After The Storm

rain

It stormed last night
The wind and rain woke me
(or perhaps it was the cats,
running for cover in a panic!)
This morning I found
the air was fresh,
the heat abated,
and the dewy aftermath of the storm
beaded every surface.

How true it is
that storms in life come,
overwhelm and panic,
and soon after
there is quiet and peace,
and reminders of what we saw.

For the debris from the storm
is still there,
awaiting composting
or perhaps some heavy lifting,
but the raindrops
offer a blessing
and a benediction
that yesterday’s storm is done.
We can walk through today’s
knowing that Peace, Shalom, will be ours.

God is gracious.

Antietam

This was written after taking a walking tour of Antietam in February. It is a sobering, thought-provoking place and it took me a while to process it…

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We walked along the fences
the ones that bordered the fields of Antietam
where pride and power and rights and sin
killed 23,000 in a day.

The way is rough
The fences line the roads they marched
The fields they defended
The farms that were overrun
The church that became a hospital.

The story shocks and hurts my heart
And yet, so does the front page
Bearing news of wars and armed conflict,
school shootings and gang violence.

We have not changed so very much,
for all of our technology.
Now as then, the fenceposts tell a story,
for violence leaves an uncertain shadow,
hurting a country and a culture and a world.

We are not unlike those who heard Jesus say…

“When you hear of wars
and reports of wars,
don’t be alarmed…” (Mark 13:7a)

I hold an unsteady hope in my heart,
longing for justice,
praying for courage,
and asking God for Peace.


Maranatha

Lent: Week Five

In November, we found a leak in our bathroom (one that started dripping water into the living room below). It was temporarily fixed so that we could get through the holidays. We knew that we would eventually have to do more than just duct tape and glue. And it took a couple of months, but in February, we started the process of remodeling our bathrooms.

It’s meant moving things out of the way, relocating everything from towels to shampoo. (It is actually kind of amazing, and a little bit embarrassing, to find out how much we can cram into a bathroom cabinet. But I digress…)

Major home remodeling means living with dust and noise. It means there’s plastic up to cut down on the dust, and protection on the floors and steps. It is part of the process. It won’t last forever. We’re living in the waiting, the wondering, the promise of it ending.

We are very happy with the process so far, but I will really enjoy having all of my house back in about a month. 🙂 I appreciate the care and skill that our design/build firm demonstrates, but I’ll appreciate it even more when it’s over!

Major remodeling jobs are very much like Lent, in that respect. Living through it is wearying, even though I know that the end is in sight. We’re a week away from Holy Week beginning, with the story of redemption and prophecy, forgiveness and renewal.

This afternoon, we did some additional prep and work in our bedroom, anticipating the contractors returning tomorrow. I glanced towards what will be our new closet and bathroom. The vague outlines of a closet door and hallway towards the bath were visible, but not clear. It is there. It is coming. Soon. But not quite.

photo

What do I see?
The edge, the promise of something new!
The hope, the sight of things not yet
Almost
So close
But still not quite.

I am impatient
with myself
with the wait
with the wondering
with the doing
with the listening and following
with the noise and mess of life.

You promise me,
“It will be worth the wait!”

I long for You
to show Your power and glory and strength,
invading our world
taking over our plans
and recreating us again
to be like You.

Alle— no, not yet!
I hold the word on my tongue
For Easter morning comes.
Surely, it does.

Lent: Week 2

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Lent continues.

We remember the stories of Christ
by the sea
on the hillside
with the people
with the disciples
preaching
teaching
healing
praying
embracing
encouraging
challenging
forgiving

The slow march
from the ordinary life
to the extraordinary sacrifice continues.

We watch
We pray
We ponder
We wait.
And wait some more.

There is much to be revealed
Much we do not understand
Our lives remains insulated
Off target
Uncertain
Frustrated
And yet, fulfilled
full of grace and truth.

We see the shrink-wrapped mulch
stacked on pallets
under the awning
with snow coming,
We buy shovels and salt
and long for warm days
and buds and flowers.

Like the mulch
We are waiting
for the right timing.
There will be a day
when all is in readiness
New growth
New warmth
New blooms in our flower beds.

Lent has many more days
many more weeks
We sigh as we wait
And yet
We know
The day will come
There will be that glorious morning

But until then
We wait
We try to watch and pray
We fail
We know more deeply the forgiving love
and saving grace
Of God

So may it be.
Amen.

Make It Stop: a poem and a prayer for gun control

This post is offered as we approach the one year anniversary of the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary and a family home in Newtown, Connecticut.

