When Wisdom Cries

When Wisdom Cries
Proverbs 1:20-23

Wisdom is crying
On the streets of Baltimore.
Where that exhausting refrain of
might = power
fear = control
of hurt first, ask questions
plays out again and

It is the ancient human wound
as old as Cain and Abel
a wound we never seem to
but simply ignore until it is
ripped open
and fresh pain is felt.

And wisdom is crying

But other voices are crying, too.
We hear them first:
those crying,
and those crying,
We hear young people filled with an anger that
is not their own
but that has been handed down
with each job
with each purse held more
as they walk by
with each suspicious

We hear those who genuinely want to serve and
Who wear that badge as a
and who simply desire
risking their families and their
to bring it.

We hear those who are drunk on
unable to see clearly through that
who become the very thing they most

We hear the media —
the news, the tweets, the posts (like this) —
lining us up like obedient
into our proper places of
black or
patriot or
and we blindly play along
because we want to feel
even if it is only fear that keeps us
unable to move out of

And wisdom is crying

But we cannot hear her.
We are too distracted by this Cain and Abel
to hear a new
A voice of calm, of
taking the risks of reconciliation,
of looking more deeply at the
issues, but more importantly,
looking more deeply at
Because wisdom most cries out for

What would make us so fearful that we might
shoot first?
What would make us so angry that we might
throw rocks through windows and
steal something to quench that parching rage?
What within us needs to pause,
reflect, not
and listen for

She is crying
And we have forgotten how to listen.

st. patrick’s breastplate (a modern adaptation)


This beautiful, modern reworking of St. Patrick’s Breastplate by Patrick Scriven was shared on Facebook by my friend Bill, and I had to share it here.  I know it’s a day after St. Patrick’s Day, but I don’t mind.

ST. PATRICK’S LORICA | a modern adaptation

I claim freedom today,
Through a power beyond my ability,
An expression of the Trinity,
Through a belief in holy mystery,
Through acceptance of a profound unity,
Experienced in the whole of creation.

I claim freedom today,
Through the power of Christ’s birth and baptism,
Through the power of Christ’s merciful works and just witness,
Through the power of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection.

I claim freedom today,
Finding inspiration in those who trust and love as children,
In good beyond my understanding,
In the hope of resurrection and coming justice,
In the prayers of matriarchs and patriarchs,
In the words of wise elders,
In the faith of those called to great task,
In the innocence of those set apart,
In the deeds of righteous individuals.

I claim freedom today,
Marveling in the beauty of creation;
The radiant light of the sun,
The splendor and warmth of fire,
The persistence of life
The flash of lightning, the boom of thunder,
The alacrity of the wind,
The depth of the sea,
The perseverance of the earth,
The foundational reliability of the rock.

I claim freedom today,
Asking for divine potential to inspire me;
For God’s strength to lift me up,
For God’s wisdom to guide me,
For God’s eye to provide a vision,
For God’s ear to augment mine,
For God’s word to speak for me, to me,
For God’s love to guard me,
From temptations of forces I understand,
and those I can never comprehend,
From those I perceive as my enemies,
and those who would truly do me harm,
deserved or undeserved.
Help me to pray constantly for them all.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes
my body and soul,
Against the crafty words of false prophets,
Against the corrupt values of this world,
Against the false teachings of heretics,
and the hardened hearts of those who are always right,
Against the constant creation of false idols,
Against the seductive spells of gadgeteers and wizards,
Against every knowledge that devalues a person’s body and soul.

Christ shield me today;
Against anger, against jealousy,
Against fear, against timidity,
So that your justice may flow through me
and I may share in its reward.

Christ with me, before me, behind me,
Christ within me, beneath me, above me,
Christ on my right, on my left,
Christ when I lie down, when I sit down, and even when I get down.

May Christ be in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
The mouth of every person who speaks of me,
The vision of those who see me,
The hearing of each people who listens to me.

I claim freedom today,
Through a power beyond my own,
An expression of the Trinity,
Through a belief in holy mystery,
Through acceptance of a profound unity,
Experienced in the whole of creation.

fire and ice

Yesterday, we had another dusting of snow and so, as temperatures dropped and velvety darkness fell, I found myself contentedly cozy in my Carolina cabin of a house.  The fire was blazing, roasted red pepper enchiladas were bubbling away in the oven, and I was at peace.  As I walked through my back den, I noticed the play of the fire on the glass windows that looked outside onto the snow.  It suddenly, inexplicably, looked like there was a cozy campfire right there in the middle of the deep blue cold of a winter’s night.  The image was both comforting and haunting.  For some reason, this poem by Robert Frost sprang to mind.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

I’ve always found his words bit troubling, but a powerful descriptor of desire and hate.  I’m not sure how this world will end (though the impacts of human overconsumption and pollution on a finite planet might give us some idea).  Robert might be right.  But for me, I don’t muse on an ending.

I muse on a beginning; a new heaven and new earth where crying, pain, guilt, loneliness, racism, sexism, pollution, hatred, boredom and indifference are wiped away, not with fire, and not with ice.  With love.  Revelation 21, though too often simplistically applied as a formula for the end of this world, doesn’t create a new world out of fire or ice.  The poetic imagery used is of marriage, of God coming to dwell among us mortals, of covenant relationship founded upon love.  The text says that some things do burn when that sort of love happens.  The things that pollute, the things that lead to cowardice and murder and dishonesty.  Those burn away, as love reveals a more excellent way.  But what is left is meant to last: a tree with leaves that heal the nations and a river of the purest water.  What is left is God once again making a home on a renewed earth.

For me, Lent is a time of living in the uncomfortable, perplexing place of looking for a light of hope in a cold, dark night.  It is about facing the things of death, while looking for new life.  Lent is when I open my eyes to try to see how God is bringing light especially when things seem cold and dark, even when that light makes about as much sense as that picture I took.  And Lent is about having enough whimsical faith to dare believe that the new world might already be creeping into this one, in ways that are so small and ordinary we might otherwise miss them: in a niece who says “I love you, Weeza” without even thinking, in shared laughter and stories, in tasty food and strong coffee, in choosing kindness when the choice of indifference is always easier, in the everyday choice to cherish this planet because it is a gift from God.  Yes, the world may end in fire, and it may end in ice.  But a new world is already beginning.

And that world begins in love.

Delicious delights

IMG_8206.JPGIMG_8208.JPGIMG_8213.JPGThe simple joys of baking yummy cinnamon pecan bread and nibbling on it with a nice mug of tea.

Doing a committal service on a week full of icy, freezing temperatures, only to have the sun come out and weather warm just in time.

Being brought coffee while sermonating. Such thoughtfulness.

Blessing the Dust

I will be posting Lenten musings here throughout the season, and though icy weather has made our church need to postpone tonight’s Ash Wednesday service, I find myself thinking about the power in that little ashy cross on our foreheads.  I found Jan Richardson’s poem “Blessing the Dust” and her artwork particularly poignant.


Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

–Jan Richardson