Saturday, March 30, 2013


morning came:
i put the leash on Sadness
and took him for a walk in the rain;
i put the kettle on and
and watched my hopes steam away;
i stirred my life
and gorged on its bitterness.

morning will come:
the job will shove me
out of bed;
the dirty laundry will trip me
on my way to the shower;
tv's talking heads
will remind me how terrible life is.

but this morning?
this morning
daffodils spread their petals
the one who comes weeping for her

this morning
angels laugh
as death is kicked
of the tomb;

this morning
does cartwheels through the
through the puddles of our tears
into our

Alleluia! Amen!

© Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Blessed is the one who comes in the name
          of the LORD.
    We bless you from the house of
          the LORD
. Psalm 118:26

Who was it this past week: the person who slammed the door in your face, or the class mate who ignored you when you said 'hi' in the hallway?  The co-worker who grabbed the credit for your work, the friend who forgot your birthday? The neighbor who turned and walked the other way when you stepped out on your porch, the stranger who gave you the finger after cutting you off in traffic? Who was it that made life more miserable than it already was?

God throws wide the doors of the kingdom, inviting us in, sitting us down at the table, pouring us a cup of tea, and asking, 'What's going on in you life?' Then God sits there, gently nodding, listening, embracing our days.

After some silence, God tenderly begins to probe, to help us see those others in our lives, the people we perhaps didn't notice.

Who was it that blessed you over the last few days: the stranger who gave you a smile, the little kid who came up and hugged you to pieces? Who told you how special you are without uttering a single word, who made you laugh when the tears were about to spill over? Who wrapped you in that shawl of compassion when heartache chilled your soul, who was at your side when you walked down Lonely Drive?

And then God asks, "Whose name/face will you put in the blank,
  'Blessed is __________________ who came in the name of the Lord?'"

(c) 2013  Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, March 23, 2013


When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus began to weep.
 John 11:32-35
- - - -

if only
were here, Lord:

you could mentor
schoolyard bullies
to treat others
respect and civility;

would find you
listed on their daily
appointment sheet,
until they changed
their practices;

the poor
would see you
advocating for them from
your seat on
the city council;

you would visit
the homeless sleeping
under bridges and on sidewalk
taking them by the hand
to lead them to
shelters open
all hours, and soup
serving three meals
a day;

if only . . .

. . . and you begin
to weep
'i am here,
in you.'

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, March 22, 2013


24 hours of roller coasting through life, from the wonder of a gentle dog who ran with tail wagging to help read to little kids (and shower them with unconditional love) to a clearly aging dog with health problems that might mean his never getting to read, or run, or wag, or walk, or chase squirrels again; from the joy of a dog who loves to sit in his yard and ponder the great mysteries of squirreldom, to a dog lying so still, taking shallow breaths, a glazed and disoriented look in his eyes; from the tears of trying to say good-bye to a friend whose faithfulness and steadfast love mirror that of the One who created him to tears of joy and heart depth laughter over more hours and days ahead together.

What precious gifts were the e-notes, the texts, the calls, the prayers, the encouragement, the support, the love from all over the world for a "dumb animal" and those who are foolish enough to bond with him, letting him minister to them with grace and gentleness.  Gifts from people who only know him from pictures and from scraps of writing, but who know about such things as fear, loss, heartbreak, and tears.

Isn't this what community, about faith, about being people of faith is all about - this sharing, this bonding, this care? Some of the best things people of faith do is to reach out to those who are suffering; to pray for those in the valleys of doubt and who are seeking to climb the mountains of transformation; to be voices for those who no one else wants to listen to; to be advocates for all who are rejected by the world; to care about folks they will never meet this side of the kingdom as if they were their closest kin; to simply be there for others when those others just have trouble with all that life throws at them.

I feel sorry for people who do not have such a community, and even sorrier that we haven't done a better job of letting people know where they can find such folks.