29 candles for the deaths at Newtown, CT
29 candles for the deaths at Newtown, CT

Turn on the evening news in any major city, and you will likely hear a story about shots fired and someone dying. Thirty seconds later, we move on to the next news story or the next sports event as though the world will not miss this beloved human being.

According to the CDC, gun violence is the second leading cause of death for children (ages 1-19) and there does not seem to be a change in this trend. Quibble with the statistics if you must, but let us at least accept the fact that we are losing too many people to gun violence.

We have become numbed to these tragedies, at best, or callous, at worst. And all heaven weeps…

I invite you to take a moment and grieve with me. Lament the young and old, black and white, rich and poor, who have been killed by violence. But weep especially for the disproportionate numbers of young people we have lost to gun violence.

My heart rages against this. My mind cannot comprehend a reason that any person needs an automatic weapon on our cities’ streets. I grieve for families who have a brother or sister or child who needs psychiatric help, and has not gotten it… and we see the results. I pray for the anger that fires a gun instead of choosing to walk away.

As a chaplain, I have held too many sad parents and spouses and siblings and children and friends in my arms as they weep and process the finality of what has happened… Someone they love has been shot dead. And there is no answer to their anguished WHYS…

I’ve been respectful to my friends and family who insist that gun control is a bad idea. I will continue to be respectful. But I will no longer be silent.

I pray for the families of Newtown and others who have suffered a senseless loss. I pray for my fellow pastors, priests and rabbis who have sat with families and mourned this senseless loss. I pray for those who would glorify violence. I pray for those who defend a way of earning a living rather than admitting that the policies and laws they defend are killing innocents every day. I pray for a culture that cannot solve its issues without violence. I pray, in this season of Advent, for the Prince of Peace to come and rule in our hearts. I pray, most of all, for the humility to notice when I do not live up to the ways of peace.

~—o0o—~

I wrote this poem a few months ago, as I sat alone in the on-call room and processed the loss of yet another person due to violence. I’ve quoted from it now and then (I just didn’t tell you…) At any rate, may the prayers of my heart speak to you. Join me in praying that gun violence will cease.

“O God,
Make it stop!”
Cry the daughters and mothers
As their sons and brothers
Lie in the street
Blood on their feet
“Not my baby!
Not my child!
Not mine, not mine!”
 
And someone says
“We have the right to bear arms!”
 
And there is
Silence.
 
All turn and stare as the cold hard words
Clip their hopes
Once more…
 
“O God,
Make it stop!”
Cry the brothers and fathers
As their mothers and daughters
Are crumpled in bed
Shot in the head
“Not my baby!
Not my lover!
Not mine, not mine!”
 
And someone says
“We must stand our ground!”
 
And there is
Weeping.
 
As they walk away, as they give up hope
No peace, no promise
No more
No way…
 
O God,
Make it stop
May there be a night without gunshots
A day without a brokenhearted family’s tears.
Make it stop
May it be
Bring your peace
Help us, Lord…
Hold me, Jesus…
Amen
 

Discarded Beauty

Japanese maple
Japanese maple

Discarded Beauty

The leaves are discarded
like an old petticoat
around the slender trunk.
What was a vivid flame,
flaring in the wind,
now is shivering in the cold,
so bare and trembling.

The beauty is still there
in the twisted branches,
the pile of leaves.
The fragile points curl up,
the leaves begin to blend in
to the rocks and soil beneath.
Far too soon, these colors will fade
and the glory of autumn will be just a memory.

Cold sunshine on my face
sparks a memory
of working in my yard,
swatting mosquitoes and quietly swearing
as the sweat drips off my forehead.
I pull up my hood,
put on my gloves,
prepare for winter,
and wait for the glories of spring.

Even in this fallow season,
God showers attention
on the most intimate worries of my life.
I feel the gentle reminder
to see God’s handiwork everywhere,
even in this season of fallow ground
and fallen leaves.

Alleluia.

The last alleluia.
The last alleluia.

Advent 2C: Wanting the Light (an original poem)

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Just the right moment
when all is still
and all is at rest,
there! I see it!

The way across…
the way through…
the path beyond…
reflected in my heart.

It’s known as reality –
a place to bring vision
and joy and peace and light
where there is blindness
and anger and brokenness and darkness.

More than ever,
as You shine within my heart,
I know I am made
to spread that Light.

– Deb Vaughn

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to You;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to You.
Psalm 139:11-12