I did not lose them,
Those seventeen pounds of flesh;
I cast them away
with every step that I walked
and with every mile I rode
Ramen noodles soak Mushrooms and veggies draw in more than flavored broth: they draw in hope for today and give strength for tomorrow.
This morning started off well: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a tall glass of water before biking down to the church. The wonderful thing about biking to work is that you get to save gas money and help to care for the planet. Hours later, the crew leaves the church from the spring cleanup day. I head into my office and begin to work on cards thanking people for their service to the church today and for their service in helping to cleanup at Casowasco last Saturday.
After everyone has come and gone, the time for lunch draws near. I put a package of ramen, four dehydrated mushrooms, and a quarter cup of dehydrated veggies underneath the coffee maker’s spout. Twenty minutes later, I have Keurig Ramen, a common meal these days.
It isn’t the church’s fault that I’m not eating steak today. While I’d love to blame my former partner, it is not completely her fault either. It certainly is not the fault of the three blessings that I love with all of my heart and soul. We live in a broken world and after I am done voluntarily supporting my children who live across the state against my desires, I honestly have less in my bank account than I had when I served a church in seminary. I definitely did not see this place on my journey coming: I would have spent more time learning to cook better foods for fewer people for less.
For lunch today, my ramen looks back at me. I wrote a tanka about the ramen as I contemplated my lunch. I still wonder, what does the ramen see?
I hope it sees someone who is grateful for a good meal. I hope it sees someone who is grateful for what he has been given instead of someone who spends all of his time lamenting what is not right here. Actually, let me reword that: “I hope it sees someone who is working to be more grateful for what he has been given and to be less focused on what is lacking.” The intention is important, for I know I have a role in choosing how I react to these moments.
We don’t always get to choose what comes our way in this life. When we slow down and listen to the Spirit, we can be given a choice about how we react. I choose to react to these moments with hope.
Underneath cloudy raindrops
Promise lighter days
I have been working on finding creative ways to “Pass the Peace” in a hybrid situation. What do we do as a people while the people in the sanctuary say hello to the people around them without unmuting everyone and causing a general chaos on Zoom? I wrote a set of haikus and tankas to share over Zoom while people are passing the peace so that everyone can feel a bit of love directed their way!
Feel free to use and share. Attribution is appreciated.
Friend, we pass the peace:
Across the miles may God's heart
embrace your good soul
Shalom beloved. May the peace of God surpass all of your worries.
Oh, beloved friend, may the Blessed Spirit hold you and love all of you
Jesus cares for you.
You are called to renewed life.
May peace fill that life
May God's peace rain down
to water your soul's garden.
May your life blossom
Softly like the snow
may peace build up in your life
so that if you slip
you might land in the middle
of a soft cloud of God's grace
Like sunshine at dawn,
may God color clouds with hope
and drive out darkness
May the sprouts of love
bloom in the sky of your life
as peace grows in you
May the gift of peace that has been lovingly wrapped by the hands of Christ bring joy into the deep parts of who you are in Jesus
May skilful fingers
strum a song of peace and joy
in your song of life
May God's peace leaven
and bubble in you with hope
as the Baker smiles
We believe in God
and seek God's peace. even as
God believes in us
May you hear God's song
when the bells of life ring out
and offer us peace.
May God's peace shine down
like the stars that light the world
even through the clouds
Like a filled donut
May God's peace cram into you
until it spills out
May the breeze of peace
blow across your life's valleys
and dust you with joy
May your life's story
be filled with moments of peace
as God works in you
to write gracious new chapters
with the flair of the Spirit.
May God's peace bless you
even when you recognize
that life is hard work
May you never trip
as you walk the road of peace
paved by Christ's great love.
May the peace of God
bring light to your darkest day
and joy through all things
As the bee brings life as it flits through the blossoms, may your life be blessed as peace reaches into you and leaves behind marks of love
May a snapshot show
the Light of Peace defying
all your life's shadows
May peace refresh you
like a cold drink on God's porch
on a hot, dry day
May the peace of God
bless you like a when blanket
when life's cold storms swirl
Waving in the lake breezes
dancing to time's rhythm
Yellow flowers dance as the years twirl lazily, weaving without care.
The web of time slows as even death seems to slow to sway in the breeze
There are still flowers
even when my heart is gray
The sun still shines on
Why seek victory?
Peace and love; all I desire.
I love my children.
Their mother also loves them.
We both love and we both long.
They live life halfway
without ever wanting this
chaos and discord.
They need their roots to sink in
and give them a peaceful life.
Where do we go now
when all is in the wild winds?
Tumbling through this life
as we wait to know what’s next
and each pray for an answer.
I don’t know it all.
YaH, You know what should come next
and I will listen,
even if I hear through tears.
Please watch over my children:
they matter more than I do.
After a week of indecision, I have decided to have Chinese today. Fourteen years ago, on Valentine’s Day, I burst into a liquor store with what felt like the stupidest question on my lips. “It is Valentine’s Day, my wife just gave birth two days ago, and we are having Chinese. What wine goes with Chinese food?” The clerk did not know what to do, what to say, and quickly suggested sake before we both remembered that was Japanese.
