On Losing Consciousness In Public

There was a period of years in my life when I randomly lost consciousness. The first time it happened I had just had an eye test, and I woke up on the floor with my head spinning and several blurry women in matching purple uniforms leaning over me. That was strange. Then there was the time my face went straight into my lunch, and the time I just fell over standing in the doorway of the kitchen. There was also the time I gave blood, and once again woke up with the staff leaning over me. Last, but certainly not least, there was the time my wife and I went to a traditional Irish music show. At the end of the evening they called people up from the audience to sing, and they called us, and we tried to say no but somehow we ended up on the stage anyway. We sang, and I was just starting to think we were pulling it off pretty well when I felt the blood leaving my brain. I knew that feeling like an old enemy by then, so I bent over double to encourage that blood to go back where it should have been while still trying to sing and act natural about the whole thing. I do not recommend this as a way to act natural. Thankfully, my wife caught me when I went down. When I woke up I saw sympathetic eyes glancing away from me. I guess most people don’t have a category for how to react to the guy who just collapsed publicly on stage in front of them. Fair enough.

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Wade In The Water

In 1998, Eva Cassidy recorded an old spiritual called “Wade in the water”. I was listening to her sing it in my car just recently:

Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water
God’s gonna trouble the water

The lyrics are simple, but this water runs deep. As you’d expect from a spiritual, the reference is biblical. The rest of the song speaks of the children of Israel on the banks of the Jordan river, ready to cross into the promised land. In Joshua chapter 3, God tells the priests of Israel to carry the ark of the covenant, the symbol of his relationship with his people and presence with them, to the edge of the flooded river and stand in the water. They obeyed, and as soon as their feet got wet, God began to stop the flow of a mighty river and clear a path for his people to walk across on dry land.

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Commitment Is A Ball

Our world today is flooded with so many options in so many areas of life, from relationships to work to how to spend weekends. In a climate like this, long-term commitments can feel like little more than limitations on our freedom to choose. Then again, what good are a thousand options if we never choose one? That’s what this poem is about:

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Five Kernels Of Corn

Growing up in America, Thanksgiving Day was one of the highlights of the whole year. Some years my family travelled to feast with others, other years guests came to feast with us. I remember the leaf piles, laughter, and Atari games with my cousins, and when we were home, I remember the five kernels of corn. 

We would sit at tables that had been fully extended, knowing that the biggest feast of the year was waiting in the kitchen. We could smell it. We could nearly taste it. The tables were dressed up with the best tablecloths and plates, and on each one of those plates were five carefully counted kernels of corn. Before we ate them, my mom reminded us why they were there: she told us about the Pilgrims who landed in the new world seeking religious freedom, and how they struggled to survive those early winters in the wilderness. She told us how local Native American tribes helped the struggling Pilgrims, teaching them the right times and ways to fish and grow crops in a new environment. But then, just when they started to get ahead, a ship full of new settlers arrived without food supplies. To keep themselves alive, the entire settlement was reduced to a ration of just five kernels of corn a day. Could you imagine? Somehow, they made it through that winter and lived to bring in a good harvest the next year. As they celebrated that harvest with the local tribes who had helped them, they began their feast together with a reminder: five kernels of corn were placed on each plate, “lest anyone forget”.

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Strong Trees Don’t Grow Overnight

A few weeks ago, I posted a poem about an oak tree. In the poem, and in my mind, oak trees are big, spreading trees with thick trunks and impressive reach. They are a picture of solid stability, untouched by passing storms. Which sounds nice, doesn’t it? With Ireland now entering another full lockdown for at least the next six weeks, the ability of oak trees to stand unshaken in a turbulent world is enviable. Right now things look awfully unsteady, from where I’m sitting. 

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Anger, Panic, And The Psalms

Halloween is coming soon, but I’m not interested. The celebration of demons and death has never held much attraction for me, but this year the holiday seems especially out of place: haven’t we had enough to scare us already in 2020? Who needs a horror film, when we have the news? Brexit, which would normally dominate European headlines, has taken a back seat to Coronavirus, and then of course there’s my own homeland, the (Dis)United States of America, trying to hold an election like Jerry Springer used to try to interview guests. When the world isn’t panicking, it’s angry. When it isn’t angry, it’s panicking. It’s a rollercoaster that refuses to end. 

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If God Can Be Trusted With Death, He Can Be Trusted With Life

The longer I live on this planet, the more I’ve been forced to learn the art of dealing with death. There were no classes on this in school, but I have a teacher who refuses to be ignored: Experience. Attendance is mandatory. One after another, with increasing regularity, the funerals come. During the service, those of us who remain remind each other of God’s promises, eternal life and resurrection, Heaven and perfect rest and happiness for all eternity. The crowd pauses to make time for prayers and Scripture while death is in the room, before life moves on. But life does move on, and then many of the same people who spoke of the promises go back to ignoring death. Along with him, many also ignore the God who made the promises.

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