The Greatest of These

Friends, a poem I wrote for chapel at Luther this last week…

Faith, and hope, and love abide but which of
these charisms do you prize, deep
in this time of COVID, this time of
hoping for a cure for social paralysis, this time of
putting our faith in the science, even while
others despair of besting this tiniest of beasts?

All the while that spiky protein spins – it
mutates, and revolves, and rolls with the punches.
Don’t you just hate it? Or, perhaps you prefer to
hate something, or someone seen – like maybe
an incompetent politician, or your next door neighbour, or say
a racialized person, or perhaps someone
hating racialized people…

It seems hatred seeks something or someone
concrete to sink its teeth into,
aching to slake its thirst. And we know
so well the power of hate;
its grip in our belly,
its throttle at our throats
its sweet-bitter taste on our tongues as we
take down this one,
rake that one over the coals.

But love, love brooks no business with
hate – never sated by seeing
my sworn enemy put in her place,
but grace-fully love questions the place of
putting in place in our economy;
our oiko-nomos; our oikos; our house.
Love is a house-holder, setting the table instead
of settling the score – always finding a spot in the
ever-widening circle that is finally eternity, where
hatred is seen for what it is: abject fear – fear
cast out by love, by
… embracing those I fear, by
… embracing those afraid of me, by
… embracing the fears inside of me.

The disciples were locked in by fear but
Love walked through the door. Beloved
Thomas feared the truth but love exposed
its wound and wound its way around Thomas –
around me, until I found and now still find
me and you and those I hate in the
very same circle, in the same herd, shepherded
there by Love.

Faith, and hope, and love abide, these three beside
one another but the greatest of these is love and
the greatest of these is…
it really is.

Silently, Resurrection

I like to think that the resurrection
was silent, and unseen too, like
the rising of a stalk from a seed
deep in ground; like
the birth of thought while attending
a tree.

I like the idea of
resurrection as a
surreptitious inversion upending
trumpets, and triumph, and spectacle –
life sneaking out of death, a tiptoe
no-one knows is there… until
they do and then it disappears like
a shiver down your back, like
a déjà vu arresting you, like
dawn’s glow, spring grass’s green, comet crossing sky:
my eye sees, and then it doesn’t, and then it sees differently.

I like to think that the resurrection is everywhere
because it was first there, silently.

Holy Rain

The rain is soft outside my
window this late night, this early morning,
this liminal time. And sleep? It
sits at the edge of the room. It
hovers over my head. It
is phantasmal, appearing dimly, still
beyond reach, mirroring my failed grasp of
You – You, slipping through my fingers as if my
digits were made of space, as they are.
You will not be held, even while
You hold me, mold me, move me in
Your gaze: piercing, precise, and so
painfully close but never close
enough. I melt into desire and become
one with the rain outside my window:
falling on You,
through You,
with You.

Akin to Earth

Yesterday was the spring equinox. It was a glorious and gorgeous day and although a good bit of it was spent inside marking, at one point my wife came in to pull me out to see snow drops raising their holy hooded heads from the ground. I wandered over to the corner of the yard to see how my little bur oak tree is doing, and bending down I could see some buds starting to form on it. Walking back to the house, I notice our backyard maple tree crying sweet tears of joy at the turning of the earth towards the sun. Everything seemed to be waking up.

The day before, I was looking out of my office at this same yard as I was preparing for noon-day pause at “chapel.” It was online and this was the Friday in which we do “Settlers’ Work,” pondering how those who are not Indigenous can educate ourselves around the reality of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada, and the Calls for Justice from the national report on MMIWG. We always begin this time with a land acknowledgement, remembering that the land on which Laurier and Luther are located were deeded to the Haudenosaunee with the Haldimand Tract of 1784. This was also traditional territory of the Anishinabeg and Neutral Peoples. As I do this, I often think about a lesson I am learning from the land. On Friday I mentioned that we often talk as if mother earth is waking up in the spring, and suddenly it struck me like a ton of bricks that this same mother earth is falling asleep on the opposite side of the globe! She is waking up and falling asleep at the same time.

I am increasingly informed by the idea that this earth is our relative, our mother – as per Indigenous perspectives. And this invites us to imagine that in some ways we are like the earth, if she is our mother. Interestingly other worldviews share this perspective of our being imaged after the earth. The ancient Greeks considered the human to be a micro-cosmos. And the Hebraic name for the original, mythic male was Adam, derived from the word for dust, or dirt, and the name for female was Eve, derived from the word for life. Humans are living dirt. We are dust and to dust we shall return. We are akin to that from whence we came and to whither we go.

The earth wakes and sleeps at the same time. How about us? How might we experience this simultaneous arrival and departure; taking up and setting down; being born and dying? I suppose this is evident in every transition in life: from being a babe to being a child to being a teenager to being a young adult to being a not so young adult to being an elderly adult. Each stage is leaving behind and a coming to. There is both death and life in birth, life and death. This is the paradox of our existence. Paradox means contrary to opinion, or in opposition to how things appear: death is a being born just as surely as being born is a dying, since life itself is a journey of death and death is a journey of life. Of course we are taught to fear death by many forces. But our mother teaches us that dying is not the end of life but its transitioning into a new form, a point well illustrated in the lessons of Lent, a time of marking the dying in life as life in dying.

