(repost) Song of the South: Water-mark

Ephesians talks about us being sealed with the Holy Spirit as a sign of our redemption.  This poem I wrote some time ago pictures aspects of how I have experienced this work of the Spirit in my life.  How have you experienced being “marked” by the Spirit’s work and life?

Micah

Watermark

waves beach

Walls of water fall thick all around us both,

An ocean opening from sky above

Lacking only that briny saline smell

Which clung to me as a little boy

Emerging from the sea

Where I had been bathing with my brother and sisters

 

I remember that aroma falling about meafghan

Thick as Aunt Elaine’s afghan

Which I later would wrap around me

On cool Morrisville winter nights

Deep in camping mode, daddy said to us

“Don’t worry about no shower.

That sea will get you clean enough”.

 

That odor’s lingering embrace

Led me to feel unexpected kinship

With the ever-regenerating starfish who,

Together with the horse shoe crabs

Covered in hard spiked armor carapace

Swam in Fort Fisher’s touch pool.

 

Both before seemed some exotic creatures

cosmic-christSpock might have encountered on his three year tour,

Yet now stood clothed in the pungent fragrance of the same ocean,

That womb from which life first burst forth from mother earth.

Now our once strange touch felt like a connection.

The crab’s hard shell, my soft fingers

Became a little child and its mother intertwining their fingers.

 

It is just such a gesture

Stretching forth to greet

the pulsing life at the heart of each moment

Which I made again in salt water in my teens.

Clad only in a swimsuit I stepped into the sea

Hoping to answer that wave-walker’s call

mother and foetusWhen he had whispered to old Nicodemus,

“Return to the womb again,

Not now bound to walls and water by placenta

Like some boat afloat off shore

But of mother Spirit”.

 

Soaking, I expected to rise like some butterfly skyward

Those salty waters my own dark cocoon,

In which I left behind

echoing voices of shrill threats,

thunderous roars of fear.

 

Instead I waded in, body intertwined with the preacher’s,

Even while he spoke the three-fold name

To find us both flattened by the waves

Laughing rather than grave, both of us off kilter.

 

As walls of water fall around me now,

Fingers intertwined with one whose hand lies wrinkled not with ocean but with years

Staring into the bright eyes of one whose life now lays forgotten

Like a starfish under open wave

Each of us rocking to the rhythm of the rain,

I realize, how much more prophetic could this be?

In a childhood in which echoed the words “I’ll fly away”,

It seemed our goal was to escape this earth,

while the siren song of life

Echoing through every wind and wave

Calls us to plunge deep beneath,

Underneath cresting blue and white

For only in the water’s warm embrace can we learn to swim.

(repost) Experiencing God as the Womb-Kindness in Which We Live our Days

As we remember the Spirit’s role in our life, I think this devotional about the way in which God embraces us with womb kindness is an important part of the Spirit’s work in our life.

Micah

Moses-shining-faceAs I continue to reflect on Psalm 103’s fleshing out of the meaning of the name God gives God’s self to Moses in Exodus 3 of “I am Who I am”, or “The One Who Exists”, “One Who Lives”, or “Living One”, I am drawn to a section I paraphrase as follows:

““1 Bless the LIVING ONE, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless God’s holy name.

2 Bless the LIVING ONE, O my soul,

and do not forget all Their benefits—…

8 The Living One is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

9 They will not always accuse,

nor will hold anger forever.

10 This One does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,

so great is Their steadfast love toward those who fear Them;

12 as far as the east is from the west,

so far They removes our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion for his children,

so the One Who Is has compassion for those who fear Them.

14 For They know how we were made;

remembering that we are dust.

15 As for mortals, their days are like grass;

they flourish like a flower of the field;

16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

and its place knows it no more.

17 But the steadfast love of the One Who Lives is from everlasting to everlasting

on those who fear Them,

Their righteousness to children’s children,

18 to those who keep Their covenant

remembering to walk in Their commandments.”

Where do we find God as the One Who Lives, according to this section of Psalm 103?

loving-kindess-chesedIn an experience of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness, that encircles our days, filing all things with its presence.  There is a presence of love, compassion, mercy, which the Hebrew Scriptures calls God’s lovingkindness or hesed, and which the New Testament calls charis or grace, that fills all of our lives and all of our universe, though we don’t always acknowledge or see it.  It is always accessible to us and the essential truth about life, according to the way the Psalmist describes it here, yet something we do not always reach out to or lean on.

The Psalmist’s imagery is informative.   She or he draws on imagery we are used to for this love of God – picturing God as a father having compassion on his children.  We know this well, for Jesus speaks of God as “Father” and, in his model prayer, teaches us to pray “our fatherFather who art in heaven”.   But less recognized is the maternal imagery the original Hebrew in which this Psalm was written provides.  When God is said in our English translation to be “merciful” and “compassionate”, the Hebrew word for compassion has as its root the Hebrew word for womb.  Literally it means “womb-affection”, “womb-love”, “womb-feeling”.    It is based on that feeling I can never know as a cisgender male, when a pregnant mother feels their child moving in their own body as it grows and develops so that a unique bond often forms between her and her child.   When she hold it in her arms, looks in its eyes, on a deep and profound level she feels affection for it as if it is a part of her own body.  For, let’s be honest, that is how it begins: growing within her as a part of her body.

Such affection for a child is not based on what the child has done – its great intelligence, its moral character, its wealth and achievements.  No, the child begins utterly helpless, unable to do a thing without its mother.   It begins totally dependent on the mother for every need.  After it is born, it remains dependent, only slowly becoming able to eat, walk, talk, on its own until it can grow into adult and begin a life of its own.

mother and foetusEven into adulthood, though, doesn’t a mother feel that same womb-affection?  I remember sometime in my early adulthood, during college, having mom embarrass may saying something about my early childhood mixed together with motherly advice I believe in front of a young lady I was interested in dating.  My face turned beet red and I mumbled, “Mom… do you have to?”

Somewhat apologetically she turned to me and said “Micah, it doesn’t matter how grown you get, you will always be my baby boy”.

I didn’t appreciate that then, because I felt small around this lovely lady I wanted to ask out.  But now, looking back, isn’t that exactly womb affection, this deep motherly love Psalm 103 describes God having for each and every one of us?

As Isaiah 49:15 tells us this Living One says, ““Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

mother-and-childWe never cease, no matter what we do good or bad, whether in terms of professional accomplishments, moral growth, or relationships flourishing (or failing), to be ones God looks at as God’s baby boy, baby girl, or beloved child.

