Friday, August 16, 2019

canticle 80

hear us, Tender God,
who gathers us
like a border collie!
you sit on a park bench
built from the songs of angels,
smiling as you watch us
swing high up into the sky, and
when we scrape our knees,
run to pick us up,
kissing our boo-boos!

run quickly, our Parent,
to sweep us up in your arms!

when we speak hollow words
to you instead of our hearts,
our soup is flavored with your tears,
and our bread tastes stale;
even our playmates know
how foolish we have been,
giggling behind our backs
with one another.

run quickly, our Parent,
to sweep us up in your arms!

you took a runner of strawberries
from your garden,
so it might take root
wherever your children live.
it slowly spreads over the lawns
and curls under the trees,
it sneaks towards the sides houses,
and creeps down to the ponds.
when we would make preserves
and keep the jars for ourselves,
you invite everyone to come
and fill their baskets for free,
letting little children get the juice
all over their faces and clothes.

take another look, Gardener of our hearts,
see how the runners might offer
food and joy to so many,
your gift becoming precious to others.
yes, we aren't good caretakers,
yes, we let the weeds creep in,
but you can teach us the right way
to care for all you have offered us,
taking us by the hand, so
slowly, carefully, we may become
master gardeners just like you!
then, we won't make the same mistakes
over and over, but share the bounty,
telling everyone who taught us
how to be good strawberry farmers!

run quickly, our Teacher,
to sweep us up in your arms!

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, August 08, 2019

canticle 50

God has had enough;
no more standing in the wings,
no more waiting for us
to do what we know we should do.

God has had enough:
no more keeping silent,
hoping our prayers will take shape,
that our thoughts will lead to action,
that our brokenness will bring healing.
calling us into the living room,
God holds a family meeting:

i have had enough
of your kowtowing to the powerful,
your idols made of steel,
your worship of angry words and hearts;
you don't care about the air and water,
the creatures who are dying,
the species that are going extinct!

if you hand me another plate
piled with thoughts and prayers,
i will throw it against the wall!
show me your hands and hearts,
how you have fed the hungry,
welcomed newcomers,
taught children the ABCs of grace.

"listen, knuckleheads!
don't twist my words to suit
your political agendas;
don't promise hope with
your fingers crossed behind your backs!
if you see someone bullying another,
get in their face till they stop;
if someone invites you to party
instead of practicing justice, turn them down.

you open your mouth and
an avalanche of bile pours out;
you mock the most vulnerable,
you call the stranger vile names,
you think because you sing
praise verses on Sunday, you
can heap abuse on others, and
that i am okay with that
the rest of the days of the week?!

now you are going to listen:
to my heart which is shattered,
to my soul which groans in anguish,
to my whispered tears which
flow freely throughout the day.

"enough is enough!
it is time to make justice for others,
to bring healing into division,
to rebuild crumbling neighborhoods,
to live the good news rather
than putting it on church signs:

those are the gifts you can offer to me,
and to your sisters and brothers
who cry out to you for hope."

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

canticle 33

blow the dust off the drums,
put new strings on the banjo,
get the piano tuned, 
hand wooden spoons to little kids
start playing the golden oldies,
while making up new songs for God!

sit down, play scrabble with our God,
forming new words from grace's pile of letters;
words like justice and hope,
words describing stars and sunsets
and God's incredible language of love:
love as sweet as a crisp apple,
love as fresh as an autumn breeze,
love as tart as summer lemonade,
love that's deeper than our fears.

reach out your hands to grasp those
of our sisters and brothers every where
as we join in the dances taught to us
by the Spirit who whispers in our ears.

