The Train Home

Train wheels clatter

passing cities and towns,

fields and meadows

through the clutter of broken buildings

garishly painted by graffiti artists

past rolling hills

at one time family farms

white sand beaches

with ocean views

waves crashing on shore

white mist veiling the scene

people walk the sandy strip

some alone staring down

others hold hands,

children skip and play

life passes as we cling to one another

conversations overheard

a mother talking about her son

softly cries as she whispers

buzzing, beeping cell phones

sending and receiving

secretive messages

thumbs fly across mini screens

replying as fast as they are received

a young child sleeps

secure that her mother’s love will not abandon

on this train,

some get off

others get on

life on this train won’t stop

on the wall

JESUS

in bright colors

the promise of the rainbow

on a train heading home.

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A Non-Bloggers, Blog

What do I do? It’s a question that seems to be ever evolving as I move through these last weeks of being a full time clergy person, something that is becoming a bit rare given the current climate of our culture. My mother, at age 95, always tells me that time goes by so fast and yes, she is right, but if time didn’t go by then where would we all be? Stuck, that’s where. We would never grow, never learn, never take the chance to love and to be loved. I know that my life will take on a new dimension and I also know that being a retired priest does not mean not being a priest, it just means that I will now have to focus my energies elsewhere.

It is all about discernment, of listening to the still, quiet voice in the silence of my heart. It means that if I want to write, I mean, really write then I need to go deeper than I’ve ever gone before. I need to plum the depths of my feelings that seem at times to be all over the emotional map. It also means actually sitting down daily and writing, which is where I tend to get sidetracked. There is always something else, some other thing to be doing and before I know it, I’ve lost another day to trivialities that could have been handled at a later date. That, and staying away from social media, the great time sucking divergence that, as far as I can see, holds little redeeming social worth. Sure, some postings are good, and yes, there are some positive aspects to social media and what is out there, but overall, it just sucks the life out if you’re not careful,

So as I write this, trying to be conscientious in developing a writing habit, I’m wondering, what do I write about? Basically, I write whatever seems to show up in my head. I just put words to paper, in this case to my iPad, and go from there. Sometimes I post this drivel to my WordPress page, my attempt at being a blogger, while sometimes I just let it sit here and fester. To be a blogging sort you have to have an angle, something that is at once witty and yet, provocative. A blog that grabs the attention of a few who then pass along your stuff to others thus creating a following. I know that I am far from being all that interesting and I truly have no angle, all I do is just write what I feel and then let the chips fall where they may. However, is that enough?

There is more to every story and more to every person, the challenge is to let those stories out and see how they take the light of day. Will it grow and be fruitful or will it shrink and die in the harsh glare of the critics eye? I did get a compliment from a writer, someone who is actually published and now teaches at Grub Street in Boston, who said that I do have a story to tell. So I will write that story, I will share bits and pieces, I will lay myself wide open to the opinions of the critics, good, bad or indifferent. After all, growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and to not take this chance to write, well, then I may never know and that would be the real tragedy.

Thrift Shop Volunteers

They do not materialize

with gossamer wings

no ethereal,

other worldly light

surrounds their bodies

they make no grand predictions

to young virgins

or calm the fears of shepherds

out in the darkened fields

instead they are just there,

every day,

with no expectations

helping forgotten people

listening to the stories

no one else will listen to

holding a hand

when needed

being a light of hope

in a world gone dark

doing this for no wage

or any praise

they minister in the wilderness

giving comfort to all

then go home in the evening

their light still shining

in the hearts of those they touched.

What I want to Give myself To: A new journey.

We pass through times of transition, of change. It is as natural as breathing and yet, we are still caught unaware when suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the change. Our world is not that stable place we thought it was as everything seems seems fluid catching us in the tidal flow. The old passes away and the new has yet to arrive and in between is transition. It is hard to shed the old skin and equally as hard to enter into the new, so we struggle in this in between time. Reaching out to the umbilical cords of political parties or worse, personalities we turn into a god, that prove to be nothing more than an illusion created by our minds.

