Granite Hope

It is possible to hold this
poem in your palm, to handle
it even while you know that there is
no way you will ever
train it.

This poem will never
be domesticated, never
be tamed with our maimed
freedom. No this poem
has always been
fiercely free,
always soul,
always otherly
incarnate. It was
never mine.

This poem now palmed might
bite, or perhaps shape
shift into a stone:
in lithe liberty
it will then be
a silence that
demands my hearing,
that calls my ears to
attend to
granite hope.

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The Canvas that is Everyday

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. We ate our turkey yesterday, and so today is given over to the happy task of left-overs, that ever important tradition of receiving yesterday’s gift, and so yesterday as gift. This seems a rather fitting motif of thanksgiving itself: revisiting in order to receive anew. As I think about this task, and turn my sights, not to the year behind me, but the week just past I am ever surprised by the convergences of joys and sorrows; of hope amid brokenness and pain.

Monday morning began with work, and the reminder that I do what I love for a living. This is no small gift. I go to work cheerfully, and although mine is not a perfect life or job, I find that my days go by with plenty of opportunity to count myself rich. I am especially grateful, this week, for my Monday afternoon class of GC 101: Christianity and Global Citizenship wherein a student spoke to the fact that the scandal surrounding football players kneeling during the American national anthem was originally a protest against racism, but has since been leveraged to different purposes for different reasons. This African Canadian student reminded me that it is easy to forget the roots of movements, and that social justice agendas, too, can be co-opted.

Tuesday is the day that Inshallah, the global choir to which I belong practiced. I have written of this choir before. This is simply a life giving moment in my week. To sing with joy and to pray for the gift of seeing love and justice meet (Psalm 85:10) is a delight. As I think back on the growth and increasing depth of this choir I am humbled to be a part of this effort to sing the circle wide.

Wednesday was a hard day, with the news that a former student – a beloved pastor of a community, as well as a husband, son, friend et cetera – was killed in a motor vehicle accident. I taught a class for our aspiring pastors immediately after hearing this news, and had to pinch myself from time to time, trying to live into this harsh reality of the death of 39 year old servant even while thinking through what it means to confess the faith onto death; and this with those who have a full life of ministry before them, a life that may be long or not as long as it ought to be.

Thursday gave occasion to take my middlest daughter out for a birthday supper in Ottawa, where I travelled for a conference. This was a special treat and also gave me occasion to meet her new kitty Willow and become reacquainted with her puppy Hazel. I was reminded that animals, in their own way I think, bear a different kind of image of God: being paw prints of divine creativity. This occasion also served as aide de memoire of the three births I attended and the happy truth that life can be ridiculously beautiful.

I was occupied with the conference Friday and Saturday, the former which gave me occasion to present a paper on “Faith, Freedom and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982).” Good conversation ensued. I learned much from many very fine papers and had occasion to share a wee dram or two with Matthew, a dear friend who roomed with me for this event. On Saturday I drove home and caught the most spectacular sunset as I drove westerly. The sky modulated reddish orange over-coating a blue green canvas with gestures of clouds that floated about as leaves on water’s face. It was breath-taking and gave me opportunity to give thanks for breath.

Sunday involved church and then the happy meal that began my reflection. Two of my three daughters were home, one with a friend new to our acquaintance. The third is presently traipsing about Peru. The day involved an leisurely afternoon in our backyard with mid-summer weather in October, followed by a fine meal, a board-game and then to bed. This, with the knowledge the next day – now today – is a holiday, a holy day that may well remind me that every day is holy, hallowed by sacred sketches by the divine artist on the canvas that is the everyday.

Words Sovereign and Free

They will not be coerced,
these words sovereign and free –
although I might coax them
with appropriate libations
or prognostications that
evoke their curiosity.

The other day my eyes
were on the street and
“peregrination” poked its
head around the corner, but
it walked away –
of course.

And I know
we cannot force
the hand of “manipulation,”
but if we wait, quietly, at
night with the stars, we
jut might catch
“consternation,” or
perhaps a
“cold.”

There are no Mirrors in Heaven

There are no mirrors in heaven, no
self-reflection on
    tied tongues, pride
    rung and hung before
    eyes to see or
on ears marred by wounding words;
no deer-in-head-light fright staring
me in the face
of demands remanding my freedom.
No, none of this in heaven.

There are no mirrors in heaven, only
windows and doors
neither locked nor exit-ready;
no need to capture,
no need to bolt,
no need to be back-against-the-wall
because there are no walls in heaven, only
bridges where
    righteousness and mercy meet, where
    justice and peace kiss and
        all is the biggest word of all.

Behind and Beyond the Break

“What are you doing for the Christmas break?”

This question frequents coffee shops and bus stops these days. My holiday has already begun, and yesterday afforded me the opportunity to spend some time playing board games with family. My youngest, after a time, suggested we should do more of this – more board games. This equates to more family time, less tech time; more quality time, less on-the-fly time. At one level, it all comes down to time. What we do during a holiday break speaks to what we do in the time on each side of the fissure which is the Christmas break.

I like the word break. I like its ambiguity. On the one hand, a break is a stop, or a rest; a moment for repose. Lunch break, coffee break, a break from the daily grind: these all point to the manner in which we need a moment in the midst of the many mundane tasks that front as productivity in our world wearied by the need to appear important, productive and competent. The sad truth is too often busy-ness simply masks fear. We scramble to do more because we fret about being found incompetent; a vice that I am reticent to contribute to the work ethics of rascally Protestants. I think this anxiety affects the human condition. We need a break from this angst, which brings me to the other manner in which we talk about a break.

A break is also associated with rupture, trauma, and disconnection. Arms are broken. Friendships are broken. Promises are broken. The images that we connect with this kind of break are not so positive: what are you doing with this Christmas break? What are we doing about the disconnect between the Christmas message of love incarnate and the crass commercial fiction that love can be bought; a fiction that leaves people in emotional and financial disarray in January? Do we even think about this Christmas break?

It seems to me that these two breaks are connected. The realization that what we do and what we value are utterly disparate shatters our sense of self; as individuals and as communities. It leaves us wondering who we are, but it also invites us to take up this question earnestly. And that takes time. A break commands a break. A break poses life altering questions: why isn’t there enough time for a family game? Why isn’t there enough time for the creative juices to flow? Why isn’t there enough time to take a break? Why, indeed.