God knocks over the houses of cards
we build from our foolish thoughts,
simply asking as to hope in the Heart of love,
and to trust as deeply as did are grandparents in faith.
12 we are blessed when we trust in God,
when we see each other as family

God keeps an eye out on all of us,
watching carefully to see if
we love without reservation,
if we offer compassion without conditions
if leaders turn away from power and threats,
offering justice and grace instead

God twirls in circles when we
honor the divine image in others,
when we pick up hope from
the shattered places of life,
when we choose love, not hate;
when we feed those who wander
through both food and fear deserts;

in moments of grief and pain 
beyond imagining, we wait,
and here comes God, in those who run
toward hate, to transform it into love,
who shelter little ones from horror;
we trust, and so we hope;
we hope, and so we offer our hearts
to the One who fills them with grace;
every time we trust, we hope, we come,
God is waiting

every time

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

canticle 107

your grace is as close
as every breath we take;
your love clings tighter
to us than any velcro fastener;
and so we tell everyone
of how you reach out
and gather us from
every edge to which we wander.

some arrive at borders,
weary and broken,
hungering for hope
more than any food,
thirsting for just a sip
of peace and freedom.
they cried to God, who
welcomes them with open arms,
setting a place at the table.
they compose songs of joy
to be sung in the evenings,
with stomachs full and
souls overflowing with laughter.

some huddle in shadowed doorways,
sleeping rough in parks,
listening to the well-off
passing them by on the way home
from fancy restaurants and boutique bars.
they had worked hard all their lives,
but made redundant, jobs converted to tech,
they lost everything, especially dignity.
they cried to God, who
brings light into the dimmest corners,
who shatters despair with hope,
who puts them to work sharing grace
with those who think they have enough,
singing of the One who has never used
the word hopeless about anyone.

some became addicted to opioids,
offered without thought by those
seeking to make money off another's pain;
some heard the dreaded words
'the cancer has come back,'
while others lie awake gripped
by the strong arm of depression.
they cried to God, who
offers the love's brokenness
and wraps them in bands of compassion
soaked with the tears of grace,
and they run to share with others
of the One who will shelter them
in welcome and kindness.

some are buffeted by angry words,
tossed about on the seas of bitterness,
set adrift by those filled with hate.
they knew the love of God,
the hopes God has for all,
but the waves of vilification and judgment
tossed them far into the air,
and sank them into rejection's depths.
finally, when it seemed even hope
had abandoned all hope,
they cried to God, who
told the tweeters to be still,
and the trolls to shut their mouths.
in the quiet of God's heart,
they found their true home,
joining their sisters and brothers,
all their mentors and models
in shouts of acclamation.

for there is One who
will turn floods of vitriol
into dusty dry riverbanks,
who will let the hate's wine
become bitter vinegar poured
into the cups of those who
turn their backs on others.

and he turns food deserts
into farmers markets for the indigent,
fixes the broken pipes so grace
flows without ceasing;
he teaches the hungry the best recipes,
and settles them into
neighborhoods of hope,
where they plant community gardens,
to put fresh produce
on each other's porches,
blessing others as deeply
as God has blessed them.

but those who think they are
holier than others are put in their place,
sent into time-out until they relearn
the ABCs of love's language.
and the vulnerable?
they become God's trusted council,
grace's children applauding with joy,
while the despots lose their voices.

if we have any smarts at all,
we will pay more attention
to God's faithful love.

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

canticle 85

once, we sat in the backyard,
telling stories and watching fireflies;
once, you looked past our foolishness
and boxed up our fibs and shipped them away;
you pushed your anger to the back
of the highest shelf, so you couldn't reach it;
you placed your outrage in the bottom
of the freezer, buried under all the summer fruit.

can you do it again, God of our hearts,
look at our faces, not our faults;
cancel the call to the divorce lawyer,
tear the page marked 'judgment'
out of your calendar?
teach us (again!) to take
great gulps of grace
so we have breath to sing.
open that picture folder marked 'love'
so we can remember together.

tell us the old bedtime stories
of peace which never falters,
of people who never break promises,
of mercy as near as our breath,
of wonders just beyond the horizon.

like old classmates at a reunion,
love and faith will run to hug one another;
justice and hope will exchange vows
under the wedding canopy.
from the tiny seeds of faith,
tall trees will reach for the sky,
and the stars of goodness
will twinkle throughout the night.

you offer us sweet corn for dinner,
and fresh peaches out of your orchard.
honesty will run before you,
shouting that you are on the way
to gather us up in your arms

