These Nave Walls

Words evaporate, not
exactly disappearing but
dissipating, they’re
aired in near ubiquity.

Drawn to their limit, they
penetrate these nave walls, where
they wait
until we wait
upon them.

If you are still;
if you but listen,
you can hear echoes
of chorale and converse.

We might join in, or
perhaps not, but
we dare not forget that
there is more to be
heard than said.

All in Good Rhyme

My pencil sings, though oft off tune;
Of flesh, of sweat, of work. Too soon
the graphite dulls and edges blur.
Each passing line, I feel less sure.
I write, I draw against the grain,
while still I can, and then again,
an end arrives of poem, of line,
of light, of love of life, my wine.
I’m sated now: enough this time;
but in due course, I’ll raise a rhyme.

I am not given to writing poems in rhyme, or with such a meter, but this one just fell in my lap. So here it is. Perhaps I’ll throw it back. Happy Sunday All.

Do You Feel the Love?

I just started following the very wise and quotable author, Eugene Peterson, on Twitter. When I was a parish pastor, I found his words to be balm for my soul. He reminded me regularly to say no to distractions that kept the main thing from being the main thing. He spoke eloquently of the pastoral arts as arts – not sciences demanding fool-proof methods. Ministry means instinct and intuition formed by prayer more than data and its distractions. He called me again and again into community. I am happy to make his acquaintance, again.

I look forward to seeing how he makes use of Twitter. I use Twitter in a course I teach this semester. I have my students share experiences and information gleaned from a community service learning module that is a core component of the course. (If you are interested in finding out a bit about their experience, check out #gc102csl). Consequently, I have been observing the perils and possibilities of this mode of communication. Many scoff at the 140 character restriction, preferring the endless ream of characters available on other social media. But I think Twitter has possibility if you work with the idea that it serves to communicate aphorisms and such, or links for further reading. I tell my students that this assigned use of Twitter serves two purposes; first, it challenges them to think about how they might communicate for the sake of the agency where they work. Second, it charges them with the responsibility of intentionally communicating themselves into the social-media-sphere. Many people – especially young people – are unaware that potential employers search your social media self before considering you as an employee. In sum, those who turn to social media develop a public persona. We need to take responsibility for that. This brings me back to Peterson.

When I checked out Peterson’s home page on Twitter, I noticed that he has something like 10.4 K followers, and follows no one. I imagine the Pope and other notable figures have comparable statistics. But this leaves me asking: is this the real purpose of social media? To launch ideas in one direction alone? Of course, for all I know, Peterson may well have another handle wherein he engages others online, but the optics are odd, all the same. It is problematic to have “followers” while following no-one.

Having said that, I am also well aware of the burden of following people who tweet their every thought, meeting, encounter, and scratch. I find myself buried in posts that burden my brain. But I still feel some degree of responsibility for reciprocity. If you follow me, I need to think seriously about following you. Of course, that need not equate to a requirement to do this; but at least the thought should cross my mind – or, to but it differently, my mind should be crossed by thought of following you. I need to live into the yoke that is both a burden and a buoy by attending to concrete relationships. People mock social media, and I can appreciate that, but at the end of the day it is another way to communicate, and modes of communication always enable both love and its obverse possibility. I’m hoping you feel the love.

Light Arrested My Eyes

Dear Readers,

This evening was our annual Art and Vespers Service at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.  I was asked to respond, poetically, to Isaiah 40:26.  Both the verse and my response follow.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.

 

Light arrested my eyes last night

Light older than our mother, earth.

And this light sang to me,

Of comets and constellations

Of darkness and dust

Of cherubim and seraphim.

 

This light was wise, apprised of

The good, the true, the beautiful, yet it knew too

Of my fear of being blindsided by high-minded expectations of

Stellar piety.

And so it settled me, this light – it sang me

Into rapture as it captured me

With a luminosity

Both soft and penetrating.

 

The lights in the sky are not mood lights, but

Explosions of joy,

Incensing cosmic altars

Imaging mystery for all

Lifting high, each eye.

 

The lights in the sky are not

Content to stay, but earthward

Make their way, their rays

Making of me

A mess.

I weep their beauty, a puddle of poetic potency at my feet.

 

I am undone by You, You the Light of lights

Of star, of moon, of fire, of me, of us.

Aflame, we light out and so light up

The sky, until we fade into the dark

Where you remember each of us,

as we surrender to the sky that we become.

