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.

Prayers for Iran, Iraq, and Syria

For several years I have followed the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle from the World Council of Churches. Each week throughout the year we are invited to pray for countries and and the people who live there. Over the course of the year, we pray for the nations and peoples of the entire world.

The ordering of the countries is the same every year. So I was amazed to find that the prayers for this week are for the countries and peoples of Iran, Iraq, and Syria. (God timing!) Here are the intercessions from the prayer cycle website:

We are thankful for:

  • the resilience of the people who remain in Syria, Iraq and Iran, despite constant threats and ongoing violence
  • the relief and assistance that has been provided to so many
  • those who have made a new home for refugees fleeing from these countries
  • those who have worked continually for peace, justice and reconciliation.

We pray for:

  • an end to the violence racking these battlefields of global powers
  • political leaders emerging in these countries who will pursue peace, the common good, and human rights of all groups
  • the international community to pursue policies that will result in acceptable, just peace for all involved
  • greater openness to welcoming those displaced or fleeing from these lands, desperately seeking safety and wellbeing.

And I add these prayers:

For the leaders of the world, especially our president and his advisors, that they may have hearts of wisdom and compassion. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.

For those who live in war-torn places, that they may know your presence with them, that they may be freed from fear, that they may be comforted in their distress. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.

For those who serve in the military and their families in these times of uncertainty, that they may know that your love surrounds them. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.

For all of those who mourn and who are afraid, that they may be comforted by your loving embrace. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.

For all people and all the earth, that your healing and peace might come upon us. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.

God, in your mercy, hear all of these prayers, those spoken out loud, those spoken in our hearts, and those prayers we don’t even know we are praying. You hear all these prayers; indeed, you hear the prayers of the whole creation. We pray in the name of the One who came to bring peace to the world. Amen.

Don Beisswenger – Presente

Since he passed away on Monday, I’ve been thinking with gratitude about the many ways that Don Beisswenger shaped my life. I moved to Tennessee the fall of 1979 after having grown up in my dad’s churches in Oklahoma. Edgehill was the first church I actually chose to join on my own. Don and Joyce Beisswenger were in that church and I’m blessed for it.

I was a disillusioned, impassioned young adult wanting to change the world. I attended a program at Don and Joyce’s house and learned about “liberation theology.” “There is hope for the church,” I thought, and ended up at Vanderbilt Divinity School working on my M.Div. (I signed up for the course on Contemporary Theology and waited in vain for the unit on liberation theology to come along.)

I marched all over town protesting with activists like Don and Hogan Yancey, telling the story of the U.S. War in El Salvador and the martyring of Bishop Oscar Romero. I went to Washington, DC, slept in a church with activists from Jonah House, and stood with others to block the entrance to the Pentagon on the Feast of the Holy Innocents — commemorating the slaughter of the male Hebrew children by King Herod.

Don was in charge of Field Education while I was a Vanderbilt. I interned with social justice groups. And then, needing one more field education unit, I served for a summer with Alive Now Magazine at The Upper Room. I found my vocation during that summer of Field Education. Since I had figured out what I wanted to do — be an editor — I got tired of doing school work. One Sunday, Don mentioned to me, “Hey, Beth, Y’know, the faculty has approved your graduation, pending the completion of your incomplete. I went home from church and finished the paper that day.

But Don’s influence didn’t end there. It was about that time that he and Joyce bought the Cheatham County land that became Penuel Ridge Retreat Center. I count myself fortunate to have been included in the small group of 8-10 of us who walked the land and listened for God’s purpose for that place. I became a part of the “core team” who discerned that the land would become an interfaith place of solitude and retreat, rooted in social action.

For a number of years, then, I lived next door at the retreat center. Don and I built decks together, worked on projects like the construction of The Well, led and attended retreats, walked the trails, and stood around looking at the tractor when it wouldn’t start. (In fact, my mind’s eye sees him sitting on the tractor, that wry smile on his face.)

In 2004, Don served a six-month federal prison term at the age of 73 for his non-violent protest. His book, Locked Up: Letters and Papers of a Prisoner of Conscience was published by The Upper Room. (It’s on my goals, Don, but I still haven’t gotten arrested for a matter of conscience. I’ll keep working on that one.)

Don Beisswenger has joined the communion of saints. Thank you, my friend, for all the ways you influenced, changed, nurtured, and enriched my life. You are present in this world through all of us who were shaped by you.


“If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.”
– Isaiah 58:12, The Message

Come, Spirit of Courage, creative Source of Healing. Amen.

Stand Witness

There are forces that flow
Through this universe.
Forces of life, of death,
of good, of evil.

Today a person dies.
Tomorrow a child is born.
We witness these events and
Stand in awe
At the holy immensity of it all.

Sometime we are swept up,
Blown around,
Knocked to the ground
By these powers
That we cannot see or hear,
Understand or control.

We stand as witnesses,
To the forces of evil,
To the oceans of love.

We stand as witnesses
To hearts broken open
With sorrow,
To voices speaking quietly
With courage.

We stand as witnesses,
Holding these sacred spaces,
Remembering and trusting
That our presence
Is enough.

Stand witness.
Be present.
Trust.

To Death

Death,
We come into this world
With you on the horizon.

Sometimes you are close.
Sometimes you are so far away that we cannot see you.

But you are there – always.
Why is it such a surprise
When we see you at our neighbor’s door?
When we watch you walk down the hallway toward us?

There are those who have met you and found peace in your presence.
Those who seem to befriend you,
Not afraid of you or what you bring.
I want to be like one of them.

Help me, God of Life, to walk the path you have for me.
I am yours.

The Little Things

I left a small tip in my room for the housekeeping staff. And then, coming “home,” I met Gloria finishing up 215.

“Hello” and “Thank you,” I said. “Thank you for my tip,” she said.

And then we talked, strangers together, listening through the beautiful dance of too little of each others’ languages (my too-little Spanish and her too-little English.)

She told me that they moved here from Texas because the services are better for her son with autism. He is eleven years old , but his mental level is six. The tips are his — money for Christmas.

Her friendly sharing and her gracious gratitude stopped me in my busyness. A sacred encounter of strangers on a journey, separate and together. May I have eyes to see and ears to hear the stories of those whose paths I cross.