Category Archives: Community

The Lenten Writings: remember

God of peace,

God of justice,

God of freedom,

We give you thanks for your cadences of peace, justice, and freedom,

Cadences that have surged through the lives

Of Martin,

And Ralph

And Rosa,

And John,

And Fred,

And Hosea,

And Jesse,

And Andy,

And all that nameless mass of risk-takers who have been

Obedient to your promises

And susceptible to your dreams.

Deliver us from amnesia

Concerning their courage in the face of violence,

Their peace-making against hate,

And their hunger for you in a devouring economy

Deliver us from amnesia:

Turn our memory into hope,

Turn our gratitude into energy,

Turn our well-being into impatience.

That these same cadences of your will may pulse even among us.


Source: “Deliver us from amnesia”, from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, Walter Brueggemann, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2003.

The Lenten Writings: presence

“Those who are unhappy have no need for anything in this world

but people capable of giving them their attention.

The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer

is a very rare and difficult thing;

it is almost a miracle;

it is a miracle.

Nearly all those who think they have this capacity do not possess it.

Warmth of heart, impulsiveness, pity are not enough…

The love of neighbor in all its fullness

simply means being able to say to him:

‘What are you going through.'”

Attention by Simone Weil, Lenten Poetry Companion, Neighborhood Ministries

The gift of presence.

It is enough.

The Lenten Writings: Jesus and the disinherited

The disinherited will know for themselves

that there is a Spirit at work in life and in the hearts of men

which is committed to overcoming the world.

It is universal, knowing no age, no race, no culture and no condition of men.

For the privileged and the under privileged alike,

if the individual puts at the disposal of the Spirit the needful dedication and discipline,

he can live effectively in the chaos of the present the high destiny of a son of God.

High Destiny, by Howard Thurman. From the Lenten Poetry companion, neighborhood ministries.

I was first introduced to Howard Thurman in the Mystic Activists. His book, Jesus and the Disinherited, was our focus this fall for a month. It was not enough time to do it justice. But I am learning that theology must come from the bottom up.

We are in a focused time of prayer for our Dreamers. Tomorrow is the deadline for a permanent solution for these children, now grown, who were brought to the states before age 5. They are woven into the very fabric of our culture and society. They are our teachers, they are in nursing classes and serving in our Armed Forces. Dreamers work in every service profession. And they live in a constant state of uncertainty. They never know when their permission could be suddenly gone. And so, quite literally, would they.

The challenge of Scripture must also be read from the bottom up. This is who Jesus hung out with, which often earned harsh criticism from the powers that were in place. The validity and application of Scripture is only as significant as its application to the lowest among us. In fact, when we understand Scripture in this manner, we also see ourselves in that same way. We are the they, living in the most need and desperation.

It is only from this reading of Scripture that we can form a compassionate response to any issues of justice. Literally, the word for compassion with passion or with feeling. Compassion comes when I am moved in my innermost self by the pain of another. I must choose to enter the story. And today, the story is that of our dreamers.

I would ask you today to stand in prayer for the dreamers.


The Lenten Writings: I am not an island

Lying, thinking

Last night

How to find my soul a home

Where water is not thirsty

And bread loaf is not stone

I came up with one thing

And I don’t believe I’m wrong

That nobody, But nobody

Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone

Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires

With money they can’t use

Their wives run round like banshees

Their children sing the blues

They’ve got expensive doctors

To cure their hearts of stone.

But nobody

No, nobody

Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone

Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely

I’ll tell you what I know

Storm clouds are gathering

The wind is gonna blow

The race of man is suffering

And I can hear the moan,

‘Cause nobody,

But nobody

Can make it out here alone

Alone, all alone

Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.

Source: “Alone” from Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, by Maya Angelou. New York: Random House, Inc., 1975.

The Lenten Writings: the gift of resistance


And there appeared to them Elijah and Moses, and they Were talking to Jesus.”–Mark 9:2

They were talking to him about heaven, how all forms there were luciform,

How the leather girdle and the matted hair, how the lice coursing the skin

And the skin skinned alive, blaze with perfection, the vibrance of light.

And they were talking about the complexities of blood and lymph,

Each component crowding the vessels, the body and the antibody,

And they were talking about the lamp burning in the skull’s niche,

The eyes drinking light from within and light from without,

And how the present belonged to the flesh and its density and darkness

And was hard to talk about.

