The Man

My father died February 13, 2012.

To remember is to heal.
To celebrate.
To anticipate.

—————————–

The Man

This day.
Again.

A requisite cycling of grief.

The remembering is terrifically awful.

In my mind are blood-red carnations
let loose amidst winter’s chill.
In fragrant tribute they softened the dirt of decay,
taunting death with the beauty of Hope.

Your mortality rests in mysterious completion,
enveloped in wood and cement.
Etched in placid formality is your name — our name.
You left us the fruit of integrity.

Immense is the void of you.
A reluctant child, I stand drop-jawed and small,
grateful, afraid —
and sad.

This is hard, dad.

But you know that.
We all come to know this anguished separation.

Still, I long for more —

For another, “That’s my boy!”
For a glimpse of your wink and nod.
For the warm fullness of your squeeze on my shoulder.

Such are a father’s gifts.
You were generous.

A catalyst to my manliness.
Stability, strength, and tenderness.
The man.

Now it’s my turn.

Act Two

A human life delivered
extraordinarily into the ordinary.
A curious entrance.

Like a single grain of silica on a sandy shore.
Familiar yet undistinguished.
Unremarkable but unmistakable.

God — we anticipated more, really.
A powerful show.
A victor’s parade.

You know we love celebrity.
We wanted to cheer and party and flaunt.
This is about us, isn’t it?

No doubt, we resist your directing this cosmic drama.
Right from the start we sabotaged the script.
Act one was a diabolical mess.

But this show must go on — You promised.

So You opened Act Two with your Son, wrapped in humility’s cloak.
Crowded out of comfort, He greeted his world with wordless screams.
An omnipotent, infant voice at which beast and brush shiver with joyful resonance.

Parental eyes, innocent and expectant, lock upon divinity’s gaze.
So ordinary, normal, loud, and messy — like them.
Another grain of sand on the beach of humanity?

No.
Read the script.

This child is living, breathing prophecy.
The Word who word fulfilled.
Our story’s Hero.

Scandalous.
Mysterious.
Miraculous.

Jesus.

The Lunch Lake Challenge

Lunch Lake – Gros Ventre Wilderness, Wyoming

This year my July 4th celebrations were light on fireworks, grilled meat, and sunburn. Instead, at 7am on the day of our nation’s birth, I willingly embarked upon a 26-hour ride to Jackson, Wyoming. This cumbersome, but necessary travel was the starting point of a nine-day backpacking adventure in the Gros Ventre Wilderness. That experience, which I shared with one of my sons and four other fathers plus their sons, was spectacular. It was an expedition ripe with physical, emotional, and spiritual challenge.

For example, first day on the trail I met an acquaintance from 14 years ago — Mr. Altitude Sickness. Like our last meeting, he gut-punched me for 18 hours straight. Physical challenge? Check.

With that ominous beginning, I was a bit unsettled. My personal sea had waves building. And then it roiled when we pursued a shortcut that wasn’t, had water filters that didn’t, and marched naively into mosquito hordes strangely similar to the zombies of World War Z. With an emotional tsunami cresting, I had to call upon my small reserve of positivity, desperate to keep my self-talk 51% free of grumbling, complaining, and murmuring.

Was there any room left for spiritual growth? Of course. The physical and emotional struggles were simply setting the stage. Loosening me up. Tenderizing my heart. So on day three, when I was ready to listen to my Father in Heaven, what he confronted me with was surprising.

God challenged me to rest.

Not rest from hiking or noisome, blood-sucking insects. Rather, a break from the routine. An intentional pause. A time to reflect, regroup, and re-create.

Sure, I desire rest. Yet it’s conspicuously absent from my schedule. Why? Good question. Neither my job nor my kids nor a long list of projects prevent me from a time-out. So what does?

Me.

I’m my biggest obstacle to rest. At times my choice to crowd out a day-off dips into the realm of disobedience. God has told us the best way to live — a day to refresh for every six of work. That rhythm is good. Good enough for God, even. So in His providence, God took me out of my routine via a backwoods adventure to show me my unbalanced life. He spoke with gracious firmness about my need to regularly stop, take a break, and refresh.

So I got busy at resting. Right there, at 9220 feet alongside a lake filled with snowmelt. A lake named Lunch, that provided a bounteous feast of relaxing, restful moments. Moments of joyful wonder at the creativity of my Creator.

The poem below got it’s start during those too-short hours spent in restful recreation at Lunch Lake.

——————————————

Lunch Lake

Stop.

An alpine oasis.

Rest, and dwell.

Skies of peacock blue,
blemished sporadically by orphaned tangles of cumulus moisture.
An ocular playground.

Heat, cool, repeat.
Mountain-fed convective gusts ripple-away the lake’s placidity.
Translucent water blushes to turquoise in its excitation.
Cold water.
No, frigid.

Winter snows yet taunt old Sol, King of July,
wringing existence from every sheltered and shadowy recess.
Triangle and Darwin Peak
(normal and ironic namesakes) preside authoritatively.
Fields of shale skirt the majestic up-risers,
a harsh and appropriate adornment.

Flowers.
Tenderness cohabiting with ruggedness.
Fire orange clusters.
Yellows — bright and pale.
Purple spires and delicate bells.
Five-petaled phlox,
creeping with spring-fresh whiteness.
Sedum, azalea, and Daisy-like forms.
All anxious start-ups,
desperate to live, die, and live again —
they hope.

Waterfowl — him and her —
the lake’s ruling royals.
With graceful precision they turn an ancient dance,
a tense but trusted interplay.
Air, water, air.
Distant then close.
Aloof then intimate.
Disagreement.
An audible burst resets the hierarchy.
They glide with majesty, paddling with purpose —
together.

