WONDERS AND GLORY

Wonders and Glory

Psalm 19:1-4 — Common English Bible

Heaven is declaring God’s glory;
the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.
One day gushes the news to the next,
and one night informs another what needs to be known.
Of course, there’s no speech, no words—
their voices can’t be heard—
but their sound extends throughout the world;
their words reach the ends of the earth.

# # #

Wonders and Glory
Have you ever been absolutely
stunned by God?
I mean
brought-to-your-kneesflabbergasted,
flummoxed,
dumbfounded,
or
come to the abrupt conclusion
that God was in fact — God?
And then looked around yourself
with the realization
that the WOW that is God
dwells in all that is:
every living and breathing creature,
every grain of sand,
fleck of dust,
sparkle of starlight,
breath of life,
gasp of death,
cosmic motion,
lover’s smile,
or dreamer’s tear?
Have you ever
looked at a star,
blade of grass,
morning sunrise,
or heard the
call of a quail,
the breeze through meadow grass,
roll of thunder
and known,
I mean just known
that God is, was, will be
not just God,
but your God — forever?
Have you ever?
Evidently this psalmist did.
If it is possible
that you have never heard
or seen,
or forgotten you have,
I encourage you take the time,
pay more attention,
And let God blow your mind…

THE LIMITS OF HUMAN IMAGINATION

Genesis 17:1-7 — Contemporary English Version

Abram was ninety-nine years old when the LORD appeared to him again and said, “I am God All-Powerful. If you obey me and always do right, I will keep my solemn promise to you and give you more descendants than can be counted.” Abram bowed with his face to the ground, and God said: I promise that you will be the father of many nations. That’s why I now change your name from Abram to Abraham. I will give you a lot of descendants, and in the future they will become great nations. Some of them will even be kings. I will always keep the promise I have made to you and your descendants, because I am your God and their God.

I Can’t Imagine

The Limits of Human Imagination
Genesis 17:1-7

Can you name a few things that you
can’t quite
bring yourself to believe?
There are some people
who are totally credulous
and will believe
anything any friend might say:
that the Moonlanding was fake
and staged out
in the Arizona desert;
or the earth is flat;
that women are
not as smart as men
because their brains
are smaller.
Pick a nationality,
race, gender, social class,
and you’ve heard
some unfounded
and salacious garbage
about their character.
Rumors and gossip
always tell me
more about the individual
spreading them
than about
the ones at whom
they are aimed.
But here,
today,
we read about another kind of
unbelievable,
inconceivable
tale.
A story so implausible
and so far
beyond the imagination
the even the person
to whom it happened
found it hard to believe.
A ninety-nine year old
fathering a child?
Wow!
It was a promise kept by God.
It was beyond comprehendible,
but it came true,
and I am led to ask,
what promises has
God made to us?
what do we think of
people who claim
that God makes them promises?
Have we ever experienced
the unimaginable?
It is crazy, you know,
to think that God
would make us a promise.
It is still crazier
to think that God wouldn’t.
Can you bring yourself
to imagine God’s
promise of eternal life?
Can you imagine the healing
stories of Jesus
being real?
Can you imagine hope?
Can you even imagine
the consequences
of the sharing of
bread
and cup
at the Communion Table?
I think we should
be careful about the limits
we place
on our imaginations.

WHEN THE CALL IS FOR HEALING

©Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved
based on Mark 1:29-39

When the call
is for healing
the call
is not just to be healed,
but to heal others as well.
When the call
is for healing
the call
is not just to stop our own pain,
but to help ease the pain of another.
When the call
is for healing
the call
is not only to work at the healing of others,
but to take the time to let healing happen
for us as well.

When the call is for healing…

Called to heal;
called to be healed.
Called to be present to the process.
Called to be the process.
Called to hold the process.
Called give away the process.

When the call is for healing…

Still,
so many do not heed the call.
We want to help
others to become healed,
yet we
seem to stay unhealed.
We resent
being thought of as in need of healing.
We become angry
at the notion that we might be broken.
We resent being named.
We refuse to do
the work of our own restoration.
Why is it that
it is alright for Jesus to touch,
heal, renew, recreate,
step into another’s
history, space, life,
but it is meddling
when it comes to us?

When the call is for healing…

A RETELLING

A Place for Retelling

Deuteronomy 5:1 & 18:15-:16

Called to speak.
Called to listen.
Called and answered.
Called and chosen.
Threatened —
by God —
do it right or else!
This book
has an interesting history.
Deuteronomy is purportedly
a “lost” book
found
after the Exile of the
Hebrew people
to Babylon.
It had been hidden,
and turned up mysteriously,
then
“found”
by the new order of ruling priests.
It is full of laws,
holiness codes,
and or-elses from God.
The strong suspicion
by some biblical scholars
is that the
“finders”
actually
wrote it themselves
as a means of establishing their
own power and rightful leadership
in a community torn
apart by being exiled from,
then returned to,
their homes.
Homes that after 60 years
just did not exist anymore.
There is something powerful
here about this
re-construction of hope.
Something worth paying attention to
in the re-telling of old stories.
Remembering that these are the words of priests,
not so much Moses, or God,
we can then see
a desperate attempt by to build hope
and re-construct a sense of place,
of home.
The Hebrew people thought that they
needed these stories to build their
national and personal
self-worth.
This is revisionist history,
and in and if itself
is less than the best way to facilitate healing.
History happened.
Life happened.
Still there is something compelling
in re-telling a story with a different outcome.
Not to actually history,
but to change
how we can change our own outcome
with a different telling.
There is healing in imaging
ourselves surviving trauma
and emerging strong,
not wounded.
I am not promoting denial,
rather exploring a
re-storying where our victimhood
changes into strength and energy
and inner power
and strength.
What stories do we need for this?
How do we need to revision our old stories?
What do we need to hear
that bolster us
in times of distress,
when we feel dispossessed
out of luck,
unloved,
and short on hope?
Who will we listen to
in an age of “false news”?
Who has been called, chosen,
to tell us these stories
we need so desperately to hear?
Do we need stories of conquest?
Are we seeking stories of greatness?
Or,
is it a story of hope,
of love,
of salvation and
fulfilled promise
that we so desperately need to hear?
How would we re-write
our old stories
so they reflect
our own heart’s desire?

