Tuesday, December 29, 2009

coloring books and crayons

We stood in the hallway of the church, me heading to my office to demystify myself, she putting on her coat, getting ready to head out into the bitter day. So, we had one of those hallway conversations folks often have, as their minds are traveling in one direction, hoping this brief stop wouldn't slow either one of us down too much.

I asked how her Christmas had been and she asked about mine. We had gone up to Columbus to see Teddy, to go out for our now Traditional (once is a happenstance, twice becomes a tradition in my denomination) Christmas repast at the Waffle House, indulging in the major food group known as sugar. She had spent the holy day with her cat, but was off to a relative's house in the afternoon where she would be immersed in a pool of 40 some relatives.

We both bemoaned the commercialism, the overindulgence of children and grandchildren who end up with a ton of presents, the toys that get broken so quickly and easily and end up out on the curb the week after the holiday. And we both recalled how, as kids, sometimes the biggest excitement in the neighborhood came when someone had a major appliance delivered to their house, and the empty cardboard box was set out by the curb, and was immediately turned into an airplane, pirate ship, mansion, truck, whatever and wherever our imagination would take us.

That's when she mentioned the fact that when she was growing up, in a family with 12 kids in it, there were no individual gifts presented at Christmas, but there was a group gift for all the kids - a board game, a puzzle, a book, something to be shared by all. And then, with the memory glittering in her eyes, she told me about the Christmas when her six sisters were all adults, and she gave each of them her very own coloring book and box of crayons. A gift that they would never have had as a child, a memory they shared from their childhood, a surprise they never expected now that they were all grown up. "Oh, I wish you could have seen the looks on their faces when they opened those presents," she said.

No need; I saw her face.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Day

Please read Luke 2:6-7

you could have
as warrior, ready
to take us on
one at a time
or en masse . . .

you could have
a whirlwind
swirling, twirling,
twisting around us,
flinging us up into
the air . . .

you could have
with a bag of
in one hand
a time-out chair
in the other;

you came
a tiny
lungs screaming for
fingers grasping for
something to hold onto,
your whole being
completely depending on
us (!) to
feed you
change you
clothe you
protect you
love you

and we were


(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Christmas Eve

Please read Luke 11:5-13

in the rustle of children
shaking presents,
in the hustle of kittens
scrambling up trees,
you stealthily tunnel
your way under the

tossing all the traditional
marches in the shredder,
you collaborate
with the choir director,
composing a simple
oratorio for this night,
stressing that 'the tenors
are going to have to
reach that high note'

cup in hand,
you worm your way
through the office party,
touching us on the
subtly cracking the
of our frozen hearts,
to slip the still warm
loaves inside.

Saboteur of our weary years,
bringing the Gift we need.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fourth Wednesday of Advent

Please read Psalm 139:1-18

not a problem!
i am doing great!
everything is smashing!
life is just one ! after another !
count on it!

in the night,
when the shadows creak
across the floor
and the ice pelts the windows
like fingernails tap
tap, tapping,
those pesky ?s
reach out from
under the bed
pulling the warm comfort
off of me;

i've pulled myself
up by the flip flops,
i've climbed the highest
i've faced down every
one who got in my way,
i've won the race
end of story

but sometimes
life comes to a full
the glyphs mount up
spacing my life out
until there seems
to be no space left
for me to breathe . . .

so come,
Ink Slinger,
your fingers smudged
for all time
as you write our names
in your book.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fourth Tuesday of Advent

Please read John 1:1-14

to gather up
all our silence,
weaving our hopes, our fears,
our longings, our ponderings
into a carol of wonder;

to pierce the shadowed
of our lives, revealing
the One who sits quietly
in the rocker,
eager to gather us up
and tell us the end
of the story;

to turn us away
from the steamy
we glimpse in the
mirror each morning,
so we can see
our twin;

One and Only,
come for us all.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fourth Monday of Advent

Please read John 10:7-16

you come,
removing that rusted
which keeps any one
from stealing our heart,
and replace it with
who opens
our way to God;

you come,
not for a fancy salary,
a gold watch or
a stock-portfolioed pension
but out of love,
your gentle goodness
stretched out on
roughened wood
so we might be
as your beloved;

you come,
not for a precious few
but for all the
not just for those who know better
but for all the
not just for the insiders,
but for all the outcast,
the oppressed,
the searchers;
not just for those who never stray,
but for all who
have taken different

so come,
Tender Shepherd,

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Please read Micah 5:2-5a

you would come,
caulk gun in hand
to mend all the cracks
in our lives;

you would come,
flashlight in hand
to search all the nooks
and crannies
where the marginalized
have been shoved
out of sight,
out of mind;

you would come,
bouquet in hand
to freshen our hopes
with the sweet aroma
of peace;

you would come,
bolt cutters in hand
to snap open
the padlocks we
have secured to
our gated hearts;

you will come,
Babe of Bethlehem,
to take us by the hand
and lead us home?

