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Poems and Prayers

On Ash Wednesday, about 40 people gathered to hear and sing and embody the message that God’s love is with us in the midst of the messiness of life.  This will be our theme throughout Lent: let us be honest about life so we can better understand how God’s love is with us in the midst of all that we are in the midst of.


Alongside scripture, we used two poems by Mary Oliver: Wild Geese and The Journey.  We also used prayers from the work of Rev. Anna Strickland at


I share them here for us to remember.  Whether we were in worship that night or not, may these words be a blessing.


(It can help us to know that in Celtic traditions of Christianity, the wild goose was often used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit.)

photo by John Massey

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver


You do not have to be good. 

You do not have to walk on your knees 

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. 

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. 

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. 

Meanwhile the world goes on. 

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. 

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. 

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

photo by Scott Ogle

The Journey by Mary Oliver


One day you finally knew 

What you had to do, and began, 

Though the voices around you 

Kept shouting 

Their bad advice‚ 

Though the whole house 

Began to tremble 

And you felt the old tug 

At your ankles. 

“Mend my life!” 

Each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop. 

You knew what you had to do, 

Though the wind pried 

With its stiff fingers 

At the very foundations‚ 

Though their melancholy 

Was terrible. 

It was already late 

Enough, and a wild night, 

And the road full of fallen 

Branches and stones. 

But little by little, 

As you left their voices behind, 

The stars began to burn 

Through the sheets of clouds, 

And there was a new voice, 

Which you slowly 

Recognized as your own, 

That kept you company 

As you strode deeper and deeper Into the world, 

Determined to do 

The only thing you could do‚ 

Determined to save 

The only life you could save.


Prayers of the People


Holy Creator, you fashioned us from the dust and called us good, so very good.  Your fingerprints remain all over us.  Don’t let us forget that we come from the earth, we will return to the earth, and every day in between is a gift from you.  Gifts aren’t meant to be encased in glass boxes and set high on a shelf, lest they show any signs of use.  No, you gave us this life in the hopes that we would live it fully, using it up and letting it develop signs of wear and tear, a marvelous patina that proves we have lived.


But some days we’d rather be safe and sound, where nothing can touch us.  It’s a beautiful life, but the living can be so hard, God.  All along our journeys we get scraped knees, hurt feelings, missteps, mistakes, unexpected diagnoses, broken hearts, painful endings, and phone calls that change our lives in an instant. 


As the paths of our lives wander through hills and valleys, as we get caught in the rain and the soles of our shoes wear down, tune our hearts to hear your voice everywhere.  If we listen closely, we can hear it now.  It’s in uncontrollable giggles, birdsong at the window, the sizzle of a homemade meal on the stove, and melodies buried deep in our souls. 


Yes, indeed, it’s a beautiful life.  Not because it’s perfect, but because it’s real.  Journey with us, accompanying us as the path winds.  Lift our heads to witness the majesty tucked around every detour.  If we look closely, we might see your fingerprints.  And if we listen deeply, we just might hear your voice calling us good, so very good.




(by Rev. Anna Strickland at


As we travel our own journeys through Lent, let us remember that when we are honest about our mortality, our mistakes, our frailties, our lives, God honestly loves us deeply and truly.


Grace and Peace,

Pastor Phil

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