Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A poem called The Birth of Trees used as part of a meditative sermon on The Parable of the Sower

Birth of Trees

Who can help but notice
the outstretched hands of the tree against the skyline;
An unspoken prayer perhaps
offered unceasingly
to the God who gave it life and light. 
That first tree, born into the dawning sunlight,
yearning ever upwards
became the first carbon-based prayer book.
Filled with the wisdom of the deep places and
enlightened in the first air of the open spaces,
the randomness of its growing movement
a symphony to the complexity
of the math of the universe. 
Perhaps an algorithmic dance,
geometric certitude,
transcribed algebraic continuity
or fractional plausibility could be found
in its airing growth.  But isn’t the mystery
of the dance of the tree
toward the sun
a song only to be heard truly
in the soft moments of first awakenings
or last fitful thoughts before sleep. 
Why not pause, in graceful awe,
in thankful praise
that such apparent randomness occurs
over and over across the earth,
day and night, eon across eon. 
The birth of trees, marches on,
their limbs straining ever upward,
a parade of delight
and humble worship
for that which they can feel
but truly cannot see. 
As they grow,
they give thanks, continually;
limbs raised in worship to Him
from which their life comes.
And somewhere, there once was only one
choreographing such a dance,
performing such a song,
until…in uncontained love,
it blossomed forth
with new seeds, and the dance
began all over.
From roughness of earth,
to trickle of water,
to breaking forth the shell of earth
into a blanket of delicious light. 
There in that shining strength
life flowed and creeped
ever steadily upward. 
For what else could it do, 
That is what life does, 
Even beginning with trees.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A poem for the beginning of Lent



Walk through

The parallel diversions

Of your emphatic passions,

See past those urges,

Let the Light shine into

The depths of the vessel.

Purification, penetrating Truth,

Finding the name of God,

To wear upon your soul.

Balance the green,

From sea to forest,

But keep your shade true.


Sing a song of freedom,

Stepping past your mirrored desires.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Reflections on a trip to Armenia October 2015: people, faith and landscapes

Driving in a tour van over potholed roads amidst grand landscapes of undulating volcanic plains, roadside chapels and a myriad of crosses wave hello.  And surrounded by the population of the world’s oldest Christian nation, filled with stories of oppression, loss, survival, deep faith and a penchant for extravagant welcoming and gift-giving to visitors…you would expect there to be a Holy mountain…and there is…on the horizon in almost every corner of the land, stands Mt. Ararat. 

And the people, who call themselves the Hay, and their country Hayastan…talk about Noah’s Ark and his descendants settling in the region, as if it was yesterday.  The only thing that comes close to overshadowing the power of the mountain, is the memory of the Armenian Genocide, enacted by the Turkish government between 1897 and 1922.  With the death of over 1.5 million Armenians and the theft and destruction of thousands of churches, monasteries, homes and villages…the Armenian people who survived in what is just a small semblance of the land they once populated, hold onto their mountain, their story and their faith.  It defines them.  It enables them to move forward, it gives them strength of character and all of it lets visitors know that they are somewhere special when they are surrounded by such people.

Visiting 1500 year old monasteries and hearing Old Armenian liturgy chanted and sung among their walls, it all reverberated in our minds as we tried to breathe in the country in just 9 days.  And if the people of Armenia, their faith, and the landscapes that they live among weren’t enough, then there is the Jinishian Memorial Foundation.  The worldwide Christian organization that organized our trip with the help of the World Mission Initiative out of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and they helped to raise our awareness of the Armenian people’s story and their Genocide.


 On a daily basis, their outreach work gives the Armenian people safety, hope and work not only in Armenia and the Middle East but even in America.  From civic dialogue projects at universities to debate clubs at middle schools, farming cooperatives that began with donated seed money and now build their own kindergartens, to organic fertilizer initiatives and local pottery businesses, from hospitality and electrician training centers to housing projects…the Jinishian Memorial Foundation (https://vimeo.com/123582136), works from the ground up to give the people hope, encouragement and a sense of purpose in places around the world where the economy struggles and people strive to make a better life for themselves.  And we were honored to be shown bits and pieces of all of these endeavors. 


But if the touring, worshiping and the education weren’t enough, the people of Jinishian and other Armenians that we met, invited us into their offices and their homes, they told us their stories and introduced us to their families, they fed us a multitude of new and interesting foods and they gave us gifts to take home back to America...we prayed with them and for them...and they prayed for us! 

