Archive for June, 2009

Shall We Gather at the River?

June 29, 2009 11 comments

I grew up in a small church.  A church filled with hill people transplanted to the northern cities in Ohio.  You can take the people out of the hills but you really can’t take the hills out of the people.  They were earthy people that had a natural bent to be just who they were.

There the type of people who would know what a poultice was, how to make one, and when one should be used.  They thrived on home remedies, superstitions, and a way of life that was just more laid back than what I see today.  That last remark is not say that they were lazy because that was not the case, at least, not any more than any other segment of society that I could point out.

Last evening I was reminded of those hill people from my youth not by a person but by an activity.  Its an amazing story so I hope you will take a moment and read this.


Her real name is not Anna but that is what her friends call her.  She’s a petite young lady with long dark hair that brings out the color of her light brown eyes.  Anna’s heritage is also marked by her latte-colored skin. All of those characteristics are markings of the physical heritage that her parents passed on to her.  There is one other thing that Anna’s parents wish to pass on as part of their heritage.

Anna’s parents are Muslim.

But, Anna became a Christian.

Her joy in knowing Christ is contagious.  Her facebook page screams her passion and her greatest joy is one that she can’t even mention to her parents.  She posts her secrets on facebook under a name that allows her freedom to do so.  Last week, she posted a status about wanting to have a bible.  I was ready to send her one but she explained that it would be difficult for her to have one.  She accesses the bible electronically but she really would like to have one to hold in her hands.

There are a lot of us ‘free’ Christians that could learn from that desire.

I was invited to Anna’s baptism last evening and was honored to be part of that beautiful sacrament that Christ commanded that we follow.  Her baptism wasn’t going to take place in a nice, indoor baptismal or in a chlorinated swimming pool.  We all gathered at the river to watch Anna commit publicly to the new life she had in Jesus.

About 2 dozen of her friends made the walk down the muddy path to the chilly waters that flowed just below the dam.  Besides me and Kenny, the group that gathered were mostly older teens and young twenty-somethings.  They were also a rainbow of ethnic backgrounds.  On one hand I was so encouraged to see these young people making Christ central to their lives and on the other hand I was blown away by this simple thought.

I stood on a continent that was ‘the remotest parts of the earth’ that Christ mentioned in Acts 1:8 surrounded by representative heritages from the major continents around the world.  I was a spectator to the fruition of that command given some 2000 years ago on a distant continent.

Simply put, I was amazed.  So I just took it all in… the joy of the prayers that were said over Anna, the blue sky, the breeze that shook the trees, Kenny’s son, Miles, who enjoyed going barefoot in the mud and who stood by his side at one point and looked up at his father as he prayed.  In that moment, I tried to flash forward to when Miles would be a young man and wondered if he would reflect on the day that all these people gathered together in a river to pray and dunk a young lady in the water.  Would he remember how poignant of a moment he had witnessed?


I purposely took no pictures in which Anna could be seen.  She is in the midst of this group of young people preparing to be baptized. What a wonderful moment to be a witness.

It helped me to flashback to my childhood when those hill people had gathered beside the rivers to be baptized.  There is a joy remembered in those flashbacks.  Laughter.  Tales about breaking ice in order to get people into the water.  People singing.  My father in the water carefully, and sometimes not so carefully, placing someone under water and then raising them back up.

Those are warm memories.

Congratulations, Anna, may you always see Christ as  you did on the day you first trusted Him.


When poetry goes bad… real bad.

June 27, 2009 10 comments


So, I felt compelled by Joy Renee to post up a poem that rhymed.  I am not talented in that department … maybe because I don’t usually care for the sing-songy rhythm that occurs in the spoken word of rhyming pieces.  Anyway, here is a piece that I wrote about a scab on my knee…and what occurs when it is picked.


(not my knee)

Scab Crack on My Knee

A raw valley dams the flow
of life’s warm lava down below.
Dermatic plates twist and bend,
clotting juices within the rend.

On the edge grows a tree
not of wood but made of me.
Pulling, tugging, rooted grief
pluck the blight to find relief.

Wind blown cure, no cure at all
red pus blisters within its maul.
Foul stench rises touching sky
causing heaven’s creature’s cry.

Masochistic in desire
loving pain inside the fire
caused by tearing shale from shoal
leaving behind a gaping hole.


How awesome was that? 😉

Now if you came here look for something a little more serious, here is a piece that I wrote about a tree.  You can google the title of the piece to see a picture of tree in question.  I have not supplied it here in case you would like to read the piece to see what tree comes to mind before looking for the more factual representation.

