Posted in Musings

The Work of My (Mind/Hands)

i have never been fully comfortable here
a jigsaw puzzle piece that doesn’t really fit
there is much of life i do not understand
thoughts that remain unresolved in my mind
the death of a friend
the revolutionary who has become a dictator
the elusiveness of peace
the responsibilities of life
the exhaustion that comes with striving to remain faithful
the sadness in your eyes
the memories of past lovers
the distance that remains between us
the dissonance between what is and what might have been

so i return to the space below
walk down the stairs
and step once again into the
familial craft of carpentry
the buzzing thoughts do not go away
yet somehow as the piece comes to light they become a part of its becoming
and there is a comfort in the creation
as the dust of wood the world over covers me in a baptism of mourning and joy.

Posted in Poems

The Shapers

Last night I dreamed the Shapers came around again.
They dropped by the cottage as we were sitting down to dinner.
I invited them in.

Jesus and I laughed about the first time I gave my life to him down deep inside a sleeping bag trying to make the tears come while my mocking friend pulled the covers back to see what I was doing. It was he who had told me that I could not eat the Lord’s Supper unless I was born again.

A rocky start I guess, but honored nonetheless. Jesus loved me for who I am.
And I began learning
to love myself and everyone around me,
It and I always turning, turning from truth and back again.
Jesus loved me for who I am.
I still do, he said.
My Shapers and I bowed our heads in silence while the Prince of Peace broke the bread.

After grace, I turned to Dr. King.
“I’m Martin to my friends.”
He pointed at his head and then they all showed me the places where the bullets and the nails had gone in.
Loving your enemy is no guarantee he will reciprocate or give love back again.
I used to wonder whether I would go up and out like Martin.

I grew up in Mississippi and I met him though his people,
still getting used to the changes,
showing patience with the foot draggers,
paying no mind to the word daggers, the tut-tutters and finger waggers,
so willing to forgive and forget.
Martin smiled. “I have a dream,” he said.
“And the dream ain’t done being dreamed yet.”

Next I spoke to Gandhi.
“Please pass the Satyagraha.
I need some more spices from the mouth of the Mahatma.”
So we spoke of truth and love, with a dab of philosophy,
how the tooth for tooth just leaves everyone’s mouths empty.
“Did you like Ben Kingsley and the length of the movie?”
“Not bad,” Mohandas smiled. “Though I would have made it shorter with a little less of me.”

My church saw the movie together.
I was young, and it was long, but my life was changed forever.
I remember how I cried,
how it felt to be with the adults outside
at intermission talking peace to the cool Southern night air.
I’m still figuring out how to be salt of the earth and
where.

“How are you, Romero?” I asked.
“I’m well,” he replied.
I told him of the time I spent at the church where he died,
how I wore a black cross around my neck for years in solidarity with his people, who shared their hopes and
fears with a naive college student, how we cried and laughed,
how reading Exodus could make you disappear,
how the soldiers who killed the priests shot up his photograph. “Monsignor, you were more alive dead than
you were before.”
To which he said, “My son, that is the essence of resurrection.”

After that I spoke to Menno and thanked him for my heritage. “I would gladly have been martyred like these,”
he said. “But I did not have the privilege.”
“How does a mortal, fearful man have such courage?” I asked.
“Be faithful. Life is in God’s hands.
Do not take upon yourself what is the Creator’s task.”

After too short a time, it seemed,
they pushed back their chairs to take their leave from my dream.
“We have far to travel yet,” Jesus said. “And many more Shaped to see.”
So I bidst them farewell and thanked them for their lives.
They laughed and laid their hands on me.
“Freely given, child, freely receive.”

When I awoke, I lay still for awhile and listened to her breathe,
this woman whom I’ve known for a short time who is already shaping me with her love, encouragement, and commitment to peace
in our lives together and communities.

I thought of Mom and Dad, my friends and my family,
the shapers I carry inside from their stability,
the learnings and the laughings,
and our shared history.

These are my Shapers, the makers of me,
the famous and the not so well known
who have scribed these patterns on my bones.
There are many, many more unmentioned, and more shapes for me to see,
for I am a grateful man who contains a wonderful
geometry.

September 2003

Posted in Musings

Garbage Day Two

i am awakened in the early morning by the metal clanging of trash cans
it is that time again
the day when we put our refuse on the curb
with the sure knowledge that when we return home
the can will be empty

our garbage will have disappeared
a slight sweet smell in the air the only remnant of the garbage truck’s passing

within i find myself hoping for such a day
when the fetid stuff of broken dreams is swept up
put in a black plastic bag
and hauled away
to rot in some distant landfill
upon which a future subdivision will grow
feeding families
very different than
and perhaps
too much like
my own

Posted in Art & Photography

Photos – Holy Saturday – Pastors Prepare

Photos of the day between the cross and the empty tomb.

With Mom and Dad at Crest Hill Community Church

Posted in Poems

Freshly Fallen Snow

I have come once again to a place of memories,
across miles of roads that though traveled long ago
quickly become familiar.

I am not completely at ease,
convinced that I have forgotten something though
I cannot discover what it might be.

