Status Update

I rose crestfallen from a
dream in which a preferred cast
of characters from my past
(plus me) were leaving for the
epicest concert of all time.
But I hadn’t showered and was
still in day clothes unsuitable for
the best night of our lives.
So away I flew to the bath but
it was being used by a Gila monster.
And what do you do with that?
Exactly – you wait until he’s finished
by which time my fantasy league
had already left for the show.
But not without leaving a note:
Dear John, we waited but dude
you took too long. Really sorry.
By the way, its possible there’s a
Gila monster somewhere in your
head. Its not real, cowboy.
 
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What Do You Believe?

Every year at the
Great Big Gathering of the Righteous
the young wannabes would
stand so tall before the assembled
to be asked the all-important
what-do-you-believe-about questions
in order to determine their fitness
for the furtherance of the faith.
What-do-you-believe-about women preachers?
What-do-you-believe-about gays?
What-do-you-believe-about tongues and healing?
What-do-you-believe-about the just war?
 
For years at the
Great Big Gathering of the Righteous
an old rubbled-hearted pastor in his
out of fashion rags would rise
in the rear of the room to
ask the same nagging question
to the young minds without scars:
What-do-you-believe-about the blood?
Those first few years the question caught
them off guard but after that they
came ready with polished
answers tailored for publication.
 
For years this happened at the
Great Big Gathering of the Righteous
who, if we’re being honest, were
embarrassed by not only the pastor
but his annual bloody question.
Finally the pastor’s heart gave out
and he died.
You’d think at least one righteous
picked up that torch of a question to carry it.
But you’d think wrong, no not one.
The man and his question were ashed
by the hotter topics of the day.
 
 
*Based on a story told to me and others by Eugene Peterson.
 
 
 
 
 
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A Grief Conserved

I cry a little every day.
 
Veterans told me sending him
off to college would be hard but
I did not expect to feel forsaken.
Parting’s sweet sorrow? Like hell.
No, its more a coarse sawing
 
much like when that hiker had to
amputate his arm in order to free
himself. That’s how this feels –
cutting away the firstborn’s life
from tight family formations.
 
He has long now been not only
my only boy but my right hand.
The humbling boon of a son who
has also grown to be my friend.
But it must be, and will be well. Still
 
I cry a little every day.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Higher Stakes

A man I admire told me there are many
benefits to letting the world fall apart.
He said this sitting in his own ruins
with a ashen smile on his broken face.
Although I have known him for years
it was hard to tell in that moment whether
he was trying to convince me or himself.
He said from now on you can call me Job,
the man God bet on who then lost it all.
 
We let silence take a seat between us because
although we’ve both known God for years
it was angering to think in that moment that
life, even in part, was simply some kind of test
we either miserably fail or pass with a prize.
I broke the stillness by playing the next line
in the script: Why not damn God and all?
This man shook his fist skyward and said
I can’t. There’s far too much at stake now.
 
I said you know they’ll come soon with their
own tremblings wrapped in chapter and verse.
He said let them come and see the game.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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At Times

Here. Take this makeshift poem.
Copy the lines on a sheet of paper
then cut them into tiny strips.
Find a shovel and dig a hole.
Bury the ribbons of words.
Water that spot for seven days.
Watch. Nothing will flower there.
 
This will teach you something about love.
 
How it begins with words that at times
cut and get jumbled and buried away.
How at times it appears unblooming.
How at times it feels foolish, like watering
paper in the backyard before dark.
Love is the essence of things hoped for.
The tending is evidence you believe.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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An Older’s Tomorrow

Years after the break that broke
our father’s heart, he came back.
He hadn’t come to his senses as
much as he’d grown deathly sick,
some wasting disease contracted
in the country far away from us.
 
I’d buried our father in those saddest
years, dug his grave all by myself.
The servants were let go by then.
I’d also buried my wife and our son.
Only the wind and ghosts remained.
 
He said I didn’t know where else to go.
I said Its right that you came home.
So we attempted to bridge the time
though we were older men by then.
We hoped to find ourselves again as
boys who were also once brothers.
 
I cared for him like he prayed I would.
He wondered whether this was out of
duty or due to love. I said I cannot say.
Such categories lose their meaning after
so much is lost and poorly grieved.
I told him I’m glad you came home.
 
When he died I wrapped him in our
father’s faded robe and buried him by
the others out back beneath the oaks.
I left the next day with my inheritance
of memories and our father’s signet ring.
I saw tomorrow from still a long way off.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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The earth is stained with an unyielding wildness.

Older believers know this. So we take childhood verses
or quotations from dead mystics and wrap them over
pastoral scenes of wildflowers along the highway.
We do this all the while shuddering deep inside because
despite our best efforts to cast a more Christ-like God,
efforts I applaud, there remains the God-like Christ
who may without consulting us give permission for us
to be sifted like wheat or live despised and rejected of men.
This is the chill older believers know, and cannot shake.
                            
Posted in Uncategorized | 25 Comments