Tuesday, March 28, 2017

There Are Times

There are times I wish:
To be lost in my theology.
Guilt, grace and gratitude.
And all the rest, for a better attitude.

But I can't.
Every word of theology I read.
Sends me into the moment.
Into the crimes of the times.

Crimes against earth, wind and fire.
Crimes against the children.
Crimes against the people.
Crimes against the nation.

How can I lose myself in the rhetoric of faith?
When insanity swirls like a dust devil?
When prophets cry out?
And Jesus is lead into Pilate's chambers?

I can read some poetry; that'll help.
But, dadgumit all, every word therein zings.
Rings with poignancy and pain.
Dark nights and chilly winds.

Unrequited love.
Longing for the lost.
Wondering what it means.
Words trapped in heavy frost.

Read the Bible.
But it doesn't get any better.
From Adam's sin to the bloody cross.
Humanity bound and bitter.

I'd like to lose myself.
Close my ears to the noise.
Close my eyes to the sorrow.
Close my mouth and be silent.

But I can't.
I'm a human being.
I can't ignore.
The horror.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Morning Prayer

A morning prayer ...

'Tis a big world you've managed, O God ... though I suppose, when measured by the eons, the planets and the stars, then maybe not so big after all.

But it's big to me.
Really big ... people and cultures and mountains and valleys and noises and nonsense, the African Veldt and the Black Sea, the remnants of war half buried in the fields of France, blue skies and magnificent men in their flying machines ... the Great Lakes and Mt. Rushmore ... and vast oceans and coral mountains.

And our stuff ... tons of it ... miles of it ... mingled in and mangled in ... wedged here and there, pushing and shoving, shouting and screaming ... a bloody mess at times ... 

And our hopes, too, O LORD ... the heft of a good book and a cup of coffee ... the pleasure of a snuggled sheet curled around my neck, as I lay me down to sleep and pray ... something on TV to pass the time, or engage me ... yes, I know ... the middle class things that we dangle around ourselves to hush the fears of the soul, and so many envy us for the dangling in front of them, while they trudge dusty miles for a bucket of water and bag of rice.

What a world we've created in the midst of the world you've created.

I know, dear God, that you were pleased with what you did ... are you pleased with what we've done?

Some of it?
Sure ... I'm sure.
All of it?
No way.

So, help us, O LORD, to be the creators you intended, the caretakers of earth and wind ... to till the earth and grow tall corn and bright flowing wheat to feed both beast and man ... and man, and man, and man again ... and woman, and woman, and woman, again ... and child and child and child again ... in the millions of lists of endless begats ... how much we consume, O LORD; we take, and then take again and take some more, or so it seems to me.

Forgive us?
I suppose you have to ... the alternative is darker than the present arrangement ... even for you, I'm sure.
So, in this world, so tiny to the universe, so big for me, I say Thanks ... and pray for all the good you can give to me and to mine, that we can be mindful of what counts, and then give ourselves to it, with all our might and main ... 

And to you I belong.

I've said that a millions times over the years, dear God ... well, maybe not a million times, but often, in the worst of it, and in the best of it ... because I don't cherish the idea of belonging only to myself, or to anything else, for that matter.

Though I'm more than pleased to belong to some folks who love me dearly ... and I them ... we belong to one another, for sure, and if that's all there were, I'd be satisfied, sort of ... because it's not very long ... I think love is eternal, love needs a little more time to flourish, to grow and move and have some being, more than the span of my time, maybe even all time ... 

I don't know ... is that selfish?
I suppose some of it is.

Yet, I hope we all belong to you, and that in the end, whatever that means, we'll be there, with you, as Jesus said, and he with us ... on a summer Sunday afternoon picnic, in the sun and warm tree shadows, with children playing and the sound of horseshoes and women and men laughing ... a bowl of potato salad and a glass of cold beer.

'Tis a big world, O God ... and small, too ... small enough for me, and big enough for you. Amen!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Morning Meditation - Jeremiah 5, the Poor and the Rich

The Lord has a complaint against the people: They have refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock.
They have refused to turn back.

In defense, Jeremiah says:
These are only the poor, they have no sense; for they do not know the way of the LORD, the law of their God.

Let me go to the rich, says Jeremiah.
And speak truth to them.
Surely they know the way of the LORD, the law of their God.

But they all alike had broken the yoke, they had burst the bonds.

Jeremiah seeks to defend the hard-hearted and the obtuse by
suggesting to God that they are disadvantaged, they're the poor; they simply haven't the wherewithal to make sound judgments.

