Sunday, September 25, 2011


I have decided to change platforms for Along the Graybeard Trail. will be the new URL.

I hope you will follow me - make any change in your bookmarks - set up a new feed - subscribe.

See you along the Trail.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Georgia O'Keefe's mountain

As so often happens when I looked through my pictures this evening, 
I came across pictures of Ghost Ranch. 
A picture of "Georgia O'Keefe's mountain" spoke to me. 
The colors and the time of year, I think. 
This was taken in October of 2009.

For some reason, I played with the picture using iPhoto.
I suspect that with a better program I could have preserved some of the texture in the foreground.
Still, it is an intriguing view.

See you along the Trail.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My heart aches again

The third execution this week in the United States took place today.

Prayers for the family and friends of Derrick O'Neal Mason, executed today by the state of Alabama. 

Prayers for the family and friends of Angela Cagle of whose murder he was convicted. 

I made a contribution to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. You can too. 

See you along the Trail.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Not only Southern trees

As I type, I understand that the execution of Troy Anthony Davis is proceeding. If it is not, it will soon. He was convicted for the murder of Mark MacPhail.

Earlier today, Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed for the brutal murder of James Byrd, Jr. He remained unrepentant; some of James Byrd Jr.'s family has expressed forgiveness.

Human Rights Watch reports that half a world away, 17-year old Alireza Mollasoltani was publicly executed in Iran. He was convicted for the murder of Ruholla Dadashi.

My heart aches for the family and all who love Mark MacPhail.

My heart aches for the family and all who love James Byrd, Jr.

My heart aches for the family and all who love Ruhollah Dadashi.

My heart aches for those who made these decisions and for those who had to carry them out.

My heart aches for the family and all who love Troy Anthony Davis.

My heart aches for the family and all who love Lawrence Russell Brewer.

My heart aches for the family and all who love Alireza Mollasoltani.

My heart aches.

In the midst of the sorrow, I give thanks for the glimpses of grace shown by family members, friends, and advocates.

Democracy Now played a clip of Strange Fruit sung by Billie Holiday, written by Abel Meeropol. "Southern trees bear a strange fruit," it begins.

Not only Southern trees.

The struggle continues.

See you along the Trail.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Is this how we want to mark the International Day of Peace?

Without an intervention of some sort, Troy Davis will be executed by the State of Georgia tomorrow - September 21 on the International Day of Peace at 7:00 p.m.

I do not believe in the death penalty. I do not think it makes us safer. It does not bring anyone back. It rips the fabric of society - causing more wounds rather than working healing and restoration. It is rooted in vengeance - a lethal concoction of drugs injected into one's veins in exchange for murder or rape or other capital crime. Such crimes are heinous. Monstrous. Evil. Unspeakably so. But there has to be another way, other ways, to respond than execution. As my friend Shannon points out, are the countries that use the death penalty really the company I want my country to keep?

All that aside, there is also the question of doubt in the case of Troy Davis. He was convicted, but since then: seven of the nine original witnesses have recanted or changed their testimony; many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements. Courts have ruled that Troy Davis' innocence cannot be proved. But when does doubt reach the level of being "reasonable?" Does that level change after a person is convicted? Should the fact that the punishment is death affect what constitutes "reasonable doubt?" Does proving innocence trump reasonable doubt after conviction?

The NAACP provides a petition to ask Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm, who requested the death warrant against Troy Davis, to petition the judge to withdraw the death warrant against Troy Davis.

Amnesty International also provides an opportunity to contact the Georgia State Board of Pardon and Paroles.

I have taken both of those actions. In addition, I plan to fast tomorrow evening. And I will pray.

I will pray for Troy Davis and his family and friends.

I will pray for the family and friends of Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail. Officer MacPhail's brutal murder was the crime of which Troy Davis was convicted.

I will pray for those who are in a position to stop this execution.

I will pray for those who are in the position of having to carry out this execution should it come to that.

I will pray for all people who have had a loved one murdered.

I will pray for all people who have had a loved one executed.

I will pray.

May God have mercy on us all.

See you along the Trail.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Not as good, but not as bad

Yesterday the Steeelers won - won easily.
A week ago the Steelers lost - lost badly.
There was a significant difference in the quality of the teams they played,
but there was also a significant difference in the way they played.
So the question is:
are they as good as this past Sunday
or as bad as the previous Sunday
or does reality lie somewhere in between?

19 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Double rainbow

It is unclear why this has remained unposted for more than a year.
When it was taken, I was not in a posting groove.

At the end of 2010 summer, 
a little over a year ago,
Tricia and I visited
the Great Plains.

Our adventure began in Denver, the starting point for this year's travels as well.
We drove north through Wyoming into Montana where we saw 
the Little Bighorn National Battlefield Monument,
cut east to Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands
turned south through Nebraska,
and ended back to Denver.

We saw a number of national parks
and visited a couple of zoos.

We also checked out some state parks and historic sites
including Fort Phil Kearney State Historic Site 
near Banner, Wyoming.

There we journeyed to the location 
of the Fetterman Fight.

While we walked the grounds where battle once ranged
a small storm developed.

It brought enough rain to create
this double rainbow.

See you along the Trail.

19 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Red rock NYC

In the morning, early in the morning,
far too early in the morning,
I rise and stumble toward the bathroom,
the vista out my window catches my attention;
I pause to watch the sun dance in shades of red
on the buildings of Morningside Heights,
calling to mind the mesas on the Colorado Plateau.
For the longest time I stand,
feeding my spirit on the city canyons' beauty.

17 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Friday, September 16, 2011

His move

It's your move.

The words startled him;
his head jerked up,
he shifted in his seat.
For the briefest of moments, their knees touched,
bare flesh warm on bare flesh.
He quickly moved his leg away
as though he had seared it on a stove's lit burner.

It's your move, came the repeated words.

Their eyes locked,
one soul peering deep into another.

What happens next is up to you.