CAN ANYTHING GOOD?

John 1:43-51
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. When he got there, he ran across Philip and said, “Come, follow me.” (Philip’s hometown was Bethsaida, the same as Andrew and Peter.) Philip went and found Nathanael and told him, “We’ve found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached by the prophets. It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son, the one from Nazareth!” Nathanael said, “Nazareth? You’ve got to be kidding, can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But Philip said, “Come, see for yourself.” When Jesus saw him coming he said, “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body.” Nathanael said, “Where did you get that idea? You don’t know me.” Jesus answered, “One day, long before Philip called you here, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!” Jesus said, “You’ve become a believer simply because I say I saw you one day sitting under the fig tree? You haven’t seen anything yet! Before this is over you’re going to see heaven open and God’s angels descending to the Son of Man and ascending again.

Can Anything Good

Can Anything Good Come?

Can Anything Good?
John 1:43-51

Judgment and stereotyping,
regionalism, nationalism,
arrogance
and good,
old fashioned xenophobia,
right at the beginning of
Jesus’ ministry—
directed right at Jesus.
Credulous, bigoted, knuckleheads.
And those are the ones
who became his disciples!
WOW!
“You’ve got to be kidding,
can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Or Africa,
or Haiti,
or Mexico,
or San Salvador,
or, or, or?
Well the disciples found out,
didn’t they?
But what about us?
Are there those areas,
places, towns—
nations,
where we arbitrarily
discount
those who are living there?
I have heard many,
some of us even,
refer with ugly claims
to those who come from
the Res, Lake County, Nice,
anywhere other than Geyserville.
Meth heads,
crack heads,
trailer trash,
weirdoes.
That’s where the heroin addicts hang out.
Yet,
we are referring to human beings,
the ones
Jesus loves as much
as he does us,
those who carry the Christ
as do we,
deep in their beings.
The main difference
between us and
Jesus
is that he could look
into the hearts of all
and see nothing
but goodness and grace.
But do we not owe it
to ourselves and to others
to see that same
grace in all?
And if we did,
what might we discover?
Maybe that the Messiah
was walking alongside
of us
all along.
Now that would be
something to miss,
wouldn’t it?

TO THE SUN

To conclude my poem-journey this week of a poem a day. I am using past work from around 1972 that was written after a cold night in the Sierra. It indeed infers an inner spiritual movement — awareness of body, awareness of God/Nature/God-in-nature. The awareness of that unknown entity we understand as that-which-cannot-be-named-known-or-described… nonetheless, discovered in unconditional love of small creatures — death, and the sacredness of summer’s sun…

To the Sun

TO THE SUN
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

That which
was not poem
and
death-locked
in ever-winter-earth
now
beats with poet-rhythms
and
heart-heat
of summer-sun blaze.

You have melted me—
Like summer-heat snow-melt,
I seem to no longer stand
inviolate
against a safe winter’s sun.

You have melted me—
I pour,
fluid-like stream
from my ice-high eerie,
and my dissolution
floods stream-hollow channels.

You have melted me—
and I do not recognize
this I have become:
mist to
sky–breeze-blown vapor.
I seek life
in your heat.

You have melted me—
I reach out
to touch
that which was not
yet. and
I feel heart-heat pulse beat
where once
ice-locked
and protected

SEMMETRY

To continue my poem-journey this week of a poem a day. I am pulling from past and new work that infer an inner spiritual movement — awareness of body, awareness of nature/God-in-nature. The awareness of that unknown entity we understand as that-which-cannot-be-named-known-or-described… nonetheless, discovered in unconditional love of small creatures — and death.

In the Ice of Time

SYMMETRY
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

I discovered grim symmetry
in winter’s freeze.
Tangle of
winter-bare willow.
Rabbit,
raptor-killed-gray
on white-frozen earth:
concentric circles of death
with one red eye
staring death
at center of corpse–
this raptor was
neat–and cautious.

Frozen earth,
soil beneath low branches
of bare willow, where still figure
draws me in.
Circle of fur, two-foot diameter,
shaven from rabbit’s belly
Lays out about carcass.
Death in the round,
warmth near-frozen
in fog-white mirror for earth.

One tuft of fur at a time
shaven from belly in
three-hundred degree circle
of wary movement.

Three inch round red plate of red meat
in center of carcass steams off
last remembrance of life.
Blank eye of rabbit looks at nothing,
and at me, as though I too
have blood on my teeth.
As though I too
might lay belly-bare
on frozen ground–
fodder for some raptor.

