Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dandelion clock

"Come to Us, Emmanuel" from matthew leahy on Vimeo.

Dandelion clock

Hope is a dark elusive child
curled in the womb
cradled in our arms.
It can be lost,
blown on the wind like a dandelion clock.

Its going,
its ebbing away
leaves us

‘But’ is a hopeful word.

But even as the gossamer
powder puff
the seeds are carried
to cling to distant crevices.
As it recedes
it reseeds
to grow again.

God, giver of peace,
grow hope within and around us.
God of steadfast love,
never leave us hopeless.

(From: The Pattern of our Days, The Iona Community)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor.

   The self-sufficient, the proud, 
       those who, because they have everything, look down on others,
       those who have no need even of God --
   for them there will be no Christmas.

   Only the poor, the hungry,
       those who need someone to come on their behalf,
   will have that someone.

   That someone is God,
       Emmanuel, God-with-us.

   Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God...
-Archbishop Oscar Romero-

Monday, November 01, 2010

The name of God

what a struggle we have
with your name, God.

for some,
it's a dry and dusty word,
better suited
for the grave of history.

for others,
it is caught on the tip
of our tongues,
     and just can't seem
     to escape our lips.

for many,
it is more a word
we use in anger,
or frustration,
or pain.

take this crumbling,
cracking word,
renew it,
refresh it,
reshape it
into that Living Word
that reminds us
you are always with us
     as you have been before we could speak. 


(c) 2004 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, October 17, 2010


A hermit has persevered for thirty years. One day he said to himself, 'I have now spent so many years here and I have had no vision and performed no miracle as did the Fathers who were monks before me'. And he was tempted to go back into the world. Then he was told, 'What miracle do you want to perform that would be more extraordinary than the patience and courage God has given you and which allowed you to persevere for so long?'
A Desert Father
cited by Marcel Driot, from The Desert, An Anthology for Lent, John Moses

Monday, October 11, 2010

How Wealthy Are We?

From the standpoint of material wealth, we have difficulty realising how rich we are. Robert Heilbroner, who has written dozens of books on the subject of the economy, suggests that we go through a little mental exercise that will help us count our blessings. Imagine doing the following, and you will see how daily life is for more than a billion people in the world.
  • First, take out the furniture: leave a few old blankets, a kitchen table, maybe a wooden chair. You've never had a bed, remember?
  • Second, throw out your clothes. Each person in the family may keep the oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. The head of the family has the only pair of shoes.
  • Third, all kitchen appliances have vanished. Keep a box of matches, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a handful of onions, a dish of dried beans. Rescue the moldy potatoes from the garbage can: those are tonight's meal.
  • Fourth, dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, take out the wiring and the lights and everything that runs by electricity.
  • Fifth, take away the house and move the family into the tool shed.
  • Sixth, no more postman, fireman, government services. The two-classroom school is three miles away, but only two of your seven children attend anyway, and they walk.
  • Next, cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and book clubs. This is no great loss because now none of you can read anyway.
  • Move the nearest hospital or clinic ten miles away and put a midwife in charge instead of a doctor.
  • Throw away your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies. Leave the family a cash hoard of ten dollars.
  • Give the head of the family a few acres to cultivate on which he can raise a few hundred dollars of cash crops, of which one third will go to the landlord and one tenth to the money lenders.
  • Find some way for your children to bring in a little extra money so you have something to eat most days. But it won't be enough to keep bodies healthy--so lop off 25 to 30 years of life.
This is how over 80% of the world’s population live. Let’s begin to be thankful for what we do have and stop complaining about what we don’t have.

Adapted from a list by economist Robert Heilbroner.

Friday, September 10, 2010

For Our World by Mattie Stepanek

We need to stop.
Just stop.
Stop for a moment.
Before anybody
Says or does anything
That may hurt anyone else.
We need to be silent.
Just silent.
Silent for a moment.
Before we forever lose
The blessing of songs
That grow in our hearts.
We need to notice.
Just notice.
Notice for a moment.
Before the future slips away
Into ashes and dust of humility.
Stop, be silent, and notice.
In so many ways, we are the same.
Our differences are unique treasures.
We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts
To nurture, to offer, to accept.
We need to be.
Just be.
Be for a moment.
Kind and gentle, innocent and trusting,
Like children and lambs,
Never judging or vengeful
Like the judging and vengeful.
And now, let us pray,
Differently, yet together,
Before there is no earth, no life,
No chance for peace. 

