Mushroom Vision and the Dance of the River

Sometimes I can’t see what is right in front of me.

Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

Luke 24

Sometimes I can’t see what is right in front of me. Are any of you like that?

Mushroom vision

Some friends in Virginia had spectacular mushroom vision. They loved to hunt for morel mushrooms that grow wild in the woods, and they could spot them too! This, in my experience, was no easy task. Morels are masterful camouflagers. Often when I ventured out on a mushroom hunt with friends? My shoe was on top of the mushroom before I was even aware I had “found” one.

Morel Mushrooms

Sometimes I can’t see what is right in front of me.

But other things that I don’t see? I think I miss them because my eyes are focused elsewhere. Or perhaps my mind is. Or my heart. Sometimes I am just not looking. Other times? My perspective is off kilter.

Now, morels can be hard to see. Part of their mystery is that they pop up in the woods almost overnight and blend in with the other foliage.

A stranger on the Emmaus Road

In Luke 24, some followers of Jesus are headed home from the city. They are probably traumatized by what they have experienced, the violence they have seen done to their friend. They have also heard the unbelievable news that maybe Jesus is no longer dead.

Their heads must have been spinning.

So they don’t see what is right in front of them. They don’t recognize Jesus as he walks with them along the road.

The story is a mystery. Scholars and others have pondered for years why Jesus—someone they knew before he died—now seems an out of touch stranger to them.

But, then, the one they knew—Jesus—was killed. To walk with him on the road was the last thing they expected. Their conversation and their hearts were mired in disappointment: “We had hoped. . .”

“We had hoped—“

This text holds many messages for us.

The one I hear today—during this Easter season—is this: Whatever our hopes were or are for our lives and for our communities, God is with us on the road, even when we can’t see or recognize God.

During these social-distancing days, I am noticing things around me I have overlooked before. The birds seem more abundant and full-throated than usual, the irises bolder and more loquacious. I have enjoyed creation’s abundant beauty.

And I pray that we—the collective communal we—gain a new perspective both on our community’s overlooked gifts and on our societal brokenness. Once those followers saw that it was Jesus, they were forever changed. May we, too, be changed by what we see and encounter in these days. And may our lives—our actions, attitudes, and practices—be transformed.

Fried morel mushrooms, by the way, are a delightful delicacy, if you can find them. Of course, you have to know something about what you are looking for; not all mushrooms result in gastric delights!

Ode to the river
down the road that
I am getting to know again
as if for the first time

It’s been too long, old friend,
since I last saw you dance—
not because you weren’t moving
but because my ears
were too full of distracting debris
to listen for your music.

Ancient rocks welcome your embrace.
Pebbles laugh in sun-touched delight
as you slip and slide across their backs.
And trees lean in close
to hear you whisper
the secrets rivers keep.

Thank you for continuing
to twist
to the music of the spheres.

Thank you—
for saving a dance
for me.

Thirsty: A Lament for Flint, Michigan

Baptism of Our Lord
January 10, 2016

How disturbing that just days before the Sunday when many Christian congregations recall and celebrate Jesus’ baptism, first the mayor and then the governor of Michigan declared a state of emergency in Flint, Michigan due to lead in the water supply ( Now, people in Flint, Michigan face the fear and uncertainty of the Flint River’s “irreversible neurotoxins” said to be swimming in their children’s bloodstreams.

What do our liturgies’ words, prayers, and proclamations about the redeeming and cleansing power of baptismal waters mean in the face of tainted waters in Flint and other places around the globe? The story of Jesus’ baptism calls us to pay attention to the damage being done to our earth’s waters and, as a result, to human lives. Our own baptisms call us to lament, to speak out, to take action, to do what we can to restore and renew these watery playgrounds of silk-spinning caddisflies, river-dancing trout, and our beloved children.

God’s Spirit moved over the face of the waters in the beginning and imagined, created, stirred up life. How can we, God’s people, imagine, create, and stir up again living waters in desert places or in places where unclean water threatens life?

A Lament for Flint, Michigan on the Sunday of the Baptism of Our Lord

But now thus says the Lord, the one who created you, the one who formed you: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. . .  (from Isaiah 43)

And she brought forth her first born child,
womb-waters splashing
hopes and tear-drenched dreams
infant life
too soon estranged.

Spirit-sparked rivers unleashed
to dance and delight
now tainted
“irreversible neurotoxins”
eroding pipelines
and trust
and tender souls.

We weep.
We wait.
We wail.
We wait.
be with us.

we wait.

She brought forth her first born child.