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God does not send in vengeful fury a plague,
but holds the hands of the dying and asks:
What can you learn?
God does not smash the dams, sending
rivers raging over home and hearth,
but heals, shields, restores and asks (oh so gently):
What did you learn?
And when God shows us the beauty of silence,
of water and air free of debris, of nature healing,
and we roar instead for haircuts and sweaty congregation,
ocean-front suntans and the snarl of traffic,
God only sighs and asks, in endless, enduring refrain:
Will you learn?
Will you learn?
Will you learn?

So much divides us.
Our brokenness blares
in the roar of raised voices,
in deeds, once done, binding,
in blame, in bludgeoning beating blame.

Breathe.
No one is out to get you.
We are all just muddling though.
Routine will be restored in good time.
Or not. We will learn to live with change.

There was once a flood.
Tirades against the rising tide
were drowned in the noise of thunder.
When waters ebbed, the world was new.
We breathed, moved onto land, began.

We are all dragging crosses
of one weight or another.
If yours is light, look for
the burdened and take an end.
Try not to shift your cargo
onto the shoulders of another.
Just because you do not see
backs bending with exertion
does not mean great weight
is not borne. If you cry out
and no one hears, remember:
the universe has ears.
Your wail will be recorded
in the nature of the wind,
in storms, in the distress
of newly shorn grass.
It will echo down to the
atoms of loam and clay.
The biosphere must change.
Those who will not bend
will find themselves waking,
as if from sleep, to a world
they only dimly know, a place
where touch leaves ripples,
even in air, and hearts can leap
like fish across whole oceans.

Just in time for Easter — the second of my collaborations with Krissy Mosley of Visionarie Kindness. The topic was suggested by Miss Ruth, a meditation on the storms currently battering the life of a mutual friend. No matter how dark our nights are, Easter always arrives. (My words are in italics; Krissy’s in regular type.)

I see prayers being answered.
I see clouds gather like a furrowed brow.
I see miracles so clear, light blue skies before the evening
I see storms mounting, a menagerie of shades of gray
I see nations closing the gap not out of fear but faith.
I see faith fragile as an old bone.
I see a faith that crosses religious lines
Wind whipping, blowing change faster

interconnections — preceding daybreak.
than we ourselves can follow.

Purified waters in hyssop, “washed whiter than snow”
God spreads his hands and smiles.

God with blue ink, he writes upon our red hearts
Nothing is written in stone

just so you know.
God visits our tears
He wipes them with holes
in his hands.
He says to me — He says to all of man
I bear it, my child, you’re not alone.
And, in an instant, Easter morning.

Today marks an auspicious occasion: The first (I hope of many) poetic collaborations between Krissy Mosley (of Visionarie Kindness) and me! Let me tell you a bit about Krissy. See, I write poems; Krissy creates wordscapes. You see her poems. You smell them. You taste them. They take you from the low rumbling of words mumbled in a darkened room to the soaring heights of a gospel anthem. Please do check out her blog!

A word of explanation: Krissy’s words are in bold, mine in italic. You can read the poems separately, or as one, which I believe is the way they were always meant to be.

We taste hope just as the first lizard of the morning sticks out her tongue 
You’d not notice.
It takes, as they say, an eye.

to catch the beauty of the blue-winged dragonfly
Still, spring cannot be contained;
it bursts into bud: daffodils nodding,
blonde and careless, trees shaking down

three-doors down, in a small caddis, vagrant-vacant lot dripping with hunger 
petals, unseasonal flurries. New grass
pokes shyly from the lawn, and smells,
cut, just as it did last summer.

Hope has no fairy tales with rewarding endings 
We are not the same, shaken
as only the most microscopic
menaces can make us. Yet.
Hopes lives in the lives of shattered things 
Nothing can impede the rush to Easter.
The stone rolls away, light as an egg.
destined for rapture, of better things
What lies inside is awaiting us.

You’ve seen the memes, the stories on the news. People are having a difficult time with social distancing. I ran into a church friend at the grocery store last night, and it was all I could do to refrain from hugging her. Right now, being together is not good for us. But how can we cope with being alone? It will take a journey to the center of ourselves to find the answers.

Though you fill a room with silence,
you are not alone.
Though you thrash in a sea of panic,
you are not lost.
Instead, remember:
everything you do is sacred;
every movement a dance.
Let your touch be only healing.
Draw energy from the sun.
Turn with purpose toward
what is essential and cull
with tenderness what is not.
Do not lose yourself.
Let the holy within you rise
to greet silence as a friend
and enter into prayer
that moves and lives
and has being in you
for as long as it lasts.
Gethsemane surrounds us.
But Easter is coming.

