Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Lenten Poems 2023


He said we could take on something new. And I did 20 years ago. Now it is rediscovering the new in the old, mining memories that connect with a Psalm or prophet.  Some bring back the moment crisp and fresh. Others are the hard tiles, like the funny sign below that I found in my inbox.  But my job is to ride the verse to another space both near and far. And if just some rusty words by the roadside hands me its oil can, I squeeze the bottom and freshen the joints a bit, so it squeaks me its name. And all a street-side prophet can hope to do is say a name of the one we meet wrapped in the Psalms calling my name. And I will rejoice in the discovery. 

The poems are in reverse date order, with new poems on top. Verses for the epigraphs are mostly from the Psalms appointed for the day in one of the Episcopal Lectionaries:


Source 1:  

Source 2:  




"There is a sound of exultation and victory

    in the tenets of the righteous" --Ps. 118:15

Before I see him,

I hear the red-belly

trumpet from the tree top.

In the early morning light

he rushes down

like the wind

to the empty feeder

to eat with the others,

looking left then right,

inviting me to see

what he sees,

and what I thought was an end

was a beginning.

Easter Sunday, Apr. 9, 2023



“My times are in your hand” –Ps. 31:15 

Sitting and watching the sunset

on Holy Week

the pond has gone glass smooth

the subdued tangerine hues on the horizon

reflect a cloudless day.

It is quiet


almost serene

between the bugle and the trumpet,

only the soft hum of the furnace fan

flowing the air

and the sense there is one 

more line to be written.

Lent 46, Holy Saturday, Apr. 8, 2023


“My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd;

     my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; 

     and you have laid me in the dust of the grave“ —Ps. 22:15

I remember going
to the funeral home
for my grandmother’s wake
Grieving, I walked tentatively
down the hall
through the doorway
into the room
where she was laid
And I was startled
by what the undertaker
had done.
Her skin had been stretched
to remove the lines and wrinkles
in her face
as if her years of living
and pain of dying
could be erased
I turned quickly
to those behind me
and said in a stutter
of disbelief
that’s not her.
She’s not here
and the truth fell
from each syllable.

Lent 45, Good Friday, Apr. 7, 2023

In the Garden

“I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving 

     and call upon the Name of the Lord.” –Ps. 116:15

He pleaded in the garden

asking to be spared

there was no thanksgiving

in resignation,

only a giving himself over

an unfolding

once, twice, thrice:

“Your will be done.”*

Lent 44, Maundy Thursday, Apr. 6, 2023

* Matt. 26:39-44


“You are my helper and my deliverer; *

     O Lord, do not tarry.” –Ps. 70:6

I remember hearing of the young boy

at the Montessori School

standing on a step stool at the stove

smelling the aroma from the pot


and not yet tasting.

In this day of gratification

at our fingertips

even a pause

is fraught with anxious 


What if I miss something? 

And here in the midst of Holy Week

do we hear the prayers

and the cries of anguish

that are coming?

Lent 43, Wed., Apr. 5, 2023

The Irony

“In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; 

     let me never be ashamed.” Ps. 71:1

The rock of the church

denying he ate and drank with the builder

A tax collector

preaching to the taxed

A governor washing his hands

and giving the order

Lent 42, Tue., Apr. 4, 2023

The Edge of Darkness

"For with you is the well of life, 

      and in your light we see light.” –Ps. 36:9

The photographer waits

until the sun so low in the sky

slices through the trees

and ripples on the wind 

that makes itself known

on the pond.

Oh the light of sunset 

everything looks different

the waiting for this moment

to be seen, engaging

the darkness on the horizon,

immersed before the dawn.

Lent 41, Mon., Apr. 3, 2023

Palm Sunday

“God is the Lord; he has shined upon us; 

      form a procession with branches up to the horns of the altar.” –Ps. 118:27

We gather in the Social Hall

and take palm leaves from a large metal vase

old and young, each holding a frond.

