Word of the Week

When you’re the one who tells the story
Watch out!
Steep slope ahead!
Sharp curve!

For in drawing out truth of a great abyss
You take off their mask without permission
And, found: crumbs their corner
Lint in their dryer
Corrosion in their engine

When you’re the one who tells the story
In an instant you’re no longer normal

Your songs melodic
But they see thunder storms

Your poetry colorful
But they see darkness

Your strides graceful
But they see crutches

Who wants to hear a story anyway?

But, something in you says you have to tell it anyway
You were born to be that one.

Recently I was talking with about what we were reading and as the conversation lingered we came to some points of consensus. We both could not live without poetry. And moreover, sometimes, especially in the darkest periods of our lives we are drawn in particular to poems. Poems express emotions that there are no words for. When we don't feel like reading, there are always the gifts of these kind of metaphors. Poetry feeds our souls in these moments in ways nothing else can.

I think there is a Mary Oliver poem for every occasion and for today this is mine.

Thank goodness for this gem: I have to be no less than what I am.

I am enough. You are  enough too.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work


Saturday morning in deacon's meeting, we shared a moment of lectio divina with the Mary Oliver poem, "The Journey." I was shocked that this poem was a new find for most in the room-- for it has been one of my favorites for a while now. It's a poem that has always spoken to me about the need to stay true to myself and to listen to my own intuition.

And, of course I begin thinking about the ministerial life.  . . .

Especially in a people centered profession where everyone seems to have an opinion about something around the church, it is easy for ministry types to be swept away quicker than we know it. For example, often people want to tell me what to wear, how to speak, what to say, what not to say, and how to lead. It is not that wise advice from time to time isn't and can't be helpful. But the temptation is to be consumed in what others think and to make decisions based on these judgments, not what is best for the group as a whole that I've been asked to lead. It is easy to live our lives as pastors in such a way that all we are doing is pleasing everyone and have no idea what makes us happy anymore or doing a good job of serving anyone either.

For me, this poem claims the fact that there are times when as a leader you simply know what to do and you must do it no matter what. One of the most powerful tools God has given all of us, I believe is our own voice. I see so many around me struggling to recognize their own voice and to see its power, but it is there nonetheless. We all have a voice. And I believe we rob the world of some its greatest gifts when we live out our journey led by the voices of others, not our own. Creativity has a voice and must be heard, otherwise it dies. What's your journey in recognizing your own? How have you come to understand like Oliver talks about that the only life you can ultimately save is your own?

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.


You are out of words.

People seek from you what you don't have anymore.

You plan retreat and they come and find you.

Pray for me, pastor.

Visit me, pastor.

Solve my problems, pastor.

What do you do?

With compassion, you keep going.

You get out of bed.

You bathe.

You get dressed.

You show up.

You keep trying.

"The peace of Christ be with you."

You search the far corners of your heart, hoping there is some gem there.

You hope your morsels are enough to feed the five thousand sitting at your doorstep.

And, you plan vacation again.

You count the days.

You look for light.

You run toward it.

And you hope when all is said and done that there will be a good story to tell.

A really good one.

A story of unbelievable grace.

A story that feeds the five thousand with your morsels that have become loaves of bread.