Monthly Archives: August 2012

The herder

Ideas swirl through his mind,
thoughts career,
snippets of conversations,
fragments of emails,
shadows of intentions,
vaguely misremembered promises,
each representing
a task,
a responsibility,
something to do.

As though propelled by
some force unseen
they crash, collide,
then fly away to disappear
leaving chaos in their wake,
increasing anxiety,
provoking paralysis.

He struggles to slow their frenzy
that he might pluck them
one by one from the maelström to
name them,
ponder them,
weigh them,
value them,
in order that he might strip them
of their power to intimidate
and herd them into
some coherent, prioritized order
upon which he will act.

21 August 2012
DL 1817

1 Comment

Filed under Poem, Travel

Listening and singing

I like to sing. I do not necessarily sing well. But I do like to sing.

On 19 August, as the congregation of Good Shepherd-Faith Presbyterian Church in New York City stood to sing hymns, I lowered my voice so that I could listen. Sometimes when I visit a congregation that happens because I do not know the song. But not on that morning.

Good Shepherd-Faith Presbyterian Church is a unique congregation. Of course, all congregations are unique. Each congregation has its gifts and strengths, gifts and strengths that combine to give the community its personality. There are similarities within denominations and across denominational lines. But no two congregations are identical.

On some Sundays, two worship services take place at Good Shepherd-Faith: one in Korean, one in English. It is possible, maybe even probable, that at least some individuals attend both services. They are held at different times and the community members know each other well. But some Sundays, two services occur.

Twice a month that changes. The community worships together. One service. Two languages. The bulletin contains the words of the service printed in Korean and printed in English. Some of those in attendance can understand, speak, and read both languages. But I cannot.

In some parts of the service, only one language is used aloud. One scripture lesson is read in Korean, one in English. A pastoral prayer is led in English, a second pastoral prayer is prayed in Korean. The sermon is preached in English. A Korean translation follows. That proves a bit of a challenge for the person who is translating when the preacher, no names please, tends to view a manuscript as something of a guide than a word-for-word record of what to say. The announcements follow this pattern. Made in English, they are then translated into Korean. In some parts of the service, one language is used at a time. But in other parts, particularly the hymns, both languages are used at the same time.

The lay leader announces the hymn. The community turns to the page in the Korean-English hymnal. The pianist begins and when the introduction ends, the singing begins. Some sing in English. Some in Korean. Some switch flawlessly between the two languages. Each person singing in the language she or he prefers. Hears may say this results in a chaotic cacophony. But for me, each song marks a Pentecost moment – a foretaste of when all peoples gather in that great choir and every tongue sings in every tongue.

And I lower my voice so that I can sing, listen, and smile all at the same time.

See you along the Trail.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, New York, Worship

Purple flowers, Rocky Mountain National Park 5

Rocky Mountain National Park
9 July 2011

Delicate, tiny petals
create a field of purple.

See you along the Trail.

Leave a comment

Filed under National Park, Photo

Making the most of our time: Roberto Clemente

I had not planned to make this post. It is an excerpt from a sermon I preached today. However, thanks to a friend, I learned that yesterday would have been Roberto Clemente’s 78th birthday and posting seemed important. The text is Ephesians 5:15-20.

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) met in Pittsburgh this summer. For some of those who attending, this marked the first time they had journeyed to the city built around three rivers. For me, it marked something of a homecoming. As I child, my family lived for about eight years on Neville Island about five or six miles from where the Ohio River begins in Pittsburgh.

Much has changed over the years since my family lived there. But when I walked into the Westin Hotel, I knew that I had returned home. There on the wall hung a picture of Roberto Clemente—the hero of my childhood who has remained my hero through the years.

Clemente hailed from Puerto Rico and played right field for the Pittsburgh Pirates for 18 years. One of the first Hispanic players, he played in the face of prejudice—he faced jeers and slurs. People who had only one language mocked him for speaking English—his second language—poorly. Because of the prejudice against Hispanic players and because he played in the small market town of Pittsburgh, Clemente never received the acclaim as a player that he deserved until late in his career.

And he deserved acclaim because he could play. He won twelve Golden Gloves for his defense. He had one of the strongest throwing arms that have ever been seen. He ended his career with 3,000 hits.

The people of Puerto Rico and Pittsburgh admired Clemente for his athletic ability but even more we admired him and we admire him for the way he lived his life off the field. In the words of Ephesians, he “made the most of his time.”

Clemente engaged in humanitarian work in Puerto Rico and in Pittsburgh alike. He demanded respect for himself and the people of Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries. He worked for people who lived in poverty and responded to the needs of his sisters and brothers. He reached out to children and provided them with opportunities to develop their own athletic talents. In 1973, Clemente was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the first Presidential Citizens Medal. In 2002, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Baseball has named its annual award for community involvement after Clemente.

A massive earthquake hit Managua, Nicaragua on December 21, 1972. The quake devastated the city, with thousands either dead or left homeless. Clemente organized relief efforts in Puerto Rico. When he learned that some of the aid had ended up in the pockets of the leaders and had not reached the people of Nicaragua, Clemente decided to deliver the next shipment personally. On New Year’s Eve, he stepped into a DC-7 plane along with the supplies and headed for Nicaragua. Not long after takeoff the plane suddenly lost altitude and crashed somewhere into the waters off Puerto Rico. Clemente’s body was never found.

I tell his story this morning, because the United Nations has designated today, August 19, as World Humanitarian Day. The day marks the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. That bombing killed 22 people present to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq. The UN chose the day to pay tribute to Sergio Vieira de Mello and the other individuals who died in Iraq and others who gave their lives while seeking to serve sisters and brothers in need.

It is also a day to give thanks for those individuals and groups who continue to help people around the world, regardless of who they are and where they are. It is a day when we remember that we all can make a difference when we show that we care and do something for someone else. In the language of the church, this is a day to invite, to challenge us all to make the most of our time by loving others as God in Jesus Christ loves us. Of course that is not just a task for a day—it is a calling for a lifetime.

On this World Humanitarian Day, I give thanks for the life and witness of Roberto Clemente. I advocated for an end to violence against women and for the strong regulations on minerals that fuel conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other places. And I made a financial gift to efforts to address leukemia. Tomorrow I will need to find other actions.

See you along the Trail.




Filed under Baseball, Human Rights, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Colors of fruit

The theme of colors continues.
Fruit played a significant role
among the food served at
the 60th Anniversary Party
for Tricia’s parents.

While not a big fan of fruit,
although I share my father’s love of blackberries
and I did eat several at this party,
the presentation rocked.

See you along the Trail.

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, Food, Photo


Do they drip from the ceiling,
one drip at a time,
slowly, patiently?

Do they rise from the floor,
all at once
in a seismic cataclysm?

The artist allows us
to create our own story
of the colors
that welcome us
to the Virginia Museum of Fine arts.

See you along the Trail.

Leave a comment

Filed under Photo, Travel

Doing, working, being

“What do you do?”
came the question.

“What do you do?”

Answer after answer named
where we worked –
not what our work involved –
nor what we do when we work –
simply the name of our office
perhaps our title.

“What do you do?”

The words that we said
left others unknowing,
uniformed, unaware.

The words that we said
left me wondering:
does the question,
do the responses
address who we are?

16 August 2012
Shire on the Hudson

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem