‘Dreams of Mercy’ and Four Other Poems

Dreams of Mercy

I dreamed of walking through
Emerald forest…hanging all
The worries and weights of my body,
My soul
Upon thick, uneven
I felt the wind blow the
Dust out from within this
Wounded temple. I heard the whimpering
Cries of (old)
Grief come to have a say.
This grief felt so laden, so familiar,
All the years of want and the scars of
Letting go, all came out of this
Unsayable said.
The trees dared me
To let this
Grief hollow out my bones with mercy,
To paint the walls of my heart, the colors of
White & black. I have failed this challenge
Before, these
Pregnant opportunities to be held
By an urgent compassion.
Too often I have walked away, full of myself
And empty of the Truth. But today,
Today I dreamed of walking through
Emerald forest
My fingers tracing poems in the
Worn flesh of their bark…




A monk once said to me:
your faith should be like tea served Ch’an style
– rough, warm, and loosely wrapped;
and your religion the same:
warm to the touch,
& hewn on the edges of life.




the mystics great gift is
feeding hungry ghost
along the Way.




An old Abbot leaned against his cane,
rambling on about being invited to sit at the table of the new emperor.
“imagine me,” the wrinkled old sage giggled,
“being there with the divine emperor
& all those rich people.”

But Abbot, I said,
“you are the rich people.”




I awoke from a dream…
feeling like a habit held together by
flesh & grace…
so filled with God even
the Emptiness brimmed over.



Musings on the Incarnation

“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 

(The Good News of Luke 1: 67-79)

“God became one of us and…pitched his tent in our midst.”

Clarence Jordan (Cotton Patch Sermons)

Since Christmas Eve is actually the last day of Advent, I thought I would muse a bit about the spectacular nature of this Sacred Season. So, this morning I received an email and in it this pastor was saying that no words can adequately convey God’s love for human life. I thought to myself that he may be right; no mere words can truly express God’s desire to be so close to us and to love us. My first thought was well the Incarnation is as good as it gets in describing that truth.

Think about it: God wanted to be so close to you and me that God put on flesh and became one of us! Pause for just a moment and really ponder that truth, the truth of what Christmas is ALL about. Ponder and personalize it:

God wanted you to know how much you are loved, wanted to be so near you, that God put on flesh and became just like you.

God spared NO expense to be close to us, to love us, to show that love to us! Now even if you do not believe in the virgin birth or that the Incarnation is real, still ponder the notion that God would do such a thing to prove his love to you and me.

That truth to me makes this a time of true hopefulness – a kairos moment pregnant with God.  Kairos, the Greek word for time, is unlike the human concept of time, chronos, meaning “chronological time.” Kairos has to do with a divine visitation, a rending of the veil of human time when God comes to dwell among his people in an extraordinary way. The Incarnation is a Kairos moment that happened at a specific chronological time…an Infinite Moment held delicately within a finite one. It’s downright scandalous.

The Incarnation is both mind-boggling and paradox. Mind boggling in that almighty God would actually limit Godself by becoming flesh; paradox in that God comes to us through the fragile vulnerability of a helpless, newborn child who is Messiah. And the paradox of the Incarnation continues: God did not choose to come as a powerful military King Messiah ready to liberate the Jewish people with force from the brutal and ongoing occupation of the Roman Empire.

It seems God had different plans.

Instead, God chose to come to us as a naked, helpless baby born to a poor, unwed teenage mother in a land under the oppressive occupation of an Empire. That fact alone defies all logic and reason. Who would be more marginalized and dispossessed than Mary? Who could be farther from the seat of power? But it within this zeitgeist that the Incarnation happens; God did not come as a warrior God with a large army, a boon of gold, and a taste for control.  No, God came to us, as one of us, choosing to make himself known in fragility and poverty – a far cry from how most people thought Messiah would come.

Every year at Advent we are offered the chance for reflecting that God comes to us as he did 2,000 years ago: in helplessness; in the tenderness of new life given during a dark time; in the promise of hope when all seems lost.

And let us remember too that Advent is not only a coming, it is also an opportunity for us to remember during darker days that God is asking us again to allow our very lives to become, like Mary, a sacred womb where Hope can be born anew within us and indeed within the world.