I thought: “Here is the glorious beauty
and the
symmetry of my own death.
If I could but die in
solidarity with the cosmos…”

RUNNING

To continue my poem-journey this week of a poem a day. I am pulling from past and new work that infer an inner spiritual movement — awareness of body, awareness of nature/God-in-nature. The awareness of that unknown entity we understand as that-which-cannot-be-named-known-or-described… nonetheless, discovered in unconditional love of small creatures.

Where

RUNNING
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

Disco threads ragged patterns
through ploughed meadow grasses.
Starry night
dances the darkness
in red fir and Jeffery pine
patterned on silver.
Where is time?
That magic loom
weaving universe
upon universe.
Ambivalent existence
in trinity.
Tomorrow, Today, Yesterday.
Eternal forever
when I lay by the Jeffery pines
and a yellow dog
kept watch
with restless loyalty
near my head.
A little dog
meant always
for the wild ways
of the forest.
Like me, a runner,
always running.
Little runner
of the wild lands
where do you now run?
Long killed by a city
with no understanding
of how little runners of
wild wood lands
sometimes lose their way
where the grasses
are clipped so short.
But I still have you,
my friend,
fellow runner.
Sometimes
the trail gets too long
and the man
becomes too small,
then I hear
you panting at my heals
and next
ferreting unseen
in the thick trailside brush.
Running,
always running.
I still have that night,
silver moon on fir
and you
ever-watchful,
ever-running
lest I be surprised by that
unknown
living in deep moonshadow.
Still,
I sleep more wary
though
I know you must
now run eternal
on ever-soft fir-carpet.
It is in the dark
I wonder where the asphalt
ended for you
and where
it will end for me.
Ever running.

THE POSSIBILITY OF GOD

To continue my poem-journey this week of a poem a day. I am pulling from past and new work that infer an inner spiritual movement — awareness of body, awareness of nature/God-in-nature. The awareness of that unknown entity we understand as that-which-cannot-be-named-known-or-described…

The Possibility of God

THE POSSIBILITY OF GOD
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

Walking along a trail
in a forest
on a wet day.
Raindrops, fog, mist —
the air alive with moist beauty.
God
lurking in the water sparkles.
The leaves glittering God
A day like today:
wet with beauty
alive with drenched light
does not prove
to me
that God exists,
but shows me how
I can walk among
the water droplets that caress
God’s Body,
and feel the erotic
that God is.
I find no boundaries
when God touches
me as I
was touched
by the Presence
of raw and palpable beauty
on that trail.
Sometimes I feel like I
am in an electrical field.
Nerve ends buzzing the
possibility
of God.

COSMIC NURTURER

To continue my poem-journey this week of a poem a day. I am pulling from past and new work that infer an inner spiritual movement — awareness of body, awareness of nature/God-in-nature. The awareness of that unknown entity we understand as that-which-cannot-be-named-known-or-described…

The following is a re-writing of what is commonly termed, The Lord’s Prayer, in Matthew 6.

Into Our Being

Cosmic Nurturer
© Copyright, Hilary F. Marckx

To

the one most nurturing
who loves us
with tenderness:
Holy Creator,
Holy Person of Grace.
Who is in the heaven
of heavens, our being.
The center of earth.
The center of cosmos.
Whose name is holy,
hallowed, exalted,
and most misused.

Let your name still be holy.
From beyond to within,
from the prime explosion
to the silence of my prayer,
let your nurturing include
all peoples,
and let your will be done
in hearts, minds and deeds
of those who live this heaven,
this earth.

Oh,
one who is most pregnant,
Creation sprang forth,
and life came to be
from your very substance,
give us this moment
the love and tenderness we need.
Oh, one who is most sensual,
arouse us with your passion.

Convert us
to an earthy,
lusty,
vibrant
people once more.
Forgive us,
most holy one,
for the times we have been
hard,
cruel,
inflexible,
and
undesiring of your grace.
Forgive us for times we have used you
to harm one another.
Forgive us for blaspheming
your holy intention,
your holy creation,
your holy and lovely,
voluptuous body,
tender body,
sweet body,
Christ’s body,
Church.

Deliver us from being
other that you created
us to be.

Deliver us into our being.

THE LONG RUN

To continue my poem-journey this week of a poem a day. I am pulling from past and new work that infer an inner spiritual movement — awareness of body, awareness of nature/God-in-nature. The awareness of that unknown entity we understand as that-which-cannot-be-named-known-or-described…

The Long Run

THE LONG RUN
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

Long run,
from my home in Fair Oaks, CA,
down Fair Oaks Boulevard to Sailor Bar,
along the American River
back up Illinois
to home —
sweat running rivers,
oxygen debt cramping for payback.
Start on
asphalt and flat.
Cars, exhaust and noise.
Run to side road.
No traffic, oak trees
to river run and wild land.
Wild run.
Berries grab bare legs,
rocks roll under shoes,
leaves fall,
creatures dive for cover.

Trail could be anywhere, but follows American River
along long-dead dreams of miners.
Dredger tailings.
Ancient stream-bed exposed,
geo-history bared to present.

And I run
not fast, but steady.
Sun of valley’s edge bakes me.
Early summer run, grass still green, smell still new,
life still fresh.

The big hawks hunt,
some life in the balance.
I run.
The hawks hunt and I run.
Wild
no hawk as free–so bound to territory–
I run seven-mile circle
and shower.

POEMS OF GOD AND NATURE #1

For the next few days I will post some of the poetry in which I write of my experiences of, and my explorations into my relationship with God as I have experienced God in nature and wildness. I hike. I fish. I sit and listen. Many times I see and hear. What will follow will be what I saw, what I heard.

