Litany of Penitence: Part Three


[what I am calling] Part Three

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

There is a new kickstarter making the rounds, and I really hope it gets backed.  I don’t really know what they are titling the project, but the call is to “Help Find the Loneliest Whale.

There is, currently, roaming around the pacific ocean, a beautiful blue creature who is believed to have lived its entire life in isolation.  They have named this creature “52,” because it cries out at a frequency of 52 Hertz, a frequency which no other whales of its kind are able to understand.

262e9aa20d2e19cb40a15c889d36d3de_largeAs a lover of whales, and as a human-being who deeply fears isolation and loneliness, I am deeply grieved by the story of 52.  I don’t know if his story is, in fact, sad.  But it is, at least, familiar.

“Ocean noise pollution is fast becoming one of the world’s most harmful threats to marine mammals world-wide, especially whales. The causes are man-made: sonar blasts from military exercises, seismic air guns from fuel exploration and the whine of commercial ship crisscrossing the globe – every minute of every day.”

Our lives, and the environment we inhabit, are similarly polluted, making it near-impossible to discern the voice of God.  We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.

The causes too, I believe, are man-made.  We have created an atmosphere for ourselves in which, it seems, God’s cries cannot be heard or understood.  But I do believe that God is crying out all over the place, calling out for us to take care of God’s people and creatures.

In every headline we scroll through, there is an opportunity to take action, to serve.  But instead we post about how awful it all is.  I myself, am thoroughly guilty of this.  We have not been true to the mind of Christ.

Perhaps the most well-known of the Lenten passages is Isaiah’s passage of justice and mercy, beginning with: “A voice cries out in the wilderness …”

That voice is still crying out today, in the streets and homes of our own nation and in the lands across the globe; in the Puget Sound and waters of the Arctic & Antarctic and all waters in between.  And that voice, the voice of God, is crying out with perhaps with the same longing as 52.  Their voices are crying to be heard, to be met and embraced.

I pray that this season, and always, we might see the pollution we surround ourselves with for that which it is: noise which only keeps us from hearing and understanding the voice of God.  And I pray that I would call to mind the mind of Christ, which would move me to serve all people and creatures who may come upon my path. And I pray that I would be personally grieved by that which grieves God’s Holy Spirit.  Have mercy on us, Lord.

The Search for the Loneliest Whale really is an incredible project.  Check out their video:


To learn more about their Kickstarter, click here.


Litany of Penitence: Part Two


[what I am calling] Part Two

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

Much of life is backtracking.  Or, at least, much of my life is backtracking.

When we first embark on a journey, we hold our heads up high.  Our vision is cast straight ahead, full of hope, full of excitement, and full of anticipation.  Our first encounters with new friends, new lovers, new jobs, new adventures, are full of the same.

I find that my spiritual journey, which I guess just means my “walk” with God, generally aligns with what is going on in my life.  As I enter new places and take on new lifestyles, and the excitement of the “newness” steeps in, I feel more excited about God.  Fresh starts in life offer me a fresh start with God.  As if God has just now joined me on the path I embark upon.  It is in those times of my life that I find I am able to most love God with my whole heart, and mind, and strength.

But nothing stays new and exciting forever.  Eventually we get worn down, and then bored, and ultimately uninspired and unfulfilled.  This is why it is so important to take on new adventures with our friends and lovers, as well as new risks and challenges in our careers.  We have to constantly push ourselves toward engaging with our whole heart, and mind, and strength, what is before us.  The temptation to sit idle in our work and relationships is far too familar.  And the temptation to remain idle in our walk with God is just as familiar, if not more so.

Beyond the monotony of life, love, and work, often comes calamity.  Sometimes, life just does not work for us.  And our attempts to improve our situations, oftentimes just make things worse.  This is where the backtracking sets in.  We are forced to make compromises, to scramble, and eventually we make desperate choices. In our struggle, our focus shifts inward and we lose sight of God and those around us.  Somewhere along the way, we find that we have hurt others in this process, be it intentionally, or unintentionally.