A Functional Atheist Who Loves God Comes Clean

I say it often and all the time – my faith is messier than most. And rather than make my faith seem like a laud of glories to God, my faith is more like a string of letters across the page when holding down the “shift” key on my laptop (#@!&*^) to be more truthful.

I do not write much anymore because of fear and laziness. There is much to write about – major life transitions of work and location – but I don’t feel much like being honest with people (since God already knows the truth).

I spend my days seeking certainty and clarity with an addictive bent, only to find that my faith must rest in trusting God more than the vicissitudes of certainty and clarity. I suck at trusting…God and most people.

I like Jesus though; he was unconventional, loving in spite of the odds, compassionate, disturbing, earthy, and human. That last part is more important to me sometimes than any other aspect of Jesus of Nazareth. I pray to Jesus a lot, but honestly, I am not comfortable with most anthropomorphizing of God and what ‘Churchianity’ has done to him. I know and confess Jesus as Lord but find the Church and most of the people in it to be more my adversaries than my family. I suffer from a bad case of Defiance, so I’m not so hot on religious rules and most spiritual do’s and don’ts. I love the rituals of Catholic Mass but find the boredom of religiosity and fundamentalism (catholic and Protestant) a boorish pain in my butt.

I find I’d cuss more in my writings if it wasn’t for the sweet and respectful love I have for my Catholic ‘Nana’ who acts as a grandmotherly editor in my blogs (Thanks Leona).

I have found that the spiritual principles of the 12 Step fellowships have afforded me the chance at a second chance, not only in finding recovery, but also in knowing and loving God as God is, not as all the voices and histories from my past dictate.

I say functional atheists because I profess with my tongue a certain faith – a deep longing for and love of God to be precise – but my actions speak more loudly to a lack of belief in a loving God Who pines for me and has me in his heart and hands. I say I trust. But I live in fear. I say God hears my prayers, but inwardly I dwell on doubt.

I am just being honest, words flowing from a softer, darker part of my heart, where perfection and false piety is no match for the towering warriors of truth and freedom.

These days grace is the place where my infidelity meets God’s fidelity. I still believe, so no panicking, but I flesh out my faith more as a functional atheist than someone who has been on a 25 year plus intentional journey and love affair with God. But today, that is where I am; that is my place of truth. And the truth I am told will set me free.

 A Post Script: I came across this quote about “Practical Atheism” as defined by the Episcopal priest Eugene Sutton.  He defined ‘practical atheism’ as “professing belief in God, but not acting in a way that makes it evident that one actually believes in God.”  So, I’m not the only one who struggles with this and ponders it often.  NC

Wisdom from 2 Spiritual Giants

Rainer Maria Rilke said, in one of my favorite books ever Letters to a Young Poet: 

I want to beg you as much as you can, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within yourself the possibility of shaping and forming as a particularly happy and pure way of living; train yourself to it—but take whatever comes with great trust, and if only it comes out of your own will, out of some need of your innermost being, take it upon yourself and hate nothing.


Jean Vanier, Founder of the faith-based L’Arche Communities, said about CHANGE in his great book Becoming Human that:

Change of one sort or another is the essence of life, so there will always be the loneliness and insecurity that come with change. When we refuse to accept that loneliness and insecurity are part of life, when we refuse to accept that they are the price of change, we close the door on many possibilities for ourselves; our lives become lessened…. Life evolves; change is constant.

“Another Way of Being” (Michael Leunig)

Dear God,

We pray for another way of being: another way of knowing. Across the difficult terrain of our existence we have attempted to build a highway and in so doing have lost our footpath.

God lead us to our footpath: Lead us there where in simplicity we may move at the speed of natural creatures and feel the earth’s love beneath our feet.

Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts. And lead us there where side-by-side we may feel the embrace of the common soul. Nothing can be loved at speed.

God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights of the pilgrim; another way of knowing; another way of being.

Amen [So BE it…].


Source: The Prayer Tree

SnapShot Musings: Love

Meister Eckhart once said “theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language.” I believe that language to be Divine Love.

I find this quote tantalizing because the early followers of Jesus were known more for their radical love whereas today ‘Christians’ are known more for what we are against than for our expressions of unconditional (i.e. Divine) love.  There is much talk amongst theologians and religious people in media about the nature of God and God’s love, but I confess, it all leaves me dry once we start pontificating on God’s ‘unconditional love’.

Why?weeping angel

Because many speak and write of unconditional love in the abstract, but when it comes down to it, we humans interpret and express divine love through the lens of dogma and cultural bias.  Do you believe what I believe? Do you subscribe to my particular finite branch on the Tree of Life? If you do, then you are a recipient of the unconditional love of God; if not, then you are danced around with trite phrases like “love the sinner but hate the sin.”

Let me state my ideas unequivocally: it is impossible for fallible humans to separate the “sin” from the sinner and thus we “throw out the baby with the bath water” – meaning when we despise the sin we are despising the very sinner that is loved unconditionally by God.  And lest I forget, all have sinned and all are fallible, and all are loved unconditionally.

It would seem that we are quite uncomfortable with unconditional love. We need to codify it, commodify it, qualify it and regulate it. And in so doing, we put a fence around the limitless and all embracing love of God. We find it virtually impossible to just simply, lavishly and indiscriminately share and “throw” around God’s love with reckless abandon. God forbid…even though that is all God asks of us.

If we gave love so freely, without judgment or dogma, our faith would become dangerous like a feral lion but instead we are afraid to truly love and embrace everyone as they are without any reservations and thus our love becomes a domesticated, declawed house cat.

We blatantly disregard the words of Jesus (thereby placing nationalism, patriotism and politics above the love of God): we do not love our enemies (real and/or supposed); we cannot even show unconditional love to Christians of differing denominations; we show no love or compassion to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters; we hate Muslims; we ignore and patronize Buddhist and Hindus; we loathe atheists; we cannot even show love to our red state/blue stated neighbors and family members.  ‘Christians’ rage against children coming across borders and even threaten politicians who speak of limiting access to assault weapons.  And in all of this, the greatest power ever – the burning love of God – gets swept aside by religion viewed through the lens of whichever flag we hold dear.

In all truth, and this is my truth and experience, we have absolutely no earthly idea just how unconditional God’s love is. If I am honest, it scares me, it scares all of us.

I struggle and stutter, I stammer and falter in truly fleshing out God’s lavish and dangerous Love: a Love that emanates from God’s very Being; a Love that whispers perpetually throughout all of Creation, saying All are loved.  All is forgiven. All are welcome. All are brothers and sisters. All is well. And all the way to heaven is indeed heaven.”

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P.S. 12 years ago today, my son Quinn, died.  I grieve hard.  I celebrate fully.  I am grateful to his Mama and to God for the Gift that experience holds for me.  I miss you every day and see you in the butterflies and hear your laughter in the breeze…

“Abiding Spirit” (Kayla McClurg)

For Sunday, May 25, 2014 – John 14:15-21

I notice right away the bookends holding up this passage of scripture, the two reminders to love and obey. To love—from beginning to end—to love first, to love last, to love long, and then to love again. And to obey—to listen deep and wide, and to respond, always, from the home base of love. At the beginning is to love and obey, at the end is to love and obey, and in between is Spirit, the place of awe and mystery where we are given what we need, where we are never alone.

This Spirit is our Advocate, our Counselor, our Trusted Advisor and Friend. The Spirit of truth brings insight and wisdom, challenging our worldly ways, our superior opinions and clever strategies. We cannot see or know this Spirit with the mind of logic and reason. The Spirit abides. Only as we, too, learn to abide, only as we notice and heed what lies within us and among us, will we see this one who teaches and guides.

“I will not leave you orphaned,” Jesus says, and within us a tiny bird of longing flutters. We do not show up alone for our lives! Sitting in the audience at each little recital, looking in to be sure we are safe in the night, encouraging us and directing us, is one who loves just to be near us, to watch us, to abide. We are captured and held in a solid surround of love. With this awareness, I no longer need to abandon myself, or you. I no longer need to leave myself orphaned, angry and alone. I no longer need to escape disappointment and rationalize hurt. I can bring all of who I am into the family; I can endure the pain of being known. The path need not be littered by the debris of my hasty getaways. The Spirit of truth says, be honest about your life; abide in your life. I am with you. You can trust me to be here for the long haul.


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