Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent Eve

Advent is my favorite season.  It seems the only season of the Church year which waits for two things at once, seemingly opposite things.  This waiting time feels, well, liminal to me.  An in-between time of sorts. This year we also get to wait for the comet to appear in the sky just before dawn.  

Advent Eve
The sun has set.
The day will dawn blue
Unless I look
Just before the sun rises
For the promised comet;
Unless I watch the sky,
Darkness incarnate
With a growing purple tinge,
Melting into final day blue.
Hope holds her hands
On the baby
Riding safe inside;
Hope holds her hands outstretched
To the Promised One  
Who will return
The stage is set.
Advent Eve.
I await
The comet
Out the other side
Of the sun.
The sky will change
From darkness incarnate
To purple
To a final blue.
Hope bows down.
Her hands wait
In her lap.

More church dreams

This is the priest equivalent of not arriving prepared for the exam.  Even though I am not serving behind the altar these days, but rather, under the altar, counseling people one by one, I still have these dreams from time to time.  It seems years and years of a particular path, speaking a particular language, begs such things as church dreams like this one.  I wake up wondering if I will be invited to the picnic... the one everyone will attend.

Again I did not arrive
For the job:
No alb
No sermon
Heck I didn*t even know
The proper lessons
For the day.
The outside sign said
They were now
In Palos Park.
Still I got there
By a back entrance
In cassock and surplice.
They said they*d figure out
Some sort of stole
To make me look official.
They always were nice
Like that.
I did not arrive prepared.
It took back road after back road
To get there.
Light attendance was promised.
There was a picnic scheduled
For the afternoon.
Everyone would attend
The picnic.

Friday, November 29, 2013


It seems the cranberries I tried to make into sauce, sweetened with orange juice, refused to be budged into sweetness.  Of course it may have helped if I'd used sweetened orange juice, or tasted the o.j. ahead of time. I assumed Whole Foods orange juice would be sweet.  The sauce may not be worth saving.  Some such things need to be let go... with grace.  Our ash tree?  Not so much.

This is the morning after,
The morning after the turkey,
After the cranberry sauce so sour
The leftover sauce
Will have to be doctored
For sweetness,
Perhaps baked into muffins.
The rest of the family
Still sleeps sound
In the light
Of late morning.
Pale blue sky
Highlights bare trees.
The lone backyard squirrel
Fluffs his tail
Runs up and down the ash tree.
The tree still survives
The borer:
Emerald green
From China.
We doctored the tree
For life
Last year.
It is still alive for us,
For the squirrel.
We may have to call it quits
On the cranberry sauce.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pomegranate is a winter fruit

I always hated reading poetry which required a deep understanding of literary allusion.  Especially literary allusion which required knowledge of Greek and Latin and French and Italian.  Here it is Thanksgiving and I am thinking about Persephone, eating pomegranate seeds in the Underworld, and having to live there from three to six months.  She found her way into today's poem.  I think I explained her presence well enough. I did major in Greek as an undergraduate.  But still.  Happy Thanksgiving!

In northern Illinois
Pomegranate is a winter fruit,
Shipped in
From southern climates
On other continents.
It arrives in the stores
At Thanksgiving
With the first flakes of snow.
Every year it seems,
Like Persephone,
I descend to darker places
Only to rise in the light
Come spring.
Pomegranate is a winter fruit.
Of course it is.
Every year I eat at least six seeds
At Thanksgiving
Around a warm family table,
Remember the past months
Of growth and harvest,
Remember the people,
Remember the losses,
The things which are
No longer gathered in
But somehow still remain.
I am grateful
Oh so grateful
Eternally grateful.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I read stories of all the food that makes Thanksgiving for people.  The food is rich and varied.  The only thing it all has in common is it is special.

