When the Bough Breaks

A few years ago a back hoe levelled a part of our yard so we could build a patio. I was shocked to see the size of the tree roots that were exposed some 50 feet away from the towering maples on the edge of the yard. I cowered under those trees once during a fierce storm, astonished at the buffeting they withstood. It was reassuring to recall the breadth and depth of that root system as I huddled there, terrified the tree would be uprooted.

Storms hit our lives. Young/old, wealthy/poor, male/female – it’s an equal opportunity promise and there is nothing we can do to prevent them. Sickness, relationship problems, finances, “…in this world you will have troubles.” Yes, some are self induced and wisdom would prevent them, but others are simply the inevitable part of living in a PlanB world. I have experienced a few such storms and they can be scary. But being anchored deep in Jesus’ love and wisdom has helped me withstand the winds that could have uprooted my life. (It’s always sad to see massive trees felled after a particularly harsh storm.) I want the storms that come my way to send my roots down even deeper while the winds rattle me. I may lose the odd branch – those not so healthy and thriving ones, but I am confident that I will stand.

I learned this little kid’s song at camp last summer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeUBnWrh280&list=RDMeUBnWrh280&start_radio=1 I’m sure it’s cringeworthy for the accomplished musicians but the sentiment is solid and I find myself singing it when I need a reminder.

When The Bough Breaks

Cynics say we spend our lives
grasping for the branches
in a void devoid
of love or purpose.
Hollow hours and shallow goals
are all we can expect.
Hope is the enemy.

So they stamp out
flickering wicks
in tinder dry hearts,
dash embers of truth
with bitter water.
But as for me,
I'll reap the broken branches
of my storm tossed life,
and implore the Lord for fire.
Each blazing brand
shall show the way
'til I stand in
His light.


Beneath are the everlasting arms.

Pronouns

No, I’m not going to ask you for yours or offer mine. I wrote this long before that was a topic of discussion.

Years ago I took a writing course at Regent College in Vancouver BC, taught by the wonderful Luci Shaw. It was a smallish class, possibly 30 people, from around the US and Canada. And some of them were superb writers. I’d never had any writing instruction before and it was sobering, (oh the revising and trashing ahead.) And challenging. And helpful. I loved every minute of it.

Luci is 91 now, and I just watched a video of her bungee jumping off a cliff – from, I really hope, at least 2 decades ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL2PExlczrU In this little clip she discusses her book ‘The Crime of Living Cautiously’. (Perhaps there has never been a more important time to let your light shine – take a risk- jump.)

While taking the course I stayed with my daughter, who lived about a block off Broadway, the main thoroughfare that goes out to UBC. And that bus, the 99, gets crowded. It was a dismal morning, low overcast and a hard rain. I ran for the bus, umbrella flapping, backpack swinging, grabbing the one remaining seat at the front. This lovely tableau played out right before my eyes, and it was so touching I turned it into a poem before the day was over.

Pronouns

He, the last to board the 99,
stood, dripping, 
with his back to 
our ragged circle 
at the front of the bus.

We eight, 
a stratum of humanity,
whirling in isolated orbits,
appraised,  
labeled, 
and dismissed him -
in less than a breath.

You, 
so completely other, 
young, male, ebony,
wrestled with two restless children,
wrestled with the weight of parenthood.

I, unprepared for incarnation,
listened as you lectured 
and then chastened your young daughter.
“How would you feel if he did that to you?”

Your eyes met mine, 
questioning. 
“You’re doing fine,” mine replied.
We shared a shrug, a smile,
returned to our solitary orbits.
Then -

he, turned to the steamy window
and with a grubby finger
drew a heart on its canvas -
a heart, and then, within, 
an arrow. 
An arrow that pierced eight hearts.
An arrow, like lightning,
that lit the sodden morning with sudden joy.

We collided in orbit,
smiled sheepishly at one another,
as we absorbed  the weight 
of that word.

He stepped from the bus
 the instant I recalled that other outcast,
(who’d stooped to write a message in the sand.)

