Getting noticed, or not.

I desire to be noticed
not for ego’s sake,
but for the sake
of influence.

I want to made a difference
because I’ve been told
that’s why I’m here.

They’ve told me
that my impact
is measured against
my audience.

“Mine is
than yours…”

I’d just as soon
sit with my books,
my pen and paper,
play with ideas,
and live with words.

I’d walk in the woods,
sit in cafes and pubs
with a few choice friends.

I’d linger over
small batch,
fresh roast,
single malt,

I’d think my thoughts,
dream my dreams,
weave my tapestries
of hope and love
and transformation.

“Vocation requires an audience.”
This I believe is true.

But perhaps
the audience could be
a tree
a bird
just one friend
a smallish room
of patient listeners.

Deep or wide?
There’s a fountain
flowing deep AND wide.

Some go wide.
Others go deep.
Must we all do both?

Must I do both?
Can I do both?
Is it my burden to bear?

I think
the burden
is to show up
whenever and wherever.

I said it wasn’t ego.
Perhaps I’m wrong.
Perhaps ego wants impact.

“Cast your bread upon the waters.”
“Don’t cast your pearls before swine.”
“The swine ran headlong down into the water.”

Can I let go
of the desire
to make a difference?
Should I?

What to do?

I find myself jealous of others
who find success and visibility.
Today its #realclergybios.
Truly, I’m overjoyed for Elizabeth & Mihee
Glad that the stories are being told
and heard.

And yet I’ve been struggling for years
to figure out how
to get an audience
for this very conversation.
And they got one without even trying.
(Yes, I know that’s unfair and untrue.)
Their visibility far outstretched their reach.

I rejoice with them and for them.
I’m left wondering.
Am I supposed to DO SOMETHING
to create broader visibility and impact?

I hustle
for opportunity
that seems elusive.

Because it matters.
Ministry matters.

I really care about the lives of ministers.
Clergy and lay leaders
some well trained, others less so
some immensely gifted, others less so.
All longing to be faithful
to make a difference
to change the world
to see the kingdom and the kin-dom come.

There is so much need
and so few resources
and so little help
or hope.

We can.
God will.

Perhaps I can rest in that.

Caged Bird

Purchase works by Maya Angelou here.

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou, “Caged Bird” from Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing? Copyright © 1983 by Maya Angelou. Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (Random House Inc., 1994) Track Back to Poetry Foundation




Ocean waves break, roar, drone
Gulls soar, cry, plunge
Dancing, twirling, rolling, running
Arms outstretched
Wind caressing my naked body
Breaking dawn begins to warm
Behind banks of rose-colored clouds

I wish,
To remain,

Clang, shruffle, crash
NO, I’m dying, which is worse.

If I were dead, then indeed I could stay here forever

But if I’m dying, then they will try to get me back, without asking me what I want. Mrs. Jones, you are dying. Would you like us to resuscitate you?

They did ask me weeks ago
But at that time
The question was academic

“If you were to stop breathing
And your heart were
To stop beating
What do you want us to do?

What a stupid question.

But now that I see
And feel
What comes next,
I’m not so sure

I will miss you all, of course
But that will be true eventually

Though, what does it mean to miss our loved ones when we are in a place where there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more pain or suffering? Does not “Miss you” imply some lack, some void, some deficiency which we feel – some pain?

But as I stand here on the shore at early dawn and feel the breeze and the warmth of the rising sun and know the power of the whole of creation as one with my very heart, I’m not so sure what I want.

Pain. I feel pain.
That means I’m alive. Burning in my lungs, my nose, my eyes, my throat.
Darkness distorted by glare
Dried mucus glues my eyelids shut, and my arms are weak for lifting hand to face
There is distance perceived between the world and my world
Immediacy is not

You are not here beside me. Your voice, the squeak of your running shoes on the cold tile floor. The brush of your forearm to scratch your masked nose. Away off at some distance un-discernable. Three feet. Thirty feet. Three floors?

Breathing tube prevents speech, yet a scream finds its painful way forth confused and searching. Narrowed vision takes in ceiling, monitors, door lintel, drapes, cabinet, lights, breathing mask, tubes and wires, poles and bags.

