Saturday, April 30, 2011

Center of the universe

As I write this, I think about writing a whole series of center of the universe stories.  We could all write this series.  

My love tells me about a professor who uses a balloon to describe how all the stars are moving away from each other at the same rate.  He puts dots on the deflated balloon and then blows it up... sure enough... all the dots move away from each other, at the same rate.  I love illustrations that can be used for a wide variety of things.  We are each one of those dots, and everyone is moving away from each of us at the same rate.  We are each the center, The Dot.  The more inflated the Universe, the more others move away from us... and, of course, we move away from others.  Hmmm.

We are each the center
Of our very own universe.
How could it be otherwise?
Of course
Not me.

The man in the parking lot
Doesn*t see us at all.
He is not looking.
We do not run him over.
In the grocery store we see him
With his cart,
One bunch of bananas
Headed for the checkout line.
We walk behind him.
He is very slow.
He stares at a paper in his hand,
Wads it up and throws it
Into the display next to him.
We chuckle.

A close friend loses her cell phone
Three days in a row.
She tells me she has prayed.
She tells me it is clear the Universe
Does not want her to have a cell phone.
So what will you do?
I ask.
She says she will buy a cheaper
Cell phone.
We are each
The center.
But not me.

Even as I laugh
Vague recognition sparkles
The edges.
But I am not the center.
Not me.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The perfect example

We sometimes dream of living on acres in the country.  Truth be told we can scarcely manage the 1/4 acre we have now.  There is so much to watch here.  There are the plants we think we have organized, and those which will always be volunteers from past years.  Every year it is a surprise to find what returns and what is new.  And yes, TruGreen stops by two, three times a year, sure that we must be unhappy.  We*re not.

It is amazing what full out sun
Does for the spirit
And plants.
The clematis on the last pillar
Will definitely survive
Now that its octopus feet
Are covered,
The two short vines
I sing to it in the morning
When no is listening
Patient growing songs.
The lilies of the valley
connected as one
Have crept to fill the empty spaces
Behind the garage.

The chemical lawn people
Declare our yard a disaster area
Every year.
Every year we answer the door
To the TruGreen man
With a chart.
He outlines all they could do
To bring back an even smooth
One shade of green lawn.
A person could use it
For a putting green,
Nothing with a broad leaf
In sight.
I like the peonies and lilies of the valley,
They tryst behind the garage.
There is something low and green with little purple flowers
Under the crabapple.
It too is probably invasive,
Has its own checkbox on the TruGreen chart.
There is still forsythia visible
Behind the crabapple, but barely now.
The redbud in front has begun
Its purple burst through the bark.

Our yard is the perfect example
Of the TruGreen nightmare.

We think it might be Eden.

I know I should write

Yes, I saw The King*s Speech and liked it a lot.   Great movie in its unexpurgated version.  What is it about the Royal Family that is so all-fired fascinating that we have to see and comment and have visions of tea and scones, clotted cream, with the Queen?  I was bound and determined not to write about The Royal Wedding when Jeff and I went to work out this morning... and there they all were, lined up TV after TV after TV.  Jeff tells me the men*s dressing room featured the NFL draft.

I know I should write
About the Royal Wedding today,
Will and Kate married
And all the accoutrements
That come with such things,
Big and public and all the people that matter
Present and British.
I should write about
The Americans who got up early
To make scones and drink tea,
Raise glasses of champagne, in a toast,
I do
I will
Even though the wedding prayers
Are sexist.
I am after all
An Episcopal priest and claim some ties
To the Church of England
And by that I mean
To Royalty.
I should write about the crowds
The color of the Queen*s dress
The Londoners who rented out their houses
For a pretty sum.
Now they are married with the Archbishop of Canterbury
The Bishop of London
He is a favorite of Prince Charles, you know.
I should write about all the memories of Diana
Of course she would have been there.
What would she have worn
To the wedding?
If  I wrote such a thing I would figure
What she would have worn,
Being Diana
Of course.
I know I should write such a thing
Everyone is watching
You know.
Everyone is watching.
Still watching.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Friday, normal things

The disciples had gone back to their livelihood, the place where Jesus found them in the first place.  They had gone back to the old familiar ways.  When everything is upside down and inside out, we find comfort in doing normal things.  But even in doing normal things, the result is just not the same normal.  Put your nets out the other side of the boat is not normal advice, and having it bring in 153  fish where it seemed there were none... well that*s not normal either.  So Jesus makes them breakfast on the beach and they break bread and eat fish... and they begin to see a new normal. 