This is the meaning in the Christian tradition of baptism.  When Jesus is baptized in each of the Gospels, words are spoken over Jesus while the shining light of heaven is seen above and the Spirit broods over him like a mother bird sheltering her baby chicks under wing.   The voice from heaven says of Jesus “This is my Child, the One Whom I love, the One in whom I am well-pleased”.

Psalm 103 is reminding us this is ever, always how God who is the presence of life itself looks upon us.   There is never a point we are not that One whom God loves as a precious child.  No matter how well we succeed or fail at doing the right thing, at our business pursuits, at schooling, in relationships, we ever always have this One saying “You, you, you, are my child.  You are the One whom I love.  I am well-pleased and delight in you”.

Baptism-of-ChristA few other parts of this description of the One Who Lives are worth noting, too.

First this love is not despite, but because of our vulnerability.   “They know how we are made”, we are told.  A part of this that we are made beautiful – loveable, embraceable.  As Psalm 139 says, this One who Lives, acting like a master seamstress, wove us together in our mother’s womb like a work of art, a priceless knit cloth.   And so, Psalm 139 says, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, held by the mothering hand of God even while being made in our mother’s womb.

Psalm 103, though, doesn’t mention our many wonderful traits but rather says this Living One “remembers that we are dust”, weak and vulnerable, limited.

This too is how we look at children.  It is not despite but because of their vulnerability, that we feel affection to our children.  Their stumbling bumbling attempts to walk, talk, and learn how to do things on their own does not make us look down on them.  No, it makes us feel warmth, affection.  It makes us protective of them, and also desiring they do well.

In her beautiful work The Intimacy Factor, counselor and author Pia Melody fleshes out how mother-love and father-love, this womb-affection, when properly expressed in our upbringing, frees us to be fully ourselves.   Failing to receive it can lead us to flounder, with an inability to embrace our own vulnerabilities as a part of the gift of our own lives.  Such brokenness can prevent us from fully embracing others around us, even the joy in the life in front of us.

She writes,

“If no parent is perfect, neither is any child: to emerge healthy from childhood is an act of recovery .. from keenly felt inadequacy and pain…. [as we] regain knowledge of our inherent worth; [and] learn to accommodate to our perfect imperfection.

mother with baby in lead sunset“The remembrance of our perfectly imperfect humanity is the bedrock on which the spirituality of recovery rests. Human beings have their limitations, but these limitations are not faults; they simply are part of the given truth about humans. If we learn to despise ourselves for being limited humans, we lose contact with the prime spiritual truth of our reality: that we are not perfect and that it is all right.

“There is an authentic self. We are born with it. Under the influence of immature parenting, we lose contact with it. As children warped into shape by immature parenting, we get shamed about who we are. The shame gets bound to our experience of self. When we are ‘ourselves’, we will have a shame attack, and in that attack we feel worthless. Spontaneity is frightening for us; it triggers shame attacks, bringing us back to our feeling of worthlessness. We wall in and shut down. Over the years, we become cautious in what we say and do. We lose contact with our authentic self. Rediscovery of the authentic self is what recovery is about …

“There are five essential attributes of the authentic child that center around inherent worth. The attributes of childhood authenticity, connected to inherent worth like the spokes of a wheel, are vulnerability, nascent reason, dependence, appropriate immaturity, and exuberant energy. The mature, self-esteeming parent guides the child to the proper expression and development of each one of these attributes of the authentic child… “

In her book, Melody fleshes out how not feeling this unconditional loving acceptance in our childhood can lead us to squelch each of these are aspects of who we are that, losing touch with our authentic selves.

bel hooks further argues in her book The Will to Change, the way in which not just mothers and fathers, but society around us can squelch this authenticity in boys:

Child Abuse Statistics“The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.

“Learning to wear a mask (that word already embedded in the term “masculinity”) is the first lesson in patriarchal masculinity that a boy learns. He learns that his core feelings cannot be expressed if they do not conform to the acceptable behaviors sexism defines as male. Asked to give up the true self in order to realize the patriarchal ideal, boys learn self-betrayal early and are rewarded for these acts of soul murder.”

“To create loving men, we must love males. Loving maleness is different from praising and rewarding males for living up to sexist-defined notions of male identity. Caring about men because of what they do for us is not the same as loving males for simply being. When we love maleness, we extend our love whether males are performing or not. Performance is different from simply being. In patriarchal culture males are not allowed simply to be who they are and to glory in their unique identity. Their value is always determined by what they do. In an anti-patriarchal culture males do not have to prove their value and worth. They know from birth that simply being gives them value, the right to be cherished and loved.”

What hooks describes occurring for men and boys happens in its own way with women and girls, and even more so for those who don’t fit into our strict gender norms.  (For a look at this process at work in transgender and gender fluid people, I would recommend a look at biographies such as Jenny Boylan’s description of growing up as a transgender woman in She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, and “On Being”’s interview with a Jewish transgender woman at http://www.onbeing.org/program/gender-and-the-syntax-of-being-joy-ladin-on-identity-and-transition/5646 ).

The Psalmist lets us in on the fact that this One who is Life itself, this ground of existence, whom we call God, does not despise us for our weakness, but rather it endures us to Them.  Like a mother looks with delight on her children’s faltering attempts, being protective of them even while letting them go on their own to find their legs to walk independently, so God loves us accepting our faltering, failing, and vulnerable nature as even a gift to us.

manhoodHow liberating this can be!  So often, especially with men raised in the pull yourself up by the boostraps southern male culture which hooks speaks of in Will to Change and in which I was raised, men learn to be ashamed of feelings of vulnerability, weakness, need for help, and failures.   Just in the last three weeks I can think of four or five examples of men I have counseled as a minister who felt this or that area of vulnerability or this or that endeavor that did not succeed in their eyes made them insufficient, broken, or worthy of shame.

Such attitude is not reserved to men.    I encounter many women in my pastoral ministry who feel threatened by opening up about their pain, feel broken by their heartache, and put up walls to keep others out.  When life tumbles those walls down, as the Psalmist promises it will, they are at a loss.

Yet no wonder God finds our vulnerabilities endearing!  After all, it is those very points of brokenness that “let the light in” as Leonard Cohen famously wrote, for they are what open us up to God and others.

henri bouwen

Late Catholic priest, pastoral counselor, and author Henri Nouwen, said it well, when he wrote, ““Nobody escapes being wounded. We are all wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not, ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?’ When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers…

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares…”

It is our very experience of vulnerability, limit, loss, and mortality which opens us up to others.