First Ski of the Season

I managed to squeeze in my first ski of the season just before January’s end, with only ten hours to spare. After two snow heavy winters, this year’s in Southwestern Ontario seems a bit odd. My one year old snow blower has earned its keep on only two instances. There was a bit of snow Friday, so I thought yesterday might give me occasion to reacquaint myself with my Nordic roots.

I generally ski on a local golf course. It is only a few minutes’ drive away and a two perimeter rounding of Rockway Golf Course is just right to ready me for an open-faced herring sandwich lunch with Akvavit to chase. The snow was a bit sparse. Here and there sleepy grass was sticking out tentative tentacles sleuthing the air for hints of spring. It will be awhile. In truth the bared bits were without cover because other parts of the greens, fairways and roughs collected snow as a result of the persistent wind from a westerly direction.

The ski-out was downhill and into the wind, and the ski-back was uphill with the wind behind me. On my second go-around, I saw two young girls tobogganing down a gentle slope, laughter at hand. I went around a corner, and as I was making my way up a tedious hill, I noticed a maple-leaf twig skidding across the wind-crusted snow, a bright-red sail running at broad reach. We were making about the same time, although I was having a harder go of it. I suspect that I would have lost the race, had he not slid into my ski track, wherein my worthy opponent met his demise.

I was left to finish the last bit of the round on my own, taking in the peculiar beauty of winter. The trees that grace the course are spectacular in a different way in winter. Nude, they bare their vein-like highways of trunk, branch and twig that bridge heavenly reach and earthly roots. These vulnerable, gentle giants serve as a parable of the mystery that is life: heaven kisses earth and for those with eyes to see, peace slides into view and the world seems well, if only for this instant.

Sometimes this instant is all we have, and the wise make the most of it. Perhaps they stop skiing for a second, and notice the cold air that reminds the lungs that nothing can be taken for granted. Perhaps they look about and notice animal tracks that trace a life that has wrestled out a reasonable peace with winter. Perhaps they release a prayer into the air, for loved ones near and far, and know that life is precious, and beautiful, and best lived in each moment.

Sweet Darkness

Fire frames the heavens,

inscribing “Glory!” in the sky.  You,

in an eternal instant illumine earth and

we see grace lurking in corners, and

peace hiding in the alleyways, and

hope about to spring on us

from behind its hunting blind;

courage stalking us from its perch.

 

All is clear for this

luminous moment, and then,

again, sweet darkness.

 

We fall into that

Mystery encompassing

even light with love.

Paint Me a Me

I just finished a painting.  It took me all of an hour.  I suppose one might call it abstract, or perhaps experimental.  But what it really was, was therapeutic; not in the sense that it was meant to express, let alone cure, some deep seated anxiety or fear or such thing.  No, this was therapeutic in that other ancient meaning of therapy, which is “to serve” (found in the Christian Bible in Acts 17:25 wherein we witness the Greek antecedent for “therapy” to reference serving the gods).  Therapy, then, can do a service and the end served in this instance was a little joy, which came about as I painted for a bit without thought of subject matter.  I was in the moment, happy to wash colors around the canvass without the need to represent an image or express a feeling.  It was really about seeing colors brush up against colors.

Sometimes I need to explore doing per se, and bracket the point of the doing.  Sometimes I ache to rediscover the joy of color, of shape, of sound, of word.  Perhaps you too experience that desire to create without purpose beyond creation.  There is a certain euphoria that arrives with that license to attend to the physicality of sight, sound, smell and touch.  We are, after all, sensual people who live into the world by way of bodies that only know the world at the edge where I end and it begins.  Of course, edges are permeable and so I know, in the adventure of being open to the world, that as I go out into the world the world makes its way into me, in a fashion.

So, what of this world?  It is loved by the divine yet it can shipwreck our faith.  It provides fodder for the sacraments yet can pollute piety.  The world is a dangerous place yet sacred writ reminds us that the pivot that is change rarely occurs in sequestered sanctuaries where all is at peace – although such places, too, have a place in the life of the faithful.  Deserts, oceans, mountains, highways; these are the sites of insight.  We need to be “out there” – in the world by interaction and in the soul by creativity – to be fulfilled.  Creativity is a mode of adventure.  The word adventure, for good purpose, has hidden within it the Latin word venire meaning “to come.”

We “come to” in creativity: we come to our senses as a source of freedom.  Creativity frees us to be curious, and to wager a better me, a better world by being in the moment, by being in the canvas, on the page.  These three seem to come together for great purpose:  therapy, creation and curiosity.   In their interaction we take leave of self-obsession to the end that we can finally be more authentically. And so I know that my painting might not be great, but when I look at it I see me, smiling.