As families blend and morph
Into new versions
Of themselves,
More dishes will line the tables
At Thanksgiving.
A few years ago
I introduced pomegranate seeds
To a new crowd
Of unrelated people.
Since we were not in charge
Of the salad,
We served them as a garnish
For mashed sweet potatoes.
Years ago
My beloved*s introduction
To pomegranate seeds
When he met my family
For the first time.
In his struggle to figure out
How to eat it a seed
My brother noted
He had dropped one
On his sweater.
This is now part
Of Thanksgiving
Pomegranate stories.
Other families share stories
Of cranberry salads.
Our stories often feature
Pomegranate seeds.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving requirements

There are requirements for Thanksgiving dinner.  Turkey... yes of course, though I understand there are many households which do not celebrate with turkey or cranberries in any form.  My daughter is vegetarian so we'll figure something with seitan for her.  Thanksgiving requires that there is something good for everyone, often involving memories of past Thanksgivings.  Usually it involves food... and lots of it.  My son will stay in Minnesota and celebrate up there.  He is also a fan of canned cranberry sauce with the ridges left in place.

We have figured the food
For Thursday. 
My beloved requires
Sweet potatoes mashed with orange juice.
I require pomegranate seeds and grapefruit
In the green salad.
Our daughter requires
Canned cranberry sauce
With the marks of the can
Left intact.
She also requires
That we eat at home this year.
Last year the refrigerator
Was in the living room.
We had no kitchen
To speak of
We speak of it often.
A year*s time brings with it
A lot of change.
Some things are required
To stay the same.

Monday, November 25, 2013


It*s all tied together.  Now you see it.  Now you don*t.  Still... it will always come 'round again.

It*s all tied into
How did I not see
The connection of end times
And beginning again,
Beginning again?
I*m sure I must have written this
The Church
in their prescience
Sandwich Thanksgiving between
Christ the King
And Advent 1.
The final Thursday
Of November,
The harvest gathered in,
The checkout guy
In the grocery store
Telling us the story
Of wild turkeys being so much
More flavorful
I saw it on PBS
He said
The combination of his Hawaiian shirt
And dreadlocks
And wild turkeys melding
With the blue sky day
After church.
It*s all tied into
Doncha know?
Hawaiian shirts and dreadlocks
Wild turkeys
And oh
Simply everything.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


This was my experience at Convention this year.  Oddly, though it may not sound like it, it was overall a positive experience.  I was made aware again of the pieces of back-story which are mine to bear, mine to attest to, mine to proclaim.  At the same time, I became more aware than ever that I will have to find new ways to do this.  The theme of Convention was "Behold! We are doing a new thing."  We welcomed new people into the diocese, but did not say farewell to others, to those who moved or are moving, to those who retired. Sometimes the old is not honored when we make way for the new.  It is possible to do both.  It is necessary to do both.  Perhaps I am more sensitive to this because I am a few years off from retirement now.  Perhaps I am more sensitive because I am part of that tail end of the first generation of ordained women whose vocational life was like unto those first farmers who moved West and had to clear land before any kind of crop could be planted.  This is part of my personal back-story.  I am a farmer.  I have cleared a lot of land.

Just home from Convention
I realize I know
So much
Of so much
To this place.
The archives man died
This year.
I am one of many pages
Still walking around,
Not recorded on official paper
Except perhaps
In sundry places
I have served.
I am one
Of many.
Some remember.
There is back-story,
There is memory
Deemed less significant;
There is the new announced
As the whole of things;
The change proclaimed
Which still ties in
With everything we have done
We forgot.
Somehow we forget.
There is always back-story.
Nothing is ever
Completely new.
Amnesia unrealized
In truth
Does not make anything new.
Even when we say
It is so.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Home from Convention

I spent more time this year one on one.  After all, I have always been best, one on one.   Now that I am home I realize it was an amazing quilt of one on one opportunities.  I am not a big gathering sort, except that big gatherings often pull together people I care about.  Convention is one of those gatherings.  

I did the bits and pieces I could,
Found the comfy chairs,
Doled out hugs,
Words of appreciation;
Received and heard a few
I was reminded again
It all goes both ways.
All of it.
There were elections
And resolutions.
But mostly I found out again
It all goes both ways.
All of it.
Even in the bits and pieces.