Well, for what it's worth, hats off to Jeremiah for trying to find some defense of the people in their social and economic status. In other words, they're disadvantaged.

So, don't blame them, O LORD. Give them a break.

I'll go to the rich instead, says Jeremiah, who have all the advantages of life: status and schooling, learning and leisure, the wherewithal to know what the truth would be and your ways, O God. Surely, they'll know. The burden belongs to them, to those with much advantage in the race of life. Those to whom much is given, much is expected.

But, alas alack. It is not the case, as Jeremiah finds.

The rich, who ought to know to better, don't. They have broken the laws of life and love; they, too, have hardened their hearts against the will of God.

Those who should know better, don't.

And along with the poor, whom the rich have manipulated, the whole of the nation turns from God and, in willfulness and desire, seeks its own way.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Center-Point

The Center-Point of a life well lived, a life willing to be engaged, to offer itself up, to expend its best as best it can, for the exulted vision of God's World, the Kingdom of God, if you will, where swords are beaten into plowshares and everyone has their own fig tree ... where all are welcome, all find healing, all find their rightful place upon God's earth.

Powerful images that lure me on, that keep me going, that prevent the sorrows of the day from draining my soul of purpose and peace. And lest anyone get the wrong idea, personal sacrifice and engagement will, indeed, drain away purpose and peace, leaving the soul bereft and the body tired. As it should be.

But it's a state of being that cannot long be sustained - out little cup of courage is just that, a little cup, and though some have a cup a bit larger than others, or at least drink of its courage a bit more slowly, sometimes the cup is drained quickly, and we drink in huge gulps, and sometimes the cup is shattered.

As it should be, for anyone who hears the call of God to give, and to keep on giving.

But also the call of God, to come apart for prayer and healing, to seek moments of peace and quiet, away from the maddening crowd, to take a breath, catch a few winks, sing some songs, laugh with fellow-travelers, tell some rowdy jokes, recalibrate one's inner compass and wash the loin cloth for another day of girding.

This morning, from the Lectionary, Psalm 27.4 - "One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple."

To ask and seek.
To live and to behold.
To inquire.

In the swirl of madness that has come to my land, in the midst of the unholy trinity of Lies, Greed and Cruelty, I find in Scripture surcease, a place to find my bearings and regain my balance.

Never an escape from reality, but a pause, the pause that refreshes, renews and restores.

Jesus going off to pray.
Elijah in the cave.
Moses on the Mountain.

May all of us have such a center-point, a place of retreat and refreshment ... to see beauty ... and to ask the deepest questions of life, to inquire as to purpose, and along the way, discover that we're never quite alone, but always belong, not only to God, but to one another, as well.

The house of the LORD is never a vacant place, but teems with people and spirits of good will and love and courage.

The center-point.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Psalm 43


So was the writer who crafted Psalm 43.

She turned to God for light and truth, and hope, in the midst of her depression ...

But she's an honest writers, and begins downcast, and ends much the same, with a reminder to herself, like string tied on a finger, "Hope in God."

Call it sadness, call it gloom, call it doom ... there are times when life and history and circumstance move in these circles, and all is lost. It just doesn't SEEM lost; it IS lost.

And the appropriate response?

Sorrow. Despair. Depression. Grief.

Nothing wrong with any of this. These are not clinical issues that need medication or therapy - no, they are a legitimate response to the realities of life.

I'm grateful for these "darker" kinds of Psalms, their heart-wrenching honesty, their willingness to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, to linger in the hard places, not with gladness, or some kind of feigned happiness, but with a determination to be where life has to be sometimes, with the assurance, perhaps weak and frail as such assurance might be at times, that the LORD is there, too ... walking, crawling, or just standing at our side ... going nowhere, or somewhere, very slowly.

These days, I'm sad ... not for anything personal, or beyond the usual concerns and frets of life and family.

No, I'm sad for my nation, for millions who are being shafted by the brutal powers of greed and a lot of shitty thinking on the part of a lot of christians who are more interested in lauding Pilate than in honoring Christ.

Is that a fair thing to say?

Who knows, but it's how I see it.

And it wouldn't be the first time christians have choose Pilate over Christ. Not the first time, and not likely the last time, either.

So, I'm sad.



And I turn to God ... not expecting miracles, or some kind of dramatic deliverance, but maybe, like the Psalmist, hoping for some light and truth to lead the way.