For two of the most important men in my life

It's a big day to honor two of the men I love most in the world - Father's Day and Brian's birthday! I'm reprising the poems from 2013 - one I wrote for my husband and one I wrote for my dad. I love you both so much!

Brian on his birthday in Trim, Ireland - June 2016

Brian on his birthday in Trim, Ireland - June 2016

The Lottery



Ninety-two, ninety-three, I most remember   

As the winter a blizzard shut us in and we are   

Broke from a hard two years as newly wed  

Where the meager provision of being   

Student, employee, father for our first born

Son and now another one on the way, we've

Neither a degree nor cash. Dreams die in   

Fatigue and bank accounts give way as you and your    

Muscle and sweat and hope fall in to make   

A loss. We lived in two bedrooms down the   

Hallway from kind friends in their nice  

Neighborhood. Or that has all really   

Happened and we go to Johnson City where,   

Thanks to Rick Jindra and Steve Conroy,   

You get a job cleaning cars at Dependable   

Auto Sales. It’s all a backwards dream, a slog

To get a life and home before the next

Arrival of another son, your dogged days 

Of honor. A church acquaintance  

Has encouraged us that giving when we   

Don't think we have anything to give keeps the   

Scarcity of our mindset overwhelmed by

The bounty. I love the mentors, at least I   

Think I do, in their wisdom, their attempt   

To find ways for us to find a living from the WIC   

Office. Otherwise the early years seem   

Like a country music ballad. A stunned   

Twenty-something man runs from school to work   

And home up three floors of the apartment house on Frederick Street,

Chasing a toddler with the second-born in hot

Pursuit where otherwise you sat up late writing  

Required lines, planning for your next degree  

And child, a daughter. We were waiting to get our   

First salary and listening to the Yankees win the pennant

On the radio. You worked, you dreamed, you wrote the   

Fifty-two pages of your thesis, the new baby  

Arriving near the end. I slept on the couch and  

healed and nursed and cried while you stayed up

Thirty-six hours straight, determined. Then that   

Summer there is the day of the great Teaching Job   

Offer, we move to Conklin -- Richard T. Stank

Middle School, beloved George Schuster  

Down the hall. You read “Goodnight   

Moon” to your children and Teddy Roosevelt

To your students, and Rick Patino for the team.   

Then it’s winter again. My water breaks   

And we head back to Lourde's Hospital   

And we welcome another daughter, and   

Sometime just about then you must have almost   

Seen yourself as others see or saw you,   

people like Dr. Jagger and Scott Gravelding, but could not quite   

Accept either their affirmation

Or their equally anointed naming. Uncertain,   

Afraid, you kept at it. A few years later

Crisis and pain and forgiveness fall in to make   

A calling. You lived into yourself, a man named. 

You are still the father, student, teacher, much the same,

but now also mentor, pastor, friend.

Now you are happier, I think, and older.

Those of us lucky enough to know you say

That we have won the Brian Murphy lottery.

Adapted from a poem by ROBERT CREELEY

Dad and his trusty boat in the Adirondacks, Summer 2013

Dad and his trusty boat in the Adirondacks, Summer 2013

The Invitation


To pull the metal hook from the fish's mouth

my father focused all attention on his catch.

I watched his puckered face and not the fish's.

With only a few finger sweeps , he’d removed

the iron sliver I thought it'd die from.

I can’t remember the words,

but hear the speechless motion, a creak

of row lock, a slap-slap of water beside us.

And I recall his hands,

two knuckled planes, one wedding band's

glint in the sun,

a flame of benediction

he raised above my head.

Had you rowed out with us that morning 

you would have thought you'd seen a man

fishing, a brown-haired girl sprawled across the bow,

book cover shielding the sun's flame.

Had you followed that boat

you would have arrived here,

where I pause at every creekbed.

Look how I search for trout, bass, bullhead

to find the ones that got away.

Watch as I scan every water field for ripples.

I was seven when my father

took me on the St. Lawrence,

and I did not fear the great steamships.