When things are topsy-turvy
Upside down
When we don*t know
What to think or do,
We seek out
Normal things:
That old familiar place
We used to fish,
The particular spot
On the edge of the reeds
We remember
From before.
The pull of knotted nets
Our hands and arms, shoulders and backs
Know well.

We keep each other company.
We seek out the normal things
We know so well,
We don*t even have to think.
We don*t have to think
About normal things,
Only hope
They might bring back life as we knew it:
Work and food and sleep,
Work and food and sleep.
We catch nothing all night
Try it another way,
The man offers, from the shore.
We throw the old familiar nets
Off the other side of the boat.
We knotted those nets in the sun
Once upon a time.
It seems so long ago now,
Time has a way of expanding
In times like these.
Topsy turvy upside down
Times like these.
We want to get our bearings
Seek out normal things.
Go back to what we knew once.
What we once knew well.
153 FISH
It*s Him.  It*s Him.  It*s Him.
He found us here.

Even here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Week, Balance

We pay great attention to walking through Holy Week, the Triduum, go all out for Easter Sunday.  Then comes Easter Week.  And the Sunday we often call Low Sunday.   People are tired.  Heck, the disciples were exhausted.  It took more that a week to allow the Resurrection to soak in.  No surprise they all doubted (not just Thomas).  No surprise Jesus had to walk through closed doors, meet them on backroads, give fishing instructions.  This is the week we begin to get our balance back.

This is the week for balance.
I will practice squats on the Bosu
When I get the chance.
But now
Just as I walked
through Holy Week,
This week is for balance.
This week I walk with Resurrection
In mind.
The forsythia has carried over
From last week.
It still blooms by the side of the road
Lemon yellow.

Every day this week Jesus walks,
Breaks bread,
Eats fish,
Every day he fulfills Scripture,
No list except the one in His head.
Maybe it*s inscribed
On His heart.
Don*t be afraid
He says
I am alive
He says
You have nations upon nations
To tell
He says.
God will help you.
Wait here for the Helper to be sent.
There is forsythia when he speaks.
It glows gold in the upper room
Where they wait.

It will take the disciples
It will take us
more than a week
To get our balance back.
Never mind the squats on the Bosu
For now.
This is a more serious
Balance exercise.
It requires full attention
Core and all.
I focus on the forsythia
In the living room.
It still blooms
Full bright yellow.

Easter Wednesday, Recognition

It seems Jesus was not one to force things... even after the Resurrection.   He allowed his disciples the space to come to things, on their own.  He walked and taught and shared the Good News, yes, but He didn*t invite himself to dinner.

Then the two went over everything that happened on the road and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.
                                                                            Luke 24:35 The Message

I wonder if Jesus was frustrated when they didn*t recognize him
Probably not.
He probably didn*t have the need
To jump up and down
It*s me, guys, it*s me
Look, here, my hands
Look, here, my feet
Listen to my prophetic words.

Sort of like when we meet a childhood friend
He looks maybe a little familiar
But until he shows us
 The scar from that bike accident,
Laughs that laugh with the funny hiccup
On the end,
We don*t recognize him.
Even though he*s grown up now
Even though he looks a little different
The scar is still there
He still has the funny laugh
Like he always did.
Of course we recognize you, we say
Of course!
How have you been?
Stay awhile
Have a bite to eat.

But Jesus?
Even before the penny dropped,
Before the note of recognition sounded,
Jesus waited to be invited
To dinner.
It seems he would have walked on down the road
Or simply disappeared,
If they hadn*t invited him.

