poetry

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father
Who art in heaven
hallowed be thy name.

That name,
The name we cannot tame,
And would not aim to try.

For your name’s above all names,
Relentlessly shows its fame,
And effortlessly holds its claim.

Your name it is holy.
Your name is the only
One that can
Be known as the I Am.

And so we stay
In your presence,
And we pray
Here in deference
And we ask:

May Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done.
It can be done;
It will be done;
The work’s begun

On earth
As it is in heaven

In you and me,
Friends, can you see
The we that we would be
If he’d not set us free
To be the we
That he
Can make us be?

Our lives are exchanged.
Our hearts have been changed.
Our passions rearranged.

And he has beseeched us,
Unleashed us,
Bequeathed us

The keys to his kingdom,
The work that must be done.
Here and now
We can plant and plow
He will show us how.

So don’t wait.
Don’t hesitate.
Don’t let it percolate,
Or let time confiscate
The power
We have in this day and hour.

My brothers and sisters,
We cannot resist this;
It is our existence
To become his assistants,
To make exchange,
To enact change,
To rearrange,
All in his name.

So that when we say,
“Give us this day
our daily bread,”

We mean instead:

Please, God, give unto us
The things that you have for us
That will make us victorious.

But first we must attend
To the things we must amend,
And the ways we still pretend
To be something other
Than the life you’ve uncovered.

So search our hearts and know us,
And show us
The brokenness in us.

Bring to mind our lapses,
And forgive us our trespasses.
Let the light of your face
Erase
My disgrace.
Replace
The trappings of this place
By the power of your grace.

For it’s by you we live
And give
As we forgive.
And choose not to pass judgments
On those who affront us
who trespass against us.

Perfection forgave us
And gives us
The means for forgiveness
Of others.

In your mighty name
Remove all our stains,
And precede us,
And lead us 
not into temptation
But
towards your redemption
Made possible by your preemption
of death.

Father, please deliver us
From evil
that may hinder us.

For we find ourselves connected
To the power that resurrected.
That power
It has seized us,
It frees us,
Sin flees us
because we have seen Jesus!

My mind cannot fathom
The wonder that can come,
That has come
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power,
And the glory.
For ever and ever
Amen.

See a performance of this piece.

I Used To Pray For Dreams

In those moments before sleep slipped
me into its hypnotist’s
trance and silence,
I’d ask God to tell me stories.
I’d wish for them like presents wrapped in paper,
surreal surprises,
joys too big for boxes.

My head upon my pillow,
I used to call up a kind of catalogue,
a running list I’d keep
of what I’d like to meet
once I’d lost count of sheep.

Before slumber
took me under it’s spell
I’d recall in
my mind’s eye a heavy volume
of black and white drawings—
crocodiles, 
ventriloquists, 
trapeze, 
bows and arrows, 
and thingamajig contraptions—
carefully selecting one or two things
before asking God to weave them into my dreams,
into impossible adventures.

I'd listen to classical music, 
staticky and tinny
from my tiny
powder-blue alarm-clock-radio, 
and imagine ballets and battles,
initiating the weaving of the webs
I wished my dreams would finish.

I'd squeeze my eyes shut tight
until whole galaxies of stars
of blue and yellow and pink
would spin and sparkle
and I’d fly out among them
and beg to be flown further
while I was under.

Then somewhere along the way I stopped. 

Maybe they became profane or vain
or all too real, 
no longer revealing places I longed to go. 
I don't know.

Perhaps
I dismissed all of this
as fantasy
and naiveté— 
the unsophisticatedness
of childhood bliss.
But I wish
only this:
to dream again!

Fight the Headlines

Have you looked at the news of late, at what new calamities the world can create all plastered on the front page as if we're all upon the stage of some Greek tragedy?

There is a crazed racket of noise voiced by the newspapers and news anchors on televisions, all repeating renditions of doom and gloom that leave little room for hope.

Wars rage on the very first page, and the page after that asserts that this or that spat will in fact become a war tomorrow.

And on page three are the refugees who flee those wars only to wash up on shores where they're not wanted.

Page four has more, from terrorist acts to economic collapse lined up by first drafts of a peace accord that went ignored while everyone went on fighting.

And all of this unease has high degrees of complexities, which means that we can't easily solve the world's pollutions with simple conclusions or quick-fix solutions. And so all of my disillusions only grow.

And I ask: What have we done to the world we come from? When hopelessness pervades the prayer that I've prayed is that we won't we have to lie in the bed that we've made.

And we cry out to God for Mercy. And his answer to us is His son, Jesus.

For on Friday a crown of thorns sat upon his brow but by Sunday an empty tomb held the promise that now the worst of kinds of news can be redeemed and infused with hope.

Jesus, Silence the news and the views of those who would tell us that the world will come to nothing for you are the thing the world will come to. You. Only you.

These headlines that roll on will not be the words that I stand on for my hope is built on the one who gave me breath and whose power conquered death!

Yes, death has been swallowed up in victory! So fear and these headlines have nothing on me. And in the face of whatever news I might be given I will declare this one headline: "Jesus has risen!"

Good Friday

The things I learn by being a parent are countless. The most cherished things I've learned are those that give me greater insight into the paternal heart of the Father. Wendell Berry (one of my favorite writers) gives us this.  

The Way of Pain

1.

For parents, the only way is hard. We who give life give pain. There is no help. Yet we who give pain give love, by pain we learn the extremity of love.

2.

I read of Abraham’s sacrifice the Voice required of him, so that he led to the altar and the knife his only son. The beloved life was spared that time, but not the pain. It was the pain that was required.

3.

I read of Christ crucified, the only begotten Son sacrificed to flesh and time and all our woe. He died and rose, but who does not tremble for his pain, his loneliness, and the darkness of the sixth hour? Unless we grieve like Mary at His grave, giving Him up as lost, no Easter morning comes.

4.

And then I slept, and dreamed the life of my only son was required of me, and I must bring him to the edge of pain, not knowing why. I woke, and yet that pain was true. It brought his life to the full in me. I bore him suffering, with love like the sun, too bright, unsparing, whole.”

Excerpt From: Wendell Berry. “New Collected Poems.”