Stranger at the Door by Mary Elizabeth Todd.

Today’s post in the series Return to Our Senses in Lent comes from Mary Elizabeth Todd. May was born in the mountains of Western NC and grew up in East Tennessee- She went to Erskine College and majored in Behavioral Science and Religion. She started writing poetry at 10 years of age, grew up listening to her father’s poems. She worked 28 years as a foster care worker and was awarded Social worker of the Year in 2004 for the state of South Carolina by the Foster Parent Association. She retired in 2006 and reckons she is a mountain woman thru and thru, loves the Lord but fails often, but always gets back up.

I asked Mary if I could post the following prayers first because they seemed to flow so well after the post yesterday on looking after special needs children and second because they so beautifully fit into this year’s theme. Caring for those who cannot care for themselves is a spiritual discipline that we all should consider.



A child I once worked with and who was in a persistant vegetative state, died this morning. He has been healed.

I wrote this poem right after this incident happened that crippled his life:

Sing You a Lullaby…

“Hush little baby
Don’t you cry”*

I saw one little tear roll
Across your tiny brown face.
I took the tip of my finger
And wiped it clear.
You turned not seeing towards me.
Your dark brown eyes
Stared through me.
Did you cry for the sadness
That you could not know?
Did you cry for the pain
You no longer understood what it was?
Did you cry because in minutes
You lost all the things; we take for granted,
Playing ball and riding bikes,
Laughing and talking and making friends,
Feeding ourselves, and being able to know
Light from dark, and growing up to love.
Did you cry in anger that no one heard you
When you were alone and needed them?
I looked at the tiny tear on my finger,
And it pierced my heart.
If all my tears could heal you,
Your eyes would light up, and you would smile,
But your eyes are expressionless as a doll’s eyes,
And my tears cannot heal.
There is nothing I can do,
But wipe the tear from your eye,
Place a kiss on your tiny hand,
And sing you a lullaby…

“Mama’s goin’ buy
You a mockingbird”*


Mary read  the following poem when she received the award for Social Worker of the year from the foster parents in 2004.

Stranger at the Door
Dedicated to the foster parents of South Carolina

There is a stranger at the door,
Newly born in a cocaine haze.
The crying and hunger is non-stop;
The monitor jangles your nerves.
Just about dawn sleep rocking him,
His tiny fingers reach in and entwine your heart.

There is a stranger at the door,
A curly haired angel on the spring tour of homes,
Trying threes were never like this-
The broken toys, the biting, the banging of her head.
Exhausted curled in a tight ball, she sleeps.
She is safe here, you say, brushing her hair from her face.

There is a stranger at the door,
A snaggle tooth grin beams from his face,
Dark eyed charmer, nimble adventurer.
The school is concerned, Maybe ADHD,
Wants you to come; you understand,
Living with a tornado, charming or not is rough.

There is a stranger at the door,
Three AM and there she stands;
Wide eyed, holding back the tears, she refuses to speak.
Nine years old and seen way too much.
Three thirty breakfast and a bath,
You’ll take care of her needs, when she is ready you’ll listen.

There is a stranger at the door,
The twelve year old is not the same,
Who left smiling a year ago hopeful things had changed,
Sullen and angry with a “why me” look on his face.
The black eye and red marks tell it all.
You simply open your arms and welcome him home.

There is a stranger at the door,
There are really two, a mama and her baby
Thrown away like dust.
Fifteen isn’t so grownup when you’re alone.
You teach her how to do her algebra and what a mama’s to do.
As she struggles with her studies, you sing them how to love.

There is a stranger at the door…

Mary Elizabeth Todd



Let the Newness Emerge – MSA Imaginings January 2013

Photo by Nick Lipinski

Photo by Nick Lipinski

God as this new year dawns,

May we take time to see the newness you are giving birth to.

May we not be blinded by the darkness that consumes our world.

Or consumed by the fear that paralyzes our actions.

May we remember,

Out of winter’s darkness you bring forth light,

Out of winter’s death you give birth to new life.

From New Year’s Prayer 

This prayer reflects much of the hope and despair we felt at the end of last year. The hope and promise of Christ’s return was tainted by the horror of Sandy Hook and the uncertainty of the world economy.  As we look to the future however, we find hope and promise in the new things God is giving birth to. We look forward, not just to personal change, but to a future in which society is transformed and healing finally comes for the broken, justice for the poor, peace for the nations and restoration to creation

In a volatility and uncertainty world we too need to allow the spirit of God to stir our imaginations and encourage the newness of God to emerge. We need fresh ways to strengthen our faith and equip us to be God’s compassionate response in our communities and around the globe.