September 11, 2001
© Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek

Monday, September 06, 2010

The old man and the scorpion

There's a parable told about an old man who used to meditate each day be the Ganges River in India. 

One morning he saw a scorpion floating on the water. When the scorpion drifted near the old man he reached to rescue it but was stung by the scorpion. A bit later he tried again and was stung again, the bite swelling his hand painfully and giving him much pain. 

Another man passing by saw what was happening and yelled at the mediator, "Hey, stupid old man, what's wrong with you? Only a fool would risk his life for sake of an ugly, evil creature. Don't you know you could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful scorpion?" 

The old man calmly replied, "My friend, just because it is in the scorpion's nature to sting, does not change my nature to save." 

It is in God's nature to save (Luke 15:1-10)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain in to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

How baffling you are, oh Church

How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you! 
How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you! 
I would like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. 
You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand what sanctity is. 
I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and yet I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. 
How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms. 

No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, though not completely. 
And besides, where would I go? Would I establish another? 
I would not be able to establish it without the same faults,
for they are the same faults I carry in me. 

And if I did establish another, it would be my Church, not the Church of Christ. 
I am old enough to know that I am no better than anyone else.

From Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes

Sunday, August 15, 2010


May our faith be a little more wild,
and a little less guarded.

May we wonder a little more,
and fear a little less.

May we dip more than a toe
in the great sea of faith.

When we reach out to hold something,
may we find you already holding us.

When we stray into questions and doubt,
may we find you waiting with a new adventure.

When we find answers,
may we go back and look for the question.

May we have a faith that lifts stones,
rather than rakes the sand;
a faith that fidgets,
rather than behaves;
a faith that keeps stretching,
rather than becomes moribund.
a faith that stays up late,
rather than wanting early nights.

Help us discover the doing of faith
rather than its management;
exploring the outer edges,
rather than retreating to the centre;
making new words,
rather than wasting play-time defining the old ones.

May we live through faith,
for the Faith,

and God,
may we find you doing the same.

So be it

Sunday, August 01, 2010

as a mother loves her child

Hosea 11: 1-11 shows God's unconditional love for Israel and should remind us that God will always love us no matter what we've done. God is always waiting to receive us into God's arms of love - just as a mother loves her child (Isaiah 49: 15; Luke 13: 34).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010



"And" teaches us to say yes
"And" allows us to be both-and
"And" keeps us from either-or
"And" teaches us to be patient and long-suffering
"And" is willing to wait for insight and integration
"And" keeps us from dualistic thinking
"And" does not divide the field of the moment
"And" helps us to live in the always imperfect now
"And" keeps us inclusive and compassionate toward everything
"And" demands that our contemplation become action
"And" insists that our action is also contemplative
"And" heals our racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism
"And" keeps us from the false choice of liberal or conservative
"And" allows us to critique both sides of things
"And" allows us to enjoy both sides of things
"And" is far beyond anyone nation or political party
"And" helps us face and accept our own dark side
"And" allows us to ask for forgiveness and to apologize
"And" is the mystery of paradox in all things
"And" is the way of mercy
"And" makes daily, practical love possible
"And" does not trust love if it is not also justice
"And" does not trust justice if it is not also love
"And" is far beyond my religion versus your religion
"And" allows us to be both distinct and yet united
"And" is the very Mystery of Trinity

From: Richard Rohr, The Naked Now

Monday, May 31, 2010

Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young

Originally written by Mary Schmich and published in the Chicago Tribune on June 1, 1997. More well known as "The Sunscreen Song" by Baz Luhrmann.

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Truth on its way to being truer

1 Corinthians 13:8-13

A phrase sticks in my mind from recent reading. . . . "Truth on its way to being truer. . . ." Can something true become truer? In absolute terms, no, it's either true or it isn't. But, in terms of our understanding of truth, surely the answer is yes. Our understanding is only partial, and our grasp of the truth something that has to develop and mature. An apple's an apple from the first swelling of the bud, but there's little joy trying to eat it at that stage. It needs time to ripen.