The clear invitation echoed in his head
and pierced his heart.
His breathing quickened as he pondered the words,

envisioning what might be,
sensing opportunity,
imaging possibilities of joy,
considering consequences.

He broke the gaze and looked down,
staring intently,
absorbed a whirlpool of thought,
momentarily lost in eddies of emotion.
After an eternal ninety-seven seconds,
he leaned forward and, smiling broadly,
reached out his hand and took
queen's knight to c3.

16 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Still 117

Riding up in the elevator today with someone I had not seen in a while, and the conversation went like this:

Did you make it through Hurricane Irene, OK?

I did fine. I was in Oklahoma.

That's one way to avoid it.

They had lots of coverage. I watched. 

How was Oklahoma?

It was good. Well, it was hot. 117 degrees.

117? (image a sense of amazement and wonder in the tone of voice)

Yes. But it wasn't so bad. It was a dry heat. Not humid like here.

At this point, the elevator reached his floor. Now I realize that humidity matters. Matters a great deal. One of the things I like about northern New Mexico is the lower humidity. But . . . so as he left the car, I said:

But 117 is still 117.

(laughing) 117 is still 117.

Enjoying cooler weather and hoping it continues!

See you along the Trail.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Train to DC

Sometimes the Trail 
we travel by rail.
I Amtraked today from NYC to DC
second time I took the train 
a pleasant experience
of course it would have been far more pleasant
had the day not started at 3:00 in the blessed A.M.

Photo - near Newberg, OR
October, 2009

Monday, September 12, 2011

Congratulations Sean

Sean completed the 2011 Ironman Wisconsin in Madison a short time ago. I am impressed. I look forward to hearing his stories.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


In the St. James Presbyterian Church office,
under the gaze of the Rev. Dr. Lenton Gunn,
who had served on the Advisory Committee of the
Presbyterian Hunger Program at the same time I did,
a parallel of timing occurred to me:
in early October 2000, I moved to Louisville
and so had been there for not quite a year
when on a crisp, bright, blue, beautiful New York day,
the attacks of September 11, 2001 took place,
in early October 2010, I moved to Manhattan
and so had been here for not quite a year
when on a crisp, bright, blue, beautiful New York day,
the city, the country, the world
remembered the attacks for the tenth time.
What to make of this? I know not.
I note the parallel, but my understanding remains

11 September 2011
St. James Presbyterian Church
Shire on the Hudson 

September 11, 2011

On this day of sadness and pride, remembrance and looking forward, St. James Presbyterian Church used the worship resources for the 10th Anniversary of September 11, 2001 today during worship. We shared in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

Members of the congregation had the opportunity to make Ribbons of Hope which were delivered to Battery Park (my pictures from there did not work).

As often happens, a number of international visitors joined the congregation.

It was a blessing and an honor to worship with and preach to the saints of St. James.

See you along the Trail.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

God's Tears II

A couple of days ago, a conversation led me to reflect on rain as the tears of God. A friend said that his mother had told him the rain is God's tears.

I took the approach of God weeping over the pain we inflict on each other - the ways we hurt one another - the damage we do. The ways we treat each other certainly grieves God sorely. Indeed, it seems that God could weep eternally over ways we violate God's children. Sorrow, pain, grief, rage, all produce tears.

In response to my reflection, my friend Grace posed a simple question: "Are there ever tears of joy?"

I suspect that the events I was dealing with last week narrowed my vision and limited my thinking. Many things touch our hearts, minds, spirits, souls. The beauty of the world may make us weep. The wonder of love may cause us to cry. Amazing grace, incredible courage, profound sacrifice, all may elicit tears.

Tears of joy? Absolutely. Every day. Thanks be to God.

See you along the Trail.

Team Sean

Sean participates in the Ironman Wisconsin in Madison, WI tomorrow. I am impressed by the dedication he has shown to prepare for this event. It is very exciting. I will be glad to hear when he has finished. His mother and his aunt will be present in Madison as his cheering section. Actually, I think they are there now. And I wish I was. But it did not work out that way.

We came up with the idea of creating a group "Team Sean." We made a sign and then invited folks to take pictures of themselves in various places and post the signs on his Facebook page. Folks did. The picture posted here is an example: Joel in Dublin with one of my favorite libations. I put another on Sean's page.

I am very grateful to our friends who have participated. It has been fun to see the pictures and good to know that so many folks will be thinking of Sean and the others who are doing a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run tomorrow.

See you along the Trail.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Milk and cookies for Mean Joe

Make sure you have milk and cookies on hand.

Leave them out tomorrow night for Joe Greene.

The Steelers play on Sunday.

No need to thank me.  Just doing my civic duty.

See you along the Trail.

Antonio has been found

Good news!

We have learned that Antonio Ariza has been found and is alive. We will post more information as we receive it.

Thank you so much to everyone for your outreach, advocacy and prayers.

Please continue to pray and act for God's children who have been disappeared in Colombia and around the world.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

God's Tears

Something different happened when I left the office tonight. Well at least different from the previous two nights.

It was not raining. I simply note that. I am not complaining about the rain.

Places are desperate for rain. Children of God are dying, in part because of drought.

The simple reality is that for last two nights I and many other New Yorkers have made our ways home in the rain; others have endured the rain because they had to work or because they had no place to take shelter.

Tonight, it was overcast and damp when I stepped outside. But not precipitating.

This led to an interesting conversation:

When I was a child, I used to believe that the rain was God crying. That's what my mother said. And I believed her.

Maybe, I said. We certainly give God enough reasons to cry. Look at how we treat each other, what we do to each other.

We do. We do.

We bid each other good-bye and I headed on toward the train.

And then the obvious flaw in that idea occurred to me:

If raindrops are God's tears, it would never stop raining.

See you along the Trail.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I will not sleep well tonight.

Of course I rarely sleep well, but at least I will know why tonight. 

It is hard to sleep, at least for me, when my heart aches even more than usual.

