Merry Christmas 2020

It’s tough to put a good spin on this past year. Worse to pontificate on how we ‘should’ have responded in the midst of trial and tragedy because I’m aware I need to be better no matter the year. This only brought stuff – good and bad – bubbling to the surface longer than usual for me to take a good hard look.

Still I take refuge in the the Gospel, in the confidence that God is real. That He loves me and meets me where I’m at – even when it falls far short.

I don’t mean that as a cop-out for poor character or an excuse to slack. It’s an acknowledgment not just of my flawed humanity, but of what – or Who – I should be reaching for.

Merry Christmas to you all. I pray your 2021 is filled with better times, with courage and grace, peace and provision. Most of all, with a deep and abiding knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, the risen savior.

Let the stable still astonish:
Straw-dirt floor, dull eyes,
Dusty flanks of donkeys, oxen;
Crumbling, crooked walls;
No bed to carry that pain,
And then, the child, rag-wrapped laid to cry
In a trough.
Who would have chosen this?
Who would have said:
“Yes, Let the God of Heaven and Earth be born in this place.”

Who but the same God
Who stands in the darker, fouler rooms of our hearts
And says,
“Yes, let the God of Heaven and Earth be born in this place.”

-Leslie Leyland Fields

“Read More Poetry”

“Then write more poetry.”

Was asked what advice I had for beginning writers and that leaped to mind. Say more with less. Don’t fret over being misunderstood.

It’s my advice to myself. The whip I flog myself/ my work with. It’s what I see my favorite writers doing. I’m not talking amount or style so much as traction and weight.

We’ve been trained to give book reports, to listen to and give lectures, instructions, directions. All great and necessary, but those aren’t stories. In my opinion, nothing will fend off Dramatic Essay Syndrome (or Dramatic Sermon Syndrome, in the case of faith-based fiction) faster than a heavy dose of Collins, Tennyson, Kunitz or Szymborska. (or Mali or Mojgani, if spoken word is your thing)

BTW – fell embarrassingly short of my NaNoWriMo goal.

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”
Ray Bradbury

thoughts on inheritance

Money already asserts itself,
as will the need for prayer
and that each must find their way
to the God that seeks them.
I have little of the first,
plenty of the second
and the third is not mine to give.
But if I could pass on just two
gifts to my children,
my grandchildren,
(one for their bones
and one for their blood)
they would be Calvin and Hobbes
and poetry.

The First Commandment

The First Commandment

“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?”
– Jer. 12: 5

The LORD would make
the Hebrew prophets eat
His words
and they would be sweet as honey,
or bitter. A furnace raging
in their bones until they spoke woe
and grace.
I am unworthy to face
such oracles, captivated
by all-too-mortal voices
that shake my soul.
Would that I not break
the first commandment.
But there are times I fear
I am turned aside after foreign gods,
hungry for their scrolls
to work their fierce magic
and ravish my cells
in lesser incarnation.

Patrick Todoroff

A Poem

I had mentioned an affection for poetry in my interview with Mark Carver. Here’s one from a while back, written for the daughter of a family friend.

The Tale of Jessica J

Please take the time for this little rhyme
Of a girl with a curious name,
Of prim apparitions, and crucial decisions
That lead to glory or shame.

Jessica J was four, what’s more,
she could be quite a handful.
She’d scream and shout and point and pout,
And stomp around demand-ful.

Her mother was nice and gave advice
To amend her daughter’s behavior,
She took great pains to try and explain,
And did what she could to save her.

“It’s wrong,” she’d say, “to act that way.”
“Good manners matter most.”
“If you will not heed, I really need
to call Miss Emily Post.”

Jessica J said “Go away!”
While bouncing on her bed.
“You can’t frighten me,” she said with glee.
“Miss Emily Post is dead.”

“I’ll fling all my toys, and make faces at boys.
And build big tents in the hall.
I’ll leave a huge mess, and suck on my dress.
You can’t stop me at all.”

“You’re right,” Mom sighed, with a tear in her eye.
“Whatever shall I do?
At the end of my rope, I’ve given up hope.
What will become of you?”

Then from the first floor came a sound at the door,
A crisp, little voice spoke out.
“Come here, my dears, and do not fear,
Miss Emily Post is about.”

The figure was dressed in clean white and pressed,
carefully fitted apparel.
“You’ve begged and you’ve pleaded. I see that I’m needed.
The young lady is turning quite feral.”

“I’ve seen your plight, I’ll make things right.
I’ve come with a remedy.
Now mother, you must, in me put your trust.
Leave Jessica J to me.”

Emily Post, the elegant ghost, motioned for Jess to come.
But she wouldn’t do it,
grabbed her dolly and threw it,
Turned ‘round and started to run.

Miss Post, she did smile with impeccable style,
And waved a hand full of glitter and light.
She whisked Jess away to the table to stay
until she learned her manners aright.

“Shoulders don’t droop. No hair in your soup.
No burping or feet on the table.
Don’t eat with your knife, or scream for your life.
Pay attention whenever you’re able.

Don’t interrupt, or knock over your cup.
It’s not appropriate in the least.
Or mash food with your toes, suck noodles up your nose.
It makes you look like a beast.

The thing you must know in order to grow
to a lady both joyous and bright,
Is that Fate can be frozen by deeds that are chosen,
So make sure those choices are right.”

Jessica scowled, and furrowed her brow,
A great decision before her.
Should she be bad, and make her Mom sad?
Or should she be good and adore her?

Miss Emily Post, she watched her quite close
to see what path would be taken.
Would she decide to stand firm in her pride,
Or would bad deeds be forsaken?

Jessica J jumped up to say
“I’ve made a decision alright!
While Bad can be easy, I’d rather be pleasing,
and welcome in everyone’s sight.”

Then in great bliss, she gave Momma a kiss
and said, “Never again will I stray.
I’m gonna be good and do what I should
And put Joy back in Jessica J.”