Betula Pendula

lady of the woods
permit me to lay hands
against your ghost white skin

that i may comb
the texture and fabric of time
recorded between your gnarled joints

as a child i knew you fondly
your strength lifted me to the sky
and gently lulled me into games forgotten

somehow your color marked me
it came away from your being
and now flows as warm sap along my frame

at times, i place palm upon palm
thinking i can draw out your velvet unction
between fingers wrestling to remember

my lady, your visions harrow my dreams
you stand in negative relief against a september moon
dancing across a hilltop buoyed by its expelled breath

but dreams are for the dormant
and i would act now in your autumn existence
to harvest again those lost and simple joys

give me pause for i have become too hasty
too manic in my approach

i am a foolish man
i would judge the promise of the future
against a known and spent history

lady of the woods
allow me
to introduce myself

Categories: Poetry Tags: , , , , , , ,

Influence Confluence

June 26, 2009 5 comments

I met with my former Bible Fellowship teacher today because I respect the bajeebies out of him.  He is old enough to be my father and I know he will shoot from the hip when it comes to questions on life and faith.

I had questions of both sorts for him today and he didn’t disappoint.  I truly enjoy having opportunities to talk to people who can influence my life in such a positive manner.

We talked some about church polity and some of the questions that I post here from time-to-time.  We don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on some subjects but I know we can walk away from the conversation still respecting each other and looking forward to the next time we will get together for a cup of coffee.  The ability for us to talk and listen to each other speaks of our mutual influence in the other’s life – a confluence if you will.  Much like two rivers coming together and forming a greater river.


If either of us decided to limit the other in our conversation, then there would be a damming of that confluence and one or both of us would walk away bitter about the meeting.

Influence is funny that way.  At least to my way of thinking, it works better when there is a confluence instead of a dam blocking the way.

I have to be reminded of that because there are some areas in my life right now that I don’t have a lot influence and it could be easy to become bitter about the them.

So, tell me about the person that helps you work through your thoughts.

Poetry – Country Rain

June 24, 2009 13 comments

I wrote the following piece after thinking back to childhood memories of thunderstorms.  I slide between the vernacular of my extended family’s Appalachian roots and my current northern city condition.


Country Rain

Juxtaposed prognostications –
urbanites talking about
’chances of precipitation’
while those esteemed as rural,
lifted hands to heaven
remarking, ’callin for rain’.

Things is different
for them country folk.
Them there’s the people
who don’t fret getting
their hair wet of a downpour.
’What!, you made outta suga, boy?’

I was just knee-high
to a wheat field grasshopper
when my aunt went off awalkin
through the rain of an evening
carrying narry an umbrella.
’Where ya off to, Liza?’

’Clearing out the cobwebs.’

Sometime later, I reflected,
draped over the porch’s banister,
about that statement.
It was a summer day
that blew in a thunderstorm.

I had sat there watching it come.
It marched purposely across the fields
and then halted just yards away
as if bashful in its desire of me.

A wall of water stretched to touch heaven
and then dug its toes into earth
transforming the space between
into a vertical river.

I wanted to ride that river
and know the feeling
of cobwebs releasing.
I stepped through its curtain,
closed my eyes, and joined its current.

Country rain has a permanent smell.
It encodes its DNA along the double helix
of whatever it is that composes the true heart –
not the beating organ but that inner spark
that animates humanity to greatness.

You know its there when
the draw of a deep breath
tickles a memory of lost, one-lane roads
and the escape of that breath
carries a dark soil perfume
laced with the humus of autumns past.

It plays upon your ears
till the sound of rain
looks like green
and tastes like Eden reborn.

A man marked in this way
will hear the first drops of rain
before the clouds release them.
When the wind blows just right,
he will stand still with outstretched arms
face lifted and eyes closed
inviting their touch again –
the touch of a million lovers
tracing the quick years on his face.

And in staccato voice, they’ll sing,
’We remember you…
we’ve danced along your webs before.’

He’ll remember the steps
and new webs will be danced away,
to be carried on the current
of a country rain.

Categories: Poetry Tags: , , , , ,

Don’t Read This

June 23, 2009 14 comments

I mean it.

It could cause an internal crisis.

Ok.  You asked for it.

I have posed an interesting question to several people in an attempt to understand the phenomenon known as ‘church giveaways’.  You know, those prizes awarded to the lucky person who has the right ticket on that special night set apart for bringing people to Jesus.  They usually come in the forms of iPods, iPhones, video gaming systems, and the list goes on because there is a large need for that new techy gadget amongst the lost people of the world.

The question that I have asked is this:

What is the biblical support for such giveaways?

