Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Way Back

One more step
Then another
Another,
No! This really is too hard!
Pause …
Rest …
But I can’t stay here,
Here is no place to stay,
And I don’t want to waste the steps I’ve taken.
Pause …
Think … yes, pray!
On a journey as impossible as this
Prayer becomes necessity, like breath,
I breathe in Hope, I breathe out all my fear,
And tears will wash the signposts.

See, a few more steps
Taken, that I hardly noticed,
Breathing, praying,
One foot following the other,
And look how far I’ve come!
But oh!
Look how far I have to go!
Breathe … pray … and weep …

Nobody told me about the angels.
I cannot name their faces, but I feel their touch,
In the helpless chasm of night
When serenity has fled
They are there beside me
And I know in my not-knowing.

This is a difficult climb!
Someone once said, “The descent to Avernus is easy”.
They forgot to mention
That the climbing back
Will scrape off all your skin until you quiver
Like a newborn creature, bare before the world.

Somehow I continue.
I have turned aside and then retraced my steps
Too many times to count.
I am all done in
And yet, each day, somehow,
I have moved forward
On this narrow path whose bourne I do not know
Except it is the only way to go.

Sometimes I see,
In dreams most glorious, my Father’s house,
Waiting there still,
But is there love for me?
But the stranger things become,
The more familiar
The path becomes.
I can almost taste
The bread on my Father’s table.
Why do I see
A nail-scarred hand hold out the wine for me?

And the angels whisper
I am almost home. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Some Lines on the Present Situation

Always, I want to run and hide,
To cover my eyes and my ears
To disengage
From the hopeless task of rebuilding the world in Love.

This is no time for silence
No time for averted eyes, walking past on the other side,
Caught in the moral vice, we must stand for truth.
And we must kneel and pray.

We must pray for our brothers
And sisters
Churned in the chaos of the times,
We must pray for them all,
For those who care, and those who can care no more,
And those who have never cared.
Seared to the heart by the flame of their own anger,
Calcified by fear,
Consumed, by themselves till nothing remains but pain,
We pray for them.

We pray for those who have never known justice,
The squeezed and the crushed, left bleeding by the side,
And no one stops to help,
The forgotten ones, embarrassing by existence,
Reminding us how shaky are our thrones.
We pray for them.

We pray for those whose skin or sex is wrong,
Forever despised for being who they are:
Broken like us, yet in God’s image made.
We pray for them.

We pray for those we will never understand,
Whose souls are set on an alien trajectory,
Whose words and actions confuse us,
Whose intentions make no sense.
We pray for them.

We pray for those who are vulnerable,
Who watch each story on the news
As the prey watches the predator
Hoping to stay unexposed.
We pray for them.

We pray for ourselves, that we will find fidelity
In a world that is wildly unfaithful,
That we will find that holy ground
Where Truth and Love are joined
And stand there while the waves of chaos swirl;
That we will find our voices
And speak out holy words,
Silencing our own fear to speak
The words that heal the world.
We pray, we pray …

And may God have mercy on us all.

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Vine

The sun beat down on him while he sat there, sweltering in his rage. The whole thing had been a fiasco from beginning to end, just as he knew it would be. That was why he hadn’t wanted to go in the first place. He knew that was how it would end up, and it just wasn’t fair. If Israel were God’s chosen people, why should God give second chances to their enemies? He had done everything he could to avoid this happening – running off towards Tarshish (that didn’t end well – for the rest of his days he would shudder in horror whenever he remembered that time in the fish’s belly!) and then giving the prophetic message as bluntly and negatively as he could. He need not have bothered trying to resist. The Ninevites had repented, and God was going to spare them. It simply wasn’t fair.

But then, feeling almost idiotic, he realised that if he just moved a little bit, he could at least be out of the fierce heat, which was already unbearable so early in the morning.  A vine had grown, and was providing lovely shade as the sun rose higher in the sky. He was sure it wasn’t there yesterday. Ah well, if it had grown overnight, miraculously, then God still had a care for him. Maybe if he waited a few days longer, God would destroy Nineveh after all? He stretched out in the shade and waited …

The next morning, the sun was hotter than ever, but where was his shade? He looked around and saw that the vine which had been so generous yesterday, had withered up and shrivelled overnight. He looked closer. Some insect, some hideous creeping thing, had gnawed at it overnight and destroyed it, and even now was happily munching at its base. He was angry: angry for himself that he was once more exposed to the pitiless, scorching sun, but there was something else as well. He realised that he was actually angry for the sake of the vine itself, which had been his benefactor, and, for its pains, had been remorselessly devoured.

It was then that God spoke, and the message was so clear that Jonah found himself weeping.  There he was, feeling a terrible pity for a mere plant, eaten up because that is the fate of plants. Meanwhile, if he, a mere human, felt such compassion for a mere vine, how did the God of all compassion feel about that great city spread out below.  Sure, there were sinful men and women there, given over to cruelty, idolatry and every form of depravity. But even if such a merciful God ignored their repentance, and God was always merciful to the penitent, they weren’t the only ones to be considered. What about the little children, too young to know their right hand from their left, let alone commit any evil? Even the domestic beasts of the Ninevites were worth more pity than a mere vine!