 

Into the Deep Silence

 

A SLOW TURN
© Hilary F. Marckx

Something in my belly does a slow turn.
My eyes
turn outward to the beauty.
In the deep silence I watch her walk toward me.
Hips
swaying to the music of her song.
She plays in joy,
making rhymes,
lyrics,
that become worlds and space.

And we dance.
Creator and created playing child’s game.
Clothed in black,
sequined with stars,
trimmed with rivers
we dance currents of silence
weaving universe to universe,
and our laughter rings
from the walls of time itself.

She dances,
but this time I am missing.
My joy turned to passion.
She comes to me and I,
mingling passion and reverence,
can not be passion,
and live with reverence.
With breath caught short
I tell how I need more
than she creates in me.
And from the substance of eternity,
she forms more cosmos
into her own likeness
and I become more than I am.
A likeness whose form matches mine,
fits mine, graces mine,
we fuse deeply.

Our likeness
creates a world, creates life.

Hot sea, hot soup cauldron, primal brew.
We meet, collide,
explode in life.
We make life.
We weave cell and chromosome
into the likeness of her,
Creator.
The one who first touched me,
touched her,
and created
the desire to create.

And now.
The one who teaches us song,
dance, laughter,
is almost lost to her own creations.
Not seen, but felt.

For deep within us
stirs a movement so gentle,
a tremor so slight,
a rhythm so remote,
we almost lose it,
almost die.
Not quite there is recognition
of something past,
some forgotten goodness,
a lost pleasure,
and again
we hold the old desire to hold
this sensuous dancer.

Deep in our consciousness
something again in our bellies
does a slow turn.
This time. This time.
Our eyes turn inward to the beauty.
Into the deep silence we
dance once more,

and we pray.

A NEW YEAR’S REFLECTION

A New Year’s Reflection

Psalm 104 — The Message

O my soul, bless GOD!
GOD, my God, how great you are!
beautifully, gloriously robed,
Dressed up in sunshine,
and all heaven stretched out for your tent.
You built your palace on the ocean deeps,
made a chariot out of clouds and took off on wind-wings.
You commandeered winds as messengers,
appointed fire and flame as ambassadors.
You set earth on a firm foundation
so that nothing can shake it, ever.
You blanketed earth with ocean,
covered the mountains with deep waters;
Then you roared and the water ran away—
your thunder crash put it to flight.
Mountains pushed up, valleys spread out
in the places you assigned them.
You set boundaries between earth and sea;
never again will earth be flooded.
You started the springs and rivers,
sent them flowing among the hills.
All the wild animals now drink their fill,
wild donkeys quench their thirst.
Along the riverbanks the birds build nests,
ravens make their voices heard.
You water the mountains from your heavenly cisterns;
earth is supplied with plenty of water.
You make grass grow for the livestock,
hay for the animals that plow the ground.

# # #

A NEW YEAR’S REFLECTION

Building and blessing,
appointing and commanding,
starting and setting,
and filling and quenching:
I see what you have done
in the universe,
the beauty of your creation,
and how good it is
and how lovely is all that you touch.
You have touched me with that beauty,
too,
but it is hard for me to see it in myself.
Open my eyes to see how
I am as delicate as the song
of a nesting bird,
as powerful as a spring river,
and as glorious as sunshine itself.
I know that the grandeur
of the entire universe is of you,
and that each part of it functions
has part of your own incredible, cosmic,
and holy flow,
and that
even time moves as if it were
your
own holy blood pumped
by the consecrated rhythms
of your own sacred,
blessed, and majestic heart.
Change frightens me,
so help me now to
know how to trust
that rhythm of your heart-time
as I step into the river
of this season’s flow
and move into
yet one more new year
that is simply,
and lovingly,
the next beat
of your own
glorious heart.

FROLIC IN LOVE

Psalm 42:6-8 — The Message

When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
everything I know of you,
From Jordan depths to Hermon heights,
including Mount Mizar.
Chaos calls to chaos,
to the tune of whitewater rapids.
Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers
crash and crush me.
Then GOD promises to love me all day,
sing songs all through the night!
My life is God’s prayer.

# # #

Advent 4/Christmas Eve: Love
Psalm 42:6-8

Love.
We have been bequeathed Hope.
We have snuggled in Peace.
We have been danced by Joy.
Now it is Love’s turn
to frolic in our souls.
I choose the word frolic deliberately.
Hope has snuck up on us
like an inheritance
we didn’t expect,
Peace has wrapped around us like
a down comforter.
Joy has danced across our
sadness
like a happy kitten.
And now Love,
Love,
with the innocence of new life
and weight
of seven billion hurting souls,
Love frolics as if God,
God’s own self,
is rolling
in a huge pile of Autumn leaves.
Here is an invitation.
Here is a challenge.
Here is the dream
of your ancient,
new-born soul—
Leap,
bound,
spring,
vault,
hop,
jump,
bounce
into this leaf-pile of
Hope and Peace and Joy and Love,
and frolic with this
ever-surprising God who
hurdles with abandon
through the cosmos.
Star to star,
crib to crib,
tomb to tomb
creating life
and breath
and heart
and dream.
Go ahead this Christmas,
frolic…

ADVENT #3, DANCING JOY KNEE-DEEP IN DEPRESSION

Advent #3

Psalm 4:6-7 The Message
Why is everyone hungry for more? “More, more,” they say.
“More, more.” I have God’s more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day