StAnthonyInTheDesert_basic_drawing 04

This is why Jesus must begin his ministry by isolating himself in the desert, nearly starving from lack of food and water.  To face into our limit is to connect with where our heart and the womb-affection of God touch, for it opens us up to others.

Similarly, outside the Christian story, Siddhartha Gautama comes to enlightenment only after facing into his pain and that of others, by seeing the toll aging, disease, and death take on humanity. The path to Buddha nature for him is feeling the pain of vulnerability. It is our experience of limit and pain in ourselves and in our world that enable us to feel the compassion, the womb-kindness, of God.

buddha

This compassion does not come devoid of anger and limitation being placed on us or others from God’s side, nor ought it be expressed by us rejecting anger or need to set boundaries upon others.

But this anger, this limiting of others, flows out of compassion.  It parallels what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said about love, power, and justice:

martin luther king“One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted as polar opposites. Love is identified with a resignation of power and power with a denial of love. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”

Ultimately the anger that flows from this womb-affection, this heart compassion, is at all that threatens the full flourishing of love and life in the one that is loved.  The limiting which flows in others is boundary-setting to keep such love and life whole.

Quoting Pia Melody again in her Intimacy Factor,

“Truth about self and respect for the truth of others are the portals through which true intimacy and spirituality enter.  No intimate relationship is possible without them, and spirituality is a gift of relationship.

Defend Your Boundaries“At the center of this discovery is the concept of boundaries that create the experience of truth and respect.  The system of boundaries … enables each of us to maintain our inherent worth in the face of all outside pressures, rarely allowing the opinions or emotions of others to erode our belief in our inherent worth.  Secure in our own self-worth, we do not feel so threatened, diminished, or shamed by others.  We do not have to make defensive or offensive adaptations to maintain our dignity.  It is in such a state that true relationships are possible.  For most of us, achieving this state is one of the most delicate and often painful achievements of adulthood.  Most of us find our greatest and pain and disappointment in relationships that we cannot make work.

“When we are in relationships, we are called on to give body, thoughts, and emotions, to our partners and to accept body, thoughts, and emotions from them.  Learning how to do this is a prerequisite for intimacy and the spirituality to which it gives birth.  To do it badly causes misery.  To do it well honors the best part of our humanity and puts us in psychological balance, which results in a sense of connectedness with life’s goodness”.

teach-prayerA final note on this aspect of how God is experienced in this womb-compassion, lovingkindness, or grace that surrounds our days: in this Psalm it is pictured almost as a space in which we live.  This lovingkindness precedes our growing up in the world like grass, and follows our eventually passing away like wilting plants in winds scorched by summer heat.  It is love that is stronger than failure and loss, continuing after we pass to surround the days of those in whose care we leave our world, our legacies, our passions, our dreams, and our many causes for which we strive.

We picture this Love in terms that seem human, painting the God from which such love flows as if a person like us: a father having compassion on his sons, a mother who will not forget the child at her breast, a lover loving their spouse as if their own bodies… We picture it this way because we need to see love with skin on, with eyes and face and hands, to feel it as real.

hildegard-encirlced-by-loveYet the fact that love is something that encircles us in embrace, like the air, sun, moon, and stars encircle us.   One of my favorite saints – a mystic, prophet, preacher, and scientist – Hildegard of Bingen describes this experience of God as a spaciousness of love that surrounds and embraces us well, when she prays:

“Good people,

Most royal greening verdancy,

Rooted in the sun,

You shine with radiant light,

in this circle of earthly existence

You shine so finely,

it surpasses understanding.

God hugs you.

You are encircled by the arms

of the mystery of God.”

lovingkindness-blessing-5x72

It is important to note that outside the Christian tradition, in many Eastern traditions, lovingkindness is seen, along with karma, as a force that guides our lives which meditation and contemplation helps us experience.   Without a belief in a God who is like a Person, they embrace the idea that a reality pervades all exist, surrounding and shaping us, which is lovingkindness itself.  This too is a way we can envision God as the One Who Lives, the One Who Exists, as that loving presence encircling our lives.

I like how the Doubter’s Psalm Blogspot (http://doubterpsalms.blogspot.com ) pictures God in this way in its rendering of Psalm 24:
new image of motherhood

“This world and its life is sacred;

the very flesh of the Holy One.

She birthed it, breathed her own life into it

set in motion the evolution of its life.

Who now can stand before Her?

Those with open hearts

who love the truth and care for the world

They will be blessed.

Fling open the doors of your heart!

Open your being to God

You will know joy and peace.”

tribal_drawing___mother_and_child_by_portraitsbyhand-d5s8kec

The image of God’s care as womb love invites us to experience all of our lives – every place we encounter, everywhere we go, as the womb of love in which we grow and develop.   It calls us to both envision God in terms of person – mother who loves us – but also beyond person – as the spaciousness of love that surrounds us, both nourishing us and also limiting us when need be.

I invite you, as you go through your day and days ahead, to pay attention to moments and experiences of this goodness, this grace, this forgivingness to life, and to recognize that as the presence of God in your life.  I challenge you to also bear that presence by living out such lovingkindness too.

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

(repost) One Spirit, present in as many places and people as there are moments in life

This old devotional I wrote ties into our themes of both Spirit in the season after Pentecost and Pride.  Hope it blesses you!

Micah

 

broodyspirit11 Corinthians 12:1-11 calls on me to be very careful not to judge other people of faith.   No one can say Christ is Lord but the Spirit touch her or his soul, and the variety of gifts, callings, and ways of expressing such a faith are as varied as the colors in the morning sky as the sun rises or falling on an autumn morning from the encircling trees of some mountain forest.   The fact someone lives out their faith or understands it differently than me does not mean it is any less authentic.

So often as believers we get too caught up in whose in or out, and judge others who claim to love God and seek to love others. Instead we are better served embracing them and the aspects of their faith & life we can, finding common ground to work together.

There was a time I judged based on if folks were gay or straight, my denomination or not, if they were believers. I have found through opening my heart to listen people of all This icon of the Trinity draws on the feminine images used in Scripture for the Holy Spirit, as a reminder that women as well as men can bear the image of God.sexualities who bear the spark of God’s Spirit in their soul whose life expresses so beautifully God’s love, and whose sexuality is like a prism through which that light shines even more beautifully. I have found that similarly those different paths of faith in different denominations people forge reveal to me aspects of God’s character my own journey and tradition often fail to notice. I find too in my faith life that coming from the right spirit, I a liberal Christian can edify and be edified when I sit down with my more conservative brothers & sisters of the faith as can they they when we sit, with an open mind, and share our stories of faith, listening to each other’s struggles. I find that I can find common values to work together with them, and also with people of very different expressions of faith than my own.   When our focus is on pulling apart to be different, we can isolate ourselves on lonely islands of spirit.   Jesus calls us to be people of reconciliation, tearing down walls, so that community is forged that embraces our full diversity.

