Lent 4

To the One who created humanity and walked among us:

Thank you for people—for all people, but today especially I’m thankful for those who radiate love and warmth and meaning into our lives. The simplest gifts of shared laughter, a warm embrace, and caring conversation make all the difference in how we see the day. It’s good to know that you laughed and hugged and talked with your friends too. Having a God who was human helps.

PS—I think if you decided to be human again, you would really enjoy sharing a good laugh with my kids over “Phineas and Ferb.” They’re two cartoon characters who think outside the box, like you!

Lent 3

“So Frickin Beautiful”*

Creator God,
you are beautiful in the morning fog when all is gray
you are beautiful in the landscape of rolling hills, steep mountains and cold Adirondack lakes
you are beautiful in the deep purples, warm whites, and almost-green yellows of cut flowers on my kitchen table

Creative God,
you are beautiful in the rhythms that sway through the speakers
you are beautiful in the comforting smell of fresh bread baking in the oven
you are beautiful in the span of generations, from the wide-eyed wonder of infants to the life-lined smiles of their elders

Creating God,
you are beautiful in the places where your people are praying
you are beautiful in the work of hands that feed others around the table, around the world
you are beautiful in the alliances that seek reconciliation across lines of difference and power

You’re beautiful, you’re so frickin beautiful
And all I want is you*

* phrase excerpted from “All I Want Is You,” Michael Franti & Spearhead, All Rebel Rockers 2008

Lent 2

The church sign along the road reads, “Jesus is the answer.”

There is a story about a pastor describing an animal for the children to guess during Children’s Time in worship. Small mammal, bushy tail, climbs trees, likes nuts. One child’s hand goes up. “I know the answer is Jesus, but that sounds a lot like a squirrel.”

Dear Jesus, I hold out my hands, unclenched to show you the questions for which I have no answers: pain that is slow in healing, money woes without solution, the body deteriorating with age, intentional injury that defies logic or love or decency. I resist the church sign. Is “Jesus” the simple answer? Looking back, I see that you offered more puzzles than answers; that still seems true. So I will sit here, with palms open and unresolved prayers, o complex Jesus, if you will sit with me. This I ask, for lack of answers. Amen.

Ash Wednesday–Lent 1

At Grace UCC, we are taking a Lenten Sabbatical: fasting from church business (especially committee meetings) and feasting on prayer, devotions, and small group conversation. In an effort to provide several diverse resources for daily prayer, I’ve volunteered to post original prayers here on my blog, each day during Lent. The following prayer (I prefer “psalm”) for Ash Wednesday was written for the most recent church newsletter, to get us started on the spiritual feast that is Lent:

Wake up!
Wake up, my soul,
from your winter slumber
and stretch your tired limbs to savor this
season of Lent

Shake off your routines like bedcovers
Plant your feet on the ground
for the journey

Clear your eyes of sleep
Take in the sight of a new day
for loving your God

Feast on prayer and scripture
Attend to the holy in life and in love
Do not be weary

Wake up!
Wake up, my soul,
to experience your greatest joy
Be actively present in this day, in this
season of Lent

Black History Month Is Personal

My seven-year-old daughter wants to know why there are only two African American students in her first grade class. She is one of the two.

“Is it because of slavery?” she asks me from the back seat of the car. “Because I was thinking that lots of Black people died during slavery, and maybe that’s why there are only two African Americans in my class but so many white people.”

No, I say. Well, sort of yes, but in a long, painful, complicated way that I haven’t yet figured out how to explain to my seven-year-old. Where do I start in outlining the history of systemic racism and violence that have shaped housing and education opportunities, economic trends, migration patterns across generations?

I start with what she really wants to know, what she’s really trying to say: she’s telling me how it feels to be one of only a few students of color in a predominately white elementary school. She’s telling me that she notices, and that other kids notice.

She’s also telling me that someday she wants to be somewhere different. “Maybe my next school can have, you know, a bigger mix of people. And then maybe after that we’ll move somewhere where there are mainly, you know, Black people.”

She pauses.

“How do you find places like that?”

In the local newspaper, there is an editorial suggesting that we no longer need to celebrate Black History Month because, with the election of Barack Obama, Black history has “made it” and merged with American history. I disagree, enormously. So-called American history is built on the bodies of brown and black people; it is all one history but the particular stories of people of color have been suppressed, rewritten, killed.

But in this moment, I’m not worried about Black history. I’m worried about Black now. I’m worried about my Black daughter in the now of a predominately white, rural-minded community that doesn’t want to “deal” with Black History month and race and racism.

My daughter and I go into the house to read “Happy To Be Nappy” and choose a new style for her braids. Then we’ll do homework to make for damn sure that my beautiful brown one of two stays at the top of her class. Show up those white kids who say she has funny hair.