christmas is God lighting a candle, and you don't light a candle in a room that's already full of sunlight. You light a candle in a room that's so murky that the candle, when lit, reveals just how bad things really are. The light shines in the darkness, says St. John, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
                                                              N.T. Wright, For All God's Worth

What happened to those shepherds
who heard the angels sing?

Who saw the darkness dispelled by light
and hear good news for all

What happened to those
Who haphazardly left their flocks
And stumbled through the darkness

To where the baby lay

Were their lives changed?

Did dream wild new dreams?
Were their lives transformed?

Or did they merely wander back into the hills
Pick up their staffs
And sit once again in the cold stillness

The ardor of the moment cooling
The light fading?

What happened to
those odd assorted souls who happened
by the scene

and awkwardly watched
the sight of a motely crew
gathered around a mother and child?

Were they too touched by angle fire
Did they too wander aimless, pondering?

What happened to the cousins and aunts,
the family gathered upstairs in that warmer cleaner space?
Were oblivious to the wonder underneath their feet?
Or did grace rise and touch the room in which they ate
And argued as families do?

What happened to merchants and kings
And magi from afar
As they wondered near or wonder from afar?

What happened?

Surely the only stories are not those
Of mad kings plotting infant deaths
Of magi fleeing in the dark, another way

Surely stories of refugees flights
And violent oppression are not all we have

Surely someone became kinder
Someone loved
Someone forgave

Surely someone felt hope
And someone gazed into the now silent skies,
And remembered

For all that happened
And all that did not happen
The world slouches on its way

Still Christmas comes and goes
Still the air is filled with the sound of singing
And lights twinkle as the stars

Still people gather
And make much of a baby’s birth
And gathered to celebrate

And still when all is said and done
The world returns to its ways
Still the powerful plot
Still the poor suffer
Still fear and hate lead to violence

And yet!
This is not all that we have
An empty celebration that when all is said and done
Leaves the world the same dark place

Yes, the world is indeed “a shockingly bad old place,
where wickedness flourishes unchecked,

And yet
At Christmas the light came into the world
A light in the darkness

A light to show us the way
A light that at times may seem to only flicker
But never goes out

The light of hope, and peace, and joy
The light of love

which is kindled in our hearts

so that sometimes we are kinder
and sometimes we love
and forgive
and give

And sometimes
Even as the light shines in a world murky with darkness
And gaze into the now silent skies,
And remember
And hope

Monday, December 16, 2019

the wrong shall fail, the right prevail

“And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Today I am adulating
Today I am being a responsible adult

Feeding my animals
Cleaning my house
Answering my emails, most cursed things

It is not what I wanted to do when I grew up
I had visions of treks through jungles
Adventures in the far north

I would have a life of adventure
and danger
and triumph

this cowboy, sailor, doctor, fireman
this person who would grow up

hero me

instead I am writing progress notes
and emptying waste baskets
and contemplating shoveling the side walk

Today I am adventing
I want to be Christmasing

I had dreams of being in a Hollywood movie
And that I would be the star of this movie
What a delusion, that
This short haired arthritic limping gnome
Should be the star of a Hollywood movie!

And I am not
I am not immersed in Christmas
Where miracles happen
And love wins

No, I am adventing
I and walking in that dark impatient time
Where resolution is yet to come

My soul resonates with Longfellow
Who beloved wife burned to death
Beloved son wounded by war
Country divided

Bowed his head
In momentary despair

And I too cry
"There is no peace on earth,
For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Not I am not Christmasing
I am Adventing
I am plodding toward Bethlehem in the darkness
And the cold

And yet
I do believe Christmas will come
I do believe that love will prevail

But advent reminds me, that this victory is a somber and costly one
As Bonhoeffer in the cold world of Nazi Germany
A world not that unlike our own, once said

Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness

If we want Christmas
We will have to show up, not in the halls of power
Not in the Capital or the White House
Posing for pictures with the mighty

But in the streets
With the homeless
At the border, with the caged
in the hospital, with the cancer riddle child
in the nursing home, with the abandoned woman or man
whose children never come

If we want Christmas
We will have to fight for it

Not with the weapons of hate
But with the weapons of love

We fight for Christmas
When we feed the poor
When we fight for housing, first
When we welcome the homeless to sleep in our pews
When we say Happy Holiday, and Happy Hanukkah
And have a blessed Kwanza

We fight for Christmas when we hug the person
Who disagrees with us passionately

Call me a fool (many do)
Call me naïve

But even while I am adventing
And stumbling my way through the dark

I believe the light will come
And with Longfellow I affirm

God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”