The Lightest Touch

Usually I write maybe one piece a day and then post it to my blog but today I was struck by the opening sentence of David Whyte’s poem, The Lightest Touch; “Good poetry begins with the lightest touch.” For some reason this has been rattling around in my head since I first read it this morning and these thoughts are aching to jump out onto the page. It’s not like I have any great insight but just reading that one line evoked such a deep feeling, one that I cannot ignore.

I am not a poet, okay, I’ve sort of dabbled with it lately but still I have no idea what is a poem, to clarify, what is it to write a poem. Just writing prose like this is a struggle, my thoughts jump from one thing to another as my brain feels more like a Mexican jumping bean of conflicting emotions. Yet, as I read that one sentence I felt something different, something that touched a very deep part of my being. “Good poetry begins with the lightest touch,” when I read this I begin to envision my words that start deep within the core of who I am, ready to erupt but yet still cooking away. My own insecurities and fears played out onto the pages of what I write and on the pages of my life. It doesn’t need to take a mental bulldozer to crack the crust into my thoughts but that lightest touch, those deep feelings that make my heart jump and can even bring a tear to the eye.

I never know when this light touch will strike, it could be as simple as watching the flowers in the garden beginning to bloom or a conversation caught on the wind. Expressions of love, a couple holding hands, an old person standing alone before a gravestone whispering to the unseen that lies within. These are those moments of that lightest touch, suddenly images float across the screen, some starting out like old flip picture books, a single sheet that gives way to the motion that lies just inside. I truly envy those who seem to just sit down and then create in words a grand motif that carries one to other places and draws them into the scene. Mind, body and soul all working in a unison of deep faith drawing us closer to that which gives us life. Simple words, a light touch of the pen to paper that sets the imagination on fire as the crust on the heart gives way to the eruption of feelings.

The poet goes on to say that, “In the silence that follows a great line, you can feel Lazarus, deep inside even the laziest, most deathly afraid part of you, lift up his hands and walk toward the light.” I have yet to write that great line, at least nothing has ever jumped out at me and the Lazarus that lies deep within me still lies there, wrapped in his funeral linens waiting to hear the voice that calls him out of the dark. Maybe, one day my words will mean more than just the paper they are written on, maybe one day I will write that one sentence that will free my inner self. Maybe, the time will come when I will be able to shed the funeral linens that bind my heart and allow my inner self to know the warmth of the light that gives life.

New Gnostic Copier

 We, and here I mean Trinity Parish, have a brand new copy machine. Now I’m sure many of you reading this wouldn’t think that this was a big deal, but hey, we’re talking about the church here, an organization that moves at the speed of tradition. After all it’s only 2016, so let’s not get too crazy with all of this high tech stuff, we’ve done well with the original Gutenberg press all these years, so why change now?  Well, really it’s not that bad. We’ve had several copy machines, an actual computer, even a phone with voice mail, what is really interesting is that the new copy machine has this wondrous, state of the art, hard drive. This hard drive is hard core, impenetrable, like an iPhone it requires a specially trained hacker to open up its darkest secrets. I thought this was so fitting to have, our very own Gnostic hard drive, it alone holds the secret handshake, the Gospel According to Mr. Herrick, and the map to the Mason’s secret stash of ancient treasures. Every Episcopal Church, needs to have one of these, imagine the possibilities. We could share our plans for worldwide domination, plot the takeover of other denominations and not just the ELCA. Soon, everyone will have a Book of Common Prayer firmly embedded in their Windows program, it may take awhile before we’re able to crack that pesky iPhone code, but soon that too will crumble before our technical genius.

 Okay, I’m getting just a bit ahead of myself here. First I have to figure out how to turn this thing on, and make at least one copy before it blows up, or at the very least has a paper jam. Then again, maybe instead of focusing on the latest technical marvel we need to get back to what we are all about, living the Gospel according to Christ. Loving our neighbor, helping those who struggle, lifting up the marginalized. With so much talk lately that has most of us shaking our heads and wondering what’s next, maybe it’s time to put down that iPhone, get off Twitter and Facebook and actually look at the world. Smile at someone, pull out that odd quarter and give it to the person holding out their cup, help the older person cross the street, in other words, be a bit more human. There are those movies of a future world taken over by machines, well just walk down any street and you’ll see how true that has become, with faces staring at tiny screens holding us in thrall to the 24 hour news cycle. It doesn’t take some kind of special, Gnostic knowledge to see that a little humanity goes a long way, and that a warm touch and a kind word will help to heal our deepest wounds. Maybe that’s what this world needs, now more than ever. 

