Another Poem by Sylvia

the same nighttime sky

i’ve watched 

another day go by…

the sun now setting 

in the western sky…

and with it my heart

so deepeningly blue…

are we 

still,

the same me

the same you?

don’t we 

share,

the same earth

the same sky…

the same moon

the same stars

in the same nighttime sky?

don’t we 

want,

the same hope

the same chance…

the same truth

the same peace

in this same lifetime dance?

i’ve watched 

another day go by…

the sun now rising 

in the eastern sky…

and with it my heart

no longer so blue…

together we can be

a new me

a new you

Sylvia L. Mattingly

January 20, 2021

Written before and after today’s Presidential Inauguration, in hopes of the end of such hateful divisiveness and instead, a reunification in this country.

Happy 2021

Most of us will not be sorry to say, “Good-Bye” to 2020, but if we are here to discuss it we can be grateful for the survival. With so many throughout the world succumbing to COVID19 we are lucky to be welcoming a New Year.

I wish a happy and safe new year to each of you. May your 2021 be filled with hope and success.

2021

Photos by Pixabay

The Unlived Year
Midnight strikes and the old year's gone.
We close the tablets we've written on.
And torn 'twist hope and doubt and fear,
we open the book of the unlived year!

An unlived year! Ah, stained with tears
are the well-thumbed volumes of other years!
Soiled by blunders and black regret 
are the pages we read with eyelids wet. 

But fresh in our hands once more is laid
a clean, new book by the Master made.
Unmarred are the pages lying there--
Twelve new chapters fresh and fair.

It is ours to write the daily tale,
of how we conquer - or how we fail;
Of struggle and effort and hope that makes 
like a song in the heart, when the bright day breaks.

Yes, fresh in our hands with the title clear, 
is the challenge now of an unlived year!
Author Unknown

Hope for Today

I unexpectedly heard this old song today and it struck me as being a good inspiration for the world we are currently living in. In spite of pandemics, raging fires, racial injustice, and political wars we must have hope. We must wait until the darkness is over.

WHISPERING HOPE by Septimus Winner

Soft as the voice of an angel,
Breathing a lesson unheard.
Hope with a gentle persuasion,
Whispers her comforting word.

Wait till the darkness is over,
Wait till the tempest is done.
Hope for the sunshine tomorrow,
After the shower is gone.

Whispering hope,
O how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in it’s sorrow rejoice.

Hope has an anchor so steadfast,
Rends the dark veil for the soul.
Wither the Master has entered,
Robbing the grave of it’s goal.

Come then o come glad fruition,
Come to my sad weary soul.
Come Thou O blessed hope of glory,
Never O never depart.

Whispering hope,
O how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in it’s sorrow rejoice.

If in the dusk of the twilight,
Dim be the region afar.
Will not the deepening darkness,
Brighten the shimmering star?

Then when the night is upon us,
Why should the heart sink away?
When the dark midnight is over,
Watch for the breaking of day.

Whispering hope,
O how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice. 

Hear Anne Murray sing “Whispering Hope” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teaHyY2Uvms or if you prefer country, here’s Jim Reeves https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqwomT5YSiw

A True Hero

America has lost a true hero, Rep. John Lewis has left us to carry on his fight for equality in America. It is not enough to grieve his loss. We must stand up, speak up for justice for all Americans.

He said it best:

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John Lewis 1940-2020

Photos by Wikipedia

Physically Distant

“physically distant” by Pat Bush

I plan to stay “physically distant”,

Not giving up for a day or an instant.

Yes, it is hard and NOT the norm,

In any way, shape, or form.

My heart is aching for those not paid,

For graduations, proms, canceled, or delayed.

Yet if we’re careful for some months or more

Our reunions will mean more than ever before.

Sadly, for some, it’s never to be,

Because some they loved they’ll never see.

Let’s do it right. Stay strong and hope.

Calling and texting will help us cope.

“Normal” will be a thing of the past,

But what we learn can truly last.

Pay closer attention, develop new skills.

For it is ignorance that truly kills.

We are better when we are wise.

Don’t be fooled by selfish lies.

