Monday, October 26, 2015

I give thanks

I give thanks
For fluff-clouds on water-blue skies.
The stern majesty of thunderheads,
Lyrical spring flowers
And the moving of the air in mighty winds.

I give thanks for water:
Running, leaping, dancing in sunlight,
A merriment of streams,
Mirror-magic lakes,
Seas that stretch beyond my ken,
Calling the pilgrim soul.

I give thanks for food:
Lushness of strawberries,
Subtlety of spices,
The first fruits of the season and the last,
The joy of bread,
The meats that satisfy
And the smooth of chocolate on the tongue.

I give thanks for life:
For the steadiness of breath and the readiness of tears,
For the music of birds and of laughter
And the gaiety of ducks,
For the touch of human hands
And the kind smile of the stranger,
For the wisdom learned through heartbreak
And the words that change our souls,
For poetry and story and imagination’s leap.

I give thanks for hope:
For the stars that light the darkness
And the cross
Whose darkness lights the world.
For the incoming Kingdom that sprouts
One mustard seed at a time.
For the courage we call faith
And the faith that we call courage.

I give thanks for love:
In spite of everything.

Monday, October 19, 2015

These Wolves

(a poem for those who immerse themselves in detective stories)

These wolves are no companions
For those who sing in the silence.
They do not light candles in holly bushes,
Or gaze through sweet-draped windows.
The rattle of bones and chains
Is not the rattle of good-news-horses.
And no children run, gleefully greeting.

No, these loups lope silent
Alone in the strong dark forest,
Through caves of old hidden hatreds,
The tunnels under the heart.
They pant with their fetid longing
To shatter false innocence.

Their names are older than memory,
Twisted through chains of language,
And those who doubt their power
Have never smelled blood on snow;
Have never beheld the horror
When life turns inside out.

We can trace the slot of their running
Through the dry river beds of thought,
When emotion has been dammed.
(Damned, dammed and damned)
They howl in slippery winds
Through our full-mooned disappointments
And we recoil in horror
From the doorways of our rage.

We are passion’s fools.
Helpless unless the angels
Shut up the mouths of the beasts
In the place of our praying.

And the truth shall set us free.

Friday, October 16, 2015


The salt is on my lips, and the wind tugs at my hair,
And the sun upon the waves, a light too bright to bear
And it calls, it calls to my heart, and I have no choice but dare.

Soft night wraps me around, the stars clear overhead
Like flames of ice in the sky, beyond where words are said,
Here, in my wingless flight, I rise and confront my dread.

The music whispers close, but the words are all my own
Like moths they flutter, beating their wings on walls of stone,
Till one finds the shape of truth, then into silence gone.

Flesh into softness falls, night into morning turns,
In the swift shape of days see that the soul still burns
Heeding the beautiful, owning the love it yearns.

Let these poor clumsy hands lay down the stones of life
Holding no stones to throw, humble amidst the strife
Letting the glory pierce sharper than any knife.

Here, while the years abide, under the stars and sun
Let me not turn aside from pilgrimage begun
Nor let these lame feet rest till the true journey’s done.

Not to be satisfied with any less than this:
The truth that tears me wide, and, though I stumble, miss,
Love is the air I breathe, nothing shall be remiss.

Monday, October 12, 2015


“Can these bones live?”

The words of the vision were thundering through his head, and the images were ones that would stay with him as long as he lived. He paused in his writing to turn it over in his mind, to consider the meaning. He still felt, almost physically, the sickening jolt that came when the reality in which you lived and moved and had your being was turned upside down and inside out. It took a while to feel as if your mind and body were on solid ground again. But then, that was what it meant to be a prophet of the Lord, it was like being a creature who inhabited land and water at the same time, to find yourself switched (at God’s timing, never your own) between the visible and invisible worlds, between the things which all men saw and felt and knew, and this other perspective, the perspective of eternity, which saw and felt and knew things so differently.

He shook his head as if to clear it, then realised that was something that never worked. He was a prophet, not a man who had had a strange dream, it was his responsibility to relive the vision in his waking flesh, to record it, to ponder it, to grow in understanding. Son he let it fill his mind – that huge valley filled with bones, dry bones without a single scrap of flesh left on them: as dry, as dead, as nearly nothing as the old bones a farmer might turn over with his plough from some battlefield in a forgotten century. He had looked at them, lying their helpless, beyond breath or help or hope, and, in the presence of God, he had known that this was Israel herself, idolatrous, foolish, disobedient Israel, exiled and rootless among the nations. Did she have a hope or a future, or were the promises made to Abraham so long ago rendered null and void by her faithlessness? Could those bones live?

But then, in the vision, he was commanded to prophesy over the bones, to tell them that it was God’s decree that they would live again – that he would give them the breath of his spirit, that they would be re-joined with sinews, and that flesh would form again, and skin would cover them once more. They would no longer be a rattle of bones, they would be human, and this time they would know their God.

So he prophesied, and the bones became bodies, and they lay there, in that great valley, like the piles of the slain on the day after battle. But, like the piles of the slain, there was no life in them, just the pretence of living.

Then, in the vision, the Lord commanded him to prophesy to the winds, and, as he spoke the words the Lord had commanded, the winds came, and breathed life into the empty bodies, and they rose up a living army. The Lord is the God who brings life to the dead. He would take the crushed hopes of Israel and restore them; he would bring back life from their national death. Exile was not an end, but a turning point. 

But as he wrote down the words of the vision, and turned over in his mind the majesty of the restoration he had seen, the thought teased at his understanding that there was something even more. God was a God who kept all his promises, right through to eternity. God brought blessing out of defeat, and made the grave a place of victory. Perhaps, in the not-yet, there was a deeper grave and a greater victory, and death, not just symbolically, but actually, would be overcome. But that was a chapter not yet written.