Friday, November 22, 2013


This will be my twenty-ninth diocesan convention as a priest.  I find myself grateful for a number of things: the convention has been in this location for the last four years (at least). I know where things are, so I don't need to spend energy on things like finding the bathroom.  Instead I can spend energy connecting with people new and old, just for the sake of connecting.  I am not running for any office.  I am not volunteering for anything. I may wear a collar, then again, maybe not.  I can be present, free and clear.  So I will.

This morning I thank God
For breakfast on my own,
For no small and smaller conversation
With ten people
In a restaurant,
People I enjoy at 2:30 in the afternoon
But 8:00 AM?
Almost everyone pales
At 8:00 AM.
Especially me.

This morning I thank God
For familiar spaces.
I know already
Where I will register
Where we will meet
Where the bathrooms are.
There is comfort
In familiar spaces.
I will not have to reorganize
The synapses
Of my brain
To find my way around.
I will not need the equivalent
Of a therapy dog,
Though a dog is always
A nice option.

This morning I thank God
For the choices I am blessed
To be able
To make
And the choices
I no longer need to make.

I thank God this morning
For the people I will meet,
The nametags we all
Will wear.
I can spend the synapses
Of my brain
On more important things:
Being present one to one
Then again
Being present
One to one.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


On some days I could spend the whole time... writing.  Details flow like... well... like water.  Sometimes they ooze like honey, creep down volcanoes like lava.  Sometimes details mix together into new details and they seem completely new, even worth a dance interpretation.  Today is not one of those days.  Today is a singular detail day.

Find one detail.
Write it down.
Draw it.
Dance it.
It may very well be
The most important detail
In the world.
It is this moment*s detail
Seen through your eyes.
It reached out and caught
Your attention.
No one else has seen
This particular detail
In this particular way.
It deserves a mention,
More than a mention.
It may even change
The world.
Find one detail.
Write it down.
Draw it.
Dance it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


It seems in dreams we can get anything anywhere.  Even the last panther at the hardware store.  We bought him on a whim.  It was not a planned buy.  I kinda like him representing rebirth.  He was hard to control, certainly, but not ominous whatsoever.

From the Online Dream Dictionary:
To see a panther in your dream signifies lurking danger and enemies working to do you harm. It represents darkness, death, and rebirth. On a more positive note, panthers signify power, beauty and/or grace. Consider the feel of your dream to determine which meaning applies.      

I dreamed we bought a panther
At the hardware store.
He was the only panther left.
On Special.
It was hard to get him
In the cart,
It was hard
To get him through the checkout line,
It was hard
To fit him in the car,
But somehow we did.
I dreamed a panther,
A Sleek
He was on sale,
The very last one,
In the hardware store.
Now he is ours,
Except it seems,
Like all wild creatures,
He will never be
Completely ours.
No matter how much
We paid.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On catching up with an old friend

There are many ways to celebrate my ordination anniversary year.  This may be the best one yet... finding again a friend who I worked and played with during that year back in 1983-84.  Here's to you, Kathleen Busby.  I look forward to more lunches and laughter in the year to come.  

Now it is dark
And almost five 
In the afternoon.
I did not write
This morning.
Over lunch
We shared just enough history
To catch up,
To realize again 
We have not changed
Neither of us.
Now we are free
To go on
From here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Clear head

Wild weather yesterday.  Wild weather means different things on different days.  Yesterday two fronts collided over the upper Midwest. I don't know which one won, except that there were tornadoes to the south of us, and it all moved over Northern Indiana and Lake Michigan to cause its trouble there.

Today I wake up grateful
For a clear head,
Settled weather,
The cat asleep
On the insulated grocery bag,
My beloved at the dining table,
Coffee warm
In his hands.
Today I wake up
With simple joys,
The means
To enjoy them.
I drink my coffee
From the dinosaur mug,
A modified stegosaurus.
A glint of sun
Cracks through the clouds,
Names the gratefulness I feel
On this day,
No words necessary.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Some Pig

When my friend, Rhonda Baker, posted a picture on Facebook of the spider she fed all summer, with her three egg sacs, all of Charlotte's Web came back to me.  Yes, Rhonda's spider was like Charlotte.  She had a singular spider focus.  And, apparently, adored stink bugs.

