Sunday, February 28, 2010

Second Sunday of Lent

It may be Lent, the church's annual exercise in melancholy,
but today I pray to the Pentecost Spirit:

FIRE ME UP!
Fire me up and get me moving!
Stir up my life, compel my heart
to respond to your cries in the world!
Blaze through the fog in my eyes and spirit
so that I can see a harvest ripe even in the winter:
heads of grain full of food for the hungry,
wells brimming with fresh water for the thirsty,
fruit falling from the trees to press for healing,
and ground to till and reseed for the next season.

FIRE ME UP!
Fire me up from my complacency!
Whip through my life with a fiery wind
to clear out the weeds that slow me down!
I hear you, suddenly, speaking like a parent
mocking my own words to my children, calling out:
"we need to have left this house five minutes ago"
"it doesn't take this long to brush your teeth"
"how long will you sit still on that couch"
"time to go! time to go! time to go!"
(Ah yes.)

FIRE ME UP!
FIRE ME UP with holy urgency!
FIRE ME UP for your time and your work!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lent 10

Praise the LORD!
Whoosh!
Praise the LORD!
Swirl!
Praise the LORD!
Shush!

Praise the LORD,
o snow and gods of winter!
Praise the LORD,
o wind and flurry and blanket of silence!

Praise the LORD
who commands the blizzard and squall!
Praise the LORD
who holds authority over ice and hail!

Praise the LORD
who creates the wild beauty of snow!
Praise the One
who protects raccoon and robin through the white furor!

Praise the LORD, the God of gods,
who restrains the bounds of winter!
Praise the God of rainbow covenant
who remembers us before this wintry flood collapses our spirits!

Praise the LORD
who reigns o'er the seasons of the earth!
Praise the LORD
and be lifted up all people!

Praise the LORD!
Slosh!
Praise the LORD!
Whooo!
Praise the LORD!
Plip!

(based on Psalm 148)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Lent 9

Beloved Mary, holy Theotokos:

I turn to you as to a sister, for words of encouragement and a woman's perspective.

Welcome me in to a moment of silence, a moment of peace, a moment of hush.

Teach me your gifts for centering and stillness while the furious winds whip around you.

Show me your grace for bearing up and bearing down in the eye of the storm.

Let me learn from your confidence and joy though the world lashes out in madness.

Lead me to the hiding place where Jesus retreats from the world, that I might sit still with him and rest in his presence.

Beloved Mary, holy Theotokos.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lent 8

Holy Restlessness,
I am haunted by traces of you
that leave me wanting more,
yearning and excited for more---
yet terribly anxious that this is it,
that this trace is everything---
and oh! my God
then I begin to grab tightly
to the few strands that I have
as my fear bleeds onto your mystery;
and I miss the grace of being haunted,
the joy of wanting and seeking.
Keep me on my toes with curiosity;
I hate it---but keep me unsettled,
Spirit of the Living God!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lent 7

Breathe in:
You are my God.

Breathe out:
And I am yours.

Holy
Holy
Holy Lord
God of all life, be my breath today.
Glory of the morning, be the spark for this small candle.

Breathe in:
You are my God.

Breathe out:
And I am yours.

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison
God of mercy, be gentle where I am broken.
Vision of all discernment, be patient where I am stuck.

Breathe in:
You are my God.

Breathe out:
And I am yours.

Creator
Redeemer
Sustainer
God beyond time, be present in these moments.
Saving Grace, be endless generosity through my finiteness.

Breathe in:
You are my God.

Breathe out:
And I am yours.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lent 6

I struggle for you in the gray,
O LORD my God and my Creator,
O Longing of my heart.

Give me a bright blue day
and I can see your cloud!
Even the dead of night
and I can find your fire!

But the gray...

Grant me patience and creativity
for sensing you amidst the chilly rains
of a colorless day.

I miss you, I need you here...

Until the gray gives way to life
I will retell your stories
and remind myself of past God-sightings:

I will pray with a homesick Rachel
and wait with a barren Elizabeth
and watch with a faithful Rahab
For you, O Desire of my Heart.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lent 5

Softly my heart sings to you, o God:
"Blessed be the LORD."
My praise is not always loud
and my joy does not always dance,
but oh! my God, how beautiful you are
in this day
in a subtle fluttering of Spirit
in a gentle moment of love!
How blessed am I
by a simple stillness
by a touch and a smile
by your abiding with me, night and day.
So my heart hums as with a lullaby:
"Blessed be the LORD."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

First Sunday of Lent

Two feet of snow still on the ground, and
the birds are singing the awakening of spring.
God, bless me with the same audacity.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lent 4

God of the mountains, God of the plateaus:
In the wilds we cry out to you
for angels
to feed us in our wandering
to reveal a spring of lovingkindess
so that this wilderness of a world
might be flooded with compassion
that drowns out selfish power
and satiates the thirsty and impoverished.