Scars and all,
He waited
To be invited
To break the bread.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Tuesday, forsythia apparent

 It*s amazing to me how one simple thing, like forsythia, can carry so much.  That*s part of Easter for me this year.  Mary recognized the Risen Jesus only when He said her name.  I don*t think it was because he looked radiantly different.  No, we are told she thought He was the gardener.  She didn*t see what she was expecting to see: a dead body.  There are all kinds of experiments which show we simply don*t see things we are not expecting to see.  Our focus is elsewhere.  The forsythia has been blooming all of Holy Week and now into Easter.  I am still seeing its sign and symbol.  Alleluia!

Our garden in back
Is not immediately apparent
From the street.
The garden gates are open
All the gates are open.
The forsythia
Began to speak gold
In the rain,
In anticipation of the Day,
Well in anticipation
Of the Day,
Wild haphazard yellow gold.

Inside the open gates
It waited to see Him,
Waited for His voice
To be heard.
It was there all along
Yellow gold.
She saw it only
After the empty tomb
After the angels,
Only when he called her
By name.
Then, only then she heard his voice
The familiar voice.
It held her name the way she
Held his feet that night
Poured perfume.
She saw the forsythia, yellow gold,
The gates open to the street.
Then she heard the forsythia

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Monday, all new

We know how the Story will go every year.  Or at least we think we do.  Every year it is the same, the same liturgies, the same Scripture readings.  Still, every year it is different.  We bring ourselves, the same people but different this year too.  We have grown, we have changed.  We hear different things, we see different things.  How could we possibly have missed that last year?
Christ has Risen.  Alleluia.  This year we are new again.  It is different from last year, but once again, we begin.  Once again, we are new.  Like the tiny baby in the pew in front of my family at church yesterday.  New.

We begin again.
The sheen is still around the edges.
The memory of the Easter spectacle
In the best sense of the word
Still bright, shining,
Absolutely new.
The tiny baby
Eyes of a china doll
Burps on her mother*s shoulder
In the pew in front of us
As we kneel.
So new so new
All three of them
Mother, father, tiny baby
So new they are not sure
What exactly to do
When it comes time for Communion.
So new.
But all of us were new
It does not occur to me
Until hours later
Hours later when I am told
They are new to the church.
Yesterday all of us were new.
We stood and sang
Received Communion
Smiled at the tiny baby
Eyes of a china doll
Eyes wide open on her mother*s shoulder.

All new.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Because He lives, we live.  Alleluia! 

Forsythia blooms
Outside and inside the Tomb.
Forever.   Now.   Life.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reminders of all the colors

As my daughter prepares the dye baths for the Easter eggs, I remember past years holding dyed hands up for Easter communion.  I also remember a piece written by Martin Bell in The Way of the Wolf entitled Wood and Nails and Easter Eggs.  It*s worth a look-see by googling.  It is still just as powerful as when I first read it years ago.

The birds sing all afternoon
In the garden,
Still the forsythia winds and blooms.
Now the four bunches of daffodils
Bought with paper skins
Closed tight
Have opened.
They trumpet, blare, yellow
In the living room.
On the sideboard
The sprays of forsythia,
In their turn
accompany the pussy willows,
Fur catkins now with small green leaves.
They curve yellow quiet
In contrast.

We get ready to color eggs
Before church.
Our fingers will be dyed many colors
By the time we are done.
At church
We will celebrate what God has done
With bells and dyed hands.
The dye will take a couple days to wear off.
I will be more than glad
To have reminders
Of all the colors
on my fingertips,
Even as I am surrounded
By loud daffodils
Quiet sprays of forsythia,
Pure gold.

Washed in Gold

I always wanted to have a place I could preach Holy Saturday.   

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 
                                                                                         1 Peter 4:8 (NRSV)

The sky slowly lightens again.
All is quiet except for birds singing
In the backyard,
In the garden,
A slight wash of forsythia
Begins the chant of gold
In sprays.

This is the empty time the Church Fathers
Seek to fill,
The time left in between.

After He Rose
They knew Jesus must have done
Something huge,
Fecund even in the tomb.
Not content to rest
He yanks the Gates of Hell
Off their hinges
Hauls up Everyman
We have ancient church pictures
Of events underground,
They are washed in gold.
In the emptiness
They proclaim
Love covers the multitude
Of sins.
Love wins
Love wins
Love wins.
New light catches the wash of gold.

