Taize, March 2017

I tucked the candle and its paper drip guard

in the hymnal rack of the pew in front of me

til we sang “Christ Jesus, light of our hearts, we praise you”

and a young girl made her way down the aisle,

lighting the tapers of those at each row’s end.

My friend Beth’s candle burst into flame

and I leaned mine to meet its glowing tip.

My wick, too, sparked to brightness,

burning fast, flame high, wax flowing.

My weary mind fixated on the flame and flow,

And the shrinking of my candle.

The candle—me.

Around me people sang in Spanish:

Nada te turbe/nada te espante/

quien a Dios tiene nada le falta/

nada te turbe/nada te espante/

solo Dios basta.

I translated bits in my mind,

but mostly watched the wax drip, drip, drip.

Melting, lessened, reduced.

Reduced.

Lower, lower it burned.

Then, same song, English words:

Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten.

Those who seek God will never go wanting.

Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten.

God alone fills us.

I remembered the Spanish: solo Dios basta

Basta—enough.

We filed to the front,

placed our candles in sand-filled bowls at the foot of the cross,

returned to our seats.

From there I could not see the candles,

But their collective glow lit up the Christ painted on the cross.

Another song began

and the cross was lifted from among the candles

Placed in front of them, flat on the ground.

Come forward, we were invited.

Come to the cross.

The line was long.

I watched the candles.

Many had burned down to nubs,

their flames low in the sand.

Others still stood tall.

My turn.

In the flames’ flicker, the painted face and hands

of the Christ on the cross seemed to move.

When I knelt, put my hand on his,

I almost expected them to clasp together.

Around me voices rose.

The final line washed over me.

Love and do not fear.

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Hope Cafe and Pray Chicago

Hi everyone,

I’ve been out of the loop a bit the last couple weeks with travel and my kids being out of school. I’m getting caught up now and should be back to regular posting next week. In the meantime, I’m sharing two things:

  1. a for-fun piece I wrote for dineANDrhyme about Chicago Hope Cafe. Hope Cafe is my new away-from-home office and is a coffeeshop with a great cause–to support nearby Chicago Hope Academy, a  Christian inner-city high school (those are a real anomaly!). If you ever find yourself on the west side of Chicago, swing by (they have free street parking!). Tell them you read about them on Dine and Rhyme; they’ll be thrilled! Click on the dineANDrhyme link above (or in this sentence) to read the poem. Click on the Hope Cafe link above (or in this sentence) to visit the cafe’s website.
  2. Pray Chicago is having an event this weekend, a prayer summit (scroll down for a video and info about the prayer summit) at Progressive Baptist Church on Sunday evening. Pray Chicago is also asking Chicagoans to consider this Sunday a day of fasting and prayer. If you haven’t visited Pray Chicago’s website before and you live anywhere in the Chicago area, it has my full recommendation.

The Table

Eat my flesh.

Drink my blood.

Those outside the early church, hearing these words,

accused of cannibalism.

Understandable.

But though there were no ritual drums,

No contemptible ingredients.

It was; it IS—

a brush with the holy.

No matter literal or symbolic,

We have, in truth, taken. in. God.

Mystery upon mystery:

that the God of the universe

Put on flesh,

veins, arteries ribboning through,

Coursing with blood—

And offered himself for our consumption,

Entering us, being in us.

Somehow making each

Unique

Yet (another mystery!)

Part of a people, the people of God

Belonging as family, truest family,

the Presence within far surpassing the differences without.

So let us not forget, as we come to the table, as we are told,

“This is Christ’s body, broken for you.

This is Christ’s blood, spilled for you,”

These holy mysteries:

God enfleshed,

God in me, you,

Us, the people of God.

Remember—

with lips and teeth and tongue and throats,

with chewing, swallowing, digesting.

So that,

in-Presenced with Christ

From fingers to toes, and all in between;

Empowered with the energy of digested bread and wine—

Flesh and blood—

with life given to heart and lungs and mind and limbs,

we love with heart and breath and mind and strength:

God and neighbor.

God and the Family.

And lest we forget—how easily we do—

We come to the table again

And again and again.

Take, eat.

Take, drink.

This is my body, torn for you.

This is my blood, spilt for you.

The gifts of God for the people of God,

So we can be filled with him,

Can be a people filled with him.

Do this—take and eat—

and remember

 

God’s ear

If every act of violence—every single one—

boomed like heavy bass,

or screeched like nails on a chalkboard,

would it be less common?

But what if it IS loud—

and we’ve just grown hard of hearing it?

What if we’ve turned down the volume

till urban killings, wars in far-off nations, child abuse,

slavery, the rape of girls in other places

is merely white noise, background buzz?

