Category Archives: Church

The Lenten Writings: the beginning of the end

Christ has no body now, but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks compassion into the world.
Yours are the feet
with which Christ walks to do good.
Yours are the hands
with which Christ blesses the world.

Theresa of Avila

The beginning of the end.
The end of the beginning.

As you enter the Lenten season, would you journey with me?

Today I turned off facebook, printed some Praying in Color Lenten templates, and prepared my heart.

Lent is new too me, a recovering Baptist. I was introduced in the Mystic Activists. I was first marked by ashes from a prison parish priest. It was a singular experience.

Except for the obvious dunking ritual, Baptist’s shy away from externals. There is goodness in that; as faith is a very personal deal. How I encounter the Mystery may take a lifetime to unfold, and may not look very churchy.

But I think humans need ritual. It grounds me, it reminds me of the rhythms of the year, and it gives me pause. In this busy space called life, it is good to pause.

Enter Ash Wednesday.

The Lenten Writings: a time to speak

“You can tell the people that if they proceed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully , they will realize that they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish.

The church would betray its own love for Good and its fidelity to the gospel if it stopped being a defender of the rights of the poor, or a humanizer of every legitimate struggle to achieve a more just society … that prepares the way for the true reign of God in history.

When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.” (The Church is the people by Oscar Romero).

There comes a time when to be silent is to participate in the violence, the hiddenness.

The wise man of old said the now famous words, “there is a time to be silent, and a time to speak.”

There is a movement taking place.

We watched the #MeToo campaign sweep our news feeds last fall. It gave voice to women, and men, who had experienced sexual abuse. It was a conversation starter, naming sexual harassment and sexual verbal abuse for what it is; sexual abuse.

Someone started a #ChurchToo hashtag; and slowly, the silence is beginning to break. What about the Church and sexual abuse? The Catholics led the way, perhaps not by choice. But the Protestants, known historically for protesting injustice from within, have largely been silent.

And so now we see a movement sweeping the country #SilenceIsNotSpiritual. It started with a statement. It is continuing with story. #LentenLament gives voice to the grief, which is right and good.

When girls are not safe in their homes, when boys are not safe in their churches, when women think workplace abuse is “the way it is”, when men perpetrate rape culture….

It is time to lament.

How are you breaking the silence?

How might you be invited to share your story?

What codes of silence are still being kept in your circles?

In your faith community?

It is time to speak.

This is my story. In my home. In my faith community.

I am speaking out.

How about you?

The Lenten Writings: just you

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

(By Teresa of Avila)

The Lenten Writings: revisiting old stories

Matthew 4:8-11

“It’s not much, I know, what with slums and the dubious types

who eat at the better tables. Still one can whine forever, can’t one? Take what comes when it’s ripe,

I say. Pleasure’s no evil if taken as a sign

That life is good. There IS an ease one finds

In this place: the limited joys that come with largess. I’ve come to like it, a shock, perhaps from a mind

Once filled with higher saws. Welcome … to “The Best We Can Do.’ Allow me to pour you a middling sherry. The decanter is chipped, but the maids are lively,

can laugh.

And, if you allow, performers will keep us merry.

I’ll call for a tweedler, one who knows his craft.” “You serve yourself at table, eat your tail,

While my quiet lovers reach, even now for the nails.”

(This is a resetting by David Craig of Satan’s third temptation:

offering Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor)

I love it when a story gets reworked. It gives me pause. Here is an old familiar one, if you grew up in church circles. Revisited…

It’s always been a curious thing to me, the story of Jesus’ Temptation. First of all, it’s sort of an oxymoron. Is it possible that Jesus was tempted, Truly? Hebrews indicates yes. In fact one prof who loved the book said he thought Jesus experienced Temptation 150% compared to us at maybe 20%.

I don’t really know how that theology works; but I do know that this story is included in the book. When I write, I think about Story. I think about what has shaped me, and I think about what will impact those who read my words. So I don’t think it’s there accidentally.

Then there’s this. It sounds like he offers him all the kingdoms of the world. When I think about the kingdom we live in right now, I would say you can have it. No thank you. Wherever you land politically, it’s been a tough year.

So how was that really a Temptation?

