Prayers of the People: In us there is darkness

This week the liturgical church remembers Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Christian theologian hanged on April 9, 1945 by the Nazis for his work of resistance. In addition to referencing images and phrases from the lectionary, these prayers rely heavily on Bonhoeffer’s sermons and writings, including a prayer written and shared with other convicts while he was in Tegel prison over Christmas 1943.


Our God, where your church is troubled, homesick, ill, like a bird in a cage, give us vital urge for vital actions so we may be a living rebuke to forces of oppression.
In us there is darkness…

With Thee there is light.

Our God, where we quiver with anger at despotism and petty insults, and anxiously wait for great events, remind us and our leaders that truth is born only in freedom and give us courage to dare peace.
We are feeble of heart…

You leave us not.

Our God, we hunger for colors, for flowers, for songs of birds. Restore your creation again in soul and soil, making a way for rivers in the desert and new things that spring forth.
We are restless…

With Thee there is peace.

Our God, remembering that life is rich and short, help us throw out the rubbish of our false identities and accomplishments to accept, bear, and celebrate one another as we are.
In us there is often bitterness…

With Thee there is patience.

Our God, for those thirsting for kind words, for human company, release to them life’s enjoyment and its good sunshine. Let what they’ve learned from sorrow increase them.
So much is past our understanding…

You know the way for us.

Our God, where the old year torments our hearts, unhastening, and long days of sorrow still endure, grant every power for good to stay and guide us, comforted and inspired beyond all fear.

You, our God, make the way for us.

Prayers of the People

Today the liturgical Christian church recognizes John Donne, a sixteenth-century English poet and priest, and reads together scriptures that peer into dark and mess to see what’s beneath. It’s also the first time I participate in the church universal through composing the Prayers of the People.

In the dark and humble season, blessings to you listeners and slow seekers, to whom this place doesn’t often feel like home.


In the dark and humble season, Our Sustainer, grow the roots of your church to a strong, entwined foundation.

Three-personed God, be our true bread;
knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend.

In the dark and humble season, Our Father, squelch our grumbling and squandering, that all in power may serve as ambassadors of Christ.

Three-personed God, be our true bread;
knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend.

In the dark and humble season, Our Mother, bless the soil: seed, womb, resurrections gathering in tombs, that we may be nourished by the produce of the land.

Three-personed God, be our true bread;
knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend.

In the dark and humble season, Our Healer, where we are betrayed, abandoned, neglected, and where we have betrayed, abandoned, and neglected, let what was lost be found.

Three-personed God, be our true bread;
knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend.

In the dark and humble season, O Silence, release our tongues that our bones not wither away. Make for those in disgrace, those unheard, and those held down a new creation.

Three-personed God, be our true bread;
knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend.

In the dark and humble season, Our Redeemer, swaddle those we have lost, those absent from us, in the warmth of your love until you gather us again together in the home of your grace.

Three-personed God, be our true bread;
knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend.

Encounter: Robert Farrar Capon

“Let me pause for a moment and speak a word to those starting over after some kind of death.

The world, oddly enough, does not take kindly to resurrections. The risen dead are tolerated only as long as they are careful not to look too obviously raised. The trouble with Lazarus had to have been that he refused to be discreet about being alive. Had he gone to just one or two small dinner parties and done a respectable revived-corpse act, [the authorities] might have put up with him. But no. Instead, he dined regularly six nights a week, ate like Diamond Jim Brady, drank Calvados til two in the morning, and laughed all night at his own dialect jokes.

You will be asked, sometimes politely but always firmly, not to look too alive: Lazarus at a dinner confuses the troops. And yet, what is there to do? Act as if you were still in the grave? Carry a little flacon of eau de tombeau in your purse? Of course not. You have been given a new life: flaunt it. Sadness and guilt are facts; but forgiveness must always be the largest fact. Embarrassment at the riches of your own existence is a loser.

Life itself is resurrection, or else it isn’t life. There is no way of being raised that doesn’t involve acting risen.”


candles“Beside us sit all the loves we’ve lost, by our own devices or those of others. It’s why we sit a space or two apart from one another, the open cushions spelling our SOS to whomever might watch from above. I have arrived here without a single idea what love is.”

Learning to sing with Mary in this advent’s Ruminate post.

Pursuing the Intersections: How to Be Published; How to Be Real.


“Part of the trouble with real is there’s no authenticity without contact with shit. Think of farming or gardening: No fruit without compost. In many creative endeavors we recognize the authentic practitioners by the marks the work leaves on their bodies. So what’s the stigmata of writing?”

Exploring the intersections of the public and the real in this month’s Ruminate post.

Release & Reviews, and Sipping in Pews

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Thanks to everyone who attended the release party last month! Local guitarist Nick Hall provided the “food of love,” my mom and her sisters (the “Iowa Aunts”) managed the scrumptious bites, and my sister Mindy and brother-in-law Brady kept glasses full. Turns out if you let folks sip beer and wine in pews they listen closely and clap at the end. (Maybe churches should try it.)

My son Soren was a particular star for his delivery of the French lines I could write but can’t pronounce, and Kelsey tirelessly womaned the book table while so many of you generously bought copies.

If you’re now a (hopefully proud) owner of Triptych, you can help promote the book by posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Be honest! This entire endeavor is based on the belief our honest words are the living ones. I’d love to hear how your story intersects with Triptych and what the work made you re-see, experience, and question.

Some of my favorite conversations at the party were with former and (possibly) future students. One of the highest honors of having a book out in the world is hearing you respond with the stories of your own matches (puzzles, flames, fights) of faith.

The night of the party I met Hannah Toutge, a young writer who attended with her mother and grandmother. That night she shared part of her story in God Tonight. She says, “I wasn’t expecting to find God in that place. In those words. In that woman I barely knew,” then describes the experience and God as “Unexpected. Authentic. Beautiful.”

I only hope that is the good work Triptych can continue to do in the world.



Chewing on Faith & Art: Facing embarrassment to display love

Ruminate is like your grandmother: willing to face embarrassment to display love.

In an issue on pilgrimage, Ruminate shared my piece on visiting the ecumenical monastery Taizé— one of the most formative experiences of my spiritual life. That piece became key in the narrative of Triptych largely because it’s everything my usual spiritual experience is not: tender, emotional, childlike.

While I appreciate Ruminate’s willingness to look unblinkingly at struggle, they are also willing to print the most scandalous words. Words like Jesus, please, and love.

You can read the original Taize piece here.



Chewing on Faith & Art: Experiments in light

Ruminate is an experiment in light. The work they publish asks if we can wince without blinking, if we can gaze without squinting, how the terror of lightening and warmth of dawn can meet in the soul.

Ruminate was the first journal to publish work that became part of Triptych, and they have continued to share my words on their blog and in print. Now, the book has arrived and Ruminate is celebrating a tenth anniversary. This week, we’ll celebrate both with parallel serial blog posts. I’ll share work from the book that began as work for Ruminate, and they’ll spotlight portraits from Triptych that show people in everyday life speckled with sparks of faith.

The first piece Ruminate accepted from me proved their willingness to look hard at struggle. “40 Days” ran in their issue on confession and stares point-blank at the temptations, deserts, and floods in marriage.

Revisiting the piece now brings its own struggle. And also proves it’s worth looking hard at temptations, deserts and floods. They persist. They sometimes overtake us. Maybe we keep writing and reading to make way for the light– taking the risk it may arrive in storm or sunrise– believing, somehow, it exists in both.