Where is your face, your warm reassuring smile? The glint in your eye magnified by one small tear telling me you were afraid but now assured that all is well, or will be well in time. The sigh of relief that relaxes across your furrowed brow? Where are you?

Where are you,
and why are you not here?
Where is everyone?
Not Here
Why is no one here,
where I am?
Caring for me?

I spent my whole life caring for you, feeding and cradling and nursing and tending and clothing and comforting and rocking and cheering and praying.

Where are you?
Could you not wait one hour with me?
Could you not stay awake one hour?
Pray that you do not enter into the temptation time.

Oh God!? Where is everyone?
My God, My god,
Why have all forsaken me?

Why are you so far from helping me
From the voice of my cry and my supplication?

Lord, let this cup pass from me.

What will I do now that I can not care for you?
Now that I can not help and tend and serve you?
Who am I absent these things
Which have defined me
I was strong
I was self-reliant
I had no one but myself to
Me and God, we got you through the growing and the living

Now I’m nothing

Cant walk
Cant sit
Cant stand
Cant wipe

Naked, frail, sagging and wrinkled
My flabby frail self yields to your warm wet sponge

The dignity of infancy is that we are unaware,
or at least do not remember
the indignities

There is no dignity in old age.

Is there no dignity in old age?
What if dignity comes not in what I can do.
What if indignity comes not in what you must do for me?
What if naked and frail is dignity defined, personified?

What if there is no greater dignity
than for me to lie here and
allow you to care for me
in your compassion?

What if the greatest dignity IS to stop trying, resisting, fighting?
What if the greatest dignity is to be found in the indignity of the cross?

In your suffering, in your frailty, is your fullest dignity?
As you lie there on that hospital bed, naked and soiled and unable to ask
Are you less human, or more human?

You are so frightened, so alone. How frightening to be completely vulnerable for the first time in seventy years, and think yourself totally alone and without help in the world.

There really is nothing to be done about it. Yes, we can clean you, and change you and bathe you, and feed you, and get you up out of bed and help you learn to walk again. That will not solve it.

Your sorrow is you have realized, perhaps for the first time, you will die. You always knew in theory but now the experiment has revealed a flaw in your thinking. You can not manipulate the variables to your purposes any longer. Always before you could adjust this or change that and move things along according to plan.

Now, your plan is out the window and someone else’s plan is being revealed.

The plan is not for you to suffer. It is a sad confusion of theology to think that suffering is part of God’s purpose or design for us. Suffering is the organism’s response to threat. You would have no need of pain if your body did not think itself under attack. The pain is your brain’s response to assault on your body, real or perceived.

Pain is your brain’s response to assault – real or perceived.

So, when you feel pain, the thing for you to do is to ask yourself
What threat?
From whence comes the assault on my person-hood?

Is the threat real?
Is the threat avoidable?
Should the threat be countered?

Is response possible to reduce or eliminate the threat?

How did you know?

How did you know I needed you to allow me to cry?

Who told you to come and visit me
I didn’t think anyone had noticed that I was struggling.
I’m so used to being the strong one, the competent one,
The reliable provider and useful contributor.

Now I can do nothing.

I’m frightened
Not because of danger
Not because of doubt
I’m not sure who I am any more

I know God is with me
And yet somehow
That’s small comfort
In this particular moment

God can’t, or won’t
Fix what’s ailing me
I’m broken in places
Others can’t see.

Perhaps there is no fixing
Or perhaps the breaking
Is in reality the fixing
Is God a post-modern Deconstructivist?

We build a babel-tower
To reach the pinnacles of perfection
Superiority, excellence, autonomy
Once I reach God, I won’t need God.

We’d gotten so good at convincing ourselves
That our explanations made sense
That our ordering of life was living
God enabled us to be this, so God must want this.

How frightening the confused talk
Nothing I hear or say makes any sense any more
Mixed messages are the only messages
The only good news is no news

Where will we go with our brokenness
It will drive us apart in shame
What if we could stay together long enough
To realize unbroken is incomplete