And then, if you hold to the idea that a supreme being is all powerful, and that’s what Jesus was, then why was this something he wanted from someone else?

Lots of questions, few answers.

Maybe that’s Lent.

Space to sit in the questions.

Room for silence.

No answers.

Sounds about right.

Source: Matthew 4:8-11, by David Craig,

A Praying the Gospels through Poetry: Lent to Easter,

Peggy Rosenthal, St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2001.

From the Lenten Poetry Companion, Mystic Activists, Neighborhood Ministries

The Lenten Writings: righteous indignation

Possible Answers to Prayer

“Your petitions—though they continue to bear

just the one signature—have been duly recorded.

Your anxieties—despite their constant,

relatively narrow scope and inadvertent

entertainment value—nonetheless serve

to bring your person vividly to mind.

Your repentance—all but obscured beneath

a burgeoning, yellow fog of frankly more

conspicuous resentment—is sufficient.

Your intermittent concern for the sick,

the suffering, the needy poor is sometimes

recognizable to me, if not to them.

Your angers, your zeal, your lipsmackingly

righteous indignation toward the many

whose habits and sympathies offend you—

these must burn away before you’ll apprehend

how near I am, with what fervor I adore

precisely these, the several who rouse your passions.”

What rouses your passion? Or maybe more accurately, your judgments? Do you have a favorite sin that you like to rant about? Or maybe a lifestyle choice or sexual orientation that really gets you going? Is it immigration status that riles you up? Politics? Vaccines? Home birth?

This prayer is hauntingly disturbing. It raises more questions than answers. In a time of Lent, where the focus is on self reflection and prayer; it points the finger back.

Sometimes in group work we play with the idea of a mirror. Another person’s actions of words trigger my opinions or judgments. Often, it is because he or she is a mirror to me. It is my imperfect self that I see in the other that gives me a rise, or provokes a strong reaction.

Before breakfast, we had a rousing conversation at our house. (That’s not the norm, in case you are wondering). My husband was telling the story of the woman caught in adultery. She was in the very act of it. No question. And Jesus pointed back. “Let the one among you who has no sin cast the first stone.” And then He just sits and starts playing in the dirt with a stick. When Jesus looks up, the air is still, no one is left. And then the words, gentle, perhaps with tears. “Neither do I condemn you… ”

This is a good place for me to sit today. And the lyrical storytelling that I heard it in this in this morning, three teenagers interrupting themselves to add details, made the story come alive.

Sometimes, I have a really hard time with the church. Not surprising, I suppose, as my wounds occurred within that context. And so, as I wrestle, I am brought back again and again to the words of Jesus. Not the church lens, thick like my grandmother’s glasses, through which I often see people.

No judgment.

I want to show up that way. Heart first, ready to listen, led by love. It’s in that space that real conversation starts.

And maybe in that place, I will begin to apprehend how very near the Presence is…

Scott Cairns, “Possible Answers to Prayer” from Philokalia: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002 by Scott Cairns. Reprinted with the permission of Zoo Press.

Source: Philokalia: New and Selected Poems (Zoo Press, 2002)

From the Lenten Poetry Companion, Mystic Activists, Neighborhood Ministries.

The Lenten Writings: of silence and speaking

We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers.


And the few willing to listen demanded that we confess on television.

So we kept our sins to ourselves, and they became less troubling.

The halt and the lame arranged to have their hips replaced.

Lepers coated their sores with a neutral foundation, avoided strong light.

The hungry ate at grand buffets and grew huge, though they remained hungry.

Prisoners became indistinguishable from the few who visited them.

Widows remarried and became strangers to their kin.

The orphans finally grew up and learned to fend for themselves.

Even the prophets suspected they were mad, and kept their mouths shut.

Only the poor—who are with us always—only they continued in the hope.

The sunset tonight was unable to be captured. It stood in stark contrast to the stiff buildings created as magnificent structures of grandeur.

Today was a day of breaking silence. Perhaps that is what this poet was getting at. The poor know it. They shoot straight. It’s no use pretending. We’re all f-d up anyway right?!

Perhaps this is the kind of honesty that is missing in the Church. Instead, we put on foundation and avoid strong light.

