Friday, October 26, 2012

The Grandeur of God

Everyone, at some point in their life, should walk door-to-door. Should stick their head into a hundred other lives for just a moment, just a glimpse. To enter a hundred different stories. To listen to the patter of little feet, see a little face peer through the window, and hear a little voice: “Mama, it’s someone with a book!” It’s intimidating until the first rude response. Something like “---girl, you must be delusional!!” and the door slams. That over, there’s nothing left to worry about. Just knock on doors. Hundreds ---thousands--- of doors. The sky cries big drops from time to time. Then the sun glowers. But the trees are kind, carpeting the path with red and yellow. The trees. That’s what caught my attention the second day of this fascinating experiment. Rivers of asphalt with cement tributaries. And houses. “There’s a green one and a blue one, a yellow one and a purple one, and they’re all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same.” But that tree, the vibrant living tree. There it stood to weather all seasons. In the spring time, it laughed green life and, here in the autumn, it was a flame of yellow and red. And everyone just walks by. I began looking around. Sure enough, there were signs of life. Wind swept loudly between the corrugated houses, demanding attention. Everyone just pulled their hoods on tighter. Some trees clapped their hands. Others were bold enough to throw chestnuts and apples at passers by, who kicked them out of their way and hurried on. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” The sun stared brightly. “It will flame out like shining from shook foil. It gathers to a greatness” and gushes between the clouds. Crooked sidewalk lay tired, chipped and uneven. “Generations have trod, have trod, have trod.” Garage doors left open, with old men welding or tinkering on their cars. “All is seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toil.” Oil spills seeping into driveways. “And wears man’s smudge.” Cigarette butts littered the porches. “And shares man’s smell: the soil is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.” Shod. One aching foot in front of the other. “And for all this, nature is never spent.” An alyssum sneaking through a wire fence and, failing to catch anyone’s attention, let loose a honey like perfume. “There lives the dearest, freshest, deep down things.” Thin green spears of grass poked up through dark soil where a new lawn was brightly beginning. The sun was sinking low in the sky. Finally, the trek back to the car. But “though the last lights off the black West went, Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs. Because the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

rye bread

Jewish rye. I slid one, two pieces into the toaster before cracking a couple of brown eggs onto the sizzling griddle. Rye -- as much a part of my identity as my shoe size. Or the scar beside my lip. I can still see her pulling that long loaf out of her brown paper shopping bag (so much like a magician's hat), "For Nay, because she loves rye bread." And there in my little hands lay a fragrant brown loaf, that-morning-fresh from Gale's bakery. She had breezed through the door only 2 minutes before. Very much, come to think of it, like a rabbit popping unexpectedly out of a magician's hat. And suddenly a dozen wild little arms had surrounded her, and half as many shrill voices screamed "Grandma!" (I have my suspicions that she lived for those greetings). Then we'd all turn to the brown paper sac that had been dropped, or confiscated, or thrown to a chair in the fury of wild hugging. Out came the inevitable candy for James, a necklace for Sarah, a book for Rebekah, and always, there was rye bread for Nay. I can't even recall how the little tradition started. I suppose I must have enjoyed a piece one time, and she remembered. What I remember is the dignity of owning an entire loaf all by myself. That, and the dozen or so slices forgotten, dried up in the back of the bread drawer two weeks after she'd flown. The toaster dings. Two crusty slices of Jewish rye pop up. Very much, now that I think about it, like a rabbit popping out of a magician's hat.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I probably should have phoned in sick and dropped my drowsy head back onto my pillow. But I didn’t. I crawled out of bed, made myself look alive and drove to the restaurant. It was a busy Saturday. I hurried around coffeeing cups and seating people. A long line of costumers were adding up at the counter, so I ran to the register and turned to the first customer
“How was everything?”
“Do you really want to know?” he threatened.
I knew I didn‘t. but I couldn’t think of a proper stall. So I reluctantly answered,
He leaned over the counter and snarled,
“Well, my wife wanted to do a simple substitution and the waitress wouldn’t let her. Then the waitress got my order wrong. And she didn’t even come back to fill our water glasses even once.”
Usually I let it roll off my back. But just then my emotional stamina was thinner than tissue paper. My mind felt thick and heavy like mud. I was exhausted. I ached. At his words, my heart just sank and shriveled. I didn’t have the energy to respond, so I mumbled something about being sorry and it’s busy this morning. And he turned away muttering something about leaving reviews on internet sights.

Feeling like a fly zinged by an electric zapper, I cautiously glanced up into the eyes of the next customer. Before I could even open my mouth, he blurted out:
“Everything was fine!”
Something revived. I counted out his change and from the very bottom of my heart replied, “Thank you!”
And the next customer stepped up and answered, grinning:
“It was perfect.”