# # #

So many things, so little happiness.
Many of us want so much more
than we can have.
As a people we are dissatisfied
with almost everything we do have.
In our nation,
depression has reached epidemic levels.
We just want more.
There is an ever-growing gap
between the haves and have-nots,
and I am witnessing a spiritual impoverishment
created by that gap that is overwhelming many
and is deadly for the soul.
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one
of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.”
The one who wrote this Psalm tells us,
that he, and by extension, we,
have, “God’s more-than-enough.”
God’s more-than-enough: we all already have that.
Day to day, as we wade knee-deep
through a world of
people who are spiritually depressed,
who desperately need the Joy offered by this
more-than-enough God,
we should be dancing.
We can offer the very thing they need—
God’s more-than-enough.
We can teach them this dance.
We might not notice we have
more than enough,
but, by the grace of God, we do.
The commission we are given
by God is to be dancers of Joy,
proponents of the idea
that there is more-than-enough for all,
This week let us introduce those around us
to the idea of more-than-enough—
and dance.

ADVENT 2

Advent 2

I seem to be behind this season. My apologies. I will try to publish Advent #3 later on today to catch myself up. I pray your advent season is full of miracles, and your time of waiting is a time of beauty. Hilary

Psalm 55:4-8 — The Message
My insides are turned inside out;
specters of death have me down.
I shake with fear,
I shudder from head to foot.
“Who will give me wings,” I ask—
“wings like a dove?”
Get me out of here on dove wings;
I want some peace and quiet.
I want a walk in the country,
I want a cabin in the woods.
I’m desperate for a change
from rage and stormy weather.

# # #

“HOLDING PEACE IN A LAND OF CHAOS,”

It seems we are drowning in chaos.
We shudder from specters,
and dwell in a land where fear rules,
with no set rules, no guidelines but
greed, meanness and distrust and money
absolutely rule.
Here, in this place, at this time,
here, we are surrounded
by people who propagate this madness.
“Truly I tell you,
whatever you did for one of the least
of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.”
Again, we are them.
They are us. They, we,
are that least that
Jesus claims is he, himself.
Holding Peace in the midst of chaos
is in a very real way holding
Peace within our own spirits.
This is the Peace that can wrap
around cold hearts like a soft comforter,
a warm quilt—
we can snuggle in this Peace,
centering on the center that is
Peace itself ̶ the center of the world
we know as Jesus.
If we hold this center
we can stand in the midst of chaos,
in Peace.
We can be the Peace for those for whom
chaos is their life.
If we are they and they are us
then if we hold Peace in us
we are holding it within their chaos

ADVENT #1

MY ADVENT SERIES WILL BE BASED UPON THE FOLLOWING SCRIPTURE AND POEM. I WILL POST ADVENT #1 BELOW.

Sheep and Goats
Matthew 25:31-46

Matthew 25:31-46 — New Revised Standard Version

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
# # #
The Chapter titles for this scripture are
either non-existent,
or they show the editor’s biases.
“The King Will Judge All People.”
“The Judgment.”
“Judgment of the Nations.”
“The Son of Man Will Judge All People.”
“The Final Judgment.”
“The Sheep and the Goats.”
The one I am most familiar with is,
The Judgment of the Nations.
Any way we consider it,
we are going to get judged,
and the implication
is that it will be a very harsh judgment.
Well,
I do not actually think that there is,
or can ever be,
any judgment at all —
by God, anyway.
If God demands
that we care for helpless and hopeless people,
how much more is God to care for us?
Still there is a judgment,
of sorts.
Not of nations,
or goats,
but in the lives
we create as a result of our actions,
or,
a better way to say it is,
our quality of life
is determined by the choices we make.
I just read a short piece on
Fred Rogers of
Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
You must remember the tune,
“It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood”?
He would suggest to his “television neighbors,”
that when they were frightened,
or when bad things happened,
to look for the “helpers,”
the caring people of the world.
But Fred Rogers was not just for little kiddos.
Just as the parable is about
teaching people
how to become good followers of Jesus,
Mr. Rogers was about
teaching children how to be good adults.
Are you a helper,
one of the caring people?”
This is what seems to be the meaning of the parable:
if we are going to be followers of Jesus,
we are to be helpers.
To me they are both the same.
It seems that a beautiful day
in the neighborhood
is also a beautiful day
on the path that follows Jesus.

#########

HOPE, “BEING HOPE TO YOUR WORLD,”

Psalm 69:6The Message (MSG)
Don’t let those who look to you in hope
Be discouraged by what happens to me,
Dear Lord! GOD of the armies!
Don’t let those out looking for you
Come to a dead end by following me—
Please, dear God of Israel!

Being Hope to The World:
It doesn’t seem to matter what
you do for a living,
what church you belong to,
what your political affiliation is,
who you know or what you think of yourself.
What seems to matter
what seems to really count,
is that we find a way be Hope for the least of the least.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one
of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.”
The word “least,” here,
becomes a category meaning
not just me,
not just them,
not just you,
but all of us.
We are the least of us all,
we,
in this context,
are Jesus.
We are the most needy who will show us the way.
We are the most wounded,
the craziest, most lost, the poorest,
the really scary,
the meanest bullies.
These are us?
These?
WOW!!!
This first week of Advent is about Hope.
How do we receive Hope?
How do we give Hope?
How do we be Hope?
How do we make Hope happen
in a world that desperately needs Hope
all the while doing everything in its power
to subvert any chance of it?
First,
Hope
is our spiritual birthright.
Hope
is our inheritance.
Hope
is how things are, not how they appear.
I think it begins with an invitation we can offer.
Come.
Listen.
Sit.
Breathe.
Hope.
Stop thinking hopeless.
Stop participating in conversations
that pander to hopelessness,
Start working for Hope.
Start speaking for Hope.
Vote for Hope.
Sing for Hope.
Dance for Hope.
Breathe for Hope.
Pray for Hope.
Believe
in the reality of Hope.
Really be
Hope for all.

