Saturday, June 3, 2017

Scars: marks on our skin, and elsewhere

there's a mark between my eyes
     where iron attracted three stitches worth of attention

above that, and to the right, a round indentation
     from chicken pox - it's faded now

you can't see where the baseball missed my glove
     and found my lip, but you can feel it

and my eyebrow hides
     the tennis racket's impact point

motorcycle burn? people ask me
          pointing to my leg
     plate glass door guillotine   I reply

you can see where the oyster shell got me
     if you know where to look


each scar, of course, is a reminder of an
     they fade with time; some even disappear
the worst, though, remain forever
     naturally part of my flesh
          not causing the same pain now that they once did

I hope that's true, too, for the
          that aren't on my skin

Thursday, June 1, 2017

One Moment, on the Bike Path Going Home

in the west the sky is darkening
early Colorado afternoon clouds
     bringing front range rain

shoes on, bag loaded
     soon the pedals are spinning
     as I race the storm

cresting a hill and looking west
     the sky's darker than it was, and

I hear raindrops on my helmet
     I almost feel raindrops on my arms
          and on my lips

in that moment, though, my tongue tells me
     that I've been deceived by
          a swarm of gnats

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

On the Eve of my daughter's graduation: in which I wax nostalgic, and pray

high school graduation
coming back to town from the 
job that I'd already started 

      (summer camp lifeguard
      isn't that the dream)

we walked in the ceremony
moving tassels from one side
to the other
after awkwardly shaking hands with 
   the principal
   the superintendent
   maybe a coach?
            (it was texas, after all)
and then we left in our cars

up and down the main street
stopping here and there
      houses, parks, stores
somehow I recognized at the time, that the
freedom from adulthood, coupled with a
responsibility to nothing but learning
   born by us middle class high school students
was a vanishing gift
   which we hadn’t fully appreciated

in the morning I left … again
off to new life at camp,
new life at college


now I see it from another side
and I hope her memories are good
      her foundation is solid
            her future is full of new life

Grief: after the death of Love

Like the broken chips settled to the bottom of the bag
a remnant of something
    that was once worthwhile
they're no longer worth reaching for

Like the ground underfoot
Terra Firma, constantly reliable
   the foundation of everything
until the earthquake
rips away what once felt solid
    leaving no point of reliable reference

Like diving into the deep end
    to pick up pennies tossed there
how many can you get?
    one, two, three, four ... probably one more
but your breath's suddenly gone
    and you're still twelve feet down
frantic, clawing the water
    there's not enough traction to move quickly up
  you're where you don't belong
    and you have to escape
the panic hangs on even 
    when you're back on solid ground

Like an infant wailing for mom
    who's only just gone to the grocery store
    a ten minute trip for mom
but an infant's eternity, anticipating
    an isolation that may never end

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

April Hike through the Woods

Autumn leaves
recently freed from
Winter's frozen blanket
probably did crunch underfoot
before the snow fell

today, though, they soften
our steps, cushion our footfalls;
until the trail descends,
we walk easily

as we begin to lose elevation
our steps are slower, more cautious
conversation pausing, while our
concentration turns to
hoping friction is strong enough
to hold in place
autumn's leaves under our feet

but when the down is done
and every next step
is level with the one before
the Trail becomes once again
what carpet only dreams about

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent Midweek 1

This is the outline of the reflection I shared at last night's Advent midweek Vespers service. As one might expect, this outline does not contain exactly the words that were spoken, but it's pretty close.

Before the reflection, Luke 24:28-35 was read.


When they came to Emmaus, [Jesus] acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”

They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying to each other, “The Lord really has risen! He appeared to Simon!” Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread.

      ~ text from the Common English Bible


They talked with one another as they walked along
which we, so often stuck in our cars
don’t seem to do much any more

sure, we talk with our friend who’s in the car with us
but the stranger going along the same road, not so much

of course, whenever I’m on a road trip, traveling down a highway
I often recognize the cars travelling more-or-less the same speed
we pass each other as we go along
leapfrogging when our gasoline or lunch stops don’t coincide

the thing is, though, I don’t know anything about them,
and I don’t have the opportunity to know anything about them
other than their driving habits
that one never signals … that one drives recklessly …
I hope the state troopers are parked just over that hill

it’d be different if we were walking along
for instance, when I’m hiking I have pleasant conversations
with at least 75% of the strangers I meet
sure, I may get annoyed with some people,
but I’d know a little more about them
than only why they bother me
they stop being a set of behaviors, and they become in my eyes a real person

so on the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus
they had a little bit different of an experience than we do when we travel
they were talking with each other as they walked along
and as they did, Clopas and his companion
were surprised by the stranger’s knowledge and understanding of scripture
he was a real person to them,
yet they still did not recognize him

