Stories are Everywhere

I’ve been sitting here, staring at that blinking cursor and blank white screen trying to figure out what to write about. Do I write a piece of prose, a bit of nonfiction or fiction, do I write a poem about a tree? There are millions of ideas that float across my mind and like a school of fish they slip past quickly before I’ve had any chance to grab even one. Stories are out there and stories are within, the trick is to start digging away and just write what you see and damn the consequences.

Stories come from our everyday experiences, those seemingly small moments that we don't think are very important but when we begin to unpack them we see something of ourselves. Yesterday I had one such experience, a connection made with a man named George. George has been hanging out in our church yard, using the picnic table to have his breakfast and coffee. George is one of those characters that seem to gravitate toward the church. They are lost, lost in the world, lost in society and lost within themselves. He’s not a dangerous person, he’s not unintelligent, he’s just lost. That is something many people just can't wrap their heads around, that here is a man, who is educated, seems smart and yet can’t seem to find his way. Yet, here he is, struggling. In his mind, in his lostness, he is wrestling with God in his own wilderness. The spiritual struggle some of us go through as we seek our place in this craziness called life.

George and I have now spoken several times and with each conversation another layer of his complex personality is exposed. That he was married, that he was a lawyer, that he had gotten involved with a fundamentalist religious group, and with their blessing went over to Europe to begin a ministry of house churches. Along the way he lost his purpose, he lost his wife and children to divorce and he may have even lost his connection to family and friends.

I sit here, a conduit to God’s grace, a conduit that is in itself flawed by my humanity. I sit and listen, I can offer no quick fix, no special prayers, or some magical incantation, I’m not a Shaman or a mystic, I’m just the person God created me to be. There are stories to be told, to be written down and shared. Stories of our common humanity, of our need for one another, not just when things are going great, but also when we are traveling along a darkened path. Life is a struggle and for some, like George, it is a greater struggle. That is why we need to share these stories because if I were to I be honest, if we were to be honest, there is a bit of George in all of us, that small, scared child who fears what is under the bed or the monsters lurking in the dark closet. Our lives are connected in that mystery we Christians call the Incarnation, the Divine Presence of the Word which called us into being out of the dust.

Maybe that’s why I’m writing this piece, because there are moments when it is easy to get oneself lost. I know there have been those moments, when the darkness of my own mind has overwhelmed me and I found myself struggling to find the path. I don’t believe there is not one human being alive who has not faced their own dark night of the soul, who have wondered about the choices they made and the consequences of those choices.

I read something yesterday stating that what anyone writes is not something original, but mainly a reworking of age old stories. Stories of love, of death, of growing up and coming of age. We all have those stories in the deep well of our memories and it is my task to dip into that well and draw upon those deep waters. Some of the water will be sweet and fresh, and some will be brackish, but it all comes from the same well.

I can say with complete confidence that I am no genius. I struggle with my grammar, I’m unsure of punctuation and word usage, but at least I’m willing to expose these thoughts to the world. Creating anything, whether it is a piece of art, a poem, a story, even a life, requires taking a risk. It’s all too easy to sit on social media posting someone else’s words, it’s something else to post your own. Maybe it is because in taking a moment to try and see the world through the eyes of another, I have been granted a gift and that gift is these words that I write.

Prayers of Defiance

Hands clasped together

knees firmly rooted 

eyes closed

each breath measured

in the quiet

alone,

praying

but for what?

Love is the desire

of everything we do

as the world lurches

from one idol to the next

seeking happiness

in the squalor 

of massage parlors

and brothels of shame.

Holding on to faith

in the midst of despair

an act of defiance 

against those seeking

to chain the hearts

of those who love

Keeping the Faith in the Dark

I’m out of place

in the wrong time

in the wrong world.

My life barrels along

yet no progress is made

I seek comfort in words,

but only find a blank page.

Prayer is my hope

but the words are dry

no miracles this day.

The pews are empty

the people scoff

come down from your pulpit

that cross you bear,

they all say.

Even the faithful

mock my every move

we’re too busy 

to listen to you.

I try each day 

to recall those words

the ones I heard

in the silence of my heart,

when you sought my life

and called out my name

even if I wasn’t smart.

So I followed you

dropping my nets

along the shoreline

and into the wilderness

I walked,

that lonely path.

You are the Way,

the Truth and Life,

how can so many

prefer death?

The nails are hammered 

the sound loud on the coffin

of the life I’ve chosen.

I believe, I cry!

Help my unbelief.

Now there is only silence

as I listen for that voice

in the depths of the darkness,

leading me to the light.

Church Fair

I sit here listening to the copier 

relentlessly working

piece by piece the sheets fly out

while in the background 

there is the bustling of people

bringing in their oblations

of decorated trees 

baskets filled with their sacrament

to be bought and sold

to a people lost

all the while

prayers go up into the air

as Emmanuel approaches

reminding us that this temple

is not about silver and gold

but a place for prayer

in the darkening days

as we seek salvation

from the busyness we create

hiding from our own failings

in the glitter and bright lights

of seasons too short

awaiting love’s arrival

opening closed hearts.

Seeking Peace

Rain dampened streets

reflect the lights

as I walk along 

the well worn paths.

In the air, a mist

surrounds my every step

as I pass the dark church

its steeple shrouded

fog its burial cloth

mournful sounding

bells calling the dead

to arise from their slumber.

While the living

huddle in fear

of a want too deep 

they cannot name

their cries muffled

as they search 

for that which they lack

a peace buried 

deep in the catacombs 

of a haunted past.