My friend nurtured a spider
All summer,
Even fed her
Stink bugs.
She says the spider
Was like Charlotte.
The stink bugs
Gave her the energy,
The wherewithal,
To produce
Three egg sacs,
A triple magnum opus,
Before she died.
Maybe this is what
A spider can do
When she has a singular focus
In life.
Maybe this spider*s life
Included the summer life,
In part,
Of my friend
Collecting stink bugs.
Maybe this says as much
About friendship
Continuing on
As a children*s story
About Some Pig
Saved by
Some Spider.
Magna opera

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I have a lot to say

I tend not to preach what people expect to hear from the pulpit. Probably no surprise there.  The other Classics major in college (I went to a small school) also wrote poetry.  When we caught up with each other after I had been serving in parish ministry for awhile, he asked  about my poetry.  Oh, I said, I'm writing weekly sermons now.  The poetry energy is going into my preaching.  He was disappointed in me.  We  lost touch with one another.  I think he is out East somewhere.  Joe... are you out there reading??

I have a lot to say.
It seems most of it
Is not preach-able
To a large crowd of people,
Even if that crowd is styled
A congregation.
I proved I could do it again.
It is part of my resume.
People mostly responded
With the obligatory
Nice sermon
You sing well
(yes, I sang during the sermon)
A couple heard
What I meant to say
Beyond the singing.
I have a lot to say.
Probably most of it
Is not preach-able
To a large crowd of people,
No matter what name
The crowd goes by.
I believe
With the UCC church
Down the block
God is still speaking.
Sometimes we hear Him
Sometimes we hear Her
In sermons.
Sometimes not.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pondering my place in the Kingdom

Often perspective arrives as I write.  This is one of those days.

On days that I sit and wait,
Like this day,
I ponder my place
In the Kingdom.
At almost 59
I imagine my place
Under the altar,
All the good I can do
From the catacombs,
Though really there is space
Underneath me
As well.
The children play there
In cold weather.
Women dance
In the evenings.
Kicked out of the upper hall,
The stamp people
Meet there too.
The Kingdom extends
Below and above.
Really I am in the middle
Of the Kingdom
Just as I have always been.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I know God is a fan of do-overs.  It*s really what confession is all about.  Today is sunny and a little warmer.  The snow has melted.   It is easier to consider do-overs in sunlight.

It seems God is big
On do-overs.
The rest of us?
Not so much.
This accounts for much
Of the crabbiness
In the world.
Let*s try that again
God says
I*ll hold your hand.
Maybe take it more slowly
Next time,
Make some notes,
Have a cup
Of Honey Vanilla Chamomile tea.
Approach it
From underneath
Or behind.
It seems
Is a fan
Of do-overs.
He says
She says
Let us,
You and Me,
Try that again.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Where are you today?

It was snowing Monday.  I arrived to meet with my supervisor/therapist/consultant to find the building surrounded by fire engines and ambulances.  I was early, so I sat in my car, waited for the emergency vehicles to leave.  Halfway through the meeting, one question shut me down.  I hate it when that happens.  It doesn*t happen often, but sometimes there is a perfect storm.  This is not the kind of perfection I prefer. Yesterday was better.  Today is better still.

Where are you today?
She asks.
She knows weather changes
Throw me off kilter.
Where are you today?
Are you feeling more or less

It*s a lot better today
I say
Yesterday was awful.

I*ll bet it was
My trainer says.
Let*s see what we can do

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I think the three Sunday cranes will be it for the year.  A thin marking of fall passing into winter.

Three lone cranes flew
In the Sunday morning sky
High up,
Their crane voices
But distinctly
Next to that blue
Almost crystalline background,
So blue
No word identifies it.
Today my beloved texts me
From the north:
Cranes headed your way.
I find the message
After they have passed by.
I consider who lives south of me
Wonder if cranes veer
East or west
As they fly.
No telling.