TRUSTING IN THE LOVE OF GOD

Trusting In The Love Of God

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – The Message
And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.
And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.

#   #   #

This scripture
is one I use at
funerals and memorials
to offer hope to the grieving
and also make some sense
to that vast emptiness
we suddenly
find in our lives at the loss
of a loved one.
There are those
who reject the
claims in this reading
as specious
and silly
ways to make meaning—
but this scripture does inform us.
It informs our faith.
It informs our hope.
It informs our understanding
of how things work.
I have been asked
what I believed about God
and how these mystical
and metaphysical claims play out.
Let me go on record
as not being really
too sure about
what Archangel thunder is,
or if the master really does
give a command,
or how we might
be caught up in the clouds.
Yet,
I think there is something
here
that is powerfully informative
about
how God works—
and I do believe in God, so
here is how I see it:
no matter how it all shakes down,
we are cared for by God.
And,
while I do not believe,
factually,
in the grand claims
that the Christian
metaphors and mythologies
make about heaven,
I still see them as stories
that explain not so much how,
but that we are,
indeed,
cared for and
loved and nurtured
by God throughout the
unending span
of what we term,
eternity.
And this is
what we should not be
uninformed about:
come what may,
the love God
has for us will continue—
forever.
And we can trust God
to do the best possible
by us
forever.

THE PERFECTION WITHIN

The Perfection Within

Matthew 23:1-12

Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. “The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God’s Law. You won’t go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.

“Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals. They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads, and wouldn’t think of lifting a finger to help. Their lives are perpetual fashion shows, embroidered prayer shawls one day and flowery prayers the next. They love to sit at the head table at church dinners, basking in the most prominent positions, preening in the radiance of public flattery, receiving honorary degrees, and getting called ‘Doctor’ and ‘Reverend.’

“Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that. You all have a single Teacher, and you are all classmates. Don’t set people up as experts over your life, letting them tell you what to do. Save that authority for God; let him tell you what to do. No one else should carry the title of ‘Father’; you have only one Father, and he’s in heaven. And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them. There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.

“Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

#   #   #

How do we name ourselves?
Many times
we can know best who we are
by the names we call ourselves.
So, by what personal set of claims
do we know ourselves:
Strong?
Idiot?
Loved?
Inadequate?
Beautiful?
Fool?
Perfect?
The Matthew text,
at first glance,
seems to be about
religious posturing.
But if I do a sidewalk-psych-eval,
it appears to me there is strong evidence
of a dynamic
of low self-esteem at work.
The Pharisees appear
to be inflating themselves
to seem more important than they
believe they are —
positioning themselves
to look better than
their inner-selves can actually accept as an inner-truth.
Though it is usually preached otherwise,
I read this text as more about
believing in ourselves,
and how we are seen by God,
than
about walking our talk,
or needlessly posturing before others.
So many times we forget,
Or we have never known,
how perfect we actually are.
There is so much crappy theology
being spewed around
that claims only God,
or Jesus,
can be perfect,
and how we are only
vague, dim, imperfect, worthless, vessels.
To which I say, “Hog swill!”
We are how we have been created —
perfect.
No original sin!
No damaged soul!
No fools!
No fooling!
I suggest we begin to live into
what we have been created to be
by naming ourselves,
as God originally named us,
“Good.”
We say we want
peace, love, that we want “nice”
in our world.
Let us first offer these things to ourselves
as God has
offered them to us.
Sit with this for a moment.
Can you feel the goodness
in yourselves?
Can you sense the perfection of Being
waiting to be acknowledged?
Can you?

WHOLENESS OF SPIRIT

Wholeness

Exodus 33

To be whole —
arms, legs, fingers, toes,
knuckles, ankles,
all intact,
all in the right places —
but this is not quite
the meaning of
the kind of wholeness
to which I am referring.
True wholeness
is not only about our bodies
or our minds.
Wholeness of spirit
is what I am reflecting upon.
Wholeness of spirit…
We do not often consider
the wholeness of our spirit.
Being one with ourselves.
Being one with God.
Being one with humanity.
Being one with creation.
Wholeness of spirit is
being one with each other.
It’s like having the heart of creation,
the heart of God,
beating in rhythm
in your own breast —
in your own heart.
God tells Moses God knows him —
Knows his name;
knows his heart —
They are of one spirit
Wholeness of spirit means
we are in tune —
with ourselves, with all that is,
with God.
We cannot be partly whole.
We cannot have whole lives
and have spirits,
or hearts,
or relationships
that are fragmented.
What is the condition of your spirit?
Are there fractures
in your relationships?
Is there a gap
between you
and the rest of what is?
Can you name
any one or thing
or person,
from which
you are estranged?
Can you think
of how to make whole
the un-oneness
of the broken hearts
around you?
I believe that
we can begin to make the
un-oneness whole
by simply being
willing to eat
with one another.
With whom are you
willing to eat,
not eat?
In the Disciples of Christ
I serve,
we have communion every week.
Eating together at
Communion
becomes, at our table,
a metaphor
for living together
outside the
walls and
safety
and
sanctuary
or our little church.
I believe that
as we learn to
share bread and cup
with each other
at this table,
we learn to
share life with
those who are
strangers,
different.
and smell bad.
I also believe
that in learning to eat
with all and any,
we can learn to become
un-one
with the rest of the
all-that-is.