Has God, too? Has He grown deaf

or simply unplugged the speakers of our pain?

Wouldn’t you—if that’s all you heard from this broken world?

Remember the crucifixion?

What a soundtrack that had!

Moaning, wailing, cries of pain and terror, sobs of grief,

shouts of anger and hatred, too.

The clamorous theme of our broken humanity.

Darkness covered it—could God not bear to watch?—

But He didn’t cover His ears!

No, He added to the noise.

Not with a whimper or a whisper—

with a loud cry!

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The shout of the Son Incarnate,

victim of intentional violence,

carrier as well of the entire burden of the image-bearers

who’d spurned the image and lived the loss.

The Father heard,

listened,

responded—

with gusting winds,

rumbling skies,

a shaking earth,

and then, a final, awesome noise:

the tearing of a thick, dividing curtain.

Top to bottom, it split

With a rip that shook the universe,

Opening the way for us

to whisper our pain

Directly into God’s ear.

*I always feel like I must add a disclaimer when I attempt poetry. I’m not a poet! There are lines in here I like, but the whole lacks something (the problem with not being a poet is that you don’t know what’s lacking!). So, if there are any poets out there who read this and think, “I know what I would do!”, PLEASE feel free to tinker with it. I would love to post an updated, collaborative version.

a piece up on DineANDRhyme!

matcha 2Sometimes, in the middle of writing class assignments and web articles, you gotta’ write something just for fun! So last week, as I was trying to squeeze a paper down to its required 5-6 pages (I failed), I wrote about my favorite “office away from home,” Cafe K’tizo, and submitted my just-f0r-fun poem to DineANDRhyme, a blog of poems about restaurants.

Here’s the link to my poem about my favorite treat at my favorite place. The piece on DineANDRhyme also has a link to K’Tizo’s website. You can order teas from the website no matter where in the world you are, but if you happen to be in the western suburbs of Chicago, I would suggest visiting the store in person. Who knows–you might see me there!

wick and wax

 

wick and wax 2We vigil the night before Easter,

Entering sanctuary in silent darkness—

Till spark meets candlewick and

Fire shines.

Passed from one taper

To another,

Flames grow strong above candles held steady,

And collective glow pushes back the gloom.

We wait in already-but-not-yet time,

Anticipating Resurrection daybreak,

Still grieving in the night of death.

This greater reality is

Held small in my hand—

The flame of glory

Rising from wax,

Melting it,

Dripping tears.

Wick and wax,

Flame and tears,

Glory and sorrow,

Rise and fall—

Already and not yet.

 

Weeping endures for the night

But joy comes in the morning

a turn at the wheel

056

April of 2009

I could blame it on the quality of the light or the setting sun,

But it was more probably that I’d just asked my oldest if she’d like to take a turn at the wheel—

And that made me look at my own hands on it

and notice how worn and age-spotted they’d become.

Strange that I mind my own aging far less than I mind theirs.

The little ones are not so little anymore. The youngest is in double digits—something that bothers me more than I let on,

The middle ones are doing nearly-teenager kinds of things with their friends,

And the oldest, though she remained in the passenger seat, could have sat where I was.

I don’t know which of these caused my heart to gain weight and sink low.

When they were small, banshee loud and wild,

I thought moments like this would never, never come.

“They’re going to live with us forever, you know.”

My husband often said that, generally after a minor catastrophe or an interminable putting-to-bed,

And we would both laugh.

But now…

Stop, I think, stop.

For it is not the “not keeping up with them” that I fear

As much as it is the being left behind, losing my belonging with them.

Silly, I tell myself. You’ll simply belong in a different way.

And yet the exhausting “being needed” of their younger years

Is giving way to an independence on their part that makes me anticipate loneliness.

Strange that the fulfillment of what I have worked so hard for

Should cause my heart such pain.

“You’re going to leave soon,” I say into the quiet car,

and my oldest, somehow reading my mind, responds,

“Not for two more years, Mom.

That’s still a long way off.”

But she doesn’t realize.

Two years is a blink.

I’ll turn around and find her gone,

With the twins graduating high school,

And the youngest out gallivanting with friends.

I shiver,

She sees and turns up the heat,

And I want to cry.

After ten pages of trying to encapsulate ATONEMENT…

coffee and kindle

coffee and Kindle–really good friends when writing papers! The beautiful mug was made for me by my Em! Love it!

Alternate title: A bad poem attempting to do what ten pages did not! 

Justification, reconciliation, substitution, payment, victory, sacrifice, ransom, freedom, satisfaction…

Too many words!

Yet not enough.

Words enough to fill books upon books,

Yet still not enough to fully explain the how—

The what, even!

