How do you know it’s God?
No. Really.
How do you know?
Just one little bullet
It misses me,
So I say “Thank God”
But one little bullet
Kills another.
Do I then blame God?

It could have been worse
So it’s a miracle.
Should have been better
So why does God hate me?
Is God the ultimate politician
Taking credit for the good,
Blaming others for the bad?

Or is it all a big gamble?
You make your choice,
You place your bets.
You roll the dice.
Sometimes the dice
Come up craps.

My father told me
At my brother’s grave
“Never underestimate
The power of God
To redeem.”

To redeem.

I’ve seen redemption.
I’ve seen craps win the game.
I’ve seen death inspire life.
I’ve seen evil bring justice.
I’ve seen shit turn into flowers.
I don’t understand it.
I can’t answer my questions.
But I will hope in
The power of God
To redeem.


Spirit Mound

Clouds stretch, spike, and roll
Like an EKG
Heartbeat of the world
Against a blue scroll

Mild day for August
Following the trail
Through milkweed overhang
Breeze stirring the dust

Birds sing in the grass
Insects resonate
Joyful prairie choir
Sounds as we file past

Climbing to the top
I see roads and fields –
Civilization –
But here it all stops

I try to picture
Before surveyors
And the mapmakers
Brought their strictures

When undivided whole
Through infinite space
Spread in its glory
Confounding my soul

Can’t make sense of it
I find I need lines
To cut the world to
Manageable bits

But I stop, wonder
Is this how God is
Sans theology
To break asunder

Spirit tied to ground
Tries contemplating
His infinity
From this little mound


My wife enjoys walking up to the top of the Spirit Mound here in South Dakota. We were there not long ago, and I was struck at the way we need to break up earth, sky, and even God into small bits in order to digest. Infinity is too frightening.



“Where’s home?”
How do I answer that?

An address?
Just a spot on a map.
Not home.

“What’s home?”
How do I answer that?

A town?
Just a name for the spot.
Not home.

“Who’s home?”
Yes. I can answer that.

She is.
My wife, my love, my life –

In my travels, moves, and changes of employment, I often get asked the question: “Where’s home?” I used to struggle with how to answer that. There is no homestead, no family farm, not even a “home town” in my past until you get to my great-grandparents. Even then, more than half of them were immigrants, so they didn’t consider that town or farm home. A few years ago, though, I finally figured it out.


Heading to a Country Church

Heading down the two lane,
Clouds are overhead,
Pressed against the glass;
Blue sky framing the pane.

I drive, navigate past
Corn standing tall
In neat, ordered lives
And beans in low, squat nests.

A fa├žade – all a show
That hides the dirt
And covers over
The chaos down below.

Up ahead, like pillars,
Beams of light strike
Through the breaking clouds;
Slough away the filler.

I’m told it all depends
On what you are,
Maybe who you are,
Before the story ends.

But I’ve no time to search,
So past the nests
And neat, ordered corn
I make my way to church.


I sometimes get asked to preach in nearby churches and, as my life is a bit higgledy-piggledy right now, it struck me how neat and clean it sometimes appears in church, when we’re really heading along in a fog hoping for a little light to clear things up.


Too Hot and a Cot

I sit on the edge of a cot.
My boots are off, and also socks,
Because it’s noon and bloody hot –
Heat radiating from the rocks.

I drink lots of lukewarm water
That flows from pores like tiny springs
And just seems to make me hotter;
A crust of salt around me rings.

We hear it coming, hit the deck –
Kaboom! That one is way too close!
Another hits, my RP checks;
But all I think of are bare toes.

Heedless of my bodyguard’s shout,
I hobble off to get my boots
Before I head to our dugout
To sit, silent, like budding roots.

These rocket attacks are a bitch
And I sure resent donning boots
Because my feet still ache and itch
From several weeks’ warm abuse.

A call comes on the radio
“Man down!” We head to BAS.
A round hits near, but still we go
Making our way through this hot mess.

Things like that make me stop and think
That nearby round was just a dud
I didn’t stop or even blink
So close I came to spilling blood.

Why was I spared, not even scratched?
Gunny the other day got dead.
He has little kids, barely hatched
A whistle, boom, and no more dad.

Our mortars are returning fire
I find our wounded man is fine
Later, back on my cot and tired
Still too hot, Gunny on my mind.

It's hard to convey just how great the pleasure is, after so much time in the heat and dust and dirt to just have my feet exposed to the air - and thus, how much I resented having to reshod.

And it's hard to convey just how great the pleasure of knowing a man like Gunny B. and having him around to make that heat and dust and dirt a little more bearable - and how much I resent losing him.

The title comes from a phrase used regarding treatment of battle stress – “three hots and a cot”.


Cribbage Life

Hot chocolate?
Suppose so.
Fifteen for two
I’ll set the water to boil
No worries. Your turn.
Thirty-one for two
No. That’s okay.
Too hot for you?
-teen – one for last card.
I’ll get to it soon.

I’m leaving for Germany.
Fifteen for two
How long?
Twenty-one for two
All summer.
Thirty for one
What will you be doing?
Missing you, I think.
I think I’ll miss you, too.
Marry me when I get back?
Thirty-one for two
Have to think about that.

How was your day?
Twelve for two
Not bad. I guess. Okay.
Fifteen for two
Something wrong?
Eighteen for two
No. Not really.
Then what’s up?
Thirty-one for two
Think I’m pregnant
Pregnant? Like, pregnant?
Like, pregnant.

We leave in March
Fifteen for two
Where to?
Twenty-four for three
Iraq. Seven months.
Thirty for four.
They need you there.
Thirty-one for two
Yeah. They do.
We’ll be waiting.
Fifteen for two
I’m sure I’ll be back.
Twenty-one for three.
I know you will.

My wife and I started seeing each other regularly to play cribbage and, at first, that's all either of us had in mind.  There are other stanzas that could be written in the 33 years since we first sat down to play, but this is enough for now.


The Bat Man

Waiting on the Lord
I’ll renew my strength, I’m told.
It’s there, in the word
But this waiting’s gettin’ old.

The Lord will provide –
I really do believe that.
Still feel cast aside
Like the baseball player’s bat.

Against the backstop
Blending with the backfield dust
Haphazardly drop’t.
I’ve got some use left – I must.

Waiting for the boy
To come running and fetch me,
Another t’employ
Challenge the devil’s pitching.

It seems forever,
Though I’m sure the boy’s running.
He won’t leave me here.
I’ll wait. He must be coming.


It's been ten months since I stepped aside from my position as senior pastor and I've two and a half months before this CPE residency is over.  Waiting and trying to discern how and where I should serve next is hard.  I hold to the promises of God - they've never failed me yet - but it's getting old.