Old boots

I have an old pair of boots that need to be resoled or replaced. Any minute now I’ll lace them up and walk the half an hour to church. Any minute now I’ll shake off these dismal thoughts about how Thanksgiving ruined my weight loss streak and finally convince myself that I don’t need to starve myself with a fast to hurry things along. Any minute now I’ll remember that I walked over nine miles yesterday and that my body needs time to process nutrients and expel waste before that shows. Any minute now sane thoughts will lace these boots. Any minute now…

Lace up your old boots:
draw tight both your loops and will.
Trudge that you might walk
down the road in warmer times
when all is finally well

Sharing a meal

I have the kids today! The only time I can see them again between now and the end of the year is if I exchange them with their morning Sunday morning at 10:00 AM two hours by car from where I have church at 10:15 AM. That part of things is awful, but today I see two of my three kids for the only time from October through December.

So, we broke out the fancy serving dishes and made macaroni and cheese with carrots and hot dogs. It seems silly to put such a simple meal in a nice dish as I never need a serving dish when alone, but this is a good silly.

Break out the good plates:
garnish with tasty extras
and join your children.
To eat while you're not alone
is a fleeting gift these days.

The Stumbling Block

I wrote this poem while thinking of the passage from Matthew 18:6-9, which says that it is better to be drown in the sea than to cause someone else to stumble. I am trying to come to a place of peace with the frustration which is continuing to take root in me despite my best efforts. I am working as hard as I can to burn off the anger through diet, exercise, and even spiritual disciplines, but there are times when things are simply wrong and more than an irritation. There are times when people do real harm to you and that pain becomes a thorn in the side that will not go away.

Even if there may be divine punishment for the person who causes another person to stumble, it still hurts deeply to be the person with broken toes, scraped knees, and a noticeable limp. I don’t doubt for a second that all that is happening is noticed and noted in the Book of Life and any equivalent book with opposite purpose. It would still be nice if there could be some relief.

Broken heart longs for them
The hugs, smiles, and dumb jokes
as joy is hard to coax
when you're alone

Prayers flow as I walk
Burn the anger with fat.
I look more and more flat
but rage lives on.

Walking, praying, fasting:
I curse this stumbling block
as on the Door I knock
and ask for help.

Even so, upon further reflection, a better passage to consider might be Romans 14:12-19 which is far more balanced in perspective. What I mean by balanced is that Paul does a decent job in Romans in balancing the concerns. Yes, it is wrong when someone else causes us harm, but Paul writes in a way that invites people to look inside before looking at one’s neighbor. It is not right for your neighbor to harm you, but first consider whether or not you will be ashamed when you give your account to God about how you lived your life and what you did, which is different from what your neighbor did to you.

So, how do I live with this pain in my side and sorrow in my heart? I see wisdom in Paul’s words in 2nd Corinthians 12:7-12. I have asked time and time again for this thorn to be removed, but it hasn’t budged. I guess that God’s strength is shown in my weakness, so I’ll keep trudging down the road while remembering the simple truth from a few verses earlier in Romans 14:7-10:

“We don’t live for ourselves and we don’t die for ourselves. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to God. This is why Christ died and lived: so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you look down on your brother or sister? We all will stand in front of the judgment seat of God”

Romans 14:7-10, Common English Bible

This life I live with thorn-gifted pain is the life that I have to live. My “neighbor” may look at me with disdain or judgment, keep me from my children in defiance of the court order, and teach them that it is dangerous to speak with me (since I might call Child Protective Services if something goes wrong and the kids are in danger). Even with that sorrow and pain, I am called to live, so I will live. When the day of my death comes, even if I am alone I will die in the Lord with hope in my heart that:

“We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:2-5, Common English Bible

Thorn in my side or not, I will live in hope and I shall not be ashamed of the Lord. I will seek hope all of my days, even with broken bones in my soul, for God loves me and will make all of this right one day. Even with broken places in my soul, I am still fearfully and wonderfully made and God loves me. I am God’s child and I trust that my Parent will hold me as close as I wish I could hold my children.

Post-Court Lament

I should change my name.
"Curse God and die already."
Job’s name would fit well,
as I, also, do refuse
to give in to the sorrow.

Here I sit in ash:
Emmanuel hear my cry.
As sun sets again,
I would prefer a whirlwind
to agonizing silence.

Peaceful night

The wind shifts the leaves
The moon dimly glows this night
as peace covers all

No rude words out there
No deeds to fear in this home
Peace swaddles with hope

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

A Poem born from Lamentations

The other day I shared a blessing from the United Methodist Book of Worship “For a Victim or Survivor of Crime or Oppression.” Since that day I have been working toward raising awareness by writing poetry based on the suggested poetry found in that blessing.

Today I wrote a poem based on Lamentations 3:1-24, which can be found in the Common English Bible through this hyperlink. As I pondered the reading, it seemed pretty dark at first. I was wondering what the compilers of the Book of Worship were thinking until I came across the shift from verses 19-24, which I found startling and incredibly powerful.

