Poem: A Constant Sharpening of Swords

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A Constant Sharpening of Swords

The demons are quiet tonight.
For a week or more, they have been at bay,
the days and nights bright with color,
the song of birds uninterrupted with war.

It is a good place, peace, strange and uncertain,
a place both wonderful, and you have learned,
untrustworthy.
There is no rest in it.

It is in peace you prepare yourself.
That is the lesson you have learned.
You fill your mind with truths.
You gird yourself with Paul’s armor.

You sharpen your sword, burnish your shield,
You prepare.
You cannot afford the weakness of normalcy.
For you know the demons well.

You know they have not surrendered.
They too are resting, licking their wounds
and sharpening their swords,
sure you will let down your guard

and once again, fall,
become their prisoner, their victim,
another notch in their belt of lies.
another story of a journey gone awry.

But yours is the saga of Odyessus,
failed, detoured, damaged and worn,
but always fighting for the right to simply live and love.
And if peace is not your lot, so be it.

Neither is death.

About this poem.

It’s been a good week. I am grateful, and wary. That’s what depression does to you.

If you are not familiar with Paul’s armor, it comes from his letter to the Ephesians. Chapter six:  “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” 

There’s wisdom there, no matter what God you worship. Fighting battles alone and unarmed is sure death, whatever the battle.

The picture is of a Greek model made for a larger statue of a River God. It’s only a foot or so tall, but I love the ferociousness of it. Day to day it lives at the Hyde Museum in Glens Falls, NY.

Tom

 

Poem: Act of Faith

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Act of Faith

Cold. Dark. Just outside the hospital.
A special kind of silence.
Thoughts broken as ice, disjointed.
Legs walking on their own,
ignoring the mind.
You would rather not be here
again.
Rather not fight the dread
of not knowing
what you will find,
what form
the brokenness will take
and whether or not
you will have the words,
the grace
to heal
anything.

This is what you have chosen.
To be a missionary of sorts,
lacking evangelism
or wisdom, having no more
than your presence. A hodgepodge
of facts and
whatever spark of God lies buried
in your own struggles.

You stand on the elevator.
Ice dripping off your coat.
Your legs. Your cold mindless legs
moving forward, cold and fearful,
acting while the rest of you is stock still
and numb, the mere motion,
each step. the turning of the doorknob
an act of faith.

About this poem. 

The woman I love is a social worker. I am a part-time pastor. There are times we both are faced with situations that are beyond us.

Tom

Poem: The Strangest Work

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The Strangest Work

Nothing, it seems, comes easy.
There is work involved, and failure,
often far too much of it.
trial and error, error and more error.
Effort.
The danger of fear sabotaging
your guardian angels.

Paul was all too right,
we are in a spiritual battle,
a conflagration unseen by bystanders
with blood and gore and real casualties
falling to the left and right,
each side trying to decide
whom to surrender to
and why

the devil is so well dressed,
in Brooks brothers and a hankie tucked, just so
while God seems far more ordinary, so easily dismissed
a beggar with pockets of gold,
riches to be given away,
to any with the courage or foolishness
to believe:
The strangest work.

About this poem

The picture was taken at the Shaker Villiage in Hancock, MA.

The poem came out of nowhere. That seems to be happening a lot this week. I am not a poet these days, just a scribe.

Tom

 

Poem: Tourists

Rome - St Peters

Tourists

The cathedral is full
of tourists,
gape-mouthed, overwhelmed
at the gilding and paint, the play of light and space
and color,
everywhere, color.
Cameras clicking.
Fingers pointing.
A murmur of wonder echoes from chamber to chamber,
a museum so vibrant
they miss the quiet God of light
all around them.

About this poem

How did we get to a place where churches and temples have become museum pieces, rather than sacred space?

We are the poorer for it, I believe.

Tom

Poem: Repentance

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Repentance

Let us cease to profess a faith that has forgotten
the broken, the abandoned, the lost.
Let us put away our crosses and robes,
our pulpits and altars wrapped in old testament wrath
all holy in our forgetting that we are indeed
our brother’s keeper,
that we are neither righteous or capable
of saving souls with our hard hearts and hate
for the hungry and shattered and holy other.
that in our trappings and good fortune
we have put aside the two commandments
that could save us and those around us.

They, these two lines in a book dense with words,
are too simple.
Unadorned.
Lacking in rank or showy theology.
Too obvious in their truth
to be true.
and so we wrap ourselves in the undercard,
righteous reasons to rant,
a shell game, a magicians’ trick, all distraction and smoke
and noise. Always, the noise.

It is time to stop.
To go quiet.
To look within,
to understand where and when and how
we became broken, unblessed, angry,
to turn away from the noise and clutter
and remember the purpose of our faith:

to save us
from ourselves.

About this poem

  1. I have become that rarest of creatures, a liberal, evangelical Christian.
  2. I have tried to stay away from my politics here, because as soon as you declare an opinion in today’s world, half your audience leaves you (which half depends on your stance). But my truth leaks out sometimes. Without apology.
  3. Matthew 22:34-40 reads…  34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
  4. My sermon this week at Rupert Methodist is on repentance. I think that is what started this poem.

Off my soapbox,

Tom

Poem: The Work That Keeps Them Whole

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The Work That Keeps Them Whole

There is nothing elegant in them.
The wood is rough hewn and worn, utilitarian
and plain.
The walls and banister have been repaired,
not always well.
They squeak and groan with every step.
And yet,

they still lead you upward,
out,
beyond.
Not because of their age or failings,
but because generation
after generation,
someone cared enough to repair them,

understood that rising is full of broken treads
and rails,
and the work that keeps them whole

About this poem. 

More about relationships than stairs. But it could be about stairs too.

Tom

Poem: Ragamuffin Man

Hartford NY 6

Ragamuffin Man

You lay late at night,
work done,
prayers said,
spent,
well used,
the day’s battle fought,
never won,
never lost,
survived,
perhaps with a lesson
to move you forward
tomorrow.

This is the you never seen.
The ragamuffin man,
with little left,
desiring to dance,
more than you can know,
to jitterbug and wail the blues
in a major key.
So tired.
So very tired.

But you do not surrender,
for you have in the past and it led to nothing,
certainly not the rest desperately needed,
not the refreshing. No,
your surrender led only to another, and another
and a dead time,
a black hole in your life
that even today feels vague,
unreal,
and dangerous.

And so you lay, morning now,
just for a moment.
You open your tired soul
and trust God to find it,
and feed you like a starving child,
until you can stand,
wobbly as a newborn
and walk again, sword in hand,
an uncertain warrior,
more afraid of surrender than defeat.

About this poem

A history lesson. Nothing more.

Tom