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Third Saturday of Advent

Please read Psalm 121

removing our shoes
ready to slip into
our old, scuffed slippers
of comfortable apathy,
may we be consumed
by the white fire of
which dawned in the
Christmas sky;

slip-sliding down
the stony slopes of
mountains of sin,
may we be caught
by the Word of love,
cradled forever in
the manger of grace;

wandering down the
streets of exiled loneliness,
taunted by those who
laugh as we cling tightly
to the heirloom of trust
handed down to us,
may we be gathered
up in your arms of hope,
carried to worship
the newborn Child.

Keeper of our hearts,

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, December 18, 2009

Third Friday of Advent

Please read Luke 2:46-55

stuck in the middle
of the paper this morning,
the slicks announce
another black friday sale
(the third this shopping
season, i think, but
who knows),
while the front page tells
of a single father searching
for coats to protect his kids
from poverty's chill;

the tour buses are packed
taking folks from the visitor's
center right up to the very
of that grand canyon
which pushes the have-a-lots
and the have-nots
further and further
from one another;

more children die each day
from starvation
than from any act of
but we continue to gorge
ourselves at fear's table,
piling more and more
security on our plates;

so come,
Mary's Son,
using your mother's song
to transform our lives,
as surely as it did yours.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Third Thursday of Advent

Please read John 15:12-17

each day as
i watch the two little
girls wander down the street,
their heads so close
their hair seems braided together,
their hopes conjoined
as they whisper their deepest
souls to each other,
i long for you

so come
to clean the silliness-stained
glass of my life
til i become utterly
transparent to

gathering up the ashes
of my tears
pottering them into
the apple of your

turning me outside-in
so you can write
your name
on my heart;

Anam Cara,

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Third Wednesday of Advent

Please read John 15:9-11

watching Matthew
writing down every word,
you gently whisper
in his ear,
'don't forget i said
there is a sin line between
heaven and hell';

handing around the box
of hanukkah crackers,
you hold one out to Bart,
and fall down laughing at
the look on his face
when it popped into
a shower
of stars;

you spent all morning
in the kitchen measuring, stirring,
baking the cake,
so you could watch
the epiphany of your friends,
as they tore into
their slices, hoping
to find one of the gifts
of frankincense, gold
and myrrh;

gathering the disciples around,
you sat down and said,
'a Pharisee, a scribe, and a
Sadducee walk into
a bar . . .'

Court Jester,
come to take our hands
and make our dance of
joy complete.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Third Tuesday of Advent

Please read Psalm 1

as the foam-crested waves
played tag,
running up to my toes
clenched tightly in the sand,
and then dashing back,
i stood mesmerized,
looking around for
to take my hand and
give me courage;

so come.

sitting in the
my little boat bobbing
on the knee induced waves
i would listen longingly
for footsteps to come
down the hall,
book in hand
to read me a
sherlock story;

so come.

scraped, stacked, soaked
i swish the cloth over,
under, and around each dish,
pan, and utensil,
ducking them under the
rinsing waves before
lining them up in the
drainer in proper order,
wondering if someone
will come, take the towel
off my shoulder, saying,
'let me give you a hand';

so come,
Living Water,
come to be with, in,
around, over, through me,

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, December 14, 2009

Third Monday of Advent

Please read Luke 22:14-20

Grain of gentleness,
feed us on that simple
loaf made glory by
the yeast of your love,
so we might laugh
in delight
as we gorge ourselves
on your joy;

Grail of grace:
fill our empty souls
with that spirit of
generosity and spontaneity,
so we might pour
ourselves out for those
who sit beside the
dusty wells of hope;

Chief Cook and Bottle Washer:
pushing tables together
so each may have a seat,
bringing out dish after dish
of wondrous delight,
yelling back over your
'better put another fatted calf
on the grill!'


(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Third Sunday of Advent

Please read Isaiah 12:2-6; Zephaniah 3:14-20

(and every yesterday it seems)
folks stood patiently in line
numbers clutched in their
prosecutorial hands,
eager to take their turn
making it quite clear
all the mistakes made
(at least to this point in my life),
all those things I forgot
to do (i swear they were on
my list!),
all that accountability that
doesn't seem to add up right;

but on that day
you will walk down the line
high-fiving each person
as you slyly slip their
judgments out of their hands,
crumpling them up
and tossing them behind you.

on this day
we limp through,
our weary, sore soles
seeming to find each
sharp-edged pebble
poured out on the path
in front of us
by the banes of our

but on that day
you will come,
tearing your baby quilt
into long strips,
dipping them into
the cool waters of
Grace's well,
swaddling our tender

we will once again
scan the horizon
waiting to catch
a glimpse of
as it edges ever closer,
its cataclysmic jaws
opening and closing,
longing to devour our

but on that day
you will come,
carrying a picnic basket
loaded with bread
and wine,
spreading a blanket
broad enough for all of us,
pulling out your
to play us the songs of

] come the day.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Second Saturday of Advent

Please read Psalm 80:1-3, 17-19

Come, God-with-us:
who braves our rejection and hurt,
to show your love and acceptance.