 

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The Least of These

A poem by Pat Bush

“Whatsoever you do, to the least of these, this you do unto me.” Matthew 24:40

Each night as I go to bed
I find my thoughts filled with dread.
Tuning out doesn’t lessen the pain.
Will we ever be normal again?
Deep inside I long to be
Peaceful, calm, carefree.
“Stay strong”, I softly say.
“Tomorrow is another day”.
Reality hits, as I arise.
Same old angst. No surprise.
The answer, in a word or two,
“Do unto others, as I do unto you”.
Simple, timeless, a how-to plan
For how to love your fellow man.
Wisdom given for us to share.
Open your heart, be aware.
Things don’t matter, people do.
I’m on board. How about you?
I’ll give toothpaste, I’ll give soap,
And a superabundance of hope.

      harmony-2164366_1280

 

Photo by Pixabay

The “C” Word

Doug Weaver is my longtime friend who is a professor of Baptist studies in the department of religion at Baylor University. He is the current president of the Baptist History and Heritage Society and past-president of the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion.

In spite of the fact that I am a recovering Southern Baptist, I highly respect Doug’s opinion. Also, please note that “Southern” is nowhere listed in his credentials even though he is a Virginian.

D-Weaver-2019

It is Well

By Doug Weaver 

It is well with my soul. Is that an elusive ideal, a hauntingly compelling confession of hope, or both?

In 1983, my father died of colon cancer. In 1984, my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer but thankfully survived it and was later declared cured. My older brother’s doctor once told him, “It is not if you and your younger brother get colon cancer, but when.” After more purifying colonoscopies than I can count, the cancer never came. But, I never really fasted from the fear of the possibility.

Fast forward. In 2006, I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. I was told that it was a good cancer to get – the cancer was just in the lining and was not invasive. My hearing is pretty bad and I see with trifocals, but trust me, I can feel with the best of them. The cancer and the side effects of my treatments constantly bent me over with knife-like pain. Depends were not dependable; no wonder I started wearing black pants to work. The doctor in Waco where I live thought the medications which turned my flow into Texas burnt orange would lessen the pain, but I told him I was burning horrifically and unless he had magical Baylor green and gold, it was not going to help. And it didn’t. The treatments, however, worked.

In 2009, the bladder cancer came back – same situation – in the lining, not invasive, burning like a Gehenna fire. I was again on the extreme end of the spectrum with bodily reactions to the condition and the medication. However, what scared me was the doctor’s suggestion that cancer cells might be in a kidney too. I visited a specialist in Dallas who said it was so rare for bladder cancer to go into the kidney that it must be a tainted test. So do not fear.

The treatments worked again, but one more time, in 2013, the C word returned. This time cancer cells were in the lining of the bladder and both kidneys. So much for fasting from fear. Even though I had been his patient for seven years, I left the Waco doctor for good since he had said if the cancer ever got to the kidneys he’d have to try voodoo medicine to treat it. To confront the fear, I headed to MD Anderson Hospital in Houston. They put two nephrostomy tubes in my back (an amazing procedure), administered the medicine, and the treatments worked. The tubes dangled, hidden under my shirt for months, but at least voodoo stayed in Waco.

I made the 185-mile trip to MD Anderson in Houston every three months from spring 2013 to fall 2016 with good checkups, but once again I received word that the cancer cells had returned to the lining of both kidneys, now my fourth time. I did the standard treatments and kept the tubes in for a few months as we awaited results. I threatened a few colleagues with a “lift-the-shirt” presentation on a couple of occasions but other than being a Baptist who couldn’t be immersed in water, I did fine. But, I wasn’t fasting from an increasing fear.

I have now reached the one-year anniversary of surgery to remove a cancerous kidney. (The good news was that one kidney and the bladder didn’t reveal cancer cells anymore.) After the surgery, my wife and I heard the line many people living with cancer hear: “You had some microscopic cancer in lymph nodes, so we need to do some chemotherapy.” So, we did.

Today, I am fine – good, actually. My hair returned, curly (and unruly) like it was when I was a teenager. Subsequent scans (yes, cancer survivors often date the calendar by their regular three-month checkups) have been good. I am feeling hopeful.

Yet, during this journey, I haven’t been one of those patients who has “conquered” fear. On rare occasions, I was able to confront the repeated news of cancer returning with a bit of confidence. Most of the time, I was forced to my knees by the demon of cancer and begged God for a miracle my dad never received. Sometimes I have been near despair.

I knew my situation wasn’t as bad as patients I saw walking alongside me in the halls of MD Anderson; yet to compare cancer cases is not fair to anybody. Along the way, I have told friends too many details. My wife has had to hear me ask questions that I either already know the answer to or know that there are no answers. I love the church, but it isn’t always the best place to fast from fear (although, in my case at our church in Waco I am gifted with the wonderful pastoral presence of Mary Alice Birdwhistell). Baptists have a few saints.

