Tuesday, December 03, 2013

edge-y (Advent 2-A)

at the river's edge, we
      rub elbows with the
      piously righteous,
   jostling for the best
   position to hear
         the camel-coated, 
      with his honey-drenched

at the river's edge, they
   the bear wanting to teach
         his cubs to fish,
   the cow sipping a cool
   the ewe and lambs
   keeping a wary eye
      on the wolf pack
      playing on the

ar the river's edge, we
   for you
         to take off
         your dusty sandals,
      and jump in
      feet first
   drenching us with
        new life.

(c) 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

oxymoron (Reign of Christ/Christ the King - C)

King of kings
Lord of lords
Glory Hallelujah!


are these word just
a neat, peppy praise song,
fun to sing
      but empty of meaning?

no kings around here
that i know of,
      but a lot of politicians
      who act as if folks
            are agin' 'em
   if you are not with them;

no lords around here
         except those who
         think they can
         lord it over everyone else,
   but debt and worry and fear
   control my life;

glory seems to be
      in short supply these
   and hallelujahs
      don't seem to mean much
           to most folks;

but you

      you are a mystery solved
      in the impossibilities
               of life;
      an enigma wrapped
               in wonder;
      a majesty born
               in humility;
      a life blossoming
               out of death.

and you

      you i could follow

(c) 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, November 07, 2013

shake, rattle, and roll (Haggai 1:15b-2:9)

shake the heavens, the earth,
   the sea, the dry lands -
            shake them until
            your peace covers
      creation like a carpet
                of autumn leaves,
         and your hope burns
  in the night skies of our

rattle the cages
      of those churches
   who are locked into
         always doing
      the same thing over
           and over and over
      (and never getting it right),
          always being trapped
          in that mythical
                  past, never able
   to take a step

push the denominations
off their self-imposed
      so they can roll
      down the hill,
   splashing into that pool
          of wonder,
       to emerge dripping
             with your

but me?

just nudge me gently
   so i can turn over
   and go back to sleep,
      under the warm quilt

(c) 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

sycamore street (Luke 19:1-10)

when the ragtagged fellow
         came by with his
         empty cup held out,
   looking for a cool drink
   on the hottest day of the year,
               i turned on
               the hose very slowly
      so he could get
      a few drips;

walking by the volunteer
         standing by the red kettle
         and ringing the handbell,
   i reached in my pocket
   and dropped a shiny coin
      listening as it clinked
      against the other change;

as the plate
      down the pew
      toward me, i pull
   out my wallet
         and pour
         a wee dram
            for God;

a drip
      a drop
            a dram
   a dollop of generosity
   here and there . . .

if i'm not careful
all my possessions
will dribble away
                 and i'll end up
                 like poor Zach
   down the street.

(c) 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

anathoth (Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15)

hope is

the pool of cool
   found on the driest,
      hardest days of
      the journey, where
   i can be refreshed
         with life;

the needle and thread
            held gently
         in your fingers,
   as you cradled me
   on your lap
      gently stitching
               my soul
      back together;

the parcel in the
   i purchased when
   i said 'yes' all those
            years ago,
      and no matter
      how many times
      i have lived
         since then,
   the deed is still kept
         safely deposited
         in your heart;

the smell of the warm
         just out of the
      oven and placed on
      the table set with glory,
            telling me
   you have been waiting   
                 for me
         to come home


is . . .

(c) 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

the coin (Luke 15:8-10)

the world,
in a dither (as
    dumps out her purse,
    trying to find the car keys
        & the piece of paper
        with the estate sale's
never noticing
    as i fall to the floor,
    rolling across the hardwood past
        the dozing cat (who barely
                twitches a whisker)
    until i end up tangled
        in the clump of dog hair
            curled under the chair;

you come along,
lifting the cushions
    from the sofa and loveseat,
        sticking your fingers
        into the crevices at
            the sides and back;
you gaze around the room,
        grabbing the yardstick,
    you sweep back
    and forth under the chair
            to recover me;
    rubbing off the dirt,
touching up the nicks
        till i shine,
warming me in your
            hand, you whisper
    'i know
        exactly how to use you,'

going to the front door
    you give me away
        to the young man
        standing on the porch,
    who is trying to come
            up with the
        cost of a bus ticket

to his father.