How have you found that? Let’s continue to build bridges today and all our days.

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

(repost) Holy Spirit as Mother, Christ as Big Brother

This is something I wrote some time ago on the Spirit’s role as Mother of all living, and Christ as brother and friend.  In what ways do you experience the Spirit as this presence in your life?

Micah

Our readings in the New Testament focus first on the work of Christ as older brother, the one who has gone ahead of us on the path God has laid out for us. Yet they center on the work of the Holy Spirit, which Trinitarian theologian Jurgen Moltmann has come to call the motherly work of God with us and for us.
Jurgen Moltmann, in his book The Source of Life, writes:

“If the experiences of the Holy Spirit are grasped as being a `rebirth’ or a `being born anew’, this suggests an image for the Holy Spirit which was quite familiar in the early years of Christianity, especially in Syria, but got lost in the patriarchal empire of Rome: the image of the mother. If believers are `born’ of the Holy Spirit, then we have to think of the Spirit as the `mother’ of believers, and in this sense as a feminine Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, as the Gospel of John understands the Paraclete to be, then she comforts `as a mother comforts’ (cf. John 14.26 with Isa 66.13). In this case the Spirit is the motherly comforter of her children. Linguistically this brings out the feminine form of Yahweh’s ruach in Hebrew. Spirit is feminine in Hebrew, neuter in Greek, and masculine in Latin and German.

mother holding baby 1The famous Fifty Homilies of Makarios (Symeon) come from the sphere of the early Syrian church. For the two reasons we have mentioned, `Makarios’ talked about `the motherly ministry of the Holy Spirit’. In the seventeenth century, Gottfried Arnold translated these testimonies of Syrian Orthodox spirituality into German, and they were widely read in the early years of Pietism. John Wesley was fascinated by `Macarius the Egyptian’. In Halle, August Hermann Francke took over `Makarios” ideas about the feminine character of the Holy Spirit, and for Count Zinzendorf this perception came as a kind of revelation. In 117411, when the community of the Moravian Brethren was founded in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Zinzendorf proclaimed `the motherly ministry of the Holy Spirit’ as a community doctrine for the Brethren. He knew very well what he was doing, for he wrote later: `It was improper that the motherly ministry of the Holy Spirit should have been disclosed to the sisters not by a sister but by me.’

family-silhouette-clip-art1As a vivid, pictorial way of explaining the divine Tri-unity, Zinzendorf liked to use the image of the family, `since the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is our true Father and the Spirit of Jesus Christ is our true Mother, because the Son of the living God is our true Brother’. `The Father must love us, and can do no other; the Mother must guide us through the world and can do no other; the Son, our brother, must love souls as his own soul, as the body of his body, because we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, and he can do no other’ (see also my book The Spirit of Life, pp.158-9). Zinzendorf then also describes the influence of the Spirit on the soul in romantic terms of great tenderness. And in a German hymn, Johann Jacob Schutz describes the leadings of the Spirit similarly as a guiding `with motherly hand’.

It is right and good that contemporary feminist theology should have discovered the `femininity of the Holy Spirit’ and reinterpreted it, and it is quite out of place and a sign of ignorance when official church organs in Germany believe they can scent heresy in this discovery.

This icon of the Trinity draws on the feminine images used in Scripture for the Holy Spirit, as a reminder that women as well as men can bear the image of God.

Of course the picture of the family of God Father, God Mother and God Child is no more than an image for the God to whom no image can approximate. But it is much better than the ancient patriarchal picture of God the Father with two hands, the Son and the Spirit. For there God is a solitary, ruling and determining subject, whereas here the Tri-unity is a wonderful community. There the reflection of the triune God is a hierarchical church. Here the reflection of the triune God is a community of women and men without privileges, a community of free and equal people, sisters and brothers. For the building of this new congregational structure, the motherly ministry of the Spirit, and the Tri-unity as a community, are important”.

I invite you as you crack open your Bible with me, to look to and listen to the descriptions of the brotherly work of Jesus on your behalf, and how you can join him in the path he has tread for you, but also to hear the descriptions of the motherly work of the Holy Spirit. Open yourself to the presence of the Spirit in your life, and how you can experience Her as she makes real to you God’s transforming love.

In my life, opening to the experience of the Holy Spirit first happened among a youth Bible club in my high school, a group of mainly Baptists and charismatics. I remember as I joined in a prayer circle with them, and joined in praise choruses to the strumming of one of their guitars, feeling my heart open and sensing a presence of love that melted my defenses and opened me to feel fully alive. I experienced then, and since, the Holy Spirit in the terms Moltmann describes Her in his book: “the Holy Spirit is the unrestricted presence of God in which our life wakes up, becomes wholly and entirely living, and is endowed with the energies of life”. In different ways through different experiences and practices in my life I have felt God’s presence flow over me like water, embrace me like a mother’s arms her child, and I have felt myself filled with the sense that I am fully alive.

This presence in which our lives wake up, the mothering Holy Spirit, is not just available in the strum of guitar chords or in moments of prayer, but in each moment and each place in which we draw breath. Just as the Holy Spirit has helped me discover the joy of being fully alive, so the Holy Spirit is there for you in each moment, as you open your heart to Her presence.
And I ain’t just whistling Dixie!
Your Progressive Redneck Preacher,
Micah

Micah and his momma.

jesus-park-benchMatthew 16:13-20. I wonder as I read this story. We often read it literally, as if Jesus is trying to put together some Christology or maybe an ad campaign for himself, like in “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Jesus literally asks “Who do you say that I am?” Yet Jesus already knows who he is. Jesus does not need someone to inform him on the right doctrine of Christ, to let Jesus in on the secret of his own identity. I wonder if instead of asking who he is by saying “Who do you say that I am?”, Jesus is really asking those who answer “Who are you?” by this question. After all, our answer to who Jesus is to us is really more our description of our relationship to Jesus than anything else. Our answer to this question flows less from our theology and from Bible verses than we would like to admit. My answer to “Who do you say I am?” flows more from my lived experience of Jesus in my life. It comes from my heart, my life. Your answer does too.

