Category Archives: Grief

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. 

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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. 


When hello means goodbye

Holding space tonight for the babies gone too soon. Sometimes hello means goodbye.

Sometimes the baby is taken before it’s life is even known. Sometimes others make choices for wee ones. Sometimes we don’t even get to say hello. Sometimes there is no space or time for goodbye. Sometimes we are asked to love a baby not knowing for how long what the end of the story will be. Sometimes there are no tears left to come. 

This concludes pregnancy and infant loss month. I have entered spaces of grief often this month, my own and others. My heart aches for my baby gone before I could know her. And for a mother who buried hers today. I hold space for a family who has been mourning for a long while. And for another whose baby changed us all. For a family daring to love without guarantees, just to bathe a baby in love. 

In the middle of Halloween and elections, may there be space for quiet remembering and loud grief.

Death screams. 

And we will never be the same. 

Precious Lord

I woke up with these lyrics woven vividly into a dream acompanied by the music itself:

Precious Lord, take my handLead me on, let me stand

I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m worn. 

Through the storm, through the night

Lead me on to the light

Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home. 

When my way grows drear precious Lord linger near

When my light is almost gone

Hear my cry, hear my call

Hold my hand lest I fall

Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home. (Thomas A Dorsey)

I did some reading about the origin of this song today. The author was leading music when he received a telegram saying that his wife had died in childbirth. A week later, the baby died as well. Somewhere in the journey of his despair he sat at a piano and this heart cry poured out.

I also learned,  curiously, that Elvis made this song famous and also Mahalia Jackson. This was not something I knew as those singers were banned in my Baptist upbringing. When I hear this song I hear it in my grandmothers voice. 

My grandma was the song leader at Aurelius Road Church, in the Lansing/Holt area. She had a deep voice, unusual for a woman. As the story grows, or goes, she wore a peacock feather in her hat.  She was single in a day that was rare. She owned her own gift and Bible bookstore, and had a dry cleaning business. She had her secrets, which died with her.

I know that for me, as a child, my grandmother provided moments of safety. I had named her Meemie, early on. Supposedly, this was my childhood attempt to say pennies, and she always brought me plenty of those. So I would look at her purse In her photograph and say Meemie’s. (I will let you draw from that what you want to; it is not the point of the story). 

Meemie would come to see us on a big airplane, her floral suitcase bulging and held together with packing tape. When we opened it, it would be full of crackerjack prizes. No one ever pointed out where all those boxes of crackerjacks must’ve gone.

 I would lean my head against her fur collar as we came home from the airport,  trying to avoid the scratchy wool coat. It was cold, and it smelled like mothballs. I remember going to sleep with her sitting by my bed and singing the old songs, one after the other.

I felt safe those nights, and I think they were held safe by her presence. She represented moments of respite in a very confusing world.  

In later years, the tables turned. She had followed us to Arizona. I stayed to graduate with my class when my family moved to Canada. I was left with the car, weeks away from my 16th birthday. The agreement was that I would visit my grandmother once a week, and put $.10 a mile in a jar. I started out doing it out of compulsion. Very quickly, a deep friendship grew.

I would surprise her with Kentucky fried chicken and Mountain Dew. She would make waffles for dinner, and fill them with every mix in imaginable. I would bring my textbooks and study. And somewhere in the evening I would take out her old hymnal and sing. All the verses, one song after another. She would join in, her voice quivering.

There were many years where it was hard to sing those old songs as I wrestled with the reality of my childhood contradictions and violence. They are being redeemed one by one. The truth contained in the ancient words still calls to my spirit.

I walked the dark street tonight with my pug, singing this song. If the neighbors could hear, they might have wondered. They don’t know that a story continues to be written, co-authored by God. 

It is the story of an old woman and a little girl, a story of music in the night.

What brought you here?

Such a simple question to start a conference. Simple, yet profound. It is an invitation to story. 

The journey to community development work is always circuitous. Each person in the CCDA LA conference had a story. Community development is rooted in story. 

My story intersects with your story. Together, they create our story. Our stories together create the story of a neighborhood, of a city, of a region. There are stories reflective of our racial experience, including the gifts and wound. 

CCDA is all of that, and more. It is a space for renewal. It is a space for collective repentance. It is a space to remember that my tribe is part of a bigger people, a family. 

Would a are named, injustice exposed. I am deeply aware of ongoing fear and prejudice between white and Hispanic brothers and sisters in my town. Sisters have invited me to wrestle with wounds to my African American brothers and sisters. This was a place to listen more deeply to the Asian American experience, to the stories of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. 

It matters. Story matters. 

It is in the naming of story that healing occurs. It is in the receiving of story that compassion awakens and flows. 

And a story, a neighborhood, a city begins to heal. May it be so. 

Artist Quincy Clemons.Title:”fear less”