The winter has been mild,
even here where it seems the land has ever worn a
a mantle of white, there is only brown grass.

I come seeking the soft pleasure of snow,
to be warmed by a grandma’s fragile kiss
and released from my frozen perceptions.

Words from the past hang in the air like icicles from the eaves,
grown sharp from frustration to subtly prick,
and I, as I am wont to do, wonder what I have done wrong.

The memories that reside in this place are not all pleasant
like the aroma of farm that permeates the air.
I take a deep breath as I have done in the past and smile.
But as I walk outside I cannot help but wonder
if I am following in the footsteps of others
whose stuff I inadvertently step in.

Finding peace within myself,
between myself and those closest to me,
is as evasive as the snow has been,
as hidden as the gnawing thought of that something precious
I still believe I have left at home.

Forgiveness is a difficult thing to grasp,
melting through numb fingers,
though what I wish for most is a forgetfulness
of the scolding conversations that play within,
that give voice to present prickly words.

Strangely enough deep down inside me burns a spark of faith.
There are patches of white here and there.
Last night a brief squall blew through
enough to coat the road and cover the
black lines made by the car’s tires.

I can only continue to travel through these rememberings,
not necessarily to understand all of the feelings that
are given life by the journey,
but to let them simply be
and let them go,
like my clumsy tracks covered by
freshly fallen snow.

Originally posted February 19, 2012

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

Dealing With My Excrement

Perhaps it is my contemplative nature, but as I was outside in the backyard this morning picking up our dogs’ excrement with a shovel, my mind moved down other stinky and not so pleasant paths related to my stuff. In particular an incident from the past that left me and the other both not smelling so good where the faint aroma still hangs in the air when we are around each other.

I pick up a few turds and admit my fault to the universe. In the end that is all I can do. I don’t have enough lifetimes to deal with other people’s stuff. The mosquitoes of guilt and shame are tearing me up and I have a whole backyard of my own to take care of.

So, one by one, bit by bit, I am present to each mess. I put it in the bucket and move on to the next pile.

Originally posted July 1, 2011

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

The Shunning

My people practiced shunning as much as
they practiced bundling though the barrier
placed between was so much more than a
rolled up hand-made quilt.

When difference was distrusted,
hidden by plain coat and covering,
the voice of dissension was muffled by guilt.

And though the practice fell from grace,
this ghost haunts me like no other.

I shun myself and my beliefs so I and
they are not shunned by another.

(Written: November 23, 2002)

Posted in Longreads & Essays

Finding My Place In Life’s Pattern – Relearning Inlay from Grandpa

In a recent post, I wrote about visiting the North Country and missing my grandfather, who passed away ten years ago this month. Upon my return, I resolved to be more diligent in applying the lessons I learned from him in the making of wood inlay. I had done a few smaller items over the years, but doing it as an ongoing craft had eluded me.

image

The acclimation of the multitude of life’s experiences is an ongoing process. The difficulty lies in determining what remains on the fringe and what is invited into one’s central core. My time in New York has reawakened in me one such invitation.

Once home, I dug out the three boxes of wood pieces and book of patterns from the attic in my shop. I’d pretty much used up all of grandpa’s inlay over the years in renovating the Homestead cottage at Rolling Ridge and other small projects.

image

So most of my time has been spent sorting and otherwise getting reacquainted with the patterns and various types of wood I have.

I set the table saw to 1/4 inch and made some tentative cuts. Then I decided to make a pattern. Over the course of the week, I glued each strip separately until the section was completed.

image

There is deep sense of completion within me as well. I turn the piece over in my hands and remember grandpa saying in his booming voice that my being there was “a shot in the arm.”

image

Here in my 50th year, it is time that I let his teachings flow through my veins and out into the works of my hands.

Posted in Prayers

Prayer for the Foster Parent

Gracious and Loving God,
You are the Great Foster Parent,
When we were lost, orphaned, and alone,
You found a way to make us your children.

Thank You.

Each and every day, You “foster” us into being a people
who reflect your Spirit to the world.

Thank You.

Foster in us those qualities that You so richly
pour out on us;

You are loving.
Help us to show unconditional love
to the children You have placed in our care.

You are patient.
Help us to be patient even when we despair
of seeing progress.

God,
You are kind.
Help us to always be full of kindness with a
gentle and firm hand.

Most of all, God,
You are faithful.
You never give up on us,
even when we blow it.
When we are hurting You are always there.
Help us to be like You;
May we never give up on our children.

God,
You showed how much You honor foster parents
by giving your only Son into the care of Mary and Joseph
who helped raise him to be the man You wished him to be.

Thank You.

And thank You for allowing us to be a part of helping
children discover your purpose for their lives.

We ask for your blessing upon the food.
When so many the world over are hungry,
help us to be grateful and generous.

As we celebrate together today,
we look forward to the day when all
of your children will be safe, healthy, and
can truly live in that wonderful place
all of us long for,
that is known simply as “Home.”

In your precious and holy Name,
we pray.

Amen

Shared at a Foster Parent Appreciation Luncheon May 2008