Sunday, September 24, 2017

Poetry Collection: Resistance section

The introduction to the last section of the collection and two sample poems. Does this work as a conclusion?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Iowa Grandmothers

My poem (inspired by 100 Grannies and my pastor's stories of his grandmother) has been posted on the Tiferet website.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Poetry Collection: Family

The introduction to the Family section. Sorry, no sample poems. They are all under review or forthcoming with magazines. Does the intro stand on its own?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Poetry Collection: Work Section

The introduction to the work section and a few of the poems inspired by my job. Does the intro work? Thanks for your feedback!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Poetry Collection: Church Section

Using the long weekend to work on my poetry book. As always, your suggestions are appreciated!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Poetry Collection - Draft One

Below is the introduction and first section of the poetry collection that I am writing. I value your feedback!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bold Alliance

My thanks to President Trump.  Truly.  If not for his decision to reverse the denial of the Keystone pipeline building permit, this week's display of solidarity across boundaries would not have taken place.  Given the violent conflicts happening in other parts of the world,  the news out of Nebraska was a needed counter example.

The advocacy group Bold Alliance did just as the name states, its leaders were the catalyst that formed an alliance between a wide-ranging collection of landowners, tribal members, and environmentalists.

The landowner group is made up of Nebraska ranchers and farmers whose property is being threatened with eminent domain seizure.  This group includes descendants of the original homesteaders who claimed land in the Nebraska Sandhills over one hundred years ago and converted it to agricultural use.

The tribal members are from the Ponca, Pawnee, Omaha, Santee, Sioux, and Winnebago nations, many of whom are descendants of the ancestors who were forcibly removed from the Great Plains by a foreign army to make way for the homesteaders.

The environmentalists are members of the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club,, Oil Change International,  Credo Action, National Resource Defense Council,, and Friends of the Earth.  Most of them are not Nebraskans, but their opposition to the Keystone pipeline brought them to the state this week to testify at a series of the Public Service Commission hearings.

The Public Service Commission will decide whether or not the pipeline serves the public interest. These commissioners have to define what is meant by "the public interest," and then determine if the pipeline meets that standard.  If the commissioners vote in favor of the pipeline, the State will act on its right of eminent domain and cede portions of private agricultural property to the TransCanada corporation.

At the hearings, each group gave voice to the issues that most concern them.  The Bold Alliance protested the transfer of private property to a foreign corporation.  The landowners described the fragility of their sandy soil and the danger of leaks contaminating the water necessary for their crops, animals, and families.  The tribes asserted their right to preserve burial grounds, ancestrals artifacts, and treaty lands.  The environmentalist warned of the threat to the endangered whooping crane posed by the power lines needed to support pipeline infrastructure.

In addition to testifying, alliance members also organized other events including a protest rally and march at the State capital building, a Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion signing ceremony and Prayer Walk, and the delivery of approximately 460,000 anti-pipeline public comments to the Commission.  Bold Alliance's ability to build relationships around creative, non-violent public protests is an example that Christian advocates can learn from.

The defiance and determination I heard coming out of Nebraska inspired a poem.  I am taking an online class offered by the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.  Part of the lesson this week was a lecture on documentary poetry.  These poems document a social justice event by using language found in court records, interviews, and reports and applying poetic techniques to bring out the emotions that are sometimes missing from archived facts.

The poem was inspired by a press conference given by Jane Kleeb, the president of the Bold Alliance, as well as the comments offered at the treaty signing by Casey Camp-Horinek, councilwoman of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma.

Friday, March 24, 2017

At the Ground Level

The map below comes from an article on City about current economic conditions around the United States.  Green represents counties where kids living below the poverty line might make it into the middle class given the social safety net available where they live.  Red marks counties where those currently born into poverty don't have the community support they'll need to make it out.

I look at this map and am reminded that the playing field is not equal.  We don't all start out with the same prospects to live the American Dream.  If you live in a red county and are struggling financially, there may be systemic reasons why you are finding it difficult to get out of the hole.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Riding the Bus

A poetic moment on the bus.  Putting my hospital chaplaincy training to use.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Epiphany, Age 5


The theophany occurred in the basement of the home of
William Jennings Bryan,
which by then had been converted
into a daycare center for the children of
the staff of Bryan Memorial Hospital.

I was in the play room by myself,
surveying the toy kitchen appliances,
the plastic food and dinnerware,
content with my aloneness
because I knew I really wasn't,
God was here and would be my playmate.

As soon as the belief was thought,
I sensed a presence start to move towards me,
from beyond the cinderblock wall to the West.

Suddenly, the room’s atmosphere felt weighty,
as if an intensifying thundercloud was drawing nearer,
the worst storms always came from that direction,
and I knew with awful certainty,
that this room would be too small
for what was heading my way.

The instant I became aware of the limitation
of my current situation,

I fled.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Reject the Numbness, II


And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.
-Mark 15:23

Why did you refuse their mercy?

Without it, the impact of nail through
drove undeadened into the brain.

The agony of gravity
reverberated undampened
against the ears.

How thoughtless of you Jesus,
to make the moment more difficult for them.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Reject the Numbness

Jesus was offered myrrh-ed wine (ἐσμυρνισμένον) before the crucifixion, but he didn't take it.  (Mark 15:23)  Apparently, such wine was commonly offered to the crucified because of myrrh's pain-deadening properties.

The image a Jesus rejecting myrrh keeps coming back to me as I read tweets and Facebook posts.  So many people are anxious and feeling unsafe that I'm tempted to numb myself to their pain.  The number of hurting and worried people is that overwhelming.

There are plenty of ways I could choose numbness over engagement -- block Twitter and Facebook accounts, ignore certain news outlets, spend my free-time pursuing pleasant distractions.  Then I remember Jesus facing the cross without cutting the pain, and the temptation to dropout fades.

Why did Jesus choose to feel the pain of the crucifixion when he had an alternative available to him?  His choice was a brave one, and it makes me feel brave.  I can face what's happening in society because I am in communion with this type of Savior, one who can endure the pain and triumph over it.  I anticipate that he will give me victory over the anxieties of today, too.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Negative Teacher

Wave, a revulsion
gaining momentum.
Contempt for another,
threatening to crest.

Then I confess, and
the loathing recedes

Where did the sickness go?
Whence came its antidote?

The answers will come
when I behold God.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Baptism of the Lord Sunday: Affirmations

Based on Matthew 3:16, 17 -- The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God’s Spirit—it looked like a dove—descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”  (The Message)

I approach the font, touch the water, and remember --
  • I am cleansed.
  • I am filled.
  • I am claimed.
  • God is pleased.
  • I Am Cleansed
    • My sins are forgiven.
    • My mistakes are no longer held against me
    • My faults do not define me
    • My bad choices do not determine who I will become
  • I Am Filled
    • The Holy Spirit cleanses me
    • The Holy Spirit empowers me to live a life patterned after Christ
    • The Holy Spirit has imparted to me the gifts of Christ's peace, kindness, and joy
  • I Am Claimed
    • God claims me as part of the Body of Christ
    • I am a member of God's tribe
    • In this extended family, I have brothers and sisters from every race, ethnicity, class, and ability
  • God Is Pleased
    • God is proud of me
    • God welcomes my attempts to serve
    • My efforts are acceptable to God

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Passing Peace?

“Passing Of The Peace”

It was their High Holy Moment:
a cheery “Morning” followed by
a brief handshake.
The congregation’s circulation
more family reunion potluck
than the exchange of divine grace,
the external power that helped me

endure their act of worship.