Sunday, March 29, 2020


These are the times
     that open
          the soul
Pernicious evil
     the smothering
Deny oxygen to
     the nerve-wrecking
     the simmering
Save that
     energy for
Raise the humor
     volume to
          balance the tension
Breathe the bloom
     filled air see the
           hope-filled elegance
Hold the heart
     door open
          for the stranger
Poised together we
     shape the world to
          fit God's dream
Wake up
     to a new

     Covid-19 has hit hard and keeps on hitting. What can I do? I wash my hands, keep my distance, donate, and pray. I compose a poem. And last week just before our Mayor imposed more restrictions, my wife drove me to the Blood Bank and I donated a pint of my best. (She can't donate because her immune system is compromised). I'm told my blood will help three other people. That's a pretty good return on an investment. It was something I could do.
I share this as a prompt for all of us to continue to find our own appropriate ways to overcome helplessness and contribute to hope and healing for all.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Open Hours
Shrinking interludes
expanding horizon a
present challenge
Time shrinks
between waking
and sleeping
endows existing
slowness for a
world on speed
Spending time
to practice
Feeling the contours of
a moral and
spiritual life
I can't keep up
read what everyone
is reading
Know what
everyone is
Fear of being left
behind stresses
the spirit
Revisit the intermissions
remove the
stumbling blocks
Egress from
a season of
To a chance
to embrace
And find new
ways of
growing up

My Dad

Contrary to conventional wisdom, I contend time does not move in regular intervals. To be true, circumstances may determine the amount of time we have, but each one gets to decide for ourselves how to use the time we have. One year when I called Dad to wish him a happy birthday, my mother answered the phone and told me Dad was out back planting walnut trees. She asked me to wait while she went to get him. When he got to the phone I asked, "Dad, you're 80 years old: are you planting the trees for the nuts or the lumber?" He answered, "I've got time." When he died, 17 years later, the trees were bearing and could have been cut for lumber, but that, of course, was not the point.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

A Penitent's Prayer

I pause on
the borderline
of prayer

My soul
simmering in
sorrow and joy

Searching for
a place to
push off from

Prophets of quietude
distracting with
empty phrases

Declaring love is
justice and

Grace does not

Replace the counterfeit
with fresh and
honest words

with the substance
of hope

Linking transcendent
myth and
reasoning truth

Tools I can
use to repair
my story

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Prized Possession

I told a
story well
with humor
His hungry
heart said ummm
is that all
A compound
fracture left
Let me
Funny as it
is life is
no joke
Answers without
questions don't
nourish the soul
The serious may well
lean toward
story refreshed
A holy man (aren't we all)
finds a
precious ruby
Freely gives to a dispirited
pilgrim who
They part company
reunite years later the
pilgrim still heartsore
He pleads give me now
what allowed you
to give me the ruby
there is
And the way out is not
the way
we came in

*This poem was inspired by a response to a Sufi story I once told to a group of college students who had gathered for worship. I asked them to imagine what happened after the pilgrim and the monk reunited. I waited but there was no response. After awhile I said, "I'm serious, I would like for you to help me complete the story. Any ideas?" Again I waited. Time passed. After several more minutes, I noticed that a young woman sitting on the front row was starting to cry. I said, "What's wrong?" Her voice was hardly above a whisper. "We're not supposed to think, you are supposed to tell us." Later when I was alone, I cried..

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Life Unstifled

Slow walk
     my breath
          hold it
Pause fretting to allow
     fragments of light
          from the periphery
Pulsating glimpses of
Life stories unstifled
     hope lifted from
Enfold pernicious
     despair into
          love reservoir
Reminder to
     control the focus
          decide the feeling
Standing off balanced
     in the mud
          seeing still the stars
Once and always
     move forward with         
         hope infused story

     Kang Koo Ri was lifted from the lifeless form of his mother in a valley of death and taken to the
orphanage. He would not--could not smile until the little girl broke through. When I took the picture
during the forgotten war in 1952, he was more like the little boy who couldn't stop smiling.  I was reminded of their story when I wrote this poem.
     *I tell more of the story in my YouTube video "The Little Boy Who Wouldn't Smile".

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Soul Focus  
6,544 miles away
     fifty years in
          the rear view
Pilgrims welcomed
     contemplation imprinted
          to emerge time to time
Zazen discipline
     introduced redirecting
          wandering minds
Weary travelers
     surrendered to the moment
          eased the soul
Truth pulled through time
     meandering life choices
          now reliving moments
Footnoting the negatives
     counting the Yes
          opening to the possible
Emptying the trash of
     misused dreams
          restarting the balance wheel
Worth the trip
     still surprised by joy 
          a clearer focus
Fifty years
     and counting

     It was the winter of 1969. A down-in-the-dumps student was hiding out in the campus ministry lounge. I was her campus pastor. I pushed, "What would you like to do, where would you like to go?" Finally,  a timid tearful response, "Japan, I suppose, but that will never happen." I ran with that.
     Long story shortened: the next summer, 16 of us, mostly students, took a self-guided independent tour in Japan. We booked our own travel and made our own arrangements with friends we mostly met along the way. 
     We spent a night in a Zen Buddhist Monastery on Lake Biwa. At 4;30 in the morning a monk beat on the prayer board, calling us to a Zazen meditation practice that brought the three week trip into focus. The student said it was the best part of the whole trip.                                                                                  Max

         Cannot avoid death
          Moments passing
          Value this moment
          Things change quickly
      *Prayer board inscription

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Inspiring Truth
Sitting alone
     warming sun
          windshield filtered
Sifting ideas
     through unfocused
Mindless images
     without traction
Through an opening
     distant door with
          all due deliberate speed
A wheelchaired young woman
     self-driven determined
          focused my glance
Rolled to a driverless
     car door opened pulled
          into position sitting
Deftly disassembled
     placed chair behind
          drove off
Left behind
      an image
I was left
     with no complaining
           for now

     The young woman had been shopping in the Supermarket. My wife saw her in the store and was struck by what she took to be an almost defiant I dare you to try to help me attitude. We will never know the back story; why she was in the wheelchair, what her personal life is like, none of that.              
     However, we can safely assume that here was a person taking charge of herself and not wasting time in self-pity. Her story is her story and I can leave it at that. My takeaway is a rewarding afternoon. 

*3.6 million wheelchair users in the United States is is a fact. $2.9 Billion wheelchair industry is a fact. The undetermined number of persons who choose not to be defined by any so-called handicap is the inspiring truth.