Faith, Family, & Focaccia

A faith and culture Mommy blog, because real life gets all mixed together like that.


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A Sunflower on the Side of the Road (a poem)

IMG_3753A flower smiled at me
as I was walking by,
distracted by my thoughts, and cares,
all unaware that here
within my reach
there was this stunning power:
beauty in a broken world.

I might have missed it in my rush,
but it stood tall and proud
it’s glowing, sun-rimmed, dark-eyed face
on level with my own
and beckoned me to stop
and gaze
and take a breath of joy.

And as I stood, and gazed, and breathed
— for this sweet moment full-aware —
the flower swayed and waved it’s salutation
moving in the wind
of passing cars
(which, doubtless, burned the flower
with their breath of noxious gas
that over-heats the life of growing, greening things).

But still the flower danced
and in that dance
it tugged the corners of my mouth
to smile back.


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A Modern Magnificat

A few weeks ago I got to preach on Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) for the first time. This has long been one of my favorite passages of scripture, with its swelling sense of praise for the way that God works in the world – by elevating the people who are most rejected and stepped on by the powerful.

As part of the sermon, I wrote an updated poem of praise based on the structure and themes of the Magnificat. I share it here because Mary’s message is a message that we all need to hear, in words that can penetrate our lives and our hearts. May it sing in your heart today.


The deepest part of us echoes with the truth that God is great, and our deepest source of joy is that God has claimed us as God’s own beloved people.

For God has seen us – really seen us – in all the ordinary smallness of our lives, in all the ways that we feel less-than, or ignored, or rejected, or even stepped on;

And God has changed our identity: instead of unimportant nobodies, serving the interests of more important people, we are God’s chosen and blessed witnesses who get to bring Jesus into the world!

God did not do this because we did anything to earn God’s special attention, but because this is who God is: God, the Holy One – the One who is completely above and beyond – chooses to call and to bless the unexpected people.

This is who God has always been, from generation to generation, from Abraham to David to Mary to us.

God has always been the true source of power, disrupting the plans of the people who are impressed by their own strength. God has a pattern of siding against the people who want to set themselves up as the ones in charge, and instead God lifts up the people on the margins – saying that their voices matter.

God’s way of working in the world is to notice the people who are hungry and poor, the ones who have been crushed under the feet of important people and powerful interests, and to invite the destitute and rejected people to eat at God’s table, where their physical and spiritual hunger can be satisfied.

But the people who did the crushing and already have more than they need? God has nothing for them.

This is the pattern God has followed all along, because every time the world rejects God’s plan, God remembers the promise made to those who came before. God remembers that God’s way is the way of mercy. It was true for Abraham, and for those who went before us in the faith, and it will be true for us and for our descendants. Forever and ever.


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Poem – the lesson of a snowflake

close up photography of snowflake

Photo by Egor Kamelev on Pexels.com

What is the lesson of a snowflake?

this fragile, frozen traveler

that wends a path from heaven to my feet.

Is its flight a happenstance?

Or might it be a messenger,

an envoy sent to teach me some eternal

or ephemeral

truth?

Perhaps it comes to teach me aught of beauty.

To draw me into reverent contemplation —

a frozen moment of breath-catching awe —

at MAGIC

crystallized in tiny spires of ice

that catch and play with quiet winter light.

Such power woven through so delicate an incarnation.

 

Or else, it might be teaching me of structure.

Of how the rules of physics

and molecular arrangement

can build with purpose, even in most frivolous display.

How order

in the wild chaos of a grey and cloudy sky

can even mighty nature tame

for my soul’s solace and delight.

 

But what of the most minuscule of flakes?

The germ or column bare of decorative arms?

The insubstantial chip of ice that barely merits notice

or inclusion in the family of frozen beauty?

The tiny missile that is gone

almost before it meets the chill warmth of my shivering skin?

What lesson can this disappearing flake of snow convey?

 

Why, this small bit of snow is the most wise and telling of my teachers.

For in its briefest life it carries a reminder,

that while the winter may be coming,

the warmth of life can always melt the cold.


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The Lessons of the Waves

waves in context

I breathe in beauty to the rhythm of the waves,
their sound and power washing clean my mind
of trifling concerns and numbing stress
I’ve brought here to this shore.

The surging tide, a sharp, in-rushing gasp,
it fills me full of light, and sea, and foam,
a rolling, tumbling, crashing, deep inhale
of boundary-breaching awe.

And, just as fast, it turns to quiet ebb,
a lacy coverlet for flat-smoothed sand
gently pulling back, like a caress,
a soft and cleansing sigh.

I feel the power of this rush and pull,
feel how it trains my soul to match its dance,
how quickly this vast truth of ocean waves
reforms my flighty, earth-bound mind.

But, in that truth, the ocean stays aloof,
her surging unconcerned with my small form.
She moves and sings for her own reasons
and in her own regulated time.