I turned to catch his face
but only caught the sliver of his neck, 
where ragged hair and ragged collar met.




John 8: 1-10

…neither do I condemn you…

Houseguest

When I was buying a new bed a few years back, the saleman asked me how long I wanted my guests to stay. Apparently there are beds that are comfortable indefinitely, for three days or maybe not even overnight. I’m sure we’ve all had guests we can apply to each of those categories – no nightmare stories please.

I feel like it took me an inordinately long time to know what it was I was meant to do as a follower of Jesus. It would be humiliating to tell you all the twists and bumps and turns I’ve made along the way, but a close reading of Pilgrim’s Progress would reveal some of them. If the Bible spoke ‘webspeak’ I’m sure we would see Jesus doing SMH often. And emojis! Fortunately he is patient, long suffering, gracious and merciful. And boy, have I drawn on all those qualities.

So, I like this poem. It reminds me that what he really wants is just a little space.

Houseguest

Some gods demand we crawl on broken glass to meet them,
 ascend mountains to learn of them, 
or keep a thousand rules to please them.
You simply asked to move in.

Then, (like some crazy relative) - 
you  arrived -
 with luggage for a lifetime.

I laugh at our  future, 
shrinking space
on the shelves
of my life
while 
you
   unpack.

Two final things. First, my sister, who poor dear was forced to share a room with me for a few years could tell you I was almost as messy as the first picture shows. Certainly my life needed that much reordering.

And secondly. I can’t wait to find out what’s inside the striped suitcase.

Just Jammin

Over the years I have written dozens and dozens of little ditties, on birthdays and anniversaries, for friends and relatives to honor them and/or poke fun at them. Writing for my grandchildren has been a way for me to communicate the delight I have in both them and poetry.

A BREAKFAST POEM FOR LUKE
 
My grandmother really likes toe jam on toast.
Of all of the jams she likes toe jam the most.
Oh there's raspberry, stawberry, blueberry too,
But she likes the stuff that I stuff in my shoe.

So I scrape it and save it and when there's a lot
Mummy and I cook it up in a pot.
We throw in some sugar and give it a stir.
Then we pour it in jars and we send it to her.

She tells me that when she is terribly lonely for me.
She gets out her toe jam and has toast and tea.
The one thing my grandmother really does savour -
Is Luke’s Yummy Toe Jam - her favorite flavor.

Hide and Seek

Several years ago a friend and I went out several nights a week with food, warm clothes and toiletries to minister to the about then 100 homeless people in our city. We knew many of them by name, knew some of their stories and what the factors were that led them to life on the street. It was a hearbreaking experience with just enough hope and humanity to make it bearable. So much despair. So much pain.

From there I went on to cook in a shelter for men. It was quite an adventure and I had many delightful and hilarious experiences there. ( I share about this in more detail on the cooking page of the blog.) I tried to write a sitcom about that experience when I quit working there, but I didn’t enjoy the process. If you know someone who writes screenplays I have a great pitch.

One of the take-aways I found from working there was that the line dividing the well-heeled and the down-at-the -heels is not as clear as some might think. Those groups have more in common than either would admit. The clients at the shelter were more aware of their brokenness and more likeable in their humility and transparency.

This poem came out of my observations during those years.

That Homeless Man is My Brother. Why he Doesn't Just “Get a Job” | by Megan  Regnerus | P.S. I Love You

Hide and Seek

He is hiding from the addict 
and He's crying, "Try to find me,"
And He's hiding from the hooker
looking for another john.

He is hiding in the city
where the streets run red with shame.
He is hiding in the garbage
with the fetus with no name.

He's hiding in the squalor
of the squat where children weep.
He's hiding in the lullaby 
they shoot to get to sleep.

He's hiding in the cocaine,
He's hiding in the crack,
and his blood is crying softly,
"Try to find me."

He’s hiding in the 
Better Homes and Gardens magazine,
in the neat and shiny places
where the chaos isn't seen.

