Heavy Emptiness

Heavy Emptiness

The heavy emptiness:
One’s lightness of being,
The loss of substance and purpose,
The clarity of vision for the day and week.

And then one’s lost
Which is an eternity of loss or at least
An indefinite hole in the future.
The empty arms that held and hugged
Now holding this urn–
This heavy square,
This dense packet of person.

Then the tears I feel and cry,
The regret of so much
Lost.
Lost words and ones too hastily spoken,
Unsaid, or unrepented.
The sadness over how much
And how easily I resented
The trouble and time.

© Randall Edwards 2019.

Just So

Just So

This month is Pastor Appreciation Month. This was written a couple of years ago after I heard someone talk about leaders and how they liked them ‘just so’. The line caught my attention and rolled around in my head for a few days.
Oftentimes there is an attempt to position ourselves in terms of us and them: us pastors and them parishioners or us who appreciate pastors and them who don’t. But when it all boils down there is really only us and Him. And well, He’s really just so…

We like our leaders just so–
Not too brash, not too bold.
We like them humble, but not so much so.
We like our leaders just so.

We like them selfless,
Who serve without putting on a show.
Not pretentious, ostentatious,
Modest and humble,
Not too high but not too low.
That’s how we like our leaders.

Just so,
You know from the start,
From the get go, we have no issue
With receiving, following, heeding,
We hope you got the memo.
And we like you too,
(We thought you’d like to know),
We like our leaders.

Just so we’re clear
(And although no one’s perfect)
We’d like you
To be the closest to perfect
Of anyone we know—
Who’ll play their part
In our well-conceived dreams,
Lead us in fulfilling all our schemes,
Who is authentic down to their bones,
Who really is, not merely seems,
Someone we can trust more than anything.
We like our leaders.

We like our leaders just. So
You’ll need to measure up,
Exude perfection,
Reflect our fronting, our righteous reflection,
Our confident, prosperous, self-projection.
We like our leaders just.

So, why are you wearing that towel?
Why disrobed? Down on your knee?
Why touch my feet as a slave?
Why wash me?

Why don’t you speak, live up to the hype?
Do the deeds which brought you fame?
Are we to follow one so derided, disdained?

Defend yourself, why scorn the shame?
Why bear the cursing, take all the blame?
We like our leaders just.

So, you’ll have to do better;
You’ll have to rise higher;
You’ll have to break out
Of this lamb of God game.
You’ll need to make a better name
If we’re to follow you into your dominion;
You may not like it, but that’s our opinion.
There’s just no glory for a lion laid low
Because we like our leaders just so.

© Randall Edwards 2017
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

Mere Mortals

Mere Mortals

In his sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis has this to say about those people with whom we come into contact and who are themselves immortals. He writes, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal….Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

It is the span between humanity’s dignity and depravity which so shocks and devastates us. To know that each individual may be both gloriously godlike and yet an insufferable tyrant? And to know that the flip between each may occur in such proximity and with such an ease? Ugh.

Yet the grand hope of the gospel, the resurrection, and the new creation means that what we count awful, shall grow in us so that we will be full of awe for the glorious weight that shall be, and is even now, ours.

This earth in which you’re wrapped is as a tomb,
Holds only the frame, the bones of one’s fame
But hides also a secret place, a womb,
Where in darkness life may spark into flame.

Dear brother and sister, in you Christ dwells
By faith. You are filled with resurrection;
United to Him, your soul, limbs, and cells
Are filled with Him who is love, perfection.

On the surface, each saint’s quiescent
Life seems unchanged, but beneath, glory swells
And bubbles with New, the effervescent
Which cannot hold, shall not be kept in shells.

These ord’nary, mere mortals you walk past
Shall shatter this world when raised at last.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog
(backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Original photo by Randall Edwards. The Beasley Family cemetery in Francisco, NC.

Bearings

Bearings

This sonnet is in honor of my father who recently celebrated a significant birthday. For as long as I knew him as a working man, he worked for The Timken Company. He rose from the assembly line, to heat treat supervisor, and then to heat treat general supervisor. It was said that, though he did not have an engineering degree, he had earned the metallurgist handshake.

As a child one apprehends what one’s father does, though one can’t fully comprehend it. My life was informed by his work, I grew up knowing about cups and cones, rollers, and bearings. The smell of machine oil and the grease which his shoes brought home, I can still smell today. I knew that (at the time at least), Timken only made tapered roller bearings and not ball bearings. I knew what heat treat was, and I had opportunity to visit the Timken plant in Columbus, Ohio where he worked in the 60’s and 70’s as well as the more modern Lincolnton plant to which he was relocated and to where we moved in the late 70’s.

While in Vancouver, BC this summer, I did a lot of walking in and around the University of British Columbia campus. I made use of a smart phone app that allowed me to see public transit and follow where I was. The experience, though helpful, was very different from trying to find my way by paying attention to my surroundings and following signs. The sense of getting one’s bearings was always in the forefront of my mind, and it didn’t take much to make the jump to making tapered roller bearings. So this one is for him.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Looking at a map is not the same as
Rolling round that place, strolling in and through,
Getting your bearings from where the sun has
Risen, run its race, where it’s running to.
We lock our eyes to a cage called a screen
Where wonder tapers to a point defined
Not a cone’s broad base but the meager, mean
Point that shrinks you to a tick on a line.

But when love tempers, you roll freely round;
Hardened against fear, in offering you
Hold cupped hands to share, you move through your town,
By faith, arrive where you’d always hoped to.
Grace rights your bearings to humbly learn
It’s not toeing the line, but where you turn.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: Original linoleum block print, © Randall Edwards 2019.

What Do You See?

What Do You See?

This poem is based on Jeremiah 1:1-19, but it takes its inspiration from Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message of that passage. Peterson’s translation of the the Hebrew pun (almond/watching) with the English homonym/pun “stick” is brilliant.

I loved you before I made you in love
In the hidden place of your begetting;
Your life’s mission descends from above,
As a watchman you’ll speak, my word spreading.

“Ah, but Lord God, don’t you know, can’t you see?
I am but a youth; I cannot speak.
No one will heed or listen to me;
I don’t know how; I’m not strong but weak.”

Ah, indeed. Do not say, “Ah!” Do you hear?
Into your mouth I put my word of power;
You shall say what I say. Speak! Do not fear;
Though they beat, you’ll remain my strong tower.

“How will I know that you are with me?”
I thought to myself as I walked along.
Jeremiah, tell me, what do you see?
I replied, “I see a stick of almond.”

You see well, son! I’ll be sticking al-‘round —
Watch you work, watch my word for years to come.
You watch each spring when this stick of almond
Reminds with its blooms the sticking I’ve done.

Remember this stick. With you, I’m sticking ‘round
Whether you work to plant, pull up, or tear down.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: original linoleum block print: © Randall Edwards 2018

Rumour

Rumour

In his sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis speaks of the inconsolable longing which is the secret we all carry inside us — a longing for more than we have ever experienced and yet pervades every experience. He describes the longing as, “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” The presence of this real longing speaks of a real desire which seeks satisfaction and much of life is a search for what which will really satisfy or rather, Whom will really satisfy. Lewis goes on to say,

“Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.”

“That old ache.” That captures it. Much like an old friend, no?

This sonnet draws a lot from Lewis and “The Weight of Glory. It particularly draws form the following quote, “But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”

And one more thing, in another work, “Meditation on a Toolshed,” Lewis describes a moment of insight which came to him while watching and then standing in a beam of light when shone into his toolshed. He writes,

“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.
Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.”

The leaves of Your Testament rustle with
Rumour that what’s seen is not all there is,
Nor merely a story passed into myth
But is news of future joy, the promise.

The light of Your word as komorebi
Filters through our tangled branches of care
To dance with all that leaves our hearts heavy
And dapple with hope, turn what seems dark, fair.

Your kindness draws me out from shadow and
Into the shimmer and splash of light
Where I am found, where with my old ache stand
To look along the beam upstream to life
Where Love opens, welcomes, whispers to me,
“What was rumour is now reality.”

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: linoleum print, Randall Edwards.

Why All This Waste?

Why All This Waste?

I spent some time these past few days at DITA10 (Duke Initiatives in Theology & the Arts) which was an excellent conference. One of the sessions attempted to tackle the question of whether, in this age of scarcity and need, there was just cause to spend so much time, energy, and of course money on art (as the value of anything in this age of the world is reduced to dollars). The question at the conference itself arose from Matthew’s gospel and the account of Jesus’ anointing in Matthew 26:6-10 which reads,

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.’
But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me.'”

The question to which art is always having to give an account is, “Why this waste?”

In another session later in the day however, conference speaker, Malcolm Guite, answered the question quite succinctly when he noted that Matthew 26 is the first and only time the gospels that Jesus says something is “beautiful”.

Well, that settled it for me.

In between the time that the question was posed and Guite’s answer came, a friend and I were stopped short by seeing a hummingbird flit and hover around a lobelia near us. This moment set us up for the answer to come later. As we observed, having already been asked the question, Why this waste? I was asking, of what possible utility or value is a hummingbird? Well, it was a beautiful thing. It turns out it answered quite clearly.

Why should we make room for more beauty?
Why this waste when we have the duty
To be responsible, care for the poor?
Why all this waste when we could do more?

Why all this room in the cosmos above
If space is empty, if it only consists of
Us? Are we the only ones? Nothing more?
Why all this waste? What on earth is space for?

A hummingbird on a tree’s branch sways
In the wind, takes flight, flies up and away
And down, stops to kiss the lobelia blooms;
And Beauty stops me, in my heart makes room.

God wastes not a moment, but to me calls:
For love of you, I have gladly spent all.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks
artwork: original linoleum block print by © Randall Edwards 2019.