Monday, November 11, 2013

When you told me you might have left

I live with the illusion that I am not easily fazed.  Except it seems I am.  Surprise.  Other people*s decisions affect me.  Surprise.  My decisions affect other people.  All the time.  The door swings both ways.

When you told me
You might have left
You didn*t,
I was surprised,
Even shocked,
At the depth
Of my sadness
Even though
You are still here
For now.
We are not even close friends.
The hinge that links
Our lives
Swings the door this way,
Then that.
Sometimes we don*t see each other
For days.
I was shocked,
Even surprised.
I know the time will come
When I awaken,
Open the front door
For the morning paper,
Find the for sale sign
On your lawn
Swinging in the wind
And me
Shocked and surprised
Even then.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Something in the air

I am still thrown off by the time change, the light change, the air change.  The only resolution is to wait until things clear.  I used to be able to push through such things.  No longer.  So I sit and get back in touch with the familiar around me.

There must be something
In the water
In the air
In the light
I am home from church
Under a blanket
In the blue chair.
My beloved is sound asleep
With the cat
On his chest.
The bush does not burn
In front.
I touch the familiar
Around me.
I wait.
There is something
In the water
In the air
In the light
I sit and wait
For something
To settle:
Sediment in the water;
Dust particles cleared
Out of the air;
The sun to set
More than an hour earlier
Than it did
Last week.
I sit and wait for that something
To clear,
Make way
For something else.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

After we have cleared away

I must be a trial and error sort.  I will not renew the LPC or the CADC.  They are not necessary to do what I am called to do.  I will still draw upon the knowledge and the resources I gained in acquiring them.  The burning bush is still beautiful when it is bare.  Birds come to roost.  The neighbor*s cat knows it is holy, even without its leaves.

After we have cleared away
The things we do not need
The horizon goes on
As if
Possibilities gain
Sharper definition,
Page after page
Of a coloring book.
Page after page
Of outlines,
They only require a medium
To be selected:
Color crayons
Sepia tones
Perhaps pen and ink
Maybe even broken bits
Of mosaic tile
To fill between the lines.
Possibilities gain
Sharper definition.
After all is cleared away
It seems we have been painting background
All along
And now
And now
We can see individual trees
In the forest
And now
And now
The birds are no longer hidden
By the leaves,
They sit on the branches
Of the burning bush
Which barely burned
This year.
And now
And now
Leaves gone
I see the neighbor*s cat
Sits underneath.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Autumnal reflection

As I drop letters after my name, I feel strangely lighter.  My beloved and I joke about what it will look and sound like when only a breath mark remains.  I don't know what other couples talk about over breakfast, but this is one of our conversations.

As leaves fall,
Chill arrives,
It seems right
I continue the process
Of subtraction:
After my name,
Recently acquired certifications,
Are the first to go.
The degrees were earned
And paid for,
They can stay
For now.
Soon enough
They too will go.
I imagine one autumn
My family name will dissolve
Letter by letter
Until only the name
God recognizes
Will remain.
Until finally
Even those letters will disappear
I am named
As breath in…
Breath out…
Then words
Will have done their duty.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Wow.  I left parish ministry in 2007.  It took quite awhile to figure out what priesthood might now look like in the human container that is me.  I gave up things.  I took on new things.  Now I know I can still preach. Still... it seems I am to speak in other ways... more.

So rarely are things
Resolved so quickly.
I preached on Sunday,
Four services
In a row.
So rarely
Are things
Resolved so quickly.

I preached
What felt right
To preach.
I even sang a little.
So rarely are things
So quickly.

I got the range of responses
I remember
From before.
So rarely
Does resolution come
So quickly.

I know I can do it.
I know the words will come.
I know I can preach
In my street clothes
In my church clothes
Follow the gospel procession
Back to the pulpit
From the pew.
It is rarely
This quick
Or simple.

But now I know
This is most probably
Not the place
I need to stand
And speak.
Does it come this easy.

I have prepared my whole life
For exactly
This place.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thank you, Kelly Flanagan, for your blog post this morning .  Yes.  

