Sunday, June 22, 2008

Writing Prompt 53

What does "the body of Christ" look like to you? Draw it, write it, dance it, live it.

The Body of Christ

I was honored to read this poem at the opening of the California/Nevada Annual Conference Session of the United Methodist Church on Wednesday, June 18.

A special thank you to my fellow readers: Burt Yin, incoming Conference Co-Lay Leader; Judy Newton, retired missionary to Japan; Rosa Washington Olson, lay woman involved in all aspects of Conference life; Debbie Dillon, local pastor who is moving to a new appointment after serving at Cone Community UMC; and our percussionist, Tarah Trueblood, Executive Director and Campus Minister, Wesley Foundation, University of California, Berkeley. Thank you everyone.

The Body of Christ

You are the face of God
You are the wrinkle of age
You are the gap-toothed smile of youth
You are the cleft of chin
You are the hook of nose
You are the dimple of smile
You are rose of blush

You are the eye looking for justice
You are the ear listening for love
You are the head bowed in prayer
You are the mouth singing praise
You are the voice proclaiming new life

You are the arms raised in thanksgiving
You are the hands wiping a fevered brow
You are the grasp of a newborn
You are the fingers frail with dying
You are the palms cupped with living water

You are the legs skipping in play
You are the knees bent in worship
You are the feet marching for peace
You are the toes balanced on rock
You stand barefoot before the creator

You are the lungs, breath of the holy
You are the heart beating eternal rhythm
You are the belly brimming with laughter
You are the womb cradling hope

You are the hips carrying our future
You are the back refusing to be broken
You are the shoulders carrying your cross

You are the glorious body in motion
You are the passionate body overflowing with emotion
You are the ever-curious body nourishing the intellect
You are the everlasting body sustaining the soul
You are the sacred body, a temple for the Most High

And I am you
And you are me
And together we are one body
Bearing one another’s fragility
Promoting one another’s healing
Sharing one another’s purpose

You and you and you and you and me
Together we are called to be
One mind, one spirit, one body
Offering our lives to the one who redeemed us

How we love this broken body
transformed by the Lord of Love
How we love this wondrous body
Baptized in the River of Life
How we love this precious body
A testimony to the living God
How we love this immortal body
A witness to the Alpha and Omega

The hands
The feet
The face

I am
You are
We shall be
unto this world
The Body of Christ

Permission is granted to reprint this poem by crediting the author, Cathy Warner.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Writing Prompt 52

What direction are you headed this summer? Write about it.


I'm off in many directions this summer...physically it's all East of me...Sacramento, Orlando Fl, Visalia, Georgetown (CA), Santa Fe NM, Orlando again. I don't anticipate posting to my blog for the next month or more.

Enjoy this poem as we head toward the solstice and the long hot days (I wish mine were lazy) of summer.


God you are North dancing in shadows
as Earth turns her face from sun to silence.
My arms reach toward you like oak’s prayers
naked branches stretching skyward.
I find you in wind’s snap across my soul
as I crunch through snow tracing footsteps
touching guideposts, marked by the cloud of witnesses
gone North across steppes and barrens before me.
Like them I discover your deepest treasures
preserved in winter’s solitude.

God you are East, your voice spring’s chorus,
tiny cheeps and pips of wrens and robins
nesting in their creation story.
Like ice-melt’s gurgle that births still waters
I find you reflected in the faces of those
traveling with me. We wash our hearts clean
and covenant alongside doves in your river.
God of East, you bathe us in the spring
of compassion and embrace us into your story.

God you are South, shining at the zenith
both sun and star that fix me in your history.
God of August heat and summer extremes
you are compass and map
your hand cool across my temple in mid-day.
Your words tap roots within me
pumping living water from history’s depths.
God of summer, God of South you shelter the weary.

God you are West, you are horizon’s shimmer
calling pioneers from their homes toward
the promised land. I surrender my heart
journey West to find you swirling
through fields, celebrating fall’s harvest.
What can I add to your bonfire O God
but my ancient ideas their brilliant reds, oranges
and golds now faded brown and crumpled?
They crackle in wisdom’s fire
and are transformed.
Fuel for the promise bursts into sunset.

God of all desires and directions
there is a season for every purpose under heaven.

