Category Archives: Grief

The Lenten Writings: the gift

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.”

The Uses of Sorrow” from Thirst, by Mary Oliver, Boston: Beacon Press, 2006.

From the Lenten Poetry Companion, Mystic Activists, Neighborhood Ministries

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The Lenten Writings: not yet…

Beginners

Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla

“From too much love of living,

Hope and desire set free,

Even the weariest river

Winds somewhere to the sea—“

But we have only begun

To love the earth.

We have only begun

To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?

— so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?

— we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,

only begun to envision

how it might be

to live as siblings with beast and flower,

not as oppressors.

Surely our river

cannot already be hastening

into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot

drag, in the silt,

all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet—

there is too much broken

that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other

that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know

the power that is in us if we would join

our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must

complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

~ Denise Levertov ~

(Candles in Babylon)

So much is unfolding that must complete it’s gesture…

I am in a place of unfolding. The unfolding of things that are new, much of which is unseen at this time.

The unfolding also means a closing.

Why is it that grief enjoy so often go hand-in-hand?

This poem is haunting.

We have only begun to imagine justice and mercy…

At Neighborhood, we swim in rivers where we talk about justice. And sometimes, in the river, The current threatens to pull us under. The fight for justice is real. It has faces. It has stories. It is salty with tears.

And then in the invitation to step into new arenas, the questions remain, hanging in the air.

Not yet, not yet–there is too much Broken that must be mended.

Source: Levertov, Denise. “Beginners” from Candles in Babylon. New York: New Directions, 1982.

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

The Lenten Writings: unencumbered

My soul feels lean, trim, sparse, excess clutter left behind, desire and clutching set aside.

And for the sake of what, of what value is this the thinning, weaning, letting go?

Only for the sake of a clear eye, and open mind, and emptied heart.

All this, yes, to enter unencumbered into oneness with the One

Where nothing is everything.

This is this season of letting go. Physically, letting go of 24 years of accumulation in a house. Emotionally, letting go of a place where we have invested, one family, one group of families, committing to one neighborhood of families. That is the essence of community development, is it not?

I don’t know, really, what is on the other side.

What I do know, is that there is an invitation to release. Release into the not knowing.

Could it be that in that space, is the place that is unencumbered? Perhaps even in my soul?

A wise voice in my journey says that this will be a season where grief and joy hold hands.

To the journey ahead.

 

Source: “my soul feels lean” from My soul feels lean: poems of kids and restoration, Joyce Rupp. Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2013.

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

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. 

Welcome home. 

Home where you belong. 
What. If. 

The story’s not over…

how can this friday be good?
what a crazy parody, to nake an instrumemt of death the symbol of a faith. and then to celebrate a death day like a birthday…
the bottom line is this:
the story’s not over.
sunday’s coming.
and in the upside down kingdom, this is good news indeed.
i have a story. maybe you do too. (actually, here is a secret…we all have a story).
there is beauty in my story.
there is violence in my story.
there is lots of not knowing in my story.
i need to know that sunday’s coming.
and so tonight, we tell the stories. the stories of the brutality. the stories of the desperation. the stories without hope.
stories of friends who keep falling asleep right when a friend needs them most.
stories of a guy who talks about peace and then chops off an ear with a smelly fishing knife.
stories of sarcasm from a dying con, gallows hunor, perhaps?
stories of a sabbath filled with darkness and absence. a sabbath where the fragrance that lingers on the women’s hands is the spices of death, not of the baking of the challah.
and in the middle of the stories, i can hold my own not knowing a little more gently.
the
story
is
not
over.

In the emptiest of places…

Politics aside, there is a dire need today to fight for justice for those who have no voice. A well kept secret is that God plays favorites. The immigrant, the poor, the stranger among us are mentioned more than 2000 times in Scripture. 

Folks are setting aside the next 24 hours to pray and fast. It’s not about whether you eat food or not. Isaiah 58 throws that idea in the mud.  I would invite you to sit with these ancient words today and see what stirs…

58 1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!

    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!

Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,

    face my family Jacob with their sins!

They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,

    and love studying all about me.

To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—

    law-abiding, God-honoring.

They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’

    and love having me on their side.

But they also complain,

    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?

    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

3-5 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.

    You drive your employees much too hard.

You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.

    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.

The kind of fasting you do

    won’t get your prayers off the ground.

Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:

    a day to show off humility?

To put on a pious long face

    and parade around solemnly in black?

Do you call that fasting,

    a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:

    to break the chains of injustice,

    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,

    free the oppressed,

    cancel debts.

What I’m interested in seeing you do is:

    sharing your food with the hungry,

    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,

    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,

    being available to your own families.

Do this and the lights will turn on,

    and your lives will turn around at once.

Your righteousness will pave your way.

    The God of glory will secure your passage.

Then when you pray, God will answer.