The challenge of this verse for me is that Christ still haunts us with this question. “Who are you, really? I know who I am, but who are you in relationship to me?”. The question of who we are is the question we struggle with the most. God is constant, Christ is ever for us and with us. The Spirit is nearer than the air that we breathe. They never falter. Yet our hearts waver, and we struggle to find our way. Know that Christ is not trying to force you into some mold that is not who you are. Nor is Christ sitting in judgment of the rightness or wrongness of your beliefs, as if your ideas about Jesus determine your rightness with God or others. Rather, Christ is holding out his hand, saying “follow me”, “walk with me”. Christ is offering to walk with you on this journey to discover who you are, who you are always meant to be. You cannot answer either the question of who Christ is, or who you are, without embarking on this journey. Jesus is not worried about the abstracts of your dogma. Jesus is worried about you, and offering a richly rewarding relationship with you that will help you discover who you truly are and what your life is for. Jesus invites you and me to a journey that is never ending, never easy, but worth each step and every mile

walking-with-jesus-pms-j7p1Matthew 28:11-20. What strikes me as I read this story is how Jesus has made a 180 from his earlier approach. Earlier in Matthew, Jesus nearly refuses to heal a woman because his mission was only to the Jewish people and she was not Jewish. She confronted Jesus on how he had let his cultural upbringing stand in the way of God’s work. Jesus heard this woman out, and he began to change his approach so Jesus’s ministry included more people. Now, after his death and resurrection, Jesus commands his followers to go into all the world, proclaiming God’s realm to people from every nation and walk of life. We see Jesus learning, growing, and evolving, throughout the Gospel of Matthew. Apparently the sort of holy sinless life Jesus embodies is not one that is static nor the holiness of a man that doesn’t make mistakes. This shows me that a mistake and a sin are different. There seems to be a point where God confronts us with our prejudice we inherit from our culture and upbringing, an inheritance that puts up walls to keep the other out. When that happens, we have to choose what to do. After that encounter, such prejudice becomes not just something we grew up with but outright sin and bigotry. Jesus’s evolving holiness suggests something to me about our calling as Christians. The Christian life is not adhering to a list of rules and regulations. It is following Jesus. It is embarking on the same shape of life Jesus lived out. For Jesus that was a life constantly open to learning new things. It was a life of ever adjusting his boundaries so they reflected more and more of God’s mercy, love, generosity, and grace. This holiness is a journey where we follow Jesus in moving daily out of the cultural prejudices we have been raised with, oftentimes which view only certain people as worthy of God’s love or the community’s embrace. This path of holiness guides us in moving more and more toward fulfilling more perfectly Jesus’ command to reach out embracing all kinds of people in all kinds of places with the message of God’s love. We are fooling ourselves if we think this is a simple process. This path, like Jesus’s own holiness, is evolutionary. It means regularly confronting our own inner prejudices that could be overlooked, and working to really see people for who they are, so that we can honestly more fully see them as just as much bearers of the Divine image as we ourselves are. It also means not just making the other mistake of beginning to castigate those who grew up as we did, who taught us the values that we did, as evil and unworthy of grace, love, and inclusion in God’s family. We do not know their journey or story, and they too have need of love. Living out this all-inclusive grace is the holiness Jesus modeled for us, and it is a journey and a process. Its destination is a day of great home-coming and family reunion where all sit at the table of fellowship. May it come quickly in this earth, and thank God it remains for us beyond this veil of tears!

jesus hugsRomans 8:1-11. Two lines resonate with me in this rich and moving section of Scripture. First, “There is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. So much of my Christian life I lived as if God’s love was fickle, as if God was a kid who did take backs on God’s gifts. Yet in clear words we have the promise: there is no condemnation in God for those in Christ. All fear of divine retribution, fear of being abandoned by God, and fear of being kicked out of God’s family need to be laid aside. God’s love and acceptance is here for all of us. This inclusion in Christ sounds like it is for some of us, but in actual fact all are included in this. God loved the world so much that God sent Jesus. The whole world, not just part of it. Jesus came for all the world, so that all are included in this phrase “in Christ”. This promise lets us in on the great secret: we can abandon any need to relate to God with fear and can begin now to open up to God.

If only we could see ourselves as God sees us.

I think that the phrase, “there is no longer any condemnation,” also speaks to me because I am my worst critic. I beat myself with my “if only’s”. To quote my friend, Pastor Bec Cranford-Smith, I should on myself all the time, until I am a should-y mess. This is not God’s doing. This is my continuing to live as if I am not in Christ. It is continuing to live as if the story being written for me is the word of shame I heard from so many sources as a child, the word of rejection I heard as a little boy on the playground, the word of abandonment I heard as a young minister when colleagues and mentors decided I was “too far gone” with the inclusion I preached and practiced. I know firsthand how powerful these shoulds can be, but should-ing on myself does not make my life any healthier or this world any better. All should-ing does is make things messier and uglier.
In fact, shoulding on ourselves is paralyizing. It makes me, makes you, feel helpless and unable to change for the better. It also causes us to see condemnation all around us, even in people who love us and care for us. It makes it hard to hear good advice, fearing underneath it might be shame, rejection, or abandonment because of words of critique or disagreement.

mirror dimlyNo wonder “there is no condemnation” is the first word in this text! Without it, nothing that follows can be life-giving. In fact, I would argue that the words “there is no condemnation” are a lens we can use to guide us on how to interpret the whole Bible. We can ask, “since there is no condemnation, what does this verse mean?” and go through Scripture treating it less as a rulebook with a pass/fail test at the end, instead realizing it is a testimony, a letter of love and grace to us and to all people. We can let go of that fear of being condemned. Doing so can help us realize that interpretations of Scripture which seem to present that this or that person is rejected, condemned, cut off from God, are far of the mark because we are promised that all people — even the whole world — are in Christ, and in Christ there is no condemnation.

Jacob wrestling in the night is a fitting picture for how some picture the struggle between flesh and spirit.

The flip side of this text only makes sense when we realize no one it talks about here is condemned. The text begins to talk about the way to a full life that God intends, and it talks about the way of life versus the way of death. This brings us to the second set of words that stand out to me. It talks about a way that is guided by flesh or Spirit. Flesh is a translation I hate, because it makes it sound like our bodies, the trees, the water, the birds, …. all those fleshy things … are evil. A condemnation of our bodies and our earth is not what I understand the Greek word sarx, which we translate flesh, means. Sarx means more flesh without spirit in it. Sarx is body without breath or life in it. Sarx is not flesh in the sense of living skin. Sarx instead is more like the corpse that is dead flesh being chosen over the life-giving Spirit. The life-giving Spirit is what gives our bodies life so they are not a corpses but living things that carry within them the image of the invisible God. Yet we can live as if this is not the case, live as if we are zombies, just bodies without life. We do this when we only focus on the material of life, without its meaning, without its purpose, without its connection to the deeper reality that undergirds it. To not live as zombies is to cooperate in our bodies with the Spirit of life.