Before and after were easier.

They talked about light.

They were talking to him about law and how lawgiving should be

Like rainfall, a light rain falling all morning and mixing with dew –

A rain that passes through the spider web and penetrates the dirt clod

Without melting it, a persistent, suffusing shower, soaking clothes,

Making sweatshirts heavier, wool stink and finding every hair’s root on the scalp.

And that is when you hurled judgement into the crowd and watched them

Spook like cattle, reached in and stirred the turmoil faster, scarier.

And they were saying that, to save the best, many must be punished, Including the best.

And no one was exempt, as they explained it,

Not themselves, not him, or anyone he loved, anyone who loved him.

I want to believe that he talked back to them, his radiant companions,

And I want to believe he said too much was being asked and too much promised.

I want to believe that that was why he shone in the eyes of his friends,

The witnesses looking on, because he spoke for them, because he loved them

And was embarrassed to learn how he and they were going to suffer.

I want to believe he resisted at that moment, when he appeared glorified,

Because he could not reconcile the contradictions and suspected

That love had a finite span and was merely the comfort of the lost.

I know he must have acceded to his duty, but I want to believe

He was transfigured by resistance, as he listened,

And they talked.

Source: “Transfigured” by Mark Jarman, from Praying the Gospels through Poetry Lent to Easter, by Peggy Rosenthal, St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, OH, 2001.

From the Lenten Poetry Companion, Mystic Activists, Neighborhood Ministries

I remember, early in our journey of foster care, the school director made a side remark: “Sometimes love is not enough.” I was taken aback at her “rude” comment; so different from all those who said we were doing such a wonderful thing. The reality is, 10+ years in, I trust her words much more. The platitudes are long gone along with that initial wave of well wishers. The director remains a wise voice in my ear, here for the long journey.

And daily, we choose love. Love for the children, for the bio family, for the community, even for the forces that shaped them. It is a bold YES.

I read this poem through several times. It really turns the story on its head!

Lent is like that. We want to fast forward to the end of the story, the resurrection that we know is coming because we peeked at the last chapter. But Lent says no, read the whole story.

This idea of transfiguration as the resistance of love…

I wonder if there was a time that Jesus realized love was not enough? Sounds sacrilegious, almost, doesn’t it?

Love wasn’t going to shortcut the story. It couldn’t protect those He loved from pain.

And yet, it is enough; it’s a both/and. It is enough for today.

And they talked.

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: 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. 

Extortion for birth. 

When we talk about the healthcare crisis or legislation and its potential impact, we must remember faces and stories of people. Real people, people with real needs. 

I hear the stories all the time. Women with a Medicaid plan that doesn’t cover prenatal care, only the birth. Women who are told they can’t get care unless they can pay a deposit bigger than a week’s income. Women who are told they can’t pick up records to change care unless they pay hundreds of dollars. Women who are told that their birth will be $20,000 cash. Women told they can’t be discharged from the hospital until they pay five or $10,000.

I could go on. These are just stories that I’ve heard this month. Legal? Yes. And no. But common, nonetheless. 

As a healthcare provider in this community in this time in history, how do I show up?

Showing up has to look like bold justice, gift wrapped in creativity.  

For me, it looks like a radical sliding scale, with births from $500 to 4000 depending on income. It looks like forgetting about what I’m “supposed” to be doing in my practice, and wrapping women around with the kinds of services I think they deserve. It looks like finding ways to nurture them, bringing in Wise and caring birthworkers who support Lactation, encapsulate placentas, give massages, do acupuncture. It looks like providing birth supplies and pools. It looks like five or six postpartum visits, maybe in the home if that’s what’s needed. It looks like herbs, lovingly crafted into teas and baths. 

I’m not saying this to promote my practice. I’m saying this is what every single one of us needs to do in some manner. Call the legislators yes. Yes and….

And come up with creative solutions within our sphere of influence, solutions that empower women. Solutions that treat them with dignity. Solutions that create safe spaces for their babies to be born. Solutions that hold space for trauma to be healed, for redemption to occur. 

Maybe that’s what’s required. To do justice. To love mercy. To walk humbly.