Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Passing of the Shadow




In the gloaming
across the sere grass
I see a shadow roaming
up the hill, across the loam
I see the dark shape pass.

Golden evening light
has given way
to misty twilight,
the shadow's flight—
or was it descent?—lost in grey.

Who was it
walked that hill?
Who was it
passed by without seeing—
the porch, the cat sleeping still?

And who, indeed,
let their shade-self walk
across the bare grass's screed,
sanding their shadow-feet
upon stem and stalk, root and rock?

The rambler merged
into the falling night,
not changing form, purged
of his soul, but submerged
into a deeper dark, without light...

Light, making stark
edges upon stiff grass,
cutting a shadow-leaf upon bark,
Light, making known the dark
and bidding it to pass.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Empty Hands



I want to hold my worth in my hands;
to trace my accomplishments
in gilded letters on spine and cover;
to smell them in ink and paper.

But my desire is a dream awakened,
and all I can trace are tears
of shame, that I have nothing
to hold out in offering but empty hands. . .

Empty hands—not clenched fists,
angry, or grasping at given gifts;
Empty hands, ready to hold another's,
to serve, to open and receive. . .

To receive trust—a hand placed
in mine by a friend or a child;
to receive that broken bread,
spoken over, speaking over me: "You belong."

To belong, to be welcomed,
is not something I can close my hand
around—my palm is empty
on this pilgrimage, ready to give.

I cannot hold my worth in my hand,
but I can hold His most precious Body;
hold the hand of one in His Body;
be a hand in His Body—empty. . .

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Hallelujah!



Proof of the healing God has been doing in my life and heart the last year or so: I was just hoping that tomorrow was Sunday, because I was looking forward to going to church. I just spent parts of the past four days at church for Holy Week. . .and I wanted to go again tomorrow.

"My heart overflows with a good theme," and "my tongue is the pen of a ready writer..."

Thanks be to God!

Friday, March 9, 2018

What if the Season is Barren




They are like trees along a riverbank bearing luscious fruit each season without fail.

Their leaves shall never wither, and all they do shall prosper.

—Psalm 1:3, The Living Bible



What if the season is barren

rather than bearing?

How if the leaves have curled

and the river has curved

away—away from from this tree, empty?



“Empty? Why art thou empty?”

Asks the Spirit-wind,

rustling through parch├Ęd leaves.

“Have you ceased to delight in

my Word—written, spoken, spilled down?



In the stillness after the query

hangs an echo from ancient days:

“Who told you you were naked?

Why are you afraid? Have you disobeyed,

eaten what I forbade?”



“Yes, Lord,” I whisper in shame.

“I have known good, but evil is now

natural to my broken frame.

I have not delighted in Your Name,

to Your Word I refused to bow.”



“Yet all these days

I have guarded your ways—

return to me, delight in me.

My arm is not too short to save,

remember this and offer praise.”



Like a long-waited rain to a dry tree

were His entreaties to me.

I took delight as I meditated,

both day and night, upon

His Word—written, spoken, spilled down.



_______

Photo by Peter Oslanec on Unsplash

Friday, January 26, 2018

Dear Elf-Friend

Ten years have disappeared,
Slowly, so-very-slowly in ways,
yet how fast and bleared
go those years of days 

So much has changed, 
and I've changed, too,
but some things stay the same—
like how I miss you

I missed the gift
of your letters, your self,
only when there was a rift
between you and health

Five years, nearly,
since I last saw you, so altered—
I miss you dearly,
even the way your words faltered

So much has stayed:
my foolish words and blind eyes—
but for change I often pray,
and the Lord hears my cries

I miss your songs
and poems, your wonder
and childlike joys, gone,
mind and reality torn asunder

Years and disease
have made you disappear, my friend—
Sorrow brings me to my knees
at how we came to an end

So much might resolve,
but my hopes wane,
as the days and years revolve,
and you don't write again

I miss who you were,
miss what I didn't value
enough when I had it, sir—
oh, if only we knew. . .

If we but knew
how to order our loves,
our minds, our days so few—
how to give thanks to Him above

Had I known
ten years ago,
had I received with thanks,
what difference would that make?


