Sunday, November 30, 2008

God is Found in the Most Unlikely Places

...and I have a crazy poem all about it. Which was here for a few days, but must disappear now. So I'll just jot down a few of the places where God has turned up for me...

On a cold December day, when I sat in my car crying, and saw a lone blooming flower.

At my daughter's home birth, when the midwife wasn't reachable, and the baby would arrive in twenty minutes.

In the kind words of a Tri-met bus driver.

At the Goodwill, in a used book, where I discovered a new favorite poet.

When I skinned my knee on the curb, and was terrified, and my aunt assured me, "No, all the blood will not flow out of your body."

What about you? Where are some ordinary or unlikely or amazing places you've found God?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ways We Did Not Finish A Last Conversation

Morning Prayer
by Tom Kinzie

This pale light of spring sky,
these hung low heavens,
that child with face pressed against the glass door, his laughter,
the way a crow flies — so comfortable in his clumsy swagger,
those four older folk, husbands, wives, eating donuts,
worried about the world, laughing at the arrogance of power,
the terrible useless bloodshed, the donuts in the warm brown liquid,
so small among huge atrocities and ideas
the ease of friendship, they have heard this before,
morning prayers, old language,
simple grace of silence, Japanese flute on radio,
dog at my feet, quiet in his own expectations,
my longing, my restlessness,
the nagging of something there for days now.
Oh my God, what strange blessings you have given me today!
If only you would open me to everything.
Only you could.
If only you would help me resist nothing.
Only you can.
The loneliness that harasses,
memories still urgent, the
something left undone,
those faces, those voices,
ways we did not finish a last conversation.
What way should I breathe this rest of your day?
I would be your amen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

On A Dappled Monday

Pied Beauty

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

GLORY be to God for dappled things --

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced -- fold, fallow, and plough;

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

What a wonderful poet was Hopkins, a conflicted, sometimes tortured human being. Sadly, he destroyed many of his own poems. I'm glad some survived. I love the way he loves God.

Observing his life shows what a thief guilt can be. Sad, how so many people are torn up over "sin" when that's exactly the point of Good News. Forget all this preoccupation with sin. Live! We are created, and recreated, to live.

Think I'll go find me some chestnuts.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Something to Say

It's been taking me a long time. Because...

It's easier to say a thing when you know people want to hear it. Or when you know they'll agree with you. Or when you know you won't be misunderstood. Or, when you have a whole mess 'a people to back you up. Lacking all these assurances, I have been reluctant, for many years, to write about my faith.

Several years ago I was a regular contributor to a number of large religious periodicals. It was nice. But when I moved from the path of faith that I was on, to a bumpier path - same faith, new ideas, ruts, questions - I suddenly became shy. I didn't know what to say to the old crowd. I couldn't agree any longer with that religious culture. Couldn't parrot the ideals of the institutions I'd attended. I didn't like the way things were done, but I didn't want to be a complainer.

Since then I've learned, speaking up for what you believe doesn't make you a complainer.

So I'm creating this space where I can invite a conversation about the spiritual journey - a conversation I can stand behind. I foster a faith that doesn't shut people out, make snap judgements, rely on labels, seek the tired and safe ways of looking at things. Hell, I might even say something worthwhile now and then.

Let's ask ourselves: where have we been "nice" when perhaps we had a message to share, a message the world needed?

Monday, November 17, 2008


Today two people of a certain religious persuasion came to my door. I saw in it an opportunity to be converted. Not to be converted to another religion, which is what they had hoped, but to be converted from "being right" and "having my say" to welcoming humanity to my doorstep. Their comments began like this:

"We'd like to tell you..."

"You might be interested in..."

"This article here says that..."

Many years ago, I used to engage folks like this in conversational warfare, pinpointing differences between our faiths and arguing my stance, in order to "save them from the error of their ways." No longer.

Maybe, today, it was the reminder from Laura Swan that helped me to respond the way I did. Laura Swan, prioress of Saint Placid Priory in Lacey, Washington, spoke Saturday at Contemplative Outreach. "You should sometimes read things you don't agree with," she said, "to practice hearing other points of view."

And so I decided to listen to these two women without trying to formulate a single comeback or argument. My thoughts went like this...

Look at the woman. Listen to where she is coming from. This faith means so much to her. Where has she been in her life? Look at her partner. See the tiredness in both of their eyes. See how desperately they want to do what's right.

When they left I said "Thank you," and they said, "Thank you," and I could hear the softness and relief in their voices at this strange thing that had happened, at this peace at how their words were heard, as they smiled and went on their way.