Category Archives: Poetry

showers of blessing

Warm gentle showers – 

Waters of life freely

Given to the bad as well as good alike

With no strings attached – blocked

Personas shaped by families of

Origin, genetics, cultures,

Influences of all kinds

Carve trenches, ruts, wadis of

Preconceptions, bias,

Pragmatic naturalism, and

Skepticism of the spiritual into 

Brains and souls, so that

Loving rains of grace cannot

Penetrate the soft black loam of the

Heart where seeds of mercy wait to

Sprout into justice

Loving baths of benevolence

Wash away in ditches of self

Leaving the spirit dry and

Thirsty

Wash away, 

Only to gather again in

Oceans of belovedness

Waiting to try again 

a memory

That miracle-working rabbi is near

Quick! Bring your baby

Perhaps he will condescend to touch

Even an insignificant child.

Insignificant!? Not to me

For this child is the light of my life.

This way to Messiah.

Blocked. By his disciples.

Too busy. Don’t bother.

But he comes, indignant at them,

A stern rebuke then a gentle smile as

He takes this precious babe from my arms

And not only touches, but

Holds, hugs, cuddles, coos, smiles, laughs.

I have but a faint memory of that time

It was so long ago and I was so small

Perhaps no memory

Perhaps only memory of the story

And yet

I can feel those arms,

See that smile,

Hear that gentle voice

Sense that heart throbbing

I can see those eyes even now.

Nothing has ever been the same.

One

Singularity

Infinitely dense

Infinitely small

Containing all the

Energy, matter 

All the potential of

Exploding star-factories

Manufacturing the fundamental

Building blocks of life.

Interconnected

Made of star dust

Birthed from the heavens

Incubated in the sea’s womb

Each part of all 

ex uno multis 

Rather than e pluribus unum

Focus

Bring together your senses

Concentrate, connect,

Eyes, ears, pencil to

See all that is there

Under the scope

Gentle fine tune 

Up and down

Layer upon layer reveal

A world of microscopic

Creatures emerges

Martha, Martha

Distracted with doing

Achiever, go-getter, ambitious 

There is need of only one thing 

Sit, stop, contemplate with Mary

Purity of heart is to will one thing

One Thing that contains all things

In Whom we live and move and

Have our being

Insight

May I lead you outside of town?

Away from expectations,

Opinions and well-meaning advice?

Away from the “you shoulds,” and 

“You ought to”?

Take my hand and let us walk to

Where we are alone, apart from the

Crowd to where we can hear the breeze.

Do not be afraid if I touch your eyes

Once, twice, again.

At first all may be blurry – 

It is for all of us – but focus as

Best you can, look closely at

Yourself; study the trees and the

Ants that crawl up their bark.

Listen deeply to the inner voice of love.

Notice how gradually, slowly, 

Meanings

Purpose

Truth

Understanding

Self

Others

Creation and the

Divine

Are coming into focus.

Don’t go back into town.

FREEDOM

Freedom 

Mark 12:41 [Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (NRSVUE)

Such amazing freedom this impoverished widow had – 

Clinging to nothing, but rather,

Freely giving all to God, knowing

God would take care of her.

As free as the birds of the air and

The lilies in the fields.

In times past, I pictured her old, bent, in rags,

Walking with a cane; but now I see her as

Ageless, happy, joyous, stepping lightly with

Sparkles in her eyes, full of peaceful contentment.

I like to imagine the women who were always with

Jesus rushing to her with love, embraces, and joy – 

Taking her into the fold – this widow now joining the

Disciples at Jesus’ feet, learning and loving; with

Him at the Passover Seder, aghast at the mock trials,

Weeping at the scourging post and the cross;

Dancing with the risen King,

Aflame in the upper room.

a film review

A Film Called First Reformed

My son turned me on to a deep movie. All really good art lends itself to a variety of interpretations. The film First Reformed is one such work of art. 

Trigger alert: It is dark, at times surreal, and contains a graphic suicide scene. It’s also brilliant.

The Plot: 

First Reformed is a 2017 American drama film written and directed by Paul Schrader staring Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, and Cedric Kyles. 

