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.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


On the descent
           through the cloud
                no visible data
A moving finger
          vaporizing as it wrote

Now to story repair
           age privileged
                life revisiting
A revisionary pause
           regrasp the dream
               unleash the spirit

Look again
           love the story
                coasting permitted
Live it another way
           going gracefully
                into the dark night

Sing the song
           in half-light
                syntax recast
Meandering paths
           palpitating dreams
                nothing left to fear

                beyond the horizon
I had to shut down my laptop as we descended so I saved my file to the Cloud. and watched the soft damp clouds outside the plane dissipate as the runway came up to meet us. Thus began this poem.
At my age I have the privilege of taking a look at a long past as I consider my disposition to face my future.
This poem is my reflection and my offering. 
     Max Hale

Monday, October 28, 2019

Thank You for Your Service©

The Lord called and young 
     visionaries answered 
          hearts spilling over hope 
               energy in a rising tide
Raised a voice for the good empowered
     community practiced hospitality
          absorbed hostility showed a path
               for a better world
Old now in touch with
     a different reality 
          vision yet diminished capacities
               lonely in the crowd haunted with
                    was it worth it
Thirsty for a welcoming word from
     someone who remembers the alleys and knows
          how to say thank you
Enter stage left
     a pastor unhindered by full time
          duties sets out to feed grateful hearts
               hear bygone joys and troubled 
                    dispositions offer clues for clearer paths 
Annuitant Visitor upspirited returns home
     more visits to superannuated 
          servants later
In cities hustle in unfurnished plains
     beyond the mountains
The good and faithful will be
     warmed by the smile and hear
Thank you for your service
     on behalf of a
          grateful larger church

*The poem was inspired by a trip I took with my wife, Maurine, to visit retired clergy and/or their spouses in western Nebraska. We traveled over 1100 miles in that visit and visited 12 folks. Maurine, a retired clergyperson herself, is one of many Annuitant Visitors whose mission is to check-in annually with the over 6,000 retired clergy in the UCC, to listen and say thank you.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

My Mother's Secret

Shared with Trembling Love

A swift hit of nicotine hidden
     in a small can unlabeled snuff
          may be Garret Sweet
Unrevealed to curious eyes in a
     coin purse tucked
          in her handbag
Kept her secret
     and nobody knew
I tell it now fearful of her chastising
     from beyond the chasm
I honor her memory but
     cannot resist the primordial
          urge to tell story
Between a chuckle and
     a tear I tell what I
          know is true
Remnant bit of nicotine
     potent still perhaps
Transparent love for her
     children always

     Mother was scrupulously clean and morally straitlaced yet tender and gracious in the moments that counted and she was guided by gentle humor. Although quite vocal about her politics with which I almost always totally disagreed, she was a very private person. She would not have found it funny to learn that I knew and shared news about her surreptitious use of snuff, a minor moral indiscretion, if you will. But this is such a good story that I had to tell it. I will pray for forgiveness if I have to.