Does it matter to the world That I have lost my center; That I find my heart jerked back and forth With every new event And the conjecture about what it means? Does my own peace or angst Add anything to the world’s unfolding? The answer is either yes, or no. Either way, it makes a difference Whether I can find my way to peace, in You. If yes - If my own centering in Your presence Can help in some small way To remind the world that there is a center And that we are all invited in - Then it does make a difference To one small corner of the world. If no - If my peace or angst are mine alone, If there are no ripples from my presence, Then, I might as well seek peace. It will, after all, Make a vast difference to me Even if it is me, alone. And I expect the truth Is somewhere in the middle. It is both yes and no. I will not change the world, much. But even a little can make a difference. I know this because The kind smile of a friend, The simple sigh of one I love, The joy that invades my heart From seeing the pure joy of my granddaughter Or the soft, proud smile of her mother These make my life rich. I am pulled from poverty of spirit To the rich, full embrace of life By little things. And so, I resolve To offer what little things I can To life, To You, And, so, to the world. I give my offering As a ‘yes’ to the center That gives its life to me.
These hold me here, in time.
These still my soul.
These hold me true.
Why then do I hurry past the moments of opportunity?
Why does my heart keep turning aside
To gaze at the plastic trinkets scattered on the path
Or run to hide from the angry voices shouted in the air?
How do I let myself get distracted again, again, again?
I turn to run and find myself stumbling into you.
You have been standing there, waiting for me.
I cry out again and release myself into your arms.
And you take me in.
You sit me down upon the grass.
I lean myself upon your frame.
And sigh a tearful, stuttering sigh.
You place your hand upon my shoulder
And whisper in my ear, “Here, here.”
Not ‘there, there,’ as I might expect,
But ‘here, here.’
And that with that brief turn of phrase,
My heart takes its breath and turns, as well.
And I am, for just a moment, here.
Here – the only place I can really be right now.
‘There’ is only fantasy,
A wishful, fearful, fitful web,
Sticky with false promises.
Here. Here within your arms.
Here and nowhere else.
Here for just a breath.
Here, here, is life.
How long, oh Lord?
How long will it take
For us to show your mercy,
For us to live into your grace?
Like a Mother,
Bending over her young child,
You wait for our first stumbling steps
You wait for us to wake
With the compassion
You have placed within our hearts.
You wait with eager longing.
It seems you cannot compel our hearts
Without negating who we are.
We must learn to hear your call
And move ourselves toward you.
And yet, our eyes are turned away
From your dear face.
We let ourselves be filled with fear
And the anger that it breeds.
Our leaders curse and blame and fume.
We follow their example,
Letting their anger spark our own.
We yield to fear over faith.
Its hard to take that step
When we listen to the torrent of words
That flow from angry mouths
Feeding that anger and fear.
But deep within my heart,
When I am still, when I am quiet,
I think I hear you whisper,
‘One step, my child, one step.’
‘You learn to walk
By looking at my face
Not at your feet,
Nor at your fear.’
‘You learn by reaching for my hands.
You learn to walk by falling.
And by getting up.
And taking one more step.’
Help me to learn to walk toward justice.
[I need to acknowledge that my white privilege stains my words and shields me from much of the risk of striving for justice. Yet the guilt and shame and fear that are my first reactions to the dawning realization of my complicity are not the motivations that will best help to change my heart or my actions. Such emotions keep the focus on me. Instead, I need to keep my eyes and my heart focused on Christ, who shows himself in the oppressed and marginalized people around me.]
It is a wiry monster,
This system of oppression,
Who keeps his knee upon the neck
Of those deemed less than me.
The monster dons the authority
Of state-endorsed might
Choosing to enforce white-rightness
At the cost of life, of liberty,
Of full community.
It presumes my innocence
At the very moment it presumes
That a jogger in the wrong place
With the wrong color skin
Is somehow a thief of what is mine.
It presumes white property
Is worth more
Than black or brown lives,
Even when that property
Was gained through advantage.
Even as those same lives are put at risk
To deliver whatever I want to my doorstep
Or clean the hospital rooms
Or provide the doctor’s care.
It presumes that violence is justified
Whenever resistance is expressed,
Seeing resistance to authority as an affront
Even when it is the authority, itself,
That is the monster’s tool.
It presumes, because I am white,
I will not stop to see these truths.
Indeed, my hasty assertions of innocence
Make it hard for me to wake
To my very real complicity with the monster.
It whispers conflicting messages in my heart,
Trying to confuse and silence me.
It tells me of my ‘right’ to privilege
Even as it claims I have no ‘right’
to speak out against oppression
Because I am white and I couldn’t really know.
The monster claims that the words of resistance
From a white mouth
Must somehow be wrong, and so I must sit still.
And it is true, I do not know
The full expression of life – and death – beneath that knee.
But the truth of this monster’s presence
Can no longer be denied.
And I must acknowledge my complicity,
Even though my words are not free from the monster’s stain.
My silence would be worse.
It is not about finding the right words,
Or somehow erasing the stain upon my soul
Through (even if sincere) confession.
It is about finally seeing the truth,
Recognizing the monster’s web around me,
Acknowledging its tentacles around my heart.
It is about the unbelievably slow process
That will finally break the monster’s grip.
Somehow we must begin to see that our society
Is built upon the twin pillars of privilege and oppression.
It is not the ‘great’ society we’ve touted,
But the very failure of our hopes and dreams.
The presumption of superiority
Is proof enough of the lie.