Return to Our Senses in Lent

Newness must begin with our faith Our volatile world calls for new forms of prayer and spiritual disciplines that weave intimacy with God into every aspect of life encouraging us to reach out with compassion and love. Lent which begins February 13th, is a season to reflect and refocus our faith. It is a time to ask ourselves: How do I need to change to be a more effective follower of Christ in the future? As was mentioned yesterday, this will be the focus of our Lenten disciplines this year and we hope that you will join us.

  1. We have just completed a study guide for Return to Our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray and invite you to participate in a Lenten study that will draw you closer to God and equip you to respond in compassion and love to God’s needy world. The guide can be downloaded free and Return to Our Senses will be available at a special discounted price to facilitate its use.
  2. This will also be the theme for the Godspace Lenten series. The daily reflections and activities throughout the season will complement the resources in Return to Our Senses. We hope you will accept the challenge and use them to develop new disciplines that equip you to respond to God’s needy world. Or perhaps you would like to join the Godspace writing community and contribute your own approaches to innovative, experiential prayer. Our insights can inspire each other to new levels of commitment.
  3. February 16th I will facilitate a Lenten retreat at the Mustard Seed House here in Seattle. We invite you to join us in a time of reflection and refocusing. Allow new forms of prayer to be woven into your life so that you can become all that God intends you to be.  

Igniting the Divine Spark

The second place newness needs to emerge is in the unleashing of our creativity. Our God is a god of unlimited imagination and has placed the divine spark of that creativity within each of us. To provide for ourselves and continue to be generous to those at the margins we need new economic initiatives. Cindy Todd continues to inspire us with the creative business model on which Snohomish Soap is founded. And it is not just us who are inspired. She was featured this last month in Puget Sound Co-operative’s news, and at the end of the month her model will be touted in a TED talk as one of the new and innovative business models for the future.

Throughout February and March Cindy and others will post on the MSA blog about creative business models and the ways that God ignited the divine sparks that gave rise to these. March 16th this will culminate in a workshop Cindy will facilitate at the Mustard Seed House entitled Igniting the Divine Spark. So save the date. This will be an exciting and instructive event.

Unleashing our Imaginations

It is not just in economic provision that God wants to unleash creativity. My husband Tom is busily engaged in research for a new book on creativity and imagination, exploring ways to move from Biblical vision to new design for church, ministry, housing, simplification and sustainable living. He is excited about how God is stirring the imagination and creativity of ordinary people to advance God’s purposes and engages the challenges or our turbulent world.

God is doing something new in our midst and we ask you to help us connect to those at the creative edge. If you know of imaginative business models, ministries, churches or approaches to housing please let Tom know. These will continue to fuel his weekly blog posts so check the MSA blog regularly for new insights.

Teaching in Australia

For our Australian friends who would like to explore these themes in more detail, please consider joining us in Adelaide in June. Tom and I will be teaching an intensive: Reimagining Faith for Turbulent Times at Tabor College in Adelaide Australia in June 2013. Still room & time to sign up. We would love to have some of our friends join us.

Not All That Emerges is New.

Please continue to pray for the launch of Cascadia/CCSP in September this year and let your friends know. It is time for students to sign up and we need your help in getting the word out.

Join MSA Board member Mary De Jong:

For a retreat at the Whidbey Institute in Chinook March 8-10.

For a pilgrimage to Iona off the west coast of Scotland, May 12-20.

Dates you might be interested in:

Return to Our Senses in Lent – Retreat at the Mustard Seed House February 16th

Igniting the Divine Spark – workshop with Cindy Todd at the Mustard Seed House March 16th.

We appreciate your prayers and support as we move into the newness that is emerging.

Gifts of Light and Love a Christmas Poem by Heather Jephcott

Delight filled faces lighting up

Today’s post is the last the Advent series Let Us Wait As Children Wait. This beautiful poem was written by Heather Jephcott. Heather comes from Australia but now lives in Surabaya Indonesia. She enjoys writing, especially poetry, playing the piano, friends and family, black line drawings, gardening, photography, reading. She also loves interacting with or the lack of it has got in the way at times but she’s getting better after 17 years with CFS. She never wants to be too busy for people.

It’s about giving

precious gifts

of thoughtfulness


packaged with laughter

joy accompanying smiles


Delight filled faces

light up


gifts of love

an air of happiness surrounds

pleased with the giving


A grand party of giving

with everyone included

caring for needs

attentive to likes

unselfish consideration


Surprise adds an extra specialness

child-like wonder comes to visit

discovering again

love, joy, hope and peace

In Christ Jesus The Kingdom Has Come

When Tom and I speak about the kingdom of God we often use the following verses from Isaiah to portray the beautiful imagery of hope and completion for which we all long.

