Tuesday, November 30, 2010

First Tuesday of Advent

Read Psalm 146

if you're happy . . .

this Christmas,
if i want to
delight her
(or so i am told),
i can find just the right gift
at the jewelers,
or the car dealer,
or from the local purveyor
of furs;

this season,
if i want to put
a smile on his face
(or so the celebs say),
i can gift wrap
a snowblower,
put the keys to a riding mower
in his stocking,
offer gold (toss in the frankincense
and myrrh if needed)
to get those hard-to-come-by
tix for THE GAME;

this year
(and every year, the ad gods proclaim)
if we want to hear the youngsters
shout for joy,
we simply get the next generation
mobile (with every possible app),
ebay every day till we outbid the world
on that impossible-to-find
(media approved and driven)
pay any price for every thing
on their list.

but true
this-is-what-it's all-about
we'll find that
shivering in the bitter cold

collecting coats for kids
who have only a thin shirt
standing between them
and winter's breath;
visiting every politician's office
over and over and over,
as self-employed lobbyists
for the poor, the marginalized,
the forgotten;
joining you down at the
soup kitchen,
chopping carrots, peeling spuds,
clearing the tables, doing the dishes
(all those back-aching, feet-numbing
spiritual gifts we forget we have),
so others might know your

(c) 2010 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, November 29, 2010

First Monday of Advent

Read Psalm 122


paved with credit cards,
the roads to the malls
    stretch out before us,
    all shiny and bright,
        the lights twinkling
        (in reds, greens and gold)
            all the specials
    waiting for us inside;

clambering up the ladders,
prancing across the roofs,
    electricity stringing
    this way and that,
        Santa, the reindeers,
            18 toy soldiers,
            as well as the itsybitsy
    the neighbors make ready
    their houses to welcome
        all the traffic to this
            wonderful time of

shaking your head,
you turn and look down
the shadowed alley lying
    before you,
        potholed by poverty;
        lined with hedgerows
            where peace and hope
            are twisted together,
            shriveling from indifference;
        the bulbs in the
            removed for 'safety';
        gang tags sprayed on
        garage doors which house
                empty dreams;

you hold out your hand to us,
    'this is a shortcut I know
                to Bethlehem.
        You coming?'

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday of Advent

Read Matthew 24:36-44


stretching wearily
to get the stiffness
out of your back
   after a long night
   at the factory,
      you dump the detritus
      of your pockets
      on the polished dresser:

coins picked up off the floor
   as you walked around
   checking that all the doors
       were shut tight;
the master key
   to all the offices
   in the executive suite;
the pocket lint
   that has accumulated
   since the last time
      the uniform was in the

you take the heirloom
out of your pocket,
   opening it up
   to look (for the umpteenth
      time during the day)
         at the picture
         of Spirit pasted
         on the inside of
            the cover;

after polishing
the crystal with your
blue bandanna,
   you turn it over, gently
   rubbing your fingers over
      the inscription
         'for Dad - love XP'
and putting in the key
you wind it, as you
have done every day

climbing into bed
and pulling the covers
up over you,
   you whisper to yourself,
 'i wonder what would
if i ever forgot to wind
        that old thing?'

(c)  2010  Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

those guys . . .

After my last Sunday as an interim at Glendale First Presbyterian, I slipped off the next day to the Abbey of Gethsemani for some downtime and reflection.  As I journeyed through the week with the silence, the singing, the walks in the woods, I was struck again at how much the monks are like us - a rhythm of work, rest, eating  -  but how differently they move!

They seem to move with the grace of ballet dancers.  There is no speed, no hurry, no rush  -  just a slow, melodic pace down the hallways of the building, into the church, across the fields.  Each step seems so deliberate, so carefully planned, yet you can tell by their faces that it has become a way of life for them.

There is an economy of speech which they model, as well.  And it is not just because they have taken that vow to observe silence, but it is a slower cadence, a slower pattern, almost a dance with the words which they us, as if each spoken thought was a lover who deserved the best the monk could offer.  Those who read the scriptures/reflections, those who offer the prayers do so as if they have all the time in the world, rather than trying to get it done so the next part of the service could take place.  During one of the daily hours, I decided to read (silently) the psalms as I would do so in church, while the monks sang them.  No big surprise, I finished way ahead of them on every line, even though I consider myself to be a pretty good reader of scripture.

By the end of the week, as has happened every time I have been blessed with a visit to this thin place, I found myself walking more slowly, thinking more carefully, reading for nourishment rather than speed, speaking more cautiously, praying with more silence between the words.  What a wonderful gift this community offers to each and every pilgrim who visits them.

The gift of a different rhythm of life, not because they listen to the beat of a different drummer, but because they pace themselves to God's heartbeat.

© 2010  Thom M. Shuman