Heart-Softening

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
January 12, 2023

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011223.cfm

psalm 95 copy

Today, in Mercy, our first reading quotes at length from Psalm 95, and the message is reprised in the Responsorial Psalm.

Harden not your hearts.

We all know what it feels like to harden our hearts. We do it out of anger, fear, exhaustion, frustration and so many other reasons. We feel like the only way to protect ourselves and our space is to build a wall! Put up those bricks made out of our stony faces, curt words, numbing silence, distancing indifference – our hardened hearts.


Today’s reading tells us that this is never God’s way.

The way to freedom, peace, self-respect, joy and fullness of life is always found in relationship – as God is in relationship with all Creation.

Jesus demonstrates that relationship in today’s Gospel by connecting with the leper. This leper has been walled off from society by illness and disfigurement. Most people’s hearts are hardened against him, but Jesus is “moved by pity” at the leper’s isolation.

The leper, too, has built a bridge by reaching through his own hardened heart in faith and trust. Surely all the years of mistreatment had made him wary of trust, had immobilized him in self-protection. But he allows himself a courageous plea to Jesus, and he is heard.

Jesus Cures a Leper – Rembrandt


It is no easy challenge to soften a hardened heart. Some of our walls are very high, some of our bricks very heavy. But, one by one, we can choose opportunities for forgiveness, kindness, understanding, patience, encouragement, listening and companionship – even, and especially, toward those estranged in any way from us or from themselves. And we can do this even toward ourselves when we have become hardened to our own beauty and goodness.

To begin might take only a smile, a prayer, a phone call, a small kindness, an invitation, a moment of ordinary conversation…. just these might start to crumble a wall, to soften a heart.

Let’s ask God’s grace today to do this heart-softening wherever we might need it. Let’s ask this grace for others in need as well.


Poetry: The Altar by George Herbert – Herbert wrote this poem in the shape of an altar. He describes the spiritual process of allowing his “hard heart” to be built into an altar for God’s praise.

A broken ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears,

 Made of a heart and cemented with tears:

  Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;

No workman’s tool hath touch’d the same.

                   A HEART alone

                   Is such a stone,

                  As nothing but

                  Thy pow’r doth cut.

                  Wherefore each part

                  Of my hard heart

                  Meets in this frame,

                  To praise thy name:

       That if I chance to hold my peace,

 These stones to praise thee may not cease.

   Oh, let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,

     And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.


Music: Soften My Heart, Lord (and adding a second song, just because I think you’ll like it.)

The Image of God

Christmas Weekday
January 3, 2023

Today’s Readings

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010323.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with John’s soul-stirring words:

1 jn 3_ 2

Beloved, we are God’s children …

When I pray these words I think of my mother. As a little child, I already bore a clear physical likeness to her. But as I grew into a young woman, and later an older woman, people remarked that we looked like twins. There were even occasions when we were confused with each other.

This visible resemblance gave me great pride. My mother was strong, courageous, funny, wise, and fiercely loving. I loved to hear the phrase, “Oh my, you are the image of your mother!” I wanted to be like her – made of the same stuff as she was.


In our reading today, John tells us that we are made of the very stuff of God – the essence of the Sacred. He suggests that when people look at us they should see God’s features written all over us.

See what love the Creator has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.

1 John 2:30

John says that we should see this Divine familial likeness in one another – that we are each imprinted with our Creator’s image.

The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.

1 John 2:31

If we believe John’s words, what tenderness we would bear toward ourselves and others! How could we ever belittle, hate or kill one another? How could we ever do these things to ourselves?


In our Gospel, the great prophet John the Baptist sees the imminent transformation of the world coming toward him in the person of Jesus Christ. May we see this too as, by our sincere prayer and study of the scriptures, the Light of Christmas waxes in our hearts throughout 2023. In that Loving Light, we recognize one another clearly as beloved children of God.

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
…..
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

John 1:29-34

Poetry: I Am the Light – Malcolm Guite

I see your world in light that shines behind me,
Lit by a sun whose rays I cannot see,
The smallest gleam of light still seems to find me
Or find the child who’s hiding deep inside me.
I see your light reflected in the water,
Or kindled suddenly in someone’s eyes,
It shimmers through the living leaves of summer,
Or spills from silver veins in leaden skies,
It gathers in the candles at our vespers
It concentrates in tiny drops of dew
At times it sings for joy, at times it whispers,
But all the time it calls me back to you.
I follow you upstream through this dark night
My savior, source, and spring, my life and light.

Music: How Can Anyone Ever Tell You – Shaina Knoll

Often, when I think of Christ on the Cross, I can hear God the Mother singing this song to Jesus, reaching from heaven to console Him in His pain.

