Hello friends. I know I’ve been in absentia for a few weeks. The Psalms of Ascent ended, and so did the school year, and now we’re traveling. By the end of the month, I plan to have a small story-gift for those of you who subscribe via email. In the meantime, I’ll be lying fairly low. In fact I’ll be lying low most of the summer, taking some space to breathe and write and think and be. If you feel so inclined, I would love any prayers you offer on my behalf in the next few months: I have some marching orders that intimidate me! For today, here’s a little offering, a soupçon of how slowly I hope my summer will unfold. 


I didn’t used to like poetry. I wrote abominable verse as a teenager (what literary teenage girl doesn’t?), but poetry was something we studied in school, something teachers asked you hard questions about, questions like, “What is the symbolism of the bird in this poem?”, questions you didn’t dare to answer because you might be wrong. How were you supposed to know what the bird symbolized? You were only 15. Weren’t birds, well, birds? So you kept your head down and tried not to make eye contact and hoped that the teacher wouldn’t notice you and call on you and make you expose your ignorance. Sometimes he did and sometimes he didn’t.

As far as the poetry was concerned, it didn’t much matter whether he called on you or not. What you learned from these sessions was that poetry was hard to read. It was obscure. It was opaque. It made you feel stupid, and who wants to feel stupid? You read the school poems when you had to, and at home you read historical novels and if some of them read like poetry, you never noticed.

Or at least that’s what I did. I thought poetry was inhospitable. It didn’t seem to want me. But that’s mostly because I didn’t understand what poetry was.

A poem, even the shortest, is not a cocktail party where you wander about with your plate in one hand and a drink in the other, grazing. Nor is it a meal-in-a-blender that you can chug as you run out the door. Nor is it a hydrolyzed, homogenized, high-fructosized package of unpronouncibility that leaves you scratching your head about what exactly those ingredients are and how they add up to food (bird symbolism, anyone?). If that’s how you approach a poem, it will turn its back on you.

Instead, a poem is a nine-course meal, and it requires that you sit your hind end in a chair and stay there for awhile….


The rest of the post is over at Grace Table. Pull up a chair and join me?


Photo by Katy Wrathall, Creative Commons via Flickr.

Ascent: Psalm 134


Psalm 134

Behold now, praise the Lord,
all ye servants of the Lord,
ye that by night stand in the house of the Lord,
even in the sanctuary of our God.

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
and praise the Lord.
The Lord that made heaven and earth:
give thee blessing out of Sion.


Friends, it is the octave of Pentecost. Sunday is Trinity and marks the beginning of Ordinary Time. But for now, we are still celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Did you know that in the ten days from Ascension to Pentecost the disciples were “continually in the Temple blessing God” (Luke 24:53)? I like to think this psalm of praise was on their lips. They had just seen their dead Lord rise from the grave and their risen Lord ascend into Heaven. Oswald Chambers writes of the Ascension:

…by His Ascension Our Lord enters heaven and keeps the door open for humanity….There is now freedom of access for anyone straight to the very throne of God by the Ascension of the Son of Man. As Son of Man Jesus Christ deliberately limited omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience in Himself. Now they are His in absolute full power. As Son of Man Jesus Christ has all power at the throne of God. He is King of kings and Lord of lords from the day of Ascension until now.

No wonder the disciples gathered to pray and praise and bless the Lord! No wonder they stood in God’s sanctuary by night and day to lift up their hands. No wonder.

Then again, it is all wonder. It is wonder-full. The whole cosmos is shot through with the glory of the risen and ascended Lord. When I can get my gaze off my self long enough to look and see what God has done and is doing, I too want to shout for joy and bless the Lord who has so richly blessed us with so great a Saviour.

And then when I stop and ponder Pentecost, how these continually-blessing-God Jesus-freaks were gathered together, how they were awaiting the promised Comforter, how the wind rushed into that room and tongues of flame alighted on their heads like fire, how Babel was reversed and they could speak in the tongues of men and angels, how power from on High poured over them, poured into them, filled them to the measure with all the fullness of God so their cups ran over and spilled into the streets of the city for all to taste and see that the Lord is good, well, no wonder Pentecost is such a high holy day in the church, no wonder we all come to the sanctuary with bright faces and red shirts, no wonder we lift up our hands and praise the Lord. No wonder.

Then again, it is all wonder. It is wonder-full. It is so wonder-full that the Apostle John at the end of his gospel could only shrug and say of these wonders, “Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

But we still try to write the wonders, don’t we? We still try to contain the uncontainable, to comprehend the incomprehensible. And that is good and right and necessary. But it is also good and right and necessary to stop trying to pin the wonders on a board, to let them fly free and alight where they will, to let them be what they are and let our only response be the lifting of our hands in wonder at the wonder, in praise of the Maker of Heaven and earth, receptive night and day to whatever wild and crazy blessing He would pour forth into our empty hands to fill them.

Photo by Jo Naylor, Creative Commons via Flickr.

Ascent: Psalm 133


Psalm 133

Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is,
for brethren to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head,
that ran down unto the beard,
even unto Aaron’s beard,
and went down to the skirts of his clothing.

Like as the dew of Hermon,
which fell upon the hill of Sion.
For there the LORD promised his blessing,
and life for evermore.


Seven years ago, when my blog was brand-new, I wrote posts about the Sunday lectionary passages. Today’s psalm was the lectionary psalm for the second Sunday of Easter that year, and I wrote a little anecdote about my kids, which captured for me the spirit and essence of this psalm.

All week as I’ve read and prayed through this psalm, I kept thinking of that story I told seven years ago, and I decided to simply re-post it here, as it still strikes me as being a “good and joyful” moment of unity.

I include the whole post, which references John 20 and Acts 4 as well as Psalm 133.


In today’s gospel passage, Jesus breathes on the disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And they do: the “whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32), the living embodiment of unity.

According to Acts, none of the believers owned anything; they held all possessions in common. No one was poor or hungry or in need because all the believers shared everything they had. The apostles gave their testimony “with great power,” and “great grace was on them all.”

But it didn’t take long before the unity of the Holy Spirit was broken: the next chapter is the oh-so delightful story of Ananias and Sapphira, who held onto their possessions and then lied about it. Just as the idyllic days of Eden are gone forever, the idyllic days of the early church are, too.

But every so often, I have glimpses of the unity and beauty and blessing that is supposed to characterize the body of the risen Christ.

Today, I took my kids to the toy store—my 5-year-old son wanted to buy a space shuttle with the allowance money he’s saved. He hadn’t had the toy five minutes when his little sister asked to play with it.

To my surprise, he let her.

To my further surprise, after she’d played with it for a couple minutes, Jane said, “Here you, go, Jack,” and gave it back to him.

It was one of those graced moments when brethren dwell together in unity, when the precious oil of anointing falls on your life, and you know you are blessed.

It was such a small thing I feel a little silly mentioning it, like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. But then I think of the mustard seed and am heartened: great things come from small and humble starts; faith as a mustard seed can move mountains. So I’ll keep looking for the kingdom of God in my own small life, in the nooks and crannies (or toy stores), anticipating glimpses of Resurrection, the new life of unity in the Holy Spirit.

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