It’s the story of a divorced, bereaved, isolated, 46-year-old pastor of an historic colonial era Dutch Reformed church in upstate New York.  The church building is well-preserved, but has become not much more than a museum.  The pastor, a former military chaplain who talked his son into joining the army only to learn he was killed in action a few months later, is struggling with probable gastrointestinal cancer and self-medicating his pain with alcohol. 

The surrounding countryside is stark, cold, and bleak. Old gravestones, barren trees, dirty cars, empty spaces. The soundtrack is often more the moan of a dying creation than lyrical. Traditional hymns about the comfort and transformative power of Christ are interspersed.

First Reformed church is supported by a megachurch called Abundant Life that is itself buoyed by the large donations of an industrialist who denies climate change and pollutes the environment. Abundant Life never challenges the sins of its financiers. 

Mary, one of only a handful of congregants at First Reformed, is pregnant and married to an environmental activist who is filled with existential angst over humanity’s destruction of the planet. A central theme: “Will God forgive us for destroying his creation?” In despair, Mary’s husband commits suicide in spite of the pastor’s counsel. 

Later, she and the pastor share an out-of-body experience in which they see the beauty of creation and what humans have done to it. It is beautiful and surreal, transcending space-time. 

The combination of his struggle with the relevance of his faith in the light of human greed, his physical sickness, the loss of his son and then his marriage, leads the pastor to the brink of destroying himself and the church at the church’s 250th anniversary celebration, which is attended by the industrialist, the governor, and the megachurch pastor, among many others. Seeing Mary entering the building, he quickly decides against mass destruction and opts for intense self-flagellation. Mary enters, they kiss passionately, and the screen goes black.

Some Thoughts: 

The lead pastor of the megachurch is a good man. He wants his church to do good things to help people. But, to keep it solvent, he compromises truth so as not to offend his biggest donor.

Abundant Life is huge and modern, but in the film, is never abundant. Its choir has four members; its youth group has maybe a dozen. When we see it, it is always mostly empty, just like its theology.

Mary’s husband is kind, caring, and brilliant. Everything he researches and reports is well substantiated. He sees no hope for humanity, no hope for the planet. 

The protagonist is struggling with existential anguish. He is grieving the loss of his marriage, feels guilty over the death of his son, is sick with probable cancer, and is alone. He hates being nothing more than a docent, and longs to be relevant in the world. He reads Thomas Merton and G.K. Chesterton, and keeps a journal. The parsonage in which he lives is almost void of furniture. It is dark and empty, like him.

Mary is pregnant, like the Mary in the nativity stories. She alone has hope. She agrees with her husband’s conclusions, but still wants to bring her baby boy into the world. Like the Virgin Mary, she brings light into darkness, hope into despair. At the very end of the film, her love saves and redeems the pastor.

So many lessons:

  • Speak truth to power. Ignore the budget.
  • Stand for justice. 
  • Steward God’s creation.
  • Eschew violence. In the end, it accomplishes nothing.
  • Let yourself love and be loved.
  • Love is redemptive.
  • Love brings hope.
  • Love conquers despair.
  • The industrialist lost his way through greed.
  • The megachurch pastor lost his way through success.
  • Mary’s husband lost his way by abandoning hope.
  • The pastor of First Reformed lost his way through grief.
  • Mother Mary never lost her way.

Fog

she was a day-sailor designed for

sounds, bays, harbors, lakes, not

open ocean, and indeed, she was not

in the open ocean, but instead well

within the sight of land when the

fog fell like a thick wet blanket

obliterating any possibility of sight

his left hand on the tiller, his right

holding the mainsheet, he could not

see her bow, nor the top of the mast;