A well written antidote should stand on it’s own feet, unhampered by a sappy moral at the end. But if I were going to add anything, I’d merely comment on how nice it is when a whole line of open-eyed people see beyond the job someone is working and recognize a real person. And I’d probably remark on what a happy difference observant people can make in an ordinary somebody’s day.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


What could I,
But press my palm against my trembling lip?
And clench my tongue between my teeth lest slip
Accusing words, and angry whys
Hiccupped between hot tears.

Why beat a brick
Wall, as if my fist could break it?
Back of my tears I could not shake
Knowledge of a gentle Builder,
Who lays harsh stones with
Careful mercy.

If not beat,
Then yield, thought I. Let another
Reap from my sorrow. Let some boon
Seep from my tears - what though
The gain be His who pressed, not mine
Who bore?

Though tears,
My heart ached still to live and longed
To give to Him. To Him who had begun
All that was receding from my grasping. And I cried,
“Then break me!
Only let your glory shine through my breaking!
The fruit that swells and blushes on the bush
Watered by my tears; the years spent bent
Above the whistling flame; the first-fruits of my pain
Are Yours.”

So said I.
And struggle done, and thinking the gain from each
Pin-poke of my pain His, I turned to live a hundred
Long tomorrows. I didn’t know that I had wrestled out
My peace. While weeping, hot tears had cleansed. Pressed beneath
His thumb, I could not wriggle from His gaze. Prayer, wrung
From my reluctant soul, wove a ladder to the face of
God Himself.

His, perhaps, the glory-harvest.
But through spring’s slow season, no fruit shows. Yet
My soul breathes in fragrance oozing from sweet,
Fresh-burst blossom. My eyes drink the pink and white
Sight of bloom.
My peace has sprung.

Friday, May 21, 2010


“Shall I say this morning, yet again, The prayer I prayed through last night’s falling rain?
The first ‘I love You so’
-said some hundred million words ago-
Said again, silent and slow,
Because You already know.
I wonder if, dim and dull from use, You tire of hearing
the chant - predictable; a plod
Of well-worn boots that beat the clod
Of well-worn, time-worn paths.”


I walked at sun’s rising: another clear, fair dawn.
And heard again the sweet, the familiar,
The ruddy-breasted robin call
To a bird in birches, white and tall,
Clean in the young summer sun.
A bold, warm, climbing sun,
Dazzling the dew drops, each one
A diamond. And grass, green and bright
Catching soft, yellow light.

I walked a midnight-path, the hundredth time,
Bewitched by the moon-trance,
Gaze at the star dance,
Brushed by a cool, dry breeze
That rustled through trees
Which cast dark lines
Across the grey ground.
And like each midnight, every hundred misted-midnights that I’d walked before,
I sighed. Delighted.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Why the center?
Why the very core?
Where all the fibers of my being thread to a crossing;
Where hopes meet joys, meet abilities, meet heart.
Where I set my soul’s finger when pointing to very me -
Why strike there?

Why strike there,
Yet still so gently?
Not a gushing wound or stab of knife,
But a pluck of pain, an ache, a tear drop, a sigh.
Constant, no flee from, no fly from, no dream away.
A steady sorrow.

Could, could it be
You go beyond?
Beyond my satisfaction, my sanctifying, beyond my soul?
Could it be that mirrored off me, my tears, Your glory glows brighter?
Your glory?

Why? Why glory
Through broken pieces?
Does not an artist make a new, a noble, a whole, a bright?
Does not a maker create, combine, protect, let live?
Then why do You tear down?

Through broke down wall,
Of stacked stone,
Sun streams, bright beams, bright gleams, and warmth.
Does Your Light shine through my brokenness clearer than me whole?
Then break me.

But only if in breaking,
You keep.
Not like flame quenched, shattered glass, discarded toy.
But like pink bud burst from pruned branches,
Or sun shone sweeter through cut-glass window.
Let Your glory shine
Through my breaking.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Pitter-patter, gloomy-grey,
Wiling-wind, wet-dreary day,
But why, my Heart, why the dismay?

Wind-tug tree-twigs tumble toss
Scatter leaves the road across,
But Heart, why pressed at so light loss?

Worry, wonder-wishing-why,
Weakens soul with sagging sigh,
Be strong, my Heart, make no reply.

World washed clear by winter rain
Springs up fresh-green grass again.
So faith unfolds in flinch of pain.

Earth and Heaven yield rich boon:
Plod white path plum-blossom strewn;
Hold silent-sleeping, silk cocoon;
Finger sea-shell, wave-whipped-hewn;
Trace bright silver ring ‘round moon;
Warm summer sun, my Heart, dawns soon.