God’s Gift of the Present

Time flies, once you are young, filled with ambition and desire, hopes and dreams then suddenly your staring in the mirror at an aged face, worn down by the years. What have I accomplished, what are my crowning achievements? We ask those kind of questions especially when mortality stares us in the face. Is there more? I know I certainly hope for more, more time with loved ones, more space to create and write, more to see and do. The world rushes headlong into its future, not paying attention to the road being taken and then wondering how did we ever get so blindsided. It’s simple, we are so focused on the future that we forget about the present and by the time we do, well, we are lying in great weakness left wondering.

Since passing the age of 65, I have been giving a lot of thought as to where my life will take me. I cannot last forever, there is no portrait of me hanging in some darkened Gothic basement where the image grows older while I stay young. No, when I look in the mirror, I see the age lines, the bags under my eyes, the loss of shine in the eyes. Although this happens, it does not mean that I just lay back and surrender to the inevitability of the aging process. In my occupation, I have seen way too many folks do just that, give up. When the road gets tough, when one is stuck in mud season with tires spinning yet going no where, it’s easy to just quit. The fires of passion are quenched by the realities of the choices we have made. The saying is so true, “we made our bed and now we need to lie in it,” what so many want is for another to come along and remake that bed.

Not one of us is perfect. Sure, we run into the occasional perfect person, with the perfect spouse, perfect kids, perfect job and the perfect, well manicured lawn in front of the perfect well maintained home. Yet, if one just scratches the surface we find that most of that perfection is an illusion, that underneath the finely made up personality lies someone struggling against the greater tide. The addictive lifestyle is not just about drugs, alcohol, or sex, the addictive lifestyle also includes our ego, the picture we present as we walk out into the world. Self confidence, the ability to out debate others, creating our own little island where we rule our emotions, feelings and humanity, is soon revealed to be nothing more than a sand bar quickly washed away when the hurricane arrives.

Robert Farrar Capon wrote "Our greatest temptation is to think that it is by further, better, and more aggressive living that we can have life.” I have witnessed those who have sought out a better life by doing just that, trying to live more aggressively, stepping over any and all that get in the way, is somehow that magical highway to heaven. My own attempts at trying to be a bit more aggressive, a bit more out there have usually ended up looking more like a train wreck than a success. What I keep returning to, over and over, is my own faith. In prayers where I seek, not riches or fame, but where I pray that my eyes will be opened, my heart will be filled and my soul will find peace. Sure, I get jealous. Jealous of those who write better, who are better poets, who are better preachers and priests, than I could ever be or attain to. At times I wonder why God never gave me those gifts, why was I left off of the list, then again, as I look back there have been plenty of times where I have squandered my opportunities. That, unfortunately is true for so many of us. If we sat down in a quiet place, turned off the computers, the cell phones, got away from Facebook, Twitter and other social media, and took our own moral inventory, we would all see moments when we were not at our best. Moments when we made a decision that looked good at the time only to regret it much later, then turn around and blaming someone else for our misfortune.

Time certainly does fly by, sometimes at supersonic speed, but that does not mean we need be trapped in its wake. Moments of grace abound, the colors of the world are just as bright and love, that mystery of mysteries, carries us along. The Psalmist writes; “If I climb to heaven, you are there * if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.” God’s ever present love and grace, in our life and death, always.

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

Foxhole Prayers, Talisman’s and Lucky Charms

Foxhole prayers,

those prayers that come

when we’re stuck in the mud

when the slime and grime

of the world has worn us down,

we pull out our talismans

that special rabbits foot

the four-leaf clover

reciting that charm

we learned so many years ago.

We pray without words

to some unseen deity 

even when we don’t believe, 

when all is crashing down

suddenly finding ourselves

seeking that miracle 

when all along that miracle

is well within our reach

if only we open our eyes

to see that we were never alone

even in the darkest part of the tunnel.

There are those who bluster

claiming they have all the answers

they don’t need any prayers

their answers lie in their facts

until that moment when it fails

their certainty eludes them

as they stand knee deep in their foxhole

looking out on a no man’s land 

of their own making

cursing that which they don’t believe 

wanting that which they don’t believe

to come down and save them

in their moment of need.

Evening Prayer

Here in the twilight, 

I sit, the air is warm, 

the sky beginning to change, 

red and orange as the sun sets. 

A cooling breeze whispers 

as the calls of night creatures 

begin their song and I pray.

Lifting my heart up,

unburdening the soul

from the pain and confusion

wrought by demons

desiring death over life.

Seeing in the waning light

those first glimmers of stars

whose light shines

despite the darkness

giving hope to a troubled soul.

The Harrowing

Oh, to write an ode or poem

to set down in words

the deep love within

showing the scars

on the landscape of the heart

left by travelers along the way.

Oh, to write of my life

in all of its intricacies,

the threads I have weaved

in the grand fabric of my world,

some tattered and worn

others new and complete,

each a different color

each a different texture

the complexities of the human soul,

upon which he bore the wooden beam

whose love carried the weight of grief

high above the city gate,

as the veil is torn

to reveal the grace

of loves true light

upon the darkened landscapes

that dwell in the depths

as he harrows the hardened heart

bringing peace to the wearied 

and life to the dead.