even the jib was shrouded in grey

she had no motor, carried no compass, 

no radar, no navigation aids of any kind,

not even a bucket to use as a sea anchor

only the airhorn he blasted at the 

top of each minute as he luffed 

her into irons and waited, drifting

with the tide, which he knew would

eventually suck him through the hole – 

the narrows between the islands where

the current rushed with strength that 

put many a large vessel on the rocks

he hoped the fog would lift before the

current gripped her in its clutches, but

it did not. helpless to do anything except

don a life jacket, lash to the boat,

drop sail and cling to the gunnels, she

spun like a bubble swirling down a drain

bumping rocks like a pinball, jarring,

dizzy and dazed, surreal as he observed that,

contrary to nature, he had no fear, but

instead was almost able to stand beside

himself observing with curiosity as the

salt spray burst through the fog to soak him

he licked the salt on his lips as a strange

joy washed over him, still spinning, still bumping,

Until 

as suddenly as it began

the waters calmed and he knew he had

shot through the hole from the sound into

the bay without harm, but yet still

cloaked in thick fog, and now, with the

current against him, without possibility of 

sailing back to the harbor, drifting, drifting,

as if veiled from 

Reality, 

sensing an unreachable connection, adrift from identity

the glass through which he peers is warped,

thick, wavy, malformed, scratched by 

abandonment, smeared by envy – only

shadows, glimpses, hints of 

Truth, yet

Enough 

Enough to reveal the sunrays of

Perpetual Love

Life

Vast fields of ice

Pure white, blinding

Endurance wedged,

Groans as she’s crushed

The miraculous trek begins.

Through war-ravaged shambles

Across homeless encampments and

Hospital wards where respirators

Gasp and saline drips; 

Past ice-cliffs of struggle,

Through foreboding canyons of grief

Among the starving children and 

Newly baptized saints in the cages that

Overlook the cemetery where infants join

Old men and widows, and where reckless

Teenagers sleep and young widowers wail as they

Stumble for words of explanation for sobbing children.

Trudging on over blazing deserts 

Snake mounds and petroglyphs

Where cactus wrens and roadrunners worship

Under the watchful gaze of the ram

Perched confidently on enigmatic assurance.

Sailing now on lashed barges with

Cotton sails, through inky seas of chaos,

Racism and fascist hatred; seas filled with 

Macropredators slicing waves that 

Can swallow the most massive ship.

Onward through sorrow, pain, grief, and loss,

Indominable women, scarves pulled

Tightly about their heads, sheltering 

Babes in ragged coats in groups of four

Or, are there five?
“I know that during that long and racking march, it seemed to me often that we were four, not three.” – Sir Ernest Shackleton, South

“Who is the third who walks always beside you?

When I count, there are only you and I together

But when I look ahead up the white road

There is always another one walking beside you.”

–  T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

Discernment

Soft, warm, gentle, long-lasting,

First rain of Spring, soaking, softening the

Hard and cracked soil as 

Earth takes a long, slow, deep

Drink and her flowers, grasses,

Bushes and trees absorb water and minerals.

Life. Soon, leaves, buds, flowers, fruit.

So comes the good spirit.

Blasting wind, icy torrents slicing, biting,

Snapping weighed down branches.

Shingles fly, villages lose power,

Topsoil washes away as

Creek banks cave in and 

Basements flood.

Death. Destruction, chill, ruin.

So comes the evil spirit.

a door & a coffin

The carpenter made them both

Out of a fine piece of oak 

That came from an ancient tree at long

Last felled by gale-force winds

Stirred up at the poles by

Rising temperatures elevated by

Human greed. 

So, in one sense, they

Were both redeemed out of death.

The stately oak volunteered to be

Sacrificed for this cause.

Two fine pieces of artisanship planed and

Chiseled, carved and sanded

Both designed for one adult size human body

Both of wood; both made in the same shop by

The same craftsperson with the same tools.

Both stained in natural oak; both notched and

Pegged rather than nailed or screwed.

Both from the same source.

A door and a coffin.

A door hung at the entrance to the parish manse

Opening its whole self to welcome

Dignitaries and hobos alike

To a blazing hearth where warm stew and

Hot ale whisper gospels.

A coffin draped in cloth in the

Kirk storeroom waiting to 

Open its whole being to welcome 

Dignitaries and hobos alike

To the blazing throne where bread is

Blessed, broken, and given, and 

Cherubim choruses ascend.

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