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blank book laying open on copper-tinted plant with small blue flowers

Wordless

blank book laying open on copper-tinted plant with small blue flowers

Wordless

For Anneliese and Luke

 

I am a pray-er and writer

a speaker and singer

I am a word weaver and warrior

but you

have taken my words away.

 

From the breath and keen of labor

to the fog and ache of nursing

from the midnight

three

and five a.m.

giving myself

to the smile and sigh

and wet and messy

I have lost my words,

lost their place and purpose

their rhyme and rhythm.

I have barely enough presence

to play and read with you,

clean and dress you,

feed and comfort you,

rock and carry you

in my arms

in my heart

in my mind

every waking

and dreaming

and worrying

moment.

 

So these are my prayers, now,

these are my poems:

the kiss on your cheek

the light in my eyes

the fullness in my breasts

the cushion in my belly

the tightness in my back

the warmth in my skin

the love that swells my heart

to bursting.

 

These are the Words made Flesh

that I write, speak, preach, pray, sing

for you, my children,

fruit of my body,

beloved of my soul.

 

I am wordless

with wonder

erased

and re-written

by love.

A New Home In A New Land

Immigrants on deck of steamer

Immigrants on deck of steamer

Fifty-one years ago my maternal grandmother was sitting on a suitcase in Grand Central Station, crowds pressing in, sounds swirling around, smells lingering. Her new husband had gone off in search of some food for the final leg of their journey to their new home in Holland, MI. My grandpa clutched their one lone American coin, a quarter, and selected large navel oranges and some dark chocolates to share with his new bride – luxuries they did not have the opportunity to possess in a post-war Germany with limited opportunity, limited promise, limited security.

My grandparents’ family could not understand why they would want to leave their home, why they would want to start over. Starting over as an immigrant is humbling. Grandpa headed off to a third shift job at Krampton’s Factory each day. His advanced degree in agriculture was not of much use without his own farm. Grandma went to work at Lemmon Fresh Dry Cleaner and spent her days listening to English on the radio and from the customers, as she steamed, pressed, and pleated clothing.  Her degree in home economics was not of much use without her own home.  Read more

Sleeping to One Side

Empty BedsI sleep alone in my queen-size bed and I’ve slept alone in this bed for almost two years. You’d think that after two years, I’d sleep sprawled in the middle of this mattress, limbs stretching as far as they could reach. But two years after I last had company on this mattress, I still sleep on one side of it. I can put my iPad and iPhone, four pillows and even a tower of books on the other side of the bed and when I wake up they will all be there, unmoved. It is hard to break the habits you learn when you share a bed night after night.

I sleep alone in my queen-size bed and you’d think that would mean I’ve been single for two years. But I haven’t…or I have. It’s complicated. Everything is complicated when you’re married to a man who is in jail. I’ve been raising a son alone despite the fact that he has a living father. I’ve been filing my taxes as “married” despite the fact that I’m the sole bread winner and only adult in the house. I’ve been going to bed alone despite the fact that I have a husband. Complicated. Read more

“The Gospel According to…”

medium_5196311746A few months ago, I attended a conference about storytelling. As I packed my bags and started to wrap my mind around what storytelling and church might have in common, I’ll admit it, I was skeptical. But what came from that conference is perhaps one of the most beautiful, gospel giving moments I’ve ever encountered in my ministry.

One of the nights at the conference, we learned about sharing our own stories and how they impact our communal understandings of well, communion. Our lives together in this beautiful thing we call church depend so much on hearing one another’s stories, living into one another’s joys, hurts, sorrows and celebrations. And how often do we really get to do this during our worship?

For the season of Easter at my church, we decided to take this storytelling idea and put it into practice on Sunday mornings. Because of the makeup of our church, its urban setting and our culture, Sundays are really the days we see each other during the week. For these weeks of Easter, we’ll read two less lectionary texts and instead hear “The Gospel According to…” in their place. We’ll hear resurrection stories that are current, contemporary and contextual.

Taking the basics from the conference, we invited congregation members to share their own resurrection stories in two to four minutes. We pitched the idea on Shrove Tuesday with a pancake dinner and bacon (people will consider a lot of things when you offer them free pancakes and bacon) and invited church members to take the season of Lent to reflect on a story of resurrection in their own lives. During Lent, they met with pastors, reflected on their idea, put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard) and looked for signs of resurrection all around them.

And this pastor has had quite the moving experience. I’ve sat in my office and listened to resurrection stories full of hope, promise and the presence of God. And I’ve listened to messy stories where everything isn’t resolved, but light still pokes through the darkness. The promise of resurrection leans in and it can’t be stripped from the story. I never would have known these stories if we hadn’t tried this endeavor in worship.

Barbara Brown Taylor has a sermon based on the Magnificat for the season of Advent. She calls Mary’s song “singing ahead of time.” I can’t help but think of that sermon each time I’ve sat down to hear the stories of church members. Over cups of coffee and homemade pastries, we’ve cried and we’ve laughed reflecting on God’s goodness and how we all need to slow down a little more to look for signs of resurrection all around us. We’ll hear stories about lost jobs, lost loves, healed family relationships, experiences in courthouses, our own health and meals around tables.

The fear everyone had in the beginning was that they wouldn’t have a resurrection story in their own lives. They couldn’t think of a tomb-rolling-away kind of situation. Turns out, the stories that most encourage us and show God’s activity in our lives are the stories involving relationships, ordinary time and in the midst of chaos. Life is not peaceful, but resurrection is still present. Life was not peaceful when Jesus resurrected. It was full of questions and chaos and pain.

Our church members are singing ahead of time as they long for the completion of what is to come. They hope, they search for hope and by sharing their stories, we all have streams of light pouring into our lives.

“Waters of Love” and “Birth Water”: New Poetry

Waters of Love

Genesis 1:1-5 and Mark 1:4-11

Life begins in the waters of creation.
The void. The deep. And the spirit of God swept over the face of the waters –
first creating one-celled,
then multiple-celled,
and eventually the endless numbers of intricately-evolved organisms
that populate the earth today.
And God called it good, beloved.

Life begins in the waters of creation.
The womb. We’ve all been there. Floating in the watery sac of amniotic fluid,
we each grew from 2 cells,
to multiple organs,
to the wondrously complicated being that sits in the pew
next to your neighbor: you.
And God called you good, beloved.

Life begins in the waters of creation.
The Jordan River. The place where Jesus stepped out of the waves and into his mission and ministry.
Growing from one Word of love,
to multiple acts of justice,
into an infinite call for each person to follow… into new life.
And God called the baptism good, and God’s child beloved.

The Deep.
The Womb.
The Jordan.
New life begins in the waters of creation.
And the new life is good.
Beloved.

_______________

Read more

New Art and Poetry

This month we are pleased to offer visual art and poetry together from two different artists, Mary Allison Cates (who created a series we featured in Advent) and Heidi Koschzec.

by Mary Allison Cates

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Reflections on Advent: A Way of Peace

The quote from James Agee ties the images together: “In every child who is born, the potentiality of the human race is born again, and of each of us, our terrific responsibility toward life, and the utmost idea of God.”

According to the artist, “New life happens, even in the face of global warming, war, poverty, and interpersonal conflict. May our saving Lord Jesus Christ be born in us again this Advent season, so that we may respond to our broken world by creating a way of peace.”

Click on images to see full-size versions: