In Which I Talk To A Dead Poet About Life

Robert Lewis Stevenson

{In which I write a letter to Robert Louis Stevenson regarding his poem entitled “Happy Thought” from A Child’s Garden of Verses}

Dear Bob:

You don’t mind if I call you Bob do you? Good. These words of yours are framed and hanging on the wall of our mountain home. So I have the good fortune of viewing them often. And have I told you how very much I appreciate the beauty of your poetry and especially this verse.

But would you please tell me a little of what you mean. Because I have not seen a happy King. Though they may exist or they may have existed. I am sure some have been happy. But some are just mean. And really there is so much responsibility that comes with being King.

So I doubt. And I am not normally a doubting person who wears a dour face. Rather I see the world as full of promise and hope, mercy and grace. But a happy king or queen I have not seen, though the modern day ones seem truly content. And this is not meant to be political discontent. Or even about politics, no not at all. But rather about Joy and its source and how we are wired by God. To love, others and moments that cover us in delight. To give and to serve, to offer and bow low and Christ-like.

Bob, maybe  you wrote at a time when  Royals were filled with grins from their things. Or maybe I am too literal reading your verse. Surely  you  don’t believe they were truly happy, as a result of their things.

But really that is not the point. The point is can man be truly happy as a result of his things? Well maybe if things are all gifts from above. I think you meant things that came straight from God.

Because more and more I find that the world is filled with wonderful things that aren’t really things,not at all. Like miracles and healing. And beauty at nightfall.

The second a firefly lights up his small light. And you happen to be there to see it all aglow. Or when the hummingbird lights on a bush. And the Earth is still while he sips with his tiney tiny bill. Or God wonders and marvels like the stars in the sky. That gather  up like a dipper so big or so small.

There  are “things” such as forgiveness and mending of ways, hope and fresh starts after seasons of long wait. New born babies and reconciled husbands and wives. Marriage and family, tenderness, meekness and soothing a soul. Helping the weary and drying a tear. The end of war.

There are things like laughter so deep that you ache when you stop, long enough to catch your breath, breath deep and  get started, all over again.

There are smells like the Blue Ridge  in July, with wildflowers, cut grass and fresh soil from the earth, swirling and landing up under your nose,  like fresh baked treats rising up to the sky and toes tickled by a cold dog nose.

There are families gathered around by the fire, at night, in the summer telling stories while curled up in a ball, savoring the gift of their days, that end too often with no warning none at all. That pull the curtain on our life like the end of a play.

But I know your heart and with poets that matters a lot,  to me anyway. I want people to see  my heart when they read what I say.

I think you meant wonder and discovery ,not things. Though things in themselves are not saved just for Kings.

And Kings can not be happy surrounded by things. Because God made us. all peoples, to love others not things. And things are not  terrible, no not at all.

For there is the spring at the turn, the bend in the road, at the bottom of the hill. Where I love to stop every night and every  year, taking sips and standing there quiet and still.

And the moon when it is full, is technically a thing.

And then there is Peace and Patience, Charity and Faith.

God grabs our hearts with a world full of “things”. But careful we most be and delicately we must trod.

Because things can rob us of time with each other and God, He  knows that the things can get in the way.

Robert, I knew what you meant and were trying to say. And I think Robert sounds more respectful than Bob. And I choose respect and  dignity. They are two  very valuable things.

Sometimes it is fun just to write words that play
with poets that have gone before
whose words I adore
and have a laugh on a whim and giggle each day
and since you’ve been gone things have gotten quite serious
I should say
Your words are a gift
Every line word and phrase
And I wonder what you would think of
“Things” these day.

Signed,

An Admiring Poet Fond Of  Your Work

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Joining Laura at Laura Boggess dot com

If You Will Walk Beside Me

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Will you walk beside me

On the level ground

Of the holy cross

Not out front, ahead, so slight

My view is of an eyeless back

Forging fast ahead

And I can see your imprint

Leaving me behind

When I see your back

I see no face at all

Just someone rushing fast ahead

Fixed on a mission of their own

There are no portals of your soul

Gazing back at me

The words are lost

And I am deafened

By the silence

On the path of one who walks

WIth single-mindedness

And do not walk behind me

I cannot see your face

Or heart, your voice, your soul, your cries

Or wipe your salty tears

There is no sister to my left nor

Even to my right

When I am weary and  alone

Grab my hand and hold it tight

And walk beside me to the cross

To grounds of level fields of grace

Where dark rich soil of mercy waits

To hold or bear a million strong

Or even maybe more

Sojourners on the journey

Who walk not proud

Nor out in front

There’s power in a strong wide berth

That presses forward facing storms

That choose to stand on ground en masse

Encouraging and holding hands

So grab your life, your gift, your pen

You writers of the words

And walk with and beside me

As we cross the ground

Headed toward the sacred place, the cross of common ground

And with our words

We’ll all be heard

We ‘ll walk and stumble, not alone

March or crawl

Together, shoulders side by side

If you’ll but walk with me

My aging hands are reaching out to link

With sisters on the road

Would you  humbly go with me

Sojourners on a common road.

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Joining Jennifer Dukes Lee

Jesus, The Cross &Tofu Scrambles

It was Easter and we had not watched any of The Bible series on The History Channel. I had planned to sit with the conclusion, the final episode this Easter evening with my husband and maybe a teenage child or two if we could get them to sit down and stay still. More challenging than the toddler years, some days with all the moving around. I longed to experience the story on the screen and to honor Him in re-living the story of His suffering as the creators portrayed it through art. But I was hesitant too because this was the final night and this was the Cross.

And as we prepared dinner and snuggled by a Spring fire, burning wood, warming the room, I said to my husband, I hear this is really hard to watch.

His brilliant response to me was isn’t that the point. I meant what I said and so did he and we were both “right”. Yes, it was both hard to watch and the point of the Cross.

We watched and it was difficult and that sounds overly simplistic. But don’t we want to turn away from the suffering and the blood. We want to shield our eyes and our hearts from the slow painful walk to the cross, Jesus falling over, the cross, so heavy, so very tortuous in its weight on his back. The magnitude of the moments there on the screen so filled with the cruelty of man. The vinegar on the sponge, the mocking. And there was certainly an out for us, golf or basketball or even Duck Dynasty re-runs. But not truly. There had to be the cross. And there was no out for Jesus.

And in the days since Easter the discontent and pain right here, well its hard to watch too. A teenager struggling mightily, friends and strangers arguing about theology or discussing scripture and its truths. Its hard to live it out. The pain of this life, this side of glory. The disappointment this week is oppressive. And wasn’t it just Easter with all its glory and hope and new. The news through the phone, through the screen, through the mouthes of those I love. There is suffering here.

But this we know.

I stumble on a recipe for tofu scrambles. While the photography is beautiful and the ingredients are fresh I don’t choose this for myself. Or my family. But I am not going to throw tofu scrambles under the bus. Literally or otherwise. I may throw them down the drain if I have a chance. Or I may think twice before turning my head in visceral disgust. Tofu, not a big fan.

But more and more I am learning about life and God from people who do not see the world or faith the way I do.  And when I start to shut my ears and eyes and heart then I shut down my capacity to love, the different, the not quite like me, the others in this world. When I start closing myself with all my senses, my capacity to love my willingness to love, well it will be next. And I am called to love, maybe not agree, but love.

My faith, my world-view and my interpretation of scripture are all as they are for me, now. But I seek to love those who have a nuanced view of this life as believers, as Jesus followers. And those who are not believers. Because I am called to love like Jesus loved.

More and more I find refuge and beauty in poetry. More and more I run there to express my heart, to find my creative place to play, to delve deep into life through the framework of the poetic.

But I step out of that for this. These words here.

I must think about how Jesus loved,  to review all that He said of love. Review in my mind how beautifully diverse his followers were, especially the early ones, the inner-circle. And aren’t we called as followers of Jesus to love as best we can in our brokenness and sinfulness like he loves. Like he loved. And in and by His power we can love deeper and more tenderly than on our own.

I have seen so much fighting and disagreement in these recent days.  And though I am tucked into my little part of this world,  I know I  am not alone. I have seen it very close up, audibly in my world. And I have witnessed it from a distance too.

This is being human. This is the world this side of heaven.

But can we love as we disagree? And disagree as we  love. Can we honor those with whom we don’t agree on matters of faith and walking- out- life decisions. Can we wrap ourselves in the cloak of the greatest of these, the one that bears all, the banner over all – Love.

And you can have your tofu scrambles and I may have my cheeseburger. And as I play back in my mind’s eye my night in front of a warm Spring fire while watching Jesus walk bleeding and bent. Christ wearing a crown of thorns, a cross on his back covered in blood, carrying my sin in scripture and on the screen. I want to weep.

I have to ask myself now and daily, how would Jesus love. And then I must walk out the answer as I hear it, in my daily living.

My poetry awaits. It is sort of like a carriage waiting to carry me off to a place of beauty and peace. But I cannot hide. I must love like Jesus.

I want to live as a child of God and I want to love like Jesus. So can we sit at the table of fellowship with our tofu and our cheeseburgers, break bread together, love harder and better and more like him.

And remember the Cross.

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joining Emily, Jennifer, and Shellyimperfectprose

mt church

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Two Tear Types – A Week In The Life of A Mother and Daughter

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The stories of our lives. They are lovely in the living, lovely in the telling. And the re-telling sends them out to those who want to capture hope, redemption, love from the lives of co-travellers. We all walk into these story webs, hold on to some, shake some off, release their glistening parts to others.

Your story gives me hope and gives me pause. I gather fragments of redemption when you tell me where you were and where you are. How you love and how you live.

So when I tell you mine that is my hope unfurled before you. That you would hold a remnant of my life. Place it by your ear as a child cups a shell to hear the sea whisper a haunting call, the mystery of the sea of life, just held. Just hold.

We remember better when we record. There are fragile, tender moments that feel like water in our hands. They evaporate but we extend their living by freezing frames, holding on in a form that remains a little longer, life extension in remembering. And tears they hold and record the tender places, drop by salty drop. As they roll.

We sat in the pew on Friday, upright rigid waiting to mourn in harmony. The shoulders of our rock between us. We the mother daughter bookends. And she simply could not stop the tears from rolling fast and long, slow and steady, changing speeds as the funeral moved through stages of remembering. She wept and we could not catch her tears fast enough, her father and I. The stockpile of kleenex was no match for the arsenal of tears. The tears won today. As they should. This was the day for weeping and mourning. So she did. The cold air marched in as she wept. The winter battling spring can be a good companion for a crying girl. Weather matching moods.

The preacher preached of down here and up there, his words wrapped healing round the little chapel, old, historic holding all the mourning as day turned to dusk. But grief can heal. And people heal. And don’t we come together over loss in a way that only God could orchestrate. That though we break we break together and that begins the glueing back together. Maybe even stronger. A down here mystery. The up there realms are dancing in glory. Only if they like to dance. No forced marches there, after all. But yes, the broken whole and yes, the captives free, and yes the tears are dried.

And only hours later when a momma thinks that all the tears have been harvested in this season there are more. And they are rare as precious diamonds from her eyes, falling, running down her soft young cheek. A man may be of few words, she this girl, a lady of few tears.

So when they flow they are precious in their rarity. Infrequent, they send love notes, clues from her heart.

In the mother daughter mystery that started in the womb of reading clues and cracking codes of emotion sent out by child, morse-code tapping in the tears. I am there to translate.

Saturday’s tears are of a new variety. And each one drips like liquid gold. We nestle around to hear the man tell his Jesus story. Big and burly headed to the NFL. He now lives a different story refined by the tender touch of the Nazarene.

She sends out messages in her tears. Of how her heart is hearing life around her. Each one holds a wet penned-note. Some dry before I can break the seal, read the letters from her soul. But that she lets them roll, communicating in the dripping wet is golden. I’d catch each one if I could.

But up there is a tear catcher. And I trust Him to hold them because I am a leaky broken sieve.

And after all. He has been the parent of the crying chid. The Son of Man and Son of God has cried out from the cross-bars of a wooden cross. So I trust The Catcher of All Tears to catch hers and mine. To hold the ones born of joy and born of pain. Bearing clues to love and life and death. Of what can spring forth from the springs of joy and springs of sadness.

Each caught triumphantly by the Father of The Son of Man. Who captures by Him every tear. Not one is missed, not one slips by.

There are two times twenty types of tears, really or even more. Each wet one a clue to more of you and more of me. And I know well the holders back, the holding on who fight with every fiber not to let one roll. To remain high and dry, but cry heaving heavy deep inside.

Be a catcher of the tears down here with me. And leave the ones that we can’t catch to Him who reigns up there. The Comforter, The Healer, the dryer of all tears.

But mother, daughter, father, brother, look for the tears of joy, tears of sorrow in your day. Rejoice with those rejoicing, grieve with those grieving. And wipe the tears with me of those who remain with us down here.

And I shall weep when I survey the wondrous cross and look to it in times of hurt with gratitude. The Restorer of All Brokenness sacrificed for us.

Catch with me two types of tears.

joining sweet dear Laura.