Quickly

May there be no breach in the walls, no exile,
and no cry of distress in our streets.
-Psalm 144:14

Holy One, the walls have been breached.
Your people are crying,
and we are in exile in our own land.

What is this place where we now live?
Hate marches down city streets at the noon of day.
Abusers walk the halls of justice and power.
Children are stripped from their mothers’ arms and sleep in cages at the border.

Holy One, where are you today?
The evildoers hold the fortresses of power.
The exploiters of the poor grow in their wealth.
Your little ones languish in despair.
Calls of distress go ignored in the streets.

Where is our hope?
Where is our rescuer?
Come quickly, God of Compassion
Come quickly to save us.

This is my conversation with Psalm 144:14 from the Pilgrim Press Book, The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle. Image by David Ramos on Unsplash.com.

Counting Time

When life has slowed,
And days run into days run into days
I count my time in dog walks and cups of coffee.
I watch the plants,
Reaching toward the sun
Offering beauty …
Blooming, fading, dying away.

When life has slowed,
I count my interactions in phone calls and Zoom windows.
I imagine seeing you,
Our arms thrown around each other in love.
How long until that day?

When life has slowed,
And loss builds upon loss.
We grieve in isolation
Far from comforting rituals.
Wakes and potlucks,
Shared tears and handkerchiefs.
The quiet words of a familiar reading, a favorite song.
The gathering of the family from far and near.

When life has slowed,
And days run into days run into days.
We count the time in sunrises and sunsets,
Breaths in and breaths out.

When life has slowed,
Breathe. Listen. Trust. Love.
We are not alone.

I Remember You, Grandpa Tom

Grandpa Tom and me

I remember you, Grandpa Tom.
Resilience forged in World Wars and dust bowls.
Kindness shaped by love and generosity.
Faith cultivated in times of struggle and uncertainty.

You grew vegetables in the back yard,
Three rotated crops,
Food harvested from March to November.
That was the way your people survived.

The garden — a statement of faith
In the One who created the seeds, the sun, the rain.
The garden you called your “Fitness Center.”

In these days of pandemic, I remember you.
Your resilience, your kindness, your faith.

I think of you, at the end of my day, when I put on my work clothes
And walk out the door to my “Fitness Center.”
Trimming bushes, sowing seed, spreading mulch.
Hoping that I, too, in this time of challenge
Might be a person of resilience, kindness, and faith.

Days Run Together

IMG_8664Days run together
And soon I don’t know …
Is it Wednesday or Saturday?
We step through this disorienting, timelessness
of social distancing, quarantine, isolation.

I watch the news, increasingly grim,
And realize that we all will know someone
touched by a COVID-19 death.

And this grief overwhelms me,
Knowing that things will never be the same.
There will be suffering.

There is suffering. Right now.

Can we trust that humanity will get through this?
Like we got through the Black Death?
Like we got through the Great Wars?
Like we got through unimaginable disasters?

Tenacious human spirits hang on.
We adapt, we hope, we move, always, towards healing.

#pandemic

Prayer Practices for This Time of Crisis

During the past few days, I realized that my normal prayer practices were not working very well. When I went into meditation or silence, my brain filled up with anxiety. I’ve realized that I need a different set of practices in this time of crisis. Here are some practices that seem to be working for me. (And I’d like to know — what practices are working for you these days? -Please let me know!)

  • Bring in Spring. Fresh flowers from the yard brought inside.
  • Share the light. I keep a candle burning when I’m awake.
  • Meditate with others. My Headspace meditation app invites me to meditate with others beginning every 1/2 hour.
  • Daily prayer. Upper room colleagues are leading morning prayer each day at 11:00 a.m. (Central Time). We are using Facebook Live. Like our Upper Room Facebook page and tune in to pray with us.
  • Pray for others. I’m spending a little bit of time each day praying for others on The Upper Room Prayer Wall.

How to Pray for Others on The Upper Room Prayer Wall.

Blessings and love to each of you.
Beth

A Blessing for Those Who Wait

image of candle

For those who wait
In despair,
In grief,
In sorrow.
You are comfort.
You are strength.

For those who wait
In anxiety,
In isolation,
In loneliness.
You are comfort.
You are strength.

For those who wait
In tender hope,
In tear-streaked sadness,
In fearful anticipation.
You are comfort.
You are strength.

Bless, Loving Healer,
All those who wait.
You are comfort.
You are strength.

Originally written 9/2018. Updated for us waiting and watching the unfolding of the pandemic. Find more of my blessings in my book Christ Beside Me, Christ Before Me: Celtic Blessings.

Don’t Worry. Instead, Pray.

I was already a world-class worrier
long before the current crises we face …
before the Coronavirus …
before the tornados hit my middle Tennessee neighbors.

I remember the nights in my childhood,
when I couldn’t sleep because I was afraid.
I remember my mom helping me cut out
a scripture passage from my Sunday School lesson.
We taped it to the dresser mirror in my bedroom.
“Don’t worry. Instead, pray. …”

Mom and I would read the scripture when she tucked me in.
I could read it in the night if I was afraid.
I repeated the passage until the words became a part of me,
until the words began to pray themselves in the silence of the darkness.
“Don’t worry. Instead, pray. …”

These days, I light candles.
The light of them shines
into the darkness of this world,
into the darkness of my worries.
The light says, “Don’t worry. Instead, pray. …”

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank God for the answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. God’s peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”
-Philippians 4:6-7, The Living Bible

Why I Was Late to Plenary

Daffodil bloom

The chime sounded to begin an hour of silence.
I started walking up the road,
Trying to find silence in my churned-up monkey brain.

Step, step, step.
Listen for each big and tiny sound.
My shoes on the asphalt, the chickadee’s call,
An airplane above, the wind whispering in tall pines.

Step, step, step.
See all that the eyes can see.
The clouds in a blue sky, the root ball of an upturned tree,
Water flowing down the hill, a patch of blooming daffodils.

I find myself kneeling by the daffodils,
Watching the way the sun shines through them.

Seconds, minutes (hours?) later,
I come back to the reality of the space-time continuum.
I am a twenty-minute walk away from the plenary
Which starts in five minutes.

Step, step, step.
I walk and listen and see
In the spaciousness of silence.

New Release: The Words of Her Mouth

Last summer, just as I was preparing for my writing retreat at the family cabin, I received an invitation from Rev. Martha Spong to contribute to a book project. Spong is the Executive Director of RevGalBlogPals, founded in 2005 to minister to and with clergy women around the world.

The Words of Her Mouth is a collection of 150 original psalms written by ten women who are Christian pastors and leaders representing diverse races, orientations, and denominational affiliations. Each writer composed fifteen psalms in conversation with the Biblical texts.

The writing assignment was the most writing fun I think I’ve ever had. I was assigned one of my favorites — Psalm 63, the psalm we often sing in morning prayer service of the Academy for Spiritual Formation. (The other psalms with which I dialogued for this book are Psalms 9, 20, 28, 37, 48, 56, 72, 83, 92, 101, 114, 121, 135, and 144.)

These words from Psalm 63 caught my attention: “I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” Then I wrote about how, when I can’t sleep at night, I think of and focus on everything else except God! (What funny creatures we are!) My Psalm 63 closes with this intention, “Next time I cannot sleep, may I remember the saints through the ages who awoke in the night.”

I hope you’ll enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing for it. You’ll find it at Amazon and your favorite booksellers.