Verse 19 compares the feelings of homelessness and affliction to being poisoned to the brim with bitterness. I understood those feelings as I consider my past. I remember more than the feelings that came about in the first days after I filed for divorce. I remembered tears from a broken heart behind closed doors, sodden pillowcases, and the bitter feeling of knowing that promises made at the altar meant nothing. The shame, the guilt, the uselessness, and futility still come to mind easily even after time has begun to heal my wounds.

After all of this comes to mind, does Jeremiah give up hope? No, instead the very pain in Jeremiah’s soul transforms from a place of broken doubt to a place of stubborn waiting. The grief and loss do not translate into a faithless existence but into a spirit that will steadfastly wait for God to act. This! This is a feeling I know! “Waking” after sleepless nights, pulling on my boots, and stepping into my role as a minister with all of the confidence I could despite my own sorrow. This I know!

Helping church members say goodbye to loved ones with the compassion that comes from knowing what it is like to come home to an empty home! That was an act of faithful waiting! Sharing communion with people with the understanding that comes from knowing what it means to share a “meal” with others when you eat alone the rest of the week. That was an act of faithful waiting! Listening to the troubles of others knowing what it is like to have nobody at home to listen to my struggles. That was an act of faithful waiting!

Even now, I wait. The poem I wrote is as much a prayer for God to act as it is a piece of poetry inspired by this passage. I hope it is helpful and brings to mind the reality that brokenness does not mean that healing is beyond you.

"Homeless and poisoned in my inmost soul"
I ponder the broken and sleepless nights.
Endless tears fell into fathomless hole
as I thought of all of my stolen rights.

Future empty and present in shambles,
hopeful words called out from the ancient past
before wounds left me with frothing rambles:
that place where only ashes seem to last.

I remember the hope flickering faint.
I beheld the light that would not go out.
Even shattered, the call to be a saint,
not of perfect life, but one lived through doubt.

I remember and still I sit and wait
for the Just One to come bearing our fate.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Poem on one of Isaiah’s Visions

The other day I posted a blessing from the Book of Worship “for those who “For a Victim of Crime or Oppression.” Within that blessing were several recommended scriptures, which I am now using in the task of writing poetry based on the imagery and promises found in those verses. Today I am posting on Isaiah 59:6b-8, 15b-18, which can be found here in the Common English Bible. I hope these poems are helpful both to people who have gone through Domestic Abuse or Violence and for people who might not understand how such verses affect and strike a person who has gone through that experience.

Today’s poem leans a bit into the spookiness of Halloween if you read the poem from the outside. I really do not believe that the author of this passage was writing from the outside of pain and suffering. Spider-like (in the most stereotypical sense) is great imagery to use for the wicked in this passage, and I say that as someone with passing bouts of arachnophobia.

Poison dripping fangs, a macabre sight
as wicked ones weave ill within deep gloom.
Eldritch clothing from fevered, frightful night
covers little malice born of the tomb.

Desolate pain drenched cries reach out to plea
Dark bruises, broken bones, sharp tongues and lies
echo the words of lives full of debris
from lonely places where hope often dies.

Would You rise to wrap knuckles and square up
for those they rendered voiceless and oppressed?
Many have had to drink the bitter cup
forced to the lips of those who live distressed.

Ringside, black-eyed, we look to You with hope
and dream of when we will do more than cope.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Poem on Job’s Sorrow

This poem was written as a reflection on Job 3:1-26. In that passage Job is broken, shattered, and ready to breathe his last breath. I have felt like Job, have cried in the night, and eventually found a place where peace began to fill my heart again. This poem also references Jeremiah 31:29-30.

Perish the day that I first took a breath?
Would my heavy gaze fall on mirrored sight
and see any reason to wish for death?
Would narrowed eyes see so little this night?

Job calls out with a heavy-ladened cry
In his words there are cryptic broken dreams
bloody losses soak visions dark with dye
heart shattered, soul scarred, will torn at the seams.

There is room for new thoughts within my heart
that twirl and show that pain may be passing.
Sisyphean burden left at the start
as sour grapes are left to those harassing.

Let their teeth chatter in deserved sorrow
and may Job find new hope for tomorrow.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

A Reminder

Like many good things 
Healing may take some time
Treat yourself gently

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Healing and Sharing

How do we begin to heal after the pain of the past? How do we start to find our way forward after trust is broken, hearts are shattered, and faith falls flat? 

For me, one tool in my toolbox of healing is to care for other people. Often the things that I need on my path to a healthier place are the very things needed by people who have walked a similar path. While I need them, I don’t always recognize my needs. Being around and caring for people who have walked similar roads often helps me to see in others the things I need in my own life.

Do you know what I mean? I may need to hear a loving voice, but I don’t recognize that need until I see how much a friend needs to hear my loving voice. I may need to go easier on myself, but I will be harsh until I walk alongside someone who is just as harsh to themselves as me. 

To put this in Biblical terms, I might relate it to what is said in the Common English Bible in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.”