Sunset orange and thundercloud gray,
resilient lichen thrive on rock-faced scarcity.
A silver-dusted green-colored cousin nestles among familial associations
completing a calico palette.

Sage brush,
gnarled and dry,
scraper of legs,
sprinkled like powdered sugar upon un-forested landscape.

Evergreen.
Everywhere.
Rod-straight. Leaning. Scorched. Dead. Cone-laden.
The wind presses densely needled, short-armed limbs,
affecting an undulating swell through the coniferous community.
Toneless, peaceful waves of mollifying noise traverse hilly contours,
compliant to the wind’s irresistible agenda.

Active in rest.
Re-creating in the created.
A happy voyeur,
I sit.

June

Shortening shadows.
Lengthening days.
Solstice.

Waking to life,
an arboreal yawn.
Truest colored tendrils —
freshly born.
Joyfully rooted.

An ornithological chorus,
pitch-perfect in cacophonous harmony.
Serene undulations of oratory pleasure,
Nature’s soft call to a new day’s dawn.
Miraculous feathered levity.

Bladed soldiers —
a chlorophyll platoon.
Cut-to-length obsession.
An ever-cool
barefoot temptation.

Coating chins and noses,
a sticky tributary.
Spread-legged postures and seed-sorting tongues.
Striped, watery sweetness.
O happy, heavy fruit!

Sun brewed leaves,
cubed with ice,
captive to moisture wrapped vessels.
Humidity’s antidote —
sweet or not.

Straw hat lady,
smiling at the sun.
Resting in reclined absorption,
relinquishing winter’s pale coat
for human color.

Waves on feet —
a delightful rhythmic torment.
Squawking sand-steps and angry Gull croons.
Gritty snacking.
Crowded solitude.

Warm.
Green.
Alive — again.

June.

Sweet Mary

In the dark of my desk drawer is a birthday card.

On the cover, in black and white, is the photo of a crinkle-faced, toothless old man. 
Inside is this salutation: “You had better pray that you are as young as you feel and not as old as you look! – Love, Mary 🙂

Funny Mary.

Mary’s gone.
At least from here.
That void aches.

I think of her. And cry.
Separation hurts.
Death’s old cuts are bleeding fresh.

I’m pondering pain and justice.
Coaxing hope from the chaos of grief.
Cultivating joy in the seedbed of faith.

Still, I long for more of that beautiful life.
For more of Mary.

More of her laughter and jokes.
Her pranks and her pizza.
Her finely-feathered costume halo and mischievous smile.

I’ll miss her sipping coffee from a Victorian teacup.
Perching tiptoed on a step stool to fetch reams of paper.
Sprinting through the hall to answer a ringing phone.

Hard-working Mary.

I have books on my shelf.
Books from Mary.
Old books. Wonderful books.
Her husband’s books.
Thumbing through their pages, I glean Mary’s love.
I am humbled. Honored. Unworthy. Grateful.
Wonderful gifts.

Thank you, Mary.

Death is a robber.
A felonious creep that steals our best treasures.
He took our Mary – and not very nicely.

Jerk.

But Mary’s just fine.
Better than ever, really.
Rested. Satisfied. Complete.

Alive!

Her earthly song reverberates.
It is lovely.
And we sing for her, as she renews her precious marital grip.
Basks in faith’s realization.
And meets the gaze of her greatest love.

Well done, Sweet Mary.

Mary’s life verse: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10–11, NIV)

Humble Earth Dweller

Our Lord Jesus~

Creation’s Conductor.
Master of Angels.
Heaven’s sweet Prince.

A servant of boundless perfection.
Obedient and kind, you gave for our gain.

A glorious submission.
Immaculate incarnation.
Salvation’s hero.

Uncompromised humanity and full-dosed divinity.
Oh, mysterious oneness!

You shared our air and toiled in our thorns.
Wrestled frustrations and fought disappointment.
Knew hunger and need.
Tasted betrayal.

You wept.

For us and with us as one of us.
A humble earth dweller.

Pioneer of grace. Embodiment of Truth.
Our wounded healer.
Our champion of love.

Love unbroken. Unqualified. Undeserved.
Abundant in application.
A merciful draught for withering souls.

We drink deep.

We remember your advent.
We yearn for your justice.
We exist by your goodness.

And we celebrate.

You.

Long expected, our only hope in life and death.
Once humble babe now ruler and King.
Our Savior. Our Lord.

Our Emmanuel.

We Wait

~A Meditative Poem for Good Friday~

Holy seed.
Divine conception.
Incarnated promise.

Escape and sequester.
A home-going.
Boyhood.

Brother to siblings.
A father’s apprentice.
Temple dweller.

Coming of age.
Baptism.
A Father’s pleasure.

Wedding.
Water.
Wine.

Storyteller.
Rebel teacher.
Traveling celebrity.

Water-walker.
Storm-tamer.
Death-beater.

Compassionate healer.
Feeder of mouths.
Tender of souls.

Who is He?

Mary’s son.
Mad man.
Messiah.

A sacred feast.
A faithful few.
A traitor.

He prayed. He pleaded.
He wept. He listened.
He obeyed.

A kiss.

Accused. Abused. Abandoned.
Beaten and punished.
Mocked. Ridiculed. Cursed.
Kicked and whipped.
Bludgeoned.
Flesh and sweat.
Blood and bits.
Tremors.
Convulsions.
Exhaustion and agony.

Again.

And again.

Spare him.
Walk him.
To ‘The Skull.’

Hammer and nails.
Tendon and bone.
Execution.

Suspended spectacle.
Naked. Humiliated.
Alone.

Grief. Wailing. Mourning.
Disdain. Laughter. Self-satisfaction.
Together.

Guiltless for the guilty.
Justice through injustice.

Love.

Death.

Silence.

It is finished.
The grave is full.

We wait.