Within One Flower

Life and Death WM

Those horrible shows,
loathsome portrayals,
at our worst.

The glory of ugliness,
violence, hate, death,
only self.

Others as objects,
to be groped or killed,
mostly both.

I sob.

 

Those horrible souls,
our human leaders,
real people.

Hurting others, self,
compassionless works,
for power.

“For me! For mine! Us!
But not for those ones,
they are evil!”

I ache.

 

Is this how it is?
Is this how we are?
Imperfect.

Fallible. Hateful.
Doomed in disregard.
Abhorrent!

Is this our essence?
Must we die hating?
Our nature?

I sigh.

 

Nature replies, “Look!”
Extravagantly,
life springs.

Glorious joy speaks,
we’re naturally,
beautiful.

Greens, purples, yellow!
Abundant red & blues!
Colors sing!

I hope.

 

But, death, pain, win-lose,
storms, quakes, heat, eaten.
Our Ecosystem.

Colors sing and fade,
joy comes, goes, returns,
life and death.

This is how it is.
Good, evil, hurt, joy.
Love and hope.

I see.

 

Within one flower,
budding, wounds, and death,
and rebirth!

In each life is love,
suffering, trauma,
and deep loss.

Grief, joy, grace each come,
brokenness wants Hate,
it will call.

I choose.

 

Just like the flower,
fiend and saint within,
Choice abounds!

Inside one human,
pain, healing, joy, love,
I can dance!

Within one flower,
both bud and wilt charm,
beautify.

I can, too.

___

Photo: Life & Death, 2017 © Tim Graves
Poem: Within One Flower, 2017 © Tim Graves

 

 

Wholeness

My wife had an outpatient procedure. The first time I accompanied her to one of these procedures, I was left in the curtained prep and recovery area when she went into the surgical unit. And I stayed. And I fretted. Alone, beneath fluorescent bulbs I cried. I worried. I played out the worst in my head. I barely resisted dumping my panicky feelings on my daughter via text.

This time, I wandered downstairs, bought an apple, and found the hospital’s Healing Garden. The warm summer sun warmed my spirit as I wandered the Healing Garden and chomped on my apple. As I admired the floral symphony, I wasn’t alone this time. The Holy Spirit touched my worries, acknowledged them but reminded me of the love that flowed through doctor’s fingers, nurse’s skills, and anesthesiologist’s watchfulness.

 

Tiny PerfectionWMSunburstWMJoy IncarnateWM

Around the Bend

Around the BendWM

Yes,
as you say,
summertime often fills the water with voices.

But around the bend,
I reply,
that is where my eardrums cease to tingle.

And in the silence,
I am Gaia,
creator and creation.

Without tingling ears,
plastics or steel,
we are all one, interconnected.

Nevertheless, She Persisted

Text Mark 6:31-34 & Mark 7:24-30

screenshot-2017-02-14-06-38-05

  • I love my dog.
    • under covers
    • kiss his head
  • Dogs were not pets
    • “Dogs, a highly insulting name, dogs were regarded as shameless and unclean” (Jewish Annotated NT)
    • rats?
  • Region of Tyre
    • Gentile area bordering Judea
    • “potentially hostile”

Nevertheless, he persisted.

  • Meets Syrophoenician woman
    • Gentile?
    • approaching a man?
    • her daughter is sick

Nevertheless, she persisted.

The woman was Greek, Syrophoenician by birth. She begged Jesus to throw the demon out of her daughter.  27  He responded, “The children have to be fed first. It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Mark 7:26-27 CEB

  • Jesus says heal the Jews.
    • says in derogatory way
  • Possible interpretations of Jesus’ actions
    • ignore context and think of our own pets
    • misogynist
    • xenophobe “Make Judea Great Again”
    • testing her
      • hostile?
      • worthy?
  • seizing a teachable moment
    • use of “dogs” plays into Jews’ biases
    • good news is for all

He responded, “The children have to be fed first. It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Mark 7:27 CEB

We need to take care of Americans first. It isn’t right to take the bread and toss it to the refugees and immigrants.

  • Jesus has laid his trap.
    • On to him,
      • Nevertheless, she persisted.

“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Mark 7:28 CEB

  • Story has turned
  • Jesus reveals his point
    • Jesus heals her daughter
      • when she persists
      • tho she’s not Jewish
      • tho she’s a she
    • The kingdom of God is for everyone

and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. 31  The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 CEB

***

  • Condon UCC criticized
    • too inclusive
      • LGBT
      • women
      • black lives
      • immigrants
    • too loving
    • not Christian

Nevertheless, you persisted.

  • Your faith is palpable
    • resist an inward focus
      • But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness… Matthew 6:33 NRSV
    • be active in your faith
      • My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? 
      • Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? James 2:14 CEB
  • You have big decisions & challenges
    • Nevertheless, you will persist.