Slamming within their water wake, I did not think

Metal that will bury me,

christen our aluminum rowboat journey,

Poor Fisherman and His Daughter.

And I did not lift my face into the spray and cry,

We're going to be killed!

I did what a child does

when she’s invited into adventure. I leaned into the wind and

I trusted my father.


adapted from a poem by LI-YOUNG LEE

p.s., Dad, here's a playlist of songs that make me think of you every time I hear them - favorite albums we used to spin in your office, or later on, rewind again and again in the cassette player, and dance to the soundtrack in the living room. A few we sang in church, and a couple I can't hear without hearing your tenor voice picking out the harmonies. You'll recognize right away the tunes I can't hear without imagining your - shall we say - unique dance moves. At least one of songs, I'll always remember as the tune you I fell asleep to while you strummed the melodies on the guitar in the living room at night. There's one (still obnoxious) one you made us listen to first thing in the morning before school. I think you'll figure out which songs go with which memories alright.

Trinity Sunday as imagined by Rublev & Babette's Feast

Trinity (icon) by Andrei Rublev, 1410 (Source)

Trinity (icon) by Andrei Rublev, 1410 (Source)

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend...
— John Donne, Holy Sonnets XIV

An excerpt from my reflection on Trinity Sunday 2012:

My whole life I've been taught the image of God as three-in-one, one-in-three.  I learned the Trinity as one egg with three parts: white, shell and yolk.  Water as ice, liquid and steam. Also,  I think there was a metaphor using an apple?

I'm grateful for that sort of teaching and the layers of understanding that were added as I grew up in the Church. But it wasn't until I served as a shepherd over a worship ministry that I began to ask questions.  Questions like, "So what?"  and "What difference does it make?"   

Turns out it makes a world of difference.  In the three-person'd God we are invited, commended even, into  mystery.  Egg yolks and apple seeds aside, our most intellectual theologians can only barely imagine the wonder of "let us make man in our image".  For myself, the invitation toward mystery looks a bit like the Ghost of Christmas Present lifting  his robe and bellowing, "Come in and know me better man!"    

Beautiful mystery, yes.  Also, beautiful community.  The Psalmist tells us that God puts the lonely into families.  He should know, he lives and moves and has his transcendent Being as one-in-community.  He is a We.  

This matters more than we imagine.  If He is a We than how possibly can we think ourselves solely as a me? We must submit everything we do to mark ourselves a Christian to the power and beauty of this spiritual reality.  Distinct as persons, yes.  Made in the image of God as a man or a woman, in particular, and then as a unique person. Mysteriously and gloriously, this designed particularity never finds itself as an identity apart from the created Whole.

The great part and whole paradox transforms everything.  The answer to the question, "What difference does it make?":  all the difference in the world.  We submit every part of our lives -- individually and corporately--to the Three-in-One God.  How we gather, how we pray, how we sing, how we make, how we intercede, how we eat and play together and alone. How we hear music, read books, return emails, browse Facebook, shop at the market and weed our gardens.  All of it comes under submission to the Three-person'd God. 

Donne gives another poetic description for our three-person'd God as the "knotty Trinity".  The poet-theologian seems to be saying this reality is beyond our intellectual grasping no matter how many metaphors we dream up but we are drawn to keep on trying.  He reminds us that the work of communicating mystery is no banal task.  Every day we have the opportunity to try again.  The great Three-in-One captures our imagination, making the Trinitarian Presence irresistible to the working out over millenia.  We are caught up as one part of the Whole.  Paradoxically, we find true solace surrounded by an ancient and future communion.  

As a newly-minted Anglican, I've relished the practice of marking myself with the sign of the cross.  This physical discipline trains my ears toward the Trinity, crossing head to heart, left to right at the mere mention of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  It is an act of submission, an antidote to spiritual amnesia. Even that self-sealing motion is done as one in a whole.  I know this because each week I've learned my cues while I, hopefully subtly, study my worshiping community.  Trying to sync my rhythm with theirs, with the Church in time before me and time to come.