Including Green

When I was a child
I was told that
blood runs blue until
it spills in the air, where
it’s painted red. I’ve since
read that blood is not blue
but then when I view my veins,
I see green. Maybe my blood
Is tainted with envy or maybe
it’s enviro-blood, scouting out
ways to minimize my-its-our
carbon footprint, or maybe
it’s a sickly green, at sea in
seeing naught but ought, not yet
aware of freeing waves of grace
awash in every colour
including green.

Some Snowy Solace

Like many in late autumn, I dreaded the coming winter. The coming dark months loomed more ominous under the shadow of COVID 19.  Oddly, however, I have found that the last month or so to be more endurable than I was expecting, and in fact, pleasant in some ways. I am mindful, however, that I move through this pandemic with a significant amount of ease afforded by my station in life, etc.

The winter has brought a balm and it has come in the form of cold and snow.  I grew up with strong winters that are rarely seen in southwestern Ontario.  When our family first moved here for me to attend graduate school, we were looking forward to milder winters but soon found them to be dreary when there was no snow on the ground, and no sun to be seen.  But this winter has been different.  The last month and half, or so, has seen consistent weather below freezing with plenty of snow and sunshine.  The weeks have been brighter and time spent outside has been vivifying, for me.      

Yesterday I made my way to the local municipal golf course and strapped on my skis.  There was a recent dusting of snow and so the trees, fences, and bushes looked as if they have been touched by a paint brush, which magically managed to sneak enough rainbow into the white to give my soul some hope.  The golf course affords me the opportunity to ski alongside an open creek for time, with ducks nicely ensconced on still open water, their bills safely hidden in the warmth of their wings.  The sun was strong, and a kind of perfect balance of warmth and cold obtained.  It was really quite magical.

The last few times that I have headed over to the golf course, I have been surprised at the number of cars in the parking lot.  Nordic skiing has become exceedingly popular this year, being a safe outdoor activity in a time that precludes Alpine skiing trips, journeys to the Caribbean, et cetera.  As I left the parking lot yesterday after an invigorating ski, I wondered whether this would continue in the future.  I suppose it depends, in part on the weather in coming years.  There has been many years when the skiing has been pretty thin, with snow falls being undone after a day or two by rain.  This year the snow and cold has been generous, and has given me a little solace in this pandemic year. Of course, I will look forward to spring’s arrival and have enjoyed the longer daylight as we slowly approach the spring solstice.

Again, I know that my experience is only mine.  Others hate winter, no matter the conditions.  Recently friends way south of the border have been blasted by weather nearer the temperature of ours – but without the insulation, and winter tires, and clothing needed to navigate truly winter weather.  I cannot imagine them sharing my joy.  But I find some balm in the rotation of the seasons.  It reminds me that life moves along, and this COVID 19 time too will eventually be behind us.  Time can be a healer and a source of hope both.  As the season pass the baton I am able to reminded that the scriptures I call holy speak of both mundane and revelatory time.  Sometimes, in the midst of the tedium of the pandemic, this very mundane reality of winter can become revelatory and hope slips across my field of vision – now as a duck floating on a mirror of the azure blue sky; now as a rainbow dressed in winter’s snow on trees ever green.

Prayer, Interrupted…

Prayer, interrupted… now
by my toe’s twitch; communion with
the Almighty stayed… now
by the realization that I am
double booked next Tuesday and
cannot be in two places at once unlike
the ubiquitous God, whose call
I have just dropped … now
by sleep – sometimes sneaking up on me,
sometimes evading me, me who cannot be
like divinity, neither
slumbering nor sleeping.

Prayer, interrupted, or
perhaps prayer converted
from pious pleas to
embodied aches and yearning… learning to
embrace my humanity as I
embark in a conversation
encompassing all that I do – and don’t…
my flesh now made word.

The Heavens are Shattered

This bare tree framing the sky lays
bare the state of my soul:
a little bit empty
now and then
I might be seen through
but this too is gift:
the tree frames sky
and I frame why.

Branches cut up what is on high just
like lead pieces glass together by dividing:
the power of the line meets
the strength of the translucent.
The heavens are shattered
and so beautiful…

The Word Became Fire

The Word became fire, and now
burns within us – warming
hearts kindling the
thought that love becomes us – our
skin glistening hope.

The Word became dirt, and now
dwells below us – holding
us up, soul on soil, gracing
our grasses, grains, gardens;
all our eating now holy.

The Word became wet, and now
rains upon us, now
baptismal bath, now
living spring, now
we are sated with sacred
surging, pulsing, raging.

The Word became air, and now
fills our sails, our souls, our lungs
enlarging; this Word waits
upon us serving us breath, death
abated until the day our flesh fades into
a memory, a word, a poem.

The Word becomes us, making
us fit; it suits us, dressing us
with holy splendor, bending us
back again to our origin:
in the beginning, Word.

Your Hold on My Heart

Yesterday the sky wept, and
the branches of the trees
bled a bit of red. The earth
knows something that
I do not.

I want to read the earth.
I ache to converse with trees,
to listen to the stars, and
to feel the heartbeat of the soil,
but I am a soul too easily
sated with white noise,
with white… but at night
when my pen befriends me
and my guard goes down I
begin to hear, to see, to be differently,
Your hand on my shoulder, Your hold on my heart.