In light of Lent, let us contemplate perhaps the lowliest of substances, dust. Ash Wednesday was yesterday; it is a day on which we are reminded that we are all dust and that we will return to dust one day. But is that really so bad? I am reminded of a glorious poem by Carl Sandburg called “Grass.” In a similar vein (and with apologies), I present the following.

Stir up a commotion,
Watch me rise and fall.
I am dust; I persist.

And when the woman is caught in adultery
I will be Christ’s pregnant pause, his ledger.
And when blind men plead for a cure,
I will be made mud — and then, a miracle.
And when apostles shake me from their feet,
I will be a pronouncement against the inhospitable.
I can be swept, but never contained. I always return.
I am dust.
Let me settle.

This past weekend, I was the lead speaker at a writer’s workshop.  I had forgotten just how badly this freaks me out until I spent two days absolutely certain I had a virus.  Stomach problems, head aches, hot and then cold.  “I can’t get sick now!”  If I remember correctly, my twenty year-old actually called the truffle he gave me placebo-chocolate.

In small groups, people don’t bother me.  But put me in front of a lecture hall and . . . am I running a fever?  That said, I always say YES and have a great time once things are underway.

I didn’t realize until recently just how gutsy it is to follow our talents where they take us.  My son is a mechanical engineering student.  It is an understatement of epic proportions to say this course of study is tough.  Every now and again he’ll leave a page or calculus or physics on the table and it always looks like something Sheldon would have written on his dry erase board in Big Bang. 

Listening to him and his fellow students discuss who has flunked what and who has miraculously made it through on one try astonished me.  Seriously?  I never flunked a class.

Of course, I never took calculus let alone Calc III.  But last week I saw a Tweet that brought it home for me.  I can’t find it to quote it but it went something like this, “I got a 2.4 my first semester as an engineering student but now I’ve landed craft on Mars twice.  STEM is hard for everyone.  Stick with it.”

So often we think that if we are gifted in an area, if God has given us a talent, it will be easy.  But is that really true?  My most well-received books have all been brutal to write but well worth the effort.  My God-given talent doesn’t make the job easy but it does make it possible.

Speaking of which . . . back to work!

–SueBE

Radiant with faith, they arrived on my doorstep. Something, they said, had brought them here. We talked for a while about faith practices, about the search for God, and they left me with their literature, which I perused. And I considered. Most of it was a history, and as most histories are, fraught with conflict. But not all of it. There, scattered, were the jewels of most religions: ideas like forgiveness, mercy, justice, love.

If we could visualize a giant Venn diagram of all religious practices, the overlapping places — the places we converge — give us our best and most direct look at what and who God really is. The rest — the places we differ — are just housekeeping. Potato, po-tah-to. If only we could concentrate on what we have in common, rather than what keeps us apart, we would be the better (and dare I say, holier) for it.

Eradicate the pageantry.
Strip the faith down to its bones.
Lay it open as an autopsy,
as brutal and as frank: look.
There among the many threads
we’ve woven into coats (the coats
that mark us one from another)
is a single strand. It is red
with heart’s blood; it is white
with hope, pink with raw forgiveness.
Grasp it in your hand. It will lead
you out of the labyrinth of rancor.
Silence will visit you there, and
you will see what you are meant to see:
It was all set up ahead of time.
There was no mystery,
only abundant clues.

During last Sunday’s service, the pastor discussed Peter’s vision of a sheet descending from heaven (Acts 10: 9 – 16).

About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.  He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance.  He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners.  In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air.  Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.”  But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.”  The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.”

As explained by Pastor Sean, this passage is so much more than permission to lift Jewish dietary restrictions.  It is a call to change. Not only did Peter change what he ate, he took the Word to the Gentiles, a people previously unreached by God.

This vision was an instruction to take the church and make it something new.

For Peter, that meant moving among the Gentiles.  Since most of us are Gentiles, it has to mean something different today. Personally, I think it is a call to change how we move throughout the world.  Previously, Christianity was a tool of conquest.  Come, believe, and we will shape you after our image.

Instead, we need to get to know people.  See them.  Listen to them.  Ask questions.  It isn’t like I’m inventing this.  It is taken from Christ’s own experience.

As he walked the roads.

As he sat in the gardens.

As he ate among the people.

He saw them, heard them, and healed them.

–SueBE

 

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