9781e9e0-c634-698e-112d-5c720e4c6430_TWDS4_Gallery_Rick-Fen.jpgThe ironic thing about this text is that instead of ignoring our bodies and the earth as some take this verse, the Spirit we are called to cooperate with in this passage is the Spirit that is already in all of us, and which gives our bodies life and breath. So Paul calls us to cooperate with the Spirit who is breathing life into us each moment, rather than to fight against Her. Jesus embodied what this looks like, what this cooperation with life is like. Cooperating with the Spirit sounds like a struggle in these verses, but that is only because from day one we have learned that working against nature, working against our own natures, is necessary to survive. We have to fit others’ molds to succeed. We have to be the good boy or girl, the strong man or motherly woman. Or do we?

tree-of-life-river-of-life-05-08This text paints a picture that we can come to know full life only as we follow Jesus’s example of continuing to cooperate with the Spirit of life who indwells us. Two images help me with what it means. Both suggest that, far from becoming flesh-hating, we are being called to love our bodies. My sister is a sustainable agriculture student who works as a sustainable farmer. Getting plants in step with the life-giving Spirit is what she is studying to do. To thrive, that plant needs water, fertilizer, and sunlight. As a sustainable farmer, my sister does this for the plants as organically as possible. To remove the plant from these things would be the agricultural equivalent to pulling that plant away from the Spirit of life so it lives according to the flesh as a vegetable zombie. To do so would mean that plant or that field of plants would shrivel, waste away, and eventually die. Physically, we have all seen not just plants experience this, but neglected animals and people in dire straights. To cooperate with the Spirit is to open ourselves up to those ways the Spirit is available for us to help nourish us, to cause us to thrive.

pinnochioAnother image that helps is the one CS Lewis gives in his book, Mere Christianity. He says it is like without the Spirit, we are Pinocchio dolls. The Spirit is the One who animates us and gives us life. She wants to work together with us so that we can go from marionette dolls to becoming real boys and girls. The Spirit is the Love of God made manifest, so we Velveteen rabbits can become fully alive.

I hear a call in these words of Scripture to ensure we take time and space to drink deep of the well of Spirit water that quenches our soul thirst, to stand near the sunlight of Christ light shining upon us, to set down roots deep into the ground of the Creator Spirit we call “Father” and “Mother”.

children-coming-to-jesusRomans 8:12-25. On one hand, this section of Scripture is a word of unbounded hope. You and I have been adopted into the family of God. Somehow you and I have been brought into the relationship of love God the Father, Son, and mothering Holy Spirit have shared from eternity past. That all-enduring embrace is about you always. It is a pledge that we now stand upon a solid foundation that will not be shaken, that lasts. It is a promise that beyond the suffering of this world, there is a great home-coming in store for you and me at that great family table laid out before the Creator’s home-stead. It is a certainty that whatever you and I face, the outcome will be more beautiful than this suffering, for we will enter into the quality of life Christ has known in the Father and mothering Spirit from eternity past.

peaceable kingdomYet this son-ship and daughter-hood we are granted is also linked here with the redemption of all creation and the earth. Again this shows Paul is not anti-flesh, anti-body, anti-earth. Paul is not a hater of the created world. He looks in hope to see it redeemed from its suffering, through our entrance into our full life as children of God. A part of this pledge is a reminder that our salvation is not just about heaven apart from this earth. It is also about God redeeming all of creation in this earth — from the mountains and rivers, to the trees and tigers, to the clouds in the sky — from the damage our selfishness, pollution, and abuse, has done to them. This is a part of what the doctrine of the second coming is supposed to be about in the Christian tradition: Jesus redeeming all of creation from what we have done to it so that heaven and earth may become one.

I don’t think this connection, though, is just about what is coming by and by, whether in Jesus’s return and the new world that follows, or in our entrance into glory at death. I think it is also about the meaning of son-ship and daughter-hood in the Bible for here and now in this earth today. Because we know Jesus as Son of God is also a reference to heroes of faithJesus as the Second Person of the Trinity made flesh, we often forget the meaning of son-ship in the Hebrew Scriptures. A son of God in the Hebrew Scriptures was a messiah, an anointed one, sent by God to deliver people here and now from oppression, to heal the broken earth, and to be one who helps the promise of Abram of all people being blessed, and the earth beginning to be healed so it is more like Eden than Pharoah’s slavery-powered Egypt. Many figures are such sons and daughters of God in the Bible. These sons and daughters of God messiah, anointed one, figures in Scripture including David and Deborah, Cyrus of Persia and possibly Zerubabel. So to be adopted as a son or daughter of God means you and I also, in this world, are called to be ones who, like these sons and daughters of God who came before us, join Jesus in the work of overturning injustice, bringing liberation to the oppressed, bringing healing to the broken, reconciliation to the estranged, and healing to this earth. Here, in this world, we are to work to make this world more as it is in heaven, in anticipation of that mysterious moment in which God will make earth and heaven into one, a moment which Christians picture in the language of Jesus’s second advent. It is a daunting challenge, and possible only because we are not alone, but welcomed into the embrace of love the Father, Son, and mothering Spirit have always shared through being adopted as God’s children. This work flows from the adoption, into this world.

sitting in despairRomans 8:26-30. This text continues to look at the work of the Spirit. “The Spirit….comes to help us…when we don’t know how to pray,” means so much to me. A part of this promise is, of course, that we do not pray alone. The Holy Spirit comes alongside us, inspiring us from within how to talk to God. But I think, too, of many times I needed to reach out and words would not come. We all have moments of joy and pain too deep for words. We are promised here that wordless times can also be times of prayer. We can sit before God, groaning or silenced by what we face, and know God hears. God the Spirit translates these groans to words.

