to live

Here
Forgiveness for us
who did the very thing.
Love for us
who hate.
Refuge for us
who wander, who flee, who are lost.
Mercy Compassion Joy Rest Healing Strength
Presence Welcome Trust Friendship
Healing Peace Reach
Life
all the things
breaking through
the stone
“Now go and tell and do
likewise”
Here in the darkness,
dawn
Him
We to live
this HOPE

My Galaxy

The imaginary lines
I threw out – foolishly,
impulsively – must be reeled back in
Some filament I spun
to create a cloud
hiding the real
picture from view
– unhooked –
by your words of clarity.

I float off into space

looking for another meteorite, planet, satellite, any object … until …
I’ll realize … eventually, finally … the truth
dives in

I’m Venus,
the North Star
I don’t need cobwebs or lifelines
dust motes of broken dreams
I am the Milky Way I can let
you float through
unseen
(uncared)
by me.

thoughts on advent. 2016

I’ve put this annual reflection off, and now it’s Jan 1, 2017. I haven’t wanted to write it because I don’t like to do things for the sake of doing them. I don’t like saying rote things that could be counted as trite, like I haven’t thought about it. Especially to those who are going through pain. I’ve been the recipient of that, and it sucks.

And I’m weary. A lot of people have said that. They have said they are excited to get rid of 2016. But even that makes me weary. I don’t have a lot of hope for 2017.

There’s been quite a few I know who have just been through it. Like you wouldn’t believe. Family members sick, broken relationships, internal turmoil, death … And others  who have been waiting – waiting for jobs, for a change, for health…

And I work for an int’l development agency, and we’re inundated with news of Syria and millions of refugees fleeing. We hear of children trying to cross the border into Texas because of the violence in Central America. And our country is incredibly divided, not to mention our own families at times. And it’s exhausting.

So I want to be careful about saying just words.

As I began this advent, I thought – I’d like to reflect on PEACE. We need peace in us, in our world, all that…isn’t the Christmas story full of peace?

But then I couldn’t find it. Do you know how many times ‘peace’ is mentioned in the Christmas story? Once.

You can’t force a meditation. And truth be told, there wasn’t much peace. Israel was occupied, under another regime.  There’s a lot of waiting. And in that waiting, so much anxiety. So much fear and doubt.

And when I read the part about Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem. It hit home. How tired they must have been. Finally getting there and hearing, ‘no room’. Mary had to have thought (well I personally would have thought) ‘of course, this is just about how I’d expect everything to go based on this year…”

How exhausting it must have been for Mary, both physically and mentally. Was she full of doubts? Doubts that others had certainly placed in her. Fears she herself couldn’t help but have.

And when they did arrive to where they expected to: “No room”, landing in a stable, placing this baby – whom they had been told is the Messiah – in a feeding trough, Joseph must have felt incredibly inadequate as a husband and a father at this moment.

I’m sure the shepherds couldn’t have come at a better time, bursting in shouting ‘where’s the Messiah we’ve heard about?”.

I see both waiting (Simeon, Anna, Israel) and journeys taken (Mary, Joseph, the wise men) in the Christmas story. But the process is the same. The emotions are the same. The inner turmoil and questions still exist whether you are stagnant or wandering.

Were the wise men disappointed to find a baby in the end? How many times did Simeon and Anna ask God, “How long, Oh Lord? How much longer?”

And then Mary and Joseph again having to get up and flee for their child’s life – really holding the destiny of mankind in their hands – leaving a weeping town behind them… because of them.

So often, I tend to get into myself, and my path feels tired, full of doubt, unrelatable. And just when I think I’ve arrived where I wanted to go, it wasn’t what I expected or it’s even scarier than I imagine.
Or I never move.
At all.
And everyone else does.
It can feel incredibly lonely sometimes. And very far from peaceful. And the people I thought I could trust – well, they disappointed me.

So what’s left? What small piece can I take with me as I enter into a new year?

I’d like to be like those shepherds. I’d like to be able and willing to show up in the right moment because I took the opportunity – without hesitation, confirming to a fellow wanderer that they are on the right path. So much of the violence, pain and hatred of 2016 may not have been directed specifically at me or happened to me, but if I can come around and just be some one who says, “I’m here with you”; then I want to be that person.