If we could grasp that it would save so much pain and conflict. We fight so hard to protect "the truth", yet often we are only fighting to protect our own imperfect understanding of it. Like children, we cling to our first experiences. We hold tight to a few proof texts we learnt in our spiritual adolescence, as though that was the limit of what God has to teach us. Really, the truth we know is only the hors-d'oeuvre, a first course to whet our appetite for what comes later. The problem is that we're too insecure to follow the truth wherever it leads; we prefer to cage it, tame it, pretend that we possess it all.

Truth has to move on, not abandoning but enriching what went before. The end result is a deeper truth that may look very different from our original version. I remember an early orchestral concert in my teens. The power and drive of Sibelius' Second Symphony floored me. It opened my mind to new things, but it's not the only music I listen to now.

Truth is a life-long, inner pursuit, but we make it with him: we in him, he in us (John 17:21,23). The truth lives in us, encouraging, leading us into deeper truth; and helping us to work it out in daily living.

"God is on the point of your pencil, on the edge of your ploughshare," as Teilhard de Chard in says. I'm not sure I grasp the full meaning of that, but it contains the assurance that he's part of my life, sharing what I do, what I am. Even sharing my search for deeper truth, and leading me into it.

It's comforting, Lord, to think I have the truth,
the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Reassuring, to peg the world down,
hold it fast in the chains of my small knowledge.
Tie it up and relax.

But Lord, the truth's a sleeping giant.
And when he wakes
all my Lilliputian certainties are torn out, screaming,
by a twitch of his hand.
My little dogmatisms damaged past repair.

Your truth stands towering over me.
However far I reach on tiptoe,
however much I try,
it stays beyond my reach.
Too great to hold, too high to comprehend.

Forgive my arrogance.

I can't reach further than truth's shoelace
and yet I claim to know it all.
I try to tame you,
hold you in the cage of my timidity.
Make you predictable and safe.
The truth is -
and there I go again, Lord, telling you -
it frightens me to think that all the world I see out there
is only a beginning..
That as I walk, hesitating, towards the far horizon
it moves away.
However much I see and learn, there's more.
And what I hold, though precious, is still partial,
the dim image of the glories yet to come.

Lord, turn my mind around.

Help me to realise that what I see
as never-ending quest, a constant learning,
is not a threat, but an adventure, lived with you.
Help me to understand that the infinity that beckons me,
is an infinity of love.

And as I take the road afresh, each day,

I’m not sure where it leads, or where I’m going,
but I’m going there with you.
And that’s enough.

From: No Strange Land by Eddie Askew
(all proceeds support The Leprosy Mission)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean (Acts 11:9)

Fred Craddock, tells about a church he knew. He remembered it as the status church, First Church Downtown, it was called. Everybody who was anybody went to that church, when Fred was a boy. Not just anybody could walk in there and join. Income and proper attire seemed a membership requirement at First Church. Need was say? People of Color need not apply.

As you might imagine, First Church did not receive many new members. Members simply grew older. As an adult, Fred learned that First Church had closed. Too few people of the “right type,” I guess.

Fred had occasion to go back to town and discovered that old First Church was still standing. But now it was a restaurant, a fish restaurant. He walked in the big gothic doors and, sure enough, where there had once been pews, now there were tables, and waiters, and diners. He looked down the nave of the old church and where the communion table had once stood, now there was a salad bar.

He walked out the front door, back down the steps, muttering to himself, “Now, I guess everybody is welcome to eat at the table.”

(From a sermon by William Willimon, "When the Outsiders Become Insiders")

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Covenant Prayer

God of the Covenant,
I place my life in your hands – for it to be yours to direct and not mine
May you decide what I should do and with whom I should do it;
May you guide when I should be active and when I should rest;
May you sustain me when I am well and when I suffer;
May you be reflected in me when I am praised and when I am challenged;
May I give thanks to you when I enjoy abundance,
and when I know what it is to go without;
May my whole life be given in service of your love and salvation,
use all that I have and all that I am for your purposes;
And may I always remember that you, O God, and I belong to each other.
This is my commitment - I stand by it.
And I ask that you, Jesus, bear witness to it.

(a translation of the traditional Methodist Covenant Prayer by John van de Laar of Sacredise)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Move off the page

You, majestic sovereign…move off the page!

Move off the page
to the world,
move off the page to the trouble,
move out
of your paged leisure
to the turmoil of your creatures.

Move to the peace negotiations,
and cancer diagnoses,
and burning churches,
and lynched blacks,
and abused children.

Listen to the groans and moans,
and see and hear and know
and remember, and come down!"

(Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann).

