The Woods on Easter Morning

[Image description: Old, faded beech leaves, paper-thin and clinging to a branch, with new leaf buds visible]

Last year’s beech leaves,
green-glow faded,
clinging ghostlike now
where tomorrow’s leaves bud,
waiting to unfurl,

reminding me somehow
of hand-me-down World Books,
once neatly lined on grandfather’s shelf,
faux-leather binding brimming
with yesterday’s meaning for words,

like the second-hand prayers
meant for our forefathers
and the scriptures that gloss over women—
their contributions, their names, their very existence—
to paint a man’s world for us all.

We’re supposed to learn the written words,
acquire the knowledge,
strive for perfection,
become more logical,
stick to the facts as told
with only one side in mind.

But my soul wants to
sit, unhurried,
considering birds
and lilies
and beech leaves,
in all their glorious beauty,
watching them
give it all away.

As lovely as I find translucent
remnants fluttering
in early Spring’s chill-tinged breeze
and the nostalgia
of leafing through old encyclopedias,

I long for Mother Earth’s wisdom,
the understanding hidden within
the trees they cut down
to make those shiny-edged pages.

I need the knowing that emerges
from standing under new leaves
while they are soaking in sunlight,
photosynthesizing,
transforming energy
to create new growth.

I want to give them my exhalation
and drink in theirs until
my marrow
and bones
and lungs
and spirit
take root in
new revelations
and ancient truths, renewed.

I’ve fought to wrestle my life from the grip
of lies and outdated half-truths
that make me less made in God’s Image
for having two X chromosomes
and fought equally hard to
find full truths

and I am weary,
wearing thin and papery,
tired of clinging and
unsure if I believe in resurrection,

but longing
to know what happens
when I give up fighting—
for or against—
and just let go.

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.

Hunger Moon

[Image Description: Black and white photo of the moon with some tree branches in the foreground. (This photo was actually take the day before the full moon, as we had rain here on the night of the full moon that prevented me from capturing a good photo.)]

Yesterday’s full moon,
the Hunger Moon,
brought to mind
words from scripture
that tell us those who
hunger and thirst for righteousness
will be blessed.

A wise teacher taught me
a way to think of righteousness is
“to be in right relationship,”
one of the most helpful
teachings I’ve heard in a sermon.

Endless possibilities
for the co-creation of
right relationship—
the earth,
our community,
our neighbor,
the tree outside the window,
the cashier at the supermarket,
the technology we use,
the entertainment we consume—
everyone and everything
we interact with
has potential.

But do we
hunger for that?

Robin Wall Kimmerer
tells us her people,
the Anishinaabe,
called this moon the
Hunger Moon because
“the snow is too deep
and the deer are gone
and the caches are empty…
After too many days,
desperation is the only soup.”

It’s easy to imagine this,
living close to the land and
despite storing up for winter,
running out of resources in the
relentless dormancy of February.

What is difficult to reconcile,
in our times of over-production
to feed over-consumption,
is how many
still live in the shadows
cast by the Hunger Moon,
with desperation their only soup.

How far we are,
as a culture,
from righteousness,
right relationship.

Kimmerer writes
the Anishinaabe
told their children tales of
the Windigo,
a human-turned-monster
who consumes voraciously
to the detriment of all,
without ever being satiated,
to ensure they knew
the dangers of selfishness and excess.

The Hunger Moon
brings reminders
if we pause to ponder,
that we can choose the path
of righteousness,
to live in right relationship,
to hunger together to co-create a reality
where everyone can have
food and safety and joy and enough.

Or we can choose to follow the path
of the Windigo
where all that matters
is our own hunger for more
and what we are able
to consume.

References to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s work are all taken from her book Braiding Sweetgrass, specifically the chapter ‘Windigo Footprints.’ I highly recommend.

Eve

[Image Description: Close-up of ice crystals formed over a body of water]

A woman wrote
my local, small-town paper
to blame women
for what ails
our communities.

Men, she wrote,
have vacated
responsibilities and
their rightful place
because women
have forgotten they
were created equal—
equal, but in the special role of helper—
created for men,
but now want to be like men,
act like they are better than men.

About half the population
to blame
for all the problems.

Swift, visceral reaction
upon reading,
rage-typing
uncharitable responses
in my head for days.

I’ve deleted those lines
one-by-one,
realizing this is yet another retelling of
the old myth
I’ve heard since childhood:
All that’s wrong is Eve’s fault
and by default
all women
blamed.

Told enough times,
layer upon layer,
until myth
is frozen,
impenetrable.

Anger at this woman subsiding,
remembering misogynistic,
female-critical,
woman-blaming
narratives I internalized for years.

So much invested in making scapegoats
believe they’re at fault
until no one will question
oppressive structures,
abusive institutions,
off-balance relationships,
cis-male-dominated
everything.

It takes time and wrestling
to purge the narrative that if
women do anything “wrong,”
men could not possibly do
anything right,
to see that
treating women merely as a helper to men
objectifies,
claims they exist to serve a function
like a possession,
and are not
a unique expression
of the divine image,
of the stardust from which their atoms were formed,
of the breath God breathed into their lungs.

Treating men as merely
head of household providers
reduces them to a role,
like they are just a job,
and not a unique expression
of the divine image,
of the stardust from which their atoms were formed,
of the breath God breathed into their lungs.

And this binary trope treats anyone who is not
one half of husband-and-wife,
man-and-woman relationship,
as absent,
ignoring the truth that
there are spectrums of experience,
identity,
relationship,
and not everyone fits neatly
into boxes and roles,
nor wants to,
and they are each just as much a
unique expression
of the divine image,
of the stardust from which their atoms were formed,
of the breath God breathed into their lungs.

I can’t free that woman
and others like her
by railing against.

But there is a beautiful invitation,
a wild song,
a burden lifted,
out here where
Eve is not a condemnation
but our guide
to a vast, spacious wilderness
where we co-create with God
new ways of being
that don’t include
taking responsibility
for everyone else’s actions.