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, March 21, 2013


So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. Romans 11:5

those who cannot
see past the end
of broken promises
will find themselves bumping
into your

those who stumble along,
twisting their ankles in
despair's potholes,
will discover you
on your knees,
a trowel in your hand
smoothing out the cement
into the cracks in their

those who carry one
kid on their
hip, with another
about to burst out,
will be invited
to your play

those who populate
the walls
at proms, and the
young men with two
left feet
will win the ballroom

those who can't carry
a tune
(and haven't for the last
60 years or so)
will record a CD
with Susan Boyle;

those who always
see their glass half
and about to be
knocked over,
will do a cannonball
into your pools of
pure grace.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:14-15
- - - - -

words of judgment
and recrimination,
those of acceptance
and grace:
what do people
hear from

quotations from a
dozen experts
(each with a different opinion),
or songs from the deep
wells within us:
how do others
learn from

sprinters trying to reach
the finish first,
or long-distance
who do those
around us

if we don't act as if we
really believe,
if we can't speak as if we
do know,
if we can't walk as if we
have the map in hand,


© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

please and thank you

I grew up in a time when manners were considered to be important. Through parents, teachers, and others, you learned to say 'please' and 'thank you,' you learned not to interrupt another person when they were speaking, you learned to respect the opinions of others, you learned to be courteous towards everyone.

But not anymore. On television, members of so-called panels spend the time talking over each other, never letting someone finish their thought, much less their sentences. On the radio, a caller's opinion is treated with derision, laughter, and outright profanity. People shove their way through crowds to get a better position, one rarely hears the word 'please' any more, and 'have a good one' has replaced the 'thank you' that clerks used to say to customers.

Maybe it is time to practice the spiritual discipline of courtesy once again.

Yes, a spiritual discipline. Think about how courteous God is towards us.  God speaks to us in beauty, truth, and grace, sometimes using words, as St. Francis used to say. God treats all of us with respect, letting us know that we are valued and honored. God continues to accept us, despite our best efforts to reject God. God's love is unconditional, steadfast, eternal.

What would our world, our communities, our families be like if we followed God's example of the courteous life. Imagine how people might feel if they heard words of beauty, truth, and grace coming from our lips. What might it mean to someone with whom we fundamentally disagree, if they saw respect on our faces, and heard it in our voices? What lives might be changed if the other felt valued and honored by us, what young person who feels rejected by everyone around her might discover that she is accepted by us? And who among us can't use more unconditional love, much less offer it to others?

Julian of Norwich used to speak of "our courteous Lord," a reminder of the One who walked among us, bringing hope, treating others with respect, speaking words of hope and grace to those he encountered.

Maybe today, we can be just a little more courteous.

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, March 18, 2013


I lift up my eyes to the
          hills -
from where will my help
My help comes from the
who made heaven and
Psalm 121:1-2
- - - -

keeping my eyes
for the next
big thing,
i may overlook
the Grace sisters
joining hands in a
circle around me,
singing a song of your joy;

letting my gaze
slide over
Lady Lust
as she sashays
just in front of me,
i brush aside
the shaded glasses
you offer me
to protect me from
the allure;

standing on my tiptoes,
rubbernecking until i can
get a glimpse
of all the pandering
down the street,
i may not feel
your hand grabbing
my arm, right before
i step into
the Pit.

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman


For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  Ist Corinthians 9:19
- - -

at liberty
         to do whatever I please,
   will i continue to wander
                down those endless
           that dead end at Sin Street,
      or might i turn
                down that less wandered
                      pointing to those
                      left behind?

         to hang out with anyone
                                    i choose,
      will i want to go through
                     the initiation
                  to join that gang
                  which hoards
                         for themselves,
   or will i join the folks
        demanding justice for all,
        an end to poverty,
           mothballing of all of war's weapons?

         to go anywhere i want,
                   whenever i want,
   will i purchase a home
                           on some exotic
      or move into poverty row,
          to be with those
          who are longing for
                    a few of God's
       friends to finally show up?

(c) Thom M. Shuman


Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.  So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?"  Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."   John 6:66-69
- - - -

we could head
         down to Money Street,
            all the others in that
            chase to gain
      more and more, only
         to have it slip
         through our lives like

we could follow
           the latest supercelebelete
   on every social media
                  at our disposal,
      only to discover
      that they are so focused
            on themselves, they
            would never be able
         to pick us out of a

we could attend every
               of our party,
   waving our signs,
       bumpersticking our cars,
           throwing our moeny
           into their pockets,
   and watch the plastic-smiled
       rush to their private jets
                  for a golf match;


we could go to


(c) 2013  Thom M. Shuman

Friday, March 15, 2013


What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
    "For your sake we are being
         killed all day long;
    we are accounted as sheep
         to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:31-39
- - - - -

    not the death
       i fear,
    or the one
       i long for;

[nothing can]
    not the life
       i sleepwalk through,
    or the one
       i fantasize about;

[nothing can separate]
    not the hubris
    that carries me
       to the top of Mt. Arrogance,
    or the skeptics
    who push me
       into the Sea of Doubt;

[nothing can separate me]
    not the foolish choices
    that tripped me up
    nor the terrors
    i imagine
                lurking in tomorrow;

nothing can keep us apart,
                        not a thing

                 not even

me . . .

