In the Light of Day

IMG_4187My first prayers this morning, God,
were made with a light heart;
well, lighter than the prayers that followed.
More screams, more shots, more deaths
I did not need to see to grieve.

Details slowly filtering in. Death count
rising. Victims unsurprised but scared.
“Eventually it was going to happen here.”
Dear God. Dear God. Dear God.

And then the sun shone through my window.

And I remembered:

Brightly colored winter coats glinting in the sunshine
as their wearers fled their school,
leaving classmates, teachers, friends
slain behind them.

And I remembered:

Sun blazing over lines of students
older, tears a-streaming, fleeing,
leaving classmates, teachers, friends
slain behind them.

And I saw:

Sun blazing over lines of students today
filing toward their buses home,
leaving classmates, teachers, friends
slain behind them.

The sun seared my eyes through eyelids closed
to stopper flowing tears.
“All who do evil hate the light,” said Jesus.
But in our times, they work their evil
in the light.

If this is what we do by day, O God,
then let each day be blanketed with clouds.

But no. We can not hide. We must not shade our eyes.
In blazing sun, exposing all
hypocrisy, pretense, and lies, I pray:
Change our hearts, O God.

Let us love our children,
let us love our neighbors,
let us love the stranger
more than we love power:
The power at a moment’s notice
to deprive a soul of life.

Let your clear light reveal our love,
and not, once more or ever,
the tragic consequences
of our fear.

Amen.

Can I Pray For…?

DSC_0189Can I pray for peace, O God,
when the bullets fly
and the blood soaks
the weeping soil?

Can I pray for shelter, O God,
when the houses burn
and the earth yawns wide
to breathe out fumes?

Can I pray for safety, O God,
when leaders condemn
the innocent with the guilty?
“They’re animals.”

Yet what else can I do, O God?
I raise my voice for peace.
I rush to help the volcano-shocked.
I condemn the condemnation.

What more can I do, O God,
but pray that You
will have more agency
than I.

Amen.

Mother’s Day 2018

Madonna and Child_Alaverdi_Theotokos,_GeorgiaIronically, this piece begins with this brief reflection from 2017:

Mother’s Day is not the easiest day for me. My mother died young, just as I was learning to appreciate her and not rebel against her. I don’t know what it is to be an adult with a mother. The marvelous woman who married my father many years later has certainly brought abundant new joys into his life, and mine, and those of my brother and my kids.

There are other losses, too, that grow sharp for me on this day, so I wish you joy with you mothers as long as you have them – and healing for the hearts broken by cluelessness, carelessness, callousness, and cruelty in that relationship we call “motherhood.” Make it a blessed, if not a happy, Mother’s Day.

Motherhood is… complicated.

It gets thrust on people unexpectedly, sometimes through a biological birth, and sometimes not. The most dearly desired children in the world surprise their parents – their mothers – with urgent, expected-yet-unanticipated demands. Post-natal depression strips many new mothers of their strength. Simply feeding a newborn is shockingly difficult.

Since ages and ages past, human beings have equated a woman’s worth with her ability to bear children. The Bible’s first book is a litany of discounted womanhood. Sarai/Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel – all three find their fertility only in the miraculous intervention of God. Despite the fact that all three are dearly loved by their husbands and family, all three live in despair until their labor of prayer becomes the labor of delivery.

Poor Rachel. She loses her life to bearing her husband’s twelfth son (her second child), and even her dying wish to name the boy is ignored as Jacob/Israel named Benjamin himself.

Motherhood is… not easy.

It startles me, therefore, how many women, how many people, step forward to do it. They take on the biological demands, and then they take on the relational demands. Even more, with no genetic kinship at all, offer the nurturing, supportive relationship of mothering to the children of others. They may be hanai mothers, or foster mothers, or adoptive mothers, or no-formal-relationship-but-you-know-who-cares-for-you mothers, or simply somebody who, in the moment, gave you the comfort your mother was not there to give.

There’s no gender requirement for that.

Let’s face it, there are also the disappointments for children of… complicated mothers. Illness, addiction, violence, trauma, separation, death, and more can and do separate mothers from those they wish to love. Other mothers, for these reasons and more, simply never love well. To be in the mother’s place is not the same as adopting the mother’s role. To adopt the mother’s role is not the same as living it well.

When violence, trauma, separation, or death come, it leaves a wound in the child, the other parent, the rest of the family, the gathered community. We remember those wounds each day, and each Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day is… complicated.

