Finding Faith at the End of the Line

It was a Sunday morning on a crisp spring day in 1995, and I was standing waist-deep in the cold currents of a river in southwestern Virginia. How I got there is the thing.

At the time, I was on cusp of major life transitions. At 25, I had just completed my masters degree in English and was in the midst of determining whether to pursue a Ph.D. As I was deciding whether to turn left or right at the fork in the road, I was rammed from behind. I discovered a devastating truth – the woman I had been in a committed relationship with for more than two years had been cheating on me for months.

As the shock gave way, the pain set in like realizing you’ve broken your arm several minutes after a violent collision. The next morning, the muscles in my face hurt from continuous crying. During the first few weeks, I felt paralyzed while waves of questions and doubt pounded me. I could focus only on the small and immediate: do the laundry, wash the dishes, buy milk, take the dog for a walk. Other questions stomped around in my head and demanded attention. Why wasn’t I enough? Why couldn’t she have just ended it? Why? But I could only look away and sweep the kitchen floor. Just do what’s next on the list.

In retrospect, the signs of infidelity seemed so obvious—the phone calls not returned, the excuses for not being available, the downcast eyes of her friends. I felt the fool and increasingly withdrew from the world fearing everyone else saw it, too.

It took months before I allowed a friend to drag me out. It was one of those awkward evenings in an apartment with several couples drinking and making small talk. I ended up in a conversation with a guy who was going fly fishing the next day. After a few beers and some nudging, this fly fisherman agreed to take my friend and I with him.

On the river the next morning, our guide showed us the lifecycle of a trout’s diet. He talked through the mechanics of casting and showed us its art. He showed us how to read the water’s currents and where to look for trout feeding. We spent hours fishing along the wide and beautiful river, but I was the one who was hooked.

On that Sunday morning in 1995, I found myself back on the water alone. I had retraced the route of our guide the previous day. I walked along the train tracks that followed the river and ambled down the footpath that led to the water. I pulled line from my reel and began working my way up the river. My novice casting was as clumsy as my footing on the slick moss-covered rocks lining the riverbed.

Soon, I noticed a subtle dimple on the water that revealed the position of a trout feeding just ahead. I slowly positioned myself within casting range and worked my line back and forth above the water until it reached its target. The fly landed softly about six feet above the memory of the rippled surface and started its descent downstream. The noise of the broken water could barely be heard above the sound of the current, and a small bubble appeared where the fly once rested. I raised the rod and felt the heft of a connection on the other end. I watched the tip of the rod bouncing up and down.

As I held the fly line in my hand, I felt the tug and shake of life calling me back. It took a fish on the other end of my line to make me feel alive. I felt connected to the outside world again. It was a tangible relationship with another, albeit with a fish. But it was a start.

I pulled the 10-inch brown trout up to me and marveled at its beautiful bronze and gold body with orange spots. The sun had begun to peek over the trees and between the hills on either side of the river. I watched the trout slip easily from my hand and back into the mystery of the river knowing I would be back. I would be back again soon.

In the fly rod I found an instrument, and like a musician, I would spend countless hours that summer practicing my craft, exploring new beats, and harmonizing with the rhythm of old rivers.

Entering the water, casting a fly poised on the surface of the river, and waiting for a fish to rise became my ritual. To tempt a fish to rise from beneath the water is to tempt the mystery of all things to the surface of consciousness. For a moment, I could satisfy the questions continually cast out into the currents.

Fly fishing requires a little knowledge, lots of practice, and faith that a fish will rise. It is a discipline of seeking and, on occasion, connecting with the wild and unpredictable. Fly fishing coaxed me out into the open to seek such connections both on and off the water.

It wasn’t answers I found on the river but a renewed strength to rely upon the mystery beneath the surface of what I could not see and what I could not control. It was a faith forged not from the pulpit or from a holy book but from working my way upstream. I didn’t find answers, but I did find new life calling me back. The anticipation of the next cast and the promise of a tight line.


I typically believe in signs. Everything from the bunt sign and exit signs to tea leaves and crop circles. I just don’t always follow them, especially speed limit signs. My driving record can attest to that.

But recently I’ve taken objection to one particular sign. Driving to work this week, I saw a spray-painted board nailed to a tree that read, “Jesus is Coming.”

The sign seems to suggest a message that good things are coming for those who have been good, or hell, damnation and/or coal await those who haven’t been so good. That type of theology, if three words can be said to aspire to such, is better left to Santa and nursery rhymes.

Since it is December, the message immediately brought to mind the lyrics from Santa Claus is Coming to Town” — “You better not shout. You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why …” and then just replace Santa with Jesus and you get the idea.

I wanted to paint my own sign to post beneath it that says, “Why Wait? Be the Christ You Want to See in the World.” You know, as in the “on Earth as in Heaven” part of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. I want to tell the person who spray-painted this prophetic three-word warning that Jesus would probably prefer that he or she attend to the needs of this life rather than waiting for whatever awaits in the next one.

The sign promotes this Pharasetic notion that belief trumps action. Don’t worry about all the awful shit happening around you in this world. Just make sure you have your bags packed and ticket punched when the Jesus train shows up to cart off all the “true believers.”

Promoting this type of mentality has some pretty damning consequences. This week, I also read a profile of the at goofy-looking asshole who killed three people at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado on Nov. 27. According to a recent New York Times article, his former wife described him as “a serial philanderer and a problem gambler, a man who kicked her, beat her head against the floor and fathered two children with other women while they were together. He found excuses for his transgressions, she said, in his idiosyncratic views on Christian eschatology and the nature of salvation.”

Her affidavit in 1993 stated: “He claims to be a Christian and is extremely evangelistic, but does not follow the Bible in his actions … He says that as long as he believes he will be saved, he can do whatever he pleases.”

You can chalk the shooting up to crazy, but part of what we’re seeing is the expression of a culture that has been saturated with over simplification and extreme polarization of issues via cable news and our political talking heads. It not hard to figure out how this guy might have come to the conclusion that his white, heterosexual, male, Christian, American way of life was under constant attack. And if he perceived himself as being attacked, what else would he do other than fight back with his second-amendment-protected firearm.

Clearly, this is a case of self defense, culturally speaking. He was just protecting his way of life against an unjust world whose values don’t align with those of his warped perception of our country’s forefathers. And I’m sure that this mantra is already among the talking points on some cable news stations and blogs. Fucking A.

