Sunday, March 27, 2011


Chicago, Denver
Maybe Memphis
Please not Houston
Somewhere else

No longer here
But not yet there

Time absent of
Becomes unrecognizable

Voice of authority
Garbles overhead
“Would I know if they called my name?"

Masses wait, some are better
At this game than others

How strange
To be a place
That no one
Wants to inhabit

Friday, March 25, 2011

Another Long Goodbye

Today we said our Pittsburgh goodbyes
We were able to coax
Puggy to play his drum
It was quick
But we have video evidence
We’ll watch in a few weeks at home
Reassuring ourselves
Of the goodness of this trip

It’s not the last day
That’s tomorrow
When we’ll be up before dawn
To get everyone moving
And off to the airport
Fourteen or so hours
Of flying and waiting
That’s the official end

Saying goodbye with predictable
But honest tears
Reflecting exhaustion, joy, and fear
I will travel the final leg alone
And arriving at home
With a confounded sense of time as
My desire for sleep vacillates
With a restless disquiet

Things Heard in a Van While Driving Students, from the INN, Around Pittsburgh for a Spring Break Mission trip…

It’s Thursday! Seems like we just got here…

Did you see that guy?

Which one?

I feel like we’ve been here forever…

That one, the tall one…

You were supposed to turn back there…

I can’t believe how friendly the people are…

Go around the block and maybe we’ll see him again…

Who made this CD?

I’m getting so much more from them than I’m giving…

How can there be so many empty buildings?

No, I meant back there, that street…

I did. It’s special music for our trip…

What’s for dinner tonight?

I haven’t seen a Starbucks all week…

I’ve never felt so close to a group…

Now you really need to turn around…

I think I’m going to change my major, maybe quit school…

I gotta come back here someday…

My parents will never believe I did this kind of work…

Wait, let me check my phone…

It’s March, it happens.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Everybody’s OK

It didn’t quite
start the day,
but we had to
call 911 before
heading out the door.
(Everybody’s OK; don’t worry.)

Not sure if we lost more
time waiting for the ambulance
or trying to change
a flat in
downtown Pittsburgh.
(Everybody’s OK; don’t worry.)

At lunch I’m driving to
check on the 911 student
when a car crosses in front of me,
hitting the car coming up
in next lane.
(Everybody’s OK; don’t worry.)



Scattered awakenings
Quiet words spoken around the table
A morning message
From a neighborhood pastor

the work day

Cement poured
A sidewalk built
Drain installed
Roof resurfaced

Relationships, old and new,
Explored and empowered


Reflection, conversations
Listen, and listen again
Words, songs, prayers
Rest, sleep, peace


Goals accomplished
Finished projects
Friendships built
And memories shared

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Puggy’s House (That’s Not True)

We spend the day
At Puggy’s House
Listening to stories
Of playing along side
“…famous people…”
Ray Charles and others
“…that you wouldn’t care about.”

He speaks of being thirteen
And making his first recording
“…you know,
(drawing a large circle with his hands)
A big, black record.”
He’s been told it’s on the Internet
But he doesn’t have that

Puggy says
That some people
Say they don’t like his music
“That’s not true,”
Puggy says.
“When I see their foot tap,
I know I got ‘em.”

We climb a rickety ladder
Two stories to strip
A hundred years and untold layers
Of gummy, enmeshed tar paper
From his aged roof
We’ll finish tomorrow
The stripping, at least

Pittsburgh 2011 mission trip
Day 3, Monday

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Church, real church
Wall of sound
Flash of motion
Joy ignites my heart
Passion joins soul and flesh
As songs go on and on

Then the preacher begins
With a delicate whisper that turns
To a holy rage
As the congregation
Stands, claps, shakes
They holler their praise

And then there’s more
Always more

The preacher and the band
A seamless blend of
Prophetic words and
Pulsating sounds
I am enveloped, all of me
And then it’s done

Pittsburgh 2011 day 2

After a morning at Mt Ararat Baptist Church

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Anxious anticipation
Over preparation

Restless sleep
Early rising

Quick goodbyes
Peaceful drive

Intense transition
Stragglers arrive

Rude employee
Endless lines

Flight delayed
No surprise

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I’m Ready

I promised Mom if she grounded me one more time that I was leaving. She never believed me. You gotta understand…a fourth grader can only take so much.

And don’t think I’m stupid. I’ve been preparing. I started saving my allowance and hiding granola bars. Thinking of what to take, where to go. I’m planning.

Parents are meeting with the teacher tonight, getting my grades. I know what’s coming. Two weeks of no TV, no games, no friends after school. Study time.

Can’t do it. Tomorrow, after school, when she sends me to my room, it’s time for action. I’m ready.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lent, again -- a poem for Ash Wednesday

i have posted this before as a reflection on my learning and living within the season Lent.

Lent, again

Small Baptist church
Edge of the city
Family farms were gone
Ever widening streets
Car lots and early stage
Of strip malls
Good people
Almost "country folk"
My mom's people

They knew the Bible
They loved it
They tried to live it
No creeds or rituals so
They believed

Lent was bad, almost evil
Empty routine of
False religion
Catholics and Lutherans
Maybe some others so
Far from faith

Home is not so distant
Four or five hours down the freeway
Decades later, now about four

Yearly ashes to my forehead
The joy of sorrow
The smudge of death
The touch of some pastor
I hardly know

What was once forbidden
Now is my food, my life

I worry for a moment that I may later see
Someone I know at the
Store who won't understand

Six weeks Wednesday at noon
Sitting with Glenn
Sometimes others join us
A hymn or two
Short sermon
Some good, some not

Lunch in the basement
Church cookbook casserole
Creamy salad
Water or tea
Neither of us drink coffee

Talk of family and sports
Maybe the sermon
Church friends and politics
Work updates
We say our goodbyes

Giving up something, maybe
Remembering, anything to help

Holy Week, the beginning with
Sword ferns posing as palms
Maundy Thursday
It took a long time to
Understand the "Maundy"
Good Friday
It's trite,
But who ever thought to
Call it "good?"
The dark, quiet and waiting

Easter and
It's over
Day of joy
Get my life back, again
Not sure I want it
At this cost
The seasons end

I hope it will come again
Next year
Or maybe, I hope
I'll be here next year
To remember that
It happened
Jesus suffered
And I live

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Someone Else’s Story

It would be news, if it weren’t so common.

Local kid makes good. Until another small business fails. A lifetime’s dreams evaporate into legal arguments and red ink. Credit card living bleeds into personal bankruptcy. Divorce and distance from the kids; a typical chapter of this story. Suicidal thoughts fluctuate with counseling appointments and an increased dosage. Until the insurance dries up. A boarded building, an empty house. Another body in line at the mission. The one they used to ignore on the drive to work.

But it’s a recession. These things happen. They’re just supposed to happen to someone else.

In honor of Project Homeless Connect Thursday March 3 in Bellingham.