In the garden the forsythia
Sprays bright gold
In the name of Love.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Burial

In grief we are often entombed ourselves, like it seems the disciples were after Jesus* crucifixion and burial. 
The sense of smell is our only hard-wired (unmediated) sense.  I wonder what smells brought back the disciples* memories of Jesus.  Of course we know the rest of the story.  But they didn*t then.

Jesus is in the tomb
Bound and wrapped and sealed
Into place.
Officially positively
The disciples are lost
Among themselves,
Denying, depressed,
One even dead and
Soon to be buried himself
In the potter*s field.
It is night and dark
And very damp.
No stars in the sky,
No moon.
No light at all.
The mixed scent of earth and myrrh
Long after the stone
Is rolled into place.
Among themselves,
Lost in grief,
Still they breathe in blood and iron
Earth and myrrh
bread and wine.
They remember water poured,
The final words.
Still the scent of earth mixed with myrrh
Sweet spices
And nard
And returns.

I am thankful God

This is as close to a Good Friday meditation as I can come.  It is different this year for me, yet it remains the same.  How like God to do this for each one of us, in particular.  How like God to do this for all of us, together.

I am thankful God
Is not a theological construct:
Divided into three parts
But really only one.
Today, again, he is put to death
For us.
His mother watches.
His disciples watch.
We watch
Helpless to staunch the blood
Or the death.
We are only able to find him
A tomb
Where he can rest awhile.

I am thankful yesterday
Today and tomorrow
The Triduum
Is not a theological construct,
Divided into three parts
But really only one.
It continues beyond and beyond
Until we are promised he will rise
And come again.

I am thankful
I don*t have to digest this all at once,
Rather week by week
I am offered His Body,
His Blood,
So I can begin again to understand.
Not a theological construct
Not divided into neat and tidy parts
Like the forsythia which appeared this year
For the first time
Growing wild
In the backyard,
Framing the ducks
In gold.

Day Off

Jeff and I worked out this morning.  It was clear by the number of children present that every school in the area is closed today.  Many offices are as well.  Everyone is celebrating the three day weekend.  Never mind that today is Good Friday.  It is somewhat of a secret that today is anything more than an extra day off before Easter. 

It is an odd bow
To Christianity.
So many
Have the day off
To watch a crucifixion.
I think of towns in the Old West,
People gathered around the gallows
With picnic lunches.
It was a public spectacle
And somehow a celebration.
Today forsythia blooms.
Rain rains.
It is too cold and wet for a picnic lunch.
I am glad it is too cold and wet.
The forsythia blooms.
In the backyard it offers sprays
Of bright yellow,
Hopeful sprays of bright yellow.
I like it best
Public spectacles should never
Be tidy.
It is an odd bow
To Christians and non-Christians
This day off to watch
The Crucifixion.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Forsythia in Gethsemane

I wonder if the disciples were expecting more from Jesus.  I wonder at His words in the dark garden, at his loving chiding about them not being able to stay awake, at their insistence that they were there for him.  I wonder if they felt anything but holy.  I wonder if He felt alone in that way we do when we*re facing something huge, and we can*t quite explain it to those around us, even those closest to us.

The road to church is lined
in forsythia.
On the way home it is dark.
I am sure the forsythia
Is still there.
Even so
I do not feel holy.
I feel anything but holy
Or even present to the holy.
I know it has to be there.
All night
I see what is missing.
Even the memory of forsythia
Is not as bright
As it seemed two days ago.
I know it is still there
In the dark.
Will not be forced
Into existence
in the dark.

I wonder if there was forsythia
In Gethsemane.
If it bloomed lemon yellow
Before the leaves of summer.
I wonder If the Garden was prettied up,
Jesus monstranced in some sort of sunburst display
So everyone would know
Who he was.

Tonight I keep vigil at home
With my vase of pussy willows
sprouting green,
Forsythia from the backyard.
I do not feel holy
I feel anything but holy
Not even present to the holy.
I see what is missing.
It seems I may as well sleep
As stare at pussywillows and forsythia
In the dark.