For innumerable troubles have crowded upon me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see;
      they are more in number than the hairs of my head,
      and my heart fails me.

PSALM 40:12

This, I found, was a timely verse in today’s Daily Office.  When trouble crowds us, we cease to see clearly and we walk out-of-step with our God and our neighbors.  And, if you’re like me, you find it easier to blame the troubles than ourselves for any wrong-doing (see Litany of Pentience: Part One).

Another timely, and also totally bizarre, passage from today’s Daily Office was DEUTERONOMY 10:12-16

So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it, yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today. Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer.

That last verse has got to be one of my favorites in all scripture:  “Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer.

I think this could be the message of Lent.  Free yourselves of all that distracts you and keeps you from being in touch with your heart and the heart of God.  Do not be stubborn.  Trust your God.  Walk with your God.  Love your God.  Love each other.  And when you do not do these things, say you’re sorry, and try again.

Have mercy on us, Lord.

Litany of Penitence: Part One


On Ash Wednesdays, many communities recite together the Litany of Penitence (from the Book of Common Prayer).

Each year, I am struck by these seemingly familiar words.  The litany (a fancy word for a series of prayers, often with a response), is mostly confessional.  It is used to introduce the season of Lent, after all.

This year I would like to take some time to reflect on each part of the litany.  I do not know what form these reflections will take, but I would like to make them open to any who might be interested, just as the litany was written to be recited communally, alongside the other.

To begin, some words from Thomas Merton:

The Call to “do penance” is based not on the fact that penance will keep us in trim, but on the fact that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  Our penance – metanoia – is our response to the proclamation of the Gospel message, the Kerygma which announces our salvation if we will hear God and harden not our hearts.  The function of penance and self-denial is then contrition, or the “breaking up” of that hardness of heart which prevents us from understanding God’s command to love, and from obeying it effectively.

from Seasons of Celebration, 130

[what I am calling] Part One

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

Thomas Merton says it well.  The function of penance, which the litany is simply a tool to achieve, is about love.  This is our starting point…

I am not one for guilt-trips.  Especially spiritual ones.  The whole “we are born in sin” and “need to be saved” thing has never, ever, even in my most baptisty-evangelical days, sat well with me.  It feels cheap, on God’s behalf.  And hopeless, on my behalf.

And so confession has not come easily.  Accepting blame or fault, for anything really, has not come easily.

Feeling hurt and wounded, on the other hand, has come very easily to me, since I can remember.  The weight of severed relationships has always been carried for years too long, on my end.  Tears are formed by memories that I am confident my other has not considered in any recent moment.  I am not sure why I was wired this way.  It has brought me to depths I would literally describe as hell.  And it has led me to believe, falsely, that I am a victim, born into a shitty world where all of us, intentionally or unintentionally, just do shitty things to each other.  And as a victim, I have not been sorry.

“We sometimes think that if only we had not done certain things all would be well; but the trouble lies far deeper than in what we do: it lies in what we are.”

WATCHMAN NEE, The Normal Christian Life

And so, I have had almost zero interest in the lenten practice of confession.  I have, however, felt drawn to seeking forgiveness and reconciliation in my life.  I no longer wish to live in the pain and the hurt that I have “fallen victim” to.

Finally, this year, like a complete idiot, it has occurred to me that I cannot possibly seek to forgive my other, without also confessing myself.  I guess it was one of those things that, on a rational level, made sense to me.  But the connection had not worked its way into me until this year.  I think, maybe, I was not ready up until this point.  I wanted to forgive, and to experience reconciliation, in theory.  And so the connection for me was also, only, in theory.

I am learning that the lenten practices I have been critical of, each lead to a deeper experience (I mean, duh … I am just now getting this, people).  Confession is about forgiveness.  Fasting and self-denial are about being with our pain, and opening ourselves up to the pain of others, so that we may heal and be healed.  And all of this, as Thomas Merton says, is about love.