(c) 2010 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, May 30, 2013

capernaum (Luke 7:1-10)

in the child
            sleeping at
   the shelter,
  dreaming of a job for
       her dad
     and an apartment
         for her family. . .

in the mother
      her son with his
               so he can pass
               the entrance exam
            for the private school
      her third job will pay
            for . . .

in the senior
            who gets up
         in the middle of the
               to change the
            wet bedding of
         his alzheimered wife,
      believing she will
                  remember his name
                     breakfast . . .

we encounter that
      we thought we would

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

a prayer for Moore, Oklahoma

O God, hear our prayers:

for teachers
   who became tornado shelters
   as they covered their children
          with their bodies;

of parents
   whose hearts shattered
   at the sight of the bearer
   of bad news;

for children
   whose last image
   was that of a beloved
      before they saw
      your weeping face;

for rescuers,responders, searchers
   whose grief must
   be left at home
   until their work
                  is done;

for families
   whose earthly goods
   consist of
      a picture in a
             broken frame,
      a half-torn letter,
      a broken kitchen chair;

for all
   whose beloved community
   has now become that
             shadowed valley
             of loss;

for all your people,
O God,
      hear our prayers.

(c) 2013  Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, May 09, 2013

maybe (John 17:21)

we would be one

if that place
across the street
   would stop braggin'
   about all its

if those big box
      would realize
      how serious worship
           must be;

if others
      would recognize
    that certain doctrines
         just can't be

if everyone
      would just stop
        over the questions
        we already have

we could be one
       it wasn't for

(c) 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, May 02, 2013

almost (Easter 6-C)

it almost didn't happen:
   every door was slammed
                in our faces,
   every road became more
                 and more
   the shadows chased us down
                 each alley
         until we hit the wall,
             you put on your hardhat,
             unfolded the blueprints,
             rolled up your sleeves,
         and built that city
         which is open to everyone;

it almost didn't happen:
   your bed was unslept in,
            empty hangers in
                  the closet,
      your laptop and cell phone
            left on the desk,
   and the house echoed with
                the emptiness
                of our hearts,
            the doorbell rang,
         and when we opened the door,
            the Babysitter stood there,
       a big smile on her face,
       suitcases full of peace
                at her side,
         and gathering up our
            she took them out to
                     the curb
          for the trash pickup
          scheduled next morning.

(c) 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

marching orders (John 13:31-35)

i could step
      over the homeless
      sleeping on the
         or i could
   lift her to her
   feet, embracing her as my
      as you have . . .

i could continue
   to carry that grudge
         in my heart, letting
      it rub blisters
      all over my soul,
         or i could
   forgive that person
   who gave it to me so
                  long ago,
      as you have . . .

i could keep
            a list
         of all those who
         step out of line, not
      heeding all the
      carved into stone
            by time,
         or i could
   invite everyone to join
      dancing in that circle
      where all are welcome
               just as the are,
as you have . . .

(c) 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Lord is (Psalm 23)

The Lord is a first responder
    who runs towards the blast
    not away from it;

the Lord is a trauma nurse
    who is in her car in the parking lot
    ready to go home after her shift,
    but goes back in when she sees
    the ambulances arrive;

the Lord is employees
    who turn their restaurant
    into a shelter for the injured
    and frightened;

the Lord is a mother
    who makes sure her home
    is secure and then checks
    on her neighbors;

the Lord is a father
    who comforts his children
    while his own fears
    assail him . . .

in the darkest of valleys,
   the Lord is
   always with us.

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

meanwhile (Easter 3-C)

we are still struggling
   to come up with ways to
      just what happened
      a couple of weeks


you are
   people with your grace
      so they can find
      the right road;

you are
            jumping into
        the Pit,
   cupping your hands together
      so people can put a foot
                 in them, getting
        a boost up into the

you are
            holding hands
   with all the kids, singing:
     'ring around the throne,
      God never leaves us alone;
      amen!  amen!  we all fall down!'

you are
           standing at the grill,
      sliding the fish and
      onto the warm plates, hollering
             to the disciples,
   'orders up!'

(c) 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, April 04, 2013


conjoined at that 
            new birth 
      you spoke of 
      just before dawn 
   my lifelong companion 
   promised never 
          to leave me 
          stranded, especially 
     as i sought 
        to follow down 
           those mystery-filled 
           paths you 
      that evening 
            you pointed the 
           with your scars, 
    and taking her 
              trembling hand, 
     we took 
     that first 
   step into 