Can I resign my position as a white, heterosexual, male, Christian, American? I want new representation. I feel better aligned with any minority group or all of them. I’m considering becoming a Jewish LGBTQ woman, a transgender Buddhist, a Skittle-loving African American teenage boy with a hoodie or a dyslexic Muslim parrot, depending on which application process is fastest. But in truth, my application would probably be denied because I’d be viewed as a potential threat based on the track record of “my people.”

But perhaps I protest too much. Maybe I should just stick with a simple sign. A single finger ought to do it.  

Fallow Fields: Death, Religion and Gardening

Yesterday the Pew Research Center’s released its findings from a U.S. religious landscape study called “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” that reveals that Christianity has dropped from 78 percent of the American population to 70 percent within the last seven years. In addition, those unaffiliated with any religious tradition has increased from 16 percent to almost 23 percent.

On the same day, I read a post by Rachel Held Evan’s from her new book, “Searching for Sunday.” It read:

“Lately I’ve been wondering if a little death and resurrection might be just what the church needs right now, if maybe all this talk of waning numbers and shrinking influence means our empire-building days are over, and if maybe that’s a good thing. Death is something empires worry about, not something gardeners worry about. It’s certainly not something resurrection people worry about …”

The gardening metaphor is so beautifully apt. It helps reframe the significance and perspective of the Pew study findings. And if you extend the metaphor just a bit more (and maybe she does in the book, which I haven’t read yet), the implications continue to hold true. In gardening or farming, doing the same thing over and over results in declining value. If you plant the same crop in a field every year,  over time you will deplete the soil of the nutrients that sustain the plants. Rotating crops or leaving fields fallow allows for replenishment of the soil so that it may remain fertile ground. And so our religion must continue to go through the cycle of death and rebirth to provide sustenance for its people.

Learning the Hard Way

The world can be divided into two types of people: those who read directions and those who don’t.

Ok, maybe that’s a slight generalization. There are probably those who only read part of the directions before launching into an activity. But a reasonable argument can be made that these folks do not yet have fully developed mental faculties and will eventually be slotted into one of the two primary categories above.

This universal truth is most clearly displayed through the microscope of experience focused inside the home, especially if you have kids.

Case in point: I came home from work one Friday and found my two daughters and a friend who was sleeping over busy pulling together ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. My wife, who was busy doing six different things at once, asked me to order pizza. I dropped to the couch with my laptop and began putting together an order after we’d wrestled to the ground a consensus on what toppings the three girls wanted. About that time, the doorbell rang, and the mother of the girl who was sleeping over came in to bring some items her daughter had forgotten in her rush of excitement to get to our house.

I finished ordering the pizza, chatted a little with our guest, tried to calm our yapping 7 lbs. Maltese-poodle, and redirected my youngest daughter, who had plugged in my bass guitar and was plucking the strings for fun. Anyone with elementary school kids can picture and appreciate the maelstrom of activity circulating through our house at the time.

During this time, about 25 minutes had elapsed since I had placed the pizza order online. So as our guest left and the cookie making activity, as well as the level of noise, in the kitchen began to pick up again, I informed my wife that I was going to pick up the pizza. That’s when I got the steely look of “Oh, hell no you won’t” from my wife. As she cleaned up sugar that had been spilled all over the counter, my wife informed me that she was going to pick up the pizza. I was to oversee the cookie making process. And in a flash, she was gone.

I was left standing in my suit and tie with three girls all talking about the list of ingredients and debating who was going to add what into the mixing bowl. My oldest daughter was reading from the list of ingredients, while the other two were searching cabinets, the refrigerator or the pantry for the various items mentioned.

I realized at this point an unfortunate truth. I would never be the hero I had imagined in my head should a band of ninjas break through the security of our unlocked door and demand the secret recipe for our cookies. I would fold like a cardboard box left in the rain.

Slowly I began to wake from my stunned state to realize that ingredients were being dumped into the mixing bowl with the random flair of an experienced grandmother by three girls whose collective ages were still more than a decade shy of mine.  After the second round of mixing, I looked over at the recipe and noticed that it was arranged like most recipes with the list of ingredients at the top, followed by a few sentences describing how those ingredients should be combined, mixed and applied to a baking sheet for cooking.

At this point, I thought it best to go with the Socratic method since I was too late to apply the Chuck Norris approach of bringing order from chaos. I found a brief pause in the high pitched shouts of excitement and interjected a simple question, “Has anyone read the recipe?”

With this question, I got the “Oh, dad” look as they all informed me reading the recipe is how they knew what ingredients to add. They then proceeded to illustrate this obvious fact by asking me where they could find the vanilla extract.

As I searched the cabinet for the vanilla extract, I explained that the bottom half of the recipe described “how” to combined the ingredients and if you did not combine and mix the ingredients in a specific way, the cookies may not come out the way they’re supposed to.

My oldest daughter then looked down at the bottom half of the recipe and began reading aloud the description for how to combine the ingredients, all of which, except the vanilla extract, were already in the mixing bowl and had been blended together thoroughly. As any good chemical engineer or grandmother can tell you, once the dye is cast, you simply can’t unmix it. So, with a shrug and an unwavering faith in all the wonderful goodness inside the mixing bowl, the girls began rolling little balls of cookie dough in the palms of their hands and placing them on a cookie sheet.

As the two cookie sheets went into the oven, the girls disappeared like capricious lightening bugs in the summer evening, leaving only the lingering glow of high-pitched voices coming from somewhere upstairs. I was left standing alone in the kitchen as the expectant father awaiting the delivery of the proverbial bun in the oven.

My wife returned just in time with the pizza. She brought with her a stack of napkins and the cool air of confidence that had been missing from the kitchen just moments before. She called the girls down for dinner and effortlessly restored order. Clearly, she is much more prepared to handle ninjas or any other threats to our secret family recipes than I am.

As the girls filled in spots at the counter for dinner, the oven timer began to wail ominously. I quickly tried to explain the mixing kerfuffle that had occurred in her absence to set appropriate expectations about what she might find as she reached into the darkness of the oven with a towel to retrieve the cookie sheet. But it was too late. Like witnessing an accident happen right in front of you, the visual senses overloaded her brain and filtered out any audible background noise I was making.

“What the … what happened here?!” was all she had to say.

The girls all jumped out of their seats to rush over and see the wreckage that was their chocolate chip cookies. The small doughy balls of sugar, butter and chocolate had transformed into a thin flat slick of brownness that didn’t resemble anything remotely like cookies.