    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.”

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,

    quit blaming victims,

    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,

If you are generous with the hungry

    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,

    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

I will always show you where to go.

    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—

    firm muscles, strong bones.

You’ll be like a well-watered garden,

    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.

You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,

    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,

    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,

    make the community livable again.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath

    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,

If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,

    God’s holy day as a celebration,

If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’

    making money, running here and there—

Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!

    Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.

I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”

    Yes! God says so!

The Message (MSG)

An artist date 

yesterday i was in a funk. loneliness linked arms with grief and self pity and threatened to push past anything in its path.
i sank into the inertia as the moon rise began.
finally i asked for help, messaged a friend, and took myself out. even the motion of driving down the street began to break the “stuck” feeling.
i walked through the aisles of Michael’s, 60% off coupon in hand. i was looking for pencils. prismacolor pencils.
if you have never used prismacolors you have not fully lived. i have a great set of colored pencils, every hue imaginable, in a cool tin. but prismacolors are like velvet. no “scritch-scratch” accompanies their movement across paper. they glide along, leaving vibrant hues in their wake.
my first clue should have been that the pencil aisle was bare of prismacolors, save empty boxes. they live at the front, near the cashier, under lock and key. second, the prices are in tiny print, no sales here. my eyes widened as i saw the set as broad as my 48 japanese look alikes was $89.99. out of budget, no discernment needed. maybe i could do the 36s, for some variety. nope. $67.99. even with the coupon i couldnt justify it. if i were an art major maybe; not as a midwife. i “settled” for the 24s, still $27.99 but remember, i had that coupon. up i marched to the front, trying to console myself that they were still prismacolors.
the cashier complimented me on my choice and headed for the case, key ring jingling. he returned too quickly, apologetic. “we only have the 12s, we’re out of 24s”. i could feel my heart shutting down, ready to settle. i was taught from an early age to do this, choose the smaller piece of pie.
then he brought out the 36s. “you could do these”. i asked him the price, hoping against hope thst i had read it wrong. nope…$67.99. my yankee training and an awaremess of our budget made that an easy answer. i felt my heart begin its shut down.
“just a minute”. he began to punch some keys, reaching for my phone to scan the coupon. after a few minutes he said, “how anout $15?”. wait what?! as if my brain couldn’t process the synapses i asked three times, “for the 36s?”
yep. that is what the man said.
“absolutely!” i said, and we both laughed.
my heart expanded a little, softened by the sirprise of unexpected grace.
nothing changed in my circumstances. all of the grief still remained. but my heart felt lighter.
and when i came home, before lights out, i colored a tiny bit of an elephant bright red.
just because.
and the color laid down like velvet.

The Advent Writings: the long goodbye

I said goodbye to a precious friend today. Not the long goodbye, as C.S. Lewis says; but a goodbye nonetheless. And goodbyes are full of grief. They hold the not knowing and the not yet together in equal measure. They weave longing and loneliness into a braid of beauty and pain.

I wonder what it was like for Mary, holding a baby that she knew would move beyond her. Was there an ache mixed with the joy of watching him play? And then he stayed around longer than expected perhaps… 30 years. He left home to go be with a bunch of friends, new friends really. They were going to go travel the country without a real plan. Rumors came back, bits and pieces of stories. They probably seemed much bigger than life. And in the middle of the wondering, always the ache. 

So much of the story is not told. Perhaps there is beauty in the mystery.

So for today, I choose to hold the not knowing. I will trust that the beauty will come as the story unfolds. And dare to hold the ache of goodbye. 

Photo Credit Kate Wilder

The Advent Writings: a seed

Darkness and Light. 

Waiting and Coming. 

Sorrow and Hope. 

Death and …

We hold so much at Christmas. All of that not knowing, together with the not yet. 

I am a desert girl, mostly. A turtleneck in the morning, just because. And then a/c when kids get in the car. Desert kids don’t understand winter. Therefore, they can’t know the mystery of spring, of green shoots pushing up through the snow. In Phoenix, we force bulbs. We put them in the refrigerator drawer for “winter” and then take them out to let them know it’s spring. A tiny shoot begins, stretching up bit by bit, reaching for the light. 

I am still sitting with this poem I shared recently, letting it work it’s way in deeper, one line at a time. Today it’s the “tiny shoot”. 

The poem was born from a midwife (Advent, by Sister Christine Schenk). 

I wait

With quickened hope

For crooked paths to straighten,

With tough-soul’d anguish,

While blinded 

Keepers of the keys 

Cut off

God’s own. 

(If such a thing were possible). 

I wait, 

And will not be 

dismayed. 

For tiny shoot 

Of Jesse tree

Took root in me. 

To love, 

Transform,

Give sight, 

Set free. 


The tiny shoot. 

In me. 

Reaching, 

Stretching,

Growing;

Toward the light.