My Labyrinth Walk

Tonight I walked a labyrinth.

I first learned about labyrinths in seminary, and have wanted to walk one for years, and yet somehow I never have.

Tonight our pastor explained that some people like to view the labyrinth journey as one towards self-awareness, towards an inner understanding and union with God within. The journey towards the center can be viewed as a walk of petition, seeking guidance and accompaniment from God. The journey outward can be a walk of praise and thanksgiving, celebrating God’s presence in your life.

So I started in, full of expectation and hope for the spiritual awareness that was surely to arise deep within me…. and nothing happened. Step by step I trod, waiting expectantly for the awareness of the Spirit, for some divine revelation, for some knowledge of what I was going to get out of this experience. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

I felt crowded. My personal space was invaded by quite a few women like me who also wanted to walk the labyrinth, meaning that through the twists and turns we were often turning sideways to avoid collisions, breathing in each other’s perfume, staring at each other’s bare feet.

Sometimes I don’t like people very much, which is quite ironic for a pastor. I’m an introvert. I often view spiritual activities as solitary activities. I wanted very much to find peaceful union and contemplation with God on my own on my labyrinth journey, and yet here were all these other people, walking and breathing and thinking and existing around me. It was very distracting.

So I started praying. God, help me discover what you want me to find. I focused on repeating the prayer a few times. A few steps later, a clear answer resonated within me. Seek me. Seek me. Seek me. With each step, I felt thus instructed.

So I started seeking. And suddenly, the Spirit was there. I could feel God in the soles of my feet as I strode across the canvas of the transportable labyrinth. I could sense God in the pleasant smell of the oil diffuser placed delicately out of the way. I could feel God in the gentle rhythm of my bones with each step I took. My body became aware of God’s presence, but my mind was still rejecting the bodies of the women around me.

Seek me. Seek me. Seek me.

I kept walking.

I don’t know how it happened, but by the time I was about to enter the center of the labyrinth, a realization hit me with heart-sinking shame: the bodies around me were not distractions from God. The bodies around me were God. God incarnate, the imago dei, all around me. It was as if Jesus himself suddenly appeared to me on my way to Emmaus, and I was shocked to learn he had been there all the while. And I had vainly and selfishly tried to push him away.

My sisters and I gathered in the center, forming a wordless circle, breathing in union, existing with God together.

And on the journey out, as I began walking, I felt a clear resonating mantra: The ground of your being is found on the journey.

I didn’t even know I was seeking the ground of my being. But I felt such immense relief in knowing where to find it.

You see, I’ve been feeling rootless lately. I’ve been in discernment regarding my call to ministry, and I’ve had trouble seeing a clear picture of the future. I’ve been reaching and yearning for a certainty, an end point, something I can look at and cling to and say, “This is my purpose in the world.” So God’s response on that labyrinthine journey was to tell me to look around at God’s glory in the present moment, to let tomorrow take care of itself, and to remember I do not walk alone.

May it ever be so.

Amen.

 

Thanksgiving Prayer for Standing Rock

God of the oppressed, God of the opposed, God of the losing side,

To the God who chooses the side of the lonely, the God who takes up the hopeless cause,

To the God who reveals yourself in the face of the neighbor,

To you we pray.

When your people say no to profit and yes to people, you are there. (We are your people, not your profit)

When your people say no to oil and yes to clean water, you are there. (We were born in water, not oil)

When your people say no to empire and yes to community, you are there. (We are neighbors, not subjects)

When your people dance and pray for transformation while rubber bullets rain down upon their skin, you are there. When arrests are made and people removed, and more begin to show up, like the multiplying fish and loaves, like the properly invested talents, like the pruned vine, you are there.When the dogs come snarling and biting, when the buffalo come stampeding, when the wind rises and the sun sets, you are there. When it is freezing and your people shiver in the face of the water cannon and stand firm, you are there.

When it seems hopeless you are there.

God, on this Thanksgiving Day, as millions gather around tables and symbolically proclaim unity and mutual respect with those unlike us, we pray you would make those symbolic gestures reality. When we celebrate the false historical narrative of Euro-Native relations around our Thanksgiving tables, remind us of the genocide perpetrated against Native peoples and connect that with what is happening in Standing Rock. Call us to action, to send prayers and aid, to call representatives and join the movement in voice and solidarity.

We ask that you would continue to strengthen those protecting their life’s water. Send your Spirit to dwell on Standing Rock. Transform the hearts of those more interested in profit than in human life and dignity. Only you can.

With gratitude and thanksgiving we pray to you now God, and we celebrate your miracles and blessings. We are thankful that you remain steadfast in your love of your people.

Amen.

Pulse

Hot tears flowing freely through well worn trails of mascara.
I could no more command an end to this pouring
than I could bring back the dead.