(c) 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

just suppose

what if 
   the homeless are 
      that affordable housing 
      for everyone is a 
        and not a problem; 
what if 
   the poor are 
        telling the truth, 
     that we silence their voices, 
     stepping right past them as if 
               they were invisible, 
          in our rush to be their 
what if 
   the broken and the sick 
           are correct, 
      that they should 
      be able to receive 
            the medical care 
                 we do; 
what if 
   the testimony 
   of the women is true, 
         that the grave is empty 
         and the Gardener 
      is planting new life 
   for every one, 
          every one, 
             every one. 
(c) 2013  Thom M. Shuman 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

because (John 12:1-8)

we have preserved our joy
in manna jars
for the long winter of despair,
storing them in the dark corners
of our souls,
we have forgotten
its gritty taste;

we have put a tight lid
on our joy,
and put it in the back
of the pantry,
we have forgotten
how it can tickle
our noses;

we are so busy
prattling pious platitudes
about the poor, the least, the lost,
we ignore your words
which anoint them
as your children;

we have put up
the shutters and storm doors
to keep your future
from sneaking in,
we have missed
the sweet breeze
carrying your hope
to us;

we are who we are,
restore us, Holy Grace,
and make us
a fragrant offering
to the world.

(c) Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


dragging his emptied life behind,
one wheel wobbling,
ready to fall off at
the next crack in
his misery,
the children trailing behind
laughing and throwing
derision's husks
at the wastrel
wondering towards home;

the lenses of his glasses
so grimed with envy
he can't see past the end
of his sharpened red pencil,
he stands in the shadows,
arms full of ledgers
where each and every slight
is recorded,
ready to make his case
at any moment;

burning the midnight oil,
the robe lapping his knees,
the ring rubbed smooth
from so much twisting,
he watches until
the stars doze off,
starting up from the chair
every time a figure appears
in the periphery of his
wearily sinking back
as the shadow passes
the end of the drive;

so many prodigals . . .
you welcome each
at your table,
eager to waste all your grace
on us.

(c) 2010 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

providence (Isaiah 55:1-9)

starting in the middle
      of the night, supervised
      only by the stars, you
   meet the delivery trucks,
         getting case after case
              of milk into the
              refrigerated coolers,
      stacking the loaves of still warm
                  bread on the shelves,
         running the meat through
           the slicer )thin enough
           for deli sandwiches), then
     turning to your partners who,
               like you, are wiping
     their sweaty brows with the
        hems of their aprons, you announce,
   'throw open the doors!  And remember,
    everything is 100% off.'

while the Kid
is running the sweeper
              through the dining room,
     and setting the tables
     with the best silver and china,
   and Sophia is putting the finishing
          touches on the dessert trays,               
                  you make one final
       check of the food in the ovens
       and simmering on top of the stoves,
     then, turning to the servers, you
   remind them that everyone is to be treated
   as if they were at a State Dinner, and
         on every check, they are simpy
         to scrawl
           Total: $0.00 (grace included),

      you stand at the open door,
   greeting every person with
        a smile, calling each one by name,
              welcoming them
     to your banquet of
          joy and wonder.

(c) 2013  Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

cluck, cluck (Luke 13:31-35)

      you meant an
   eagle,   majestic
         and soaring above
      with an inscrutable eye
           on all below;

or maybe
it was a
      stork, bringing
   good luck (even a baby?)
         to the house
            it visits;

perhaps a
   singing to cheer our
      an owl,
          imbuing us with
   the wild goose whose
      dignity belies
          its free spirit . . .

but a chicken? 

   squawking, clucking,
   scrabbling around in the
      for food, gawkily
         flapping her wings,
    while scrabbling about
       to protect her chicks
            who are doing
            everything they
      to get away from her . . .

. . . that's your image of


(c) 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, January 25, 2013

Your Body, LLC (1 Corinthians 12:12-31a)

we stick our tongue
         out of the corner
         of our mouths
      as we try to make
              the chart
         properly (if
   the vote is 'yes'
      then we go
           in that direction,
        if 'no' then
    we take a different
      but you simply whisper
         'follow me (even
        if it seems we
        are going in circles)';

the time line is posted
            all over the
      facility, from the
         boardroom to the
              bathroom, so
   everyone will know the
   exact sequence of when
      our transformation
      efforts will take
          and you persist
        in showing up when
        we least expect, asking
   'is this a bad time?'

we pull up
         the template on
         our computer, ready
      to fill in the names
      of the organization's leadership,
   so it is clear as to who has
   what authority, who reports to
           who the links in the
           chain of command are,
              you place a gift
              in the heart of each
         person (even the ones
                not listed on the
                    chart) and
   invite us to join hands as
      we dance in a circle
         around you.

(c) 2013 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cana (John 2:1-11)

when you might prefer
to do nothing,
you are reminded of
what you should do,

you take our
pooled on the
floors of our
and, with a word,
they flow together
into the sweet wine
of joy;

you gather up
our shattered
words of despair,
and rearrange them
into songs
of hope;

you step into our
comfort zones,
pulling us up
out of our lazy
dancing with us
until the dawn breaks.

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman