Archive | September 2017

Haiku: poem, prayer, surprise

Since I came home from Beyond Walls: Spiritual Writing at Kenyon College in Gambier Ohio, I have been on a writing jag. Every day, sometimes several times a day, I get caught up in a moment of beauty or pathos – mostly in nature, sometimes in town. I stop in my tracks and snap a picture. Later as I look back at the photograph I can see, in my mind’s eye, what grabbed my attention. Words start to flow and a tiny haiku (5,7,5 syllables) tumbles out.

Listen to the rush                                                               river and rocks
Feel the heat on sun kissed rock
Inhale breath of life

Each time this happens I am as surprised as if I had not seen the view, taken the picture and composed the verse. I wonder, is this what prayer is? Opening to God’s view. Listening in on a conversation. Receiving a gift. Sharing what comes with others. Being moved by stillness. Taken over by beauty and pain and wonderment.

shrieking saws slice through
the silence of a dead tree;
a habitat, downed.

tree cutting

Often the moments are joy- filled. Other times my sorrow spills out. All the moments are thin slices in a life that continues to unfold. What has become a daily practice, a haiku photo journal of sorts, came to me and now I want to share it with you. Poetry is like that. It refuses to stay at home. It lives beyond walls.

The day will grow warm
Yet now a small breeze, the fog
The autumn leaves, say “Chill.”

river view from the hillside


Sun shines in our patch.

linked by love and loss

Wind, rain, fire and quakes in yours.
Linked by love and loss.




Today I rode up the hill to Wilder Brook farm, the CISA (community involved in sustaining agriculture) that I belong to. I belong because Dorrie and I pay our dues to gather a weekly collection of vegetables and herbs and flowers. I know that Christ does not spend much time on dues paying so belonging must be more than who pays what to whom. Sometimes, like today, when I arrive at the farm, I know that I belong because I am a home-grown creature and God is working overtime in this late summer season to show off the color and texture and sweet tart tangy truth of everything, including me.

I parked my car on the grass, grateful that there were only a few other members milling around. I had arrived all talked out. How sweet it was that I could gaze without speaking, smell without talking, fall on the ground without having to explain myself. Because really, what could I say that would make any sense anyhow?

tomatoesThe summer is just about over. In two days we will be celebrating and mourning the fall equinox. For one brief moment the hours of night and day, light and dark, will be equal. And then, second by second, the light will begin to decrease.

I know this deeply in my body and soul because I belong to the earth and the water and the sky and everything that waxes and wanes. The gushingly sweet tomatoes call my name and I pop one into my mouth and the juice tells a story about the bright days of summer slipping away.

O God of the bursting ripe tomato and the knock me over smell of spearmint, the gritty carrots pulled moments ago from your dearest darkest moist, rich, loamy,  grubby earth; thank you for welcoming me as one of yours. Earth creature. Summer lover, swimming child, spilling over with joy and grief. I am yours. I belong on this table.




Move over

This evening I was sitting in a chair in the sanctuary of our church. Every Thursday evening without fail a few chairs are dragged up close to the altar where we have a table with a basket filled with prayer cards. The cards have concerns written on them by church and community members who are suffering or who know someone who is suffering and who is in need of prayer. A few of us come and sit in these “prayer chairs” for about one half hour. We silently read out the prayer concerns and then we settle in to pray for these folks, most but not all of whom are unnamed. Sometimes only one or two of the chairs are filled with people praying. Since we believe that “if two or three gather in my name I am there” then the cards and Jesus are here too; praying with us and for us and we are more than enough.


Tonight many of the cards were from people asking for help with the struggle, pain and anguish of substance abuse. Our church hosts an AA and an Al-Anon meeting so maybe that is why those prayers are starting to fill the basket. Our little country village is no stranger to alcohol and opiods and every other kind of drug abuse. Our brothers and sisters, our children and grandchildren, our mothers and fathers and we too are caught up in this web of addictions. I am thankful that the silence like a fog is being lifted so we can speak and pray and advocate for each other more freely than in years past.

As I sat and prayed for all these people, including my own family, and all the other kinds of sickness and losses and griefs and pains that are laid out in the prayer cards I heard a message for me. The message came in a soft but clear voice saying “Marguerite, it is time for you to move out of the judgment seat and into the mercy seat. Move over. It is a small slide but a big change in viewpoint.”

I moved from one seat to another. When I did I felt a wave of mercy crashing over me even as I remained still and quiet in the semi-dark sanctuary. Were the tears that flowed for me or for someone else? Was the shift from judgment to mercy for me or about me?

Sometimes I wonder if this half hour a week of prayer for anonymous people matters. Tonight I knew in a deeper way that the call to prayer is what matters. It is not for me to judge the worth of this effort. It is not for me, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “to take the temperature of the congregation” even when the congregation is just me and God. It is up to me to listen and to respond and to not be afraid to shift my position so that I can see and hear what and who is here within and beside me. Move over Marguerite.



Turning toward not away.

One of the most powerful commandments that God issues us is to resist turning away from encounters with “the other” and instead to turn toward.

This past Sunday in our Time for All Ages I sat with three children. During this time in the worship service the kids and I talk with each other and with the adults in the pews, some of whom say that the Time for All Ages is the moment they remember, even more than the sermon.

On Sunday we read a version of the ancient story of Moses and the burning bush. I love to read from the Archbishop Tutu’s interpretation of the Bible for young children because in the back of my mind I am always thinking how his experience in South Africa informs his re-telling of the Bible stories. Or maybe it is the opposite – how his reading of the Bible stories informed how faithful and courageous he and so many people were and still are in South Africa. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a challenging and transforming model for confronting, not turning away from life no matter where we are or how old or young we are.

Anyway, we were reading about how Moses was startled by the bush that was burning while the leaves continued to shine green. The contrast of burning and growing frightened Moses yet his desire to see the bush overcame his aversion. God called to Moses and gave him an even scarier thing to do which was to directly approach the Pharaoh and demand that the Pharaoh let the Hebrew people go out from slavery.

Moses the stutterer must have stuttered and stammered his way through his encounter with this totally “other” experience. But Moses did not turn away; not from the bush, from the voice or from his calling to do the impossible with the help of God.

We talked on Sunday about the things that children and adults are afraid of and how it is easy to run away. We talked about how God’s great love keeps pulling us back together. Our ability to go toward rather than run away is founded on the Grace of God who does not turn anyone away so why should we? new pic

We are living in yet another time for all ages where we are being called to come toward each other even as we are pulled apart; by fear, by hate, by ignorance, by habit, and by our temptation to cling to the familiar rather than run into the arms of the Impossible Possible.

I am thinking now about Charlottesville Virginia and the Nashville Statement. Two different real-time experiences of people in my time and place rejecting rather than embracing “the other.” In both of those public events, one being a “rally” in favor of white nationalism and another a public statement rejecting LGBTQ people from the Christian church, I recognize Moses and the rest of us being called to speak truth to the powers that be.

I am grateful for a big story to put my story in so I can make sense and find strength and courage and direction, which for me is toward rather than away. I pray every day for the ability to stay with encounters and to find ways to stand with God rather than stay with my fear or gut reactions. I trust that the Spirit of Truth and Reconciliation will guide me and help me confront fear and hate for what it is and lean into love and justice for all. After all, God does not turn away so why should I? And I pray that the children who are hearing all these stories will hear a good word in the middle of hard times.