The famous words, “God makes everything work out for the good,” follow this description of silent groans and sighs as prayer. This working out for the good of all things, too, is the work of the Spirit in response to our wordless groans. The Holy Spirit not only fills our hearts, but fills all things with Her loving presence, so that everything from the stars in their shining orbits, the plants in God mother hentheir growing, the rain as it falls, is in a relationship with the loving Spirit who indwells them. This is not what traditionally is thought of as predestination. Our hope is not in some cold determinism of God’s will, blind fate, or our will-power. It is in the fact that all that is remains indwelled by a loving Spirit who relates to it and to us as a Mother to her children. Biblically, this relationship of the Spirit to us and all things is pictured as a mother bird sheltering her chicks under her wings. Like a loving mother, this loving Spirit does not force anything — from the earth moving its tectonic plates, to birds in their migration, to the choices of men and women — to do anything. Like a mother to her children, the Spirit whispers, nudges, guides, and leads all things. Like a Mother, the Spirit is persistent. We can know that while no one and nothing’s outcome is forced, such a leading, though it cannot prevent pain and heartache, will guide, inspire, and lead all things to work toward healing, hope, love, and new beginnings for all people and all that live. This is what our mothers on their better days have done for us as children, and so what the Holy Spirit as the Mother of all living continues to do for us and all living things, always and forever.

A final part I think is important to me as I reflect on this text is that mother-and-childthis movement is linked to “those who love God and are called to God’s purpose”. This is a reminder to me of what I noticed yesterday: that being adopted as a son or daughter of God is not just about our being loved, blessed, and given a secure place in God’s homestead. It is that, to be sure. It is also the Hebrew concept of son-ship; being anointed as one who shares the responsibility of working together with the Spirit to help the healing of the world to happen. This adds to my sense that all things working together for the good is not cold determinism. We have a part of being ones who listen for the Mother’s voice, who listen for those Spirit whispers that come. We must cooperate with God the Holy Spirit and in so doing we help further this process of God restoring all things. Being a child of God is to be a partner with the Father, Son, and mothering Holy Spirit as they work to draw all things into healing, reconciliation, and peace. Closer to that day all will be brought to the peace and wonder of the Father’s heavenly homestead.

Mother_and_Child_by_senseibushidoRomans 8:31-39. This text says it all. It is a glimpse into the very heart of God, which is exactly what Christians believe Jesus came to reveal to us. What is the heart of God? A promise, true as a baby’s cry, firm as Appalachian hills: nothing, my child, will ever separate you from my love. Nothing will ever doom you away from my care. Never, in all of time, will you ever be forgotten or abandoned by me, even in those moments that like Jesus you cry “my God, my God, why?” Nowhere, in all of space and a multiverse of worlds will you ever be hidden from my sight, or too far for my love. Even in hell below, and in death to come, yet my heart will hold you close. You are my child, precious and beloved. Hear this words today, and know they are ever, always, God’s promise to you, to me, and all who live and breathe in this world.

tribal_drawing___mother_and_child_by_portraitsbyhand-d5s8kecRomans 9:1-18. Paul is very human here. Paul is struggling through how to understand the Holy Spirit’s work to turn all things to the good in a situation where Paul feels people are not making the best choices. Why do my own country-men and country-women not choose to embark on this new path of Christianity? Paul agonizes over it as a Jewish believer in Christ Jesus. I too can relate with times when the paths others take — and I take — are ones I end up agonizing over, fearing they (or I) have gone a path that is dangerous, risky, and that misses the mark.

The picture I get of the Spirit’s working in Romans 9 is that the Holy Spirit does not force us to a particular choice, but works together with our freedom. The Spirit works with the paths we embark on, trying to lead us and gently guide us. Silhouette of pregnant woman with baby inside _pvWe don’t always make the right choice, and at times that means pain or suffering for us or others affected by our choices. This is not the final word, though, for even then the Spirit works with us, within our lives, within our world, as if in labor pains, working to bear within the Spirit’s own self both our good and bad choices, just as a pregnant mother bears within her own body every move her child makes. The Spirit is constantly working so that out of these good and bad choices something good, beautiful, and healing can be borne into the world. We are like the child wriggling in the Spirit’s womb, sometimes kicking against her womb walls, sometimes growing comfortably, but ultimately never separated from our loving Mother who forever surrounds us. Ultimately, we cannot overturn the Spirit’s work of turning us and all things to good, though we can fight and wrestle against them, causing grief to the Spirit. Like a mother leading her child back home, so the Spirit is able to guide us to the right destination from all of our journeys, even when we make a wrong turn. And often the turn that seems wrong to another may be right for us, even if it is wrong for them.

mother helping child find wayIt seems to me that Paul does not know what the Spirit is doing, and why his fellow country-men or women reject the Christian message. I think instead of trying to rule on who is in or out, Paul is trying to illustrate that God the Spirit is still turning all things to good, even when how that will happen is not clear. I wonder if we have a better picture of this question he asked today. Do we not see Jewish people of faith who, without becoming Christians, live out their Jewishness in a way that makes the world more whole, more healed, more beautiful? Do we not also see how the continued witness of the Jewish people in their own terms has caused Christians to have a more beautiful, more loving, more just faith through hearing the stories of these Jewish believers? I wonder if this example shows us to trust the Spirit when people and groups go down paths we feel are wrong. Who knows what the outcome will be? Who are we to say that it is ultimately wrong for them? After all, the Holy Spirit continues to work with that person and those groups, groaning in them and in our world, until that path is brought into one that brings healing. Even when our choices are not perfect, the Spirit is able to guide us aright, and guide our world. To me that is a message of hope for us, for all we care for, and for all who live on God’s earth.

Spirit as Lady Wisdom

Another image for the Holy Spirit in Scripture is the one given in Proverbs, centering on Proverbs 8, as Lady Wisdom, the feminine side of God’s character who played together with God in the beginning yet was also God, and worked together with God in shaping all of creation.
In Proverbs, Lady Wisdom is pictured as going out into creation, calling out for wayward children of humanity to come home to her, to be taught the ways that bring life, meaning, wholeness.

Matthew Fox writes about this inner wisdom the Spirit as Lady Wisdom grants us in his book Original Blessing.
Fox writes,
“we are all born with an original wisdom [so that] life’s task is to set up this tent of wisdom, which comes to us small and folded up as children. This rich image is mirrored in the work of … Buddhist nun, Pema Chodran who writes: ‘This is our birthright – the wisdom with which we were born, the vast unfolding of primordial richness, primordial openness, primordial wisdom itself… [We must] realize that we don’t have to obscure the joy and openness that is present in every moment of our existence. We can awaken to basic goodness, our birthright” (6).
Similar language is used by Rowan William writes, in “The Body’s Grace”:
“The whole story of creation, incarnation and our incorporation into the fellowship of Christ’s body tells us that God desires us, as if we were God, as if we were that unconditional response to God’s giving that God’s self makes in the life of the trinity. We are created so that we may be caught up in this; so that we may grow into the wholehearted love of God by learning that God loves us as God loves God. The life of the Christian community has as its rationale – if not invariably its practical reality – the task of teaching us this: so ordering our relations that human beings may see themselves as desired, as the occasion of joy.”

