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.

Poetical Metaphor

A true poet, 

sees the rise and fall of the tides 

a metaphor of life

tossed to and fro 

as waves pound the shore.

The true poet 

looks at the sunrise and sunset 

sees the brilliant oranges 

and reds against the clouds,  

and the light behind the light.

The true poet looks at the caterpillar 

munching on a green leaf

seeing the butterfly within its fattening body

ready to spread it’s wings and fly.

The true poet,

writes of love

in it’s purest,

even when that love

breaks open a heart.

The true poet looks at life, 

in all of it’s forms

expressing the human desire 

to love and be loved.

The true poet

lives in the heart

of the imagination

bringing light to truth

whispering loves breath

that calls us from

our darkened prisons.

Vocation

I’m a priest

or so it says on that fancy certificate

hanging on my wall.

Not a prophet

although that is implied

no healer

but expected to heal

I stand before critics

all who have their own opinion

of what I should do

how I should act 

even, how I should dress.

Yet, into this madness

I was called to serve

not to be perfect,

to be human

to fall then get up

to fail and succeed

to stumble in the dark.

Maybe I’m insane

for doing this work

for believing, having faith.

Tears have been shed

hearts have been broken,

my own included.

Yet, I am a priest

not because of a certificate

or a fancy degree,

I’m a priest

called by God

to serve, the unservable

to heal, the unhealable

to preach words of faith

in the messiness of life.

Maybe I am insane

or just a tad mad

then again, 

so were the prophets

dressed in camel hair

wandering in the wilderness.

What is Clergy?

“What is clergy?”

She asked pulling into the lot.

“I’m clergy,” I said trying to park.

What does that mean, to be clergy.

What do people see when I appear,

An apparition, a ghost like nothingness,

floating on the edge of reality?

Seemingly invisible to the naked eye,

like trying to discern the stars

at night in the city sky.

All washed out in in the bright,

artificial light, all washed out 

in the bright artificial new age light.

Hands for blessing, for breaking bread,

hands for holding as a last breath is taken.

A human heart that breaks,

human tears shed onto cold, dark earth.

I’m clergy, I’m priest, I’m not a miracle,

nor some shaman with all the answers.

In the brightness I’m missed, 

in the darkness I’m seen, briefly.

As I put on my cloak of invisibility,

black shirt, white collar,

going out into the world.

All eyes downcast, a sinners worst nightmare,

I the priest walk the streets,

reminding all of old wounds,

unrequited loves and darkness.

They are bound by these sins,

as tightly as Lazarus in his grave.

Not knowing that this priest to,

is bound by those same bonds.

A sinner who walks with them,

filled with fears, ghosts,

haunting every step, as the grave grows deep.

No miracles to be performed,

as prayer becomes dry and dusty,

the wilderness in the midst of life.

Longing to heal the pains,

powerless against the rising tides.