So I’ll renew my prayer from another year: May Mother’s Day come to you with blessing. May Mother’s Day bring some healing from the losses and the sorrows. May Mother’s Day bring you some more strength for the labor of mothering. May Mother’s Day bring you more appreciation of your parents’ struggles, and better equip you to support them. May Mother’s Day remind you that we have a fully dependable Mother in God, who gathers us beneath Her wings.

May Mother’s Day come with blessing. Amen.

The image is an 11th century fresco in the Alaverdi Cathedral in Georgia.

What Sounds Do Angels Hear?

What sounds do angels hear?

The soft deep moan of rolling stone,
sand crunched to sand beneath,
softly sighing air drawn through
the widening portal. 

What sounds do angels hear?

Did these working tones obsure
the insects’ songs, the chattering leaves,
the scrape of claws, the murmuring brook
around the corner of the hill?

What sounds do angels hear?

The night-bound stillness
of the sleeping city,
stones sighing as they settle,
a thousand dreaming murmurs?

What sounds do angels hear?

The sudden inhaled breath,
the heartbeat strong beyond all hope,
cloth scraping over stone and skin,
the sudden thud of feet upon the floor?

What sounds do angels hear?

The splash of tears on dust?
A meditative humming? Deep-drawn breaths?
Or, after a silence to encompass all the world,
a gale of laughter from the deepest wells of joy?

What sounds do angels hear? 

Haste

Meersburg_Neues_Schloss_April_2010_1020028aHaste, haste!
The storm clouds still obscure
The sky, but worse, the darkness
Of the Sabbath looms.

Haste, haste!
To pull the blood-slick nails
From flesh now unresisting,
Blood no longer flowing.

Haste, haste!
To lower the once-living form
And lay it in the waiting shroud:
No time for spices, they must wait.

Haste, haste!
To carry our beloved One observed
By soldiers and centurion who said,
“This man was truly God’s own son.”

Haste, haste!
The tomb at hand, the body placed
To wait two nights until
We may return with spice.

Haste, haste!
For now, all done which may
Be done, our eyes may stream
With our Good Friday tears.

The image is by Waldemar Flaig.

Really, Jesus?

Robert_Leinweber_001

Really, Jesus?

Last Sunday, it was, “Go and find a donkey.
Then untie it, lead it here, so I may ride.”

Just anybody’s donkey, Jesus?
Don’t you know that they’ll object?

“Just say, ‘The Master needs it.’ That
Will do.” You think? You think it will?

How embarrassing for us, my friend:
It did.

So now, the festival at hand, it’s time
To take the lead for once, and ask:

“So Jesus? Do you have a plan,
And where should we prepare the meal?”

We ought to have known better. “Find
a man who bears a jug of water in

His arms, and follow him. The place
He enters is the place. The table

Will be in the upstairs room.
Prepare the feast; we’ll follow!”

Really, Jesus? Find a man and follow him
Because he bears a jug of water?

How embarrassing for us: it worked.
I guess we’ll have to trust you, Jesus, now.

Wherever you may go from here,
To all the dizzy heights of power, be

Assured we’ll go. We’re right with you.
I’ll not deny you once, nor let alone

This weird prediction of three times.
The rooster can withhold its cry

Until the crack of Doom, and still
I promise I will not deny.

Until, of course, I shout, “I do not know
The man!”

Then weep and weep and weep.

Really, Jesus.

The image is Peter’s denial by Anton Robert Leinweber. 

A Prayer over the Ashes (Ash Wednesday 2018)

File Feb 14, 1 28 24 PMHoly One,

As our ancestors donned ashes to show their sorrow and grief, we take on ashes today. We grieve for our losses and suffering, the loved ones who have gone from us, the hardships we have known, and the evils we have suffered. Comfort and heal us, Gracious God, in the ashes of our grief.

We sorrow also in the sins we have committed: the evils we have done to one another, the mercies we have failed to offer, the kindnesses we have failed to share. May the grief we show in these palm ashes guide us to a closer journey in your ways.

With these gritty marks, O Holy One, on head or hand or simply taken deeply in our hearts, let us leave behind the ashes of our past misdeeds and suffering. May we follow new and better ways with you. Guide, forgive, renew, and heal us, by the merciful power you have shown in Jesus Christ our Savior.

Amen.

“Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return, in the love and grace of God.”