In between things
is the silence that holds everything together.
Enter the silence and return to the root,
the place where you are held together.
The substance of the divine,
perfectly clear and transparent.
The silence in which the Virtuoso
sings you into being.
The blank page where
the Beloved is drawing you.
The darkness in which God says
“Let there be light.”
Enter the holy temple
and sing that hymn.
as the whole earth dwells in the pause
between the breath out
and the breath in.
June 17, 2020
I looked at the tree blossoming in spring
and said, “Who are you?”
And she said, “I am God, of course, becoming beautiful.”
And I beheld her.
I looked at the sea and said, “Who are you?”
and the same voice said, “It is I, flowing within you.”
And I opened myself.
I listened to the silence and said, “Who are you?”
and she said, “I am holding you.”
And I listened more.
I looked at my troubles and said, “Who are you?”
and I heard: “I am your own broken heart.”
And I wept with gratitude.
I looked at the suffering of the world
and I asked, “Who are you?”
and she said, “I am in labor pains.”
And I moved closer.
I looked at the unknown and said, “Who are you?”
and the silence said, “I am Becoming,”
and I stepped into the darkness.
June 16, 2020
I’ve been working for years
on a cardboard stand-up figure
perfecting every little bit,
carrying it around,
setting it up everywhere.
It took a lot of beating,
so I had to keep fixing it.
But it was a handy replacement,
though a chore to carry around.
I’m glad I have it.
Now I’ve discovered
I can cut it up
and use pieces as placemats
or paint pictures on them.
How scary and lovely
like a first date
to discover there’s no replacement
June 15, 2020
O Beloved, spring of mercy,
call us, and no matter the path ahead
we will go with you.
In strange cities of change and challenge
you will guard us and guide us.
In meadows of beauty and grace
you will open our eyes to see.
Through deserts of hardship you will provide.
In narrow passages of hurt and suffering
you will be present.
In landscapes of loss and sorrow
you will be enough.
When you lead us into the world’s pain
and move us to act for justice
you will be our nerve and our strength.
When we step into the unknown
you are with us;
you are the light in the darkness;
yes, even the darkness itself is you.
O Holy One,
Lover, Beloved and the Flowing of Love:
beckon, and we will go with you.
Bless us and be with us as we look to the future
and step into the present.
June 12, 2020
One said, “Your wife Sarah shall have a son.”
Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old,
and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?”
The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?”
But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid.
He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”
—from Genesis 18.10-15
As I approach my retirement on Sunday I am laughing—
laughter not of derision but of release,
laughter at the joke that at what seems an end
some things are just beginning,
laughter at the irony of my self-importance overshadowed
by what is given to me,
laughter at the mystery that as I grow old
I’m now ripe to produce what I haven’t before:
now it is time to pluck me from the tree
and let me offer my sweet fruit.
And there is a part of me, so wise and earnest and mature,
that denies I am laughing, denies I am puzzled or surprised,
pretends I have this figured out.
The angels calmly call my bluff,
my assurance I know the future, know what’s possible.
The joke’s on me.
When you get old,
laugh at it.
It helps you ripen.
June 11, 2020
God said to Abram,
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.”
This Sunday I will retire as a Methodist Minister, after 40 years in six churches and one college campus in four states. That’s something like 5000 worship services. Yeah, it’s time.
People ask when I got my call into ministry and my answer is: around 1835. I’m the sixth generation of Methodist Ministers (and one gunsmith) in my family going all the way back to Enos Holmes, who was ordained about then. It’s been 185 years. It really is time.
But, joking aside, when did I receive my calling to ministry? Well, joking aside, it began in 1835. Or maybe with Rev. Obadiah Holmes, Eons’ great-great-great-great grandfather, born in 1606. Or in 1514, with the birth of his great-grandfather George Holmes… or father back. Because each of us belongs to a great cloud of witnesses, a long, magnificent line of people bearing love from one generation to another. We are each one little part of an epic story that began before us and will continue after us. It’s the story of God’s love and justice, the story God is telling using each of us as the words and sentences of the story.
Your calling is your place in the story. It might be to carry on a family tradition—or to change it. I guess that’s how the gunsmith got in there. Your calling is the way God uses your story to tell a story that’s not about you. Your calling is greater than your job. My calling will continue after I retire from parish leadership. I’ll be a different part of the same story. So maybe the real answer is that my calling is just now beginning. I’m discovering who I really am aside from what job I have.
Your real calling—your vocation—is who you are, not what you do. It changes with time, but it’s eternal. “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before God in love” (Eph. 1.4). Listen for your calling, for the voice of God inviting you to play a part in God’s story. It may mean following a well-trodden path, or breaking a tradition of 185 years. Wherever it takes you, listen and follow. God will go ahead of you.
June 10, 2020
We celebrated our fortieth anniversary
not with a party or a romantic date,
but by packing, preparing to move.
From what’s accumulated we choose what stays or goes;
the staying of love we chose long ago
we choose again and again, always choosing:
the constant, the container, the compass,
the warp. The melody, no matter the key,
the tempo or time signature or thousand harmonies.
Abandon the things. Set them out at the curb.
Cling only to presence, being there for each other:
it’s the serenity that lasts, underneath the noise.
Things break. Places change. Hearts grow.
Presence persists, adapts, abides.
When we leave the house, the house we come to.
The this and the that come and go.
The where and the what change and flow.
The we remains. And, so, the gratitude.
June 9, 2020
Yesterday Beth and I marked forty years married,
a journey with forty legs: some meadows, some desert,
but all endured, all blessed, all chosen.
I can’t lay my hands on the length of forty years;
it’s the depth that matters, music swelling,,
growth rings expanding, a well deepening.
Forty years is long enough for Israel in the wilderness
but our eyes were not on the horizon, but on each other:
the promise is not another land but this one,
the journey itself, this moment and the next,
in which, without effort or deserving,
we enter the Presence, we receive the miracle.
Friends, every moment
is God’s 40 years with us,
choosing us again and again.
June 8, 2020
At the cross the people stood by watching;
and the leaders scoffed.
Three officers stood silent
while a fourth killed a helpless man, slowly.
Centurions at the crucifixion.
To kill, all we have to do is stand silent.
The killing is already going on.
All we have to do is stand by. Stay silent.
Don’t raise your voice.
Don’t question what happens.
Don’t object when the Emperor desecrates the holy place.
Don’t defy the secret police.
Don’t cry out. Don’t disrupt.
That’s all you have to do to abet the killing. Stay silent.
The killing will go on, just fine.
Thank you for your cooperation.
Unless you would like your own cross
to bear. Unless you would stand with the man
with the crown of thorns.
Unless you wish to take your faith that seriously
in these serious times.
Unless in you the Holy Spirit is already crying out.
Unless in this kingdom of death you would be resurrected.
Unless you have already died and your life is hidden in Christ.
Unless in you life is stronger than death, love is stronger than fear.
June 5, 2020
My church is conducting worship online these days.
I sing a lot of our music live;
we also pre-record some pieces
one voice at a time and mix them into an ensemble piece.
I record a guitar track. Then a vocal track or two or three.
Then I send them off to James and he adds Jenny’s voice
and mixes then into a beautiful song.
I never get to hear the whole song, just my part,
till the mix is done.
Love is like that.
God is singing in us.
You don’t hear the whole song.
You just listen to God’s love
and sing your part,
and trust the whole
is more beautiful than you can know.
That is all.
That is enough.
June 4, 2020