The Voice

The Voice
The voice on the wind

whispers its intent, 

the cold penetrates into the core

the will is broken down

into its finite parts.

It speaks of our mortality,

as the trees bud green,

shoots of green breaking through

the cold, dark earth.

In the stillness a word 

is spoken, through lips

cracked by the sun. 

On its breath, 

the smell of stale wine

give hint to its power 

to offer peace.

Bodies frozen by fear

as a finger probes the bloody mark,

And doubts wash away

at the sound of the voice.

Thoughts on a Windy Day

The wind on recycle day
The old lady walks her dog, 

looking like Marcel Marceau 

pushing against an unseen wall.

Papers fly out of red recycle bins with ease, 

cans clatter down the street.

Old pizza boxes cling to fences,

holding tight against the breeze.

The wind, wild and fierce, 

that blows around our debris of living,

lifts the eagle into the air

on its flight into the heavens.

Like feathers falling to earth,

our lives are lifted by

the spirit 

and we cannot clutch that fence,

or stay within our red recycle box.

Risk Taking

 I haven’t written much in the past week, with Holy Week and Easter plus the added fun of having family visiting, I really was pressed for time to write and writing, for me, takes time. It’s not something that I just sit down and then pour out all of my thoughts onto a page. It’s a process of experimenting with these thoughts, putting them into words and then trying to make sense of what I’ve written. Once in awhile I’ve tried some of those one word prompts, some do generate a good line or two, most just don’t get my creative juices flowing. I see something, think about it, then try to let the words flow from the brain onto the page, the trouble is that it sometimes looks more like the scribblings of a mad man. Crazy thoughts generated in my Swiss cheese mind doing their best to flow through the many holes I have created over the years.  Next week I will be starting another writing course, this one will focus on creative nonfiction. It will be an opportunity for me to explore a genre that I feel a bit more comfortable with rather than straight out fiction writing. With nonfiction writing I hope to open up a few more avenues into my creative process writing about those things that I find both interesting and baffling. It doesn’t mean that I will be creating some kind of best selling story or book, but I will be creating a picture for myself, a painting in many various shades and hues of the world that I inhabit. Like most works of art it is all up for interpretation, someone may love it, another may hate it, then others will see something totally unintended by what I’ve written. In a way that’s the beauty of the creative process, it’s in seeing the various responses that helps me to hone the material into a more cohesive piece. 

 Workshopping a piece with others in a creative and supportive environment is what I like about these classes. I live so much of my life within, always just mulling over a thought until it becomes mush. Even writing in this blog is taking a major risk. Exposing my inner thoughts in a less than welcoming world, a world that is so set on its own agenda, sets my introverted self on edge. Yet, I cannot allow that fear to drive me underground or to stifle my thoughts. Sure, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not one of those bright lights, shining in the distance. I’ve always figured that amongst my colleagues in the Episcopal priesthood, that I’m definitely not one that stands out. Mostly that’s been my choice, staying in the background, flying under the radar, so to speak, and just doing what I do without the fanfare and bright lights others seem to crave. However, now as I begin to contemplate my next life beyond active ministry, it’s time for me to take stock of where I am and where I’m going. 

 I’m sure stuff will be spilling out over the next few weeks and that some of it will make it onto this blog. Some of it may not look pretty and some may be a bit puzzling but at least I’m taking the risk to put it out there. 

