Poetry, Prayers for Pastors, Racism

Charm City (a prayer for pastors)

City Pier, Baltimore
The Baltimore a tourist sees.

The last time I was in Baltimore,
a hot bright summer day,
I remembered why I love it there,
a real city,
with troubles,
beautiful and eccentric,
Charm City.

It’s a place that feels real,
where it’s dirty and pretty,
no pretense,
and now it’s burning,
and kids can’t go to school,
and maybe they are hungry,
wishing for the school lunches
my ten-year-old picks at
knowing there is plenty at home.

And it’s churches feeding people,
feeding children,
and it’s pastors who lead protests,
peaceful ones,
strategizing first,
then taking to the streets,
trying to make a change
where there is so much strife,
with such long history.

Lord, I pray for those pastors,
doing work harder than mine,
no doubt wounded by the scenes
playing out on television,
or running eternally on Vine.
(Do not read the comments
on the Internet, that horrifying
collection of everything hateful.)
They are speaking to the press
and ministering to the people,
and cleaning up the mess.

All I have to do is this:
decide whether to talk about it.
I sit in a safe suburb,
and I weigh the possible reactions
of people in the pews,
or the ones I call my friends,
the ones who watch the news
and see a different story,
or only one side of it.

All I have to do is decide to talk about it.
I’m embarrassed that it feels like a lot.

So I’m praying, Lord,
for the ones with more courage,
who may not have known they had it,
but are working for You now,
clearing away the debris,
trying to clear a way for peace.

Maundy Thursday, Poetry

Maundy (a poem)

Sometimes it’s hard
to love one another,
To love into the foibles
instead of around them.

Mine are uncountable;
Unaccountable, too.

I leave the lights burning,
Turn up the thermostat,
Slip off my shoes anywhere at all.
I turn on televisions then walk away,
Forgetting, the sounds white noise
Underscoring my life.

It must be hard.

...a small portion...
…a small portion…

I have more yarn than
I could ever knit,
Projects begun, put down,
Why I loved the color
Or the texture

To love each other transcends forgetting.
We know and care, but know the truth.
He told us to love so others can know us–
Know him–
It’s a mandate, a commandment,
A rule for living,
Loving orders.

~ Martha K. Spong (originally blogged April 1, 2010)

Children, Mothering, Poetry

The kind of mother I want to be

On NPR they told the story
Of helicopter parent glory:
Moms and dads of grown-ups calling
Corporations to ask why they are failing
Evaluations and reviews —
Because it all reflects on who?

Perhaps they fear the future for them,
Comfortable kids who may be poor then.
We are punch lines of late-night jokes
And not the least bit like our folks
Who sent us off and wished us well.
Instead we hover, raising hell.

LP on her way to Vespers at Smith.
LP on her way to Vespers at Smith.

The kind of mother I want to be
Flies in when asked, and just to see
The way she dresses for the concert,
His gold tie jaunty with the black shirt,
A glimpse of mustache (is it curled?),
The ways they move in their own worlds.

These observations aren’t just surface,
They give a sense of inner purpose
A frame of mind, a turn of heart,
A choice to take the better part
All show the people they’ve become,
the things they carry learned at home.

Admittedly I miss the times they
sat and told me of their dramas,
making me feel like Wonder Mama.
I think they hesitate to say
the things that matter, which then might
move out of dream and into sight.

If you tell your mother, it must be true,
that conclusion you’ve held for only you.
I love them, even tied in knots.
To help them rearrange their thoughts
Is still a loved, familiar task
But mine now only if they ask.


(Inspired by a conversation between Krista Tippett and Brene Brown.)

Advent, Poetry, Prayers for Pastors

Wild-eyed prophets (for those who preach them)

Wild-eyed prophets lead us wide
of where we meant to go
outside the careful boxes
the established parameters
voices raised beyond politeness
voices raised to tell the truth

They shout for bones to live
for the sick to stand
for the zombies to reanimate
for the dead to rise
They shout for something new
from you, from me, from all of us.

The "shoot" of a new pine tree, post-Katrina.
The “shoot” of a new pine tree, post-Katrina.

They cry a new shoot coming
where everything was dead,
where nothing new was expected,
where the strong ruled all
They cry God’s love for the weak
to you, to me, to all of us.

They call us to repent and turn
from the way we’ve always done it
from the privilege of the ancestors
from the assumption we had it right
They call out that One is coming
for you, for me, for all of us.

Wild prophets leave us wide-eyed:
can it be true?

It can.
For you.
For me.
For all of us.

Easter, Holy Week, Poetry

This Holy Week

I am not writing prayers
composing sermons
designing liturgies

At worship,
I worship

I am not forsaken

But I am perplexed

I Google recipes
arrange itineraries
make shopping lists

honey-baked ham

I write the litany of the holiday meal

jelly beans
chocolate bunnies
marshmallow Peeps

not quite a sacrament
but we will take and eat

I am not writing prayers
save this one:

Let the dawn bring life
and light
-not just to me-

but I would take some clarity

Great List-Making Mother

if You could spare it

Lent, Poetry, Sabbatical

Lent 1

It’s possible I take it all too seriously,
As if each word were meant for me.

I read and write and pray,
But to what end?

Worship was work–
A job done well (or not),
Reviewed in the car,
Or over lunch, then filed away.

Jesus tempted? Check.
What’s next?
Move on to Lent 2.

But now I have not studied ahead.
I don’t know what’s coming.
I did not choose the hymns,
Arrange the prayers.

I did not spend my week
Walking dogs and weaving words,
Buying milk and building concepts,
Folding laundry and feeling texts.

I arrive and listen.

Jesus in the wilderness–
am I not on walkabout?
I feel so thirsty.

I drink in prayers and preaching.

I leave deep-drunk on words and Word.

Advent, Ministry, Mystic Sweet Communion, Poetry


I first read it in an email,
not at seminary.

What does that mean? I wondered.

A semester of “hymns and worship”
left gaps.

Watching my mentor, my pastors,
stand behind the table,
supplied imperfect knowledge.

I remember they talked about Jesus,
that night with his friends,
the way he broke the bread,
the way he shared the cup,
the way he shocked them.

What was I missing?

from the Greek–
the invocation of the Holy Spirit
to consecrate the bread and wine.

the prayer of consecration,
that’s the thing.

I fear I only bless them.

God, I say — approximately,
because I don’t use a book —
bless these ordinary things
and make them more than ordinary,
put the extra in them,
change them that we
may know your presence.
Change them that we
may be changed too.

Holy Spirit,
if I am guilty of assuming
or presuming,
not naming you,
not calling on you,
forgive me.

But how else would things be changed?
How else would we?