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Habemus Spiritus Sanctus

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.   Romans 8:14

The Catholics may be the one church which has a more complicated process for calling a new pastor than we Presbyterians! Yet, it is obvious that the election of Pope Francis I has brought joy, wonder, and excitement to so many of that faith. I join them in praying for the new Pope, especially that he might be guided by the life and witness of Francis of Assisi.

A Presbyterian for the long haul, I admit that there I am not likely to convert to Catholicism. Yet, it is part of my Christian heritage and tradition and I am especially attracted to the monastic movement. But in watching that historic event yesterday afternoon (my time), I was struck again by the power of making the sign of the cross and speaking the Trinitarian formula.

When they do so, they are constantly being reminded of the God who created us and all that is around us, the God who has entrusted that created order to our care, the God who must wonder (on most days) what in the world we are doing with the world.

They are reminded, every time they make the sign of the cross, of Jesus.  Not just the Jesus who is our best friend, the one who walks with us, the one we would must like to meet down at the pub. But the Jesus who is radical enough to believe that we can offer more compassion to the poor than we are, the one who dares us to see God in the most vulnerable around us, the one who challenges us to stop making Christianity the status quo and make it the upsetter-of-apple carts.

And they are continually whispering to themselves that the Holy Spirit is a part of everything. Not content to sit back and rest on her laurels of moving upon the face of the waters at Creation, she continues to move in our midst.  A dove, the Spirit pushes and pulls us towards the role of peacemakers; a flame, the Spirit keeps trying to light a fire under us and get us moving out of our comfort zones; a mighty wind, the Spirit would knock us off our self-imposed pedestals of grandeur and send us face first into the muck and mire of the world where we will work alongside Jesus in service to others; a whisper, the Spirit would sing us songs about the fresh, new ways of being God's people, so we can go out and sing them to others.

May we be reminded of the presence, the power, the peace of the Spirit in our midst this day.

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

kata sarx

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 5:5
- - - -

a doughnut here,
                   a doughnut there,
       what the heck?
             my hunger says
             that it is

a thought here,
                      a thought there,
       what does it matter,
       how does it hurt me?
             my mind savors

a lust here,
                  a lust there,
       does anyone really notice?
              i only have eyes
                      for such

a wayward word here,
                     a beguiling word there,
       do they really hurt anyone?
                   my mouth
                      such morsels;

accordingly i

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


But if you listen to me, says the LORD, and bring in no burden by the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but keep the sabbath day holy and do no work on it, then there shall enter by the gates of this city kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their officials, the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall be inhabited forever. Jeremiah 17:24-25

may this day
       be less running
          with errands, and
    walking with you;

may this day
       offer less talking
          more silence;

may this day
       be less about
    and more about
             giving (away);

may this day
       contain less
    and more
    to you;

may this day
       be less focused
                     on me, and
          more on the ones i
                     love (especially

may this day
       be less about
                      doing, and
            more about

may this day

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, March 11, 2013

nocturnal lachrymation

I am weary with my
    every night I flood my bed
         with tears;
    I drench by couch with
         my weeping.
My eyes waste away because
         of grief.
     Psalm 6:6-7a
- - - - -

pulling off the soaked
          sheets, i put them
          in the basket, walking
             down and loading them
             into the washer, carrying
   up a fresh, dry set to put
   on the bed,
                     ready to catch
                     my tears

for those who hunger,
   and for those who believe
                     their pantries do not
                     hold enough to feed
       five thousand;

for those whose grief
                   seems to stretch out
     and those who too
                      to display emotion;

for those whose homes
          are filled with cold
       and those whose
                           hearts yearn
            for a roof over the heads
                      of their families;

for those who believe
                      might is always
    and those who see God
         in everyone labeled