This morning, we might ask God to sing this song over our wounded world which has so obscured God’s likeness – perhaps to sing it over us if we are in particular pain.

In our heart’s deep forgiveness, we might sing this song over anyone who has hurt us – the meanness coming from their failure to recognize their own beauty – the fact that they and we are the very image of our loving God.

Wrapped in God’s Mercy

Thursday of the Third Week in Advent
December 15, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121522.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah uses powerful, passionate images to describe the relationship between God and Israel.

The Lord calls you back,
        like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
    A wife married in youth and then cast off,
        says your God.
    For a brief moment I abandoned you,
        but with great tenderness I will take you back.
    In an outburst of wrath, for a moment
        I hid my face from you;
    But with enduring love I take pity on you,
        says the Lord, your redeemer.

Isaiah 54:6-7

This relationship is best conceptualized as COVENANT. The great prophets use human covenants as images to help describe an otherwise indescribable God. For example, there are biblical passages which imagine God as Father, Mother, Friend, King, Shepherd, Lover, and Spouse. 

Of course, God is infinitely more than any one of these relationships, but that “more” is beyond our human capacity to comprehend. So these human images give us some starting point to open ourselves in prayer as to how God wants to be with us at particular times in our lives.


In today’s passage, Isaiah speaks to a people devastated by captivity in Babylon. Jerusalem is occupied, their Temple is destroyed, and their reality is particularly bleak. They feel abandoned by the God who once companioned them to the Promised Land. And they feel like they brought the abandonment on themselves by their faithlessness to the Covenant.

What does the passage say to me?

  • Have I ever felt forgotten by God? Or at least invisible and unimportant?
  • Do I regret a bit of “faithlessness” in my own life?
  • Do I wonder if some of the difficulties in my life are merited because my faith is weak?

Well, if so, then Isaiah 54 was written for me, because the God who is in covenant with me is ever-faithful, loving and forgiving. God is always with me and for me. Despite my worries, ideations, or scruples, God is eternally committed to me:

Though the mountains leave their place
        and the hills be shaken,
    My love shall never leave you
        nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
        says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

Isaiah 54:10

Jesus Christ
is the infinitely gracious fulfillment
of this Covenant.
Advent invites us to draw ever closer
to such Wondrous Faithful Love.


Poetry: Where Is God? – Mark Nepo is a poet and spiritual adviser who has taught in the fields of poetry and spirituality for over 40 years. Nepo is best known for his New York Times #1 bestseller,The Book of Awakening. A cancer survivor, Nepo writes and teaches about the journey of inner transformation and the life of relationship.

It’s as if what is unbreakable—
the very pulse of life—waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.
It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.

Music: Faithful God – Islington Baptist Church

An Honest, Humble Spirit

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 23, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, in our readings:

  • Sirach assures us that the prayer of the humble reaches the ear of God
  • Paul readies himself for death
  • Jesus gives us one of his most memorable parables. 

The thread running through all of these? Humility- that beautiful virtue which allows us to be who we truly are before God and humanity.

Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else. 
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. 


Oh my goodness friends, how many times – at meetings or dinners — have we been with “the Pharisees”, such as Jesus describes? They are so unsure and unaware of their true value in God, that they begin to create an illusion of their greatness to protect their fear.

We know the statements (or attitudes) by heart. Sometimes, they’re harmless, and our listeners see through them right away.

fish

But there are other statements, such as the Pharisee’s, that are not harmless. By falsely aggrandizing the self, these statements and attitudes degrade and dehumanize the other. But perhaps most importantly, they delude the speaker himself so that his ability to see his true worth in God is blocked by his false pride.

Paul, sensing the death’s approach, has a much more honest and humble self-evaluation:

I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.


It’s really sad to miss the whole point of one’s true greatness: that we are beloved and redeemed by God – just like every Creature! That we are called, in that belovedness , to serve God in our sisters and brothers. Knowing this inalienable truth is the source of all humility, courage, joy, and perseverance in faith. It is the whole reason we were created. What a tragedy to, like the Pharisee, never realize how divinely great we really are!


Let us pray with Paul and the humble tax collector today. “O God, be merciful to me a sinner – a redeemed, grateful, and joyful sinner.”

Let us use for our poetry today’s beautiful Psalm 34.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
whose praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.

The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress they are rescued.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit God saves.
The LORD redeems the lives of these servants;
no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in our God.