The priest chants and we chant the refrain

then one-by-one we process

out the door to the east, into cold crisp air,

into the sunlight, under shocking blue sky

led by the deacon holding the gold staff and cross

around the church, then toward the front doors

but the cross is too tall, and it crashes into the rain gutter

and makes a sound that reminds us that this

is no triumph without pain, and unexpected turns.

Lent 40, Palm Sunday, Apr. 2, 2023


“You have been gracious to your land, O Lord, 

you have restored the good fortune of Jacob” —Ps 85:1

When we bought our house, as was customary,

we paid for a title search, the assurance

that this land was rightfully owned by the seller

and whose title now passed to us.

Those who were here before the settlers

had no concept of owning the land,

there may be the right to use it

to hunt and farm, but it is a infused 

with spirit and soul, to be honored and respected,

not owned.

Our old stories tell of lands conquered and lost

and regained, but always with the idea that it was gift

and as in life, we are renters with a lease that comes due.


Lent 39, Sat. Apr. 1, 2023



“O Lord, you have enticed me,

     and I was enticed;

you have overpowered me,

     and you have prevailed.”  –Jer. 20:7a

She made herself a birthday cake

because she wanted to

and as the aroma filled 

our great room

I was drawn.

There are desserts that call to me

especially in the late evening

giving in to the whipped peanut butter icing

with the roasted shaved coconut

I yield.

A teacher once told of God on the make

in the writing of John the Cross

and I remember the great poem

of the hound of heaven. *

I am reminded of the affirmation

in being pursued

giving in 

to the simple things,

a gift of the baker’s hands

I partake and give thanks.

Lent 38, Fri. Mar. 31, 2023

* “The Hound of Heaven,” a poem by Francis Thompson (1859-1907)


Horseshoe Falls

“Search for the Lord and his strength;

     continually seek his face.” –Ps. 105:4

“See the falls from the Canadian side,”

we are told by friends 

who have been there.

“You can get up close.”

Standing there are all

the senses in awe.

The enormity of grasp

or lack of grasp

of the weight of the creation falling;

it is a wonder we can hold on

to the railing and not be swept away.

The rainbow rises in the mist below

and we are reminded.

Lent 37, Thu. Mar. 30, 2023


"and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” –John 8:32

Pilate asked the memorable question,

“What is truth?” *

But it was the wrong question.

What Jesus said was he was the truth,

he would set us free,

he would reconcile us,

and ultimately he would raise us

as he was raised.

It is to live life as a sacrifice

to live life freely 

as he lived and loved,

to live the truth.

The question then is 

“Who is the truth?”

Lent 36, Wed. Mar. 29, 2023

* John 18:38


“Let this be written for a future generation, 

     so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord.” –Ps. 102:18

Reading the Psalm for the day

I realize that I am that future generation

I look back on the words that anticipate

and think, how much of what we’ve written

is for the present

and rightfully so

but the question of what 

we leave for those not yet born


Lent 35, Tue. Mar. 28, 2023


“You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me” –Ps. 23:5

He scoffs at my suggestion

that when we sit down

and break bread

with those from other cultures

we talk about our children

and food our mother made

we realize that they are people 

like us,

they are our neighbors.

They move from suggestion

to being.

Lent 34, Mon. Mar. 27, 2023


“My soul waits for the LORD,

     more than watchmen for the morning, 

     more than watchmen for the morning.” —Ps. 130:5

It is a rare morning

that I rise before the sun

and anticipate the growing light

low and cutting across the treetops

the reflection on the pond

of the house across the way

is like no other one

I see with new eyes

So much of our year

are seasons of waiting

and fulfillment

of absence and presence

of going and coming.

Lent 33, Sun. Mar. 26, 2023


“Ride out and conquer in the cause of truth 

     and for the sake of justice.” –Ps. 45:4

When the mallard reaches the edge

and casts off into the pond

he shakes his tail

as if leaving the dust of earth


he is catching up

with his bride

who already tips her body

and eats of the early spring moss

He is regal

in how he holds his head in pride

and purpose

conquering the day

with his presence,

so it is so.