And Jonah bowed his head, there was nothing left to say.

Monday, July 31, 2017

This Silence (Be still and know)

This silence drips,
Cold and wet,
Like leaves after rain,
Like the rusted corners of gutters,
Softening the frozen core
In the centre of my heart.

This silence screams,
Tornado-like,
Through my quivered, straining senses,
Though nothing has moved,
At all,
In this breathless place.

This silence shines
Like a dark pool,
A catalogued mirror
To the chatter of my soul
Reflecting things that,
Rightly,
Never see the light of day.

This silence climbs,
Like a tearing vine
Across the crumbling edifice
I have to call my pride:
Demolishing, yet holding me,
At one and the same time.

This silence calls
A name I do not know,
A new identity.
I strive to hear,
Reaching down,
Falling deeper
Into silence.

This silence changes
The things I thought I knew.
My eyes torn
From the immediate,
Dazzled,
While in darkness,
With a splendour that brings tears.

This silence holds,
Embraces,
Overturns,
Renews,
And wraps me in your peace
I still don’t understand.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Jazz Concert

Notes like a beach ball
Tumbling and turning,
Stripping the silence,
Hard sound coruscates.
Splitting the spectrum
To shatter and sing:
Music in waterfall,
Dancing cascades.

Structure devolving,
A cubist re-forming,
Soft with sharp edges
And melody flowing
Through bottomless vessels,
Yet still holding shape.

 Then to rebuild
With layers of balance,
Negotiate gravity
In letting go:
Waiting complexity’s
Strange resolution.

Transcend the minor key
Echo of emptiness,
Streams that flow over stones
Seeking the sea.
Fulfilled in fullness
Go bold into silence
Fracturing angel songs
So humanly.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Beyond Hope

There was no hope, or so I believed. She was so ill, my sweet little daughter. My wife had already given up and hovered by the bed waiting for the final breath, wrapped six miles deep in gloom. It was stifling; it was unbearable. I have always been a man of action, a man does not get to my position by wishful thinking, and I had to act. When the usual things do not work, you try the unusual things, even the risky ones if you are desperate enough, and I was desperate. To see that precious life snuffed out would be like helplessly watching the sun set knowing it would never rise again. I have always been a pious man, a ruler of the synagogue, so I cried out to God, and, within the space of a breath, I remembered the Teacher from Nazareth.

I had heard he was nearby, so I flung on my cloak and went forth to seek him. It wasn’t difficult, I only had to follow the noise of the crowd, and there he was, unmistakable, at its centre, while the people thronged around him, each one wanting something from him. Well, I couldn’t fault them for that, I desperately wanted something from him as well. People recognised me and let me through, and before I knew what I was doing, I found myself prostrate at his feet, begging him to come and heal my little one – I who had never begged any man for anything before! He looked into my face as if he were searching my very soul, and immediately agreed.

We made slow progress through the crowd, with everyone wanting something from him as he passed, but he stayed focused on me except for one incident with a woman who touched him. I was inwardly screaming with impatience, so I didn’t follow exactly what went on, but I said nothing, because I didn’t dare offend him.

And then, when we were properly on our way, some of my own people met us, and told us we were too late, she was already dead. It was as if my heart left my body and plunged into an abyss of darkness. But the Teacher seemed quite unperturbed, he turned to me and said, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.” I wondered what I was supposed to believe, but I was too shattered to say anything, and simply, blindly, kept going with him. He let no one else, except 3 of his disciples, come any further with us.

He swept into the house and dismissed the mourners and all their cacophony, telling them that she was not dead, only asleep, and they laughed at him; but though they offered him only the bitter laughter that one gives to the lunatic pedlar of impossible hopes, they scattered when he told them, and I marvelled, briefly at his authority. Greater marvels were to come, though, for he bent over my little one, took her hand and bid her to rise. And it was as if the dawn came while the sunset still lingered in the sky, for she rose from her bed and walked, and hope walked into our lives again, a doorway into glory.

And then, in the most ordinary way possible, he told us to give her food.

And I began to glimpse that, somehow, in this one man, heaven and earth had joined together. It was much later before I fully understood.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Georgia O'Keeffe

How you disturb me:
The curve of your flowers,
The intimate spaces,
Where beauty detours;
The visceral spaces
Vicissitude traces,
Engaging. Engulfing
And yet love endures.

Through light and darkness
The spirit, not soaring,
But delving, in wonder,
To compass the small.
Near is the courage
And fearless the forging:
Owning, and gaining
And compassing all.

What are you saying?
To whom are you speaking?
How you do challenge
And make your paint sing!
Nothing is static,
Arrived, or arriving.
Journey to stillness,
But carry a sting!