There have been places in my life where I have felt completely broken, but I have found the process of healing begins when I reach out loving hands to another person suffering. Selfishly, one reason I am being so open about my woundedness this month is to help others find a compassionate voice because I understand that compassion acts like a boomerang. When I send it out and away it comes back to me. 

I hope that these posts bring encouragement to others and help them to understand that they are not alone. I hope that others find my voice to be loving, sympathetic, and inviting. I hope that others take encouragement from what I write this month and pour that love out to others. I hope that divine cycle of giving love and receiving love will keep spreading, but even if it never goes beyond the words on this page, I will reach out and invite others to reach with me.

Just as I think I am just done,
Everything switches as I hear
How another person has walked
Over roads I once might have tread.
Very slowly my closed heart creaks
As deep compassion stirs within:
Healing pours in as love flows out.

October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

A Prayer for the Brokenhearted and Upset

Written after a vote for the disaffiliation of several churches from the Upper New York Annual Conference. Several people, including me, are upset and hurting. People are having sleepless nights over the question of whether or not our liabilities will outweigh our assets after paying settlements under the Child Victim Act out of our reserves while these churches walk away from the settlement we made together as a community. Will we have enough to pay for pensions both for those who remain and for those who serve the new denomination in retirement? Individuals feel harmed, wounded, and are in pain.

What do we do in these moments? What do we do when we are upset or angry? What do we do when we raise our voice and still end up watching as others walk away despite our concerns? On my end, I acknowledge my pain, acknowledge where it hurts, acknowledge what I desire, and ask God to help. This descending syllabic poem (a nonet) comes from that place:

Broken hearted people ache within
as our life together shatters.
We once lived in communion.
For those who are angry
and those who are hurt;
mercy hungry,
seeking hope,
pour forth
love.

Silenced by Fear

A while back I had a deep conversation with someone I trust deeply. She asked me why I haven’t shared my poetry lately. I told her that isn’t that I have stopped writing poetry: I have one that I’ve been working on for over a month, which is unheard of on my end. Instead, my blog has remained empty due to a sense of fear, frustration, and worry.

How do you share poetry that is deeply personal when you feel as if your abuser will turn it against you in court? How do you express the depth of sorrow that fills every inch of your being when such an acknowledgment might lead to people saying that such expressions are marks of weakness? How can you be expected to care for children if you write these things that make you appear weak before others?

The poem I am writing is about the pain in and wounds on my knuckles after long sessions with my punching bag. As I burn calories striking the punching bag, my hands often end up aching deeply. At times, the skin has broken. Once, it took weeks for the tear over my knuckle to heal. More than once I have sat in my car, in my chair, at my desk, and even stood in the pulpit while feeling my fingers and knuckles throb from exercising the night before.

If I share a poem about hitting a boxing bag, will that be seen as a sign that I am violent? If I share how it has been a long time since I have felt safe, will that be enough to overcome the presumption that I must be a violent person just because I am a cisgender white male?

Do people know how my weight has made me feel unable to flee for decades? Do people know that my professional role and personal beliefs have often conspired to make me feel as if I have had to take the abuse time and time again? Do people know about the memories from being struck, the pain from hearing the derisive laughter, or even the sorrow of having children taken away because on the outside I may look like a bad guy at first glance? Do people know how I felt as if I would lose my job if I ever said anything and how it felt when my abuser acted as if nobody would ever believe me?

So, can I share that poem? Can I share poetry about how the bag welcomes my feelings when the world might not? Can I share a verse or two about how the pain of bloody knuckles sometimes makes me feel real and grounded during a troubling time in my life? Can I share that my knuckles ache but I am okay with that pain? Can I share that it means more to me when I choose to turn the other cheek when I actually know that I have an option? Can I share that the bloody knuckles come with the knowledge that I need not be afraid?

I can, but even in a month where the veil is pulled back on this issue in my life, I probably will not share that poem. It isn’t ready and I don’t know that I’m ready to trust others with my wounded soul when they read those words. Instead I will simply ask others whether or not they understand that people are not always the way they look on the surface.


October has been Domestic Violence Awareness month since it was first introduced by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1981. Regardless of the month, domestic violence is never okay, no matter the circumstances. If you or someone you know is in desperate need of help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Oakdale Mall Poem

I had an eye appointment in Johnson City and went to a store where I used to take my children to look for Christmas presents and winter coats. I wanted a coat as I have been losing weight. It is closing and so many places where I took my children for six years stand empty, closed, or closing. I wrote this poem

Some days I wander,
walking past empty storefronts
Where family walked
looking for nice and warm clothes
to bundle up family

Now its always cold
and the memories burn low
Time changes faces
as old sweaters keep fraying
and worn sneakers still trudge on

Ramen Reflections

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.

Haikus and Tankas for Passing the Peace

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

A Court Prayer

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.

Fourteen Years of Chinese

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

“More than a Building”

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
Video, photography, accompianment, and poetry all composed/captured/performed/written by me

Poem from the last “Writing Day”

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.