Armenia is a country with a people amidst majestic landscapes that tell a story of thousands of years of trial and tribulation, success and honor, faith and love.  Surviving Persian, Islamic, Turkish and Soviet empires…the people seem eternally resolved to be their own people...in their own country...with their own language. 
They’re remembrance flower, the forget-me-not, calls the world to recognize the tragedy that was the Genocide, the motto that goes along with it, “remember and demand”, calls Armenians themselves to never forget where they have come from, what they have survived, and invigorates them to share their story with the whole world, including a small group of 8 people from Pennsylvania, New York and Colorado. 

And whether toasting their families, or us, at a table filled with way to much delicious food, or driving our group hours away from the capital of Yerevan to share the story of a thousand year old church, their national pride was infectious.  I wish I had words to say a bigger thank you, a smile that could extend across oceans or a way to share my new fond love for a people, a faith and landscapes that took my breath away and stirred my heart. 


 Perhaps, my small memento here gives some semblance of the beauty of all that we saw and heard and experienced.  Perhaps, it helps to remind us that the church and it's people in Christ, are spread out all over the earth...and that the Holy Spirit continues to bring us together in new and creative ways.  And maybe, you also will feel drawn to experience it all yourself one day, in Armenia.  All I can say is, Go…and let the people, their faith and the landscapes draw you into their embrace.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A poem for Pittsburgh

Unrusting Potential
City of steel,
buttressed with bridges,
champion structures rusted to the river side,
even the mutated catfish know it waits to be reborn.
And many who survived the slow smoky death
of job after job, flushed into dirty waterways alongside
their golden fantasies,
though once blackened by chemical obfuscation,
they slowly open new eyes, yearning
for a city, not lost in the annals of time.
And perhaps they find a new burgh that floats
onto the ocean of their summer dreams,
where the tide cleans away the asbestos nightmare,
 leaving breathable daytime, and a smile
of ironclad proportions,
all amidst a gathering of reunited spirits
and tempered by a gentle, hesitant hello.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter hope poem a day later...

He is Risen...He is alive...He is Lord...He is coming...the paradox of tension is that Jesus exists in all these ways and times at once...He was, is and is to come.  Happy Easter!

He Comes

Keep silent mortal,
Eyes open,
Lamp held out before you
Patient in faith
He comes.
Keep awake mortal,
Heart open,
Hands outstretched in worship
Humble in your steps,
He comes.
Keep loving mortal,
Doors open,
Ears awaiting a shout,
Devoted in Truth
He comes.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Thoughts of Fragile Faith on Holy Saturday

I can only imagine the thoughts and fears of the followers of Jesus the day after his crucifixion...before the resurrection.  But I am sure that all of us who believe have had moments of doubt, fear and worry in our walks of faith.  This poem speaks to some moments like that in my life.

Fragile Faith

I turned the light of hope
On in my life
Only to find
That the shadows still surrounded me;
Eeking their way under
My daily prayer,
Slipping past my angel consciousness,
Hardening my heart,
Weakening my defense.
And sometimes the last flickering match,
One spectral image,
Gets caught in the dizzy wind
Of heavy night dreams,
Fluttering out,
Leaving me in blackness,
And then the fear comes.
It seems huge in the dark
Engulfing all I know,
Smothering the faithful remnants
Into nothingness, ash by ash,
Until I cry out again to God.




Friday, April 3, 2015

Poetry for Good Friday

In honor of the Passion of Jesus Christ this Good Friday...and onward up to Easter Sunday...I will be sharing a poem each of the next three days.  They are included in my poetry collection titled after the name of this blog, and are a spiritual collection written over the last 20 years.  May you find a moment of reflection, truth or something in reading them.  Have a Blessed Easter!

Once a Man

A man once said
the Word burned
in his bones
for want of release,
and I had ears
and heard.
A man once cried
to the heavens,
to his Father,
for want not to drink
of the cup,
and I had eyes
and saw him,
nailed in infinity,
suffering for our eternity.
And I cried
and he lifted me up,
he walked with me,
he surrounded me
with his love and
guided me with his shield.
He wrote upon my heart
the first moment
my soul had breath,
and my purpose was foretold.
I awoke
searching for it,
yearning for it,
aching to realize,
And when I did
the immensity of it
made me quiver,
wanting to fall,
to hide, to run.
But I too
must carry my cross
and follow him.