The Unrecorded Miracles

I read today’s lenten gospel passage, John 2:1-2. The story recounts how Mary strong-armed her son into performing the first recorded miracle at the wedding feast. I considered the passage, and this is what came. Enjoy.

***

The Unrecorded Miracles

These are the secret miracles:

the boy at the window
greeting the sun before
its eyelashes opened
over the mountain;

dirt drawings of
simple birds, his
blowing of that
dust to flight;

the neighbor widow’s
full flour sack, oil jar,
her house rich in
bread and laughter;

His tiny hands above
my belly, how a word
stopped the bleeding
as he wept with me

for my son, his brother;
his tears blotting
my feet, hem drying
tiny baptismal pools.

I’ve carried these
like water in jars, waiting
for the word to age
memories into wine.

 

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Ash Wednesday

“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Who’s sin is covered!”
—Psalm 32:1

Today is a day of ashes, a day to remember that we were dust and to dust we shall return.  In that, we consider the ends of our nature, the temporal nature of our desires. How does sin so easily entangle? How is it wound into all of us?

In the recognition of our ashenness, we can still find joy in this: Ash Wednesday marks a season of reflection on Christ’s march to the cross, his death, burial, and resurrection.  In this march, through this march, on the far side of the march, he set everything right–us, earth, heaven, the whole shebang. In this, he took the ash of everything and turned it platinum.  So as we remember our ashenness, as we recognize the lusts of the flesh and do what we can to kill them, let’s not forget: salvation is coming.

Can you hear it?

“O Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with Psalms.”
–Psalm 95:1-2

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Addict #1 (Rose’s Baptism)

Today’s poem was inspired by a reader email. Enjoy.

***

Rose emailed,
a street-walking
shelter-dweller,
sixty-two years
in the making,
thirty-eight of which
were stitched together
by heroin needles.

Daughter of the Pope,
sister of the molested,
aunt of the overdosed,
twin of poppies,
welfare patient
with tracks between
her toes, fingers,
elbow folds,

what’s to say
of Rose’s life,
except that
rock-bottom
pushed her
up in the water,
a stone rising
into new
concentric
circles.

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Pray Yourself Sober

What is sobriety? Doesn’t it mean more than keeping free of the bottle, the needle, the prescription pill, the credit card bill? This has been the drum I’ve banged for nearly three years, now. Sobriety, it seems to me, is that quality of connection that keeps us clear-headed. And in this modern world of noise, and news, and endless screaming over each other, don’t we need that kind of connection more than ever?

I’ve tried my best over the last few months to cultivate personal practices of sobriety, and in that, I’ve turned to the writings of George Buttrick, the twentieth-century Presbyterian pastor who wrote about prayer. Buttrick’s practices and insights lead me to quieter places, places of thanksgiving, confession, and rest. I’ve enjoyed these practices, and I’m inviting you to join me in them.

An invitation begs attendance. Doesn’t it?

I’ve created two daily email plans based on Buttrick’s work. The first, The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgivingis a five-day email plan stretching into the recognition of the good gifts of God in our everyday lives. The next, The Practice of Prayer: Confession, is a five-day email plan of examination and recognition. Confession–it’s hard, maybe, but aren’t most things worth doing?

If you sign up for the Thanksgiving plan, you’ll receive the Confession plan immediately following the completion of your gratitude practice. And if you complete the Confession plan, you’ll receive an email notification when new prayer plans are available (I’ll release another one in the next month or two).

Would you consider signing up? And as you’re working through the plans, feel free to invite a conversation partner or two (perhaps a small group) along. You can invite your friends to sign up by way of Twitter or  Facebook.

So, pull a group together, and let’s go. I’ll be working my way through these plans, too (you can’t practice thanksgiving and confession too much). Let’s cultivate practices of sobriety. Shall we?

 

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The Marriage We Learned in the Apocalypse

“These are the things we had before the apocalypse: a country home, middle-class appointments, 2.5 jobs, four children, a couple of dogs, a cat, and a marriage swimming in the blithe love of American ease.”

This is the sentence I spoke two nights ago in a dream. It was a dream of a scorched-earth America, an ash-gray version of our Land Of The Free whose capitulation to a strong man had worked a great ruin. I don’t count this dream as something prophetic (at least not as some count prophecy), or as any sort of comment on the current political climate. Instead, the dream was the offspring of an over-active imagination and a conversation with Amber about The Walking Dead. Perhaps a late-night apple and peanut butter contributed, too. Did a sinus infection amp up the scene? Who knows.

It was only a dream.

It was only a dream. 

It was only a dream.

Right?

The next morning’s news was its own exercise in dreaming, with some pundits calling our President “unhinged” and others calling him “unparalleled.” Social media was on fire (as social media tends to be) and every status update was an unmoderated call for either impeachment and enthronement. That’s when it struck me–everyone has an opinion and a gun these days (and if not a gun a knife, and if not a knife an ax, and if not an ax a frying pan) and they’re not afraid to use either. And our Commander in Chief? He has an opinion and a nuclear arsenal, and according to his own presser, he’s not afraid to use either of those, either. 

Lord have mercy.

This is not a piece on politics. I swear it. But here’s what I know: the division of this country has grown long in the tooth, its appetite for destruction insatiable. And how hard is it to keep a marriage together in this divisive, destructive atmosphere? Pretty danged, I’d say. I sat in my morning chair, scrolling the news, the social media feeds and wondering: how do you build an apocalypse-proof marriage? Control, comfort, security, leisure, endless activity, maybe even the vote–these are the things that so often bind our marriages, if only by scotch tape and stitches. What’s left when the illusions afforded by privilege burn up and blow away? What would it take to keep a marriage together after the sky has burned to ash? 

I tried on a few answers. Love? Yes. Sex? I sure hope. (Let’s be honest: Don’t humans always find a way?) But these didn’t seem quite sufficient. Wouldn’t it take more? Maybe it take these things: the shared toil against inhospitable soil, the work of composting new, more forgiving stuff; a shared mission, like a common resistance to the powers of apocalypse; the wisdom that came by living through the fire; the shared responsibility of teaching a better hope to the children of our children; an understanding of the ways anger, distrust, and hate are buried in every human heart, even our own; a collaboration in building institutions that fight to unearth all that anger, distrust, and hate. I considered these qualities, played them out against an imagined dystopian future, and that’s when it struck me–the qualities we’d embody after the fire, what if we embodied them before?

***

As always, thanks so much for reading along. If you enjoyed today’s dystopian piece of imagination, feel free to share it with your people on Facebook or Twitter.

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