Prayer from Matthew 10: 29-30 for Xinmo, China, for Islamabad, Pakistan

Not a sparrow falls to the ground,
you say —
how much more those trapped
beneath the landslide in Xinmo, Sichuan Province,
or those caught on the highway
in the explosion of the
Islamabad tanker?
They do not fall without your love.

God, I hate the fact
that this promise is not about
your saving us
from the taking away of life –
I want some kind of universal rescue,

then I see you crouched there
on the shoulder of the highway,
closing the eyes
of the gray-haired woman,
who tried to gather a little spilled fuel,
rocking the burned ten year-old
who didn’t stay in the car.

And I see you urging on
the emergency workers from Mao County ,
but not from some helicopter
or holy ghost perspective,
for you are under all that rock,
the mud, the debris,
pinned with the most fragile
of human sparrows.

You brush away my foolish prayers
for good weather, lost keys,
a parking spot –
not now, you say, not now.

You must not lose count
of hairs on their heads,
but with those tears in your eyes
you can hardly see.

Also, there are some
without hair.
You remember
holding in great value
how the sunlight would glint
on this one’s sweet bald spot,

on all those sweet souls.

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Poems from a Silent Retreat, Aotearoa / New Zealand

Erice Fairbrother writes that leading a silent retreat over the last couple weeks gave her an opportunity for much writing of poems.

Compline

Those that lie here
Beneath these crosses
do not lie;

 

This green, tended place
marks the earth where
some of what was,
and is yet, remains

while what is more
and is yet to come

does not

Spiritual Direction
(conversations in the Summerhouse)

Did you hear God’s voice today?
No – for all I could hear
Were magpies, squawking
Under the window

Did you hear God’s voice today?
No – I couldn’t hear a thing
incessant cicadas filling
my head, the air

Did you hear God’s voice today?
No – so I took the track
to the river and
sat beside it

I know what you will ask today!
Did I hear that voice?
And I can say, well,
Yes! I did!

And what did that voice sound like today?

Birdsong and singing,
Gentle as breath
Filling the air,
Flowing like
Silence

The Great Silence

At the start of the walk where life has been busy
There is silence
The silence of community, beginning to sleep

At the end of the walk where the evergreens grow
There is silence
The silence of community, forever at rest

At our end and at our beginning
There is of them all
Great Silence

Vespers

This stony lane I pass,
when on the way to keep
the day’s last hour and leads to sleep
is not long

cypress, totara and their evergreen
companions stand there – limbs
in widening stretch and reach
to catch the

falling shadowed night
our fading light of prayers which,
resisting every fear of death
anticipate our rest

Walking
for Daniel

In the way of the stride
Is a distance of days

In the length of the path
Is a measure of life

In the ease of the step
Is the heart of a man

Walking each day
To heaven

Water in Trees

I woke eager to find the path
That led to the stream
Across the paddock
Its ceaseless rhythms
Filling the air
Since my arriving:
water running
over unseen stones
flowing uninterrupted
it seemed
by boulders or other detritus
on its way to an unseeable sea

It was no easy task
To follow the sound
It seemed to come
From both air
and ground
And no direction I knew
Revealed that path
I longed to find

Returning
I met a brother
And asked him for direction
‘I really don’t know much
About trees’ he said
Going on his way

Disappointed
I returned to mine
then looking up as he had done
I saw what I had heard
From the beginning,
The belt of eucalyptus
Alive with streams
rippling through
leaves in the high air;

stopping
I sat beneath
To listen and
To marvel
At the mystery
of trees and
the riven-ness
Of branches

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World Refugee Day, June 20

Today is World Refugee Day, a commemoration of the United Nations since 1976. It has many themes, often a call to compassion for refugees (and I put before you a petition asking governments to: Ensure every refugee child gets an education. Ensure every refugee family has somewhere safe to live. Ensure every refugee can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community. Here is the link
But this year the theme is to celebrate the courage, strength and resiliency of refugees. Celebrate – not feel sorry for — I have worked with many refugees and they always teach me how to live my life, how to meet my challenges, which often seem so small compared to theirs. I wrote this prayer for the international experiment in doing church online on Facebook — CASA, this morning but repeat it here to invite everyone to this celebration. For celebrating refugees shapes my morning prayer. 

God, help me today to be like a refugee –
willing to begin again in whatever way I need,
willing to protect not just my children,
but the children on the boat with me –
(I guess that means all children)
willing to learn someone else’s language,
willing to explain my customs
and explain them again,
willing to embarrass myself by asking many times
for something to be explained
(and embarrass teenagers
trying to pretend they don’t know me)
willing to work below my competency
and never complain about the job.

God, let me remember the songs and stories
that I come from,
make beautiful the tent of my sojourning,
walk weary but non undone
the journey of my life,
share happiness with everyone I meet. Amen.

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For Finsbury Park

An old story

When my children were small
they read a book,
“cars and trucks and things …”
and they loved it –
do you remember?

Now the story is,
car and trucks and things that kill,

and instead of small hands
pushing match box toys
and imagining adventures,
there are lethal weapons on wheels.