Music: Miserere Mei – Gregorio Allegri 

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Though Fig Tree Bear No Fruit

Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary time
October 22, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/102222.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are not reassuring. They basically tell us that it’s a tough world out there, and it might get us – body and/or soul. They tell us to straighten up and live right before it’s too late!

Lk 13_7 fig tree

I don’t really like the “in your face” readings, but they certainly are clear and effective. Just picture that poor fig tree, trying like crazy – for three years – to bear fruit! I know that I’ve been trying my whole life to overcome some of my fruitlessness. I certainly hope God continues to be patient with me!

Nevertheless, the message of today’s Gospel is clear. Don’t take that patience for granted. Repent of any small godlessness you’re clinging to.

  • Forgive the recent and long ago hurts you’ve locked up inside.
  • Make amends for any meannesses you can remember.
  • “Show and Tell” your love to the people who love you.
  • Show and Tell your blessing to the people who don’t.
  • Be Mercy every time you get a chance.

Paul says it like this: Live the truth in love.

Let’s do it while we can.


Poetry: Joy and Peace in Believing – William Cowper (1731-1800) was an English poet and Anglican hymnwriter. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th-century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside. In many ways, he was one of the forerunners of Romantic poetrySamuel Taylor Coleridge called him “the best modern poet”, whilst William Wordsworth particularly admired his poem Yardley-Oak. (Wikipedia)

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises
With healing on His wings;
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.
In holy contemplation We sweetly then pursue The theme of God's salvation, And find it ever new; Set free from present sorrow, We cheerfully can say, E'en let the unknown to-morrow Bring with it what it may! It can bring with it nothing, But He will bear us through; Who gives the lilies clothing, Will clothe His people too; Beneath the spreading heavens No creature but is fed; And He who feeds the ravens Will give His children bread.
Though vine nor fig tree neither Their wonted fruit shall bear, Though all the field should wither, Nor flocks nor herds be there: Yet God the same abiding, His praise shall tune my voice; For, while in Him confiding, I cannot but rejoice.

Music: Amazing Grace ~ sung by Sean Clive

Alleluia: Green Grapes!

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
August 13, 2022

Today’s Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/081322.cfm

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, the core of our readings is about innocence and authenticity. But you have to dig a little to get to that. Maybe, like me, you finished  our first reading asking, “So what’s with the green grapes!?”

A common expression in ancient Israel suggested that people’s bad luck was a punishment for their parent’s sins. It was a handy way of avoiding responsibility for one’s own foolish actions, often the actual source of one’s misfortune.

Ezekiel uses the expression to teach a lesson about the nature of God’s love and forgiveness. God loves us completely – without prejudice, without vengeance. There is no record of faults to “set our teeth on edge”. There are no “green grapes” on God’s table. God only wants our wholeness.

Therefore I will judge you, house of Israel,
each one according to their own ways, says the Lord GOD.
Turn and be converted from all your crimes,
that they may be no cause of guilt for you.
Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed,
and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.


God will not let us hide behind excuses like a bogus “Green Grapes Theory”. As in any loving relationship, we must be honest with God, own our faults, seek forgiveness, and love ardently.

Jesus uses the example of a little child to show us how to do this. Each one of us is born with a core of innocence and authenticity. These are the attributes of God’s life in us. Throughout our lives there are times when we hide these blessings under our sinfulness. Some people bury them so deep that they lose touch with their own sacred integrity.

Jesus calls us back out of our excuses and our excesses, just as the Lord called Ezekiel’s community. We are invited to an eternal covenant rooted in the gift of divine innocence and authenticity given to us at our creation.

Jesus said:
Let the children come to me,
and do not prevent them;
for the Kingdom of heaven
belongs to such as these.

Poetry: The Pursuit – Henry Vaughn

LORD ! what a busy, restless thing
Hast Thou made man !
Each day and hour he is on wing,
Rests not a span ;
Then having lost the sun and light,
By clouds surpris’d,
He keeps a commerce in the night
With air disguis’d.
Hadst Thou given to this active dust
A state untir’d,
The lost son had not left the husk,
Nor home desir’d.
That was Thy secret, and it is
Thy mercy too ;
For when all fails to bring to bliss,
Then this must do.
Ah, Lord ! and what a purchase will that be,
To take us sick, that sound would not take Thee !

Music: Tender Hearted – Jeanne Cotter

Awash in Mercy

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
June 14, 2022

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with a very diverse set of readings.

The current passages from 1 Kings probably aren’t doing a lot to enhance your spiritual life right now. Life in Elijah’s times was pretty harsh, and applying its harsh descriptions to our own life may take a real stretch.


But our verse for the day and the Gospel to which it leads, offer an easier path to prayer.