In the halls of power and wealth
where, “We're doing just fine thanks,”
He is hiding, He is hiding
He is hiding in their ranks.

And the substitutes can't cut it - 
they are counterfeits and lies
for the love that constant cries 
"Try to find me."

But his ear is finely tuned
for just one cry, “ I'm lost.”
and He will find you, He will find you
no matter what the cost.


Luke 15: 4&5







Believing is Seeing

Although born into a home where faith was scorned, I found myself believing in God from childhood onwards. To my unjaded eyes the wonder and order of the natural world not just spoke but had stamped on every surface, Created by God.  How could anyone think otherwise? Indeed. 

As a teen and young adult I had several transcendant moments, and though I had no idea what they meant, they did cause me to reject a materialist worldview. Something was out there. Possibly someone. Although I wasn’t spending any time trying to solve the mystery, I did think it important enough that I would not have married someone who didn’t agree.

And when everything is running smoothly and life is easy – why rock the boat? But darker days come don’t they ? Days when you just don’t get it. Why me? What have I done to deserve this? How long?

While it certainly doesn’t feel good, those are perhaps the most fruitful times in our lives – if – and it’s a big if, we don’t look for ways to kill the pain. Pain is a good thing. It’s a message to our souls that something is amiss. There are so many ways to kill the pain. I’ve tried many. But if you want to grow, want life, the healthiest thing to do is embrace the pain. Let it do its work. It’s worth it.


Believing is Seeing 

No one told me he had died
so when God called,
 I answered.
I told him all my secrets.
He told me some of his.

I hid every word
 like a child at the beach
stashing shells and rocks 
 in a  sturdy cardboard box,
to store the ocean’s roar
for landlocked days.

Time passed, light lapsed.

   Pleasure played me,
   gravity grabbed me. 
  The simple awe of knowing him
  got  shoved on a shelf 
  at the back of the closet,
got lost in the  dust -
  just a sock under the bed.

Cataracts formed on my spirit
eclipsing  the ambient light.
Not strobe - nor neon,
neither particle nor wave 
 pierced that night.
All were dulled,
palled by the shroud 
that clouded my soul.

The road is hard in the dark.

    A ray of hope from home today,
  a poignant  parcel sent my way.
   The scribbled note had this to say,
 "I found them in a  closet and 
I couldn’t throw them out.”

An ocean of  recollection 
washed  out of the box,
         a high tide of light          
 that had been ebbing out
for decades.
     Longside a stretched out lumpy sock,
        lay conches, whelks, the tumbled rocks!

Majesty and mystery,
 essence of the mighty sea,
 clung to them like limpets.

     From the sock, still intact, 
       a silent starfish blazed with fact,
        the blinding truth that I had lacked.

     Light finds its source in Him.
 

————————————

Heart Surgery

John 15. 1-5

I have kept a journal, where I can safely  express the deep longings and raw struggles of my heart for decades. It is Lois 1.0 where I pour out my  soul to God. Unedited. He can handle it.

But writing poetry is different. For me, at least, that is a process of elimination, purification and distillation. Each  word must serve the vision. No freeloaders allowed. This process is both painstaking and painful as it often involves some serious soul searching.

This poem was born of a difficult experience that exposed some not very lovely parts of my character. How often it’s those soul crushing events that reveal our true motivations and idols. I’m overwhelmingly grateful that God sees, cares and knows how to deal with my sometimes stubborn heart.

Consent  
Yes, Lord, is protocol. 
 My howling, "No!' shatters the stratosphere. 
Shock waves reverberate.
 You are not moved.
 
Lord presumes sovereign.
I assume benevolent,
 kindly, like Santa, 
a lamb not a lion.
 
Now you come at me with pruning shears,
 like a gardener bent on bonsai,
 now a surgeon with a scalpel, 
 now a soldier with a sword. 

But that first yes was substance, 
and every howling no  rings hollow. 
Your various blades work to one sure purpose: 
carving out a space for love in the jungle  of my heart. 

After, lo, these many decades, I can honestly say He has yet to make an unnecessary cut.

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