Is this the worst?

Numbness sought flees to the wings
so I’m standing here naked in the spotlight again
but no one’s watching.

Is this the worst?

White hot ice surges through me
tearing at the flesh, ripping the heart.
rat a tat tat again and again and again and again and a

Is this the worst?

gain and again and again and a

Every burning shot buried in bone, lodged for life,
each accompanying me to death

Is this the worst?

Faces smiling from the computer screen
lovers and dancers and sons and daughters
dead dead dead dead dead times 10.

Weeping. Mourning. Grieving. Praying.
Acts doing nothing so much as highlighting my powerlessness
My complicitness
My failure.

I’M SORRY. To the mothers and the fathers and the lovers
and the friends, I’m sorry. To the empty rooms and lonely pets,
to the words left unsaid and the bucket lists unfilled, I’m sorry.

To the history books I’m sorry.

Is this the worst?

Don’t try to cover my nakedness with your holy oil
I’ve no place for hollow hope
Look at the pain, mine and yours
Do not avert your eyes.

LISTEN! Too long you’ve heard the pulse of your own righteousness
beating in your ears.
Today you hear a different beat
the thrum of blood pooling on the dance floor,
the depreciating hum of life ebbing into darkness.

Is this the worst?

Hear the cries of the mothers!
Hear the cries of the lovers!
Hear the cries of the prophets!
Hear the cries of the dead!

What have we done? Their blood cries out to us from the ground.

And I am ashamed.

Upon the Altar

Today I bring myself.
I bring forth form and substance
-weightiness-
I bring forth solidity
sometimes aching
sometimes free
but nonetheless a filler of the void.

I am this rock.

This rock is me.

I am sturdy
and cracked and broken
sparkling white crystals on the inside
exposed and vulnerable and beautiful.

Formed from dust one day to return.

I place myself in this rock
upon the altar of expectation
of being made new
of transformation and blessing.

And I sing out with exaltation
praise to the creator creating
Thank you for the gift of being
of filling the empty places
with my beauty and my pain.

“I’m Apathetic” – Another Prayer

Creator, breath, life, spirit, being, you know who you are…

My soul sings before you in this sunshine, in this courtyard respite from my gloomy disposition. It’s a Saturday and I want only to be outdoors in this heat, this light, this warmth that feeds my aching soul, not stuck inside, locked in my own weariness. This day is no day for sickness and tears, and yet here they are anyway, and you ask me to confront them. But I just don’t want to. Not today. Let me linger a little longer in these sun-warmed cushions. Let me get a little sunburned as my eyes feast on the vibrant colors – reds, pinks, purples, and the many greens all around me. Let me stay in this sanctuary until my empty cup fills up again.

My body aches with heaviness and apathy. I want only to sleep, to find rest in your light. But too soon the minutes slip away and I must try to find you elsewhere, in the bodies of your children hurting. Help me to find you there, God. Help me to look for you in the dark places. Help me to see your light in a different way. Filly my cup as I encounter your works in hospital rooms and hallways. Remind me to smile, to live in each present moment, to believe I am loved. Give me strength and courage to face the rest of this day with peace and not with this dreadful apathy.

Fill me with your holy breath as I breathe in all Creation.

Amen.

A Prayer for Nepal

Great God of Creation, the one who created all things and is creating, the one who breathes life into being and calls it by name, and the one who mourns when your children suffer,

You hear the great cries of suffering calling out to you now from Nepal. More than 2300 dead. Countless injured. Crying. Afraid. Alone.

But you are there. In the midst of the rubble and the great sadness settling over Kathmandu and elsewhere, reveal your presence. Guide the hands of the rescue workers working diligently to save lives. Be at work in the relief aid personnel as they seek out immeasurable need. Create relationships of hope and trust in these moments of hopelessness and fear.

In the coming days, weeks, months, and years, steady the hearts of those affected by this tragedy. Be with them in their grief and mourning. And be with them in the rebuilding, in the shaping of new identities and new lives.

You promise life. And you promise new life. Thank you for the gift of your presence. Thank you for loving us and for teaching us how to love each other.

In your holy name we lift up our deepest grief to you,

Amen.

Earth Day 2015

I stand in a prairie field, waves of rolling yellow grass rippling beyond my vision.

A mountain stands in the distance, joyfully humming.

The trees of this field reach out their limbs to clap above the swimming grass.

The sky here dances to the tune, watercolors of vibrant reds, oranges, and purples, swirling together but resisting muddiness, maintaining vibrancy and individuality.

I start singing softly, joining the rhythm of my heart to the melody.

Slowly our voices strengthen, swelling.

Me. The mountain. The trees. The sky. And the grass. The rippling chorus.

Now we are belting our praise to God:

Thank you for this life!
For this eternal moment!
For color and song and breath.

Amen.