She pays no mind to me and my regard;
cares not that I am learning from her waves.
I’m just a bit of carbon, barely moored
by gravity along her restless shore.

And yet… that gravity controls her too.
Her pull and rush is trained by greater might.
We both are held, and rocked, and shaped
by our Creator’s laws and breath.

Her disregard is nothing to God’s sight:
the knowledge that I’m seen and known and loved.
I can receive the lessons of the waves
while holding also to a deeper truth:

The affirmation of my love-filled worth.


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My Voice and Not My Voice

I have not been posting here much lately because most of what I have been writing has been sermons. Every once in a while I post those here, but sermons are really meant to be heard. They lose a bit in translation when they are read on a page (or a computer screen or smart phone). They can still communicate… but it’s different. When I preach I try to put a lot of meaning into inflection, pauses, and emotional expression. My voice is part of the sermons.

Well, this past Sunday’s sermon was recorded, which gives me a chance to share a fuller version here. A version that includes my voice.

At the same time, it’s not entirely my voice. This sermon takes the perspective of one of the characters in the gospel story (Mark 3:20-35) – the perspective of Mary, the mother of Jesus. So often we hear the Bible stories through the lens of finding the lesson – how do we boil this down to a theme or challenge that we can apply to our own lives. This is an important function of scripture and of sermons, but it is not the only meaningful way to engage a biblical text. Sometimes hearing them as a STORY – a story with human characters to whom we can relate – allows us to engage in a different kind of learning and challenge.

I hope that this sermon-story gives you a chance to hear whatever voice speaks to you.


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The Balance of Breathing

rock balancing

Photo by Pille Kirsi on Pexels.com

The Spirit is whispering behind my ear –

Divine respiration-inspiration, Ruach, Pneuma

calling me to draw her in,

draw close,

draw breath,

to share the air She spills out from her generous soul,

to train my lungs to dance the rhythm of Creation.

Persistent inhale-exhale of all life.

 

I need to practice, to re-learn, the litany of breathing:

in and out in sacred balance,

call and response,

receive and give,

embrace-release,

let Her inside and speak her name aloud.

 

The rhythm is so simple,

the common language of all animal and vegetable life.

Whatever else our differences, we all share this:

this in and out;

this every minute interchange of CO2 and Oxygen;

inevitable partnership;

most basic pattern in the dance of life.

 

But, my step stutters.

I’ve lost the cyclic rhythm,

forgotten that with every hungry gasp

must follow gift;

that each exhale must leave me empty,

needing to refill.

 

Sometimes my breath gets stuck in inhalation.

My lungs don’t have capacity for infinite expansion.

I cannot hold it all,

and, if I try, I will explode,

betrayed by my blind greed for more.

More knowledge,

or experience,

or lies that whisper my deep worth is measured by inflation,

the ability to hold it all.

And so I keep inhaling ‘til I start to shake

with fear, exhaustion, grief for my own limits.

 

But, also, I can err in breathing out,

can give until I’m empty and still push for more;

can, somehow, mistake my lungs for a sweet well

replenished from within,

despite my long experience of going dry.

Or else, misdiagnose each need that eyes or heart perceive,

prescribing, as though medicine, whatever I exhale,

forgetting that I have metabolized what I took in,

and my breath carries poison intermixed with life,

which needs to be diluted by a greener source of air.

So, I must learn, again, the rocking, rhythmic step,

the dance that nurtures life in every form:

the in and out in sacred balance,

call and response,

receive and give,

embrace-release,

let Her inside and speak her name aloud.

 

The partner-dance of Spirit-breathing life.


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Poem: A Deeper Voice

My voice is getting deeper.

I am learning to give it time to rise up from the depths,

to speak with the sonorous reverberations of reflection and experience.

It used to come more quickly,

to beat staccato rhythms on the surface of my life,

tap-dancing with a light and pretty step,

meant to impress, entrance the audience,

and thus to hide the frantic drive

the constant shifts,

to balance on unsteady feet.

I used to hear all questions as a call to know the answer,

deny uncertainty,

fit my voice into the cadence of the scripted response.

A quick reply defeats the skeptic monster hiding in the pregnant silence,

the threat to birth exposure,

the messy, infant fear:

“I am a fraud…. I have nothing new and true to say.”

Words – high, strident, righteous (or self-righteous) words – were my defense,

building a facade to hide behind,

to awe the people I was too afraid to let inside.

As long as I appear to know, I will be safe.

Safe, but unknown.

Because I have to know myself to find my song,

my true, authentic, powerful voice.

I have to tear-down all the stage displays

and just stand still.

Not dancing.

Not performing.

But finally,

slowly,

breathing deep.

My voice is getting deeper.

I am learning to give it time to rise up from the depths.

There is slower music playing there.

The voice of living water.