Today’s news of sorrow
outside a mosque in Finsbury Park,
joins a list of stories
filled with tears,
and a threat of terror
that keeps many too afraid
to even walk out at all.

I open the book for my grandchildren –
see the ambulance, I say,
the fire truck, the bakery van
they heal and they help –

it doesn’t have to be scary.

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Prayers for a young transgender person

A friend asked me to write these prayers — for an elementary school aged kid coming out as transgender, for that person’s parents and for the church.

For a young transgender person

Thank you, O God,
for knowing who I am inside and out,
and helping me understand myself.
Thank you, O God,
for surrounding me with people who love me
and are willing to listen to me.
Thank you, O God,
for transgender adults who led the way,
good friends, a welcoming church,
your confirmation of my identity,
and your companionship
for every easy step or rocky mile
of the journey of my life. Amen

For the parents of a young transgender person

God, who brings butterfly from chrysalis,
hyacinth from bulb,
resurrection from graves clothes —
tenderly open new life
for your child __________
that s/he may grown emotionally,
spiritually and physically
into the new creation you intend for him/her.

For us who love this child so deeply,
cushion any surprise, comfort any sorrow,
guide our responses to him/her,
inspire our explanations to others.
Help us distinguish between
honest inquiry
and curiosity or hostility.
Find us a little patience
and fill us with a lot of stubborn love.

We give you thanks for bringing
this courageous, beautiful,
beloved young person into our lives.
Amen

For a church

God, teach us to be a trans-welcoming church,
trusting that God knows the true person
even before we are born,
and sustains us in our journeys.

Bless our church’s attempt
to open hearts and doors
and become a safe place in risky times —
welcoming change, opening dialogue,
helping those younger or older
to ask questions with honesty and kindness,
show support with courtesy,
and apologize simply
for all the awkward moments.

Bless each person now and in days to come
who experiences hospitality –
not our hospitality,
but the hospitality of Jesus Christ,
who has blessed the fragility of the human body
through the wonder of the incarnation
and celebrated the possibility
of your children being born again. Amen.

Confession (church setting)

Forgive us, O God,
when we take a place in a grim lineage
all the way back to Jesus’ time
of religious people
who resent other people’s healing
when it doesn’t follow protocol,
call unclean what God has called clean,
judge with an eye-plank the size of a pew,
and erect a stumbling block
as big as jersey barrier
before your weary and heavy-laden children
who are trying to come to you. Amen

Assurance of Grace
The God of the gentle yoke invites us to come and lay down the burden of our prejudices and receive the rest of being welcome along with everyone else.

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A Father’s Day Morning Walk

The morning comes early in June
and I go walking.

First I hear and then I see
a big red-headed woodpecker,
hammering away at a tree
to get his bug breakfast,
and then he swoops away
and begins on a nearby home.

Next is a deer —
edge of the woods, edge of the highway,
beautiful, hesitant, wondering
which direction to go.

Finally, I look in a window,
curtains open to my curiosity
and there sit two kids,
the oldest no more than seven,
in front of the cartoons,
though the little one seems
to have fallen asleep again.

They are covered with a blanket,
and curled into the golden retriever.

I’ve met a great many fathers
walking around the world,
this morning I think of these species —

loud destructive peckers
putting holes in everything
as long as they are fed,
vulnerable ones,
poised for flight or hope,

and very many warm snugglers.

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A Hymn for Justices of the Peace from Aotearoa / New Zealand

Prof Colin Gibson gives us permission to post a hymn that he wrote last year for New Zealand’s Justices of the Peace. What an incredibly practical new hymn … leading me to ask — what would be the hymn for your profession or my job — the highly skilled or the easily accomplished. What is in the heart of any specific labor that can be shared as a song for all. Learn more about prolific hymnwriter Colin Gibson here.

Rosalie Sugrue and Trish Harris have shared this hymn. The two of them joined up to write a chapter in A Child Laughs — Prayers of Justice and Hope: “The Carrier and the Carried: Re-defining Disability.”(Pilgrim Press, Mankin and Tirabassi, 2017) Disability Sunday is marked on the NZ lectionary always the 3rd Sunday in June, next Sunday. Trish and Rosalie will be featured at the Raumati church (‘Uniting Church’ – combination of Methodist, Presbyterian, and Christian Churches NZ), and will be interviewed about their books – ‘The Walking-stick Tree’ (Harris) and ‘Green, Ho!’(Sugrue)

Inter-faith Hymn
by Colin Gibson (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

May Justice and Peace walk hand in hand,
Justice and Peace throughout this land;
ours be the duty, ours the delight,
to wisely see for truth and right.

Let patience, respect, mark all that we do;
service our badge, integrity too;
ours be the care, and ours be the call
to show forth a justice to all.

Compassion, discernment be our creed,
openness to another’s need;
order and law, well understood,
set working toward the common good.

Great Fountain of Justice, Love and Peace,
Judge of the Nations, never cease
to point us towards your Vision Divine,
where Justice and Peace and Love combine.

If you would like the music for this hymn, please contact me at giftsinopenhands@gmail.com and I will give you contact information for Dr. Gibson.

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