Directions was originally written for Anne Dilenschneider who presented the concepts of Pastoral Leadership and Soul Care that inspired this poem, and for Patricia McCallister, Linda Kelly and the Conference Lay Ministry Training participants who journeyed with me in January 2001, Sacramento, California.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Writing Prompt 51

In his book, Thanks, Robert Emmon's recommends keeping a gratitude journal as one of the most important ways of living in gratitude.
Try adopting or adding to your journaling practice, writing what you are thankful for.
Mix it up a little. If you write "cat, job, apartment," every day for three weeks, you'll end up bored with those blessings.

Hodu Ladonai, Give Thanks to God

Did you know that living in a state of gratitude improves your health, happiness, job satisfaction, income level and lifespan? It's been scientifically proven in Robert Emmons' book: Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.

I just finished the book and preached about it Sunday; the scientific findings were confirmed by members of the congregation as they shared stories of how much better we feel when grateful, not pollyanna-ish, gliding over illness, death and serious issues, but finding blessing and personal growth even in our trials.

Nearly everything in my life is about to change, or has already begun. My oldest daughter has changed cities and colleges, my youngest is graduating high school in two days, and heading cross country for college, my sister moved in with us two days ago, I've begun reading for my MFA program, and already know why I've never read the classics (without a dictionary in hand and unlimited hours at my disposal, I'm sunk).

And in this swirl, it is a right and good thing always and everywhere to give thanks to God. God may not need all the affirmations, but God was certainly on to something, commanding thanksgiving--it's good for us humans, body and soul.

Hodu Ladonai

Hodu Ladonai
Give thanks to God
Give thanks to God
for calling us to this
time and this place
to carry out
God’s purposes
as we discover
what they are for our
particular lives
and circumstances

Hodu Ladonai
for the gift
of each other
this community
to bear witness
to our journeys

Hodu Ladonai
Give thanks to God
for the covenant
that binds us
one to another
and to our creator

Hodu Ladonai

Rhythm & Fire

I am privileged to have two poems in Rhythm & Fire, newly published by the Upper Room. This anthology is written by Academy for Spiritual Formation faculty and participants. You'll recognize some big names, and I'm honored to be included alongside them.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Writing Prompt 50

Take a scary religious word or phrase, like born again, saved, end times and write about it in a way that makes sense to you.

Born Again

This writing was prompted by Kathleen Norris' book Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, where she defines tricky theological words in accessible ways. Here's my take on the troublesome "Born Again."

Born Again

At your age, you are already counting lifetimes, like a cat. There have been changes and challenges that sent you tumbling out a second story window, twisting, arching, frantically clawing at air, as you made your way to a foot first landing, blinking at the impact, then trotting home.

How many times can one be born, again? How many times until you get it right, until you become the kitten that isn’t tossed into the river, or sent to live in the alley picking through trashcans? How many times until you become the kitten who is pulled out of the stream by the scruff, dried with a towel and placed against the chest of a person who is your Jesus, someone who will stroke you, pick off your fleas, and take you to the vet for shots and de-worming? How long until you find someone who will make room for a litter-box in their life, who will keep you even when you sharpen your claws on the carpet, will let you curl in their lap while they read the daily paper, will allow you to nestle at their feet on the quilt their grandmother pieced?

Do you count the lives in between your first birth and your new place, secure in the home of the someone who has taken you to heart? It’s up to you now. Stay out of the road, stay clear of traffic, keep your collar on, don’t wander up the hill where the coyote will devour you.

Do you know how much your Jesus loves you? If you disappear, they will put up signs, go door to door asking the neighbors if they’ve seen you, will search the roadside, comb the hillside, not wanting to give up hope that you are alive, believing you want to come home, but just aren’t able. They can’t search forever, but they will never forget you. They won’t know when or how to say goodbye, but they’ll try. Some days, the memory of your furry weight in their lap, the press of your cool and whiskery nose against their hand will flood through them, as you are born again, born anew into their hearts, love coexisting with pain, like a velvet curtain against a broken window pane.

All of it was worth it, then, being taken from your mother, tossed into a cardboard box, sold in front of the market for a dollar to a kid with gooey fingers. The hard work of finding your way since then, brushing against ankles for a bite of tuna, squirming out from hands so desperate for love, they squeezed the life out of you.
All of it was worth it, if in the end, or even somewhere in the middle, you are born again, into the heart and lap of someone who will love and remember you into eternity.