Monday, February 01, 2010

Prayer based on 1 Corinthians 13

Love is patient;
for our quick-temperedness:
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Love is kind;
for our indifference towards others:
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Love is not envious;
for our petty jealousies:
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Love is not boastful;
for our pretentiousness:
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Love is not arrogant;
for our opinionated views -
Lord, have mercy:
Christ, have mercy:

Love is not rude;
for our crass behaviour:
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Love does not insist on getting its own way;
for our false sense of our own importance:
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Love is not irritable;
for our resentful behaviour:
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Love does not rejoice in wrong-doing;
for our rejoicing in all the wrong things:
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

May God show us mercy,
forgive us our sins against love
and lead us to life that lasts:


(adapted from a prayer at

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Prayer of the Despised

Today we come to you, Lord, we, the despised. We are not a sorry procession, but a repugnant one. We do not even arouse compassion or hatred, tenderness or sympathy. We are simply despised; we disgust people. The leper arouses compassion. The fiercest criminal stirs up hatred or terror. The mentally ill or the retarded inspire pity or protectiveness. But there is no place reserved for us in the catalogue of the works of mercy.

I, Lord, am a drug addict; for all practical purposes, I have resigned from the human race, I have lost all hope of regaining my self-control, of becoming myself again. There are other people who have drugged, not their bodies, but their consciences and hearts. But nobody despises them. At worst, they are feared.

I, Lord, am a homosexual. I don’t like women. Now and then, I go with another man. I commit fewer sins than my brother who certainly does like women and who even takes up with other men’s wives. But no one at home or outside turns their nose up at him; they don’t find him repugnant; on the contrary, sometimes they even admire him. But everyone, both men and women, shy away from me. And I am acceptable only to someone who, like me, also feels that he has been cast off by normal society.

I, Lord, am a drunkard, but a poor one. I’ve been on the bottle for many years. They don’t want me at home because they’re ashamed of me, and so I’m left to stagger around the streets like a sick dog. When people see me coming, they hastily cross to the other side of the street. Even a beggar occasionally has the consolation of having someone approach him and although hurriedly, put a small coin in his hand. But nobody comes near me; except perhaps a policeman to hustle me off to jail.
Yet, Lord, there are others who also get drunk, but they do it at exclusive parties in the suburbs and, because they are influential, people only laugh good-naturedly at their drunken antics. They are readily forgiven and, if necessary, excuses are found for them by their hangers-on, who cover up for them. No policeman ever lays a finger on them. I wonder-am I more repugnant when drunk than they are, just because I get loaded on cheap wine, while they do it on expensive whiskey, vodka, and gin.

I, Lord, am a prostitute. I can’t claim to be one of the girls, not any more. Because now I’m old and fat and tired. I have no one now to pay the rent of an apartment for me and buy me nice things. I am one of those who have to be satisfied with what my “customers” feel like giving them. I no longer have a nice apartment to entertain my clients in, and I don’t have money to advertise in the newspapers as a “masseuse”. I have to be satisfied with hanging around cheap bars in the slums or street corners in the cold and rain, hoping some poor wretch will be willing to pay me a few coins for the remnants of my favors. People passing in their cars look down their noses at me and quickly turn away so as not to meet my eyes. I am despised even by the high class call girls who, glittering with jewels and wrapped in furs, glide by in big cars driven by their so-very-respectable “patrons”.

We and so many others whom society does not even pity; we the despised of the earth, who arouse neither hatred nor pity nor fear, but only disgust, today we come to you, who are sinless, because we believe that, if you do exist, you will not despise but will even forgive us.

We aren’t trying to hide or to make excuses for the sins that have caused us to be cast off by society. We only hope that perhaps you, who not only forgive, but also excuse, will be able to avoid humiliating us further and to tell us, as once you told a man possessed by the devil, that saving us will let others see your glory and mercy in us.

Remember, you said you came to save what is lost. And who is more lost than we who do not even arouse pity? Sometimes a ray of hope lets us dream for a moment that perhaps you may bring yourself to love even us.

- Father Juan Arias

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Will you come and follow me (The Summons)

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be same?
Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen,
And admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
Through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord, Your summons echoes true when You but call my name.
Let me turn and follow You and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in You and You in me.

-- John L. Bell (Iona Community, Glasgow.)

(From “Heaven shall not wait” Wild Goose Publications 1987)