Then, in the intimacy of a shared meal,
they experienced the fullness of the incarnation

the incarnation – a doctrinal articulation of the truth
that God meets us in flesh, face to face

the incarnation – that which we celebrate at Christmas
when God arrives in this world as an infant

the incarnation – when God sits across the table from us

the incarnation – that which we spend Advent anticipating
but it’s not *only* God’s incarnation as an infant which we anticipate

more significantly, we do our best during this season of Advent
to sharpen our pay-attention-skills

so that we can watch for Messiah enfleshed
at any time
in any place
in the person of *any* one of the strangers
that we take the time to meet
as we go on our way


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gun Laws - Some More Thoughts

We have a problem in our country. Well, we have lots of problems, but the one I want to address is the problem we have with people being killed as a result of gunfire.

In this country, since the Sandy Hook school massacre, there have been by some counting methods over 900 mass shootings. Of course, some will argue that we should use different counting methods, which gives us a number between 140 and 150.

During that same time period, there are by some counts over 32,000 people killed in this country by gunfire.

Those numbers are too big. No matter which numbers you use, those numbers are too big. Too many people are being killed by gunfire in this country - the statistics are comparable to some countries that are experiencing armed conflict (war).

I'm not interested in parsing the numbers. Maybe the ones I found online are off, and maybe you have better data. If we're going to parse numbers, the first questions I'm interested in asking would be, "How many people being killed by gunfire in this country is acceptable?"

Now as soon as we start talking about how many people die by gunfire, the conversation moves to the second amendment to the US Constitution (the assumption being, apparently, that government is planning to take away everyone's firearms). Of course, we'll have disagreements on the interpretation of the second amendment, particularly whether the right to keep and bear arms stands on its own, or whether that right in inextricably linked to the establishment of a well-regulated militia.

Then what happens is that individuals and groups seem to get entrenched in their position, calling for either more restrictions on firearm purchases and ownership or stating vehemently that we already have enough gun laws.

Fine. We disagree with each other. This is not the first time that's happened in anyone's life. Remember kindergarten? Remember learning how to negotiate the use of that one particular toy that two of you wanted? Some of us simply learned how to get the toy we wanted by yelling about it, or by simply taking it. On school playgrounds, those children are crybabies or bullies.

Those of us who learned conflict resolution in healthy ways learned how to listen to each other, and how to talk with each other. Surely by the time we get to be adults, we've discovered how to talk and listen, instead of whining and bullying (though to observe Congress, you might not think so).

So, no matter what the numbers are, I think we would all agree that something needs to change in our country in relation to how many people are killed by gunfire. If you don't think thousands of people being killed every year is problematic, you probably didn't read this far anyway.

I would propose the following:

1) Tighten the gunshow loophole. Set a limit on how many guns an individual is able to sell before they are categorized as a dealer. Maybe the number is 5 guns per month. Maybe it's 20 guns per year. Maybe it's a different number, but let's put a number to it so that the law actually has some teeth.

2) Restrict the sale of assault style and military style weapons. Unless a person is part of an assault team, or is in the military, I don't understand what reasonable use they'd have for that kind of weapon. And since we already restrict what kinds of firearms a person can own (I don't think it's legal for me to own anti-aircraft weaponry), this restriction is simply one of degree, not kind.

3) Restrict the size of ammunition magazines that citizens are permitted to own. If a person is truly and honestly worried about nine rounds not being enough to deter an intruder into their home, they either need better training in the use of firearms, or they have a reason to need police protection.

4) Require licensing, registration, training, and insurance for all gun owners. We do it for automobiles, we should be able to do that for firearms. Obviously some people wouldn't be able to pass the training. Some people don't pass driver's training either.

We don't allow those people to drive because we, as a society, have determined that they're not able to do so safely. If a person can't pass the training, they probably can't safely own a firearm ... and so probably shouldn't.

Obviously the simple fact of passing laws isn't going to force everyone to follow them. However, the reason we pass laws (ideally) is for the betterment of our society. In this case, I'd propose that we pass these laws in order to keep people safe.

Will everyone follow them? Of course not. We have laws on our books regulating the use of child safety seats in automobiles. Does everyone follow them? Of course not. Did the passage of those laws decrease the number of child deaths in car accidents? Yes it did. And for that reason, the laws are worthwhile.

If passing laws regulating firearms decreases the number of people who die from gunfire, then they're worth passing.


Some people, and maybe even some of you my seven readers, may disagree with me. That's fine. In fact, that's encouraged. I'm not so bold as to think I have thought through everything I need to consider. And I'm not so arrogant as to think I'm always right.

So please disagree with me. But instead of simply railing against this (or any other) proposal, I invite you to offer your own opinion about what needs to change. Because obviously something does.