I’d like to continue on waiting (or moving) despite my fears and doubts. So I have to ask, how could all these people do that? How does anyone? Really there has to be a very deep motivation for either one – greater than all our unmet expectations, disappointments and feelings of inadequacies and loneliness.

The wise men, Shepherds, Joseph, Mary – all had a deep pull, that only a very deep calling could keep them going.  Something – that in the midst of the oppression, fears, doubts, weariness, murderous threats, fleeing, loneliness, trouble – something greater gave them a reason to continue. And continue in what may have seemed to some a bold or scary choice. I want this courage and this passion. This I want to remember and hold on to.

Theirs was a deep hope in the belief that Mary carried the Savior of the world, and that he was called the Prince of Peace.
There. Peace.
Let me again repeat this line from that old Christmas carol: “the hope and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight …”

The Purge

Through the mask
of the screen, device, closed eyes,
you are not a face
I have to care about
or know.

Only words that have offended
my beliefs. My values (character!) questioned,
as I stand scrolling on the bus
or lie in bed

you could be next to me
but your vitriol only
clashes mid-air with mine
fist first – like two villains –
as I hide
behind my rock
cheering (not knowing if you are too –
or if you’re weeping)
I’m right
I’m right
I’m right
I’m right
I’m right

The other

across cracked stone
the river runs
pouring
prideful
rubble red and
cold the sky
a broken reflection across
words in flames and placards

the people stand against the banks
in ranks
a rising stench
the sticks and stones that conquered bones
have built with rhetoric
a fear
begun years and thousands ago
summers of sweat
and placing bets

my hand – I win –
just because I was born
here and now and with this
not yours, not you

I am not
at ease with my own evolution
through no fault of your own
but some one rolled the dice
and I came up
able to breathe out of the river
un-drownable.

American.
Straight.
White.

others
maybe not

birth order and color and status and passport
all seem to make a difference
perception and expectation puts a powdered wig
on truth
a spiraling simplification

by them. by us.
by ‘we the people’
and I have the choice to care
or not care

wall

I pray less now

I’d like to admit something. I got tired of praying. My prayers? They annoyed me.
If you didn’t grow up in the church or are part of a contemporary one now, you may not get what I mean (or totally get what I mean!).

I found myself saying the cliche “I’ll pray for you” and cringing. It became a habit, like a catch phrase for when we have nothing else to say. You know that kind of silence when you’ve heard from your friend about how her dad has cancer or that she just found out she’s lost her job. And it’s a pause. And she’s sniffling. And it’s like a reflexive reaction in your throat to fill any space.. .Nothing..to…say…what … do… aaahh-“I’ll pray for you!”

Or it’s one of those moments when you just want to close the conversation. You’ve heard your friend go on about the issues at home and it’s really just a punctuation compunction flung out… “Hey friend, I-gotta-go, but-I’ll-be-praying-for ya’.”

Yeah…

I honestly believe that words have power. (If you don’t believe me, ask me about the story of how I prayed my brother-in-law into existence…). And I want to mean it when I tell some one that I’ll pray for them and not use it flippantly. And I want to be aware of what I’m praying for like who says “traveling mercies” in real life these days? And why are we asking God to “bless our conversations”?  Like we’re hoping no one will be offended by the mean things we are about to say.

So for awhile, I quit. I quit volunteering to pray before meetings. I quit praying before meals (Was I actually thankful for my meal as I shoved it in my mouth watching Jeopardy?).

And I have to go back to what my grandpa said a long time ago that prayer is about getting to know Christ. It’s a conversation. Not a list, not an aside or a wish or a quick dashed off text “what’s up?”. Not just bubbles that roll off my tongue and float away, empty and unsubstantial.

I know it’s simple. You’d think I’d get it by now. But it’s something I have to remind myself constantly. I have to actually be intentional about. Kind of like how I would want my friends to be with me. How I’d like to be with my friends.

So. I’m trying to pray more honestly now. And I admit, I pray less because of it. Sometimes I don’t pray at all because sometimes I have no clue what to say.

But I don’t want it to speak Christianese. I want to ask myself, ‘do I really mean this?’ “Do I really know what this means?”  “Am I honest in this prayer?”

Telling friends “I’m praying for you.” Well, I don’t mind saying those words, but today I check myself and ask myself, “am I really going to pray for them?”

Sometimes I just say nothing at all but sit with them in silence.