Category Archives: Lament

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)

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”

Of mothers and daughters

Women weave their dance,

Maypoles and streamers intertwine. 

Little girls full of hope, 

Skipping down the maypole line. 

The colors of ribbons and flowers,

Swirl together in my mind. 

Waldorf memories with children,

A simpler, sweeter glimpse of life. 

Women weave their dance. 

Generations past still whisper. 

Girls whose hope is stripped,

Begat girls who grow to mothers. 

The colors of memories intertwine,

Grief darkens trees and flowers. 

Of daughters lost and mothers gone,

Or here but just as far.  



Children weave their magic,

This day to honor mothers. 

Simple gifts of kindness,

Offer love which covers sin. 

The colors of hope and grief,

Side by side swirl from His palette. 

Today is all there is, 

Tomorrow still inside us. 

May courage weave it’s thread,

To see what is behind us. 

Take off rose colored glasses,

And grieve the pain that binds. 

Yet colors speak of love,

Both before and behind us. 

And whisper of the hope

Tis truth the women choose. 

Lenten writings: beautiful hands

“Look at how beautiful these hands are! Just look at these hands…”

My rheumatologist’s words yesterday stopped me in my tracks.  I used to think my hands were beautiful. I remember as a third-grader riding in the carpool, looking at the other girl’s hands and thinking, “I’m so glad my hands are not ugly like hers. “. I loved the way my hands moved as I played the piano. I wasn’t so sure about the art, as my mom said I was the worst student she had ever had. But, I still loved my hands.

  
And so, as rheumatoid began to twist my hands, it twisted my heart as well. When I would look at my hands, the contempt dripped from my mind: witch’s claws, old lady hands, twisted, broken, useless. This week, a doctor dripped contempt with the words, “you hold your pen weird. Why do you do that?”  How could he  know how long it took to find a way to hold my pen with the changes that have been wrought from the rheumatoid.  And to learn to hold a brush, and bless my artist…this is the journey unseen.

I am beginning to learn that I have the hands of a healer. I place my hand gently on a mama’s belly, and connect with the baby who swims within her womb. I cradle the head of a child as he revisits places of trauma in the dark of night. I create.  Color and form move onto paper, redeeming the artist.  I place my hands palm up, feet on the floor, listening to story with my whole self.

And so the doctor’s  words jolted me. He was gleeful almost; so delighted at the stability of my rheumatoid, at seeing my hands without inflammation. Since the car accident,  I have to choose again to be kind to my hands. Right now, I long for someone to tell me I will be a two handed Midwife. I cannot turn my left hand palm up, can I still listen with my whole heart?  And, if my hands are broken, can I still be a healer?

The tears flow as I write this last line, the words go straight to the core of my being. Maybe that’s what being a healer is; I offer only my broken hands. 

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 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. 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 (1515-1582)

Lenten writing:  a lament for my head

“I worried a lot…Will the garden grow? Will the rivers flow in the right direction? Will the earth turn as it was taught; and if not how shall I correct it?  Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. And gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning and sang.” (By Mary Oliver:  “I worried”)

With apologies to Mary Oliver, I am going to borrow her cadence and rhythm to write a lament for my brain, 9 weeks into post concussion syndrome. 

I worried a lot. Will my brain heal? Will the words come? Will the thoughts flow freely in the right direction? Will my mind synapse as it was taught; and if not, how shall I be me? Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing and was making my brain symptoms worse. And took my old body and went out into the morning. And walked.

Author’s note:  I couldn’t write “and gave it up”. I might do it again yet. 😏