Halloween party

There is in me a monster,
a queen, a cadaver, a cartoon character.
I know they’re there.
I invite them all to come,
dressed their best,
a community of great oddness and beauty,
and get to know each other.
Let the angel in me look silly
bobbing for apples,
my demon accept with grace
that everyone recognizes him
though he looks like a movie star.
Let the strong man need help with his popcorn,
the beauty queen with her padding.

Welcome, all my neuroses and foibles,
delusions, fears and addictions, welcome!
There is candy enough for all, and games.
Every single one of you gets treats
and a prize for your costume.
Enjoy yourselves and one another.
When it gets dark
your parents will bring you home
and you will take a bath, the saving font,
put on your familiar pajamas
and climb into the bed of me
and rest.
And with a prayer for my little ones
I too will go to bed, and pray to God
my soul to keep.

 

What God likes

         When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him,
         “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”
         So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.
         All who saw it began to grumble and said,
         “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”

                  —Luke 19.5-7
 

Like two old friends,
God and the sinner.
Here’s the scandal:
The Beloved actually, really
wants to be with you.
Imagine that.
The Loving One sees you
in your awkwardness,
uncomfortably hanging on
in your ridiculous perch,
knows all about the gossip,
and still can think of nothing
more desirable
than being with you.
At your place. On your terms.
It’s this simple.
The Holy One wants to be with you.
No condescension.
It’s no job requirement.
God likes being with you.

God likes being with you.

God likes being with you.

 

Christ’s glory

         May the name of our Lord Jesus be glorified in you,
         and you in Christ, according to the grace of our God
         and the Lord Jesus Christ.

                  —2 Thessalonians 1.12

Today may you shine with Christ’s glory,

as surely as Christ shines more brightly
because of you.

May you shine with God’s grace this day,
transparent to God’s mercy and love.

May God breathe deeply in you,
and make you true to your call.

Know that for your sake prayer is offered
and gratitude given, with hope and joy.

Today may you be Christ’s glory,
and Christ be yours.

 

From Zacchaeus’ journal

I never look sillier than
         trying to compensate for shortcomings.

I thought I just wanted to see.
         Did I know I really wanted to be seen?
         
He had me treed.
         Still does.

Had he waited for me to invite him
         I would still be up that tree.

There was no getting around.
         The only way down was through him.

He loved me
         before it was cool to love me.

Some say he didn’t see my unworthiness,
         but he’s not blind to such trauma.

It was not pity that brought me down,
         it was kinship.

He accepted me even before I repented.
         I changed even before he blessed me,

as if something happened
         before either of us moved.

How did my guest become my host,
         my table become his?

Who knew I had such a generous heart?
         What he sees that we don’t!

It wasn’t just forgiveness but reconnection
         that he called salvation.

I am my own
         walking miracle.

 

How I pray

When I walk in woods
I go not to get somewhere,
not to ponder, not to think.
I go there to be there.
I look and see what I see.
I hear what I hear.
I enter. I notice.
And I am allowed.
I am no stranger here
or even in strange places.
They know me.
I am of this same earth,
fashioned of the same soil.
They do not judge.
They offer their being
as if speaking.
I let them bless me.
For the rest of the day
they breathe in me.
Their colors, their songs
ooze from me all day.
I am always still there.

 

The view from where you are

Do you ever find yourself in a hazy suburb
and feel you’re standing at the edge of the ocean
roaring in your ears, or maybe above a great chasm
of stars swirling beneath you in breathing darkness?

Mount the porch steps and turn around
and take in the vast view from the mountain top
you’ve just climbed, its dangerous peaks and ridges
entirely inside you only bigger?

Sometimes the view from where you are
is nothing like where you are, the world nowhere near
as small, even the singular world you are,
so much greater on the inside than out.

 

The vision does not tarry

         How long, God, will you tolerate wrongdoing?
         Destruction and violence are before me;
                  there is strife, and conflict abounds.

         The law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.
                  The wicked hem in the righteous,

                  so that justice is perverted.

         There is still a vision for the appointed time.
                  If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
                  it will surely come, it will not delay.

         Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them,
                  but the righteous live by their faith.

         Moreover, wealth is treacherous;
                  the arrogant do not endure.
                           —Habakkuk 1.2-4, 2.2-5

Beloved One,
         I root myself in your grace.

Others are blinded by anxiety
         but I see your vision of peace.

Others may gasp for air and grasp
         but I breathe in your love
         and rest in your mercy.

Others may live by desperate strife
         but I receive your blessing.

I trust your faithfulness.
         I open myself to your grace.

Beloved, I live by your love.
         I live by your love.

 

Two people went up to pray

Two people came into the temple to pray.

A white man came up front and prayed,
“God, I thank you that I’m not black.
Thank you that I’m not a woman, or gay,
or was abused as a child.
I mind my own business,
and I believe in you.”

An undocumented immigrant woman
forced to work the street
stood at the back and prayed,
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

I tell you, she went home closer to God
than the other.

For all who are full of themselves
will be empty of anything else.
But those who make room for God
will shine with glory.

 

God, be merciful

         But the tax collector, standing far off,
         prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
         I tell you, this one went home justified rather than the other.

                  —Luke 18.13-14

                                    •

                      There is no deserving; there is only belovedness.
                      There is no being right; there is only being open.
                      Faith is not certainty; it is reaching out.

                                    •

Merciful One,
I come not by my merit, but by your love.

I open myself to your mercy,
not in deserving but in wonder
and gratitude.

I am not righteous; I am loved.
I am not bad or rotten;
I am in need of your mercy.

For all my sin you offer mercy.
For all my achievements you offer mercy.

Merciful One,
I need you. I trust you.
With empty hands, wide open,
I turn to you for mercy.

God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

 

Harvest

Trees burn with autumn colors.
Sky smokes and smolders.
Berries ripen, soften, wrinkle and fall.
Ferns have gone gold and brown,
frost brings them down. Leaves die
and dive or dance, or spiral down
or drown in the darkening brook.

We put the garden to bed, and cut
stems back, its vines gone black.
Tomato plants look weary now.
Life is a ragged leaf,
its edges rough, bug-eaten,
a leaf that’s going to fall.

Burt wait.

All this sad talk of autumn death and loss
just isn’t right.
Too much defeat and diminishment.
It isn’t all decay.
This is a time of harvest,
of showing your true colors,
of offering what is ripe and beautiful
and life-giving.
Those tomatoes are just coming on.
If I hang the vines with faith
I’ll still be eating ripe ones in December.
What may look like a day of death
is a day of fullness.

The trees are brilliant,
startling in their brashness.
They’re old enough to get away with it.
Brilliant.