Start Close In by David Whyte

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To hear
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes an
intimate
private ear
that can
really listen
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats

Ten Years

On social media, people have been sharing photos of themselves in 2009 and 2019. On Twitter, Rachel Joy Welcher shared her pictures and a capsule of significant events. I felt compelled to write mine down.

We began the process to adopt
an Ethiopian girl
with Down’s syndrome.
It turns out she didn’t have it.

My wife was diagnosed with
and treated for breast cancer
in the midst of the adoption.
She had chemo the day Tessa came home.

We began the process to adopt
two beautiful Haitian children.
Eight years and ten thousand tears later,
it officially became a failed adoption.

I betrayed my friends,
more than once
and so betrayed myself
more than once.

I nearly lost my oldest daughter,
and so nearly lost myself.

I became a pastor.
I tried to be who I am not.
I had a nervous breakdown.
I became an ex-pastor.

I wrote.
I painted.
I published.
I began to create.

I got a tattoo, then another and
another and another and another.
Peace and freedom.
Goodness, truth, beauty, and strength.
Identity and love.  

I have been experiencing
a radical shift in my understanding of God
and of myself.
And I began again,
the process of coming back to God,
and to myself.

We feel no disgust

with a newly planted seed

when it does not immediately bloom,

for growth takes time.

Why do we fail to offer

the same courtesy

to our souls?

A death blow is a life blow to some,

Who ’til they died did not alive become.

Who had they lived had died.

But when they died vitality begun.

-Emily Dickinson

lacerate

Sarcasm and satire
plant seeds for
weeds that
choke out kindness.

We feast on thorns that
slash and lacerate our
throats, turning our
voices to twin-edged blades
that wound and harm
cutting both others
and ourselves.

Speak to us of clothes

And the weaver said, speak to us of Clothes:

And he answered:

Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.

And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain.

Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment,

For the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.

Some of you say, “It is the north wind who has woven the clothes we wear.”

And I say, Ay, it was the north wind,

But shame was his loom, and the softening of the sinews was his thread.

And when his work was done he laughed in the forest.

Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean.

And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.

-Khalil Gibran

Loosen Your Grip

How easily, it seems, we limit our own growth
in becoming like Jesus
in becoming love.

We are gripped with fear.
What if we are wrong?
What if I am judged?
by others?
by God?

We cling with trembling hands
to the assurances of others,
but tight fists
leave no space for the blessing of doubt,
nor the humility of uncertainty.
There is no space to give or receive love.

Loosen your grip on your certainty
if only just a bit.
For it is only open hands
that God is able to fill.