This is not a horror movie

The journey continues.  We learned a big word in seminary:   anamnesis.  Amnesia is its opposite.  In Holy Week, we remember again and make real the final events of Jesus* life. We celebrate the Eucharist tonight, which will be the first Eucharist again.  We hear again, and for the first time, the command to love one another, the mandatum, and make it a physical remembrance and reality by washing each other*s feet.  It will be different, yet the same, this year.  This should not come as a surprise, for each one of us is different, yet the same, this year, from last year.  The journey continues.

I*m not one for horror movies.
They*re not worth the price
Of the ticket.
Heck, they*re not worth it
For free.
There is always enough
Real stuff
That scares me almost witless.
It springs from closets,
Leaps in the dark,
Sometimes it even grows in the dark
Like mushrooms.
There is enough real stuff
 Plenty scary.
I aim to come at it
With my eyes wide open,
See what*s there,
Take a spade, unearth it
Like worms;
Walk the path
See hear feel
All the details
The details.
I aim to walk it
With eyes and ears and heart

This is no horror movie.
I*m not one for such things.
They*re not worth the price
Of the ticket.

This is the real thing.
I pay as full a price for the ticket
As I can,
I know It will never be enough
So I walk it,
Pay attention to as many details
As I can.
This Week
Is real,
Different and the same
Every year.


We have set services for Holy Week, and I believe God sets our paths, if we will follow.  With free will, we human beings take a lot of detours, but like a wonderful GPS, God recalibrates all the time.  Really... All The Time.  And we still get there.  Amazing.

I will attend the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil services (the Triduum) at my home parish of St. Mark*s, Glen Ellyn.  I will see what words come throughout.   What*s funny to me is that I set out to write one reflection for each service.  Then I thought: there should also be one for each time in between.  But really, I have no idea what I will write.  Part of the plan seems to be that I don*t get to measure or count:  how many reflections, how many clients, how many hits this blog gets.  I*m not in charge of the counting.  So... do not take mine as a traditional rendering of Holy Week.

I love the Stations of the Cross Malcolm Guite has written in sonnet form, lovely braided sonnets, a crown of sonnets.  If you haven*t encountered them: Please Do.   

There are also wonderful reflections/meditations people have written/preached on all three services, and the parts thereof:  footwashing, Jesus* commandment to love one another, Jesus* seven last words on the cross.  There is so much to preach on, so much to meditate upon.  This is a rich, very rich, thin time, particularly for those of us in liturgical traditions.  Join us in the walk/ride through the Triduum.

Before the beginning
Of the roller coaster ride
That begins the Triduum,
This early morning before it all begins
I know there will be several things to write.
I do not know how many.
I figure they will not be separated
Into traditional parts.
I have never really, after all,
Been traditional.
I will not know until I get there
With Jesus.
I will not know,
Even as I know so well
The given pieces
To walk through.
This year
I am somehow being carried
On a track which will take me
Where it wills.
I do not know if Jesus is the roller coaster
Or the track.
I suspect the track.
Do not ask me how this fits into anyone*s concept
Of the Trinity,
Much less my own.
Even as I know I will be carried,
I know
This year will be different
And the same.
Every year it is different
And the same.

This year will include that roller coaster
On a track I have not laid.
This year will include
The barely budding clematis in front.
The ducks out back
Will probably be along for the ride,
Hopefully in their own car.
I know I will see it all
Through the forsythia
I have never seen before
This year.
All who go with me will wave
Lemon yellow forsythia.
Forsythia will line the tracks
Jesus has made.
This year I believe it will all end
In forsythia.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wednesday in Holy Week

 As a parish priest it was always a conundrum on what to do on Wednesday in Holy Week.  Tenebrae? healing service? A simple Eucharist?  Sure there are Scripture readings for the day which focus on Judas* betrayal (the John version where it seemed Jesus names it, then Judas follows suit, or the Matthew version where Judas has already made arrangements with the authorities)... Wednesday it seems, is for waiting, for preparing, for getting the drama set in place before the roller coaster ride of the Triduum.  Wednesday is for waiting.

There are so many ways
To walk through Wednesday;
So many ways
To wait for the Commandment:
The preliminary preparation
For the Passover meal;
The right food in the right place;
The betrayal set to go off as ordained,
The person named
Or found out.
It would be better if he had not been born,
But it seems then
Someone else
Would have done it.

So many ways
to prepare for the ritual slide
into the end,
So we can get to the beginning
So many ways to walk through Wednesday,
Ways to wait
In the dark,
Wait for the meal,
The washing of feet,
The washing of the altar
When everything is clear.
So many ways to wait
For the final dark,
The inevitable slide into the end.
We know the end.
We wait.
Wednesday is for waiting.

Mood swings

Sometimes we don*t pay attention to the emotion-rich part of Holy Week.  Sometimes it seems easier to picture Jesus walking through the week and coming out the other side unscathed, even as we know we would not be unscathed ourselves.  Still... Jesus is the Son of God, right?  Right?  Tell me.

This week is rich in emotion
All sorts of emotion.
I wonder if Jesus had mood swings,
Certainly this week of all weeks,
I wonder.

Did he continue on
Steady as a rock
On that donkey
Through Jerusalem
Palm Sunday through to the cross
And out the other side?
Did he wait for the Garden that night
To complain,
To feel a little low?
And then
Was it a real low?
Or only a dip?
Was Jesus like me?
Mood swings and all?
Tell me he was.

Tell me he felt low before
He was finally lifted up,
After the cross
After the burial
The final lifting up
Out of the tomb
Framed in angels and forsythia
Wild blooming yellow?
Tell me he knew full joy 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Different club

It*s a toss-up for me.  Are well-meant but awkward questions better than ignoring that something has happened... at all?  Probably the awkward questions win the toss-up, but I find I am particularly grateful to people, friends new and old, who have shared their stories of joining this different club for which there is no secret handshake.  You know who you are.  Thank you!  Your lives have been a witness for me of moving on and through.  There is a grace about the way you ask your questions.  There is grace in the way you share the answers you have found helpful.  Having such company helps me to hold on to the God who has me, indeed all of us, in His hands.

Four months ago
I joined a different club.
There is no secret handshake.
It is easy to tell
Who belongs.
These are the ones who ask
How I am doing today
Are you feeling any better?
These are usually the ones
Who have lived scared witless
And come out the other end.
These are the ones who have made plans
Only to have them unmade
In an instant.
I never knew the distinction was so huge
Until I joined the club.

Ask me the diagnosis.
Ask me when I can drive again.
Ask me if I*m scared.
Even ask me to rate my scared-ness
On a scale of one to ten:
One being barely scared
At all.

I joined a different club
When I had the seizure. 

If you really want to know:
Most days I rank a one or two
As scaredy-cat.
Most days I know that no matter what happens
Between now and the middle of June
I will remain a member of that different club,
No secret handshake but
I know I am still held in God*s hands
No matter what happens
At all.

Forsythia yellow

Today was clergy Quiet Day at Morton Arboretum.  It was a gift and a blessing, from people present, to worship, to time spent in quiet, looking out at trees in the rain.  It was lovely to be in a place where little needed to be said.  Indeed, there were many hugs exchanged, and fewer words.  A good way to spend the Tuesday in Holy Week.  
For whatever reason, I am now realizing forsythia yellow, noticing it everywhere.  It seems once a deficit has been noticed, God plants it everywhere.  It is a good reminder, this yellow on a gray rainy day.  It is a reminder of joy.  It rains in my heart.

Being driven to Quiet Day
It was all forsythia:
Whole bright yellow
Yellow like I*d never seen.

Years ago I had bad memories
Of aqua.
Aqua was redeemed,
Returned to me in a dream of picking
Aqua flowers.
I held them in open hands
Let the petals sift through my fingers.
After that I saw aqua everywhere.
It had never occurred to me
Certain colors could be redeemed.

The spoken word this morning offered:
Joy reigns in my heart.
It became:
Joy rains in my heart.
Today forsythia yellow has been given back.
Joy rains.
I have received it
Hold it in open hands
Watch it permeate the landscape.
Yellow is everywhere
Bright in the rain
Yellow forsythia joy
Rains in my heart,