Life's Sharp Turns

That each step / may be a shedding.
That you will let yourself / become lost.
That when it looks / like you're going backwards
you may be making progress.
That progress is not the goal anyway, / but presence
to the feel of the path on your skin, / to the way it reshapes you
in each place it makes contact, / to the way you cannot see it
until the moment you have stepped out.
“Walking Blessing” by Jan Richardson

I am grateful and indebted to the many of you who helped me put together our congregational proposal for the Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program. I will be taking my pastoral sabbatical from May-August 2020, and this grant application was quite an invigorating undertaking. I am truly excited by the potential of our project, “Labyrinth Walking: Integrative Journeys of Renewal.” As I researched and thought about the spiritual possibilities of labyrinth walking, I discovered that there are 150 labyrinths within a 50 mile radius of my home. Amazing!

And then the day after I submitted all the various components of the application, I was taking Clivie to his martial arts class. We were a little early, and so we decided to walk for a little while along Lake Merritt. We watched the birds, climbed trees, and enjoyed the sun. And as we walked back to our car, there next to us on the trail . . . was one of those 150 labyrinths! This labyrinth was dug deeply into the ground so that the sides of the path made little raised hills. I immediately understood this surprising synchronicity as an invitation, and I started walking the path. Clivie, on the other hand, started jumping over the path from hill to hill. And before we left, a young man on a mountain bike started riding the twisting path on his bike. At one point, we almost ran into each other. I stepped out of the way; he apologized. And I said, “Wow! This must be great practice for mountain biking.” And he said, “Yeah, the best. There’s nothing like learning to navigate these sharp turns. . . .”

Truly, our different spiritualities may call us to approach life’s sharp turns differently, but we are all called to the journey. And it is a gift to be on this journey with you.

See you in church,

Who Do I Trust?

It may astonish you / how quietly this blessing / arrives.
No hammering / at the door. / No chiming / of the bell.
It has given / no warning, / sent no message/ in advance,
yet with a suddenness / that somehow comes / as no surprise,
it is there / on the doorstep / of your heart.
Peer out, / and you will see / this blessing is no stranger.
You already know / every word / it has come to say.
I am merely here / to tell you / how this blessing / is a remembering,
a returning; / how it asks of you / what you already long / to do:
open / open / open.
—“Blessing to Open the Heart” by Jan Richardson

While Jesus was experiencing temptation in the wilderness during the opening week of Lent, I got to thinking: Who do I trust? Who do I trust for my nourishment? Who do I trust with my service? Who do I trust to love and care for me?

Now, there are messages surrounding all of us, tempting us to believe that we can meet our own needs, and we can do it alone; we really don’t need anyone else. But I simply don’t believe that. I need to invest my trust. I need to believe that I am not running around in this world all alone. I need to trust and believe that I am God’s beloved child—that I am worthy of nourishment and grace, love and care. And I need to trust and believe that the service I am called to offer can actually make a difference in the world. Quite simply, I truly believe that God is with us—Emmanuel. I truly believe that God’s grace bubbles forth from the bedrock of our lives with water that sustains and blessings that endure. We all go through trying times in the wilderness, just like Jesus did, but even in the most difficult of those times, we are not alone.

See you in church,

Where are we placing our treasure?

Did you rise this morning, / broken and hung over
with weariness and pain / and rage tattered from waving too long in a brutal wind?
Get up, child. / Pull your bones upright / gather your skin and muscle into a patch of sun.
Draw breath deep into your lungs; / you will need it
for another day calls to you. / I know you ache.
I know you wish the work were done / and you
with everyone you have ever loved / were on a distant shore
safe, and unafraid. / But remember this, / tired as you are:
you are not alone.
Here / and here / and here also
there are others weeping / and rising / and gathering their courage.
You belong to them / and they to you / and together,
we will break through / and bend the arc of justice
all the way down / into our lives.
“Prayer for the Morning” by Audette Fulbright Fulson

I spent this morning on the picket line outside Clivie’s school in Oakland, Piedmont Avenue Elementary School. This year being his first year in school, I am getting a crash course in all things Oakland and all things public resources. In other words, I have been schooled first hand in the devastatingly political ways public resources are diverted from the greatest needs in our communities—and reserved for those who already have more than they need. This myopic and self-interested political approach to public resources has crippled the public schools in Oakland (and many other places). Teachers cannot afford to live in the areas where they teach. Public school funds are currently siphoned off to create unnecessary charter schools rather than supplying adequate counselors, nurses, and other desperately needed support staff for the schools that exist. The party line says, “There just isn’t enough money.” But the real question is “Where are we placing our treasure?” Because where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. Are we actually willing to tell the 30,000 public school children in Oakland that “You’re really not worth the investment”? And then bemoan the desperation and poverty and crime and heartache that follow? I wonder what Jesus would have to say to us about that?

So, it was my faith that took me out to that picket line today. And it will take me out there again tomorrow. And as long as it takes. And every day, I will courageously raise Audette Fulson’s “Prayer for the Morning.” Because, indeed, not one of us is alone. I belong to those teachers and those kids at Clivie’s school; and they belong to me. But not only that, my faith calls me to belong to all those in the struggle for the just distribution of resources. We are in this together. I believe that together—and only together—we can begin to bend that arc of justice all the way down into our lives.

See you in church,