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Unmerited


















Kindness
flowing out
in wine and chocolate chip cookies,
in smiles and eyes, in words and hidden acts

Grace
flowing down
in water and wine and blood
over dark soul nights, to unworthy us

Love
flowing over
from hearts and hands, eyes and lips
in forgiveness again, and again—every time

Gifts
ever flowing
that we cannot earn, cannot repay,
we humbly receive with open, empty hands

Full
over flowing
hands and hearts, eyes and lives—
Lord teach us to receive with gladness and joy!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Do Not be Afraid



"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid."1
—Frederick Buechner


These were the words that marked a house fire and the death of a beloved dog for some folks that I met earlier this year. They are the words I wrote under a dark sky and a full moon, a picture I painted for my friend whose dear mom died on Easter morning. They are the words embodied in the juxtaposition of nature’s beauty and nature’s brutality when I was out hiking and found a freshly killed bird on my quiet trail. They are the words I am still clinging to, in hopes of making sense of a friend’s surreal situation. They are the words attempting to hold back my own fears of losing my family. They are the words seeking to reconcile a disappointed hope of healing—a wife and child, parents and a sister, all bereft of a man who was only thirty-four.

But they are only so many words. They don’t stop the darkness from coming. They don’t staunch the wound that death rips through so many whom I know—the wound that I feel, too. That I fear, too. At some point I have to face the reality of death and the loneliness—the isolation—it brings. And words do not fill the hollowed out people we become when death invades our lives. Those true words lie flat on the page, not shedding a bit of light or colour into our greyness. They lie flat, unable to lend us a hand, to pull us out of the mire of the Fall and its effects.

Words can kill and words can heal; but sometimes words are superfluous—flat-lined rather than life-lines. Brokenness doesn’t fit in neat packages or true-but-trite sayings. Brokenness doesn’t fit well anywhere with all its jagged edges lacerating those who get too close. When I can, I hug my friend who lost her mom this year. I try to just listen. I paint or sing to let the pain out. I cry with my friends—and for them, too. I pray the Kyrie often: Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

But how do I face my family’s mortality—or my own—when I am reminded of the brevity of life? I need to learn to take a page from Wendell Berry’s book:
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my [parents’] lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.2

“Who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.” I can grieve alongside. I can grieve during. I can grieve after. And being a human rather than an animal, I can have a forethought of grief. I can “pre-grieve,” as I’ve taken to calling it—but should I? Or can I really even pre-grieve? I don’t know what certain losses will be like until they arrive. I won’t know what I miss until I miss it. Why try to grieve now, when I am called to live now? Why let grieving spoil being with my family and my friends, or the beauty all around me? And let me remind you, you who are in the darkness and that infernal greyness of numbed emotions—there are still candles and stars and beacons of beauty. How do I know? I have seen them. Beauty does not stop the ache, nor does it flip a switch, turning on one’s ability to feel. Yet, beauty creeps in—like a flame along a paper-edge, like ever-rising waters, like the grey light of dawn about to to turn golden and crimson—and somehow it lights a beacon of hope. Hope that one day this topsy-turvy brokenness will be made right.

How do I know? Well, Buechner said it better than I could: “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you.” That part tends to get left off the quotation, but how are we not to be afraid—in reverent fear of the beauty and in fear of the terror of the world? We do not fear, because the One who made all things good, who made us, who loves us, walks with us. Why would we fear the darkness if the Light of the World is present with us? It isn’t that we aren’t walking in the darkness, its very fingers clawing at us—but, it cannot overpower us or leave us forever in grey-life. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot comprehend it—cannot understand the Light, nor overcome it.

When words won’t stem the gushing wounds death opens in the heart, I go for a long hike. It doesn’t fix things or bring people back. It doesn’t change the realities that my family and friends experience due to loss. Yet, sometimes along the way, I am changed by the Maker of the wild things. He is the ever-present Healer. He is with us in the darkness, in the flat grey feeling, in the hollow emptiness, in the moments of meaninglessness. Though we may not feel His presence—and though we may forget, “we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him.”3

Sometimes the Word is wordlessly present. Always He walks alongside us—He is with us—even when we can’t feel His presence. “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you.”


