O would I have the courage, Holy One,
arrested and confined by order of
a king whose patience I have tried again,
again, again; awaiting Babylon’s
revenge against this king I criticize;
now scorned by the religious leadership
who prate of Your assured deliverance
when I have thundered of your certain wrath —

O would I have the courage, Holy One,
to do as Jeremiah, change my tune,
and speak of righteous branches ripening
beyond my straining sight, to speak of hope
while watching the fulfillment of my words
in armies, soldiers, fire, blood, and death.
O would I have the courage, Holy One,
to testify to hope within the gloom?

A poem/prayer based on Jeremiah 33:14-16, the Revised Common Lectionary Hebrew Bible reading for Year C, Advent 1.

Photo by Eric Anderson

The Folded Peacock

PeacockThis week’s story is about a bird who is not native to these islands, but I’m pretty sure you know about them. Some do live here. This story is about a peacock.

Have you seen one?


I need to mention that since the beginning of Creation all the way up to the present day, there has never been such a thing as a humble peacock. Not one.

I guess they’ve got good reason. Their chests and necks are covered with feathers so blue that the sky looks down in awe. They wear a crest on their heads with is daring and delicate. And when they spread their tails in a great fan of feathers, those eye shapes glow as if with their own light.

It’s hard to say anything other than that they’re magnificent.

The peacock I want to tell you about was widely acknowledged to have the finest tail fan of his generation. The blues and greens were deeper, and they glistened brightly. There were silvers and golds in the eye patterns that were unique, and somehow the fan felt fuller, with less transparent gaps, than any of his fellows.

Among a species of magnificence, he was at the top.

He became concerned over the years, however, as he saw signs of wear begin to appear on the tails of other peacocks. He’d married a very nice peahen, and they’d raised a number of chicks during that time. But he noticed that time was not being kind to the tails of other peacocks.

Some were less careful, perhaps, to keep their tail feathers out of the dust or even muddy areas, and the dirt would dull their glistening feathers. A quick rinse would take care of most of that, but then there were other problems. The dirt would also pull at the feathers themselves, tearing away the little bits that made the fan connected.

The eye patterns would lose their shape sometimes when brambles or branches pulled the barbs of the feather apart, and sometimes pulled them away, leaving gaps.

The worst seemed to happen as a peacock opened his tail into that great fan. Hooks on the barbs would catch in the wrong place, hauling the feather out of shape. Feathers would cross each other, causing more damage.

Worst of all, the peacock considered, was when a bird lost a tail feather or two, and fanned his tail anyway. He didn’t approve of leaving those holes.

So he stopped displaying his tail.

It wasn’t enough, he thought, to carefully carry his tail above the dust and dirt, or open it gently to the eyes of others. An open tail came with the risk of wind guests, and sudden rain, and a score of other dangers. He kept his tail tightly closed.

A new generation of peacocks grew up with the stories: “This bird over here has the most amazing tail fan I’ve ever seen.” The tale-tellers would describe the appearance as they remembered it.

Their hearers, I regret to say, didn’t entirely believe them, and certainly didn’t understand that their glowing descriptions didn’t do justice to the stunning reality. The tail became a legend that could not be demonstrated, a glory that was cloaked in words.

None of you are peacocks, but you do have wonders about you: perhaps you sing, or build things, or paint things. Perhaps you are good at kind words; perhaps you have a wide, friendly smile. Those things are meant to be shared, not hidden away.

I hope that you’ll have the courage to risk your talents to the world: Risk singing, or painting, or helping, or smiling, or whatever you have to share.

Have courage. Share it. And let this peacock be the last creature to be afraid to share his gifts.

Photo Credit: By Alex Pronove (alexcooper1) – Own work, CC BY 2.5,

The Climber

christmas-treeThe boy in this story loved to climb. Oh, my, how he loved to climb.

He was young – three or four years old, say – and he climbed everything in sight. If there was a chair, he’d climb it. If there was a stair, he’d climb it. If there was a sofa, he’d swarm up it until he perched on its back. If there was a bush, he’d worm his way among the branches until his face poked out the top. Hills and counters were all one to him.

His favorite, of course, was to climb people (he was three or four, after all). Seated people were the easiest, but he’d clamber up the standing people as well. One moment he’d be on the floor, and the next moment he’d be waving from the shoulders.

It’s possible, just possible, that he got a little help on the way up to the shoulders.

There was one exception to his love for climbing, though, and it was the stepladder his parents set out when it came time to decorate the Christmas tree. I don’t know why he didn’t like it. Maybe it wiggled in some way that seemed wrong. Maybe the steps were too far apart. Maybe he didn’t like the color (it was bright yellow, and doesn’t that just scream “Danger!”?).

Whatever the reason, when his parents set it out so that he could climb onto it to put decorations on the tree, he wouldn’t go near it. He didn’t even put his hand on the uprights, let alone a foot on the treads. He placed his ornaments from the safety of the ground and, it must be admitted, from the extended arms of his father who held him out like a person-shaped crane.

Even at three or four, though, he knew that a ladder shouldn’t hold him back (or at least on the ground), and he determined that next Christmas he’d make a start on that ladder. He wouldn’t go for the top – not yet – but maybe the first rung would be an accomplishment.

That’s how it went. The next year he summoned his faltering courage and put one shaking foot on that first tread, then the other. Between the step and his growing height, he could reach further up the tree with his ornaments. The next year, on the second step (and still taller), he reached higher still.

He was determined to reach that highest step, and place the star on top of the tree with his own hands. Someday. Year by year, little by little, he’d make his way there.

Has he reached the top? Well, no. He’s still young, and there’s a few steps left on the ladder. He’s making progress, though, each year a step higher.

He knows where he wants to go. He knows what heights he wants to reach. He knows that he wants to be the one to place the star.