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, March 10, 2013


You are a hiding place for
    you preserve me from
    you surround me with glad
          cries of deliverance. Selah
I will instruct you and teach
          you the way you
          should go;
   I will counsel you with my
          eye upon you
. Psalm 32:7-8

it's all about

God offers new life
to each, but
we prefer to imagine

God would lead us
to green pastures
and still waters, but
we find our journey
with bitterness
and death
to be the better way;

God prepares a table
which groans with goodness
and mercy, but
we gorge ourselves on
the empty calories from
the husks of sin;

it's all about
and grace
is all around us,


© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, March 09, 2013


Be strong, and let your heart
          take courage,
    all you who wait for the
Psalm 31:24
- - - - -

this day,
           O Lord,
give me courage:

to open my mouth
           on behalf of the
       and turn a deaf ear
               to those who offer
           words of fear and ridicule;

to share a meal
              with the lost and the
                          least, and
        not hunger for a place
        at the head table;

to open up my abundance
      and stop imagining
            it all belongs to

to honor all those
          the world shames,
     and wrap them in
                 respect's soft shawl;

to trust in you, not
       in my baser

give me courage,
    this day and
                      every day.

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, March 08, 2013

saying kaddish

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly
be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self
was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we
might no longer be enslaved to sin. Romans 6:5-6
- - - -

lying in bed at night,
                for the examen of my
                                       i fall asleep
                dreaming of that
                newness which is
                           mine, through

                                                      each morning,
          i reach into the closet
                pulling out my old life,
                                     it for
                            (just, i whisper)
                   one more day,
    leaving your grace,
          pristine and neat,
          on the plastic encased hanger;

       drive me to the
               where i can say my goodbyes
               the ashes of my worst self,
               the dust of my aged desires,
                    turn to embrace you,
the bright Son
of resurrection.

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, March 07, 2013


The LORD is my light and my
      whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold
             of my life;
      of whom shall I be afraid?

                    Psalm 27:1
- - - -

each morning,
as i walk out the door,
i double-check to see
if any of the
little Panics
from down the street
are hiding in the bushes,
ready to jump out shouting BOO!
while you patiently sit in the car,
the motor idling gently,
waiting to ride shotgun down
to the office;

after going through the house
shutting tight the windows,
dead-bolting the doors,
the qualms start scratching
at the windows, and there is
the soft tap-tapping at the door
as if an old friend
wants to be let in,
so you nudge me upstairs, saying,
"I'll see who it is."

turning out the lights and climbing
into bed,
i feel the cold sweats down
by my feet,
the bete noires whispering under
the bed, 'he won't sleep tonight,'
Clan Phobia setting up the
table for an all-night poker game
with my hopes as chips,
then you come in, turning on the
handing me a glass of warm milk,
and settling into the rocker,
you read me the Story
until i fall asleep

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

fill in the blank

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

grace is

    the treasure
          we cannot put on our card

    the healing
          no doctor can prescribe

    the family
          we cannot offend
             or drive away

    the home
          we long for

    the love
          find so hard to accept

    the hope
          which waits for us
             to pick it up

    the ___________
           (you finish this devotion)

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


They set a net for my steps;
    my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my path,
    but they have fallen into it
. Psalm 57:6

working throughout
                   the night,
       death wove the vines
       of sin into a fine mesh,
             laying it on the ground
                so i might be ensnared
          while walking early in the morning,
    but as he sprinkled the leaves
                to cover it, you tossed
         a branch, triggering the trap,
    laughing as it gathered him up
            and left him hanging from the

taking turns digging,
       the Temptations sang a dirge,
                as they prepared sheol for me,
           deep, wide, slippery,
                       impossible to escape
                once in, but
        as they stood at the edge
            admiring their cleverness,
    you shoved them in,
        taking me by the hand,
             we skip into the

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, March 04, 2013


At the northern end of Chile lies the Atacama Desert. Those who study such things believe it to be the driest desert in the world. Though it borders the Pacific Ocean, it averages less than .004 inches of precipitation a year, and sees no rainfall in some years. Yet, it is exactly those conditions that makes it one of the best places on earth to observe the night sky. Those hot desert days create amazingly clear skies, there is rarely cloud cover or light pollution, and it is at a high elevation. That's why it 'houses' some of the largest astronomical observatories in the world.