I learned last night that Antonia Ariza went missing on September 1, 2011. The information came from our partners in the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia. Antonio has been working with the church for a number of years in their ministry of accompaniment with people who have been displaced in Colombia.

Despite the ongoing and repeated threats to his life, Antonio has remained committed to the cause of peace and justice for displaced persons in Colombia. He was continuing his tireless activities as president of the Atlántico chapter of the National Association of Displaced Persons of Colombia (ANDESCOL).    

Antonio's whereabouts remain unknown. He has become one of the disappeared.

The IPC is mounting a search for him and are pressing his case to all authorities in Colombia. Presbyterians are joining in the effort. I spent a good portion of the day working with partners from the Colombia Accompaniment Program on a letter to the US Embassy in Bogota from Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The letter is at the request of the IPC and is shaped by information they provided.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has identified action steps to take. The list was created with the assistance of Rev. Sarah Henken, Regional Liaison for the Andean Region for Presbyterian World Mission. The steps are designed to pressure the authorities in Colombia to place the highest priority possible in the search for Antonio. 

Here's an update from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship on the action steps: 


Thank you so much to everyone for your outreach in regards to the case of Antonio Ariza. We have received word from the US Embassy in Bogota today through numerous channels that they have our information and that they are working on his case.

We have also received feedback from many of our loyal grassroots supporters that they are experiencing issues with email bounce-backs from both US and Colombian addresses that we have provided you with. We apologize for this inconvenience, be assured that the addresses are correct, but their systems have a number of safeguards to prevent spam, and due to the volume of emails we have generated, some of them are being turned away by the automated systems. We have no control over this.

At this time we do not need to continue to send faxes to the US Embassy. They have received our message, and additional faxes would probably be counterproductive since they have been flooded today by our organization and our partner organizations. Please continue to fax/email the offices of Colombian officials as able.

Thank you so much—your solidarity means so much and we will continue to keep you posted about our continued advocacy for Antonio. Your prayers continue to be of great need and comfort to all in this time.

–The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

I had the privilege to meet Antonio when I was in Colombia during Holy Week and Easter of 2011. My heart breaks for him, for his family, for his friends, and for all who have been disappeared. My heart breaks that we live in a world where some people think they can simply make people with whom they disagree, people who threaten them, disappear. And not only are there people who think that - they are in position to make it happen.

May God's peace be with Antonio - with his family - with his friends - with the people of of the IPC - with all who been disappeared - with all who sleep poorly tonight as they wait and worry for loved ones.

See you along the trail. I look forward to the day I see Antonio.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


In therapist's office,
you talk through bad times;
on found scraps of paper
I scribble poor rhymes.

6 September 2011
Downtown 1 Train

Monday, September 5, 2011

Finally back to the gym

The past
can haunt us,
inspire us,
live within us,
shape us,
guide us,
influence us,
come out in our lives at times
and in ways that we never expect.

The past
may not even exist,
at least at times,
according to Faulkner; "the past is never dead;
it's not even past."

The past:
remember - never forget?
let bygones be bygones?

The past:

The past
has seen me try
and come up short; and yet,
despite the past,
in spite of the past,
because of the past
I try again.
I try again.

5 September 2011
on the way to the gym
Shire on the Hudson

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A start

Step by step
One day at a time
I know the platitudes.
I have said them.
I have tried to live them.
Again and again and again
I have tried.
Several times
I have made a step or two
and stopped.
Several times
I have succeed for a day or so
and then fallen short.
The words sound almost hollow.
Yet they contain great truth,
and so today I note:
A start.

See you along the Trail.

Mists of Avalon

Partway into this movie - or mini-series - have found some weirdness, some appeal, and several interesting things.

Interesting that James Coburn was the executive producer. James Coburn of The Magnificent Seven. I wonder what the back story is?

Interesting who the players are. In the scenes with the young Arthur, I was sure I recognized him. Near the end of his time in the film, I realized it was Freddie Highmore (August Rush, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland and more). A very young Freddie Highmore, but Freddie nonetheless.

Interesting version of the "relationship" between Arthur and Morgaine that leads to the conception of Mordred. Could be even more interesting to see how this develops.

Interesting take on how Arthur obtains Excalibur.

Interesting take on how Lancelot and Guinevere (Gwenwyfar as it is spelled here) meet.

I am interested to see what else proves interesting.

I need to reread the book. I suspect there will be many significant differences.

See you along the Trail.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Children's books of Huguenot Memorial Church

I have always liked books. English major. Children's books have held a special appeal to me. Books written for children can be amazing: in words and images they may carry profound truth. The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program makes good use of children's books. Intergenerational conferences often included a time of bed-time stories in which staff read books of peace and justice.

Why this focus on children's books?

On Friday, September 2, I visited Huguenot Memorial Church (Presbyterian) in Pelham, New York. We were planning a seminar for the church at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.We might not be able to come to you, but we would love to help plan a seminar for your congregation or other group. Contact us.

My visit involved a tour and conversations with Rev. Jacob Bolton, Rev. Stephen Michie, Mr. Floyd Tolliver, and Ms. Teisha Hickman, all of whom told me about the church and its ministry. I learned of children's programming, mission trips, ministries to people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, efforts to address hunger, support for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, participation in Habitat for Humanity and more. I saw the chapel, the stained glass in the sanctuary, the chapel that can be used in a variety of ways, the columbarium, an incredible triptych proclaiming the birth of Jesus, and the the gymnasium where cabarets, gymnastics, and basketball take place (not necessarily at the same time). All testaments to faithful disciples of Jesus.

Things really clicked when we entered the library. I checked the shelves and suddenly the corner that houses the children's library caught my eye. Bright colors. New books. Diverse titles. Some I knew; some I recognized; some new to me; some in the pictures; some on a list of books for families living in a multifaith world.

I have already started to look for some of the books in the pictures. I invite you to do the same.

See you along the Trail.