Eventually the answer always returned has been, “Christ did miracles to attract people”.  So the answer I have received looks like this:

Wii Video System = Christ raising Lazarus from the dead

iPhone = Christ making the blind to see

iPod = Christ healing the lame

I don’t know if I am able to connect the dots here.  Can someone help me out?

Here are some biblical passages that I could find about why Christ did miracles:

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. ~ John 20:30-31

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “{It was} neither {that} this man sinned, nor his parents; but {it was} so that the works of God might be displayed in him. ~ John 9:2

Here are my questions to you, the reader, are you for Church giveaways? Why or why not?

Secret Family Language

June 18, 2009 6 comments

handsLanguage is not always limited to the spoken or written word.  We all know that our body forms language in the ways we shrug a shoulder or wink an eye.  There are times that we know someone so well that we can tell what’s on their mind just by the way they stare off into space.

Or the section of a song that they hum.

Or how they sigh.

I like to believe that every family has some form of a secret language that lets each member know how they feel about the other.  Especially that they are loved or cared about.

As I write this, I am reminded of the Carol Burnett show that my family watched when I was a kid.  At the end of the show she did something that was part of her secret family language – she would tug on her ear.  I pulled the following off of this site:

Carol Burnett’s parents were alcoholics, and her earliest memories are of their screaming, drunken fights. Her father abandoned the family when she was eight, and she and her mother moved in with Burnett’s loving but eccentric maternal grandmother, a hypochondriac subject to “hissy fits.” Burnett’s mother soon faded from the family into the bottle, leaving Burnett to be raised by her grandmother. They became very close, and Burnett’s famous “ear-tug” gesture, offered at the end of all her live performances and on her famous TV series, began as a silent signal to her grandmother, meaning “Everything is OK.”

My family has developed a secret way of saying “I Love You”.  When we are holding hands, we simply squeeze the other person’s hand three times.  One squeeze for each word:  “I”“Love”“You”.  Proper etiquette requires that the other person return the three squeezes.

How about you? Does your family have a way that they share their feelings that other people wouldn’t necessarily catch?

Death and Children

June 17, 2009 7 comments

Six years ago I took my oldest daughter to our current church for the first time.  She fell in love with the choir right away and on Wednesday nights, she would skip out on her class in order to just sit in the back of the auditorium while the choir practiced for Sunday morning.  She was 10 years old and her wheelchair made it easy to spot her.

That’s probably why Ron noticed her that first night.

Towards the end of the practice that evening six years ago, he stepped off of the stage and came over and introduced himself to Lauren.  There was an instant connection between the two.  She was 10 and he was in his late 60’s – she was in a wheelchair and he was bent over at the waist unable to straighten his back to stand up fully.  That night started a pattern of the two looking each other up at church to see how each other was doing.  They would talk about life and how God was good even though they both had to face several surgeries.

Lauren came to recognize Ron’s car because it was a PT Cruiser with a Tasmanian Devil on the front wheel wells and she would make it a point to look for him so that she could give him a hug.  There were times she would call him on the phone to check up on him when he was doing poorly and he would do likewise.

As a parent, it was comforting to see the compassion that they each had for the other.  That compassion has defined Lauren’s response to people around her – especially people who are suffering through health problems.  At church, she always is on the lookout for Ron and for another lady, Millie, who is suffering with Alzheimer disease.  In school, she looks for the lady that used to work in the nurses office who has been battling cancer for years now.  Those three persons are in Lauren’s heart.

Last night we received a call that Ron had passed away.  I sat with Lauren and told her the news and she cried in my arms as she said, “I didn’t get to talk to him one last time.”

Today we found out that Millie passed away a few days ago while we were out of town.  My wife and I have decided not to burden Lauren with that news at this moment – or the news that her friend from school is doing poorly.

As a parent, I am finding myself trying to comfort my children with the same platitudes that my parents used with me as a child.  The words feel no better coming out of my mouth than they did going into my ears as a child.  As adults we have become desensitized to the harsh reality of death.  We lean on the understanding that there is a better life after this one as a way to placate our knowledge that death is a curse. We may giggle at the platitude, ‘everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die’, but there is truth in those words.  God did not create us for death but for life.  Death is unnatural but we repeat the words that its just part of life.

What?  Death is part of life?  Since when?  Death is no part of life.

Children feel that deeply.

Our Christian faith teaches us that death is not the end for those alive in Christ but just the beginning of an eternal reality – life everlasting.  However, we as adults should not be so quick to forget the heinous act of death for what it is – it mirrors in small, through physical  separation, what eternal damnation is in large from a spiritual separation.  Its a reminder of the judgment that God has placed on all sin.

We can thank God for those lives that leave this world in Christ, but we should weep bitterly for those who don’t.