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, July 20, 2019

may i

   may i bring healing;
   may i open my arms wider;
   may i care more for the vulnerable;
   may i offer a safe space;
   may i learn the language of peace;
   may i affirm others;
   may i love;
   may i be just
   may i forgive

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, July 19, 2019

canticle 15

who is welcome in your house;
who gets to play in your backyard?

those who listen to your lullabies of hope,
and share the deep longings of your heart;
those who do not bully others,
who care for friends,
who treat strangers as neighbors;
those who stand up to troublemakers,
and are at the side of justice seekers;
those who learn from their foolishness;
those who are generous to a fault,
and who don't turn against others
for any amount of money.

these are the rocks
in your zen garden
(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Monday, July 15, 2019

canticle 52

you're going to go around
bragging about
how you mistreat the vulnerable,
how you plan havoc for outsiders,
how your words cut others to shreds?
you choose evil over good,
telling fibs over facts,
and angry accusations that
swallow peoples' hopes up whole!

but you're in for some surprises:
God will run your cruelty through a shredder,
will turn your McMansions into shelters,
will pull up your anger and plant hope;
then, the ones you looked past
will see your foolishness, laughing
out loud when you land flat on your foolishness,
as the safety net you paid so much for
is turned into a trampoline;

But for me, I am like that seed
little kids plant in paper cups,
trusting that I will grow,
nourished by the tears of God,
the warmth of God's love,
the fertilizer of God's faithfulness,
and I will stretch my heart to the Light,
rejoicing in the miracle of God
in my life, my heart, my soul,
joining all creation patiently
waiting for the goodness
which is our heritage and hope

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Friday, July 12, 2019

canticle 82

Glancing around the dinner table,
God asks, once again,
"How long will you keep messing up?
Why do you keep siding with injustice
and do the bidding of the cruel?
Justice is the gift you offer
to the forgotten, the vulnerable;
speak out, and stand up
for the ones ignored by the powerful.
Release the grip of the hateful
on children and families, and
welcome them into your hearts."
Although we have all sorts
of degrees on our walls, we
are dumber than dirt itself.
God reminds us, "You are not me,
and time is running out on
your arrogant grasping for holiness."
Come, O Lord,
with justice and mercy
for every corner of life.

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, July 11, 2019

once again (Luke 10:25-37)

you remind us
that our neighbors
are the despised ones,
not the folks who
are just like us;
that those who
dare to care for us
are the ones
we least expect to
glance at us;
that eternal life
is found in the ditches
with the broken,
the forgotten, the bullied;
and once again,
we mark you as
having failed the test
we offered to you,
frustrating Jesus

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

canticle 30

i can easily sing
as you pick me up
after tripping over my faults,
and you duct tape the mouths
of the bullies who taunt me.
but you also hear my midnight moans,
and bandage my scraped knees.
you throw down a hope ladder
to help me climb out of the blues,
and so i join the acapella
group beatboxing your name.
your pique withers, your ill humor fades
but your grace is never withdrawn.
my heart breaks in the night,
but Joy tiptoes in to wake me in the morning.

on those really sunny,
all-is-well-with-the-world days,
nothing will bother me.
you hiked with me to watch
the sun rise over the mountains;
then you ran down the hill
out of my sight,
and i couldn't find the path.
i yelled for help, wondering
'who's going to rejoice
if there's no one to hear?
does dusty death know your songs;
will the grave shout your name?
if you can hear me, reach out
and show me the way!'
then, i will shuck open grief
and find joy's pearl,
i will slip out of my hair shirt
and put on your wonder,
singing to you, not just
on those really sunny,
all-is-well-with-the-world days,
but on all the my eeyore ones
as well

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

canticles 42 & 43

like a kitten stretching
for a toy under the dresser,
   I reach out for your hand;
like  dog running to the water bowl,
after a long walk,
   I am parched for your grace.
Where can I go
to be able to look you
   in the eyes?
I hang out my wet, salty
sheets in the morning,
while my neighbors whisper
   'have you seen God
    any time this week?"