Baylor 50 - TCU 48

Cheerleaders chewed purple fingernails
to the quick as the final drive of the 112th contest
between young men began.
In the midst of the offense and scoring,
a few defensive plays occurred.
Legs seized with cramps
in the Texas heat.
Penalties, stupid, stupid penalties
impacted drives.
Missed field goals early in the game, 
at the time seemingly unimportant,
suddenly mattered,
mattered deeply,
when the first and last interception
sealed the result,
leading some to storm the field,
leaving some to stare in disbelief.
College football!

2 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Friday, September 2, 2011



Looking through some digital photographs, 
I came upon this one of moon and trees.
Someday I may say something profound about this image. 
For the moment I simply ponder and revel the contrasts it contains.

The photo was taken on October 26, 2009 at Ghost Ranch.

See you along the Trail.

2 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

I see the moon

I see the moon.
The moon sees me.
The moon sees somebody 
I want to see.
On a cold night in January,
the moon
patiently works its way
through tree branches
above the fields near Stones River
to see
to remember
to honor
to grieve
those who forever lie there and
each night receive
the lunar visitor.

29 January 2010
Stones River National Battlefield
2 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Going or coming?

Do you ever wonder:
"Am I coming
am I going?"

2 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Storm sentinel

During the recent visit of Hurricane Irene
to New York and 
the Shire on the Hudson,
one of the possible outcomes was 
the loss of power.
Contemplating this possibility,
it seemed a good thing to have
one light that would be left in the on position
should the power go off
so that it would come on
providing a reminder that the power had been restored.
This night light was what chosen.
When I fell asleep it was lit;
when I awoke it was lit.
Faithful sentinel of the storm.

2 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A home


It is reported that, 
upon being named the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers,
Chuck Noll was asked why he thought he could
reverse the team's losing ways.

Noll responded calmly 
and carefully that losing
or winning
is not a matter of geography.

Home is as much a state of being,
a feeling of belonging
as it is a place, a geographical location.
The Trail is home.

But there are places that serve as home to us.
Because of who is there or who has been there,
because of what we have experienced there,
they have a hold on us; they are home.

Sometimes the trail Trail leads to such places;
sometimes the Trail leads home.
Or at least to one
of several homes.

17 June 2010
The Shire near the Ohio
Louisville, KY

Encounter at 72nd

The train jerked to as stop as it
entered the 72nd Street station.
He prepared to stand,
our eyes met for a New York instant.
I smiled reflexively,
he looked back perplexedly.
Averting his eyes,
he gripped the pole,
pulled himself to his feet,
and left the car.

31 August 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Saturday, August 27, 2011


A search for "Storm" in the song title brought the following playlist on my iPod. Clearly the timing on some of them makes a difference to a true playlist. This is simply an alphabetical list.

After the Storm - Bill Miller
The Great Storm Is Over - John McCutcheon
The Lightning Storm - Flogging Molly
Orphan of the Storm - Black 47
Riders on the Storm - The Doors
Shelter from the Storm - Bob Dylan
Singer in the Storm - Holly Near
A Storm Is Coming - The Return of the King
Storms in Africa - Enya
Weather out the Storm - Figgy Duff

See you along the Trail

Privileged waiting

Irene approaches.
Tropical storm?
Irene approaches.

I prepare.
Purchase supplies
Straighten the apartment.
Move and position items.
I prepare.

I wait.
Contacting family and friends.
Tweeting, posting.
Pacing, writing.
I wait.

And the waiting reminds
of the privileges that are mine.

I could have left,
friends would host me,
I chose to stay.

Unlike some whose circumstances
limit their choices,
options were mine.

Unlike some whose choice
was taken away:
New York has not
abandoned me,
devalued me
left me behind
on a landfill-created island
because of what I have done,
what I have been accused of doing,
or where I work,
options were mine.

I chose to stay.

I have a place, a solid place,
a roof above,
walls around;
I have funds to buy supplies;
water, flashlights, candles,
food that needs no cooking.

I have so much,
and others have but little,
still others none at all.

I wait.
And the waiting reminds me
of the privileges that are mine.

I wait.
And I wonder,
after the waiting,
what I will do differently
with the privileges that are mine?

27 August 2011
Shire on the Hudson

I have a plan

If the power goes off, it is always good to have a plan to know that the power has been restored.

See you along the Trail.

96th street station before Irene

Not sure when I took this one - might have been back in July on my way home from preaching at Church of the Covenant. It seems appropriate to post this one tonight. Tomorrow around noon the MTA is suspending service in anticipation of Hurricane Irene - or Tropical Storm Irene - or whatever may come our way.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Waiting for Irene

I wait.
I wonder.
I wonder what I should wonder.

August 26, 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ribbons of Hope

I was in Louisville on September 11, 2001. I had just returned from the World Conference against Racism. A friend flew into town from the same conference - scheduled to arrive on the evening of September 10. Because of flight issues, my friend ended up taking a taxi from Cincinnati that arrived at the Louisville airport early on the morning of September 11. A phone call from another friend later that morning brought me the first word of the day's event. It was a dazed day, even at that distance. In many ways, I continue to sort through the day and its meaning.

Now as the 10th Anniversary approaches, I find myself living in New York. The proximity fills the day with new meanings that lead me to ponder more deeply and work through in new ways.

I have not been to the World Trade Center site yet. Ever. I plan to take part in the events commemorating September 11 including the worship service of the Presbytery of New York City. I think I will go to the site before September 11.

I have helped the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) gather resources for the anniversary. I have promoted the work of Prepare New York.

Today, in a worship service at the Church Center for the United Nations led by the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, we adapted a liturgy from the National Council of Churches created by written by the Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner and the Rev. Jon Brown. In the places where the services suggested lighting candles, we invited people to write prayers of remembrance, comfort and hope on simple red ribbons. Ryan Smith read scripture; Peng Leong led the time of prayer; Kevin O'Hara from the Lutheran Office for World Community led the benediction. Thanks to all my friends who helped me pick a song!

