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Weekly Devotion

October 22, 2020

Poem: "Narrative Theology #2" 
by Padraig O'Tuama

I used to need to know
the end of every story
but these days I only
need the start to get me going.

God is the crack
where the story begins.
We are the crack
where the story gets interesting.

We are the choice of
where to begin –
the person going out?
the stranger coming in?

God is the fracture,
and the ache in your voice,
God is the story
flavoured with choice.

God is the pillar of salt
full of pity
accusing God
for the sulfurous city.

God is the woman who bleeds
and who touches.
We are the story 
of courage and blushes.

God is the story
of whatever works.
God is the twist at the end
and the quirks.

We are the start,
And we are the center,
we’re the characters,
narrators, inventors.

God is the bit
that we can’t explain –
maybe the healing
maybe the pain.

We are the bit
that God can’t explain
maybe the harmony
maybe the strain.

God is the plot,
and we are the writers,
the story of winners
and the story of fighters.

the story of love,
and the story of rupture,
the story of stories,
the story without structure.

Music: "Pavane pour une infante défunte" 
composed by Maurice Ravel, performed by Thérése Dussaut.

by Hilary Hirtle.

October 14, 2020

Poem: Pilgrimage II, 1
From Rilke's Book of Hours, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
Read by Grace Barnes

You are not surprised at the force of the storm--
you have seen it growing.
The trees flee. Their flight
sets the boulevards streaming. And you know:
he whom they flee is the one
you move toward. All your senses
sing him, as you stand at the window.

The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees' blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source of everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit;
now it becomes a riddle again,
and you again a stranger.

Summer was like your house: you knew
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart 
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.

The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.
Through the empty branches, the sky remains.
It is what you have. 
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground, lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.

Music: Nocturne in E minor, Op. 72 No. 1 
by Frederick Chopin
Performed by Luke Faulkner


October 7, 2020

Poem:  "Fully Alive" 
by Dawna Markova

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

Music:  "Dido's Lament" 
Henry Purcell, composer
Arranger and performer, Evgeniy E. Moshkin


September 30, 2020

Poem: "Vigil" 
by Maya Angelou

Music: "We Shall Overcome" 
arranged and performed by
Scott, Pamela and Olivia Brownlee

from Sarah Signorino, Canisius College  

September 23, 2020

by Albert Camus

In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. 
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that in the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. 
For is says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me,
within me, there's something stronger -- 
something better, pushing right back.

Music: "Rescindment" 
by Margaret Francik 
Performed by Alexandra Rannow on voice and Margaret Francik on piano

by St. Francis

September 16, 2020

Poem: "Silence"
by Ana Ramana

Music: "Silence"
by Margaret Francik
(a choir piece that uses the same text as the poem)

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

September 9, 2020

by Rainier Maria Rilke from the Book of Hours

They see not the faintest glimmer of morning
and listen in vain for the cock's crow.
The night is a huge house
where doors torn open by terrified hands
lead into endless corridors, and there's no way out.

God, every night is like that.
Always there are some awake,
who turn, turn, and do not find you.
Don't you hear them crying out
as they go farther and farther down?
Surely you hear them weep; for they are weeping.

I seek you, because you are passing
right by my door. Whom should I turn to,
if not the one whose darkness 
is darker than night, the only one
who keeps vigil with no candle,
and is not afraid--
the deep one, whose being I trust,
for it breaks through the earth into trees,
and rises,
when I bow my head,
faint as a fragrance
from the soil.

Excerpted from a longer prayer by Lois Siemens posted on the website of the Superb Mennonite Church

by Paul Francik
To hear more music from Paul FrancikClick Here.

September 1, 2020

"Everything is Going to be Alright" 
by Derek Mahon

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.


written and performed by Olivia Brownlee
(used with permission)
If you'd like to support Olivia Brownlee in her music making,  click this link to visit her patreon.

August 26, 2020

Poem: "A Litany For Survival" 
by Audre Lord

Music:"Why Has God Forsaken Me?" 
Text by Bill Wallace 
Music by Taihei Sato 
Recorded and arranged by Riley Gray and Margaret Francik

Prayer:"A Psalm of Lament and Praise in a Time of Coronavirus" 
by the Revd Kenneth Howcroft

August 19, 2020

In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

A Voice Is Heard in Ramah
Responsive Prayers from Sojourners

Spiritual, arranged by H.T. Burleigh

August 12, 2020

Poem: "Moments of Life"
by Anthony Mirarcki

Music: "We Are an Offering" 
music and words by Dwight Liles, performed & arranged by Riley Gray

Prayer: "A Prayer for These Days and Times" 
by Rev. Cynthia Belt

August 5, 2020

"Once Upon A Children's Game," 
by Barbara Reynolds

"The Prayer Perfect" 
by James Whitcomb Riley

Tim and Shelly Barber 

July 29, 2020

Poem:"Crossing The Delaware" 
by Rob Hardy

Music: "We Come To You For Healing, Lord" 
Text by Herman G Stuempfle Jr.
Music is an American Folk Melody arr. by Annabel Morris Buchanan
Riley Gray and Margaret Francik as performers


July 22, 2020

"From Blossoms" 
by Li-Young Lee 


by Tim Barber

July 10, 2020

Canticle of Creation II 

Poem: Tomatillos
by Shelly Barber 

Astonishing wonders.
inside my heart and
outside my window.
The issue often
is not the issue of why
I feel pain.
But tomatillos.
It's okay even when it doesn't feel okay.
The same Creator who made me,
Made tomatillos.
Unexpected truths,
to lighten the work.
Keep going, Beloved.

