(Untitled)

Remember that old story of someone meeting a boy going to school in the days before school buses were invented, and this lad was carrying a younger boy, obviously lame, on this back. ‘Do you carry him to school every day?’ asked the stranger. ‘Yes’ the boy replied. ‘That’s a heavy burden to carry,’ said the stranger. ‘Ah, he’s no burden,’ replies the boy. ‘He’s my brother!’

Love turns burdens into no burden at all and that’s the way it must be and is with the Christian life, for God never asks us to do something which is impossible for us to accomplish. His commands are not a burden but a privilege, an opportunity to show his love in the world.

(Untitled)

When you get to your wit’s end, you’ll find God lives there.

(Untitled)

Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality.

– Alfred Painter

(Untitled)

Eternal God,
Creator of years, of centuries,
Lord of whatever is beyond time,
Maker of all species and master of all history —
How shall we speak to you
from our smallness and inconsequence?
Except that you have called us to worship you
in spirit and in truth;
You have dignified us with loves and loyalties;
You have lifted us up with your lovingkindnesses.
Therefore we are bold to come before you without groveling
[though we sometimes feel that low]
and without fear
[though we are often anxious].
We sing with spirit and pray with courage
because you have dignified us;
You have redeemed us from the aimlessness
of things going meaninglessly well.
God, lift the hearts of those
for whom this holiday is not just diversion,
but painful memory and continued deprivation.
Bless those whose dear ones have died
needlessly, wastefully [as it seems]
in accident or misadventure.
We remember with compassion those who have died
serving their countries
in the futility of combat.
There is none of us but must come to bereavement and separation,
when all the answers we are offered
fail the question death asks of each of us.
We believe that you will provide for us
as others have been provided with the fulfillment of
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

~ A Memorial Day Prayer by Rev. Dick Kozelka (ret.)
First Congregational Church, Minneapolis, MN

(Untitled)

Hear the great good news of our faith:

The Spirit is alive!

Breathe, children of God,

breathe the fresh winds of the Spirit.

Taste, children of God,

taste the quenching waters of God’s love.

Touch, children of God,

touch the heat of God’s passion for justice.

(Untitled)

Fire of God

Still the Spirit comes
With purifying fire
With power of wind that blows the slender reeds
And stirs and wakes the slumbering seeds

In hearts laid bare he sets to work
In open minds his light will shine
And to the world reveal
Abundance of fruits in hallowed hands
Marked at birth with chrism’s seal

Still the Spirit comes
As fire, as oil, as dove, as breeze
But most of all as breath of Love
That fans to flame the fire of God.

~ Veritas at Poetry, Prayer and Praise

(Untitled)

Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists
and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Make soup.
Play music, memorize the words for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief
as the outbreath of beauty or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Wage peace.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious:
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Celebrate today.

~Judyth Hill, “Wage Peace”

(Untitled)

“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment.”

― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

(Untitled)

Open, Loving Presence
By Kayla McClurg

“If you could have anything at all, what would you ask for?”

How might you answer?

Quickly Sr. Roni said, “Two people each morning to come to the Jail, just to be an open, loving presence to the men and women who are being released.”

That’s how it started. And for 5 weeks now, a few of us have gone in pairs Monday through Friday to a defunct inner-city hospital near the D.C. Jail and Correctional Treatment Facility, which is home to 3,700 of our neighbors. Once the coffee is made and the fruit and pastries are arranged on the counter, we have no other task than just to be there, to wait and to welcome any who come. And when someone comes, we simply sit still and listen. We practice open, loving presence. We ‘be.’

Is it making a difference? Is it enough?

Last October Sr. Roni and Dr. Janelle, who provide medical services to the inmates, began to share with a few of us what life is like at the Jail, especially for the most vulnerable ones who are released without a network of support. Most have health problems, no job prospects, no housing, no family or friends, no community. Their hope is that we might help bridge the gap for a few who are teetering between returning to the tomb of their past or taking hold of new life.

What we do is so, so small. We say hello. We sit together over a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. We listen to whatever is said, or whatever is not said. Like the angels described in the Talmud as hovering over each blade of grass, we lean toward each one and our hearts whisper, ‘Grow, grow.’ One of the discharge planners who is with us twice a week says that what we’re doing is bigger than we realize, that we’re creating space for the restoring of dignity, something that was stripped away in Jail. We’re releasing the shame simply by being unafraid to hear the truth of a person’s story. Sometimes I sense it too, that the Seamstress of the universe is in our midst, mending what has been torn apart, humming softly to herself as the ripped places start to take on strangely beautiful, never-before-imagined patterns.

One morning a man very vulnerably opened his life and shared the hurdles that lay ahead if he was going to be able to choose a new path. I practiced, as best I could, being an open, loving presence, listening empathically without revealing the worry and concern that were growing in me. What I was trying to convey was calm assurance, but what I was thinking was something like this:

Your situation sounds impossible! You are facing more barriers than any human being should be asked to face. And you’re so alone! You have no place to live, no job, no family, no friends. You are unbelievably courageous in the face of it all, but this is more than even the strongest person could carry. And here I sit. While you suffer, this sister of yours thinks she’ll try to be an ‘open, loving presence.’ How helpful is that?!

Outwardly I continued to try to convey compassionate detachment, but inwardly I was in turmoil. What happened next had to be a God-thing. He stopped mid-sentence, looked me in the eyes and said, “Now, you do know I’m going to be okay, don’t you?”

He waited to see if I had really heard. Then he added: “You’re doing all you need to do. Listening to me is all you need to do. Now I can do what I need to do.”

You can’t make this stuff up. All you can do is either go back for more or stay away. Listen or keep trying to fix things. Open up or shut down. In a dreary room with paint peeling off the walls in an abandoned hospital near the D.C. Jail isn’t where you’d expect to find Church, but in that neglected place the Body of Christ is being broken and poured out and prayed over. The Spirit is blowing in, Jubilee is breaking out and the ones who had come to listen are being healed.

I didn’t know five weeks ago that Sr. Roni’s answer was my answer too. And now I ask it again: If YOU could have anything at all, what would you ask for?

(Untitled)

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

Marcus Aurelius