I leave you with the words of the apostle Paul writing to the Philippian church,

I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I’m thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy. I’m glad because of the way you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel from the time you first believed it until now.  I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6 CEB

Amen.

__

This was my final sermon at the Condon United Church of Christ, delivered Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017.

89 Going on 90

greatsDrip. Drip. Drip.
The tears come.
Sobs burst forth.

Dad is in the hospital.
Again. And I’m so far away.
Phones. Texts. Not the same.

He’ll be heading home.
A new diagnosis: worry with a name.
But. Again?!!?

Aging. Loving. Living.
Life is hard.
Life is connecting.

Clinging. Crying. Worrying.
Embedded, oozing fears of loss.
Fears of impermanence, reality.

Drip. Drip. Healing tears dry.
Be still. The divine is here.
Extravagant love is always.

 

The Journey of 1000 Miles Begins

Beckoning Trail. © Tim Graves
Beckoning Trail. © Tim Graves

I was disappointed that I was unable to significantly exceed my goal, a goal that seemed insurmountable a year ago. I recall saying as I signed up for the challenge, “I may not make it but I can try, can’t I?” I ran 1000 kilometers last year. (Actually, 1037k which is equivalent to 644 miles.)

Running 1000 kilometers in a year was a significant accomplishment for this fifty-seven year old man. I didn’t win any races (or run more than one) but I cannot forget the feelings of accomplishment intertwined with physical exhaustion on that hot summer morning when I ran 13.31 miles in less than two hours. For non-runners, that’s a half-marathon. That’s better than a nine minute mile.

So, why was I disappointed that I did not significantly exceed my 1000k goal?  I think my disappointment was tangled up with my injury discouragement. Between mid-September and late December I was on an injury-enforced hiatus. I lost one-quarter of the year to an injury I didn’t see coming. It felt like a personal attack.

Running continues to teach me about balance. It teaches me about being.

My natural inclination is to do, do, do, and do. Until exhausted. This inclination is something akin to a compulsion but is also a learned behavior. As a child, I absorbed the internal belief that my value as a human being is related to what I do. This is a “works theology” in which hard work gets us love.

My journey over the last decade has enabled me to be more and to do less, but my embedded inclination is still a powerful force. Yes, hard work can and often is a good thing but it is not the source of my worth. It is not the source of love. Love is only love if it is given freely and without strings of expectations.

And I love running!

I love running! (To be sure, I hate running during the first mile or two of every run but after that, I love running.) I love running under the big skies of rural eastern Oregon. I love running along Portland’s suburban footpaths. I love running in the rain! And I’m learning to love running in the cold.

Running requires balance. I must pay attention to my body. Like my faith that dictates a regular sabbath, running requires rest days. It requires time for adequate recovery between runs. It requires pacing and kindness to myself when my body and, sometimes even my spirit, needs a day off.

When I miss my body’s signals, my body can become injured.  My love of running allowed me to push myself too hard through the summer months. It was time for a vacation. A week or two off from running before my injury might have prevented the long healing period at the end of last year.

Running is metaphor. Just as my body needed a break to prevent physical injury, something I failed to give it, our spirits need rest. When I fail to take adequate sabbath or insist that hard work will get me more love or prove my worth, I am harming my spirit just as I injured a tendon in mid-September.

Goals like my 1000k goal last year serve a purpose. It is reasonable to set goals that require effort and provide purpose. However, goals and New Year’s resolutions can cause us to harm ourselves. If the goal becomes more important than ourselves and the people around us, we fail to be who we are created to be.

Yes, I was disappointed but I am learning. I am learning to be. This year, I’ve set a personal goal of running 1000 miles (equivalent to 1609k). In addition to the distance goal, I commit to paying closer attention to my pacing, not just the speed I move but to take weeks off here and there to rest my body.

Because running is metaphor, I also commit to the 1000 mile journey of the new year by pacing myself. I will take care of my spirit, taking adequate sabbath and vacation to avoid injury to my core, my soul.

In That Moment

contemplative-afternoon2wm

Morning fog,
clouds hanging close,
the damp breath of God clings.

Truck starts, car glides,
delivering God’s people,
and the meeting house comes alive.

The joyful noise,
melodies & catching up,
fill the upside down boat.

Last hymn,
last coffee and cookie,
quiet descends as the last door closes.

Fog gone, sunshine out,
the celestial movement,
reveals itself through the shards of color.

In that moment,
I enter finding the healing,
embracing warmth of sacred hues.

Fire Crackles

fireFire crackles,
smokiness wafts up & about,
tickling my nostrils.

Dog breathes,
in and out, in & out,
body heat against my leg.

Songs play,
sadness, love, & hope permeate,
reminding my synapses.

Heart moves,
past, present, & future,
divinely intertwining.

Tears form,
puddling upon skin,
the Holy Spirit nourishes.