I have long had the skill to help people quit things.  I have also never figured out how to list it on a resume.  It tends not to be something employers are looking for.

I have become
The go-to teacher
For lessons
In saying no.
This shocks
The very blood
Coursing through my veins.
Minnesota blood.
I stand in parking lots.
People approach me,
On the sly
Almost as if I am
A drug dealer.
They say
So-and-so told me
You can help me
Quit this thing
I no longer want to do.
I stand next to parked cars,
In darkened hallways.
You have a choice
I say
You have options.
It is entirely possible
To say No
And move on
To the next thing.
It is then my blood runs cold.
Minnesota blood.
The girl from the Upper Midwest
I deal out noes
Like candy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

It is likely

What happens when the predictable... is *un*   When the burning bushes choose not to burn this year...where is the voice to be found?

It is likely
The burning bushes won*t reach
Full capacity
This year.
They are pale orange on top
With yellow and green
On the bottom.
It is likely
They will be bare
Before red
Is achieved.
What does it mean
When burning bushes
Do not live up to their name?
Do we wait for next year?
Or the year after?
What if autumn has found
A new place to speak
And I have simply missed it?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Where to stand

Some experiences take awhile to absorb or even awhile to register.  I suspect this last weekend will be one of those experiences.  I am grateful for my four friends sharing coffee with me this morning, even if they are creatures of my imagination.

Looking out from the pulpit
I noticed Grace
And her companions,
Humility and Charity,
Two pews back.
Providence inhabited
The choir loft.
I continue not to know
About me,
Where I need to stand
Or sit
Or kneel.
I found myself
In so many places yesterday
I do not know
The proper place,
If there is even
One proper place
Except the blue chair
Where I sit and write
This morning,
Watch and listen to the cat
Sound asleep and snoring,
Hear my daughter*s footsteps
And Providence
Ring around
The dining table,
Still in their nightclothes,
Laugh about their
Old-fashioned names,
Toast me and one another
With coffee and tea.
From the blue chair
I raise my coffee cup.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Extra hour

Maybe my brain will catch up eventually.  It*s not simply a change in barometric pressure that does it. Sometimes it*s something as simple as going off of daylight savings time.  I*ll have to gradually re-calibrate meals and bedtime.  Maybe by the time the winter solstice arrives, and the light begins coming back, my brain will arrive with it.

The extra hour of light
This morning
Translated to darkness at 5 PM.
It all gets refigured
On the other end
I sit in the dark,
Realize I am counting
This time I count an extra hour of daylight
In the morning
But still
It feels like darkness fell
More than an hour earlier
I think the world spun faster.
I swear the world spun faster.
It left daylight
In the dust.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Tomorrow I preach for All Saints, officially transferred to this Sunday.  Four services.  One time the sermon will be translated into Spanish.  I have never done that dance before.  Unlike my times as a solo pastor, during which I most often preached every week, it has been a long time now since I have put together a sermon.  There is a rhythm to sermons.  The first sermon I ever gave was during field education in 1981.  It was on All Saints.  Today, as so many times before, I put the sermon together on a Saturday morning, this time after weeks of thoughts and possibilities.  There is a rhythm to such things, as there is a rhythm to all things.

There is a rhythm
To sermons:
The preparation
The giving.
There is a rhythm
Not unlike the poem
But still
Not exactly the same.
There is a rhythm
To everything we do
Whatever we do
Wherever we are.
There is a rhythm
To all that we do
And say,
Dare I say it,
A heartbeat
Underneath it all.
The glorious company
Of saints
Living and dead
Stand with us
And sway
In time.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Winter visitor

It*s time for Daylight Savings Time to take a vacation, like snowbirds, south.  The extra hour of light arrives Sunday morning.  I have made up the guest room with fresh sheets.

I am glad
For the extra hour of light.
She arrives
Sunday morning
A winter visitor
As warm-baked cinnamon rolls
Hot coffee
Cat rumbles solid
On the lap;
A winter visitor
Embraced at the door
Shown in
From the dark and cold
Coat hung in the closet
Boots by the door;
A winter visitor
Invited to stay
Til spring.