Come, God-for-us:
who whispers
in our ears
that we -
each of us -
are your Beloved children.

Come, God-under-us:
who cradles us
in arms that never grow weary;
whose lap has room enough
for all.

Come, God-over-us:
who watches
in the long silence of the night,
that we might rest in your peace.

Come, God-beside-us:
who steadies us
when we falter,
who lifts us up
when we fall.

Come, God-behind-us:
who picks up all the faded dreams
we drop along the way,
weaving them into your hope.

O come, o come,
Shepherd of your people,
and we will rejoice forever!

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Friday, December 11, 2009

Second Friday of Advent

Please read Isaiah 60:1; John 1:9

mountain ranges stretch down
the block:
the once pristine snow,
us with its lightness,
now plowed and tossed aside,
litter-topped with the
skim off the street;

the greyness of the skies
leadens our spirits,
as once more we begin
the sisyphean task
of pushing hope up
mount despair, only to
have indifference snatch
it out of our hands,
tossing it back down,
hollering 'fetch.'

dusklings tiptoe through
the neighborhood,
deluminators in hand,
seeking to abscond with
the joy in each carol,
the wonder in each child,
the hope in each heart,
the promise in the Story;

so come,
Rising Dawn,
your lucent love
filling our every moment.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Second Thursday of Advent

Please read Genesis 1:1; Revelation 22:13


we have scrabbled
all those imaginative words
you spoke at creation -
light, beauty, sky,
grace, water, joy, hope -
jumbling them into a
toxic mess which daily
threatens your dreams;


no matter how we try
to juggle the books,
punching in this number
and the next on our high tech
trying + and then -
even x a few times,
our lives never seem
to balance out;

from the beginning
to your ending
and beyond,
from a to z
with all the words
in between,
from our first breath
to our last hope,
Alpha and Omega,

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Second Wednesday of Advent

Please read Hosea 2:14-15

when we would quickly
insert the key in the door,
offering our cheeks
for the briefest of pecks
before uttering a quick goodnight,
you smile and simply
say, "i'll give you a call
tomorrow" -
so come;

when the server stops by
to warm up your coffee
for the seventh time in an
hour and a half, remarking,
'isn't this the fourth or fifth
night they haven't shown up?'
you hand him the bill
with a double-tithed tip,
whispering (as much to yourself)
"that's okay;
i'm good at waiting" -
so come;

when we've packed up all
your blessings, and put them
out on the front porch
with a note that reads
'if you have anything more to say,
do it through the lawyer,'
you send two dozen red roses,
along with a singing telegram:
"I've grown accustomed
to your face" -
so come;

Wooer of our hearts,
with love as soft
as a baby's breath,

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Second Tuesday of Advent

Please read Isaiah 46:3-4; Hosea 11:1-4, 8

voiceless from constant screaming
for our own way,
bloated after feasting on
our toxic desires,
irritable because of
sleep-disturbed dreams
of more and more:

you would gather us up
like a colicky baby,
gently rocking back and
forth on your feet,
patting us tenderly on the back,
softly rubbing us with grace,
whispering the lullabies
you taught to the angels
so long ago;
so come,
Mother of our hearts,

insistent that you take off
the training wheels (even though
we are scared inside),
knowing more as adolescents
than you could ever hope to learn,
determined to find our own way
even if it takes us from
your side:

you watch from the sidelines,
holding your tongue because
you know we need to learn
how to play life on our own,
you sit in the darkened living room;
staring into the far country
with hopeful eyes, until you
see the headlights turn into the driveway,
and silently tiptoe up to bed;
you answer the phone in the dead of night,
gathering up your keys, your wallet,
your love,
to go down and pay our bail.
so come,
Father of our hopes,

Parent we are convinced we don't need,
with the grace, the peace, the wonder
we cannot live without.


(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, December 07, 2009

Second Monday of Advent

Please read Haggai 2:1-17

come, God-of-our-past:
who has taken the water
pooled in our protective moats
to baptize us with peace;
who has turned the stone
ruins of our feeble fortifications
into bread for our enemies;

come, God-of-our-present:
who would use
the concrete walls we
are putting up between us
and everyone who
prays, looks, thinks, sounds
to build all of us communities
of compassion and trust;

come, God-of-our-future:
gently easing our foot
off the gas as
we hurtle towards the future,
so we might see
the exit signs
in time to turn off
for the back roads
to the kingdom.

so come,
Desire of the nations,
to fill us with the
of your hope.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Second Sunday of Advent

Please read Malachi 3:1-4

was it a
to change my
stumbling ways
that made me mumble
all those years ago,
or was it more
of ending up in

was it a
to learn a language
so many others spoke so well
(peace, grace, love flowing so
easily off their lives)
or was it that
left-over taste of soap
in my mouth from
using the wrong words?

all down the ages,
from sinners to sages,
with boys and girls,
in grannies and gramps,
was it fear that led them
to confess you
or true love?