Amid the multiple exclamations of “Oh, my gosh!” and the squeals of laughter that followed, I tried to squeeze in my “some-lessons-are-best-learned-through-experience” moral. After all, I have the authority of experience having done exactly the same thing before. You see, I fall into the “doesn’t read directions” category.

But my wife’s quick sideways glance cut me short. She sent me off to the grocery store to purchase more butter for the next batch of cookies while she dispensed pizza on paper plates.

And my experience has taught me that those are the type of instructions that are best to follow.


The Benefits of Getting Lost

I remember vividly the first time I was lost. The feeling of fear, of being alone in an unfamiliar world. That first experience leaves an impression that lingers. The fear burns into your memory like a hot iron on soft flesh.

I must have been three or four years old. I was with my mother in a department store. We had made our way down the toy aisle, and I was busy entertaining myself when my mother told me to come along. My mother, who managed three young boys, didn’t have hours when she went shopping. It wasn’t a leisurely activity when she had to bring us along — a fact I can appreciate so much more now that I’m the parent trying to shop with two young girls in tow.

My mother kept walking, and I kept playing with the toy I was holding. At some point, probably only a few seconds later, I looked up and realized she was no longer there. I dropped the toy and ran toward the end of the aisle, but I didn’t see her. I went to the next row and didn’t see her there either. Meanwhile, she had worked her way back on the opposite end of the aisle to find me, but I was gone, having already bolted in frantic search.  With every step a rising sense of panic seized my chest and shortened my breathe. Tears began to flow quickly, as I shouted repeatedly the universal cry for help, “Mom!”

Now, in truth, I was probably only separated from her for a matter of seconds, but truth is a matter of perspective, so for me the moment stretched into a space within an eternity. Being lost is less about location than it is a state of self-awareness. Typically, you are in the exact same location moments before you realize that you are lost, and then your entire sense of perspective to your surroundings changes.

Everything is up-side-down, inside-out. Everything is new and different. Your senses are amplified, and every nuance that blended into the background before now juts out in stark relief. You desperately search for any familiar detail that you might grasp to guide you back to something known.

I certainly didn’t appreciate it at the time, or most of the times since, but there are benefits to getting lost. I’m talking more about the sense of self-awareness than specific locations. Taking a wrong turn in a city I’ve never been in before isn’t so swell, but finding myself lost in a completely foreign experience can often lead to transformation. In fact, most of my truly transformative experiences in life have all come during periods of being lost. Consider experiences like going to college, starting a new job or career, becoming a parent, going through a break-up or divorce, or the death of someone close to you. These are all times when we get lost and everything is new and unfamiliar. And these are often times of reflection, struggle, prayer and transformation.

I’m sure there is a fair amount of research behind the benefits of getting lost. If not, there should be. There are the physiological changes — increased heart rate, dilated pupils, and an increased sensitivity to hearing or smell. The body becomes a more effective receptor for all stimuli, and the brain records everything in case something turns out to be useful later. But, unfortunately, the biological purpose of our hardwiring tends to look for the familiar, rather than the nuance. Once we find a road sign that points us back, we’re quick to hop back on the highway of familiarity and leave behind a potentially wonderful opportunity to learn or experience something new, different and unique.

Because the brain records all of this information, if we take the time to reflect and dive into the data, we can still benefit from it. But how often do we? There is security in finding our way back home, either metaphorically or in GPS terms. And there is fear in the unknown, and probably an evolutionary predisposition to avoid going back to it. When we do engage the unknown, be it an idea or an experience, we tend to search for ways in which the idea is familiar to something we already know. We attempt to co-opt it by assimilating it into our conceptual framework rather than assess it on its own terms.

Walking into the unknown requires courage and patience. Invariably, when we look back on our most influential experiences in life, they are times representing major shifts or disruptions in our normal patterns of thinking. But we must first suffer through the discombobulation and anxiety that comes with these experiences. And that’s easier said than done.

I must confess that I am prone to my comfortable routines, my well worn paths, the known. I’m much more likely to sit on the sofa and watch Robin Williams do the Carpe Diem thing, than to do it myself. When I am thrown off my routine, I forget things … like leaving my laptop at home and driving off to work or leaving my wallet on the shelf.

But on occasion, I go against my nature and jump into something new. This requires an intentional effort on my part. Mostly I’m a big introvert who just wants to be left alone. But when I do forget myself and agree to do something outside my little box, I am pushed to learn, grow, explore myself and the world around me. And the experience always shapes me in large or small ways.

We get into routines in our spiritual lives, too. The routine helps preserve this illusory precept of control we have. Diving in over our heads quickly dispels such notions and brings us back to the realization that we are not in control and we need help. One of the aspects of Jesus’ story I find so compelling is that he sought out the people who were lost and in way over their heads. The adulteress, the divorcee, the tax collector, the conflicted soldier, the prostitute, the Samaritan, the grieving mother, the angry father, and the leper. These are more than characters in a story. They are part of our collective consciousness, the archetypes that live inside us and are born through our experiences. In these places and through these experiences, we are more likely to look around for help, to look for some sort of savior. That is when we open ourselves to welcome him. Their stories are our stories, our promise, and our hope.

Jesus constantly challenged the religious leaders who felt they had everything figured out. He answered with questions and parables instead of absolutes. He invited people to seek and explore new ways of looking at old laws.

Jesus also challenged people to walk away from the familiar and embrace the opportunity for transformation. When he told those fishermen on the shores of the Sea of Galilee to “follow me,” they dropped their nets, walked away from their boats, their livelihoods, their family and into an unknown. That’s really radical. Can you imagine just dropping everything in your hectic life and walking away with someone who said, “Follow me.” I”m guessing that if Jesus walked up to most of us in our everyday life — shopping in the grocery store, washing dishes, or coming out of a meeting at work — and said, “Follow me,” most of us would be like, “Right on, Jesus. Thanks for asking me of all people. I’m so honored that you would choose me. Just let me do a couple or 3,001 things that I simply must finish before I can go with you. And how long do you think we’ll be? We’re planning to visit some friends this weekend.”

Sometimes, for the love of all that is holy, we need to embrace our inner Van Halen and “Jump!” Of course, preceding that plunge into the deep end should be some prayerful consideration. Risk taking just for the sake of risk taking doesn’t honor the sacredness of entering the wilderness either. Listening to that inner voice, the indwelling of God in all of us, should help in the discernment process, as well as fostering the sense of peace, confidence and courage that are typically required.

I entered a new wilderness recently. I took a sabbatical from my church after having completed a couple of arduous leadership positions during a period of transition for our congregation. First, I served as the congregational president after our senior pastor was dismissed for sexual misconduct. Then, I served as the chair of the committee to identify our next pastor. I lived in the center of major church activities. During that period, I also helped teach a discussion-based adult Sunday school class, played bass guitar in the contemporary worship service, maintained the church website and Facebook page, taught the newcomers class, and coached the men’s softball team. I was church with a capital “C.” And so much of my identity was wrapped up in those activities.

Separating myself from my church identity was hard. I felt lost, untethered and waving in the currents of my own making. The first couple months of the sabbatical felt very uncomfortable. I wanted to return to my normal routines and responsibilities. Of course, my ego was served through my church identity. People relied on me. They needed me. But most of the discomfort was the anxiety of the unfamiliar, the what now, what next. At one point, these church activities were my wilderness. I had intentionally thrust myself into the unknown of these roles, and I grew immensely in my faith by doing so. But now I felt the strain of Newton’s law of thermodynamics regarding an object in motion. The force was pulling me back to what I already knew, more out of inertia than a true sense of purpose or calling. Being still and waiting while these activities went on without me was disquieting, like sitting in a waiting room without your smart phone to distract you. What to do now? Sit, look, think. Or pick up a magazine and find out what Kim Kardashian is up to now.

The longer I am away, the more confident I grow that God may be calling me to other purposes, and I should shed my anxiety about my former identity and seek to learn what is needed of me in this new season. The trick now is to be patient and listen. And to quote Tom Petty and the Heatbreakers, “The waiting is the hardest part.”


I haven’t always treated my body so well. Over the years, I’ve collected a few scars. When I look down at my hands, I’m reminded of the events and experiences that left a written history on my body. Some are reminders of my own carelessness, others represent something more. But they all are part of my history and reflect the experiences that have helped shaped me.

As I look back on this year, I’m reminded of the scars we share now as a body of Christ at St. Philip. We suffered through the trauma of our pastors resigning and now bear the scars of the toll that trauma left on us. At times, we have questioned ourselves, our faith and each other. We have lashed out in our pain or have failed to offer comfort to others. We have been rejected, denied and rebuffed. And we have done likewise to others. We have failed to put our complete trust in God, and we have failed to trust each other.

We may be tempted to cover our scars, hide them, and try to forget the pain of those experiences. But it is because of those experiences that we have grown and become stronger. We should honor our scars and the experiences that etched them as part of our collective consciousness and history. They will remind us of how God gives us strength to endure when times are tough.

Scars also reflect healing. The body repairs and renews. When I fractured my arm playing baseball when I was 10, my father told me it would heal stronger in that place than it was before. And sure enough, there is a small bump on my forearm where the bone healed.

The process is the same for us as the body of Christ. Despite the trauma, or perhaps because of it, we have come together this year to understand each other better.  As a result, our relationships as individuals and as a community are stronger. We don’t always agree, but we have found better and more respectful ways to seek understanding, which is a sign of a healthy community. We have come together to celebrate and plan for our 50th anniversary. We have risen to meet the financial challenge of our deficit campaign. We have welcomed new members, created a new website, formed new fellowship groups, and launched new outreach efforts. In short, our ministry is growing stronger every day.

As we close out a long and arduous year, I want to express my deep gratitude for your prayers, words of support, and acts of love and kindness. So many people have stepped up this year to assume more responsibility for our church and our ministry. You have come and offered yourselves saying, “Here I am, Lord.”

I am especially grateful for the service of Pastor Anne Marie, Pastor Nagle, our staff and those on council this year. Few will ever understand or appreciate the sacrifices these women and men have endured to deal with the difficult decisions that offered no easy answers and only more challenges. I thank God for bringing these people together at this time, especially Pastor Anne Marie. She has invested countless hours, provided wise counsel, and offered steady guidance throughout the year to help bring healing and renewal.

But as I stand here looking back at the year, I know that we have come so far only because of the grace and love of God. In the end, love wins. The love of a God who sent his only son to suffer and die, nailed to a cross, so that through his resurrection we might be free. In the end, those are the scars that matter.


One Sunday a few years ago, I was trying to get one of my daughters dressed for church in a cute pants and blouse outfit when she started crying. Between sobs, she kept saying, “I don’t like it! I don’t want to wear it!”

Typically, I would push through such episodes to get her dressed and out the door, but for some reason, I stopped and listened. Once she calmed down, my daughter explained that she didn’t want to wear pants because she preferred wearing dresses to church. But more importantly, she thought people would laugh at her because she would be wearing pants.

What she had been saying (“I don’t like it!”) did not really reflect what she meant. And on this occasion I took the time to stop and listen well enough to realize it. So, we went and picked out a nice dress instead. We were a little late, but I was reminded how important it is to stop and truly listen, not just with our ears, but with our heart.

Too often, my instinct is to act first. But lately I’ve been trying to listen more, especially when it comes to what God is asking of me.

I pray that during the next several months you stop and listen to what God is asking of you. The Call to Action effort has conducted a ministry needs assessment to identify where additional support and resources are required for us to fulfill our potential as a congregation and our calling as doers of the Word. God’s work awaits, and more hands are needed.

As the apostle Paul mentioned in his first letter to the Corinthians, God has blessed us each with spiritual gifts to serve the common good. If we listen with our hearts, we might hear how He wants us to use our gifts for the good of our ministries at St. Philip.

In the coming weeks, we will be asking every member of our faith community to assess their gifts and where they might be able to use them to serve God’s mission. But you don’t have to wait. If you hear God calling you to serve – whether as an usher, counter, teacher, greeter, outreach, finance, music, property, etc. – please ask any member of council or staff how you can put your gifts to work at St. Philip, and we would be happy to help connect you with the appropriate ministry.

A few weeks ago, we sang “Here I Am Lord” in worship. The hymn is a good reminder to listen to what God is asking of us and that we are not alone when responding to His call.

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?

I have heard You calling in the night.

I will go Lord, if You lead me.

I will hold Your people in my heart.


It’s a Hit

January 2014

The sun had ducked behind the tall pines in the outfield and the light had begun to fade. But the bats for the St. Philip Men’s Softball team were just beginning to come to life.

