“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,”
The old Jews prayed, “Let my right hand forget …”
I had done worse. I had forgotten life, light, food,
Sunlight and song: I had forgotten thee.
The day had dragged me in its wake.
My heart, long-hardened, barely felt
A kind of restlessness that brought me back.
Back where? I hardly knew.
The memory of a memory told me “home.”
With little faith and less of hope I came
And knelt beneath the weight of guilt—
The little lies, the swift unkindnesses,
The tasks left incomplete—
But I knelt too beneath thy hands:
The hands that freed me, and made whole
The fragments of a heart I did not know was broken.
I must go out again by morning light.
But this time, Lord, I think I will remember:
I go upon thy errand
And I know
The way back home.
Hebrews 11: Strangers and Pilgrims
Had we a home elsewhere and chose one here?
From home the stranger makes his crying start:
a touch, a taste, a scent, a voice of dear
concern, a look from eyes to beating heart,
a window on the world. The pilgrim sees
a tree beside a gate; then, many trees.
We take an avenue to find our own;
look for a city—Is our town the place?
We love our country, seek another one;
we gain a wife or husband by thy grace,
a home and children, ours. Away—they’ve gone
to find their own. Still seeking, we press on.
The valley of the shadow: Lord, thy hand!
We spirit-pilgrims long—in paradise,
yet still on loving earth—for home, a land
of promise and fulfillment. May we rise,
our flesh and bone exalted from the dust,
in that first resurrection of the just!
No longer strange, but pilgrims of that age,
our reunited families can sing,
not solitary on our pilgrimage,
but companied at work for thee our King
a thousand years; till, through refining flame,
one home, all crystal, radiates thy name.
A Reason Why
Once flanked an elder brother
Against the Son of the Morning;
We desired the divine plan
And not an easy salvation.
For at least this one act of unselfishness
We all have cause
To love all of us.
If man were made of concrete and steel
He would be solid
But he would also be unbendable,
Unable to kneel,
Not as slave, but as humble supplicator
To a Higher Power
Who knows that man’s strength
Is not to be measured as concrete and steel—
In tensil units—
But in his indomitable will.
To Kevin: Newly a Missionary
You stand before the gates of paradox
In quest for life. You dream deep autumn dreams
Of white: Behold the field! If tares or rocks
Be there they hide beneath the fruited gleams
Of lives you seek. And yet to save your life
You cannot know the life you seek—or yield—
Can only know it lies beyond your reach,
Beyond your self, but somewhere in the field.
I stand behind your dreams and know the tares
And rocks but also know the Rock. And know
How few the lives you’ll find in losing yours,
How much of you must go into the flow
Of self that harvests precious heads of grain
Including yours: Kneel, pray, and enter in.