God of the beasts, God of the thorns:
In the wilds we cry out to you
for angels
to minister to our cultural loneliness
to exorcise the insulation from our lives
so that we see this wilderness clearly
and discover companions for the journey
through nights of raw beauty
through days of devastation.

God of the rocks, God of the winds:
In the wilds we cry out to you
for angels
to sweep us up from despair
to enliven us with bold visions
so that the wilderness is a God-with-us place,
a Christ-calling and Spirit-driving place,
until the whole world is renewed
until the wilds bring us home.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lent 3

I will praise my God for being enough:

This day I am blessed with light enough
to warm the winter's depression.

This day I am blessed with love enough
to participate fully and engage joyfully.

This day I am blessed with strength enough
to walk and courage enough to run.

This day I am blessed with breath enough
to speak and to pause before I speak.

This day I am blessed with life enough
to praise the Living God
who is more than enough.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lent 2

O God of symphonies and silence,

Fine-tune my ears to hear your harmonies woven between the drone of rushing cars along the highway and the subtle treble songs of birds hidden in the trees.

Fine-tune my soul to hear the major chords of eternal triumph swelling through the foundations of the earth and extending in brilliance through the rays of each sunrise to the mysteries of each constellation.

Fine-tune my heart to hear the dissonant triad of hunger, fear, and injury vibrating through hospitals and war zones and shelters and food pantries...and through the life experience of each person I meet.

Fine-tune my hands to pluck out the tune of a prayer amidst the daily cacophony, my voice to sing a note that is life-giving and not death-dealing, my spirit to beat out rhythms that energize me to dance with gladness.

Fine-tune me to resonate with you, O God of symphonies and silence.

Still Reflecting on Ash Wednesday?

The CCblogs network offers a variety of reflections for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. You might also find a blog at CCblogs to follow regularly as part of your Lenten devotions!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lent 1 (Ash Wednesday)

O God, I am not one who gives up---
not in the face of a challenge,
rarely in the course of an argument,
not even for the ritual of Lent---
you have, after all, knit stubbornness firmly into
this creature of dust!

But this year, I am ready
(uncertain, perhaps, but ready)
to give up.

I would like to give up playing God:
would you please be God instead?

I'd like to throw off my self-important stress
and take myself less seriously for a change.
I think, if you will take on the task of being
In Control and Abundantly Loving and Life-Giving,
then I will quite enjoy rolling around
in the dust and ashes:
dressing with the carefree glamour of lilies,
eating simply with the delight of birds,
and savoring the earthiness that is
LIFE.

Being God is all yours, God;
I'm giving it up, I'm done!
Bless me with the grace and the mindfulness
to stick to this fast of mine,
and to relish---even feast upon---
my life of ashes.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Unrequited

Still the end of the day comes, still the darkness falls and Orion rises, and a glass of wine does not draw me any closer to communion with You. I am torn between guilt-induced prayer to bridge this silent chasm . . . and mindless silence to turn prayerfully, painfully, away from what I cannot hear anyway. You are -- where? -- tonight, and I am here alone, here at a loss. Be in the darkness. Return me safely to the sunlight.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Minding Our Motives: Redemption

A friend read my "Minding Our Motives" post and recalled a familiar triusm: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

So, if the road of white racism---by which I mean, well-intentioned-but-oblivious white prejudice and acquiescence to systemic racism, as opposed to intentionally hateful acts of discrimination and physical/verbal/emotional violence against non-whites---is in fact a road to hell that is paved with our (well-meaning white folks') good intentions, then what is our salvation from ourselves and from the preferential system in which we are entrenched?

1. I believe, first and foremost, in the need for whites to EDUCATE OURSELVES and one another. If we want to understand non-white experiences within the United States and around the world, then we must pick up a book (any number of them!) and read it! While the impact of hearing a friend or colleague's personal experience of racism is irreplaceable, we whites must be ever cautious about placing the burden of our own education upon others (who, by the way, cannot speak for all persons of color and ethnicity and nationality...though we implicitly ask them to do so). Want to know, for example, what it's like to grow up Black or to raise Black children in the predominantly white school district in which you live? Read "Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" by Beverly Daniel Tatum. I've revisited this classic myself recently; my two children, after all, don't come running home from school to share, "Hey Mom, guess how I experienced systemic racism at school today?!"---yet I hear it when my daughter talks about the repeated slight that she experiences from her 2nd grade teacher and I see it when my son is complimented for being an exceptional young Black man (like when commentators marvel that our President is articulate and intelligent). Read White Like Me by Tim Wise; watch Traces of the Trade (a copy can be borrowed from the resource library of Penn Central Conference) or Race: The Power of an Illusion to begin to delve into the depths of the history of race and racism.

2. If our well-intentioned motives too often deceive us into believing that we (again, whites) are thinking and saying the politically correct things, then we need to join and forge interracial coalitions that will challenge our thinking and our saying and, more importantly, compel us beyond thinking and saying to acting. If intentions do not matter, as I suggested in an earlier blog, then we must stop trying so hard to mean well and actually GET ACTIVE in anti-racism work: in schools and curricula rewrites and standardized testing, in prison reform, in economic policies and international debt forgiveness, in WalMart and Gap's problematic "employment" of underpaid and underage women in Latin & South American countries for clothes-making, in our local colleges where hateful words are still scrawled in public places... Pick one, and become an agent of anti-racism. We whites tend to become overwhelmed rather quickly by the enormity of systemic racism and the abyss of our own white guilt. Getting involved with an already-existing coalition or agency helps to calm our panic and positively focus our anxious need to "do something."

We (whites) are not beyond hope, although we make the most progress toward being anti-racist when we shed our self-righteous motives and humbly lose our fear of being perceived as racist...we are racist simply by virtue of being compliantly mired in this system of white privilege. When we glimpse the tip of this iceberg-of-a-system, then we begin to understand that our well-intentioned motives, our careful use of politically correct language, and our prideful report of having one Black friend or one biracial nephew/niece, are (nearly) meaningless in resisting the iceberg's impact around us. We can be most useful---and, perhaps, redeemed---when we set aside our pride and finally risk our comfortable whiteness to join an interracial coalition in the work of anti-racism.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Triune Blessing


Vibrant God be in your being.

Brother Jesus be in your walking.

Wisdom-Spirit be in your relating.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Minding Our Motives

Four days ago, I posted this short commentary on the Penn Central Conference (UCC)'s Sacred Conversation on Race blog:

Checking Our White "Savior Complex"

In the scramble to send personnel and resources to Haiti, it is important to critically analyze any and all overtones
of the privileged "saving" the underprivileged, of the white/Western/wealthy/compassionate nation "rescuing" the non-white/non-American/developing/portrayed-as-self-looting nation---whether those overtones are present in the media or in our own thinking.

This self-critique is particularly important in regards to the children of Haiti. A statement was recently published by a coalition of adoptees of color, Statement on Haiti, emphasizing the need to avoid compounding a Haitian child's trauma by removing him/her from all that is familiar and beloved, and encouraging caution against the assumption that Haiti cannot care for (parent) her own children.

There are ways to help. But we risk repeating the severe mistakes of white American/European imperialism when we rush to rescue without minding our motives.


The blog was posted on 1/30/10. On 2/1, Reuters published this article (U.S. Missionaries reject Haiti child-traffic charges), about the 1/29 arrest of an American church group who tried to cross the Haiti-Dominican Republic border with 33 Haitian children, without permission or paperwork, in order to "rescue" these children from their circumstances in Haiti.

Oh my God.

From a born-and-raised-in-and-love-the-church perspective, I want to cry out: "Please stop making it so easy for the world to view Christians with cynicism and scorn! I know that I am not alone in despising your patronizing overtones; I resent your privileged sweet-talk about God's purpose...and I'm a church 'insider'!"

Regardless of any future verdict of guilty or not, this rescue attempt bleeds with the history of white imperialistic Christianity---European missionaries in Africa preaching cultural change to achieve salvation; immigrant Euro/American military and religious personnel (c'mon now, white Americans need to remember that we are all immigrants and stop pretending that this land has been ours forever or that it is ours to "protect" from non-white immigrants!) cooperating in the conquest of Native American Indian territories; American military presence in the South Pacific and the Middle East; etc. etc. etc.

In light of this "incident" in Haiti, in light of the deeply problematic history of whites using Christianity as a reason to "rescue, conquer and civilize" non-whites, manipulating theological language of salvation (equated to whiteness) to justify the violent exorcism and redemption of sins (equated to darkness), I am led to say in the case of these Baptist missionaries (and, frankly, to my fellow whites in all matters of race): INTENTIONS DO NOT MATTER.

I pause briefly to see if I want to reconsider the absoluteness of this statement... No. For too long we whites have been well-meaning but not well-mannered, and although I wish it were not true, white Christians repeatedly and inextricably confuse "Love one another" with a lukewarm directive to maintain fuzzy & kind feelings as the basis for reaching out to support/develop friendships with a non-white brother or sister.

Although my missionary brothers & sisters (whoo, that's challenging to say!) who have been arrested in Haiti profess their well-meaning intentions, they clearly felt---consciously or not---that Haiti's government was incapable of caring for these 33 children, and that the dark & devastated Haitian authorities could be arbitrarily overlooked and bypassed by themselves: white, civilized, organized missionaries who (after all) meant well.

Bull.

Your intentions do not matter...although they have spoken volumes. Despite one's motives of kindness or sincere belief in God's direction, if one's (your/my/our) actions assume in any way that we know better than a non-white friend, colleague, or stranger---especially in regards to his/her own life and experience and future direction---then we have proven ourselves to be frauds in following Christ's commandment to "Love one another."