Well, it’s understandable—

Paul himself spoke in metaphor

And mixed them like disparate ingredients in a stew—

Trying to convey the whole with parts—

With the whole being the best meal ever,

Filling, enlivening, comforting…

Hmm, I, too, just used metaphor,

bringing in yet another in an attempt to wrap my mind around

the atonement, that definition-defying word,

the At-One-Ment of those so very much at odds:

God and creation,

Beginning in harmony,

And then not—

With the fault being wholly NOT God’s.

In the great gulf between: sin, death, evil,

Impossible for creation to bridge.

So crossed instead by the injured party,

(Oh, terrible pun–yet true!)

The birth, the life, the death, the resurrection of God-made-flesh,

And the far off was brought near.

At-One-Ment was accomplished!

How?

Through the death of Christ, we say.

But, really, how? How? How did that death make one again what had been so seriously separated into two?

Oh dear,

We resort to metaphors once again,

Each one expressing just a part. Only a part

Of a glorious, beautiful, magnificent whole.

BIG—encompassing all of humanity, past, present, future.

The entirety of creation as well.

Yet small, too.

For I, one among billions, a speck in the universe,

I am At-One with the Holy One.

And you, fellow speck, you can be, too!

Incredible.

He in me. I in him.

He in you. You in him.

We—you, me, we two—AT-ONE as well!

We all—creation days one through six—

At One!

Could there be a more amazing mystery? A mystery worked through mystery!

“For God so loved…”

Ah, the need to understand momentarily set aside,

I rest,

Grateful.

From dark to light

DSC_0743Daylight saving turns

The dimmer knob of the day,

And the afternoons are cut short.

Dusk chases my children in.

They stare through

windows at the settling gloom.

They are no longer young.

They remember what autumn brings.

“When?” they ask.

“When will daylight grow again?”

“Around Christmas,” I tell them.

They sigh. Still so far away!

With a more gradual movement,

A global twisting,

We lean away from the Sun.

Darkness now pursues

us home from school.

Outdoor hours are few

And precious.

Suddenly, new light!

Not much—small, twinkling,

Strung in trees, across porches—

But shining bright with hope

against the encroaching shadows.

My children’s eyes sparkle.

Though tiny, these pinpoint lights

Remind us: Christ did come!

They proclaim: He will come again!

True Light will return

Triumphant

Once and for all!

Until then, my children,

Even as dark presses close,

Let us, filled with True Light,

Shine as small beacons,

Gleam like tiny stars

Beam as heralds of Hope.

Christ has died.

Christ has risen.

Christ will come again.

A family, a people

Small Carolina town

Throwback general store

Both my boys looking at the comics

Side by side

Yet the sharp “What’chu doin’, boy?”

Is not directed at the two,

Just the one,

My child with dark skin.

Years before,

Sitting in a crowded Ugandan church

Watching his tiny self

Dance in the aisles,

I wondered,

What are we doing—

Giving him a family

But displacing him from a people?

When he was small, our conversations about race

Were easy.

He called himself chocolate,

The rest of us vanilla,

In high summer, I became

Milky coffee.

Now, though, they are harder.

How to explain to him,

To his sisters and brother,

That the odds facing them

Are not exactly equal?

That what we’ve told them—

Human is human. Period.—

Is not a reality out there

And King’s dream

Is still a dream.

And underneath all this,

Even now,

the question haunts me:

We’ve become a family

But what about his people?

~~~~

I thought this post could use a little lift. This was a fun, impromptu moment in Target when PJ saw this awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle jacket!

I thought this post could use a little lift. This was a fun, impromptu moment in Target when PJ saw this awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle jacket!

Our fourth child was born in Uganda. His mother died of AIDS; his father was estranged and never met him till we began the adoption process. In many miraculous ways God made it very clear that we were to adopt our son. But even as I worked in Africa to get legal guardianship, I wondered about the issues he would face growing up as an African child in a white family, in a predominately white area, in a country where the color of your skin still determines a lot. Racial reconciliation takes on a whole new level of importance when you have a child who is a different race. When I read about the horrifically high numbers of African American men in prison; when I learn that five times the number of African American babies are aborted compared to white babies; when I hear that an African American college professor in the town just two over from mine has been stopped by police more than 20 times in the last couple years just so they could “see what

I couldn't resist posting this one, too!

I couldn’t resist posting this one, too!

he was up to”… I think, “This is what’s facing my son,” and I ask God how I am meant to draw attention to this injustice, how I am meant to fight it—both for my own son and the sons and daughters of other women.

And under all this, I still fear the effects on my son of growing up without a community that looks like him.