Monday, April 30, 2012

A reasonable request

All I’m talking about is one meal
I’d settle for a snack
You could fix something
Or take me out
Drive-thru if it’s easier
I’m not asking for much
Just food
I mean, a soul’s gotta eat…

But when I am
Doing my usual dance
That is politely
Referred to as multi-tasking
That intersection of
Busy, erratic activity
I ignore the voice of
Or stuff it with any available filler

Like the grade school white paste,
Not the Elmer’s,
This stuff was thick, almost dry
Some kids liked to eat it
I’m guessing it was safe,
Though void of nutrients,
Thankfully it wasn’t going
To kill anyone

I preferred crayons that
Reminded me of wax lips and moustaches
I’d buy at the candy store and
Jam in my pocket
With the collected detritus
That could tell my life story
Until my Mom would
Wash away it away

Monday, April 23, 2012

I was thinking (2)

I was thinking
I’d go for a walk

Down to the library
To return a book
With a title I can’t remember
And that I never opened

Then stop by the post office
And pick up my mail

Check the creek for salmon
It’s time for their run home
Thrashing through rocks and current
To a soon and certain death

But I looked out the window
And saw the bucket
Filled with water
From last week’s showers

Raindrops began to bounce
From the surface
Fulfilling the forecasts
I’d hoped were not true

Friday, April 13, 2012

We're not in Kansas any more...

My Mom was born in the “country” — (very) small town, rural America. Everybody had some “property,” used outhouses and water pumps and had a few animals — everybody, that is, except the ones with more property and “real” farms. Animals, seasons and the earth were the substance of life.
After getting up early Sunday to milk cows and check on the rest of their livestock, they’d make their way to church. When the pastor retold biblical stories with images of animals and shepherds, the connection was quick and clear. Heads would nod. They still had the smell of animals on their shirts and, more so, caked to their boots.
As a child some fifty years ago, I visited a few of those farms and family members. I milked a cow or two, ate vegetables, chicken or rabbit that the family had raised. But that’s about it. I soon returned to my suburban home and life. The farms are long gone and my memories are vague.
I’ve read the books and heard the sermons. Passionate efforts to help me get it, to understand what Jesus was saying and to somehow better understand Him, to get the depth of value there is in seeing Jesus as a shepherd. But it generally leads to a disconnected understanding that is little more than intellectual information. This seems so far from the intent.
Jesus was living with people; he was sharing stories and lessons with the people he lived with. It was common ground on all levels. They lived in the same place, at the same time; they had a shared economy and job market. They ate the same food and tried to avoid the same scorching sun. They shared the desperation for water when the rain was too long absent. They were frustrated with the same government and told the same jokes. To connect the stories to life was easy.
Now we try to take the stories, fueled with images of a moment and place we can little understand and force them into our stories, or force our stories into them. Either way it comes up lacking.
Years ago I heard that in the 1800s, missionary movements were floundering in Alaska. Then some bright priest in the Orthodox Church got an idea. Somehow he figured out, These people have no concept of what the Lamb of God is. They had never seen or heard of lambs until we got here.  I don’t know if it was a serendipitous moment of awareness or a long process of discovery (I’m betting and praying it wasn’t the work of a committee) but an idea became a reality.
The idea was to reshape the story of Jesus. Jesus became the whale of God. And the Native Alaskans understood. The whale was the source of life, food, work, clothing, heat, medicine and more. The connection was clear, quick and deep. Orthodox churches spread across Alaska and still can be found in many communities.
I have to admit I have struggled with my inability to find a similar connection for retelling the story in my setting. But I refuse to settle for forcing the old trappings on others and myself. I believe it is about entering into the essence of the life and teachings of Jesus. If the shepherd image is helpful, great. If not, keep searching. And if you find something better for this twenty-first century, post-modern(?), urban/suburban, technology/information driven, affluent society in an economic downturn, please, please let me know.
May God have mercy on us all.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Yet still...

Another day of Pagan rituals blended
With evangelical fervor
We squint through the twilight
Morning, standing damp-footed
In dewy, cemetery grass
For yet another sunrise service

I bow my all to Easter

Relatives and once-a-year attenders
Drawn by the scorn of a long
Gone grandma or some family curse,
Now days called expectations,
Arrive at church

I bow my all to Easter

Brunch in the basement
Between services for
Egg and bread casserole
Hastily made the night before
With fruit and dry ham, barely warm

I bow my all to Easter

Overflowing sanctuary
New bright colored dresses
And enough ladies hats to force
Even the most polite teenage boys
To smirk and jab their friends

I bow my all to Easter

Similar sermon with
A “zippy” new title, louder
Does not make it different
Or better, there is one
Easter story, get over it

I bow my all to Easter

“He is risen.” “He is risen indeed!”
Some shout, others mumble
The silent few, hope not to be noticed
Their obligation is clear
Attendance “yes,” participation “no”

I bow my all to Easter

Families, friends gather for dinner
Kids search for quickly hidden eggs
A few may not be found ‘til July 4
Too much food and obvious table talk
Candy, pictures and goodbyes

I bow my all to Easter

Cars chase dusk, disappear around the corner
A messy house, colored egg shells,
Shiny foil wrappers, flimsy colored plastic grass
Dishes to wash, leftovers to organize,
Should have sent more with the others

Yet still, I bow my all to Easter

original post: April 2009