This verse opens our Responsorial Psalm, the ardent “Miserere” which begs God for mercy. (I chose it because we prayed with the Alleluia Verse just the other day.)

It may be rare for us to feel such an impassioned need for mercy. Hopefully our lives are not as fraught with angst as were Ahab’s and Jezebel’s. But, let’s face it, neither our lives, nor the way we live them, is perfect.


Those of you who know me won’t need this disclaimer because you know better. But for other readers who don’t know me personally, let me tell you this. Despite my mother’s belief and constant proclamation, I am not perfect either. 

I have hard edges, ingrained meannesses, and unacknowledged shadows that thirst for God’s Mercy and Light. 

I think it’s safe to say that we all do. No canonized saints are reading this blog!


Today’s verse and entire psalm help us to open our hearts to any harbored sinfulness and to receive the transforming grace of insight, forgiveness, and intention to change.

May we pray our plea for mercy
with sincerity and hope.
May God’s response lead us closer
to the perfect compassion
described in today’s Gospel.

Poetry: To Live in the Mercy of God – Denise Levertov

To lie back under the tallest
oldest trees. How far the stems
rise, rise
               before ribs of shelter
                                           open!

To live in the mercy of God. The complete
sentence too adequate, has no give.

Awe, not comfort. Stone, elbows of
stony wood beneath lenient
moss bed.

And awe suddenly
passing beyond itself. Becomes
a form of comfort.
                      Becomes the steady
air you glide on, arms
stretched like the wings of flying foxes.

To hear the multiple silence
of trees, the rainy
forest depths of their listening.

To float, upheld,
                as salt water
                would hold you,
                                        once you dared.

                  To live in the mercy of God.

To feel vibrate the enraptured
waterfall flinging itself
unabating down and down
                              to clenched fists of rock.
Swiftness of plunge,
hour after year after century,

                                                   O or Ah
uninterrupted, voice
many-stranded.
                              To breathe
spray. The smoke of it.

                              Arcs
of steelwhite foam, glissades
of fugitive jade barely perceptible. Such passion—
rage or joy?

                              Thus, not mild, not temperate,
God’s love for the world. Vast
flood of mercy
                      flung on resistance.


Music: Miserere – Gregorio Allegri 

Lent: Forgive As Forgiven

March 22, 2022
Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we meet Azariah of Fiery Furnace – a great champion of faith ready to bolster ours in our own uncertain times.

In our reading from the Book of Daniel, Azariah (later Abednego) prays a moving prayer of urgency, repentance, supplication, and trust:

And now we follow you with our whole heart,
we hold you in awe and we pray to you.
Do not let us be put to shame,
but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.
Deliver us by your wonders,
and bring glory to your name, O Lord.

This prayer rang very true for me today, as I prayed for God’s mercy and miracles all over our suffering earth, especially in Ukraine.


And then we move to our Gospel, which brings before us the always thorny issue of forgiveness. Forgiveness is easy when it is something we seek for ourselves. Yes, we may have done something wrong. But we see the issue from inside our own heart. We know we didn’t mean it, made a mistake, or didn’t fully understand the harm we caused. We know we deserve forgiveness.

But what about the other guys — the ones who hurt us or someone we love? They meant it, didn’t they!!!! Their treachery was no mistake. They understood all along the harm they would cause! How could we ever forgive them?

Isn’t that the way the tapes sometimes run in our heads when we are hurt by another, or when we witness such hurt?

In our Gospel, Jesus offers us the character of the forgiving master who represents our Creator. The parable teaches that God accepts and heals our weakness – God forgives. But once forgiven, we are called to be like God – forgiving others and desiring their healing.

Does this mean we ignore or forget the pain forced on others or ourselves? I don’t think so. It means that we use it as a catalyst to remember how in need of grace we and all our sisters and brothers are as we learn to live in love.


Poetry: As we pray with such awareness, how appropriate today’s psalm-poem is:

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
            teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
            for you are God my savior.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
            and your kindness are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
            because of your goodness, O LORD.
Good and upright is the LORD;
            thus showing sinners the way.
God guides the humble to justice,
            and teaches the humble God’s way.

Psalm 25:4-9

Music: Forgiveness – Matthew West

Lent: Untie the Knots

March 15, 2022
Tuesday of the Second week of Lent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, in Isaiah’s prophecy, God addresses some of the most famous sinners in the Bible — the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah. And the Divine manner of that address is both gentle and direct…

Come now … let us set things right!

Come now, let us set things right,
says the LORD:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they may become white as snow;
Though they be crimson red,
they may become white as wool.
If you are willing, and obey,
you shall eat the good things of the land;
But if you refuse and resist,
the sword shall consume you:
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!

