Faith, Family, & Focaccia

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


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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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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.


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A Comforting Need

Ps. 131 — “Lord, my heart isn’t proud; my eyes aren’t conceited. I don’t get involved with things too great or wonderful for me. No. But I have calmed and quieted myself like a weaned child on its mother; I’m like the weaned child that is with me. Israel, wait for the Lord — from now until forever from now.” – CEB

174

How would it be to know my need as a comfort?

To rest my head in peace,

not from the weight of dragging cares?

To know the calm and quiet of a child

nestled on her mother’s lap,

all unconcerned with things too great and wonderful for me?

How would it be to look on life with un-conceited eyes?

To know the truth

of my own limitations,

and see these limits as a blessing,

nurtured by humility,

that turn me toward the One who meets all needs?

Could I then, with the psalmist, wait for you, Lord?

Seek not to be

my own answer to prayers?

But rather know

my need is as it should be,

and know, as well, that You will never let it go unmet?


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Slow Growth

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One Thousand years, and these great trees have barely grazed adulthood

While countries birth and die

And mountains shift their feet

Whole lifetimes only add a few thin rings

to ponderous span of living wood.

Perspective so diminishing, I stretch and ache to take it in.

 

My heart longs for the stillness hid within their shade.

To breathe the end of haste

To know my being as a rooted fact

No need to overfill each moment of each day

With proof that I have worth.

To feel the strength of standing still to grow.

 

But how can feet that itch to move take root?

What nourishment can flow

From quiet and from rest

That offers neither schedule nor result

And calls the hungry rush a lie?

Can this achiever’s heartbeat slow for open contemplation?

 

And can this heartbeat teach a rhythm of new life?

A slower growth

That does not jump to know, to do, to be

But sinks deep roots

To draw up living water

Stronger for the bonds that tie my life to the Eternal Source of growth.