2 of 3: Leah

Do not look in her eyes
where dreams have died. Instead
by her hips be gladly distracted;
watch her hands — busy tending life.

Where dreams have died, instead
she has planted dogged resolve.
Watch her hands — busy tending life
in love’s fruitless soil, barren of hope.

She has planted dogged resolve
by her hips. Be gladly distracted
in love’s fruitless soil. Barren of hope,
do not look in her eyes.

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a pantoum

The beauty and truth of story is found in its ability to speak in new ways, no matter how familiar the words. Scripture is full of such stories for me, familiar tales that offer new truths & always-needed truths over and again. This piece is the second of three short reflections listening for truth in the stories of Jacob and his wives Leah & Rachel.

1 of 3: Jacob

The kingdom of heaven is like a man whose hip is thrown out of joint so that he has to stop running.

It’s hard to say when exactly Jacob began running.

It seemed in his own mind that he had always been ducking & dodging, always evading anyone who got too close, always running to find a piece of life that he could call his own.

Maybe it began at the very moment of his birth, when brother Esau was held up proudly as Isaac’s firstborn son while Jacob was pried from his twin’s heel. Isaac could have celebrated the gift of two sons in one birth — a double blessing from God — instead Isaac chose only one son. Maybe that’s why Jacob learned the dash & dance of guardedness. Maybe that’s how he came to value self-reliance above all else.

And so Jacob was restrained around his mother, but accepted her favoritism and influence toward his self-sufficiency.

Ducked & dodged his brother, but accepted his birthright in exchange for soup.

Ran from his father, but first accepted his blessing while wrapped in goat’s skin.

Avoided trust with Laban, but accepted the opportunity to build his wealth.

Guarded too with God, but accepted God’s presence for the journey in the hopes that one day he might even stand on his own without God.

But then God threw his hip out of joint, saying, “No more will you duck & dodge. No more will you evade and run. No more will you trust only in yourself for survival and success.

“It’s time to face your brother.

“Time to face your father, your mother.

“Time to face your uncle and your wives and your children.

“It’s time to face me.

You will no longer run; now you will learn the slow pace of covenant. You will no longer hide and strive for your own good; now you will limp in community for the good of others. You will no longer be called ‘one who struggles‘; now you will be called ‘God struggles.’

“And Jacob? I have struggled long enough with you. No more running. Now we walk together.”

The kingdom of heaven is like a man whose hip is thrown out of joint so that he has to stop running.

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The beauty and truth of story is found in its ability to speak in new ways, no matter how familiar the words. Scripture is full of such stories for me, familiar tales that offer new truths & always-needed truths over and again. This piece is the first in a series of three short reflections listening for truth in the stories of Jacob and his wives Leah & Rachel.

Lent 5 (To The Eternal Lover)

Tell me, Eternal Lover,
do you love me for who I am
or for who you are?
I daresay
you love me
because you can’t
help yourself, not because
I am terribly special or adorable.
I don’t think I mind if you
love for the sake
of love
(in that equation
I still get the love I crave)
but I wonder sometimes whether
you see me in your love.
I want to
wave and shout
and say, “Here I am! See —
this bit of breathing, living dust within
your eternal love scheme has a name and
a story and stretch marks and no
broken bones but a
not-as-tough-as-it-looks
heart and you
should know who
you’re loving, God, because
it makes a difference in love, I think,
if you take time for the stories.”

Second Sunday in Lent

Haha! My God, my God,
you have done it again!
You have lit the way
for those feeling lost,
and unlocked a fountain
for those deprived of water.
You have gathered orphans together,
called them family, and set out a rich feast.
You have bent close to hear the silenced
and given them a victory song to sing.
How beautiful is your Spirit, O God,
who tells the continuing story of
your faithfulness to generations!
How beautiful your Body as it stands
in unity, brother and sister no longer apart!
How brilliant is your city that guards the weak
and hosts a parade to welcome every traveler home!

For a friend

In the year after your death, there were flowers and a new baby. Perhaps the flowers were nothing unusual, but still it was a surprise to see them — stars of purple and cobalt shining with hope through the gray fog of springtime in Maine. The new baby was hope, too, with bright eyes that captivated and distracted us from our mourning.

In the year after your death, we still cried — sometimes a quiet tear, sometimes choking sobs — but we laughed too. It’s always a miracle to discover laughter after death. Your death wounded us in such a way that we felt joy more keenly.

But still it was joy.