Music: Lord, Let My Heart Be Good Soil
Music and Text by Handt Hanson, arranged by Margaret Francik

July 3, 2020

"Corona Pantoum" 
by Monica Raymond

Prayer by James Parker

by Margaret Francik and Riley Gray

Wear your mask!
It's important for society,
who has a better pedigree,
Facebook or the CDC? 
Wear your mask!
Or else we'll have to do this forever,
so come on now, just be clever,
and wear your mask. 

When you go to the grocery store,
When you go to the bank,
When you go to get a new car, oh
The rona doesn't care, so wear your mask!

If you don't know anyone who's sick,
It doesn't mean they're not there,
But if you ignore this fact, oh
You're part of the problem, so wear your mask!

When you go out with your friends,
Or hang out in the park,
You think that you'll be just fine, but news flash:
It's not about you, so wear your mask!

June 26, 2020

Poem: A Prayer for the Sequestered 
by Carol Flake Chapman

Edvard Grieg — In the Homeland, Op. 43, No. 3 
played by Helen Byrne

by Rev. Larry Doornbos

June 19, 2020

The Confession of 1967

"God has created the peoples of the earth to be one universal family. In his reconciling love, God overcomes the barriers between sisters and brothers and breaks down every form of discrimination based on racial or ethnic difference, real or imaginary. The church is called to bring all people to receive and uphold one another as persons in all relationships of life: in employment, housing, education, leisure, marriage, family, church, and the exercise of political rights. Therefore, the church labors for the abolition of all racial discrimination and ministers to those injured by it. Congregations, individuals, or groups of Christians who exclude, dominate, or patronize others, however subtly, resist the Spirit of God and bring contempt on the faith which they profess."

by Damon Syphers 

Master, Rabbi, and Friend, as I look upon your crucified face, I am reminded of your total Love for humanity. You took on all the ills, social injustices, and social inequities of your time. I daresay these same problems have become so much of our life in the 21st century. To you there are no color differences, everybody is made the same according to God’s plan. There are no rich or poor in the sight of God nor are there the social injustices that man has made in the name of religion. As I ponder and meditate your crucified face, I am reminded of the ills of imperialism, colonialism, and domination. So I pray for strength in my lifetime to loosen some burdens of society. Because I know that if I do your work it will help heal your scarred, tormented, crucified face. Please give me the strength, intelligence, and LOVE to be able to take over where you left o# many years ago. For I know if I carry this yoke, I am doing the work of the Father and above all things living the golden rule of “love your neighbors as you love yourself. For you are the Way, the Truth, and the Light.” Give me strength to help others to do Your work to make the world a better place. Amen  

Text: Francis of Assisi, adapt. Marty Haugen 
Music: Marty Haugen
Recording and vocals by Riley Gray

June 12, 2020

Poem: Listening
by Amy Lowell 

’T is you that are the music, not your song.
The song is but a door which, opening wide,
Lets forth the pent-up melody inside,
Your spirit’s harmony, which clear and strong
Sing but of you. Throughout your whole life long
Your songs, your thoughts, your doings, each divide
This perfect beauty; waves within a tide,
Or single notes amid a glorious throng.
The song of earth has many different chords;
Ocean has many moods and many tones
Yet always ocean. In the damp Spring woods
The painted trillium smiles, while crisp pine cones
Autumn alone can ripen. So is this
One music with a thousand cadences. 

Music: Breathe on Me, Breath of God/Trusting Jesus
Pamela Brownlee & Margaret Francik

Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do. 
Simply trusting every day, trusting through a stormy way,
even when my faith is small, trusting Jesus that is all.
Breathe on me, breath of God, until my heart is pure, 
until my will is one with thine, to do and to endure.
Brightly doth his Spirit shine into this poor heart of mine;
while he leads I cannot fall, trusting Jesus that is all. 
Breathe on me, Breath of God, till I am wholly thine,
until this earthly part of me glows with thy fire divine.
Singing if my way is clear, praying if the path be drear,
if in danger, for him call, trusting Jesus that is all. 
Trusting as the moments fly, trusting as the days go by,
trusting him what-e'er be-fall, trusting Jesus that is all. 