Lent 32, Sat. Mar. 25, 2023


“Many are the troubles of the righteous, 

     but the Lord will deliver him out of them all.” –Ps. 34:19

My father fought

under General George Patton

who said, “Courage 

is fear holding on a minute longer” 

and to this day

I can feel him steeling himself

against feeling aloud

as if a minute were a lifetime.

He was in many ways

a hero to me.

I looked up to him

until I didn’t.

I had not considered 

that the righteous

are troubled.

Lent 31, Fri. Mar. 24, 2023


“So he would have destroyed them,

     had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, 

     to turn away his wrath from consuming them.” –Ps. 106:23

Our ears hear the wrath of God

and assign it to the old ways

We are quick to choose

the loving God.

But the story turns here

not on anger 

but the Omnipotent changing 

His mind.

That he can swayed

is a vulnerability

and a strength,

to allow himself to take

a different path

may be as only love permits.

Lent 30, Thu. Mar. 23, 2023

Being Right

“The Lord is loving to everyone 

     and his compassion is over all his works.” –Ps. 145:9

My oldest son and I share the burning need 

to be right.

We will do all the homework

and gather the facts

especially about cars and directions

spouting them off

whether asked or not

and correct those who voice another take.

Some have this approach

to matters of faith.

Heaven forbid that we are not on the side

of the truth.

The preacher uses the story of the Good Samaritan

to talk about being right *

and points out that those on the other side

of having the right faith

are our neighbors

whom we are commanded to love

and that it is the one who loves 

who is right.

Lent 29, Wed. Mar. 22, 2023

Barbara Brown Taylor, “The Right Answer,” The Riverside Church,  Jul 14, 2013 


“God is our refuge and strength,
        a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea” –Ps. 46:1-2

I remember when you were one

and some older toddler

had scared you,

you hid behind my calves

and grasped my trousers 

tightly in your little fists

and peaked around my knee

at what it was you feared

then pressed your tender face

into me as if to disappear,

and all at once

I understand God as my refuge

and strength

even though my world

be toppled

I can hide myself in You. 

Lent 28, Tue. Mar. 21, 2023


“For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever” –Ps. 89:2 

I quipped once

that I could be the poster child

for serial monogamy, 

my love running out of steam

each decade

until now.  

I do not know what it is

to love eternally,

I am diminished

and upheld 

in Your faithfulness dear Lord,

then I also hear

that though it storms outside

Your love is like the umbrella

for which we can never

find the edge.

Lent 27, Mon. Mar. 20, 2023

Restoring Our Souls

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

    He leads me beside the still waters.

     He restores my soul” –Ps. 23:2-3a

It is on the cusp of spring

the faint green lawn

and ice-ringed pond

yearn for the thaw.

The two mallards

have come back

and two geese

as if the ark has docked 

and the passengers are debarking.

Soon we will walk

without winter woolies

and lie down in verdant valleys 

dip our weary feet in warm waters

restoring our souls

as only the creation can do.

Lent 26, Sun. Mar. 19, 2023

A Broken Heart

“The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

     a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” —Ps. 51:18 

How have I had a broken heart?

let me count the ways *

risking vulnerability 

wagering intimacy

daring to love

I’ve risked the depth and breadth and height

to find the God-shaped vacuum anew  

How would I ever know

unless it first be broken open,

unless I hunger?

Lent 25, Sat. Mar. 18, 2023

* appropriating Browning’s love sonnet to loves lost, 


“I am the Lord your God,

     who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said, 

     ‘Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.’”—Ps. 81:10

Unless we hunger

how will we know the joy

of even the first taste

and the sating

that is given to us

to receive? 

How will we know

without stumbling through

the dark places,

the lows,

the deserts?

So the opening

comes through the times without

seeing the oasis

with parched eyes and tongue.

Lent 24, Fri. Mar. 17, 2023

Taking a Knee

“Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, 

and kneel before the Lord our Maker.”—ps. 95:6

When did “taking a knee”

become a protest?

The ancients tell us

it is a sign of humility,


And in the present day

when asked 

to pledge allegiance 

but kneel during the anthem,

could it be allegiance

to a higher power?

Certainly to a higher ideal.