Fourteen years later and the marriage is over. There is nobody to share Chinese with tonight, but I still remember bringing home Chinese while exhausted. I remember both of us passing out from exhaustion on our couch as our baby slept while swaddled nearby. I don’t even think either of us even bothered drinking a glass of the wine. I remember all of these things and walking exhaustedly to try and help my wife have a nice dinner on Valentine’s Day with food we both loved.
She isn’t here. Those moments are gone, but I still remember pushing my legs to go out to the car and get dinner. I remember the adrenaline crash after getting everyone home safely after the first car ride with a used car seat and then heading out to find my wife the closest thing I could find to a romantic dinner. I do not want to lose the memory, do not want to lose the feeling of “bringing home the bacon” to a family for the first time, and I remember being proud of myself for something that was so simple. I do not want to forget how my child changed my life on that Valentine’s Day or how I found something far more wonderful than diamonds to give to my wife. I’ll have Chinese anyway and I will remember the most beautiful Valentine’s Day I ever experienced, even if I remember through tears.
"What goes with egg rolls?" The stunned clerk was quite flummoxed but did a good job At least, I think that she did I do not remember now
If you stop to look more than a mere glance It is more than a building. It hides itself well with the bricks so fine but this is not just a church. Real lives change here when people listen and find a kind place with hope. We may not fix things when the world breaks stuff but we listen with our hearts. We share words of home We offer safe space for people who are adrift Not just a building we are a free pier for all who sail on life's waves. Building, dock, or church This sanctuary is offered freely to all I am so grateful and laugh here with joy for this is not just a church In this place we feed those with a hunger both in body and/or soul It is a garden for all of the "bees" who need some nectar or rest It is a warm inn on a wintry road when people need safe shelter It is a rare place where death comes quite near but nobody runs in fear. It is where goodbye is shared with a hope that goodbye is "just for now." It is where we wash the soul with water and ask the Spirit to come. Full of miracles stories with wonder defy explanation here It is made of brick but is more solid than just a sacred building It is a place to find grace It is a place to belong It is more than a building
I struggled to get up today. Life is really hard some times. When you wake up on cartoon day And the speakers sit silently. I had a rough time with coffee. My dishes were waiting alone. There was nobody here but me. Nobody near to share a meal. I washed dishes one or two times. I straightened the countertop stuff. I prepped broth as I do sometimes Then I finally sat to write. The words flow like holy water and I see the Spirit at work. Tears stop about my dear daughter and I see God at work through me. I do not understand how it works
I wrote this poem last week on a day set aside to write my sermon. I really had a very difficult time sitting down to draft my sermon. It was incredibly hard, but when I finally focused, things went really well. The last line is one of the greatest understatements I have ever written.
I really don’t understand how God works through and in me some days. I wake up feeling miserable and worthless. I sit to write with the simple goal of doing my best: I want to use the talents I have to help make the world a better place despite my own feelings. Somehow it works. It flabbergasts me.
As the years continue to tick beyond control, two things have become abundantly clear to me. Tou cannot take things with you from this life to the next. No matter how fancy the ring or how great the object, time strips away most things. For this reason, this is the moment when we should enjoy the blessings of this life. It is far better to enjoy the moment in which we live than to mourn years past or to long for a future that is beyond today’s reach. I believe Qoholeth smiles across time as the choice is made to enjoy the moment.
Truth embodied in a piece of plexiglass. Spaces for herbs and plants to grow above fish that will dance and nibble among the roots. Basil globes, flowers, and spider plants now dip their roots among the waters as curious fish nip and taste the roots that hang down through the clear lid. Above, an energy efficient bulb shares light and warm with fish and plant alike. Even in the coldest winter, a new symbiotic relationship dawns between the herbs and their hungry neighbors.
Basil roots stretch down
as their bright leaves reach up high:
Fish nibble away
I wrote this poem for use in worship this coming Sunday as we deal with the grief of resuming virtual worship again.
Go deeper into the Light When you are scared of tomorrow, and when nothing seems to turn out right, trust the Keeper of both day and night. When your heart is full of sorrow, go deeper into the Light. Choose trust when all seems amiss. When it all seems to have gone wrong the easy choice would be to just hide. The Spirit waits for us to confide and listens to our hearts' sad song. Choose trust when all seems amiss. Reach out and take a friend's hand when it is easy to just cry and bury heart in your grief or fear. Dear friend, you and your life are too dear to wander lonely paths and sigh: Reach out and take a friend's hand.
My jeans are too thin. My legs love to move. My back will be sore if I stop moving. I should not sit there and look out over a stream that will run while I stop moving. I do like to rest but my jeans are thin. Winter here is cold if you stop moving. I walk down the trail No yellowed wood path as I seek to live and I keep moving.
Yesterday I knew, I knew, I was thirty nine. Body, heart, and soul. I was sure I had one more. How could time flow so quickly? A friendly voice spoke Had I done the math? Did I? Of course I was sure I was so sure that I knew, I knew, I was thirty nine. As the shower rained, curiosity nagging, I checked on fingers. The fingers say I'm forty. I knew I was thirty nine. It seems so stupid that I forgot my own age, but who really cares If I add a syllable or see who I am inside? I am who I am and I don't dwell on my age. The tree was happy as the colorful lights shone and celebrated with me.