These ribbons will become part of the Ribbons of Hope display in Battery Park on the weekend of Septmbe 11, 2011.

To paraphrase the blessing from the liturgy:
May memory now reside in us at peace. May comfort companion us in all our days. May hope spring forth in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. May we serve God in all that you do and say, witnessing to the reign and realm of God to come. Amen.

See you along the Trail.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


It has taken a long time
to reach this point.
It will take a long time,
it will take hard work,
it will take faith and change,
it will take patience
to reach another, better point.

22 August 2011
Shire on the Hudson 

Rainbow over Oahu

Unexpected vistas appear,
unforeseen opportunities arise,
surprises occur,
grace abounds.

For a number of minutes,
I chased this rainbow 
along the H1 on Oahu.
"Dad, there is a reason
the University of Hawai'i 
calls their teams 
the Rainbow Warriors,"
Eric patiently explained.

30 October 2006
Honolulu, Hawai'i  


On my way back from preaching at White Plains Presbyterian Church today, I met Andrew Stehlik, pastor of Rutgers Presbyterian Church on the Uptown Number 2 subway. We exchanged greetings and then began to talk shop.

As he described his sermon, Andrew reminded me that on the night of August 20-21, 1968, Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia shattering the hopes of the Prague Spring.

He also reminded me of the use of keys during the nonviolent Velvet Revolution (Gentle Revolution in Slovakia) that overthrew the communist government of Czechoslovakia. The people jingled keys - ordinary keys - as they gathered to demonstrate nonviolently for change. This simple, yet profound, public act carried two meanings. It proclaimed the unlocking of doors - opening doors long locked by totalitarianism. The act of jingling one's keys also served to tell the communists that it was time for them to go home.

On a day when I preached about Shiphrah and Puah - the Hebrew midwives who committed civil disobedience by refusing to carry out the Pharoah's order to kill the Hebrew children - and the need to live our faith publicly, the story of the keys spoke to me with great power. I told Andrew that I will no doubt use the story in a future sermon; I will credit him when I do.

Thanks be to God for Shiphrah, Puah, the people who jingled keys in Czechoslovakia, and all who work nonviolently for life and peace and justice.

See you along the Trail.



Sometimes change comes with warning;
sometimes not.

30 October 2006
Honolulu, Hawai'i

Helping each other persevere

Sometimes others help us meet the challenges our journeys pose.

To reach the top of Diamond Head, one must climb this staircase.

When I visited Eric, during one of the years he attended Hawai'i Pacific, he insisted that he accompany me when I went to visit Diamond Head. At the top, I realized why. Had I gone alone, I would have turned back - on more than one occasion - including the moment I looked up these steps. But with Eric along, and feeling my responsibility for his experience, I persevered.

28 October 2006
Diamond Head State Monument
Honolulu, Hawai'i

Water moved

As a child growing up on Front River Road on Neville Island, I used to watch the boats in the Ohio River. I only had to pass through my front door and walk across the lawn before I would arrive near the banks of the Ohio. There I would ponder the river and and wonder who was in the boat, where they were going and where they had been and why.
Barges would pass by the island carrying I knew not what. My lack of knowledge made it easy to invent tales of daring and adventure.  
The water of the Ohio moved. And much moved with it: floating branches, fish, waterfowl, ice in spring, and commerce. Recreational boats used the water. It carried pollution visible and invisible. 
The river had power to transport and destructive power as well. It flooded. It claimed life, not often, but it did happen.
Living in Louisville as an adult brought me back to the Ohio. While I did not spend the time on its banks as I did when a child, I experienced comfort and joy knowing the river flowed near my home.
I have returned to Neville Island a couple of times. While much has changed both in reality and from my childhood memories, the Ohio River with its power, grace, and mystery remains.
14 August 2011
Cincinnati, Ohio

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Guide and comfort

Alone we follow,
with a map as
a guide
and a beverage as
a comfort.

5 July 2011
Hornbeck Homestead
Florissant Fossil Beds 
National Monument

Concrete to grass

From concrete 
to grass
in a few short steps,
with different surfaces
on we go.

May 2011
International Ecumenical Peace Convocation


Some rivers we follow,
some rivers we ford,
some rivers we span.

1 April 2011
Queensboro Bridge
New York City

Weather on the trail

all forms of weather
greet us on the trail

21 February 2011
New York City

Buses and the trail

The wheels on the bus
go round
and round
taking us
along the trail.

6 November 2010
New York City

Sailing on the trail

Propelled by human hands,
driven by engines,
riding on the wind,
boats take us along the trail.

November 6, 2010
from the
Staten Island Ferry


Waterways have served as the trail through the ages.

Growing up on an island in the Ohio River and now living on an island, water trails carry deep meaning for me.

1 September 2010
North Platte River
Edness K. Wilkens State Park

Into the distance

We may only be able to view a part of the trail; it may disappear into the distance.

April 2010

Well marked

Sometimes, someone has marked the trail well. It is used and easy to follow.

January 2009
Stones River National Battlefield

Inertia or love?

Never did he leave,
steadfast he remained;
question haunts her still:
inertia or love?

16 August 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Friday, August 19, 2011

Seen on the train - August 19, 2011

On the train into work today, I watched as a guy read Dracula by Bram Stoker on his Kindle directly across from a poster for The Vampire Diaries. Interesting contrasts of technologies and story lines.

See you along the Trail.


The picture is from a couple of years back. I could say it is a bit old, but I realize that would mean that I am a bit older.

I believe this picture was taken by Tiffany Gonzales at a party at her house. Football might have been involved.

What is most important at this moment - is that friendship is definitely involved.

My friend Irene recently endured a very hateful incident. She has had the grace and courage and faith and hope and trust to share her pain and process her pain publicly on Facebook.

A number of her friends have responded with statements of support, long-distance hugs, and prayers. Tonight I decided that, in addition to my words, I would post this picture of Irene and me.

