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A poem for the New Year, by Maya Angelou ...

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My wish for you is that you continue

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To be who and how you are 

to astonish a mean world

with your acts of kindness

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To allow humor to lighten the burden

of your tender heart

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In a society dark with cruelty

to let the people hear the grandeur

of God in the peals of your laughter

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To let your eloquence

elevate the people to heights

they had only imagined

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To remind the people that

each is as good as the other

And that no one is beneath 

Nor above you

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To remember your own young years

and look with favor upon the lost

and the least and the lonely

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To put the mantle of your protection

around the bodies of

the young and defenseless

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To take the hand of the despised

And diseased and walk proudly with them

in the high street

Some might see you and

Be encouraged to do likewise

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To plant a public kiss of concern

on the cheek of the sick

and the aged and infirm

And count that as

Natural action to be expected

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To let gratitude be the pillow

upon which you kneel to

say your nightly prayer

And let faith be the bridge

you build to overcome evil

and welcome good

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To ignore no vision

which comes to enlarge your range

and increase your spirit

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To dare to love deeply

and risk everything

for the good thing

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To float

happily in the sea of infinite substance

which set aside riches for you

before you had a name

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And by doing so

you and your work

will be able to continue

Eternally.

 

Amen, and amen, Maya ...

Happy 2020!

 

Just don't tiptoe ...

Just don't tiptoe ...

All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely.

But dear children, do not tiptoe.

Run, hop, skip, or dance,

just don't tiptoe.

(Shane Claiborne, b. 1975)

Protect us from the violent ...

A few words from King David, the Psalmist ...

the author of Psalm 140

(Any minor alterations, mine.)

"Deliver us, O Lord, from evildoers;

protect us from those who are violent,

who plan evil things in their minds

and stir up wars continually.

They make their tongue sharp as a snake's,

and under their lips is the venom of vipers.

Guard us, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;

protect us from the violent

who have planned our downfall ...

Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;

do not further their evil plot ...

Let the evil of their lips overwhelm them!

I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy,

and executes justice for the poor.

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;

the upright shall live in your presence."

Amen, King David. Amen. 

May it be so.

Some questions ...

 

Some questions I've been asking myself lately:

1. Do American Christians know what has happened throughout history to the church when it makes "marriage vows" with the State?  (Think Constantine ...)

2. If followers of Jesus aren't going to care for the poor, be a voice for the voiceless and watch out for the concerns of the marginalized in our society, are we abdicating one of our primary responsibilities?           (Think Matthew 25 ...)

3. Where in the Scriptures does it ever say that Christians should devote ANY of our time fighting for our own rights?

4. If the most radical call to love Jesus ever made was his call to love our enemies, what should that look like in today's society? When are we going to have that conversation?

5. If we who live in the richest, most militarily powerful nation in the world forget that the New Testament was written to a people who were under oppression by an occupying, wealthy, military powerhouse, how might we be reading it wrong?

As I ponder these questions and how I am living my own life, I often find myself whispering: "Lord, have mercy on me ... a sinner."

You?

Ashamed, ashamed ...

A Mary Oliver poem for today ...

The Morning Paper

Read one newspaper daily (the morning edition is the best for by evening you know that you at least have lived through another day)

and let the disasters,

the unbelievable

yet approved decisions,

soak in.

I don't need to name the countries,

ours among them.

What keeps us from falling down,

our faces to the ground,

ashamed,

ashamed?

Remember the story ...

I read this Christian "call to worship" today ...

and wept a little with sadness for our world,

but hope for what the church could be and do if we turned back to the simple, radical message of Jesus.

In a culture built on 'us and them,' where we are all right and they are all wrong, we gather in the humility of our shared humanity, as flawed but fellow image-bearers of our Creator.

In a culture that objectifies and uses women, we gather once again to celebrate the image of God powerfully reflected in women, and humbly learn from their wisdom and strength.

In a culture built on competition and constant comparisons, we seek to get swept up in God's Kingdom of equality and dignity for all.

In a culture trying to conquer the world with bravado and brute force, we choose to trust Jesus Christ when he said that the meek will inherit the earth.

Our world offers us a Story based on greed, lies, injustice, power and exploitation, and we reject this Story in the name of Christ.

 Oh if our churches could remember the Story of Jesus ... a story of hope, grace, joy, compassion, healing, hilarious generosity and goodness.

If ever there was a time when the world needed the church to remember the true Story of Jesus, this is it.

This. Is. It.

Holy on the ordinary streets ...

"It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God - but we do not.

We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life,

and holy on the ordinary streets,

among ordinary people -

and this is not learned in five minutes."

(Oswald Chambers)

What is your ground to till?

I have been thinking a lot lately about my own, very real, limitations.

I have a certain level of capacity.

After 51 years, I have a pretty good sense of when that capacity is tapped out.

Often, that occurs before I wished it did.

I used to think I should do more. 

Rest less and do more.

I wished I could be more like "so and so" who has more capacity, more energy, less limitations ...

But I can't.

All I can do is be me, limitations and all.

There is great freedom in this knowledge,

if you accept it.

I love how Gordon Smith puts it:

"We cannot be all things to all people. We need to choose, and our choices will mean saying no to some alternatives and eagerly embracing others. This may sound easy, but I know from my own inner journey through midlife that it can be characterized by much inner turmoil."

Then, Smith quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"There is a time in every person's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel or nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on the plot of ground which is given to him to till."

Smith ends this train of thought with this statement:

"... this is the heart of the matter - to accept our limitations and to take responsibility for our giftedness."

I think the question we all must ask at some time in our life is:

What is the plot of ground God has given me to till?

And, if this is that plot of ground,

what do I need to say no to

in order to devote myself to the work God has called me to do?

If we don't ask ourselves these questions,

we risk

skimming the surface of much of life,

and especially our vocation,

and that, 

to me,

is a tragedy.

Headlong might save a life ...

Moments

There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled.

Like, telling someone you love them.

Or giving your money away, all of it.

Your heart is beating, isn't it?

You're not in chains, are you?

There is nothing more pathetic than caution

when headlong might save a life,

even,

possibly,

your own.

(Mary Oliver)