Price

 Each day I get a daily prompt as a way to encourage me to write something and lately these postings has been one word. Today the word is “price.” Simple enough, price, it can evoke many thoughts, the price of a new car, the price of food, gas, just about any commodity we can think of, there is a price. One of my favorite statements from the television show, Once Upon a Time, is that “magic comes with a price.” Seldom do we get something for nothing, although we try each day to find that loophole, to somehow cheat the system. However, in the end we end up paying a price, the only question, is how steep will the bill be when we are called to account?  Another terror attack, this time in Brussels. The scenes of panic, the broken bodies, the questions and the fear, all played out as the news media bring us up to the minute reports. Questions arise, is this payback for the capture and arrest of the mastermind behind the Paris attacks, will there be more violence, and what will happen next? In this age of instantaneous news coverage, people all over the globe now know what has happened, in some places there is complete shock, in other places some are probably celebrating, most are mourning. No matter what, there will be a price to pay, the only question is how steep will be the butchers bill? 

 The events in Brussels comes as the Church is deep into Holy Week. This past Sunday we started with the Palms and then moved quickly into the Passion. Some question this liturgical movement, going from celebration to mourning, yet what we have seen today is a stark reminder that events can and will take us across the spectrum of human emotion. Try as some might, we cannot escape the realities that are around us but that does not mean we are stuck in some kind of inescapable prison. To paraphrase Gandhi, “an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind”, are we willing to gouge out our own eyes just to get our pound of flesh? 

 Lately, the rhetoric on the political front has been acrimonious at best, and downright nasty at its worse. Maybe what we are seeing, nationally and globally, is a cashing in on a long forgotten debt and only now are we seeing the steep price being exacted. Just now a news alert states that there are no credible threats to the United States, we breathe a sigh of relief, but that does not mean will not be called into account. Easter will soon be upon us, the alleluia’s that have laid dormant during the Lenten season will be lifted up as we gather together to praise God. Yet, the dark cloud of humanity’s folly will hang above us as a reminder that we still have many miles to go before we to can know true Easter joy. 

 For now, all I can do is pray. It is simply all any of us can do when face with insurmountable terror. We can lash out, we can strike back with overwhelming force, but in the end we will just find ourselves stuck in a web of our own making. We cannot even begin to count the costs of what has happened, in Brussels, in Paris, in San Bernardino, in New York, in Iraq, and around the world. The price in innocent human lives is too costly, the blood shed to precious for us to just sit back and ignore. New life comes when we let go of and allow those false gods of our own hubris to die, Easter joy in the midst of despair, Easter faith in an unbelieving world, a price worth it’s weight in gold.

Palm Sunday

 It’s early morning and it also happens to be Palm Sunday. We have all been told how this was the day of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey while hundreds of people lined the streets with branches of palms. Last night as I lay in bed wide awake I began to think about this and I wonder whose triumph was this anyway? Let’s face it, Jesus kind of knew that this was not one of your typical triumphal entries, especially in terms of a Roman triumph. In the days of the Republic, generals would be accorded a triumph by the Senate and not every successful general got one. The members of the Senate in those days knew the dangers of allowing a general into the city of Rome with his legion of battle hardened war veterans. A triumph was not only a recognition of a generals great successes on the field of battle its was also a political statement.  We are not that far from our own version of the triumph, in January one of those running for President will have their own triumph, we call it the inauguration. The successful candidate will parade through the Capitol, with hundreds lining the streets, some may even be cheering, an affirmation of our Republics continuance. Yet, whose triumph will it be? With such a divided electorate, with the heated rhetoric, the name calling, the less than truthful Facebook postings can we really call this a triumph? 

 Jesus entered Jerusalem, not with the intention of vanquishing the political and religious establishment, he came to show the power of God in the frailness of his humanity. As a general rode in his chariot during those grand military spectacles, there was always a person who sat behind him whispering in his ear that he was but human. This triumph was temporary, that even the mighty have and will fall, usually through their own hubris. Jesus needed no such voice, he knew who he was and that the powers of the world would not allow him to enter that city without exacting its pound of flesh. 

 In a short while I will gather the congregation, we will say our Hosanna’s, wave our branches of palms as we process into the church so far removed from that first Palm Sunday. Even now I wonder, whose triumph are we celebrating for soon after we enter the church we begin the Passion, the all too human story of love, betrayal, and death. Our lives are bound up in this story whether we are religious or not and it is through this story we learn about our relationships, the good, the not so good and the difficult ones.