Is it me—this chasm void
that hangs in shadowed clouds
like distance folded, folds again
and makes this little space
a distance none of us can bridge?

The guarded silence in your eyes
tells more than all the bolstered words
poured out, and pouring
fuel the contradiction in your voice.

It’s not the skeletons I fear—
buried in the self-defense
of systems laid and structures made—
the untold truths you wear
in smiles free of doubt.

It’s that—in pouring—I talk the shape
of every feeling never felt
and wear the trappings of your heart
cast off like clothes asunder.

Taking every smile when you depart,
all the words of confidence—there remains
the echo of words that never
should have gone unspoken,
and I am left to weep these bitter tears alone.

But in the night, when even moths have given o’re
I scrape the barnacles of shale
that—leaching—haunt my gentle sleep
till scale-like fall and leave untroubled:
I rest, content, alone.


Waiting and Sand

At dawn, the world seems small, and I seem big. Not so the day when the fullness of trouble breaks in upon me, and I am small and frail. The hopeful possibility of those early moments fade—I consider the cry of injustice, war, hunger, and loneliness. What great a response is required?

But a look at the moments of my days, and no such greatness is found among them—moments of an encouraging note, the occasional prayer, and fleeting laughter intermingled with the making of meals and beds, gathering of dust, removal of spider webs, and the hand-washing of a cup. These cumulative acts of my day are sand, sand in a flood of need that cries for a Rock to stem the flowing tide of tears.

And what do we get when we add up all the moments of Jesus’ life in the Gospels—stacking miracle against miracle like some stack of cards—unbroken (like some sleepless never-ending “final’s week”) by fatigue or food. What do we get of all his words and works? Two months? Three? Half a year? And what of the other 35.5 years of Jesus’ life—where are they? We have no record of long walks from this town to that, or the hours passed in fervent labor of textiles in his carpentry shop. Rumor has it that there remained in use—for nearly a hundred years after his death—plows made by the Carpenter Jesus. Never to be gathered by relic-seeking followers, they continued to break the ground year after year in hopes that once again life might come from the barren soil.

The world is full of the unexpected—like the clump of Fescue growing from the top of a slatted moon-gate, planted no doubt by some nest-building bird. Like the doe in Queeny Park, too unawake in her morning breakfast to be started by me. She watches, only half interested in my passing. And there is the man, just standing at the crossroads of two paths in the park—standing, and waiting, as though he had nothing else to do. He gestures a wavy finger at me as I pass, and whether his intention is greeting or warning, I cannot tell. Looking back, I could see him still standing there, as though certain that 5:30 AM in a mist-covered path in some city park was exact place of his arranged waiting. Perhaps he is still waiting now.

I think of Geronimo, the 40-something Belizean who looks 60, oblivious to the mosquitoes that covered him, the silly grin on his face at having killed a deadly Coral snake with one blow of his machete. And he is frozen in the picture I took—waiting. And I think of the Esmeralda, working with the children that live on the streets in Mexico, and how she waits every day for them to come to the shelter. Sometimes they come, and sometimes she just waits. And I think of orphaned children of Peru waiting for adoption, and the widowed Babushkee of Ukraine—just waiting. Waiting for Jesus.

And I think of Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins. They waited and in the end what did they get? Frodo got to board the last westward bound ship. Sam got a wife and children and the Shire. But what if someone can’t pick—what if he wants to go west and still have the Shire? Like Paul—wanting to leave and wanting to stay and not being able to choose between. He was waiting.

Maybe that is what heaven is—on that day when men don’t have to stand in early morning parks waiting, on that day when Jesus returns—that we will not have to choose. Maybe the leaving and the staying, the coming and the going will all be the same thing. Maybe it will be like the children of Narnia who—on that last great day when they saw the sun go out and the world grow cold, and watched as Aslan shut the door on Narnia—only to turn and find that in here (that is, in the bigness of the stable-turned-world) is all the true beauty of Narnia retained. Maybe we will climb aboard the last westward bound ship and arrive on the other shore to find it is everything we have left behind. Maybe every goodbye will be a greeting. Maybe, in heaven, every journey out will lead us home again, and we will say to one another, “All roads lead home.”

Until then, we wait, and choose between this or that decision and knowing that all our best actions are sand—sand when what the world needs is a Rock, a Fortress, a Stronghold and Deliverer.

Day ends—I think of the man waiting in the park. Is he still waiting? I have begun to wonder what God will do with all this sand and—with a sigh—take up another cup to wash.


What Good is Hospitality?

The world is falling apart. Sexual promiscuity, personal indulgence, greed, gluttony, and irresponsible choice are rampant—and that’s just our culture. Elsewhere, political and religious wars rage, while scandal and corruption abound. With so much at stake, what good is a little hospitality?

The consumption of food is an intrinsically communal act—relationship is an ingredient, not the accidental occasion of a common hunger. Consider the presentation of 10 different kinds of bread and grains to the Pope on his most recent US visit, presented not to curb his hunger or satisfy his needs but to communicate a relationship, some shared appreciation—human, but more than a bestial satiation. Nearly all sacrifices of the Old Testament Jewish world were edible in nature—demonstrating more the basic necessities of the worshiper than the worshipped.

Whereas some want to make the case that healthy and unhealthy dietary patterns begin with the food, I would suggest that it beings with the company and conversation. People who eat alone are more prone to unhealthy dietary habits. They eat too much (no one to share with), they eat too fast (no conversation to break up speed of consumption), they eat too little (no one else to serve or pace with), or they eat the wrong kinds of food (no one to encourage otherwise).

In fact, much evidence points to a deeper human hunger which, when absent from our meals, lends to patterns of neglect and abuse (of food, that is). It isn’t a vitamin or mineral or ingredient—something to be printed on the side of packaging. Simply speaking—it is the hunger of relationship.

Lonely, we feed ourselves for comfort. Disgusted, we punish ourselves with denial. Angry, we abuse without consideration of consequences—“a moment on the lips…” In each, food is but symptom—in each case some deeper need remains unsatisfied.

The link between the physical realities of food—the body’s need for nutrients—and the non-physical, spiritual (mystical if you prefer) qualities is inseparable. In most religions, patterns of feasting and fasting portray the posture of the adherent before his divine. Somehow, that humanity’s first parents fell from grace over food; somehow—in some way utterly absent in other animals as they consume food—our consumption of food is linked to the condition of our emotional and spiritual needs. Like the birds that mysteriously fly back to a long-abandoned birthplace in order to hatch another generation—we, men and women, in our eating somehow taste the longing and bitterness of those first human parents; and our connection with them.

We may silence the voice of certain understanding with a second helping of dessert, or dismiss the hope of a joyful, full-family meal as some antiquated practice that lives on only in black and white movies. But in our dreams, in our longing for food, we find that satisfaction is fleeting when the fellowship of good company is the absent ingredient of our daily meals.

What good is hospitality? An opportunity to unfold the wrinkles of dismality and partake of a meal of care, of fellowship, of love—like a walk in a garden, in the cool of the day.