The Unmasked Bandit

Reflecting on a year of being held hostage

More than a year ago,
we were held up by a bandit.
Ironically, he didn’t wear a mask
but he made us wear one.

Held hostage for more than a year,
we were forced into routines
quite unfamiliar to us.

Virtually everything we knew as normal
became virtual.
Continuing to work without leaving home.
Doing church without being in church.
Being in school without being in school.
Sheltering in place.
Maintaining space.
Reluctantly masking.
Perpetually asking,
“How long, O Lord, how long?”

The kidnapper became a heartless killer.
To date some 600,000 Americans
have died because of the bandit
who violated our sense of innocence.

But through it all we found reasons
to hope and be grateful.
In the midst of being socially distanced
and sheltering in place, we were…

Alone together.
At home in community.
Distanced but not disconnected.
Holed up but not sealed off.
Quarantined but not cut off.
Shut in but not shut out.
Protected but not imprisoned.

There is nothing quite like a crisis
to bring us to our knees.
Pandemics remind us we are not in control
of our own destinies.
If ever there was a time to express gratitude
to the Creator
for the privilege of being alive,
it’s now.

In your own way,
according to your own tradition,
I invite you to verbalize your dependence
on our Creator
and express gratitude for God’s provision
as well as for family and friends
who have helped us maintain our focus.

After all, they encouraged us when we felt down
and wondered if we could go on.
While sheltering in place,
those we love (who love us)
gave us a reason to honor the rules
that kept us distanced from one another.

In addition, they found creative ways
of communicating and keeping in touch
even when actual touch was not possible.

A Prodigal Father’s Day

The patient, persistent, unconditional love of our Heavenly Father

A patient father holds his tongue
yet weeps to see his willful son
exploit his birthright wastefully
and suffer needlessly.

A wounded father still will reach
to try and bridge what has been breached.
And though denied what he desires,
a father always loves.

A grieving father knows no bounds.
He sings of grace. How sweet the sounds
that emanate from one who dreams
of that delayed embrace.

A waiting father longs for those
to learn from choices that they chose
and head for home because they know
love’s light is always on.

My Girl Friday

A toast to all administrative assistants

Administrative assistants.
Now that’s an oxymoron if ever there was one.

They aren’t assistants.
They really are in charge.
They administrate and so much more.
They do the work that others get credit for
while they are happy to remain behind the scenes.
You know what I mean?

And in the case of the one I have in mind,
she was most gracious and quite kind.
Her competency and professionalism
made me look good
even when I hadn’t done my homework.

Her hospitality, honesty and integrity
were a blend of three teas
that was calming, refreshing and invigorating.
Like a hot cup of tea,
she was a source of warmth
when creativity and inspiration grew cold.

Having been a pastor’s wife,
she understood the unique challenges I faced
as I attempted to shepherd my flock.  
And so we would talk.
And often we would pray.
And often I would hear her say,
“Don’t worry! It will be okay.”

I once called her “My Girl Friday.”
But that was a bit of a misnomer.
Every day of the week
she’d seek to lift my load
and goad me to do my best.
May she rest in peace
having found release
from chains that age can bring.

And so we sing
a song we love so well.
“I Have a Future All Sublime”
where all in Christ will dwell.

* this tribute was inspired by Lucille Larson, my administrative assistant at Crossroads Covenant Church in Concord, California from 1984-1994. Peace to her memory!

Two Giant Hands in Tulsa

Praying for forgiveness and healing

Two giant hands in Tulsa
folded quietly in prayer
call to mind our need for God as we recall
the massacre in Greenwood
back in 1921
when racist bigots cast a bloody pall.

These giant hands beseech the Lord
confessing corporate sin
and asking for forgiveness of our wrong.
These hands that tremble somberly
acknowledge needed grace
admitting all lives to the Lord belong.

These giant hands now call us to
unclench our fists and pray
that love will win and justice will prevail.
These praying hands in Tulsa
tower over unmarked tombs
where those who grieve can still be heard to wail.