Isaiah 65: 17 – 25;   Isaiah 2: 1-4;  Isaiah 25: 6-9,   Isaiah 35: 1-7;   Isaiah 9: 2-7

These verses are so indelibly imprinted on my mind that they have formed the basis for many of the liturgies and prayers I have written about the kingdom.  The following prayer is the first that I ever wrote on the topic.  It was the inspiration for this meditation video on shalom that I did some years ago.

Rejoice forever in what I will do

Earth and heaven are being made new

No more weeping or crying or pain

Shalom in God’s Kingdom,

Peace and justice will reign

From every nation and tribe and tongue

Up to God’s mountain the people will come

Limbs will be straightened and eyes made to see

Shalom in God’s Kingdom,

Health and wholeness will be

All of creation rejoices and sings

Abundance and plenty to the table it brings

Food for the hungry, homes for the poor

Shalom in God’s Kingdom,

Good news for us all

In Christ Jesus the Kingdom has come

Uniting, transforming and making us one

Life in its fullness the Spirit outpoured

Shalom in God’s Kingdom,

All things are restored

Second Wednesday of Advent – Advent Waiting by Andrew Wade

This second reflection for today comes from Andrew Wade who lives in Hood river Oregon.  It was originally written for St Nicholas Day but makes a beautiful contribution to our What Are We Waiting for This Advent series


eyes straining to see

dim light, dark glass, confusion

God’s future unfolds

longing, not ready

distracted by life’s worries

how long will I wait?

appearing godly

barren soil destroys new life

revealing parched soul

another year gone

unplanned, unprayed, disjointed

all creation waits

advent calls my name

scraping scales of death from eyes

God’s future unfolds


Happy Earth Day – Another Prayer

I have just been sent a copy of an earth day prayer by Sam Hamilton-Poore who has just written a book called Earth Gospel: A Guide to Prayer for God’s Creation.  The book has just jumped to the top of my must read list.  It is available from Upper Room. Here are links to a couple of his prayers.

PRAISE TO YOU, my God and Creator!
Your creativity is matched by your compassion!

Read the entire prayer

WITHIN THE ECONOMY of God’s grace,
nothing is ever wasted
and no one thrown away.

Read the entire prayer

A Native American Prayer from the Earth


This beautiful Native American prayer was sent to me this morning by a Native American prayer group that I belong to.  It seemed very appropriate to share it as we think about the brokenness of creation  

Earth Teach Me to Remember
   Earth teach me stillness
   as the grasses are stilled with light.
   Earth teach me suffering
   as old stones suffer with memory.
   Earth teach me humility
   as blossoms are humble with beginning.
   Earth Teach me caring
   as the mother who secures her young.
   Earth teach me courage
   as the tree which stands alone.
   Earth teach me limitation
   as the ant which crawls on the ground.
   Earth teach me freedom
   as the eagle which soars in the sky.
   Earth teach me resignation
   as the leaves which die in the fall.
   Earth teach me regeneration
   as the seed which rises in the spring.
   Earth teach me to forget myself
   as melted snow forgets its life.
   Earth teach me to remember kindness
   as dry fields weep in the rain.

   Ute, North American

Generosity not fear

Check out this great post with a poem on Generosity and Fear by Todd Hierstand.

We are living in a time where fear and despair are the overwhelming attitudes. Whether we’re talking about our personal financial situations or our national financial situation or our world’s financial situation these attitudes are prevalent. Fear. Despair.

But as those who profess faith and resurrection, we can’t succumb to fear. We can’t ignore the problems of the world, but we can’t let fear be our master.  Read the entire post

A Christmas Promise

Joy to the world our Saviour comes
Not in power, not in might
But in the tenderness of love
He comes as the promise of life
Hidden in a mother’s womb
Sing aloud and dance with the angels
God has sent his son to save the world
Love and faithfulness meet together
Righteousness and peace kiss each other
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth
Shout halleluias of praise, inheritors of Christ’s light
God’s righteousness looks down from heaven
The Lord will indeed give what is good
And bring wholeness and abundance to all people

What in the World is God Doing?

Shalom in God’s kingdom

I wrote this poem a few years ago as a reflection on God’s desire to see all things made new – I come back to it frequently when I am struggling to understand what God is doing in our world

Rejoice forever in what I will do
Earth and heaven are being made new
No more weeping or crying or pain
Shalom in God’s Kingdom, peace and justice will reign

From every nation and tribe and tongue
Up to God’s mountain the people will come
Limbs will be straightened and eyes made to see
Shalom in God’s Kingdom, health and wholeness will be

All of creation rejoices and sings
Abundance and plenty to the table it brings
Food for the hungry, homes for the poor
Shalom in God’s Kingdom, good news for us all

In Christ Jesus the Kingdom has come
Uniting, transforming and making us one
Life in its fullness the Spirit outpoured
Shalom in God’s Kingdom, all things are restored