It reminds me of what folks call 'thin places' - those spots where the gap between heaven and earth seems but a couple of feet, where the veil between God and us is as thin as phyllo dough. A dozen years ago, I was able to visit some thin places: Gethsemani, Taize, Iona, Lindisfarne, the Northumbria Community, all of which offer tremendous hospitality to pilgrims from all over the world. Places where I recharged my spiritual batteries, and felt closer to God than I had ever experienced, before or since.

While I get back to Gethsemani on a regular basis, I have always hoped to get back to some of the other thin places, especially Iona, before now. God willing (and if I win the lottery or sell a million books!), that might happen this year.  But in the meantime, I am trying to open my soul to those thin places which might just be around me.

Sometimes when I am standing in the woods with Dusty and the wind is gently blowing around us, I feel like if we took just a few more steps, we would cross that boundary.

Sometimes, when I sit on the deck with only the night sky as my companion and the stars softly singing their songs, I am at worship.

Sometimes, as I sit on that child-size chair reading books to the preschoolers with Dusty, I think I could reach through that veil and touch God's face.

Sometimes . . .

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, March 03, 2013


O God, you are my God, I seek you,
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where
       there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the
    beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better
       than life,
    my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
    I will lift up my hands and call on
       your name.
My soul is satisfied as with
    a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with
    joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
    and meditate on you in the
       watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I
       sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
(Palm 63:1-8)

Imagine your throat so dry it aches with tightness; your tongue searches for moisture in your mouth, but it only finds dust; you turn on the faucet - but only ashes come out; all the water bottles are empty, bone dry.

Now, be honest, would you go to the sanctuary of the church looking for relief? Why not? Or would you go into that seemingly empty place; why?

What does your soul look like? Does it resemble Casper the Friendly Ghost, or a mist over the lake, or a shadow on the wall?  What if it was like plastic wrap, able to cling so tightly to God, that you were never parted from God? Can you imagine that, right now?

Tonight as you lay down to sleep, the light turned out, the covers warming you, the pillow cradling your head - what will you think about? The potholes of life you bumped over today? The fears that lurk in the dawn's light? Why not meditate on God with the following prayer:

I will lie down this night with God,
    and God will lie down with me;
I will lie down this night with Christ,
    and Christ will lie down with me;
I will lie down this night with the Spirit,
    and the Spirit will lie down with me.
God, Christ, and the Spirit be lying down with me this night.

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, March 02, 2013

back to school

Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God.
Let your good spirit lead me
    on a level path
. Psalm 143:10
- - - -

though never really
at math, i still use
the basics: figuring out mpg,
balancing the checkbook,
making sure the cashier is

though it did not end
up being my major, i enjoy
non-fiction books
about historical

and while a yellow legal pad
and a pen
are my preferred tools,
i have learned (mostly
the ins and outs
of processing words;

why am i so
to be a life-long learner
your will as well as your
everything else you
long to teach

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, March 01, 2013

morning walk

Dusty and I just got back from our morning walk and I am reminded, once again, of how those moments are a spiritual discipline. Oh, I have never seen this as a chapter in a book on disciplines, or heard it in a talk or sermon, or shown as part of a power point presentation, but it is for me and it may be the one that I practice most often.

Part of my appreciation for this discipline is the fact that it gets me up and moving - out of the house or office, away from the TV or computer, off my duff and onto my feet. Another reason is because it is that time when I can have a conversation with God, while journeying through this marvelous gift we call creation. But mainly, it is because of what I learn while walking Dusty.

I know as I go through the day, that my encounters with others can often be viewed as interruptions; that I can greet people with a grumpy face; that I can begin to fidget after about 20 seconds as if I have something far more important to do or be.  But not Dusty. He greets people with unconditional acceptance, and his wagging tail is that signal that he is more than delighted to be in the company of another.  He patiently receives whatever gift they have to offer, and gives his love without reservation. He will spend as long with the other as they need, and never look around as if they are detaining him from an appointment.

With Dusty, I am reminded of how important it is for me to stay tethered to Jesus as I walk through life. Oh I can, and usually do, convince myself that my route is better, that he must certainly be wrong in wanting to go in that direction, that the smells and temptations and longings are just across the street, if we could only go there! But with a gentle tug, I can be led to those green pastures. I know that on my own, I can get into more trouble than even I dare imagine, but if I listen to that Voice, gently and lovingly calling me back, I can find those still waters my stressed out life needs.

And when, at the end of our walk, and I am set free, I hope I can run eagerly, joyfully, and expectantly


© 2013 Thom M. Shuman