Refiner's Fire,
with your cool breath
of hope.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, December 05, 2009

First Saturday of Advent

Please read Psalm 2

weary beyond fatigue,
the strictures and
stresses of these days
knot my spirit tighter
and tighter until
i almost snap;

so come,
massage me with
your healing balm of

my soul more arid
than death valley,
my heart seeded with
the ashes of desiccated
my dreams withering under
the onslaught of hype;

so come,
pour your grace all over
til i swim in joy.

perfection piles higher and higher,
expecting neatly creased wrapping,
finely curled ribbon (six inches!)
calligraphied notes for each
person on my list;

so come,
bestow on me the carols
of children who
may mess up some of the
but know the meaning deep
in their hearts.

Anointed One,

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, December 04, 2009

First Friday of Advent

Please read Ephesians 2:17-22; 1st Peter 2:4-8

they stand in reverent silence,
clasping their mom's hand
(maybe a thumb in the mouth)
staring wide-eyed
as the massive machines
doze the piles of dirt
this way and that, back and forth;
as the towering crane
gently bends over to grasp
and then lift the steel girders
high into the air where calloused
hands guide them into place,
riveting them to the beamed skeleton;
as the tool-belted and hard-hatted
carpenters, painters, plumbers, electricians
scurry about, sharing their gifts.

while we are standing around
seemingly oblivious to it all,
our hands deep in our pockets
(or our thumbs testing which way
the culture is blowing)
you carefully smooth out
the foundation poured by
those who came before us;
taking a stone from the pile
to make sure it is alive with hope,
your apprentices in hope
mortaring each one to the next
with grace.

so come,
come building that kingdom
where strangers become friends,
where immigrants become our family.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, December 03, 2009

First Thursday of Advent

Please read 1st Timothy 2:1-7; Hebrews 12-24

when those in high positions
gather, protocol must be observed:
precise measurements are taken
for how far apart each sits from the other;
rulers are used for the exact placement
of pad, pens, water glasses, pitchers;
tables are arranged just right,
so that no one has the upper hand.

so come,
to pull the tablecloths off,
spilling everything all over the place;
to push the tables off to the side,
arranging the chair is a big circle,
so close that we have to rub elbows.

when families gather for holiday meals,
protocol must be observed:
never sit Aunt Sadie near Uncle Joe
(they haven't spoken a civil word
to one another in years);
always interject with a funny story
when politics rears it's ugly head;
make sure that everyone ignores
the grief and pain that Buddy
has placed on the table next
to the cornbread stuffing,
praying silently that no one
will touch it.

so come,
moving the place cards around
til lifelong enemies have to sit
next to one another;
listening to each person's beliefs,
fears, dreams, doubts;
touching every thing we bring
to the table with your compassion,
shaping us into the healing
others need.

Mediator of our lives,
to disrupt our protocol.

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

First Wednesday of Advent

Please read Luke 1:68-79

each morning when i
let the dog out, fear
hands me the morning paper,
eager to spend the
rest of the day with me;
several times a week,
i get a fax or voicemail,
reminding me
of the times and locations of
failures anonymous;
wrap it in fancy sounding words -
outsourcing, downsizing,
restructuring, pinkslipping -
rejection is the gift
that seems to keep
on giving;

with such a toxic environment,
is it any wonder i forget
who i started out to be,
who i long to be?

you single me out,
pulling me close
in a great bear hug;
you whisper of your grace
through the mouths
of children singing
so sweet and clear
on the corner;
you swaddle all my gifts
in compassion,
hope's bright ribbon
tightly curled on top:
you remembered,
you will remember.

so come,

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

First Tuesday of Advent

Please read Matthew 9:27-31; 15:21-28

we gaze longingly
over the horizon, hoping
to catch a glimpse of that hero
who (caped, weaponized, square-jawed)
will come to deal with
all our foes, vanquishing
one and all


if we would let you
touch our cataracted hearts,
we might just see you
take off royalty's
purple finery
and wrap a towel
around your waist;

turn your WMDs into
those harvesters
reaping food for
all the hungry;

leave your throne
to sit with us,
sharing the bread of grace
with those whose
dreams are strewn
like crumbs across
the floor of their hope.

so come,
Son of David,
come with mercy
for us,

for us,

(c) 2009 Thom M. Shuman