I AM NOT AFRAID!

Sun Through Smoke on Church Window:”The Love In The Air Is Thicker Than The Smoke On The Ground!”

Psalm 23 — The Message

GOD, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of GOD
for the rest of my life.

# # #

I am writing this
as the fires
burn Sonoma County in California
taking lives
homes,
treasures and keepsakes—
leaving us with a strong sense
that we can no longer be safe.
We have been afraid.
We have cried,
I packed twice
For imminent evacuation.
One friend was forced to evacuate
only to be forced to evacuate
from a second sanctuary.
No safe place.
Trauma.
One friend was up late,
Smelled smoke,
Grabbed his wife,
cat and computer,
And fled.
Two minutes later his house was gone.
My reflection this week
was a checking in.
Triage.
Pulse taking.
A naming of our terrors
and joys
in order to gain
a semblance of
order and
power-over our circumstance.
We sang comfort songs
to remind us
of hope.
We read Psalm 23
To remind us
Of hope and companioning.
We broke bread and poured cup
to remind us that
hope is possible,
joy exists,
brokenness can be put back together,
and that our spirits can be refilled.

# # #

How are things going
for you this week?
What’s happening on the front lines of your lives?
Do you,
like me,
flinch everytime you hear your
Nixle alert?
I don’t know about you,
But
I am so relieved
to hear the helicopters and planes
in the sky,
and yet my stomach rolls a little,
just a little,
when they fly over.
There is a T-shirt that reads:
“32/8
11/8
These are Difficult Times,”
and they are,
but these times are more than
a time signature joke
on a T-shirt.
These are truly difficult times,
in many ways,
on so many levels.
There are wildfires
burning in our hills and towns.
There is insanity
and bedlam in the halls of
Congress
and the White House.
Besides all that,
we have lives
we are trying to live
the best we can,
and for some,
that may not seem like our best
is enough.
What I’d like to do in this room,
at this time,
this morning,
is to just share,
vent,
cry,
pray,
with each other and
try to cope a little.
We all have fears,
joys,
hopes,
triumphs,
courage to share with each other
and I propose that we do that
at this time.
# # #

I know that there are a few folk out there who read this blog, and I thank you for your loyalty. I challenge you to also find a trusted someone with whom you can share your moments of dark valleys and fear and hopelessness. I promise that there is hope and triumph in the sharing. Blessings and as the mime on Facebook has so eloquently presented, “THE LOVE IN THE AIR IS THICKER THN THE SMOKE.” And the smoke is pretty doggone thick!

The Time Has Come For Love —

TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES

The Potentiality of Shoes

Exodus 3:1-15

Have you ever
stood in awe,
beyond belief
and outside
any experience
you have ever had?
Has the place where you walked
Ever
brought you to your knees
with wonder?
Are there not times
when your breath
catches
and it seems even
your heart pauses
from the holiness
of place?
Have you ever
been presented
with a gift
so rare
that you couldn’t imagine
being the one for whom
it was intended?
Our lives are presented daily
with moments and places
that seem to us
rare, and grace-filled,
and so inconsistently
at odds
with our own
existential self-knowledge
that we habitually
overlook what is
the very essence of God:
the
I Am Who I Am
who waits for us if we will only stop.
Taking off our shoes is,
in this passage,
a metaphor
for our recognition of
the Divine Presence.
Sometimes
this is a person.
Sometimes
a place.
Sometimes
an event full of chaos.
Sometimes
it is a space where there is absolute peace.
How do you experience
I Am Who I Am
in your lives?
How does awe manifest
in your life?

A DAY OF REMEMBERING

Isle of the Liminal — Where Remembering…

Exodus 12:1-14

Do you have any days
set aside
for remembering?
What are those days?
What is it
you remember?
The Exodus Story
is a story of a happening.
It is a story of remembering.
Altars,
cairns,
monuments,
holy days,
national days,
holidays —
all these are about happenings
and are days
set aside for remembering.
My birthday is August 9.
Cherie’s and my wedding day is May 1.
Shannon was born May 25.
Our son, Joel,
was born September 16
and died October 28.
My first Sunday at the
Geyserville Christian Church
was January 16, 1994.
Remembering is a vital part of living.
Sometimes it is not the date
that is so important
as is the place where
the thing remembered
occurred:
a first date,
the coming of an idea,
a place where many times
our hopes are wrapped like
little presents in our past memories
as gifts to our present.
At this table
where we share Communion,
where we eat and drink,
together,
in this time,
in this place
we remember another time,
another place,
another happening —
Jesus’ blessing of bread and cup and friends
at a meal that was itself
a remembering
of a long-ago meal in another time,
with another people,
in another place —
where we are told
time itself began.
What are the rememberings
you bring
to this time,
to this place,
to this table?
What has happened to you
that is sacred
enough
for remembering?
as gifts to our present.
At this table
where we share Communion,
where we eat and drink,
together,
in this time,
in this place
we remember another time,
another place,
another happening —
Jesus’ blessing of bread and cup and friends
at a meal that was itself
a remembering
of a long-ago meal in another time,
with another people,
in another place —
where we are told
time itself began.
What are the rememberings
you bring
to this time,
to this place,
to this table?
What has happened to you
that is sacred
enough
for remembering?