One of my favorite Holy Week phrases is from Tony Campolo’s powerful old sermon: “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” I need to repeat that. “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!” When you are sick, sometimes it is Friday. In fact, it can be months or years of mostly Fridays. It is hard and physically, emotionally and spiritually taxing. The Easter we just celebrated tells us that Sunday is now here, and that means hope amid fear. I think that is what the earliest disciples experienced.

Ah, that word “experience.” The longer I study Baptist history, the more I am confronted by that compelling word. We interpret our faith through our experience. Heretical? Ha, call me Harry Emerson Fosdick who once said that if dispensationalism is orthodoxy, then call me a heretic. The role of experience is at the core of Baptist DNA: voluntary faith, dissenting conscience as an act of faith, believer’s church and so on.

I’ve been researching in recent years the role of the Holy Spirit in Baptist identity (shameless plug: stay tuned for the book this fall). The desire for an ever increasing awareness of the Spirit – an experience of the power of the Spirit – is not absent in Baptist life. As we approach the observance of Pentecost in a few weeks, I understand standing on that promise of presence.

Fear needs the experience of hope.

I am a cancer survivor. This is the first time I have used those words in a public forum. I am still hesitant to call myself that because of others whose lives have been hit so much harder. Friday’s coming, Sunday’s here, and Pentecost promises glory. I am healthy(!), but I still can’t say hope without fear, and I refuse to say fear without hope.

It is well with my soul. I love the hymn that bears that title. It is an elusive ideal and a hauntingly compelling confession of hope.

From BaptistNews.com

A New Hope

A Poem by Mattie Stepanek – May 1999

A New Hope

I need a hope … a new hope.

A hope that reaches for the stars, and

That does not end in violence or war.

A hope that makes peace on our earth, and

That does not create evil in the world. 

A hope that finds cures for all diseases, and 

That does not make people hurt,

In their bodies, in their hearts,

Or most of all, in their spirits.

I need a hope . . . a new hope,

A hope that inspires me to live, and

To make all these things happen,

So that the whole world can have 

A new hope, too. 

mattie_stepanek
Mattie Stepanek

Paths

Paths, Poems, and Plans

We have had some fun with poems lately.   Poem Challenge

I’ve never been a poet in any sense of the word, but once in a while, I do write something that I call poetry. I’m sure that you do as well. It can be a few simple lines but it means something to you and you write it down to preserve and to perhaps share with others. I also like to read poetry blogs and there are a few that I follow.  One is sentimental, another is harsh revealing pain and turmoil. Each is a glimpse into someone’s life and if you are interested, let me know and I’ll provide links. 

Sometimes we make things harder than they need to be. Poems don’t have to rhyme for our purposes. Just write and don’t think about those terms you learned in school such as “couplet” or “stanza” that may keep us mute. If you insist on being a proper poet, i.e. being further intimidated, go ahead and check out this site with 37 poetry terms such as “hendecasyllable.” http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/common-poetry-terms.

Recently a friend gave me a book containing poems written by Matthew J.T. Stepanek, a big name for a small boy called “Mattie.” I vaguely remembered hearing of this child several years ago, but I had no idea of the extent of his talent and his insight. Perhaps you are familiar but if not you may learn about his amazing life here (or just Google his name).  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mattie_Stepanek

In the book given to me, Hope through Heartsongs written by Mattie, my favorite poem is entitled “Hope for Life’s Journey.” 

Someday.
I'd like to see what's down every road.
I'd like to travel across
Every highway and every byway.
I'd like to explore
Every mountain pass and every sandy trail.
I'd like to follow
Every straight route and every winding path.
Someday.
I'd like to understand
From where all things come,
And to what all things are destined.
Someday.
Even though I am sure of my lesson-
That we are all hoping to the same place-
I'd like to take the time
To travel and explore and follow,
So that I can really see and understand
What's down every road. 

Hope for Life’s Journey written by Matthew J. T. Stepanek (1990-2004) in August 2001

Do you have Mattie’s curiosity for what is down every road, every path? If so please don’t wait. Plans are important, dreams are great . . . but without action, they remain just that. To make them reality we must exert an effort, we must act, we must step out. Who knows where those roads and paths will take us until we travel them? As Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Frost had two choices. We live in a world with many more options. We have access to superhighways, shipping channels, airlines and global destinations. There are far more than we can ever choose, but would it not be a shame if we took the same ones day after day and then finally one day left behind feeble plans and faded dreams that went nowhere?

Some of the paths I’ve chosen to follow and explore recently.