Gates Now

“Making a Fist”By Naomi Shihab Nye 

 For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,

I felt the life sliding out of me,

a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.

I was seven, I lay in the car

watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.

My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.
“How do you know if you are going to die?”

I begged my mother. 

We had been traveling for days.

With strange confidence she answered,

“When you can no longer make a fist.”
Years later I smile to think of that journey,

the borders we must cross separately,

stamped with our unanswerable woes.

I who did not die, who am still living,

still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,

clenching and opening one small hand.

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Enter This Day

“Painting of a White Gate and Sky”By Louise Erdich

For Betsy

There is no one in the picture
so you must enter it.

Your dress held together with bent pins.

You must enter

with your heart of gray snow.
There is no one in the bank left corner

so you must stand there.

You with your wrists chained,

with your stomach locked up.

You with emptiness tapping

sorrow’s code

in its cage of bone.
The steps are grown over with sharp blades.

No one has been there.

You are the first one.

Desperate, proper,

your heels leave deep punctures.
You with breath failing.

You with your mother’s ring.

With your belt undone.

You with your mind of twisted ferns.
There is no one at the gate

so you must stand there.

You with your picked-over heart.

You with shoulders of cracked glass.

With hands falling open.

You with nobody.
It is a gate no one ever pushed open,

a gate that stands alone,

swung shut before the stars

were strung up in the black net.
There is no one beyond the gate.

There is no one to watch you.

There is no one to see grief unloading like train cars.
Go there you chained one

Your heels that leave wounds

You sister

You heart of gray snow.

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Go Be Lovely

“Camas Lillie”

By Lynn Unger

Consider the liles of the field,
the blue banks of camas opening

into acres of sky along the road.

Would the longing to lie down

and be washed by that beauty

abate if you knew their usefulness,

how the natives ground their bulbs

for flour, how the settlers’ hogs

uprooted them, grunting in gleeful

oblivion as the flowers fell?

And you—what of your rushed

and useful life? Imagine setting it all down—

papers, plans, appointments, everything—

leaving only a note: “Gone

to the fields to be lovely. Be back

when I’m through with blooming.”

Even now, unneeded and uneaten,

the camas lilies gaze out above the grass

from their tender blue eyes.

Even in sleep your life will shine.

Make no mistake. Of course

your work will always matter.

Yet Solomon in all his glory

was not arrayed like one of these.

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Born (day)

“Incarnation” 

by Lynn Ungar
The trees have finally

shaken off their cloak

of leaves, redrawn

themselves more sternly

against the sky. I confess

I have coveted this

casting off of flesh,

have wished myself

all line and form, all God.
I confess that I am caught

by the story of Christmas,

by the pronouncement of the Spirit

upon Mary’s plain flesh.

What right did the angel have to come to her

with the news of that

unprovided, unimaginable

birth? What right

had God to take on flesh

so out of season?
When Mary lay gasping

in water and blood

that was of her body

but not her own

did she choose one gleaming,

antiseptic star to carry

her through the night?
The flesh has so few choices,

the angels, perhaps, none.

The trees will shake themselves

and wait for spring.

The angels, unbodied, will clutch

the night with their singing.

And Mary, like so many,

troubled and available,

will hear the word:
The power of the Most High

will overshadow you
and in her flesh, respond.

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Advent Reflections: Staying Woke,Longing For Truth

As the Christmas cards begin to fill your mailbox and the images of Jesus and Mary’s beatific faces fill your brain I offer you a reality check. 

I like those pretty cards, too. And the messages of “peace on earth”. I beg you not to let them fool you.

Mary and Joseph were fleeing the wrath of a corrupt system. Mary and Joseph sought refuge. They were given space in a barn. There was no room for them in the inn because they were one of many seeking sanctuary. Jesus was born into a world that was shouting, “help.”  

Bethlehem’s inn was not over booked because it was the holiday season. The world was upside down and only a few had secure lodging and got a holy rest.

Jesus’ first cry was into a world that was weary and at war. Jesus’ public ministry was given to living a message of peace by every action and intention.

