Finding

[Image description: Blue sky filled with billowy white clouds, behind a line of trees, with a field of grass and wildflowers in the foreground.]

In what some consider
heretical musings,
dangerous thinking,
playing with fire
on slippery slopes,
asking for censure,

I find space for questions unwelcome
within either/or constructs
of other people’s god.

I find insights
previously obscured
by certainty that stifled
doubts along with creativity.

I find explorations
and longings
formerly restricted
to a certain collection of words.

I find companions
willing to clasp hands,
jump,
free fall,
enjoy the vastness,
the beauty,
the tenderness,
the wild wilderness
that beckons within,
that knows without seeing,
that new life is what we’ll find.

Wary

[Image description: dirt path through a woods with green undergrowth on either side, sunlight streaming through the trees.]

Wary of myself these days,
unsure if I’m sculpting feelings into words
or shaping words around my feelings.

Knowing letting go
creates a void that’s hard to name
in someone else’s terms.

Inhaling, try to conjure
semblance of truth
from fragments of what’s lost.

Sitting in the silence
that I once thought of as God
and finding

hesitation,
exhalation,
invitation

to new words
to save my own soul
from paths that aren’t for me.

Normal

[Image Description: Shadowed canyon walls on either side of a river, blue sky, rock formations, and light from the rising sun in the background.]

Well, thank goodness we’re getting back to normal
as evidenced everywhere we go.

Regulations disregarded even before they’re even lifted
it all feels so normal now, doesn’t it?

As if three and a half million people have not died
of a pandemic made worse by refusal to act for mutual protection.

As if entire communities didn’t get sucked into a cesspool of conspiracy
or refuse to give a damn about their neighbors while fawning over unethical politicians.

As if children are not being killed in their own homes
by bombs and guns funded by world governments.

As if people are not dying, starving, fleeing devastation caused by destructive policy,
only to be caged on the borders of the countries that caused the most harm.

As if our tax dollars are not being used to kill and imprison and oppress
while the instruments of oppression are heralded as heroes.

As if rights of protest, votes, and safety aren’t being gleefully stripped from the vulnerable
at the manipulation of the rich and powerful.

As if people aren’t losing people, losing homes, losing peace, while being called lazy and selfish
for not sacrificing all on the altar of the economy for others’ convenience.

As if water and trees and the earth herself are not being ravaged
and her protectors are not cheated, brutalized for corporate gain.

As if Christians don’t worship corrupt, abusive men and follow them blindly
down a path that is nothing like the love of Christ.

As if there is nothing to grieve, nothing to morn, nothing to learn from,
no reason for pause or grace.

As if everything is fine, so totally fine, nothing to see here, everything is so, so normal
as long as you spend your money, demand service and subservience to your whims.

As if normal has not always been this tragic, trauma-filled ruin
that only those with privilege can pretend not to see.

As if those whose eyes are open don’t have the power to imagine and co-create
and bring about a better way than normal.

Good Friday

[Image description: Sun shining on a tree, with a fallen tree trunk suspended in front, making the shape of a cross.]

Reducing a life
to the circumstances of death,
suffering and dying,
out of context.

Obscuring, glossing over
compassion, contemplation,
commiserating, challenging,
and years showing Women,

Sex workers,
Immigrants,
Outcasts,
Rebels,

“You are beloved.
You are so, deeply and fully loved.”

Pretending the rich and
religious were peripheral,
that he wasn’t
also telling them

“You are beloved.
And so are they. Live accordingly.”

Month after month, sharing the good wine,
soothing the old wounds,
building unlikely community,
and always, always listening to the voice of Love.

Always, always asking others
to hear it too.

Is the cross the best distillation
to encompass this wild freedom,
this unwavering love,
this gift of a life

poured out
at tables,
in streets,
in temples?

Or is it an idol, an excuse,
a mere symbol we point to
so we can say his death was the key
that absolves us

of living
the life he showed us.

Abyss

[Image description: bare trees and my silhouette reflected in an icy, leaf-lined puddle]

“The Word became flesh and lived among us”
always compelled me to stay or return,
whenever I wondered if my religion was still my home.
God with us, among us, example for us,
living wisdom and healing and love
for all.

Unsure if it’s cumulative, years spent watching
abuse excused, hatred glorified, blatant disregard,
or the breaking straw of a man using Christian teaching
to justify taking women’s lives.
Either way, I’m overwhelmed with wondering
why I stay, if I’ll stay, or if I’ll leave once and
for all.

Wondering,
if many my religion elevates to power,
puts in charge, promotes, allows to represent,
are nothing like God-with-us,
how I will reconcile these contradictions, and if I can
at all.

Wondering
why “acceptable” white women stay, why we do this dance
where we allow ourselves treated as less than men,
and more egregiously, trade sisterhood for proximity to power,
allowing non-white women or
not-assigned-female-at-birth women or
women who would marry women
to be treated like they are barely human
at all.

Wondering
if by staying I am assenting to, participating in this harm.
Even when I qualify with “not like that” or “not that kind,”
it seems impossible there is not guilt, not responsibility
I must bear for association with
it all.

Wondering
if I’m always on the outside, trying to make exceptions,
taking issue with everything from the conduct to the canon to the creeds,
at what point am I by-default excluded, already not a part,
clinging to false hope of redemption for
it all.

Wondering
how long I can live insisting “God is not a man,”
questioning status quo, leaders, and traditions
with my heart in my throat or on my sleeve
and the nagging suspicion its never
in the right place for the establishment
at all.

