Sunday, March 31, 2013


A Prayer for Easter Morning

Oh astonishing God, endlessly Creator,
breaker of patterns, lover of mystery,
God who hides eggs in plain sight,
ever surprising....

You, deep, deep down in the mystery
of the darkest night of sealed and guarded rock,
lighted, first, a spark, then a
flame, sudden forest fire of raging light
enough to wake the dead.

O light of life, eyes,
the soul's windows,opened,
like old Bartimaeus, and one
who was blind sees.

You, deep, deep down in the dark of
sealed tomb, stagnant, fetid air, first,
stone cracks, earth stirs, then,
sudden abyss shattering quake—stone
rolls, air and light rush in
breath sucked back, returned
into the lungs of one three days dead:
new Adam.

You, life giving God, acted, and one,
three days dead, up from the grave
arose, a mighty triumph o’er his foes...

You, astonishing God, on this Easter morning,
this first Sunday,
this new day dawning, this new era,
this new Eden, a world
reborn, hope reborn, despair answered, made
sure that nothing
will ever be the same again:

Crack open our self-dug tombs
roll back our self-protective stones and
let fresh air, clear and clean light, new life
flow into our sorry hiding places

Into the deep, deep dark of our dark despair,
Into the dark, dark deep of our foolish fears,
Into the stagnant air of our comfortable tombs,
Breathe, O Breath, the fresh air of your light;
Breathe, O Breath, the fresh air of your life;
Breathe, O Breath, the fresh air of your love;


Revive us again
Fill our hearts with thy love
Rekindle each soul with fire from above
Hallelujah, thine the glory
Hallelujah, amen
Hallelujah, thine the glory
Revive us again.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

First Cup: Holy Saturday

Once so many generations, millennia, ago the
Angel of Death crossed the liminal divide and
how many died—first born of a whole nation.
Death visited; an appointment that might
have been avoided was kept. How many died?

Later, much later, no angel this time, but armed
soldiers bearing state sponsored writ, descended
across literal space, from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
Death visited; fear driven massacre, killing how many?
One escaped, forewarned, until

now, lowered carefully, can we say despondently,
certainly sadly, by family and a few friends, he lays
across his mother’s lap as she once suckled
him, he lies beyond life. Somewhere. In a
borrowed tomb. Hastily wrapped and spiced—

conventions must be observed—the memory of
that earlier angel is still alive, and the rescue
he brought still worth remembering. Kairos:
all death joined in one death. Liminal space
created afresh and Passover now threshold,
no longer only memory,
thanks, this one time, to this one death.

Friday, March 29, 2013

First Cup: Good Friday

Upon the Friday we call “good” in
light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ….

One day, some one will sit,
as I sit this day, reading an obituary.

Surprised, perhaps; saddened, perhaps.
One day, some one will sit,
as I sit this day, reading an obituary,
and wonder, as I wonder, about the
time left. Will wonder about the purpose
of life—specifically, his.
Will hear the geese overhead
and wonder about how many
more mornings he’ll have to
hear such sounds. Will sit watching
the second hand sweep around and consider
counting seconds forward—of course,
a futile act of no purpose other than
to suggest the parsing of time and the
finitude of life, even as he reaches
for one more sip of coffee that grows
cool in a mug that also holds
memories of other times and persons.

One day, some one will sit, as I sit,
and wonder about the sweet and bitter
shortness of his life, take a brief,
long, heavy breath and

—amk, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Thursday--

“This is the way in which you are to eat it: have your belt fastened,
sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand, and you must eat
in urgent haste. It is the LORD’S Passover” (Isaiah 12:11).

“I have set you an example: you are to do as I have done for you” (John 13:15).

Holy Thursday

The First Passover, death was
in the air—also at this meal,
death and salvation. The first Passover
they stood, belted, sandal shod,
eating quickly, staff in hand—

This, a more leisurely meal, he kneels,
before bare feet
and washes them—a servant’s act: vulnerable—
and an act of welcome, of
hospitality and threshold crossing—
strange in that he is
leaving; to what are they welcomed?

And then speaks of his glorification,
certain; now, of himself, face like flint

The angel of death, once destroying oh
so many, will now take but one—
the first born—the new Adam.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

First Cup—Palm Sunday

Holy Sunday: Palms

On that day, seems like only yesterday, he
rode into the city, followed by his disciples
who break into song and saluted by crowds
who break into hosannas (some of whom
will cry words different than hosanna in such
a short time).

He rode into the city toward his death.
He rode into the city on a donkey. Somehow
It was all set up—if anyone asks, just say
The master has need of it. A plan is working.
He had a sense of destination, I think.
The text elsewhere tells us his face was set like

Yet this day is an as if day. A day as
if they knew who he was or, at least,
really hope he might be who he seemed
to be—this honest, death defying, bodysoul
healer, feeder of thousands, story teller—
a day when it seemed to be about to happen.

Surely, now, the kingdom is to come. The kingdom he
proclaimed—but not the kingdom any of them
(any of us) wants. A life is summing up into weeks
and hours. Everything taught, lived, storied,
practiced is rolling to what feels like an inevitability.
No one is going to get this yet. (He cries, you know,
As he approaches the city: oh Jerusalem oh Jerusalem.)

Irony: the kingdom is not coming; it is already here,
he said. It is here and now; among you. It looks
like this—a meek man riding a donkey into
the city with people thinkinghopingdesiring
something other than the outcome: a no longer
flint set face hanging on a cross.

Palm Sunday, 2013

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Second Cup—poetry

I know: it is Saturday and not Friday, yet Friday came and left too quickly. No time to blog and so the poem that no one will read is posted today. This is a fresh poem; newly minted. Worked on and "finished" just moments ago. No, of course, there is no such thing as a finished poem, but this one seems done. Rather than let it languish until next
Friday, here it is....

Upon opening a new book:
Sloppy Seconds

Picking it up from a stack of books on my night stand
Bought last Christmas at Powell’s. Reading what I thought
an untouched collection of Wendell Berry’s essays;
surprised to find it already underlined.
A virgin book is one kind of pleasure;
a used book, already marked, is another. And
I find myself wondering who was here before;
here, first, before me?

There are notes on the title page; a “burning man”
memento between the last page and the back cover.
Burning man and Berry?

Any book is a kind of here, a liminal space between
author and me; a place of expectancy and
hopefulness, of possibility, and,
to use Berry’s own rich word,
imagination. Berry’s books, so particular in their
connection to the land, are a special liminality.

Who else walked here in this field and why?
I look around for him (graphological guess).
We have underlined the same and different passages.
What struck him about this sentence and its
idea—one that seems not nearly as important
or well said to me as it was to him? I wonder
what he was thinking when he underlined this and
placed a star in the right margin—“Farming
becomes a high art when farmers know and respect
in their work the distinct individuality of their
place and the neighborhood of creatures that lives there.”

A pleasant companionable mystery.

March 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

After too many cups and fairly late at night....

It is still Friday and not too late for a entry for Poetry Friday. This one is dated January 1, 2000. I was in Daytona Beach at a meeting of the Administrative Board, ELMC, of the National Council of Churches of Christ USA. These were good meetings, rich with meaning and friendships; I spent a great deal of time looking out to sea, thinking about life and work. This poem emerged in that context. I found it recently and like it; so, I share it.

Daytona Beach, Tuesday, 1/11/2000

I have been reflecting on birds, specifically sea birds.

How to a large extent and with some lovely variations, they all look the same.
A few browns ones stuck here and there in the midst of all the black and white plumage;
even so, large or small, pretty much the same.
I’ve noticed how, for the most part, they stay fairly close together,
allowing for space and, for the most part,
seem to ignore the other birds around them;
perhaps, it is pretty congenial—
although this morning I watched one work hard and nastily
at staking out territory.

I’ve noticed that, for the most part, they are pretty quiet
—a few screeches—
but unless something riles them, it stays pretty solemn.
They also don’t move out of the shallows—
running in and out according to the tide and surf,
not really going anywhere; a
few venture out in the deep,
and the pelicans don’t hang around them,
but for the most part they keep their asses dry.

The most impressive observation, to me, is
that they all stand pretty much facing the land,
looking away from the dangerous beauty of the ocean behind them,
away from the deep.
Diagonal to the sun.

I have been reflecting on congregations this morning.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Second Cup—more about books

Patrick Nachtigall, a friend and fellow bookist, responded to a FB post I “shared” recently. It was a photo of a library of books to which I’d written: “My Life Theme.” He asked, “What are the top 5 books that influenced you (not counting the Bible)?” I don’t know if he excluded the Bible because he knows me well enough to know that it would be in my top five or because he knows we me well enough to know that it would not be….

At any rate, he asked; since the response to my earlier blog/FB post about the top 10 books of 2012 was greater than I expected, I thought I’d share my response to Patrick with anyone else who might be interested. He asked for five; I’m sharing 10 (although I could add a few more) because I’ve been alive a long time and five is just too few. Well, so is 10, but I want to be reasonable and try to respond to Patrick’s request for influential books. I am prioritizing, so I am answering his question and he can stop at number 5 if he chooses.

I will say that each of these has been and, in significantly current ways, still are influences. So, here goes; unlike David Letterman, I will start with #1:

1. Hamlet by William Shakespeare. While I think that Hamlet and Lear are tied for his greatest plays, Hamlet has been more influential in my life. I am Hamlet; you are Hamlet; we are all Hamlet. No one portrays more clearly and viscerally the anguish of the human dilemma in the face of immorality. Anyone who has ever struggled with making choices that are thrust upon them in circumstance largely beyond their control will find hope in Hamlet. Hard hope, to be sure; yet, still hope.

2. The Kingdom of God by John Bright. I’ve written about this book in my blog entry about Milo Chapman; he’s the person who gave it to me. This book changed in fundamental ways how I understand the Bible and, therefore, how I read it. It is a “big picture” book that provided me a conceptual framework that I still find useful not only in my personal study but also in my teaching. For anyone trying to make sense out of a book that appears to be a set of short stories written by a bunch of different authors, put together by a not very competent editor, Bright provides a framework (think straight edge pieces in a jigsaw puzzle); well, at least, that is what it did for me at a time when I desperately needed those straight edges.

3. Modern Man in Search of a Soul by Carl Jung. Another gift book. Don Johnson gave me this book in 1972; it is a classic. Powerful in so many ways. In life and paradigm altering ways, this book awakened something in me that has never died—my call to journey and meaning through my God-given capacity to make meaning even when life seems foundationally meaningless.

4. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton. This book, read several times over the years since I first stumbled on it, is the door that opened the way, resetting my journey and introduced me to a whole new spiritual sensitivity—the contemplative life. No, “seven,” itself, is not so much about that life, but it did introduce me to one of the most distinctive and important religious voices of the 20th Century. Though reflective of pre-Vatican II Catholicism, Merton’s honest, confessional, transparent journey, his love of literature, and his desire to find a place to stand—all of this moved me to know more and read more and discover what I hope is a more sacramentally oriented life.

5-6. To Know As We Are Known and Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer. These books completely re-arranged my sense of what education is and the role of the teacher. The discovery of the power of transparency and powerlessness and the hard and wonderful journey toward relational teaching—no one who reads Palmer can ever think about who he or she is; no teacher who reads Palmer can remain the same. (I really want to add another here: The Return of the Prodigal by Henri Nouwen; perhaps I’ll make another list.)

7. Paradise Lost by John Milton. I will never forget the graduate class on Milton in which we moved, line by line, through this amazing, formidable story! I will never have a greater understanding of the power and consequences of self-deceit than what I read here. Needless to say, the power of poetry has seldom been greater; the audacity, ego strength, and self deception of Lucifer have never been more profoundly portrayed—nor the light shed on my own self-deceit greater.

8. 100 Modern Poems (Rodman). This is an old anthology; I include it as much as a symbol of so many poems that are too many to include. I stole this book from my oldest brother’s library when I was still in high school. I’ve always been pulled to poetry; have thought of my self as a poet from time to time; but this book took me to places that I didn’t know existed and began a life long yearning for poetry and the penetrating use of language to unveil truth and reality.

The next two books are novels. In a way similar to 100 Modern Poems, these two stand in for oh so many, many novels. In novels, I get lost. I get to experience worlds that I will never know—at least to the extent that it is possible from another’s perspective. These two novels are as nearly complete as I can imagine, although in quite different ways. Both, finally, respond to these questions—the questions of the human condition—in powerful and mysterious ways: What matters? What really matters?

9. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I would say about this the same I said about Paradise Lost—complete, whole, true. No one has ever said more or better about how to live well—and badly—in this flawed world. I think anyone who desires to come to terms with what it means to live well in a world that, at best, is morally flawed and not just a little confusing and in which we are called to live and find meaning—well, you can’t do better than this.

10. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Kind of an odd book to include, I know. It is a deeply flawed book (yes, I know that sounds like a contradiction to what I said about it in the intro to these two; but, then, so is War and Peace). It is a novel that can’t quite decide what it wants to be—a novel, a pilgrimage, a study in motorcycles, a reflection on parenting, or a philosophical treatise. So, it fails, I think, because of this uncertainty—but it also succeeds because of it. The novel as philosophical discourse. Personal philosophy—and the desire to find unitive meaning—as life force. Life as journey and passion as madness. Road trip!

Of course, in another month, a similar list with some significant changes might show up. Even as I write this (see numbers 5-6 above), I think of others: The River Why? and The Gift of Asher Lev. But, what do you expect from a unapologetic book-nerd—a bookish?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fourth Cup—struggling to make find meaning

I spent this morning in a workshop for adult degree program faculty at WPC. It was a helpful and interesting, partially inspiring, and, to some degree, depressing morning. The usual organizational stuff was handled pretty well, directly and to the point; this was especially true of the IT folks and their presentation. It strikes me as pretty amazing how these folks help us all grapple with this increasingly essential and ubiquitous this strange, even arcane, part of the teaching infrastructure. I know that I’m old school, but I remember the mysteries of the 16 mm projector, film loops, and slide carousels. So much simpler in so many ways—and oh so less demanding because they were not really seen as crucial to the enterprise. They were fun and often exciting extras. I’m thankful for the IT folks and the manner and attitude with which they go about their usually thankless, behind the scenes, but no less important work!

The part of the day that left me a bit depressed: Two of WPC’s finest faculty took us on a journey with pedagogy, with excursions into the world of andragogy—Dennis Plies and Bill Dobrenen. These two men are master teachers—really, high priests of the mystery and art of teaching. In another age, I think, they would have been called Magi. Such passion; such craft; such art—beside them I feel pretty inadequate. (To be clear, I am not seeking for ego affirmation here; only speaking the truth. I have a pretty healthy sense of what I can and can’t do in the classroom; I’ve been trying to teach since 1966. They are my good friends; I learn a great deal from them; I am not in their league; they will probably be angry at me for writing this.)

One stage of the excursion they took us on was a free write exercise; Dennis gave us a three-word phrase—“me and teaching.” The asked us to write freely what freely connected to those three words. Here’s what I wrote:

Lost often, searching for direction, hoping for meaning, looking for, caring for learners. Frustrated with response/no response/wondering what I’m doing wrong/ leaving feeling failed yet somehow picking myself up, dusting myself off, starting all over again. where’s the north star? So cloudy/foggy lost in the universe but everyonceinawhile connect/connection/star breaks through…

Then, within minutes, we paired up to share with one other person briefly what we wrote; I said “mystery.” Because I don’t understand it. I don’t understand it at all. I am grateful when the star shows up…but it seems to show up less and less now. It seems I have to work harder than I ever worked before simply to create a space where the star might show up; so, I wonder, is it time for me leave the classroom? Have I reached the point where I need to hang up my guns and ride off into the sunset? Seriously.

Bill and Dennis led us on a good journey today. A really good journey. I’m glad I was on the road with them, but I think I may be faltering and starting to fall behind.

Friday, March 1, 2013

First Cup—Poetry Friday

From one who often feels left outside, still hiding
after everyone has gone indoors:

He knows who I am.
He calls me by my name.
Even though I am in many ways like everyone else,
I am distinguishable from all others
He sees me.

He says, Arthur, lamb, I am here.
He says, Arthur, for you.
He says, Arthur, for you all along
He says, Arthur, calling you by name since the beginning of time.
He asks, Arthur, where do you think you are?
He says, Arthur, there is no hiding from me—not really
because, he says, Arthur, I see you.
I know you, Arthur, better than you know yourself.
He says, Arthur, I would enfold you.

In fact, Arthur, I do enfold you and
have carried you in my arms;
you have never been heavy. You are not heavy.
My words for you, Arthur, are

Olly olly oxen free, free, free.