The words still echo. How do you excise a voice that you once let in? Her words a cancer that sap my strength and being as brittle bones ache. The rings of past growth show that I have done great things. You cannot erase the depth of the good in me through your angry assumptions I hear the kind words. "There is nothing wrong with you. You have a disease. You are still a good person with holy heart, soul, being... " "Someone must like you." Yes and I am beloved and I will go on.
I stand in stillness.
The snow falls beautifully,
but you are not here,
How long were you not with me?
Why was I never enough?
The world keeps going...
My pixie shares her big grin
and my world shrinks down...
Thunder is coming.
A day of swimming and play
Sets before the storm.
Tonight the heavens will shake
And the earth rejoices.
Rain will fall on us.
The skies will boom with thunder.
Snuggle down and rest-
Dream of games down in the lake.
The sun will come again soon.
We forgot the tent.
A sunset drive as night falls...
Embers settle down
As the crickets serenade.
We finally sit and rest...
In the hot depths of a summer afternoon, four cows masticated grass across the road from a parsonage. The pastor joyfully grabbed a camera and set out to take a picture for the background of Sunday’s digital worship service. The sun blazed and lit the pastoral scene.
Quiet murmurings sounds accompanied the cleric as he carefully framed his shot and checked the camera settings. Two cows looked meaningfully at the minister, conferred among themselves with quiet moos, and then arranged themselves for the picture with their compatriots. As a line of sweat dripped from the holy brow, the camera shutter snapped both open and closed: the minister pondered the futility of his pursuit.
Behold the bovine!
A beast that is quite moving
and very solemn…
The trees reach up with deep green limbs Waving fingers with verdant grace. Sunlight dazzles in warm still shade. Silent the song of breathing hymns Lifted up from a wooden face Straining to reach heaven as made.
I sit in the quiet of sacred space before worship. Nobody will walk in to disturb the stillness—a webcam will connect me with others. I am a latecomer to worship online in the age of COVID-19. A green light will shine and I will look into the two lights of the camera: LED lights look like eyes around a lens-shaped nose.
Decaffeinated French Roast coffee sits with a piece of homemade whole-wheat sourdough for my portion of the love feast. The only copy of the bulletin printed on the church copier sits next to offering plates that will not be passed for some time to come. My drum rests with anticipation for the moment it will ring out while I sing quietly into the only microphone.
There will be no packed house for my first SUnday. The building and I will spend time together as we enter into a new space with me as pastor. Interestingly, I do not feel alone. I prepare to meet today like many ministers have over generations—as best as I can in the place I stand.
I am not alone.
Sitting in the pastor’s chair
the saints surround me.
I lie still for an age Shrouded behind death's mask: Silent at last. No dance and no glib jest. Stillness my companion and I would rest. Fine bells will ring no more. A shroud wraps my frame tight: earth embraces. My time is now my own: No lords need I pleasure, save the one Lord. Let me rest here in peace for I am done with life as a royal plaything: and I would rest.
It has been a while since I have contributed to the D’verse Poets Pub. I needed to let off some steam after a couple of interesting things happened in my world today, so here I am.
The challenge for Poetics Tuesday is bringing life back to a person through poetry. I was thinking about the literary character of Yorick from William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” today, so I thought I would expand upon the life of this character. I wanted to explore the themes of vanity, death, and service to a royal family that is portrayed as more than a bit dysfunctional.
Less than two weeks waking in this old town: a parking lot altar stands for an hour. Old wedding superstitions are mirrored: Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue picked by coincidence. A space for lawn chairs marks a short moment where oily asphalt holds holy thin space.
Psalm instead of song, mask instead of mic: Word and prayer still anchor our shared time. Only one more Sunday moment is left. Sorrow asks for blessings on the marriage of heaven and earth to continue on when my service is but a memory.
In this space renews“Asphalt Space” by the Distracted Pastor, 2020
a sacred vow held quite dear
for two centuries
This is sacrilege:“This is Sacrilege…” Tanka, Distracted Pastor, 2020
Chemical warfare before
Pictures are taken
With someone’s Bible proving
The book is held as a flag.
The narrative bothers me deeply: A peaceful protest is cleared with a form of chemical weapons so that a secular leader can take a photo with a Bible. I love the Bible, I read it, and after watching the news I think of the words of Deuteronomy 27:19 (NRSV): “ ‘Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan ,and the widow of justice.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ ”
“ ‘Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan ,and the widow of justice.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ ”Deuteronomy 27:19, NRSV
An inheritor of privilege holding a Bible while an oppressed people asking for the very justice required by God require medical assistance. The situation makes me feel sick to my stomach. A person murdered in public after a long string of abuses on others of the same race, people calling for justice, and being met with chemical weapons in the streets… Elsewhere, widows and orphans met with the same force for the social crime of demanding justice. This cannot continue.
Justice demands action, righteousness demands action, holiness demands action, and our own children’s futures demand action. This must change.