After trailing most of the game against Friendship Baptist, St. Philip had slowly work its way back into contention to tie the game in the bottom of the last inning, sending the game into extra innings.

Friendship was up first and scored 1 run in the next inning before St. Philip managed three outs and picked up the bats. The first two batters went down quickly, and St. Philip was staring at 2 outs with no runners on base and down one run. Then, Paul Grantham hit a deep ball into right field and rounded the bases for an in-field homerun, tying the game up again. Up next was newcomer Shane Walsh, friend of Tim Casadonte. Friendship decided to intentionally walk Shane, who was hitting clean-up, by throwing well outside the strike zone.  But the first pitch was close enough for Shane to reach. So he leaned into the pitch and swung. The ball quickly found its way over the fence for a walk-off homerun.

The victory was one of the most exciting of the season for the 2013 team, which returned to the league championship game for the first time since 2001. But while we keep score and track wins and losses, those numbers don’t reflect the true measure of the success of the team.

The St. Philip Men’s Softball Team is a ministry of the church, and we measure our success through the quality of the relationships we establish with those we play with and those who come out to support us.

For example, this year we welcomed several new players – some who are members, and some who are not. Through the ministry of softball, we developed and fostered wonderful new relationships that have carried into other ministries of the church. We don’t keep stats for evangelism, fellowship, stewardship or outreach, but those are some of the true measures of our success.

We are so very grateful for the wonderful friends, family and congregational members who came out to support us in our run to the championship game. We may have lost to powerhouse Covenant Baptist Church 20-12, but knowing we have already won the victory of the cross, everything else is just a consolation prize.

The Boys in Blue will be back on the field again soon, so be sure to come out and join in or cheer us on for 2014.

The 2013 softball team included:

  • Brian “Apple” Kindl
  • Chris “Hard Hitting” Heath
  • Derek “Set and Spike” Swartz
  • Don “Ice Cold Pitcher” Helmey
  • Greg “Lighterweight” Scarborough
  • Jary “Hobble” Huspek
  • Joel “Triple Home Runner” Kepley
  • JP “Ohio” Attanasio
  • Kyle “Rip and Run” Rodabaugh
  • Mark “Coach” Krynock
  • Matt, Tim & Paul “Clan” Casadonte
  • Mike “Chatter” Davis
  • Mike “Go Daddy” Hetrick
  • Mike “DL” Sebastian
  • Paul “Pop Up” Grantham
  • Shane “Young Gun” Walsh
  • Tim “Wood Working” Weinzapfel
  • Tyler “Hot Rod” Brown



Three Things I Learned at Synod Assembly

July 2011

In June, my wife Christine and I attended the Synod Assembly with clergy and other lay representatives from more than 200 ELCA churches in North Carolina. In truth, I was expecting boring parliamentary procedures, bland cafeteria food and long meetings. In fact, it was a wonderful experience. We worshipped together, we met new friends and reconnected with others, we shared ideas and learned new ones. The food … well, the food was still cafeteria food, but there was lots of coffee available. To boil down the three-day Assembly into three bullets is a great injustice to the full richness of the experience, but the page is short, so I’ll do it anyway.

Bishop Bolick loves dogs. His wife, not so much. But after recovering from a heart condition and helping move his mother of 90+ years into an assisted living center recently, Bishop Bolick’s wife finally agreed to talk about the possibility of getting a dog. A day later, they brought home Rocky, a little beagle puppy. Bishop Bolick said he loves the dog, and maybe not so surprisingly, so does his wife now. “She loves Rocky because she loves me,” he said. “The relationship makes all the difference.”

Bishop Bolick used this wonderful little story to describe how our relationship with Christ changes us, changes our heart and changes how we engage with the world. Our vision is to save the world, share the good news, show God’s love – one person at a time. As Jesus told his disciples upon seeing the crowds of people in need, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38).

We are many, yet we are one. Bring together clergy and lay representatives from more than 200 congregations and you are going to see different opinions and perspectives. We voted on a number of motions and resolutions that were presented during the Assembly, and not everyone agreed on the issues. I was reminded how that is an important part of being in a community. We are different – we have different experiences, opinions, perspectives and backgrounds. These differences can divide or they can strengthen. During this time, the entire collection of us in the auditorium also took communion, and I was reminded that despite our differences, we are one in the body of Christ. In fact, the word “communion” shares the same root word as “community.” So the act of sharing communion both defines and strengthens us as a community.

Butts in the pew vs. butts out of the pew. Tammy Jones West, who serves as the N.C. Synod Youth and Family Ministry Coordinator, is praying for us. She said that she has been praying for years for some of her family members to “get their butts in a pew.” But her prayer for us as a collection of ELCA churches from across the state is for us to “get our butts out of the pew.” She challenged us collectively to change our focus from membership to discipleship. That weekend she organized about 40 events for hundreds of us to go out into the community to serve those in need. Christine and I joined a group that went to an elementary school where the student body was 95 percent free or reduced lunch, which meant that there essentially wasn’t a PTA to help support the school. In fact, a thrift store had been established across the street by a local church to provide essential clothing and household items for those in need. We spent the morning helping clean up and beautify the grounds of the school. When we left, we felt connected in some small way to the lives of the kids who come to that school every day. And later that afternoon in a Bible study session, we focused on these words from Ephesians, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10). We are saved by faith, but we are created for good works.


Can You Hear Me Now?

On the way home from church recently, I heard an interesting commercial on the radio. A woman was talking to a man about all the new features of her new smart phone. The man said he loved his “old” flip phone saying it was cool because it opened like a switch-blade knife. The woman said that she could watch live TV on her smart phone. The man replied, “I can watch live TV, too … on my TV.”

As I drove, I started thinking about all the data being broadcast over radio frequencies, cell towers and Wi-Fi networks. We are surrounded by all this invisible data around us all the time. If you have the right mobile device, you can receive and interpret this data to talk on the phone, read emails, receive text messages, access websites, download videos, play music, and apparently, watch live TV now.

Then I thought about how this was a perfect metaphor for God’s love.  We are surrounded by God’s love all the time, but we don’t always connect to the signal to receive it.

Often our own pain or the busyness of life creates a lot of static that distracts us from remembering and connecting with God’s love. We run around getting kids ready for school, stressing about deadlines for work, obsessing how someone has wronged us, struggling to care for a sick or elderly relative. And later, once things settle down or when we come back to church on Sunday, we remember and connect with God’s love.

What we miss is the opportunity for God to influence our lives during the pain or busyness, to remember that we can turn over the stress, the worry, the struggle, the pain to him. That we can show others how his love has changed us by how we reflect that love to others in our words and actions.

We all walk around with the right technology to receive God’s love. We just need to keep our hearts tuned to his station. God is calling us. Can you hear Him now?

During the Epiphany season we have heard God proclaim, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7). God calls us to listen to him and go boldly forward, empowered by God’s commandment: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).

Help Wanted …

“I was wondering if you might be willing to help with …”

So how do those words usually hit you?

Whenever I’m asked to do something new, something that I haven’t done before, my immediate internal reaction is usually something like: I’m not ready, I couldn’t possibly do it, I don’t have the knowledge, I need more experience, additional training, practice, or time to get comfortable with the idea.

This was my immediate reaction when John Garrett asked me about serving on the Congregational Council three years ago while warming up for one of our St. Philip softball games. I thought: I don’t know enough, I haven’t been a member long enough, I don’t know the Bible well enough, my faith isn’t strong enough. The list goes on.

These are many of the same questions and doubts carried by others, including prominent figures in scripture like Moses and Jonah. I associate more with Jonah … you know, if I don’t make eye contact with the person asking for a volunteer, maybe I can hide safely in my pew, hide from God calling. Thankfully, God doesn’t always send a fish to swallow us when we hide, but those opportunities for sharing God’s love in some way are often lost.

Three years ago, I left the door open with John, telling him I would think about it. John was persistent and kept talking with me about serving on council throughout softball season. Eventually, I figured this was something God was leading me to do, and I said yes. I answered with faith and trust in God because I still felt I did not have enough knowledge, experience, service, etc. to do what was being asked of me.

What I have found during the last three years, even during the most challenging of times, is that in giving of myself, I have gained more. I have witnessed God’s love and grace in ways I would not have experienced otherwise. My relationship with God, my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, and my community of faith is stronger, deeper and more meaningful. Saying, “yes, I will,” was my first step to a closer relationship with God and others in my life.

In May, we posted a new feature on the St. Philip website called “Help Wanted For God’s Ministry” where you will find a list of opportunities to serve in various ways. The list will be updated as needs emerge, so I encourage you to review the list regularly and ask yourself where the gifts God has given you might be used in His service.

Take that step, make that call, raise your hand, send the email, ask the question, or say, “I’ll help.” I promise you will be better for it, and so will our ministry at St. Philip.

Lessons in Love

February 14, 2014

Certain memories from childhood stand out as if under the lights of a museum exhibit while the rest tend to recede into the shadowy corners of our mind until called upon.

One of those memories for me is sitting with my dad in the kitchen and talking with him about the nature of love. I was in first grade.

But my dad was a coach and a teacher, and never more so than with his three boys. So, when I asked him how do you get a girlfriend, he took the opportunity teach me a valuable lesson in love. As he suppressed an overly eager smile, he said, “You just walk right up to the girl you really like and say, ‘Will you be my girlfriend?’”

I remember feeling anxious, but somewhat relieved because I assumed it was a much more onerous and painful process. But this seemed quite simple and direct. Not sure why it seemed so much more complicated on TV.

So, the next day while Ms. Jones’ first grade class was washing up after arts and crafts time, I walked up to Beth Watson, a cute brown-eyed darling with shoulder-length brown hair, and told her I had a question for her. I leaned over and whispered in her ear so no one else would hear. As I pulled back to see her reaction after posing the question I had carried with me all day, she simply smiled and nodded.

And boom, I had my first girlfriend.

But as I was to learn later, young love doesn’t always last. Beth and her family moved away during the following summer, and I was left with a 7-year-old broken heart. The talk with my dad had covered this ground, too, but I wasn’t old enough to understand or appreciate the lesson. Some lessons are taught best through practical application.

But what he said stuck with me. As I sat there on my dad’s knee in the kitchen while mom washed the dishes from dinner, my dad looked up at his wife and said, “I love your mom more today than the day I married her. I love her more every day than I did the day before.”

That was hard for my 7-year-old brain to understand, especially in light of the deep and meaningful love I felt for Beth Watson. How could such feelings grow more strongly than this?

I’m older now, and arguably maybe a little wiser from experience in some areas of my life. Today, I understand what my dad tried to tell me when I was younger. For the last 12 years, I’ve been married to the love of my life, my best friend, my defender, my challenger, the mother of our two girls, my partner in life, and what Cat Stevens described as my “hard-headed woman, one who’ll will make me do my best.”

I know now about how love grows with every experience, every challenge, every new adventure, every argument and even the mundane daily routines we each follow. Our love has grown together. So much of “us” is inextricably woven together so you cannot quite separate the individual parts.

To loosely paraphrase 1 Corinthians 13:11, when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child. I believed the Disney fairytale that falling in love was the happily-ever-after end (OK, so I adapted it a little.). But when I became a man, I put the ways of Disney behind me. I realized that Disney’s love story should have started with the falling in love and followed the real love story, the one that shows love age, mature and grow in the fertile soil only a messy life full of trials and triumphs can provide.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, I wanted to explain what “I love you” means to me now. Christine, you are my new definition for love, a relationship that continues to grow and bear fruit.  And I look forward to the days when we are both in rocking chairs talking about how naïve this letter was and how much our love has grown since those youthful days when we were in our 40s. Because I know now I will love you more every day than I did the day before.

I Wear the Ring

October 13, 2011

In the immortal words of Pat Conroy, “I wear the ring.” Specifically, the 1991 championship ring for the Old Dominion Athletic Conference that was earned on football fields tucked away on small college campuses scattered mostly across North Carolina and Virginia. It represents a shared experience for those of us who came together at Guilford College, put on the pads and walked on cleats through gravel parking lots to the fields of our youth to play a game, to test our mettle, to become men.

I wear the ring.

This weekend, I went back to Guilford College to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our accomplishment and reunite with those who shared this experience. Now, most of us are married with kids and our battles are more pedestrian – getting our kids to eat their dinner, trying to keep the hairline from receding further and navigating office politics at work. On occasion, I still suppress an urge to tackle someone. It usually passes without incident, but I think all the guys who have hung up their cleats can appreciate where I’m coming from. At a small NCAA Division III college that did not embrace the Greek system, the football team was the closest thing to a fraternity that I could have experienced. In some ways, perhaps it was closer to the true meaning of the word than any artificial Greek designation could have been. It was this sense of brotherhood that I had wanted to capture in the locker room as a senior on the week of the last game I would ever play.

