A heart aware

         Be on guard
         so that your hearts are not weighed down
         with dissipation and drunkenness
         and the worries of this life,
         and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.

                        —Luke 21.34-35

God, wake me from the fog of my low expectations,
the cement of worry that clings to my feet.
Help me shake off the world’s despair,
its pointless habits, desires and attachments,
the awful busyness, the downward spiral
of judging, consuming, and protecting myself.
Give me the courage to trust you are moving and acting;
give me the vision to embrace the unimaginable.
Help me stand with clarity and purpose.
Give me the urgency to act—for now is the time—
and the patience to wait for the fullness of time.
May I look upon the world with eyes of grace,
and act with a heart of love and hope.
Amen.

   —November 30, 2018

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Be alert

         Be alert at all times.
                  —Luke 21.36

You have to know how to look
and where
among the distress of the nations,
the fear and foreboding,
to see the little fig leaves,
the subtle bursts of possibility,
God’s faint but certain emergences,
the little gracelets that abound
and clue you in
on what is coming upon the world.
Look for the child who endures,
the woman who persists,
the beauty that subverts,
the love that sneaks in.
Watch for the free, outlandish life
that is not yet done arriving.
“That’s just the way it is”
isn’t the way it is.
Look till you see.
Dance till the music
can’t help but start.
Don’t miss a single birdsong.
You may have to silence yourself,
shed earbuds, turn off the TV,
and the one in your head.
The mercy that does not pass away
shows itself to those who are watching.
In the gray streets,
among the rows and columns,
the mystery keeps happening
and happening
and happening.

―November 29, 2018

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A great disturbance

        The powers of the heavens will be shaken…
                        —Luke 21.26

A great disturbance approaches—
but not some dire calamity flung upon us,
the fantasy engorged preachers like to invoke.
No, it’s a greater upheaval:
a rift in the very fabric of selfishness,
a disturbance in the powers of evil.
God knows the secret, fatal weakness
of the Opponent of Life:
his power is built entirely on lies and fear.
Even the simplest truth unravels it.
Even the smallest gift, the most subtle beauty,
shakes the powers.
The energy of love overpowers evil,
converts it, as light does darkness.
God mends this troubled world
not by mounting a war of good against evil
but by sending a helpless child,
a child who prevails, not by winning—
for eventually evil will kill the child—
but by evoking such unkillable love in our hearts
that the powers in the heights are shaken.
So when we see these things we raise our heads,
for our redemption is drawing near.

   —November 28, 2018

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Righteous branch

         I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David,
         who shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

                        —Jeremiah 33.15

God,
I know we are destroying your planet,
brutalizing children at the border,
while the Emperor spews hatred and fear.
I don’t need to know the future,
nor even that you know the future,
don’t need to be able to imagine how
in the world
a righteous branch might spring up
and save us.
I only need to know you are here,
and in the root of the trees even now
letting their last leaves go
you are here,
your bud already swelling,
ready for the cold,
you are here, your light already turning,
in the dust and dark and final confusion,
in the the sharp rocks and edges of the last road,
your child already coming,
among us, maybe even within us,
ready for the risk,
his beautiful little face lifting us into a different life,
your arms already sweeping us up.
Snow falls,
and a bud ripens.

November 27, 2018

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My neighbor’s tree

All summer my neighbor’s tree offered its leaves
and the summer sun filled it with light.
Then it offered itself naked
and the moon filled it with light.
Now my neighbor sets up a ladder
and fills the tree with light.

Fill me, God,
in whatever way you will.

   —November 26, 2018

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Dare give thanks

         Consider the lilies of the field…
                        —Matthew 6.28

Consider the lilies,
made beautiful.

Dare give thanks
not just for what you have,
give thanks
for who you are.

Your gratitude itself
will be a blossom
of loveliness.

   —November 22, 2018

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Smoky Thanksgiving (Sing anyway)

Praying for the California fires

It’s hard to sing a lusty thanksgiving hymn
with such smoke in the air,
smoke of trees and dust and houses,
cars and carpets, grass and cellos,
tires and flesh and pictures in their frames,
bodies of the dead and of the living, burned,
hard to take a deep breath and sing
breathing death.

But, child, the air has never been clear.
We breathe the ghosts of strangers’ grief,
the breath of forests, the very air of death.
We breathe the dust of our ancestors,
the flesh of neighbors,
we breathe our enemies’ cremains,
the pall of furnaces still hanging.
The ash of our bombings, dispersed like incense,
is on our lips as we sing
both alleluia and eleison.

It does not dull our song, this dust.
To breathe the fouled air of our common frailty,
the dust of our misdeeds and undoings,
the song of slaves, the hymns of the long march,
to take it in, to breathe it deep,
it doesn’t clot our lungs,
but only adds the darker harmonies
to heartsick hallelujahs that we sing,
sing choking something back at times, but sing,
if only to remember
what we’re choking back,
what we’ve lost, what we haven’t lost,
sing, gasp, and wail and plead, and sing,
sing anyway.

November 20, 2018

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Endure

The angel says to the three year old
and the aging on their deathbeds,
to the victor and victim alike:

you will endure,

but not like this.

_________________

Weather Report

Passing.
Clouds that once were seas,
moved by winds whose nature is to move,
will shape-shift continually
as long as there is light,
and there will always be light.

   —November 19, 2018

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The Resistance

         When you hear of wars and rumors of wars,
         do not be alarmed….
         The good news must first be proclaimed to all nations….
         You will stand before governors and kings because of me,
         as a testimony to them.
         The Holy Spirit will speak through you…..

                        —from Mark 13.7-13

Jesus describes the birth pangs:
a new world is being born out of this one.
But then he goes on to say:
You are the midwife of the world being born.
You are the mother giving birth.
You are the new birth.

In this world of hate and greed and fear
you are the Resistance.
You are a revolutionary,
not by heroic acts of destruction or rebellion
but by acts of grace and mercy.
It is love that subverts the world.
Every moment of beauty or generosity
undermines the foundation of this world
of consumption and conflict.
Every act of gentleness and forgiveness
tears down the walls of the Empire,
not one stone left on another.
The Spirit overthrows the world
through you.

Resist the empire of violence
with acts of love.
Even the smallest ones are powerful.
Not merely lovely, the widow’s mite
is dynamite.

   —November 16, 2018

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Threshing floor

Nothing is preordained.
The Fates are only wishes.
(Gift is better than destiny.)
But more impends for you, world,
than you imagine.
The gravity of grace
draws us always
toward blessing.
Those who have a heart for you
are already moving
in early morning dark.
There are those
who do not know
their welcome for you
waits within them.
Dear world,
you widowed foreigner,
precious Ruth, bereft,
worn fine by hard journeying,
your faithful love
completes you.
The light that will guide us all
ripens in your guts.
You are about
to be redeemed.
Go down to the threshing floor.
Blessing awaits.

   —November 9, 2018