I choose to continue in hope.

Late takers, poem.

Philokilia: New and Selected Poems by Scott Cairns. Zoo press: Lincoln, NE, 2002.

From the Lenten Poetry Companion, Mystic Activists, Neighborhood Ministries.

The Lenten writings: Going on a trip…

I’m thinking about taking a trip. Would you like to join me?

How I loved those words as a child. Today, I was invited to go on a journey. At the Mystic Activists study at neighborhood ministries we were given a Lenten poetry companion. I asked if I could share it with you, day by day.

Want to come along?

Ash Wednesday.

A new experience for this recovering evangelical. It is profoundly moving to me to be marked by the ashes. Such a strong symbol, so visible. I see people looking at me differently, focusing on the forehead. Kevin Starr led us this morning, from the Catholic Diocese. Normally, he is in the jails; but he said we were not so different.

That’s what I love about neighborhood actually, such an awareness of being in the mess together.

Opening Words by Denise Levertov

I believe the earth

Exists, and

In each minim mote

Of its dust the holy

Glow of thy candle.


Unknown I know,

Thou spirit,


Lover of making, of the

Wrought letter,

Wrought flower,

Iron, deed, dream,

Dust of the earth,

Help thou my

Unbelief. Drift

Gray become gold, in the beam of

Vision. I believe with

Doubt. I doubt and

Interrupt my doubt with belief. Be,

Beloved, threatened world.

Each minim


Not the poisonous luminescence forced

Out of its privacy.

The sacred lock of its cell

Broken. No,

The ordinary glow

Of common dust in ancient sunlight.

Be, that I may believe.


And so it begins. Welcome to Lent.

Come and see 

I found myself saying this phrase today. It was couched in an afternoon so thick with redemption that you could smell Jesus.

He’s crazy like that, you know. 

Crazy enough to bring together a babysitter and  a little girl, now in grown up bodies, to share story. 

Stories of Harm, and stories of goodness, with silly stories of the every day mixed between. 

History, we call it; the stories of Long Ago. This was a space for “her-story”. Infinitely more sacred, and raw and it’s beauty and pain. 

These two crazy fishermen were talking one day. Probably the one was asking the other why in the world he had given up the business, when it had been in the family for generations. And all that, to follow a new guy in town that people said was crazy?! Definitely illegitimate at the very least. And in a place where bloodlines matter, that was unforgivable.

And what did the smelly fisherman say?

Come. And. See. 


aspen circle near snow bowl, Flagstaff, Arizona 

What if…

A lament for our Dream Act kids…We were the immigrants once. We are the immigrants today. We are the they. 

What if…we stopped drawing lines in the sand between us. 

What if…we stopped building walls. 

What if…we stopped throwing words like grenades. 

What if…we stopped using fear to form laws. 
What if…we started daring to turn over Temple tables. 

What if…we started with the scroll of good news to the poor. 

What if…we started to break our Samaritan neighbor world view. 

What if…we started to love our neighbor. 
What then?!
Would justice roll down?

Would swords get repurposed as plowshares? 

Would children who took a long trip keep their papers?

Would old sheriffs have to keep the law?
And then?

What if. 

What if the kingdom were to come. 

On earth. 

As it is in heaven. 
Every tribe. 

Every tongue. 

Every nation. 

Every body. 

Welcome home. 

Home where you belong. 
What. If. 

Grace for today.  

Today is kids club… the in between Sunday. It’s the day we get to hear from the work crew and interns. They have been working their tails off in the hottest week of summer. It hit 120° the first day. Neighborhood. My kids get to be loved on here, with 450+ others and 120 volunteers. 

Amd change that is occurring in the leaders’ hearts…

It is interwoven with Story. Story of a child’s life and reality. Story of homes that are not safe sometimes. So kids club, it is a respite; a taste of something different. This is the place where someone shows up, just for that child.

This story used to seem so far removed to me, a story of the inner-city. I know now, that it was my story too. I wish that there had been adults with eyes to see, when I was a kid; to see beyond.

And so, when I felt myself swept away with the crazy music on the first day, I hold space for these kids playing tag around me in the middle of worship. I asked that there would be adults who show up for them, and who have eyes to see.

May it be so.