Corporate worship that is not Trinitarian in both word and deed, leaves us as juveniles seeking our own versions of fantasy worship.  Seeking to heal ourselves, please ourselves, know ourselves all by ourselves.  Practically speaking, this a rejection of the very nature of God.  Yes it matters very much.  It matters when we are gathered together and when we are scattered, sent out to reflect the image of our Three-In-One God to a world broken off from the Whole.

I read once that the film Babette's Feast  presents within its storyline a beautiful representation of the Trinity. Writing this post,  I watched again an excerpt, and all I can say is YES!  Imagine for a moment, the absent father for whom the feast is called as our own God the Father.  And Babette, giving up all her fortune to serve the feast as our own God, Jesus.  And the exuberant General, instructing the people in the joy of the feast, as our own God, the Holy Spirit.  

Watch these two scenes (or the whole movie) as a meditation today.  What do you see?

Babette's Feast on YouTube

Babette's Feast on Amazon (affiliate link)

Pentecost Sunday: Anatomy of a Flame

A blessed Pentecost, friends! May you know the power of the risen and reigning Christ resting on you and working through you today, tomorrow, and always! 

Chemical Atlas - Flame (source)

Chemical Atlas - Flame (source)


I wrote this poem about six years ago during the season of Pentecost. Brian and I were waiting to hear God's direction on a life-changing move for our family to a new job, new state, and new church community. We were new to Anglicanism, and I was trying to make sense of the Pentecostal threads of my church upbringing with this new, old tradition.

My imagination had been seeded, weeded and watered with the Gospel accounts of the friends of Jesus waiting for the promise of Pentecost power and direction. I wrote this poem after waiting in our hallway by the closed door of our bedroom. Behind the closed door, Brian answered questions during a phone interview with a group of dedicated and kind Vestry members from a growing Anglican church in Austin, Texas.  

I wonder what marked the moment as the acceptable time for tongues of fire to fall down?
A certain magic word?

What ancient riddle opened the door? Moved the mountain into the sea?
What familiar Spirit fluttered the dead eyelid? Called deep up from deep?
I do not have the word, have not discovered the incantation.

But I’ve met the Spirit
and I think I know the answer.

I do not know the answer in the way one memorizes a flashcard formula, babbles
incessant technical jargon, wishful thinking, vain repetitions of one-hit wonders.

Not in short-term memory exercises. Not in altar-call professions
sudden inspiration, prickly goose-bumpy revelation.
I do not know the trick to conjure down the flames.

But I studied the dusty photographs
read unfeeling the prayers, practiced the old language on inert tongue.

I slept under the canopy of intercession, squatted in the hallway with the Son,
rocked sweaty in the lap of the Father,
eavesdropped under the door crack the Spirit-guide

and we knew it when we saw it.
— Circling the Presence by Tamara Hill Murphy

Today's readings: Numbers 11:24-30, Psalm 104:24-34, 35b, Acts 2:1-21, John 20:19-23

Listen to my Pentecost playlist on Spotify: Pentecost

The Collect for Pentecost Sunday:

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer

Final round up of your Practice Resurrection photos [2017, vol. 4]

As we head toward the Feast of Pentecost this Sunday, will you join me in this final post feasting on Resurrection goodness in our everyday lives?

This is our last week of photo stories as we near Pentecost.  I am so grateful to rehearse the reality of Christ's gift of "life that trumps death" with some beautiful contributions this week. Thank you to everyone who shared photos and stories this year. You made Eastertide a brighter, more joyful season for us!  

If you're new to this blog and haven't heard me talk about Community First! Village in Austin yet, read Bethany's guest post from the Epiphany 2016 blog series for an introduction to this beautiful neighborhood.

If you're new to this blog and haven't heard me talk about Community First! Village in Austin yet, read Bethany's guest post from the Epiphany 2016 blog series for an introduction to this beautiful neighborhood.

And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, And make gardens and eat their fruit.” (Amos 9:14).