Lent 23, Thu. Mar. 16, 2023

The Taj Mahal

“I will open my mouth in a parable; 

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.”—Ps. 78:2

I remember an essay

about metaphor 

that I read in college,

the author’s example

was about a women trying on a hat

getting the reaction, “It’s the Taj Mahal.” *

And I immediately felt the grandeur

in way I could not

if given the dimensions, the color,

and the features of the hat. 

I imagine God speaking

in this way

through the symbols

of the stories.

It was Tillich who reminded us

that the symbols participates

in what it points to. **

So the stories are the Word of God

with a grandeur

larger than life,

thus ends the philosophy 

lesson of the day.

Lent 22, Wed. Mar. 15, 2023

* John Wisdom, “The Logic of God,” BBC, 1950

** Paul Tillich, “Dynamics of Faith,”  New York: Harper & Row, 1957

Taking a pause in Lent to celebrate our wedding anniversary... 


“and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”—Mark 10:8

You ask how long we’ve been


and I think back 

to when we first met 

when we gave our vows.

You ask how it is we

are yet together

and I feel the one heartbeat

the one soul

of always being together.

When I ask you the same

you mention the freedom

to be who you are,

that is the gift

and the true becoming

also my becoming

the mystery of the oneness

foretold so long ago

that gives us breath

and makes us new.

14 Mar 23


“My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God;

     when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?” —Ps. 42:2

The old western

was often a story of a cowboy

who lost his horse

in the desert

and had to walk miles

under glaring sun

with a canteen that was soon empty

offering only drops of water

then none.

When rescued by the search party

or posse

he was offered a drink from a full flask

and in the midst of wanting to gulp

with ferocious need

was told to take it slow

take it slow

as if drinking too fast

would somehow lead

to death by consumption.

Let the man drink!

The measure of thirst

is always defined by absence,

whether in a desert

an abandoned soul

or the Crucified One

seeking the living water

even from a stone.

Lent 20, Mon. Mar. 13, 2023

Creation in Two Waves

“The sea is his, for he made it, 

and his hands have molded the dry land.”—Ps. 95:5

The winter pilgrims

come to this land

of sun, soft sand and sea

to refresh with the elements

of Creation

still at work

on all our senses.

In the distance the ocean waves

unfold like a comforter shaken

out across the fresh made bed,

children burst with glee

and shrieks of joy.

A larger wave breaks

and floats beach bags

flip flops 

and small child 

panicked by the loss

of firm ground, 

a fall

in the midst of paradise.

Lent 19, Sun. Mar. 12, 2023 


“As far as the east is from the west, 

     so far has he removed our sins from us.” —Ps. 103:12

I don’t fully grasp the distance

between east and west

but when the sun rises over the ocean

and sets over the gulf

it illuminates what is far

and mystifies the science

that this is the same sun

that was yesterday here

and tomorrow there.

If this is forgiveness,

the torching of the record

millions of miles away

where even the ashes 

cannot be traced 

then my sins cannot

be found.

Lent 18, Sat. Mar 11, 2023


He set him as a master over his household,

     as a ruler over all his possessions,

To instruct his princes according to his will

     and to teach his elders wisdom.” —Ps. 105:21-22

Another story

of counterpoint



then justice?

What are we to make

of this Joseph

thrown into the pit

sold for silver

made a slave

then a ruler

a teacher

deliverer of wisdom,

a foretaste of the Gospel?

Lent 17, Fri. Mar. 10, 2023


Walking the Marsh

“Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *

     nor lingered in the way of sinners,

     nor sat in the seats of the scornful!” —Ps. 1:1

We hiked the Marsh trail today

Avoiding the soggy parts

Of the path soaked

By the high tide

And rain storms

We sought the counsel

Of the feathered citizens

Of the preserve 

And being near midday

Found few 

Save a great white egret

Napping on the other side

Of the lagoon

And when I called

He lifted up his head

And stretched his neck

 It did not fly away

And we lingered

In all that echoed good

This side of Eden

Lent 16, Thu. Mar. 9, 2023


“Make your face to shine upon your servant,
and in your loving-kindness save me."
—Ps. 31:16

It comes upon us on the dawning

and leaves us when we turn away, 

it shines on the right side 

of our faces 

as the plane banks west

and hides in the shadow

on the left,

each day we relearn

it’s return,

that in the darkest moments

like the sun He is there

as sure as when we turn

to face the rays of kindness 

and feel the warmth again.

Lent 15, Wed. Mar. 8, 2023

Humming the Prepositions

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.”
—Ps. 46:5

In the City of God

are the echoes of the womb

whose waters that once bore us

and to which we return.

In the midst of a Michigan winter

we are flying 

   to a warmer clime

   on the water flowing

   from the Gulf 

   under bright sun

   beside the shimmering palms

   over the sands

Walking in open-toe shoes

humming all the prepositions 

that are in me,

is it any wonder 

that we call this a slice

of heaven

to which we are called home

Lent 14. Tue. Mar. 7, 2023


Remember not our past sins;
let your compassion be swift to meet us;
for we have been brought very low” —Ps. 79:8

The price of forgiveness is forgetting. 

I did not remember to write

last evening 

and breakfast

de facto broke the fast.

So now I am doubling up,

atoning for my sin

of omission

as I look forward

to meeting compassion,

gathering it up

like a man thirsty

on my desert journey.

Lent 13, Mon. Mar. 6, 2023 


“The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in, 

     from this time forth for evermore.” –Ps. 121:8

I replaced our doorbell

with a high-tech ring device

that has a camera to watch 

the coming and going of the UPS 

and Amazon delivery folks,

the film clips are saved

somewhere in the cloud

in a heavenly YouTube

that never expires

on which I can click to play.

I imagine

this is the watchful eye

under which my life unfolds

one sordid chapter 

after another

and I need to explain something

on page 898

when I want to point to 1027

where an act of kindness

and forgiveness 

erased the tapes.

Lent 12, Sun. Mar. 5, 2023


“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” –Matt 5:44

“Oh, that my ways were made so direct 

     that I might keep your statutes!” –Ps. 119:5

Oh that there were a direct way

to keep the law of love!

It’s hard enough to love all

my neighbors,

but now one may be my enemy?

Today a neighbor brought his snowblower

to help me break the logjam 

the plow left last night.

He was about to finish the rest

of the driveway

but I asked him to help my

neighbor struggling across the street,

“he’s older than me, I said.

It’s easy to love those helping

each other.

During the Great War 

the two sides laid down

their weapons and played a game

of football,

there was laughter

and remembering. *

I imagine shaking hands at the end

and feeling thankful

like I did after the passage

was clear.

Lent 11, Sat, Mar. 4, 2023

* See “WWI's Christmas Truce: When Fighting Paused for the Holiday,” The History Channel, 10/29/18, 


“My soul waits for the Lord,

     more than watchmen for the morning, 

     more than watchmen for the morning.” –Ps. 130:6

Why does the poet

repeat a line?


the teacher may say

like italics, bold, underscore;

stop here and pay attention

in the middle of this song.

Why the sixth verse of eight

Instead of the last?

Because my soul is called

to wait more,

the sun is coming up

the sun is coming up

and I’m not a morning person.

Fri, 3 Mar 23, Lent 10

Sweet Tooth

“When I called, you answered me; 

     you increased my strength within me.” –Ps. 138:4

I have a monthly call 

with an old friend,

it pops up on my calendar

as “coffee” on the first Friday,

we talk about personal, politics and business, 

a PP&B sandwich,

finger-food that nourishes the soul.

I wonder when I make the call to God

in a simple bedtime prayer

is it the dessert of the day?

Thu, 2 Mar 23, Lent 9

A Clean Heart

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, 

and renew a right spirit within me.” –Ps. 51:11 

I think I understand

gaining a clean mind

(or is it an emptying?)

But a clean heart?

The surgeon tells me that they

will use an electrode

to map my heart from the inside

and zap the errant sources

of the extra beats.

Perhaps I am experiencing

the “be still my beating heart,”

the atonal notes that take the melody

from me,

perhaps the clean heart

is the one returned to the song

we heard at first hearing

the right spirit singing 

in the garden.

Wed, 1 Mar 23, Lent 8

* “Be still, and know that I am God” –Ps. 46:10 (NIV)

“Be still, my beating heart, be still!” –All One, by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge 


"Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless; 

     give me life in your ways." –Ps. 119:37

Each generation has it's worthless viewing,

I remember a neighbor calling it the boob tube

I was worried he meant Saturday morning cartoons

and then came the early home computers

the productivity tools chomped by Pacman

The Internet brought the connections

of surfing through shops and porn

and then the mobile phones

for consulting at the table du cuisine.

Some may call them distractions

but the composer asks us to be distracted,

a reversal to what has value

for repent means at its core

teshuvah, a turning back.*

Tue, 28 Feb 23, Lent 7

* "Teshuvah in Judaism: A Guide to Repentance


“More to be desired are they than gold,

more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey,

than honey in the comb.” –Ps. 19:10

I remember these words

from a worship chorus

we sang in college,

students in a sit-in

for the Lord.

Mrs. White,

with equal hair,

the RD of the dorm

was our silent host

as we sang round 

after round

of choruses we had


on pastel paper pamphlets. 

These were honey gold-shine


and faith was new

and sweet.

Mon, 27 Feb 23, Lent 6

Hiding Place

"You are my hiding-place;

you preserve me from trouble; 

you surround me with shouts of deliverance." –Ps. 32:8

I thought it was my man-cave

that place of retreat

to where I disappear

and forget the basics,

the coming alive

in conversation.

My wife reminds me,

and I am convicted,

aching for the shouts of deliverance

I am not preserved from trouble

this time.

Sun, 26 Feb 23, Lent 5


"if you offer your food to the hungry

    and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

then your light shall rise in the darkness

   and your gloom be like the noonday." –Isaiah 58:10 

I have been scouring the Internet

for the report about the ten-fold needed

increase in humanitarian aid

to meet the growing climate crisis.

In the realm of big numbers

small minds cannot weather the storm.

And yet the prophet tells us

the gloom can become noonday light

if we offer our food to the hungry,

and so it begins with one mouth to feed

and grows to the next and the next

and the next.

Sat, 25 Feb 23, Lent 4

The Prize

“This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind 

and straining forward to what lies ahead, 

I press on toward the goal for the prize 

of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 3:13-21

I remember she wrote on the cover page

of a Bible a verse

she had memorized,

the goal for the prize,

it was an early birthday

and she was my grandmother

full of the Spirit and wisdom

I did not perceive

until long after she passed.

Now I am near her age 

of departure,

she referred to it as being called home,

with both a twinkle and a dread in her eyes

how can death be a prize?

But I press on nonetheless

and the straining is more audible with each year

is it to hear that call ever more clearly

than the echo over the horizon

from a Yodeler on the other side of the ridge.

Fri, 24 Feb 23, Lent 3

The Question

"They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither” – Ps. 1:3 

He tells us that that the question

for our end of days

is how well have we loved?

not what we believe

but what we've done

not simply good deeds,

but could we have loved more?

ever yes

but the height 

is never too high 

for trying

for bearing fruit

for watered trees.

Thu, 23 Feb 23, Lent 2


"The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; 

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." –Ps. 51:18

The ice storm keeps us from gathering

and again we enter through Zoom.

We use a charcoal capsule,

a supplement for an upset stomach,

break it open and tap out

it's ash onto a small fragile dish

and wait for the words to come,

like a poet with a pen poised on paper

it's code not yet deciphered 

the reminder that 

from where we've come

we go again.

Wed, 22 Feb 23, Ash Wednesday

The first draft of this poem was much shorter:

We use a charcoal capsule,

a supplement for an upset stomach,

break it open and tap out

it's ash onto a small fragile dish

and wait for the words to come,

like a poet with a pen poised on paper

the reminder that 

from where we've come

we go again.

Wed, 22 Feb 23, Ash Wednesday