I am honored and grateful to be her friend. I give thanks for Irene and for all who share this journey with me.

See you along the Trail.

Making my way home

Water squishes from my socks
with each step I take through the station,
my pants restrict my movements,
clinging to my shins and thighs,

I trudge down the stairs and onto
the street; I walk through the rain
as though seeking a
wet Oxford shirt contest.

A white flash illuminates the sky,
glowing blue off the top of the subway car;
the sky rasps out
a deep, low rumble.

The storm exhausts its fury
while I make my way home
where I realize
how blessed I am.

19 August 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


replaces if
in words written
and words said
with some facility.

replaces if
not as a certainty
nor as a guarantee,
no fait accompli.

replaces if
as a sign of hope
a challenge,
a possibility.

But when,
oh when,
will when
replace if
in reality.

16 August 2012

Saturday, August 13, 2011

To get started again?

On the right hand side of my Facebook page, there now appear links to previous posts. I had not noticed them before - or if I did, I ignored them.

Today I noticed one about going to the gym - and for some reason, I followed.

One year ago today, I marked 11 consecutive days of going to the gym. I don't know when that streak ended - how many more days, if any followed.

Part of me, the avoidance part, wants to wonder - are the links always exactly a year old. Another part wonders reading this post be a challenge to get started again.

See you along the Trail.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Harry Potter and Ron Weasley are visiting Professor Slughorn's room as Harry Potter 6  continues. This seems an appropriate picture at the moment. Perhaps I will sometime find something profound to say. But for now, I think this can stand on its own.

See you along the Trail.

Surprise is

Surfing through images,
electronically stored on my computer,
an image -
slightly more than a year old -
of a friend whose song ended too soon,
surprised me.

Sadness tugged my heart,
sorrow filled me;
thanksgiving surged,
gratitude flowed;
a tear and smile
as feelings and memories intermingled,
playing off each other.

Surprise is hard.
Surprise is good.
Surprise is life.

12 August 2011
Cleveland Heights, OH
with thanks to Kathy Lueckert

Love wins?

Love wins.
Love always wins.

Do the people
watching their friends perish,
wasting away from hunger,
leaving their children by roadside
   unable to carry them,
deciding who will eat
   and who will die,
on the Horn of Africa
experience that affirmation?

12 August 2011
Cleveland Heights, OH 44121

August 2011 movie marathon

Eric and I went to the local Blockbusters early in the week. Amazingly enough, it was still open. We picked up a number of used videos.

We had some challenges - the DVD player downstairs in Cleveland Heights is definitely deceased - it is not pining for fjords or anywhere else - it is definitely an ex-DVD player.

We started trying to watch The King's Speech. It skipped and finally froze about 40 minutes into the movie. Then we tried Pirates of the Caribbean 2. It too skipped. Shortly after we decided that we now had two DVDs to return, Eric remembered that the problem was most likely with the player. Tricia came downstairs shortly after that and, in response to our whining, said, "Yes, it has been broken for some time. I never use it."

Eric then brought down his DVD player - which he will take to Bowling Green and the marathon began in earnest.

We doubled back to The King's Speech  and Pirates 2. True Grit (Coen brothers version) started yesterday, followed by Stalag 17 with The A-Team next in line. Today began with The Visitor. A break followed during which I listened to a rather pathetic effort by the Steelers - they lost their first preseason game - and the score could have been worse. Harry Potter 6  is now being viewed.

An interesting mix of classics, newbies, and fluff along with some incredible performances.

Tomorrow I head to Louisville and will need to take some with me to watch while I hang out at the Shire near the Ohio.

See you along the Trail.

2011 Preseason Football

The reminder icon started bouncing - much less annoying than usual because of the event in question.

The NFL Audio pass subscription has been entered. With some work it the audio broadcast has been turned on.

The problems and challenges inherent to football remain.
It's the preseason - but it's a preseason that many thought might not happen.

But it's football. And it's the Steelers.

And away we go.

See you along the Trail.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Not that I am obsessing with numbers, but how exactly does the number of page views on a given page decrease? Seems kind of weird to me. But it happened. Maybe there is some internal Web counting audit that goes back and corrects things from time to time.

See you along the Trail


Nothing captures my interest
as I surf through channels,
more than I can count;
The King's Speech,
Pirates of the Caribbean,
and other new to me used DVDs sit useless:
the player is dead -
it must be time for bed.

11 August 2011
Cleveland Heights, OH

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ribbons proclaim hope on September 11

Today I sent a 9-11 "Ribbon of Hope" to Ground Zero to mark the tenth anniversary of September 11. I used the online option.

To commemorate the anniversary, Prepare New York and partner groups are sponsoring the Ribbons of Hope project. People are invited to bring a ribbon to Battery Park in New York City between the hours of noon on Friday, September 9 and dusk on Sunday, September 11. On the ribbon, write a thought or prayer or hope for the healing of the city and for the whole world. In Battery Park, ribbons of all colors, shapes, sizes and textures will be joined to form a large tapestry symbolic of the marvelous mosaic that is New York.

How can I participate?
Individuals, families, groups and organizations can gather ribbons in neighborhood settings, in clubs and congregations and can then designate a messenger to come to lower Manhattan and afix the ribbons to the tapestry. People of all ages can participate. There is no fixed size or shape or width or length. The diversity of ribbons received is a large part of the point. This walk of healing to downtown Manhattan is symbolic in that it reverses the fear-filled path that so many experienced as they fled Ground Zero a decade ago.

I don't live in New York, how can I participate?
People from across the country and around the world are invited to also collect ribbons in the weeks leading up to 9/11 and send them to Intersections International. They will be included in the tapestry as well. Send ribbons to:

Intersections International
274 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10001

Be sure they arrive at Intersections by September 7. Include your name and contact information, the name of your organization and any interesting story about making your ribbons that you’d like to share with others.

You can also participate by "sending" ribbons online through Groundswell.

Find additional ideas for observing the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001.

See you along the Trail.

Monday, August 8, 2011

An era ends

Friends once commented that I have some amazing pictures of sunrises at Ghost Ranch. I had to correct them.

I have no amazing pictures of Ghost Ranch sunrises - no drab pictures of Ghost Ranch sunrises - I simply have no pictures of any sort of Ghost Ranch sunrises.

I do have a number of pictures of sunsets at Ghost Ranch including this one from the summer of 2008 - some folks may think some of them are nice pictures.

I post this picture today because Eric is on his way home from the ranch. He has completed his fourth year on the College Staff. He and friends drove to Tulsa yesterday; he flies to Cleveland tomorrow.

The summers at the ranch have been times of great joy and a good, good learning experience for him. I was able to get to see him three of the years he was there - actually I was able to be there for two weeks during two of those summers.

However, since he is scheduled to graduate in December, this will be his last summer - at least as a member of the college staff. And that brings some tugging at my heart strings. I am sure I will be back to the ranch - it seems likely that Eric will be back to the ranch - there are possibilities that we may be there together sometime.

But . . . an era has ended . . . life, as life always does, moves on. And as the sun sets on this part of life, I dab a tear, give thanks for what was, cherish the memories, and look forward to what the next sunrise brings (even though it will be well into the sky before this night owl sees it).

See you along the Trail.


Headed on the road again. This time to Cleveland to hang out with Tricia and Eric. A trip to Louisville may prove necessary to deal with some issues at the Shire West - also known as the original Shire. Yet another demonstration that while we may own things, things definitely own us.

See you along the Trail.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I took this one at Ghost Ranch a couple years back. It is outside the Agape Center, although there are a number of places at the ranch where one can spot hummingbirds. Amazing creatures.

See you along the Trail. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ghosts of Gettysburg

Through early morning mists they march
across the fields of green,
fields red-stained by their life blood
when they were young.
No long range kills,
no smart bombs then;
just frightened, courageous men
for cause
engaged each other
face to face
hand to hand,
performing acts of
unspeakable horror,
incredible valor,
absolute futility
until the arms of Mars
did embrace and claim them.

23 August 2002
The Shire, Louisville

Friday, August 5, 2011

Firefly in August

Hard it is
to be a saint in the city;
harder still, perhaps,
mid the noise and the bright lights and the traffic,
to be a firefly
that is seen in August.

5 August 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Other choices

Forever he will wonder
how his life might have changed
had he chose to turned back that day and stay -
or if not to stay -
at least to say what was in his heart.

Now, years later,
each night he lies awake,
in the small hours of a morning,
delightful images dance in his mind as he
invents scenarios of what might have been.

Yet in some of those still, small hours,
before he reluctantly surrenders to sleep,
he grudgingly concedes
that greater joy no doubt lies in in his imagination
than would have been realized through other choices.

4-5 August 2011
SW 163 MDW - LGA
Shire on the Hudson

Do you know?

Do you know
what fills my mind,
what shimmers in my heart?

Do you know
what I think,
what I feel?

Do you know
what I bear,
how much I care?

Do my deeds reveal?
Do my actions show?
Do you know?

4 August 2011
SW 163 MDW - LGA


Like a green shoot of vine
that wraps around a stone,
clinging patiently until the rock cracks,
there are people who,
seeing something, sensing something in me
beyond my comprehension,
choose the path of relationship,
tenaciously engaging me
until my heart cracks
and they become a part of me

4 August 2011
SW 163, MDW - LGA

Seat 21-E, SW 163

Seat 21-E sits empty beside me,
on this nearly full flight,
space to spread out and relax,
space to enjoy the company
of whomever I call to mind.

4 August 2011 
 Midway Tarmac

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sticks and stones, but words

Sticks . . .

. . . and stones . . .

. . . but words . . .

Sticks . . . 
. . . and stones . . . 

. . . but words . . .

2 August 2011
SW 646 and Shire West

Living without love

Waiting in line to buy
junk food I did not need,
I was more than a bit befuddled to hear
the young clerk wonder:
"Would you rather have
love or money?"
It seemed a most out-of-place
inappropriate query to pose to
an absolute stranger who only wanted
a candy bar filled with sugar and calories
that would do me no good.
As I stood searching for
a response that seemed witty -
or someone germane -
or at least not totally inane,
she spoke again.
"'Would you rather have
love or money?'
That's what she asked.
And I said:
Love is too stressful."
My disorientation deepened.
Who was this mysterious woman
who posed to my clerk the question?
And what was going on?
Was she expecting a response from me?
From the guy stacking the shelves?
From someone I failed to see?
Was she practicing a soliloquy:
preparing to audition for some part
that might forever transform her life?
I'll never know.
Silently I took my change
and stepped toward the door,
but on the way,
a thought - unsaid, but still recalled,
filled my spirit, mind, heart:
love brings stress; it's never easy--
commitment, compromise, costs.
But what of the stress,
and what of the costs,
and what of the loss,
of the utter, empty barrenness
of living without love?

2 August 2011
Gate B-19, MDW


It took me a while to get there. Several times I tried to visit the Coronado State Monument in Bernalillo, New Mexico - north of Albuquerque. Each time, the monument was closed. Finally, on a cold day last January, I made it. The visit proved worth the wait.

For some reason, among the landscapes and the history, these pots spoke to me. They simply hung on the wall - but they seemed full of meaning as they did.

Is that a sheet of ice covering the top? Or the inside of the pot? I can't tell. I don't remember.

See you along the Trail.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


They boarded the train at 103rd,
two friends,
who found a spot
in the nearly empty car
to sit together,
After a few moments,
one pulled out a book and
began to read -
reading to the other
reading for the other
every word of

31 July 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sunset on Waikiki

These are old ones. I took them when I visited Eric during his time at Hawai'i Pacific University. He lived just a few blocks from the beach. I am not much of a beach person, but it was a glorious evening. I might be able to get used to it.

See you along the Trail.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stones River

Row upon row they stand,
across Stones River,
resting under the trees' shade
in perfect formation:
silent, eternal reminders
of who was lost
and who paid the cost;
of what once was
of what might have been.

Shire on the Hudson
29 July 2011 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Baseball in Grand Central

Dark hair curls appear from underneath the Yankees cap
pulled tightly down on his head.
He stares at a point beyond the escalator as
his left hand cradles his gloved right hand.
Tensed, ready,
he sees not the crowd but
watches and waits.
For a long fly ball?
A long departed ghost?
A long lost love?

27 July 2011
Shire on the Hudson

10 Million

Reports from UN agencies on the ground in the Horn of Africa estimate that 10,000,000 people are experiencing a severe food crisis.
That's more people than live in New York City (not including urban area). 
That's more people than live in Wyoming, Washington D.C., Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine combined. 
Here are some ideas of how to respond: 
10 Ways You Can Help
Give to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Not what it seems

I am watching The Black Death. I put it on my Netflix list to view on Roku. I did so because it has Sean Bean in it. It has something to do with bubonic plague, the church, witches, monks, knights of some source, and a village where there have been no deaths, no plague. Apparently the theory of the outsiders is that they have been spared because of witchcraft. And Sean Bean and his cohorts are there to test that theory. I will probably hang around to see whether they are right - and what happens either way.

It is no Lord of the Rings  - no  entry in the Sharpe's series - no Troy - all of which featured Sean Bean and led me to choose this one. It certainly is no The Plague - Camus' classic novel that pivots around an outbreak of plague.

It apparently deals with very, very deep questions - so deep that I don't understand them. Every time I think I have a glimmer of what is going on, it wanders of in another direction.

"Nothing here is what it seems," Sean Bean's character says.

Now if only I could figure out what things seem to be, I would know what they aren't.

See you along the Trail.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Samuel Johnson

I remembered Samuel Johnson today and I was revived.

The Samuel Johnson I remembered was not the English author – I did not pick up a copy of Boswell. I met this Samuel Johnson almost fifteen years ago during a hot summer week in Orangeburg, SC. He and I have been accompanying each other in the Communion of Saints ever since.

On Palm Sunday of that year, in a quiet grove of trees about eight miles outside of Orangeburg, the Butler Chapel AME Church burned. Four young men admitted responsibility for the fire, although they maintained that it was accidental. The fire did not totally destroy the church. It did cause enough damage that the church could neither be used nor repaired. After a season of prayer and discussion, the members of Butler Chapel determined to build a new church. 

Volunteers came from across the country to work on the church; their labor coordinated by the Church of the Brethren. That August, a group of us went to Orangeburg from Cleveland; some of my friends from Louisville joined us. We spent a week working in extreme heat. We installed insulation and drywall and windows. We finished drywall. We laid brick. Each day was a little different. Each day had some elements in common – mostly the people of Butler Chapel – the wonderful people who welcomed us and fed us, prayed with us and worked beside us. Among them was Samuel Johnson.

Samuel Johnson was a big man. Once he had been a strong man. A long-time member of Butler Chapel AME Church, Samuel had attended school in the building as a child. Samuel worked throughout his life. Worked well and hard. . . as a farmer . . . for the gas company.

When I met him, a stroke had stolen much of his strength. He walked with a cane.  He walked better when he can use his cane and someone’s shoulder. I remember. A couple of times he used mine.

Although the stroke had taken much of his one arm and leg, it did not take his mind or voice or spirit. Unable to stay away while his church was being rebuilt, he came to the work site as often as he could. He watched. He visited. And from time to time, his eyes filled with tears of frustration as he wished that one more time he could swing a hammer.

Toward the middle of a hot afternoon (they were all hot – I can’t remember which one), I was working alone on insulation. A friend’s voice interrupted me.  “Mark, go to the fellowship hall.”

“I’m busy.” I said.  “I want to get this finished.”

Bob persisted.  “Mark, stop what you are doing.  Go to fellowship hall.  You have to see what is going on.  Take a camera.”

Reluctantly I got up. I found the camera went to the fellowship hall.

There, on a 2” x 10”  board that rested on two overturned five-gallon paint buckets, sat Samuel Johnson.  Around him, on the concrete slab, sat many of the young people of our group.  Softly and slowly, Samuel spoke . . . telling them of his life . . . his family . . . his work . . . telling them of Orangeburg and his beloved church.  As he spun stories and answered questions, tears filled my eyes.  I was helping build a physical church; Samuel was building Christ's body.

Why did I remember this story today? Who knows?

Perhaps it is because I have been thinking about the hurts of God’s people – the terrorism that ripped Norway, the famine that stalks the Horn of Africa, ongoing violence South Kordofan and Malawi, gunfire on our country’s streets, on and on the list goes. It does not seem to end.

In the face of such violations, suffering, and pain, my efforts seem so small and insignificant. But Samuel Johnson reminds me of the importance of perspective.

I can look at life in terms of what I do not have – what I lack – what I cannot do. This is the view of scarcity.

In the case of Samuel Johnson, such a view has little time for an older man whose physical abilities appear to have been limited by a stroke. It would say he no longer has much to offer.

Alternately, I can choose to look at life in terms of what I have – what I can do – what I can share – the gifts I bear. This view is the view of abundance. When viewed in this way, the incredible gifts that Samuel has and shares leap into view. Samuel’s presence is an inspiration; Samuel’s prayers a source of strength; Samuel’s stories create and nurture community.

For me, the assumption of abundance frees me from working about what I cannot do – to focus on doing what I can – whatever that might be.

Remembering Samuel renews my spirit and challenges me to look at the gifts I have and figure out how to use those gifts. That work has begun and will continue and I expect I will bump into Samuel and a whole bunch of other saints as I do.

See you along the Trail.