Deeper than any echo,
I recall waling to church
with my family,
   going to sing glad songs,
   learn stories about you,
   sharing our lives and hopes.
Why are you so mopey,
spirit deep within me,
   and why are you
   so vexed over me?
I will wait on you,
my rescuer, my God,
   so I can sing
   your glad songs.

Deep down, I seem
at loose ends, and
   so I recall those thin places
   where I found you.
In the waterfalls in mountains,
in eddies of pools,
   in the waves on the shore,
   i am baptized in your waters.
Each morning,
   you pack a lunch
   filled with love
   to strengthen me,
and your lullabies
   help me to fall asleep,
   as I whisper your name.

When you look at the photos
on top of your bureau,
   is mine hidden behind others?
I shuffle down pity's path,
   while bullies torment me.
I ache deep inside my bones,
   while neighbors whisper,
   'have you seen God recently?'

Why are down in the dumps,
spirit which is my companion,
   and why do you
   pester me so much?
I wish to find you, O God,
so that I can once again
   sing praises to you,
   for your reaching out
   to pick me up.

*     *      *

Be my public defender, O God,
pleading my case before
   a jury of uncaring folk;
from those who would grasp
me in the cunning clutches
   yank me away!
For you are my harbor,
   though my life seems
   to be drifting away
   from your heart.
Why must I wear sackcloth
   woven by those who dislike me?

Shine your love upon me
and let your wisdom
   walk with me hand in hand;
let them be my Sherpas
   to the summit of
   your everlasting life.
Then I will gather at your Table,
   singing praises taught by the Spirit,
playing every instrument
I can learn for you, O God.

Why are you so distracted,
seeds of grace planted within me,
   and why are you flustered
   by my foolishness?
I will hope against hope
that you will always love me,
   and hear the songs of my heart.

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman


Thursday, April 11, 2019

passion's alms (Luke 19:28:40)

as you pass by and
recede in the distance,
we gather up all that
we offered in the joy
of the celebration, and
we take them to the
money changers, trading
peace for anger,
glory for betrayal,
shouts for jeers,
cloaks for nails, so
we can offer them
at the right moments
in the coming days.

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

with us?! (John 12:8)

when we keep
the poor at arms' length,
we can see them as victims,
or those who don't know better,
or burdens on society, or
simply worthless losers, rather
than our sisters and brothers
who could enrich our lives
if we truly let 'them'
be a part of 'us'

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

sometimes (Luke 15:11b-32)

we're the parent
sitting by the window,
our hearts longing for a glimpse
of the child who walked away;
we're the kid on the porch
hesitant to ring the bell, not
sure if the door will be flung open
or slammed in our face;
we're the perfect child
who has always done
everything expected, but
left wondering was it worth it;
but in all such moments, we
find ourselves swept up
in God's embracing grace.

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Saturday, February 09, 2019


because we put down our nets
and catch only a few minnows;
because we look up 
and see the cracks in the ceiling
and not you high and lifted up;
because you have not made 
an in-person appearance to us,
we wring our hands, thinking
we have not done much
when it comes to faith,
never noticing that all you ask
is for us to trust . . .

(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Sunday, February 03, 2019

1 Corinthians 13

we give thanks, O God,
for love that is patient with our foolishness,
and impatient for justice;
for love that does not brag about itself,
but lifts up those whose lives are forgotten;
for love that is not a pebble in our shoe,
but a caress that wipes our tears;
for love that does not mock those who have messed up,
but speaks words of truth when truth is in short supply;
love carries the most vulnerable;
love trusts the littlest kid;
love refuses to hoard hope;
love meets disappointment face to face.
love persists in, and through, every moment,
especially when we can't.
(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman

Thursday, January 17, 2019


in the crusty bread and hot soup
on a wintry night,
   we taste what grace is like;
in the eyes of a child
seeing the grandparent 
step out of the car,
   we see what grace like;
in the rich soil turned over
for spring plantings,
   we smell what grace is like;
in the whispered, 'i love you,'
as the casket is lowered,
   we hear what grace is life;
in the hand of a stranger 
clasping ours in acts of kindness,
   we feel what grace is like;


(c) 2019 Thom M. Shuman