Being a follower of Christ is messy because it requires humans to be real with one another in community and to see Jesus for what he was. Real. Human. Of peace. For justice. Risk-taker. Truth-teller. Lover of ALL.  
We will soon light our candles and sing “Silent Night” in a darkened church. I beg you to not let that be the only sweet memory, image and purpose of this season. You are needed in the uncalm places that are equally holy. Now, Advent, is the time to prepare and pray for God to meet you in the season of Christmas with a particular message of mission and vocation. Now is the time to wonder what you need to be listening for when we gather on Christmas to give thanks for Jesus. Now is the time to carve space for the new things about to be birthed in your life…and i am not talking about cleaning the house and preparing for the new gadgets and clothes you want from Santa!
Mindfulness Moment: Curious Wonder
All of us have people in our lives who either knowingly or unknowingly push our internal “buttons”. The next time you feel yourself drawn into feelings of annoyance or anger try and stop the instinct of your feeling and justice notice the moment with curious wonder. Ask yourself: what is going on in me right now? what am I letting her/him/it draw me in? what do i need right now in order to stop this cycle? Perhaps you will be led to name what you need from the person (like, “can we please talk about this later. I need time to process the information you have already shared”) or maybe once you recognize the trigger you will be able to avoid this stress altogether in the future.

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Gentle Alarm (day 17)

“Woman Work”

By Maya Angelou

I’ve got the children to tend

The clothes to mend

The floor to mop

The food to shop

Then the chicken to fry

The baby to dry

I got company to feed

The garden to weed

I’ve got shirts to press

The tots to dress

The can to be cut

I gotta clean up this hut

Then see about the sick

And the cotton to pick.
Shine on me, sunshine

Rain on me, rain

Fall softly, dewdrops

And cool my brow again.
Storm, blow me from here

With your fiercest wind

Let me float across the sky

‘Til I can rest again.
Fall gently, snowflakes

Cover me with white

Cold icy kisses and

Let me rest tonight.
Sun, rain, curving sky

Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone

Star shine, moon glow

You’re all that I can call my own. 

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Holy Spirit Come Here [day 16]

“The Bat”by Jane Kenyon

I was reading about rationalism,

the kind of thing we do up north 

in early winter, where the sun

leaves work for the day at 4:15
Maybe the world is intelligible

to the rational mind;

and maybe we light the lamps at dusk

for nothing…
Then I heard the wings overhead.
The cats and I chased the bat

in circles—living room, kitchen,

pantry, kitchen, living room…

At every turn it evaded us
like the identity of the third person

in the Trinity: the one

who spoke through the prophets,

the one who astounded Mary

by suddenly coming near. 

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Finding Joy on Day 15

“Welcome Morning”
Anne Sexton

There is joy

in all:

in the hair I brush each morning,

in the Cannon towel, newly washed,

that I rub my body with each morning,

in the chapel of eggs I cook

each morning,

in the outcry from the kettle

that heats my coffee

each morning,

in the spoon and the chair

that cry “hello there, Anne”

each morning,

in the godhead of the table

that I set my silver, plate, cup upon

each morning.
All this is God,

right here in my pea-green house

each morning

and I mean,

though often forget,

to give thanks,

to faint down by the kitchen table

in a prayer of rejoicing

as the holy birds at the kitchen window

peck into their marriage of seeds.
So while I think of it,

let me paint a thank-you on my palm

for this God, this laughter of the morning,

lest it go unspoken.
The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,

dies young.


            

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Saints Rising{day 14}

“When the Saints Come Marching In”By Audre Lorde
Plentiful sacrifice and believers in redemption 

are all that is needed

so any day now I expect

some new religion

to rise up like tear gas

from the streets of New York

erupting like the rank pavement smell

released by a garbage truck’s 

baptismal drizzle. 
HIgh priests are ready and waiting

their incense pans full of fire
I do not know their rituals

nor what name of the god

the survivors will worship

I only know she will be terrible

and very busy 

and very old.

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Reaching in Prayer, day 13

“Nothing So Wise”

By Jeanne Lohmann

There is nothing so wise as a circle. –Rilke


The arc of an egg

bends hands

to shape prayer,
the shell
unbroken,

the heavy yolk

floating.
Our fingers

curving always

inward, become a cup,

an open bowl.
Prayer is

circumference

we may not reach around,
space for all we cannot hold,

the rim of Love toward which we lean.

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