Isaiah 1:18-20

Setting things right! Aren’t there times in our lives when we long for that? Not in the sense of vengeance or some vigilante justice, but rather in the sense of balance, equity, peace, and understanding in our lives.


Some things go wrong in our lives – that’s just the way it is. And sometimes we struggle endlessly and futilely to realign them.

Even in the most tranquil and “together” lives, there are places of irresolution – little knots in our life story of “why” and “why not”; of “if” and “if only”.

These may be places where we can’t really “forget” and so have not really forgiven. They may be nagging questions left unanswered because we hadn’t the courage to ask. They may be reasons we wanted to explain but no one wanted to listen. They may be excuses or pretenses we have made for so long that we have begun to believe them ourselves.

In almost all such instances, a scarlet concupiscence is at the root of our suffering or pain – sin, not only in the other, but in ourselves that longs to be made white as snow.


In many such cases, the time passes when we might reach out to the other for mutual healing. Death, distance, stubborn resistance and other walls may block us from worldly reconciliation.

But in God’s realm, healing is still possible, as is the power of our desire for the other to be healed with us.

in Isaiah’s beautiful passage, God invites us to full and eternal wholeness. That wholeness is achieved through our willingness to be open before God and to practice obedient listening in our prayer.

If you are willing, and obey,
you shall eat the good things of the land.

Isaiah 1:19

Let’s listen to and trust the awesome invitation in Isaiah:
“Come now, let us set things right”
… come to Me where I will allow you to forgive yourself as I forgive you.
Let us begin to untie any grace-resistant knot in your heart.
Untied, it also frees the other to seek their own healing.


Poetry: Forgiveness – George MacDonald

God gives his child upon his slate a sum –
To find eternity in hours and years;
With both sides covered, back the child doth come,
His dim eyes swollen with shed and unshed tears;
God smiles, wipes clean the upper side and nether,
And says, ‘Now, dear, we’ll do the sum together!’

Music: White As Snow – Maranatha Singers

Lent: Becoming Mercy

March 14, 2022
Monday of the Second week of Lent

bruggemann

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our reading from Daniel gives us one of the Great Prayers of the Old Testament (according to Walter Brueggemann’s like-named book.)

The Book of Daniel and chapter nine in particular, have been the subjects of extensive biblical exegesis. Chapter nine in considered one of the Messianic Prophecies, Old Testament markers pointing to Christ. So there is much we could study about today’s first reading.

But how might we pray with it – for our times and our lives?


Naming the sins of all the People, Daniel’s great prayer is a plea for mercy:

Lord, great and awesome God,
you who keep your merciful covenant 
toward those who love you
and observe your commandments! …
… yours, O Lord, our God, 
are compassion and forgiveness!


Three themes, so strikingly germane to Lent, arise from Daniel’s prayer:

Repentance
Forgiveness
Transformation


Our Responsorial Psalm picks up this plea to Mercy for mercy:

Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.
R.    Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Help us, O God our savior,

because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
for your name’s sake.


The questions for each of us as we pray today —

Is there someplace in my life longing for such mercy and healing? 
Where can my spirit grow from repentance, forgiveness, and transformation?

be Mercy

In our Gospel Jesus tells us how to open our hearts to this merciful healing.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.

There it is in black and white. Whether or not the advice changes my heart is up to me!


Poetry: To Live in the Mercy of God – Denise Levertov

To lie back under the tallest
oldest trees. How far the stems
rise, rise
               before ribs of shelter
                                           open!

To live in the mercy of God. The complete
sentence too adequate, has no give.

Awe, not comfort. Stone, elbows of
stony wood beneath lenient
moss bed.

And awe suddenly
passing beyond itself. Becomes
a form of comfort.
                      Becomes the steady
air you glide on, arms
stretched like the wings of flying foxes.
To hear the multiple silence
of trees, the rainy
forest depths of their listening.

To float, upheld,
                as salt water
                would hold you,
                                        once you dared.

                  .To live in the mercy of God.
To feel vibrate the enraptured

waterfall flinging itself
unabating down and down
                              to clenched fists of rock.
Swiftness of plunge,
hour after year after century,
                                                   O or Ah
uninterrupted, voice
many-stranded.
                              To breathe
spray. The smoke of it.
                              Arcs
of steelwhite foam, glissades
of fugitive jade barely perceptible. Such passion—
rage or joy?
                              Thus, not mild, not temperate,
God’s love for the world. Vast
flood of mercy
                      flung on resistance.


Music: Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy) Beethoven- Missa Solemnis