HERE I AM

This post is by Christiane Swartz who is an elder in the Geyserville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the congregation I serve. She is a social worker for the Veterans Administration, a student at Pacific School of Religion, and our seminarian. I was away this Labor Day Sunday and she preached.

Here I Am
Exodus 3:1-12
Christiane Swartz
Showing up.
When we’re called.
When we’ve made mistakes
or been disappointed and
retreated into ourselves
and our every breath is dedicated to
creating Ordinary Days in which
to hide.

When on an Ordinary Day
in spite of our fears
or doubts or insecurities, in spite of being
absolutely convinced that we are invisible
we are open to the possibility
that perhaps that voice we hear
is God calling us to show up and for some reason
we do.

What if God really is with us?
That when we are open to showing
up and answering, “Here I am,”
no matter our perceived lack
of worthiness, no matter our certainty
that God must really mean
the person behind us
that we change lives?
What if
God being with us —
is the same
as God being in that burning bush
in that it takes the ordinary
and makes us

extraordinary?

God Rock

In my capacity as social worker for the VA housing program, I met a veteran last month who lives in a tent in the woods who had buckets filled with heart shaped rocks which he collects. I mentioned that my daughter also collects them and he gave me a huge heart shaped rock at the end of our visit.
I picked him up last Friday to take him to see an apartment and make a plan for him to move in. When I went to find him (at a market near his camp), the store clerk indicated that she had not seen him and did not want to, that he was “bad news.” During our drive together, I asked him about his relationship with (previously friendly) store clerks. At this point, he erupted into a loud angry outburst. He spent most of the entire two hours focused on the woman at the store. He swore angrily and loudly referred to her by using vulgar names, to the point I asked him to stop. He had been homeless for years, and was literally on the verge of having a roof over his head during a week that the temperatures are reaching triple digits. And yet, all he could do was vent to me about this woman, insistently telling the painfully detailed 10 year history of their problem together and making not so vague references to the bodily violence he believed she so justly deserved. I began to have concerns about being in the car with him, and about the safety of the woman at the store. He even asked me to accompany him there while he confronted her and when I declined seemed genuinely surprised and annoyed, wondering aloud if I was actually going to be useful for anything. I wrapped up our business as quickly as possible and drove back, looking very forward to dropping him off. During the drive back he continued to vent, punctuating his thoughts with random comments about how he could never do my job because he was too jaded, that he had a whole list of people he would kill one day if he discovered he only had days to live, and that he really liked me and did I already have a husband! I managed to ignore most of that. I tried not to roll my eyes. I said a silent prayer of thanks for it being Friday. I tried not to feel scared. I assured him if he confronted this woman and went to jail I could not save his apartment for him, and strongly encouraged him to keep it together for a week. I wondered aloud if he could try to focus on housing, letting the others go and finding the peace he deserved. He turned to me, in that moment looking both five years old and a hundred years old, and said plaintively, “I CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE WHAT PEACE WOULD LOOK LIKE.”
In my 20 years as a social worker I don’t even have a frame of reference for what happened next. We drove to the river onto a tiny dead end trail that was his “street.” And there was a strange man crouched down at the site. My vet muttered angrily, “what the hell is going on here?” The hair on the back of my neck stood up. This is it, I thought to myself. We’re all going to die. My vet shouted across me through my window to the man, “Who are you? What are you doing with my things?” I held my breath. The only way out of this was to floor it in reverse and I wasn’t quite ready to do that yet. And something weird was clearly happening. The man did not respond at all. Like we weren’t there. He appeared homeless. He was sweating and out of breath. He lingered over a strange arrangement consisting of a tire, two buckets, broken bicycle, old milk jug and …a mountain of heart shaped rocks with leaves arranged on top. “What are you DOING?” the vet next to me asked again. I thought the vein in his head would pop.
The man finally stood up. “Art,” he replied. I’m still not convinced we are not all going to die. My vet is beside himself. But the answer stopped him short.
“Art???”
“Art.”
The man added, “I’m exercising, you know, doing laps. I’m resting in between, and I make art.” He seemed completely unaware that his ‘art’ was the entirety of my veteran’s belongings, that he should not have been there, or that he might actually be in serious danger of bodily harm. In fact, he was completely unbothered by my veteran’s level of agitation. I’m not even sure he noticed. In his sweats and tee shirt and beard, dripping sweat from head to toe, he was the absolute living picture of… peace. He went around to the passenger side of the car. I held my breath. Something made my veteran introduce himself. The man stuck out a shy hand and said “my name is Bob. Bob Hart.”
In that moment I saw my vet soften and something in him transformed completely. He looked at me incredulously. I handed a bottle of water to Bob and he wandered back over to his “art.” As my vet got out of the car, he said to me, “That was GOD. …God sent that man to show me PEACE.”
I left them chatting amicably together like old friends.
The thing is, God called that day. He called me. He called my veteran. He called Bob and his heart. On an ordinary Friday, while we were all hiding, doing ordinary things, probably letting past mistakes or failures or fears influence what we each thought we had to offer that day. So, what if God calls us more often than we know? What if God really is with us? That when we are open to showing up and answering, “Here I am,” that we change lives. What if God being with us is the same as God being in that burning bush, in that it takes the ordinary and makes it… extraordinary?