Wondering
where this goes and where I’ll end,
if this is another dark night
that transforms and returns me home
or if it’s the abyss between
God is not that religion
and
God is not
at all.

Confession for Morning Prayer

[Image description; morning sunlight streaming through an early spring woods, with blue skies and a small creek visible]

Spirit of mercy,
we often neglect to be merciful
with ourselves and with each other.
Our thoughts, words, and deeds
fail to reflect loving kindness
and we cause harm
to our neighbors, our own lives, and the earth.
We are grieved by this separation
and set our intention toward
healing, compassion, and right relationship
with ourselves, our community,
and the more-than-human world.
Source of love and goodness,
buoy us as we reorient to you,
that we may be restored and bring restoration,
be joyful and bring joy,
and walk in the ways of truth and reconciliation.

And may the knowledge
that we are never separated from eternal love
strengthen us, center us, and
keep us connected to the source of life.

Amen.

Water

Sunday school fruit of the Spirit
seemed like rewards
for being Christian enough
to memorize them.

Like badges acquired,
displayed on a chest sash,
or niceties, gathered then divvied—
some for them, some for him, one for her.

Makes for a quick lesson,
simple coloring page,
perhaps an easy-to-distribute
fruit cup snack.

But I wish they had told us
the fruit of the Spirit is deep water,
welling up, nourishing,
running over.

Love flowing, never failing
Joy, awash in gratitude.
Peace, inner stillness, surfacing.
Patience, river of compassion, enduring.

Kindness, care rippling ever outward.
Generosity, abundance overflowing.
Faithfulness, steadfast tide.
Gentleness, drawing from a tender heart.

Wisdom, Spirit hovering,
ever present,
replenishing,
growing,
and we
do not know
how.

Or

[Image Description: My shadow projected on a blank wall]

don’t worry.
this wasn’t racist.

sometimes some men just have a bad day
and kill some women.

the sacredness of multiple identities, dismissed.
justification so nonchalant.

feels like there is no humanity
behind that badge.

i am on fire, every cell,
and thoroughly benumbed.

is this rage?
or grief?

searing flames bursting outward?
or ice crystals encroaching on my heart?

frenetic, flailing backlash?
or being swallowed whole?

on the brink of avalanche if I try to give it voice?
or stupefied, barely breathing?

both, it seems.
and they know this:

non-white people deserve safety.
women are not disposable.

feels like no one who can
change the deadly falsehoods, will.

To Jane

[Image description: Sun setting over a parking lot, with a small tree in the foreground]

I’ve thought of you more often than usual
these past few days,
most recently in a conversation on race and sexuality
where I shared ideas you taught me.

Later, I walked in the woods feeling
grateful to you for your generous wisdom.
Sad I couldn’t remember the day, I looked it up.
Four years ago this month

it was cold and I was sitting in the car
outside a rundown gymnasium in a nearby town
where one of my kids was
practicing soccer.

First one, then another,
there on social media,
posts saying you were gone.
It was sudden, unexpected.

Folks I only knew online,
sharing about you, who I only knew online,
all connected as participants in a weekly Twitter chat
on queer theology

that taught me not to relinquish
my faith to something smaller,
not to surrender divinity to
those who would diminish it,

not to abandon mystery
to those who want to contain it,
not to resign myself
to traditions that no longer fit.

Your joy and big heart reaching me
all the way from the west coast
and soon we were sharing recipes
and discussing our latest eco-friendly swaps.

I watched the way you interacted
with people who didn’t have your understanding
in a way that made them wish they did,
a kind-hearted, fierce way that taught the rest of us so much.

From you I learned how easy it is to miss
harmful isms and phobias that can pervade
even seemingly good causes when I’m not their target.
And to be always learning, always listening to those who are.

So often I’ve done my best to highlight something problematic
in a way that honors your legacy, saying,
“My friend Jane helped me understand…”
Other times I find myself thinking, “Jane would love this.”

I wish I could send you reusable glass straws
because they are far better than stainless.
I wish I could meet you in person and that all the people
who love you weren’t going into their fifth year without you.

I know I am both a better person for having connected with you
and still have far to go in all the learning you helped inspire me to pursue.
I miss your presence and your friendship, Jane.
And I thank you for your light.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Note: I took the photo above right before I found out about Jane’s passing, and posted it the next day with the following caption: “Sunset last night while I was waiting at soccer, right before I found out my beautiful friend Jane passed away that afternoon. I never had the chance to meet her in person, but she was a wise and loving soul who I admired and learned so much from. I will miss her insight and compassion, and remember her for her fierce devotion to the friends and family she held dear, her passionate care for LGBTQ youth and others from marginalized communities, and her appreciation for the art of cooking. May the many mourning her passing be comforted by the love and light she shared with all of us.

Revelation

[Image description: Ice crystals formed on a creek bed]

They say anger is hot,
burning, scorching, searing,

yet I was taught there is no expression suitable,
no outlet acceptable.

Don’t be so intense,
so dramatic,

you’ll hurt someone’s feelings,
make them uncomfortable,

better your own discomfort
than theirs.

Learn to freeze the lava-hot fury inside
so no one else ever gets burned.

Say something nice
or nothing at all,

whatever you do,
don’t act angry.

Your anger is a waste of time,
of energy,

a sin,
will change nothing.

Just stand there, frozen,
and don’t make a scene.

What a farce.
I see now.

Those messages were fear of what could change
if my refusal to accept what is

is unleashed.