It is with this in mind, that I can say these words, maybe for the first time, with sincerity:

I have sinned by my own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what I have done, and by what I have left undone.



Litany of Penitence


I will be writing on the Litany of Penitence during this season of Lent. 

I am including the full litany in this post for future reference.

From the Book of Common Prayer, p. 267-269


Litany of Penitence

Part One

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

Part Two

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

Part Three

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

Part Four

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Part Five

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Part Six

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Part Seven

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Part Eight

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Part Nine

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Part Ten

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Part Eleven

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Part Twelve

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Part Thirteen

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

Part Fourteen

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.


Part Fifteen

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn
from their wickedness and live, has given power and
commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to
his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of
their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly
repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel.

Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his
Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on
this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure
and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

on grieving of the loss of a pet: some things that help (me)


my beloved cat, ezra

my dear friend and companion of the feline varietal, ezra, died just four weeks ago.  the loss has felt monumental.  i seem to be lost without her.  but i am also realizing, at this point in time, i am just a little lost.  and without my constant companion, i don’t quite know what to do or where to turn and i ache for the reassurance of her presence.  it is really quite unreal that i, a human being, can be this distraught over losing a pet.  who knew such a tiny creature could have so much of my heart?

as i talk with folks, i am realizing these sentiments are not unique.  the loss of a pet is an inevitable tragedy.  it is a death, and we simply can’t rationalize our emotions where death is concerned.  not even for a mere cat.

at any rate, here are some things i have found comforting over my last month without ezra.

Year of the Dog

Molly Shannon plays Peggy, a happy-go-lucky secretary who is a great friend, employee, and sister living alone with her beloved dog Pencil. But when Pencil unexpectedly dies, Peggy must find meaning in her life.

Sarah Silverman’s “obituary type thing” for Doug

I wrote an obituary type thing:
Duck “Doug” Silverman came into my life about 14 years ago. He was picked up by the State running through South Central with no collar, tags or chip. Nobody claimed or adopted him so a no-kill shelter took him in. That’s where I found him — at that shelter, in Van Nuys. Since then we have slept most every night together (and many lazy afternoons.) When we first met, the vet approximated his age at 5 ½ so I’d say he was about 19 as of yesterday, September 3, 2013.
He was a happy dog, though serene. And stoic. And he loved love.
Over the past few years he became blind, deaf, and arthritic. But with a great vet, good meds, and a first rate seeing-eye person named me, he truly seemed comfortable.
Recently, however, he stopped eating or drinking. He was skin and bones and so weak. I couldn’t figure out this hunger strike. Duck had never been political before. And then, over the weekend, I knew. It was time to let him go.
My boyfriend Kyle flew in late last night and took the day off from work to be with us. We laid in bed and massaged his tiny body, as we love to do – hearing his little “I’m in heaven” breaths.
The doctor came and Kyle, my sister, Laura and I laid on the bed. I held him close – in our usual spoon position and stroked him. I told him how loved he was, and thanked him for giving me such happiness and for his unwavering companionship and love. The doctor gave him a shot and he fell asleep, and then another that was basically an overdose of sleeping meds. I held him and kissed him and whispered to him well passed his passing. I picked him up and his body was limp – you don’t think about the head – it just falls. I held him so tight. And then finally, when his body lost its heat, and I could sense the doctor thinking about the imminent rush hour traffic, I handed him over.
14 years.
My longest relationship.
My only experience of maternal love.
My constant companion.
My best friend.

Mary Oliver’s “Percy (Four)”

I went to church.
I walked on the beach
And played with Percy.

I answered the phone
And paid the bills
I did the laundry.

I spoke her name
A hundred times.

I knelt in the dark
And said some holy words.

I went downstairs,
I watered the flowers.
I fed Percy.

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide


Book Review on NPR books:

Red House Painter’s “Wop-a-Din-Din (My Cat)”