In a culture of waste and hurry, we plant gardens. Tending tiny indigos and color-rich wildflowers, we remember the precious cost of color. Pulling seeds for family cotton, we ponder what it means to work.
— Bethany Hebbard, Community First! Village, Austin, TX

Attending a U2 concert has always been a compressed, intense version of the pendulum swing between Lent and Eastertide. It is the rattling of the soul from living in the “not yet kingdom”. My heart can be wrecked by the groaning lyrics of “Pride (In the Name of Love)” in one instant, and then I can be jumping, hands in the air, screaming out the worshipful lyrics of “Elevation” the next. I love that tight grip on Hope.
— Michele Riffee, Austin, TX

photo cred: @adieldominguezfoto
These precious ladies. Grateful for this house and the beautiful people who make it home. #casafamilia
— Marcella Lawson, Amy Wolff, Megan Silver, Trumbull, CT

Stamford Arboretum

Stamford Arboretum

Walking is one of the best ways to live in resurrection because you’re going slow enough to see God everywhere. The heavens declare the glory of the Lord and so does the earth! Here streams speak of Jesus giving “living water” (John 4:10) to the thirsty and promising that, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” from those who believe in Him (John 7:38). Walking, you breathe in His Holy Spirit in the scents of the earth and trees and life, entranced by the sparkling sunlight on water and leaves you almost understand Paul’s experience of heaven. Everything declares the glory of God!
— Walter Wittwer, Norwalk, CT

Beautiful gals doing beautiful art today in the studio. Such a blessing for all of us. God is an amazing creator and he has made us to do the same with a little help from Georgia O’Keeffe!
— Marianne Schmidt, Truth Colors, Bridgeport, CT

Resurrection into ascension:

I’ve been struggling to see resurrection in my life this Eastertide. I felt particularly unmoved by the ascension this week, even while trying to celebrate it with my kids. And then, guided by the lectionary, I read Paul’s prayer for believers in Ephesus—he prays that they might know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe...” That same power was at work “in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places”—this gave me a glimpse of God’s resurrection power in the ascension that is at work in and for me, even when my vision of Jesus is blurred by grief, exhaustion, or the daily grind of my little life.
— Krista Vossler, Austin, TX

Looking ahead to Pentecost

I'm excited about a new guest post series I'm introducing in the coming weeks.  In his excellent devotional guide Living the Christian Year, author Bobby Gross structures the season of Pentecost/Ordinary Time around three rhythms for "faithful, Spirit-filled living in the midst of the world that God loves.": World & Church, Neighbor & Self, and Work & Rest.  I'm going to respond to these complementary themes as the inspiration for the blog series.  

I'll tell you more soon.  In the meantime, I'll share an excerpt from theologian N.T. Wright that points us toward embodying the resurrection we've been celebrating during the weeks of Eastertide into the era of Pentecost/Ordinary Time in which we live:

This means that the church, the followers of Jesus Christ, live in the bright interval between Easter and the final great consummation. Let’s make no mistake either way. The reason the early Christians were so joyful was because they knew themselves to be living not so much in the last days (that that was true too) as in the first days - the opening days of God’s new creation. What Jesus did was not a mere example of something else, not a mere manifestation of some larger truth; it was itself the climatic event and fact of cosmic history.
— N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Easter

In what ways are you practicing resurrection this week?  I'd love to hear about it!

Ascension Sunday (Eastertide, 7): The picture of a diver

In the final Sunday of Eastertide, we celebrate the ascended, resurrected and reigning Christ. Hallelujah! 

Ascension Swim by Matthew Farrar (source)

Ascension Swim by Matthew Farrar (source)

One has the picture of a diver, stripping off garment after garment, making himself naked, then flashing for a moment in the air, and sunlit water into the pitch black, cold, freezing water, down into the mud and slime, then up again, his lungs almost bursting, back again to the green and warm and sunlit water, and then at last out into the sunshine, holding in his hand the dripping thing he went down to get. The thing is human nature; but associated with it, all nature, the new universe.
— C.S. Lewis

Today's readings: Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 47, Psalm 93, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53

Listen to my Eastertide playlist on Spotify:  Resurrection

The Collect for the Seventh Sunday of Easter:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing; Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer