Monday, October 31, 2011


                                Swirling twisting writhing
     bands of nothing
     and everything

A seething sea of sand
     threatening to suck to
     oblivion any who dare
     venture close

Caught in the maelstrom
     light and dark
     flashes of familiar overcome
     by strange and frightening
     dimensions expand and contract
     up and down in and out
     no longer helpful
     chaos has no markers
And there
     in what might be
          or not
     a table
     a cup
          full to
     a host
          who bids
          “Come and dine.”

All around the
     chaos swirls
But in the
     with Him

Suddenly it clears
     for just a moment

     and even the
     chaos is found
     to be part of
          In Him

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rhythms of Silence

How deeply stirs the stillness
     filled with the silence of great love
     rich with the melodies of silent songs
     overflowing with glories unspoken
          and unspeakable

Oh Lord
     I can’t hear you.

Be still
          and know

Surface froth of bursting bubbles
     crashing waves of noise after noise after noise
     random riffs of chaos passing for rhythm
     saying everything that needs to be said and
          so much more more more

Such courage is needed
     to abandon my own frantic meaningless
     noise in favor of . . .

          what feels like nothing

but is as far from nothing as is possible

Oh Lord
     Speak in a voice more

Be still

     there is no voice
          more familiar
          than shared silence

Oh Lord
     tune my heart
          to silence
          to the
               rhythms of your

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chance Encounter

She had no expectations that day would be any different than all the other days she had known or would know. Making her way about a half mile north out of town, she dreaded the long way back carrying the heavy pitcher of water. Maybe this time her good heart, her good deed, would pay off and he wouldn’t abandon her in the streets like the rest of them had. She didn’t have much hope – he hadn’t even thought enough of her to protect her with his name. But what could she do? The alternatives started at prostitution and went down from there. So she made her long, lonely way out to the ancient site at mid-day in the hope that the fresh, cold water from Jacob’s deep well would convince him to keep her around for another day.

And there, at the well, sat a stranger. Alone, but looking for all the world like he had been waiting for her. What was he doing here? Most of them went round the long way to avoid people like her. No cause for alarm, but cause for curiosity – especially when he asked her for a drink from the well. His accent gave him away – he was a Jew from the north, probably on his way home from Jerusalem. Her shock at being addressed caused her to throw manners to the wind. “How is it that you, being a Jew, are talking to me, a Samaritan?” And more curious was her following unspoken thought . . . “And asking for a drink from my pitcher, which to you is contaminated, just because I touched it?”

She knew something was seriously off when he suggested that, were circumstances just a bit different, it would be she doing the asking and he providing the living water at the bottom of this deep well. Him, serving her? Not likely. She knew what men were like... Her joking response was met with a twinkle in his eye.

Then the universe began to spin. With a gentle smile, he asked her about her husband – and let her know that he really didn’t need any information from her about her. Gradually the light began to dawn as her curiosity gave way to outright demand – and finally the revelation that she – she! – was talking, face to face – right now! – to the Messiah that her whole nation had longed for. Hurrying back into town, she was able to gather a crowd with just the hint that it might be Him. Could it be?! What a moment! 

And to think, were it not for that chance encounter, she would have missed Messiah!

Explaining it all to his disciples later, Jesus just smiled and said, “My meat and drink is to do the will of Him who sent me.” 

Chance encounter indeed!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Too Busy to Think

The old joke says the top three reasons to be a teacher are June, July, and August. What is hidden in that joke is the reality that the contents of those three months have to be crammed into the other nine – resulting in them flying by at break-neck speed, like the passing scenery on a bullet-train. And this is without additional committee and task-force meetings, planning sessions, newly mandated initiatives guaranteed to make everything better, spiffy technological improvements promising greater efficiency once the learning curve has been ascended, old technological improvements that don’t work as advertised – or at all, and the drama that is part of life on campus – any campus.

All of which to say, I have been too busy to think. Much less think about thinking. And that means decisions get made, things get said, stuff gets done – all without benefit of a whole lot of reflection or consideration. The deadlines loom large. The march of the calendar is more run than walk. And every once in a while, a momentary space – just enough to stick your head up and wonder where you are now. And then, duty calls – and off we go again.

During times like this, I kind of run on automatic pilot – doing what I know needs to be done, but not thinking a whole lot about it, or the doing of it, or much else for that matter. I look back on a week in which I know I stood in front of students and talked about somethings very important to me – hoping they would be important to them. I sat in meetings trying to remember why we were meeting and looking around for clues as to which meeting this was. I searched for my car in the parking lot remembering only where I had parked it two days ago.

Usually, there are markers – moments of wonder and delight that leave a mark. But during the busy-ness, I am flying by too fast even to notice them. And so, I look back over the blurred shapes, images, sounds, impressions and hope something good happened – that I didn’t get something completely wrong – that I didn’t say anything horribly offensive – that grace is sufficient even when I am not paying it the least bit of attention.

I suppose that is why spiritual disciplines have become so important to me. They are training me to be my best self when I am not thinking about it. Still a long way to go. But grace really is enough for the day. Even the ones to busy to notice.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Power of An Idea

Others more well-informed than I will write about the impact Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, had on the world of technology – and through technology, on the world. His death today speaks to me of something else. Whatever else he was in terms of innovation, collaboration, invention – Steve Jobs was a man of ideas, a man of dreams. He seemed able to see things that were not yet and chart a course to their becoming, and along the way somehow make the idea even better than it was. He made mistakes – no one striving for better doesn’t. Some of his mistakes became the seed of a new ideas that drew him forward into a future that it took the rest of us a while to catch up to. He seemed able to see connections between previously discrete pieces of technology that would yield an outcome greater than the sum of the parts.

He knew the power of an image. More than just a brand, his way with an image, a picture, an icon, captured the imagination of those seeing it for the first time. The single play commercial during the Super Bowl of 1984 introducing the Macintosh computer – without ever once showing the computer! The details mattered. Even down to the packaging – sleek, tactile, a perfect match between form and function. MP3 players had existed for a while – but when Jobs introduced the iPod, everything changed. It wasn’t a music player for technicians. It was a music player for music listeners. Cell phones had been around for years – but the iPhone became the must have, mostly for reasons having nothing to do with making phone calls – but everything to do with the lifestyle of the person making the calls.

Relentless focus on the idea was matched with equally relentless focus on the image of the idea. And with an equally relentless focus on simple usability. The idea that a new product should just work. Period. Right out of the box. Amazing. And not just work, but work with a quirky sense of humor and close to flawlessly.

Was all this the product of the genius of Steve Jobs? I suppose we will see in the years to come. What comes after the founder tells the real tale.

But in the meantime, his death has given me pause. I have appreciated his gifts – ideas, images, usefulness. And wonder, what gifts might I have to give – ideas, images, usefulness. It gives me pause. As should, perhaps, the death of any artist, craftsman, creator.