One word, one quick thought and the journey takes a turn. Sometimes we don’t realize what happened until years later in a moment of clarity we are granted a brief moment of insight. The wise person understands that those moments are part of who we are and have become, our decisions are ours and the consequences, however they turn out, are ours also. I stand at a moment of change, transition is opening the gates once more and I am compelled to walk through them. The road ahead is dark, there are no signs, no guides, what I do, what I say, what I choose all will have a bearing on my future.

A favorite writer, Parker Palmer, writes this profound statement; “What do I need to let go of and what do I want to GIVE MYSELF TO?” As I age and prepare to move on to a new place I am taking this statement from Palmer as a way to envision my life. People keep asking me what I’m going to do when I retire and I point to my bicycle and say, “that” knowing full well there is more to my life than just cycling. I know I want to write, to let the stories I have accumulated over the years to just pour out onto the pages, I want to become a better poet, to not just see but to observe the world around me. I want to love, not just superficially, but deeply, love not just the people around me but everything that surrounds my world. To stare up into the heavens at night and count the stars, to listen as the birds sing and gather, to watch the trees go through their cycle of growth, the deep greens of summer to the burst of color in the fall.

What do I want to give myself to? Maybe what I want to give myself to is to the life that is all around, to get away from the negative, angry voices and to give myself to the love I share and to the grace that I surely don’t deserve but receive. As I prepare to weigh anchor and depart for a new shore, I take with me many memories and some unnecessary baggage. The next few weeks will be bittersweet, there will be tears, there will be laughter, there will be regrets, there will be joy. I am as ready as I will ever be for this new venture, by God’s grace and the love of my wife and family, I will find new ways to be and find that which I want to give myself to

The Dash Between

Walk through a cemetery, slowly. Gaze at the various grave markers, take note of the person’s name, the date of birth the date of death, look around, see what offerings have been left by others. The gravesite tells much if we are really attentive, we get to know who this person is, those bits and pieces of offerings give us a glimpse into their life, when they once roamed this planet, when they were fully alive and present. Between the birth and death there is a space or a dash, that small part represents all that person was and did, how they lived, loved it represents their hopes and dreams, the pain and joy, all that life brings.

I have done plenty of funerals, have seen many gravestones and read about those who lie beneath the ground. Some heroes, winners of medals and adulation from a grateful nation, some mothers who sacrificed so much for children and grandchildren, some husbands who once stood as the providers for their families, all once living breathing human beings. The space, the dash is where their story lies, it is in that place where we find discover their true self, it is in that space where we discover ourselves.

Memoir is mining the dash, going beneath its surface and diving deep into those memories that have made us who we are, and will be the legacy we leave. I am coming now to the end of another period of life as retirement lies out there on the horizon. I have been a priest in the Episcopal Church for over 26 years, I have served my current parish for 17 of those years. I have made many mistakes, I have suffered depression and felt defeated, yet, I have also felt great joy and love. I have experienced the full spectrum of the human condition, witnessed birth and death, held the hand of one facing great struggles, watched as others have turned their backs and walked away. My heart, has been filled to the brim with joy and broken also by great heaviness, a sense of failing not just the people I serve but the God whom I have given my life over to.

Vocation is a calling. It is answering the call to follow and follow I have done. Not the most perfect of followers and definitely not one of those bright shining stars that populate the universe of clergy. I have been the person whom God created me to be, I have tried, failed and tried again and through the trials and tribulations I have grown to love these people whom I have lived with. Last Sunday was Easter and it will be my last Easter here in the place I am. As I looked out at the congregation, knowing many only come once or twice a year, I saw so many stories and each one has touched my heart. The teens who I held in my arms so many years ago, pouring water over their heads as I baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, bringing them into the community of faith. The families who I sat with as we watched a beloved member die, as we stood at the edge of the grave, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It was hard, it will be hard, to say good-bye, to bid these people farewell, even now as I write this I feel the clutch in the throat, tears on the edge of my eyes, remembrances pouring out.

My own dash, the space between birth and death, is where I am now being called into, to write, however imperfectly, about this life. If anything, I write this for my grandchildren and those who will one day walk into some graveyard, stare down at a stone with my name engraved on it with a birthdate and death date, and that all important dash.