Disaster, LGBT, LGBTQ, Loss, Prayer

After the massacre, a prayer

Holy God,

We pray for the queer community,
frightened by the massacre in Orlando,
wondering why living their lives
as the people you made them to be
put a target on their backs.

We pray for our queer children,
gay, lesbian, bi, trans,
already afraid, careful of danger,
some suspicious of religion,
doubtful of us and of you.

We pray for the Latino community,
reeling from the loss of so many of those killed,
coming to grips with the double bias
suffered by queer people of color,
haunted by the shooter’s choice of Latin Night for his attack.

We pray for the survivors of the shooting
for their healing,
and for a sense of your presence,
and for the friends and families
grieving a terrible loss.

We pray for your church,
that we might all come to grips
with the way we have treated others,
that we might not be silent but instead
speak against hate and proclaim your love
and enact your justice.

Forgive those who will not speak
because they are afraid.

Forgive us when we are afraid.

Bring us to a new understanding:
all your children are precious to you.
Prevent us from categorizing others
in ways that give us lenience
to look the other way.

Help us, Lord, to see the world through your eyes,
to recognize that your kingdom is right here and right now,
to live in your love in our relationships with all we meet.
Remind us that wherever we live,
however we pray and whoever we love,
we are yours. Amen.

(This prayer was composed for a Vigil Service
at Mechanicsburg Presbyterian Church.)

Miranda quote at MPC

Loss, Love, Personal History

Words and pictures

It’s my day off, and it’s raining, and perhaps appropriately I’m watching that very rainy Jane Austen novel adapted for the screen and directed by Ang Lee, “Sense and Sensibility.” Poor Marianne Dashwood is always taking walks, and claiming it won’t rain, and getting practically drowned not only by precipitation but her own emotions. The movie is gorgeous to look at, and full of actors I adore, but honestly, the script? Is more like what a modern reader thinks when reading the book than like Jane Austen’s words, and that is more disappointing on this perhaps 15th viewing. Oh, Alan Rickman is rich-sounding as butter tastes, but some of the lines he has to speak are painfully ridiculous. (Maybe not, “Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad.” That one’s okay. But lots of the others.) Oddly, the less important characters seem to be speaking Austen’s words more often than the major characters. And yes, I know Emma Thompson wrote the script. I love her. But, oh dear. It’s such a responsibility to take those special words and those beloved characters and put them on film. I’m aware of this because I sort of do the same thing every week when I write a sermon, when I try to take the flat words on the page and make them three-dimensional, to make the stories feel right now instead of long, long ago.

And it puts me in mind of other conversations, more personal ones, where the surroundings were right but the words felt unbelievable, out of place and time. Final words were spoken, dramatically, full of horrible and intimate detail, on the edge of the woods where the now-departed dog loved to chase the squirrels, beside the car we took on trips or to the grocery store. Shouldn’t such scenes play out on a more dramatic landscape? Aren’t dog parks and station wagons too ordinary?

Emma Thompson, in a commentary on the film, says they had to create a falling-in-love plot for Elinor and Edward Ferrars, because the book was “arcane and prolix.” (Don’t bother to look them up; she means obscure and tedious.) In fact, there are only half-a-dozen or so lines of dialogue in the whole movie that came from the book, because, she says, Austen wasn’t writing good dialogue until later in her writing career.


No wonder regular people have trouble saying things well to each other, especially in moments of great emotion. No wonder we have trouble getting the words and the pictures to match.

But sometimes, sometimes, just at the right moment, you are saying the thing you really mean, in just the right words, and there are fireworks in the distance, or the waves are breaking, and the air smells like ocean, and the scene and the time and the feelings match, just so.

Loss, Love, Marriage, Poetry


(The poem that came before the parable)

I always wanted a hydrangea,
umbrella of creamy pink blossoms,
dry tumbling in my autumn yard.
It was a wedding present,
a promise of new life,
just outside the back door.
There were challenges; a young
dog scrabbled at its root-scent.
Heavy blooms bent the trunk.
We staked it for support,
used bricks to keep the dog away,
pruned the lower branches.
I strove for my dream of beauty,
its old-fashioned shape by the door
of my new-made family.
But it did not flourish.
Hard winters harmed it;
ice bent it, broke its spirit.
Last spring it did not leaf.
No heavy blossoms bent
the drying branches.
In fall, its time had come.
I turned away, never
expecting it to be so quick.
But when there’s nothing…
no root system to hold
the plant in the ground,
love cannot thrive and bloom.
A different we pulled it up,
as rootless as a dry twig, and
laid it to rest on the brush pile.
Sometimes the things we plant
don’t grow; but in their place,
new hopes may come to flower.