________

1. Buechner, Frederick; Beyond Words (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. 2004) 139

2. Berry, Wendell; "The Peace of Wild Things" retrieved from Poem Hunter

3. Lewis, C. S., Letters to Malcolm (London: Geoffrey Bles Ltd. 1964) 100-101







Saturday, September 9, 2017

Arrival




                                            I watched the darkness come down
                                            as the breeze rushed by
                                            and the sawyers started to sound
                                            their aching choir, sorrows wound
                                            in a cricket's cry

                     
                                            I watched the lights spring awake
                                            in a dark-eyed casement
                                            trimmed with paint, starting to flake,
                                            saw reflected the glassy green lake
                                            on the glazed encasement

                              
                                            I heard the whisper of leaves in the wind,
                                            breath of Fall creeping
                                            into the colour of grasses that bend
                                            their tawny heads low, in gusts that send
                                            geese to the sky, weeping


                                            I felt the sigh of Autumn's chill
                                            breathe down my spine,
                                            paint bushes aflame, gild the hill,
                                            tinge the air crisp, and spill
                                            out the scent of pine


                                            I saw the day fall into slumber
                                            and stars blink awake,
                                            a silent host too many to number
                                            over black bear with heavy lumber
                                            shown by aspen's quake



Monday, September 4, 2017

The Chase




                              You perch on the porch
                              edge, you precocious, brazen
                              bronze-brown nut-gatherer—
                              raising your inquisitive nose,
                              whiskers atremble with a smell

                             Whiskers quiver, the head turns
                             great green eyes of
                             interest upon you—fluffy nutkin—
                             padded feet and a twitching
                             tail tell of an energy reserve

                            Ready to spring as you back
                            away from the boards—
                            no longer bored, vigilant,
                            the queen of grey tigers
                            shifts stealthily, all attentive

                            At one swift tail-flick and 
                            a bound you are roof-bound,
                            her Grace rolls over in 
                            the golden afternoon sunlight
                            to dream of the chase

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Glory Be to God for Dappled Things (Photo Update)

Typed words have been slow in coming this summer. Conversations have been far more prevalent this summer. My typed thoughts sit in a nice pile of drafts, unfinished. My conversations seem to simply go on and grow as the summer progresses. Poems have given way to painting. I have been thinking about life and Godliness through the lens of Harry Potter and a couple of thought-provoking films; through lots of conversations and the reading of a few CS Lewis pieces.

As it has been a while since I've actually published something here, I thought I would post a few photos from the summer to mark its progress.

Gog and MaGog with Tosha, Michael, and Ben (early June) 6mi


Some painting inspired by hard conversations, sad things happening to friends, and by the moon


Ditto


4th of July with my family!


Some reflections whilst listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Shrine Ridge wildflower hike with Tosha (late July) 6mi


Butler Gulch hike with Tosha (early August) 4?mi

Hiking Mt Sherman (14,036ft) 5.25mi


With these fellows (Aaron and Ben)

The end of the Mt Sherman hike, back by the truck. . .


Somewhere along the way I spent time with a couple of Oxford friends (Kasey June and both Kevin J and Kevin B); hyperventilated with laughter with Lyndi and Katie; watched Harry Potter 1-4 (so far) with the neighbours; watched Cinderella Man with a few other neighbours; had long phone calls or chats on the stairs by my house with various folks; got to see sweet AnnaClaire and talk (over dinner and cheese); sat on my porch and read Lewis while my sweet Brooke-friend journalled; have had a few interesting conversations with our bookstore intern; sat and listened to a local bluegrass band downtown; went to a lecture on Harry Potter and the Way of Power by Kyle Strobel; have had the opportunity to listen to Kevin Bywater speak; and have enjoyed hearing a lot of rain on the roof and the crickets—because maintenance replaced the pool motor with one that is much quieter!

All in all, it has been a very good summer and a growing summer. I am learning to lay down expectations and receive life as God hands it to me. I am learning to put up wiser boundaries with people and work (very much a practise and a process). I am learning to be faithful where I am. I am striving to not violate my conscience in the small matters that add up. I am more alive to Beauty and Hope. The Holy Spirit is breathing His life-giving breath on and in me—turning me from cold stone into living flesh and rippling hair. There is light and high Beauty beyond the shadow—weakness that is power that the darkness cannot fathom. There is life in sacrificial death. Loyalty and friendship have been embodied in stories, in the people I get the priviledge of knowing. Life is full—full of the glory of God.

All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be made well.