During that week, the team traditionally gathered in the locker room and each senior was given an opportunity to speak. Most spoke from the heart about what the game and the individuals on this team meant to them. In clumsy words, we each tried to convey how precious this time was and how those who were younger should file away these moments in their mental scrapbook for their exquisite perfection.

I chose to read a passage from Stephen Crane’s “Open Boat.” I wanted to reach beyond the words as Crane had done to convey the special bond we all shared because I could not find the words to describe it or hold the thing completely. My words could not be woven together tightly enough to capture the full weight of the experience — the sweetest juices always seemed to seep through, leaving only the husks of empty words behind. So I turned to Crane to convey what I could not.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it recounts the actual experience of Crane and three other men who were stranded at sea in a small boat for 30 hours after their ship sank off the coast of Florida. Here’s the passage I read:

“It would be difficult to describe the subtle brotherhood of men that was here established on the seas. No one said that it was so. No one mentioned it. But it dwelt in the boat, and each man felt it warm him. They were a captain, an oiler, a cook, and a correspondent, and they were friends, friends in a more curiously iron-bound degree than may be common. The hurt captain, lying against the water-jar in the bow, spoke always in a low voice and calmly, but he could never command a more ready and swiftly obedient crew than the motley three of the dingy. It was more than a mere recognition of what was best for the common safety. There was surely in it a quality that was personal and heartfelt. And after this devotion to the commander of the boat there was this comradeship that the correspondent, for instance, who had been taught to be cynical of men, knew even at the time was the best experience of his life. But no one said that it was so. No one mentioned it.”

And still, I have no better words. I am so grateful for the friends that the fraternity of football has given me.

A Growing Number of Women Have Picked Up Fly Fishing

Originally published in the Greensboro News & Record May 28, 2000

With a short cast, the caddis fly landed gently on the surface of the water and followed a riffle downstream. A flash of silver, a swirl of water and the fly disappeared. Sharon Slade let out a short gasp, lifted her rod and felt the weight of her first trout on a fly rod.

“It was thrilling,” Slade said afterward. “It happened so quickly. I saw him come up, but I wasn’t sure if he took the fly until I raised the rod. I wanted to scream, but there were other people fishing near me, so I just screamed inside.”

Slade is one of a growing number of women who have picked up a fly rod for the first time recently. She was one of several pupils in a women’s fly-fishing class offered by Lorraine Rothrock of Nat Greene Flyfishers, the Greensboro chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Federation of Fly Fishers.

The two-day class provided classroom instruction and a field trip to the East Prong of the Roaring River in Stone Mountain State Park in Wilkes County.

“I have offered the class for the past two years,” said Rothrock, who has been fly-fishing for nearly 10 years. “The class is an introduction for women who want to learn the basics of fly-fishing. We spend a day going over rods, knots, flies and casting. Then we get our feet wet with a day on the water.”

The field trip proved successful for each of the class participants, all of whom caught their first trout on a fly rod.

“Women often pick up fly-fishing more quickly than men,” Rothrock said. “Fly-fishing is more about finesse than power. Men sometimes try to overpower their cast when they begin.”

Although men have dominated the sport, more and more women are taking to the stream with fly rod in hand. One of fly-fishing’s most distinguished anglers today is a woman – Joan Wulff. She has taught many men and women the art of fly-casting and has written several books on the subject, including “Joan Wulff’s Fly Fishing: Expert Advice From a Woman’s Perspective.”

The wealth of books, clubs and classes such as Rothrock’s offer easy access to the basics of fly-fishing. Patti Edwards of Greensboro took the women’s fly-fishing class to enjoy trips with her husband.

“The first time I tried fly-fishing was on a windy day,” said Edwards, who fished with spinning tackle for years before trying a fly rod. “I cast into the wind, and all the line flew back in my face. I got untangled and cast again, and it flew back all around me. After I cast a third time with the same results, I picked up my spinning gear and started fishing. I took this class because I was ready to learn how to fly-fish. It is so much more exciting than fishing with spinning gear.”

Alex Bailey got her start in fly-fishing by doing some fishing on the Internet. When she moved to North Carolina from West Virginia, she searched for Web sites about fly-fishing in North Carolina. One of the sites she found was Nat Greene Flyfishers.

“I knew I wanted to join, so I wrote a check and sent it in before I ever attended a meeting,” she said. “This year I hope to leave my spinning gear behind and use nothing but a fly rod.”

Bailey now serves as the organization’s membership chairwoman and welcomes visitors and new members to the group.

The number of women taking up fly-fishing has not gone unnoticed by the major suppliers of fly-fishing equipment. Today, there are fly rods, vests, waders, wading boots, hats and other apparel designed specifically for women. Jeff Wilkins, manager of The Fly Line in Greensboro, has worked in fly shops for more than 10 years and has witnessed the growth firsthand.

“There are more choices for women than ever before,” Wilkins said. “When I first started, there were a few women fly-fishing. Most of them were the wives of men who fished. Now, more women are starting to fly-fish on their own, and some are even dragging their husbands and boyfriends into the sport with them.”

Kathy Young of Lexington is one such angler. She considers herself a fly-fishing addict, but her husband only accompanies her occasionally. Young recently returned from a trip to the Bahamas, where she opted for a fly rod rather than a beach towel. She has fished for everything from bonefish in the Bahamas to trout in Oregon, which may justify her membership in a group in Charlotte called Women on the Fly.

“A friend of mine took me fishing on the McKenzie River in Oregon about six years ago,” Young said. “I still remember my first trout. I caught a rainbow trout on a dry fly. After that I was hooked.”

That friend, Cathy Tronquet, moved to Charlotte and organized Women on the Fly more than a year ago to bring women together through a common love of fly-fishing. The group of about 40 meets monthly at Jesse Brown’s Outdoors in Charlotte to listen to guest speakers, offer technical instruction and take fishing trips.

Young believes the growing number of women in fly-fishing reflects a broader trend of more women enjoying outdoor sports.

“What I enjoy about fly-fishing is the big picture – being outside in nature,” she said. “It’s a beautiful sport, and it is very relaxing. When I’m fly-fishing, I find that everything else seems to disappear. I am totally removed from the day-to-day world. I don’t fly-fish just to catch fish; it is a much larger experience. Every time I go fishing, it is a new adventure, even when I go to the same river.