June 5, 2020

Batter my heart, three person'd God
(Holy Sonnet 14) 
by John Donne

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Bach Menuet from Cello Suite No. 2 in D Minor 
Played by Helen Byrne

The Confession of Belhar

May 29, 2020

Music: "In, Out"
written and sung by Margaret Francik

Poem "Intubation"
by Sara Cupp Smith

I wake in purgatory, where I hear
The rhythmic ventilator’s pulse and see
My hands and feet restrained. There seems to be
No way to flee paralysis and fear.
Intensive care, a cell with pale green walls,
Imprisons me, a soul without a voice,
Immobile, intubated, lacking choice.
The ventilator’s soft which lifts and falls.
Outside this hospital the city fears
Contagion, deprivation, even death,
And many conversations end in tears.
But I am now reduced to breath, then breath.
No other act is possible.  I weep
In silent isolation.  Then I sleep.


For all who have contracted coronavirus,
     We pray for care and healing.

For those who are particularly vulnerable,
     We pray for safety and protection.

For all who experience fear or anxiety,
     We pray for peace of mind and spirit.

For affected families who are facing difficult decisions between food on the table or public safety,
     We pray for policies that recognize their plight.

For those who do not have adequate health insurance,
     We pray that no family will face financial burdens alone.

For those who are afraid to access care due to immigration status,
     We pray for recognition of the God-given dignity of all.

For our brothers and sisters around the world,
     We pray for shared solidarity.

For public officials and decisionmakers,
     We pray for wisdom and guidance.

Father, during this time may your Church be a sign of hope, comfort and love to all.
     Grant peace.
     Grant comfort.
     Grant healing.
     Be with us, Lord.


May 22, 2020
Click on the linked titles to listen.

May 15, 2020

by Brother Richard

played by Helen and Leonard Byrne

from Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church

May 8, 2020

by Allison Woodard
(written for the Liturgists Podcast episode "God our Mother," October 2017) 
read by Rebecca Francik 

To be a Mother is to suffer;
To travail in the dark,
stretched and torn,
exposed in half-naked humiliation,
subjected to indignities
for the sake of new life.

To be a Mother is to say,
“This is my body, broken for you,”
And, in the next instant, in response to the created’s primal hunger,
“This is my body, take and eat.”

To be a Mother is to self-empty,
To neither slumber nor sleep,
so attuned You are to cries in the night—
Offering the comfort of Yourself,
and assurances of “I’m here.”

To be a Mother is to weep
over the fighting and exclusions and wounds
your children inflict on one another;
To long for reconciliation and brotherly love
and—when all is said and done—
To gather all parties, the offender and the offended,
into the folds of your embrace
and to whisper in their ears
that they are Beloved. 

To be a mother is to be vulnerable—
To be misunderstood,
Railed against,
For the heartaches of the bewildered children
who don’t know where else to cast
the angst they feel
over their own existence
in this perplexing universe

To be a mother is to hoist onto your hips those on whom your image is imprinted,
bearing the burden of their weight,
rejoicing in their returned affection,
delighting in their wonder,
bleeding in the presence of their pain.

To be a mother is to be accused of sentimentality one moment,
And injustice the next.
To be the Receiver of endless demands,
Absorber of perpetual complaints,
Reckoner of bottomless needs.

To be a mother is to be an artist;
A keeper of memories past,
Weaver of stories untold,
Visionary of lives looming ahead.

To be a mother is to be the first voice listened to,
And the first disregarded;
To be a Mender of broken creations,
And Comforter of the distraught children
whose hands wrought them.

To be a mother is to be a Touchstone
and the Source,
Bestower of names,
Influencer of identities;
Life giver,
Life shaper,
Original Love.

Text: Jean Janzen
Music: Carolyn Jennings

adapted from First Presbyterian Church of Argentina

May 1, 2020

"A Prayer for reconciliation" by Padraig O'Tuama
Prayer by Rev. Michael Scott of the Dublin Community Church

 "Cup of Water"
 written by Tim Barber and sung by Tim and Shelly Barber and friends

April 24, 2020

by Pablo Neruda
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

by Margaret Francik

by Roy E. Dickerson
in Daily Prayer Companion
I pause, Father, to commune with you. Help me to be still and know that you are God. Ease awhile any tense muscles or strained nerves or wrought-up emotions. Let me be relaxed in body and calm in spirit so that I may be more responsive to your presence. I pause, Father, to commune with you. Amen.

April 17, 2020

by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Composed and played by Margaret Francik
(The recording is a little soft. Please turn up your speakers.)


"Jesus, during Your ministry on Earth You showed Your power and caring by healing people of all ages and stations of life from physical, mental, and spiritual ailments. Be present now to people who need Your loving touch because of COVID-19. May they feel Your power of healing through the care of doctors and nurses.

Take away the fear, anxiety, and feelings of isolation from people receiving treatment or under quarantine. Give them a sense of purpose in pursuing health and protecting others from exposure to the disease. Protect their families and friends and bring peace to all who love them."

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

—Philippians 4:6 (NIV)