And so I repent my complicity
And I praise the stalwart faith and hope
Of those who fight for a different way,
And have fought for centuries
In the face of this evil.
I pledge my feeble voice
To the deep melody of grace and strength
Sung by the black and brown elders of the struggle,
Raised by the brave, young protesters,
Following their lead toward true community,
Where, at last, they, too can breathe.
Oh, God, forgive me.
Oh, God, empower them.
Oh, God, our God,
I keep thinking that I’m stuck
With a do-it-yourself kit for salvation.
It’s not turning out so well.
As much as I’d like to fix myself,
I just don’t seem to have the right tools
Or even (deep sigh) initiative.
(I’ve lost the excuse that I don’t have the time.)
So, I sit here, with pieces-parts
Scattered across the table.
They fit together awkwardly.
There seem to be pieces missing,
And pieces that don’t fit.
And pieces that I’d like to hide.
I beat my head with my fist.
(Gently, of course.)
That’s when I hear your chuckle.
You sit down beside me and survey the scene.
You sort through the pieces
And carefully polish a small glass bead between your fingers.
“This one is for Tasha,” you say quietly,
And place it in your pocket.
I’m taken aback.
I want to grab it back from you.
“How dare you take this part of what is mine?”
You give me a look that takes my breath, as well.
I am appalled by those words
As they tumble from my mouth.
I want to stuff them back inside,
But that’s been the problem all along –
Those things I hold inside so deep
That I can deny they are a part of me.
So I revert to whining.
“I am already incomplete …
How can I possibly afford to lose more?”
My self-pity tumbles out,
And sits writhing on the table.
She scuttles to the far edge
Scooping scattered pieces into a pile.
She hovers protectively over them,
Shifting from foot to foot.
You shake your head and pick up another piece.
“This one is for Jorge. See how it bears his name?
And this one is for Raymond.
And, ah, Rachel needs this bit, just here.”
I sit with my mouth open and my hands trembling.
Self-pity reflects the horror in my heart,
Tearing at her hair and fretting to herself.
Will you take it all?
Will I be left with nothing?
My fear, which has been hiding under the table,
Clambers out into the light.
She is followed by the large and lumpy shape
Of my disdain, who turns her eyes toward me
And shakes her head with deep revulsion.
This project has fallen into disarray
And taken me with it.
But you sit beside me, unperturbed.
My cadre of false friends do not distract you.
You clear a small area on the table
And give me an encouraging smile.
From another pocket, you take a small stone.
It is an opal, small and deeply luminescent.
“Brenda sent this to you, knowing how you’d love it,”
You say, as you place it before me.
It wakes the tiny Hope within me.
She comes forward to hold the stone quietly to her heart,
Whispering her thanks, admiring its soft colors.
Then she wanders to the pile guarded by Self-pity
And finds a small seedling, ready for planting.
“Brenda would know just where this one would grow,”
She says and brings it to you.
“Do you think you could get it to her?”
You nod and Hope is joined by Delight.
These are the better angels of my nature.
In their hands, and yours, my project is transformed.
I thought it was a do-it-yourself kit.
All these pieces scattered across my table
Are but signs of your abundance,
An invitation to do-it-together.
You did, of course.
And, when I make room,
I do, too.
This day, let me be
A vector for kindness,
A conduit of grace,
An instigator of joy.
Let me pass on
The infectious love
That flows from your heart
Into all the world.
This day, let me turn my fear
Into a grateful and gracious dance.
Let me learn that your touch
Is the touch that heals.
When my soul begins to itch with impatience,
Let me feel the movement of your grace
And join a flow that can unite us all
Even at a distance.
There is a quantum entanglement
That runs throughout the universe
And you … and I … are caught, as one,
In that choreography of deepest love.
Too often I start my day
With a list of things to do …
Or to do better.
I wake to ‘the first day
Of the rest of my life,’
And immediately try to remake it
In the shadow of yesterday’s errors.
I thrum my soul
With guilt or regret
For what was done poorly
Or not done at all.
I look to the future
But the windows are coated
With a film
Of leftover shoulds.
Guilt, you know,
Is really a poor motivator,
Though it is often the whip
Of first resort.
Instead of trying to fix,
I could learn to bless?
What if I could learn
To focus on the beauty,
Rather than the flaws?
What if I could wake
With a heart that is grateful
And full of blessing?
Now, there’s an idea.
Maybe I should fix that flaw …
Maybe I should add ‘gratitude’
To my list of things to do better.
AAAUGH! Another should!
But it makes me chuckle
And that might just be enough
To break the spell.
Satan is the Hebrew word
For ‘the accuser.’
True for me.
Today, at least,
I leave his curse behind.
And enter this day
With the blessing of beauty.
And I am grateful.
When I remember
To give you the first fruits of my morning,
When I turn my mind, my heart,
First to your call,
Silencing the pull of other voices,
That is when my heart finds home.
Why, then, do I neglect this turning?
Who needs to know?
These questions just delay the turning.
It’s not about fixing me.
It’s about finding you.
So … I tilt my head,
I tilt my heart,
And there you are.
I hear what I cannot quite hear.
I know what I cannot really know.
I find, despite my fears,
That I do believe in you.
I believe just enough to cuddle my soul
Within your whisper.
I believe just enough to breathe with you.
In and out,
We exchange the thread of life.
In and out,
You cleanse my heart of dread,
And seed my hope.
And so these three arrive with my turning
Faith, hope, and love.
Your love, of course, is what evokes my own.
And mine must follow, once I turn and see.
Good morning, Holy One.