“The experience is grounding,” she said. “It helps return me to a sense of center within myself.”

Young’s only regret is that she did not begin fly-fishing earlier. She will turn 50 in February and is trying to make up for lost time.

“How often do I go?” she asked. “Not enough. I would be a very happy woman if I went fly-fishing once a week, but I try to at least fish twice a month. I am much happier in my waders than anything else.”

A Connection to the Deep Water

Originally published in the Greensboro News & Record – Sunday, December 10, 1995

I don’t remember when I first cast a line into the water. But what remained from that experience is what brings me back.

The water has stayed with me through the years. I have grown, graduated and entered into the world, but I have always returned to the water . There is something about the line between a man and the water that ripples out to a mythic dimension. And there, in the deeper water , is the question that fishermen seem to seek answers for.

One time this spring a friend and I took a Saturday trip to the Smith River in Virginia to flyfish for trout. We packed a few sandwiches in the back of our fishing vests, stuffed a couple of beers into our waders and walked down the railroad tracks to find a fishable stretch of water .

We spent the morning with moderate success, catching a few small browns with a pheasant tail and a parachute adams.

When we walked up to where the river breaks into a shallow fork, we decided to take a break. We unloaded the sandwiches and put the beers under a rock in the river to cool off.

As we sat there, we began to talk about everything from football games we had played, to women we have known, to fishing trips we had taken.

A rare conversation for most men, I know, but in that typical talk a slightly more significant thought began to saturate my consciousness. Hoping my friend wouldn’t assault me with cliched-catch phrases from old beer commercials, I launched into a list of the best things in life.

In the near untranslatable tongue of men outdoors, I listed two things of which we were then engaged: getting a fish to rise and drinking a beer with a friend.

Now, such answers are near untranslatable because of the undertone which both of us accepted and understood without having to extrapolate.

But both answers ripple out into a wider understanding of what fishing is all about.

Sitting on the bank of that river with my friend exemplified the fraternity between men through the outdoors. I have grown closer with my father, brothers and friends through the community of fishing.

But the act of fishing is more personal. Getting a fish to rise is an image of the essence of fishing, both in the real and mythic sense. The act is, as Norman Maclean pointed out, a form of art.

To tempt a fish to rise from the dark waters with a delicately placed fly is to tempt the mystery of all things to the surface of consciousness. For a moment, to satisfy the question that is continually cast out into the current.

Whether I am plugging on a Hatteras pier or laying out line on the Smith River, when the fish rises and the rod jumps to life, I connect briefly with the answer to the question that brings me back to the water .

Life Boat

Suspended between air and water
Supported on the weight of wood
Timbers pitch on waves, wondering
What next

How slight the buoyant barrier
Holding this life
From the next

What dreams lie beneath this boat
What sleep awaits
When the will of this wood gives way


In one mouth hangs a bleeding
black tongue.
The other whores a sweet venom.
And both breathe air that rots
and turns to dust.

She lies in her thorny lair,
head buried, shitting
yokeless, fragile stones.

With one eye watching the sky
she gleans her stillborn births,
devouring her defecations
as sacrament, as rite.

And yet she smiles

In the dark shade, hidden in the sun,
beat the wings of a biblical bird,
lightning in its beak,
talons seeking to sepaerate
word from wretched flesh.

Yellow House

Under the green light, a green shade,
And in the shadows arms flicker.
A moth beats his wings to a funky jam
and disco rumbles from hollow stones.

In the sweaty night hairy human voices
breathe the hot confidence of knowledge
and youth,
sucking in air to make it magic.

In the john a light bulb dangles
with bald eye staring down
into the depths of human defecation;
and as time weathers on
warped planks grow wise with age.

Between black-on-white Rorschach walls
inked-on acid-like eyes
follow the lines of conversation
and smoke,
each wandering towards the night.

In stream-of-conscious-like sublimity
questions rise like bubbles from
drunken voices; voices follow
and honesty shines.

But beyond this beatific abode, hanging
behind a vague ambiguity,
a silver glint from the mind’s eye,
a knowing looms.


In the silence at the center of an oak
the ancient word holds.
Ages growing outward, rippling forward
toward persistent flesh,
Where sensation and the soul softly kiss.

I have the ancient word in my bones,
embedded in dark marrow,
murmuring the unconscious rhythms
of ebb and flow.

Like Santiago and immortal Ishmael,
I have salt running through my veins,
a wordless poem found in siren and lost sailor.

Voices consumed, transformed into songs of the sea,
whispers of the tide, wet tongues
against weathered wood, silent sands.

Send me the saturated voice,
the deliquescent desire, drifting
in an empty boat, a falling tide.

Carved from the ancient oak,
from the ripened flesh
of the immortal tree,
come my silent children.

From my bloodied hands, sent to sea,
and ever since searching
amid the laughing gull, the empty conch,
the lost word.

Love Letters

To you,

Child of the Wind
Floating among currents
That form sails and lift the sea
To celebratory undulation.

In molding these watery tenders of mine,
The liquid surge of emotions rise,
Revealing your naked breast to me.

Yet, your love must roam and be
Separate from both sail and sea,
So only my words can provide
Life to love that would have died.

I hang limp off the hard bow,
And taste upon my tongue
The salty breeze as I feel you run.

Water Poem: I

A river from the sky,
Slides down beams
Of forsaken sun.

I, a man
whose days have washed in-
to wider currents,
A woman-child dancing
to the green songs
of spring rain.

And I long to be like water–

as old as the ocean
as young as the rain.


There, an image like a dream,

like a pebble in a dark pool,

rippling in concentric circles

with regularity until reach-

ing definite boundaries,

here to absorb

this energy

like magic,


Green hills,

Speaking words of life.


In Signature

Could I carve shape from clouds,
or mold water to form;

Could I brush the sky in rainbow hue
or pen poems in midnight’s black ink;

Were I Nature’s sole artist,
And could create
Great monuments sublime,

None would endure so long, or burn so bright
As the fires within which move me to write.

Marking Time

Mr. Coffee wheezes the final strains
of dry smoke and memory–
an usher down unconscious aisles,

Into rooms roped off with whispers,
where dust embalms each breath of life,
the lost words and forgotten quotes
that echoed in an empty room.

And ashes that once were rose —
petals too often touched with remembrance,
are preserved in an old Folgers jar.

Only souvenirs of silence remain,
a photograph that speaks no name,
and a passion left unclaimed.