Some time ago I wrote the following poem as a celebration of the Spirit’s role in our life as Lady Wisdom.

Found

Voiceless from the pain

a choked whisper catches in my throat

one word: “Save!”

 

I have fallen upon gravel road

night dark about me

body aching

knees bloodied

alone

blanketed by frigid shadows

 

lady wisdom 3Howling voices cry out

“Failure! Liar! Cheat! Scum!”

from eyes aglow dripping crimson

and glistening teeth

hot air on my neck

wind like wolves panting for blood.

 

My eyes shut, terrified

Muscles stiffen, jaw clenches

body and soul ready for the final blow.

 

lady wisdomThen a voice, like the fall of rose petals

afloat in spring breezes

whispers melodic in my ears

“Child, you are safe”

 

A gentle grip lifts me

eyes flickering in shock

glimpses of luminescent limbs holding me tight

relax my rigid frame.

I know no more.

 

My eyes open in my father’s house

safe and secure,

the rosy fingers of morning caressing me awake

the din of night now long forgotten.

 

Looking down, I am bandaged,

still broken but healing.

Safe by her caring hands.

 

lady wisdom 2“Sister Spirit, who are you?”

I cry, as tears of joy drip

thick as summer storm.

Over the tumult of my cries

a sound like silence echoes

those gilded halls,

and in the whispering winter winds

I could almost swear I hear a name:

“Wisdom”.

 

What is your experience as the Holy Spirit as the one who weaves wisdom into our lives and the fabric of the world itself, and the One who woos us into relationship with that wisdom?   What is your inner wisdom?

 

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

Song of the South: Life Weaver

Psalm 139 depicts the Holy Spirit as one who is always with us, who weaves us together, knitting us together in our mother’s wombs and knitting together our lives.

The following poem explores this theme.  I hope this blesses you!

Micah

Life Weaver

seamstress 2

I see her, needle and thread in hand,

knitting away her fear and sorrow

for the little one laying before her,

knitting away the losses that lie

at the root of each fear

with more precision than I,

knees and hands caked in dirt,

ever can pull up my weeds by their roots

in my own garden,

yet also knitting hopes and dreams,

as if each new strand

creates a brighter future

for this child of love.

And perhaps it does.

 

They say our intention, when deeply held

in meditation,

in prayer,

in concentration,

has some quantum power

to shape our world.

The story is that water,

placed under microscope,

differs.

When people speak in anger

tightly held in focus over it,

the lens shows such water

will have a chaos, a fury, a lack of order

which water under the same lens

frozen instead as words of peace, joy, and compassion

are spoken over as the heart’s true focus.

 

I am no quantum mechanic.

I lack the toolkit to tinker with fate,

let alone determine if such claims are true.

Or do I?

For this young woman seems certain,

her eyes tightening and hands furious at work,

certain that the only tools she needs

to shape the web of life,

these quantum threads of fate,

for this littlest of ones, are

her needles, her thread, and her heart afire with love.

 

Who can say she is wrong?

I have upon my mantle

a worn yet welcome scarf

woven by such a woman,

a weaver not young but threadworn,

battered by her years.

When I touch it, my fingers come alive.

I can almost feel some unseen flame dance,

setting my whole soul to tingling.

 

Is this not why mother

baked cakes with care

to give to the mourning we knew,

that they may be nourished

not just by some crumb of bread

but by the taste of human kindness?

Is this not why the preacher raises bread and cup,

muttering ancient words,

why each sacred eve words of kaddish are spoken

by chosen people before meal,

why Sufis spin,

and some pilgrims bow five times

toward the East upon their mats?

 

In truth, is this not also why,

taking pen in hand,

I too weave my strands of stories,

each word a gem,

hoping to craft my own worry beads

upon which I can join

my muttered prayers

or, better yet, weave

some ornate blanket

to warm not just myself

but others against life’s winter chill?

Song of the South: Heart Song

As we focus on the Spirit and Pride, I feel this poem I wrote last year is an appropriate picture of the Spirit’s worth to embrace our lives afresh.

Micah

 

Heart Song

mistRising like all enveloping cloud,

morning mist which both conceals color, distance, and faces
while revealing shape and feeling,
even of tiny pebbles that are but pin pricks on the soles of my feet,
embraces me in cool dampness.

I cannot see the dimly lit dropoff but a few feet away
that mountainside beyond which lies unspeakable beauty
made visible by simple stroke of sun’s golden fingertips
yet now shrouded by silky threads of fog which
shelter us like those many pinioned swings the Psalm sang of falling over us.

mist 2

And yet, though unseen,
such looming depth seems more visible
a pull like gravity
both promising and threatening like the hoot of the screech owl heard in the evening
screech owlto which my own wild man wakes up,
a call which that part of me still pumping
the blood of hunter gatherer tribesmen
through my veins
on hearing longs to walk
the green trail
hear the rustle of leaves
sing the song of the creeks
join in the heart song of growing things
yet alarming like the distant call of the train upon the mountain
which shatters sleep in an instant
a moment in which that high pitched wail,
growing ever louder, seems to call out my name.

And perhaps it does.
Perhaps I do hear some long black train, the one old songs name.
long black trainPerhaps such beauty does remind me
that it swooped down for her – unexpected, unbidden.
Such shock lies on the horizon of my mind, always present.

God knows I hear that train song each day,
as my palm graces the back of a strong woman,
fierce in pride and independence
now wasted to skeleton,
days from cancer taking her
yet still afire with poise, grace, and beauty.

God knows I hear that wail, loud and shrill,
as I hold the hand of a man tough as nails,
face grizzled by years
seeing the light of your coming in his eyes
like sunrise reflected on the dancing blue green of the Eno’s winding waters
and see his face break into childlike grin at the sound of his name upon your voice.

Perhaps so
and yet
deer in woodsbeneath it all in the thick mist
gathered around me like grandma’s blanket
thick and comforting
I hear the song
sung by the call of birds
the rustle of deer almost hidden in the trees
the cry of the katydid
the whistle of a morning pot of tea
and the quiet coo of newborn child

Though I will always hear your call,
oh long black train,
it is to this song I will not fail to move,
my body a wave on its passing river
my heartbeat a note in its melody.