In Quiet

(I was reflecting on Galatians and reading Bonhoeffer when I wrote this.)


                 In Quiet, Reflecting

Today I look in a mirror, and I see there
Brother Dietrich behind me at ten o’clock,
and I’m learning to listen, and
I’m joyous in this community–even when disappointed in us–
and I see too John Wesley and
others who teach me now and across time.
Solomon teaches me too and I wonder if he had the lessons deep inside him, and outwardly he taught us in sound bites.
Was the kingdom firmly in his grasp?
In silence, I listen, and now my friends
question my silence.
Walking beside those who hunger and ache,
I listen, and briefly boost them up.
They seek answers from me, but I have
only a few answers, and I am simple.
Paul is by me too, and he has polished his arguments.
I am simply here, simple in argument.
Like those around me, I love the carols;
all through each year, I love these carols.
God worked extraordinary miracles through Paul.
He spoke extraordinary truths through
these around me, and through Jeremiah and Job.
I do little:
I listen,
and I sing praises of God all my life.
He upholds the oppressed and the lonely
all the time.
He feeds the hungry and visits the prisoners.
How many kinds of prisoners may we find here?
With Teresa, he teaches us to smile
and to give blessings to the blind and hurting.
He loves the lonely, the poorest of the poor.
He is with us in these lowly places, preaching on a mount.
God blesses us in our silence and our listening.
God blesses His servants!
He offers us grace and peace when we listen.
Grace and peace:
Are there any better gifts?
If I were trying to please neighbors,
I would no longer be Christ’s servant.
Let me listen and serve in this
community, this blessed community, this day.
In my fogged mirror, let me see still those who
guide me, and listen and serve.

(c) June 28, 2012, Milwaukee

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Devotions on Two Stanzas of Psalm 119

John Wesley said in his notes on Psalm 119, ” The general scope and design of this psalm is, to magnify the law and make it honourable: to shew the excellency and usefulness of divine Revelation, and recommend it to us, by the psalmist’s own example, who speaks by experience of the benefits of it, for which he praises God, and earnestly prays for the continuance of God’s grace, to direct and quicken him in his way.”  I see it also as a Chapter to teach about the whole Bible, and it is interesting to let the verses just pour on me. Wesley had observed that “the word of God is here called by the names of law, statutes, precepts or commandments, judgments, ordinances, righteousness, testimonies, way and word.” He thought that the Psalmist had used the Hebrew alphabet technique to avoid tediousness and to help us fix the directions in our mind. Having delved into this Psalm weekly for three months now, I can understand some concern about tediousness, but overall, I have been astounded at what poured forth from these verses for me. Some mornings, I was surprised at what I had written the night before. It was an immersion experience for me.

Herewith are two of my stanzas contemplating Psalm 119 in 2012:

V. Voice of My New Life                                                                    Scripture

Voiced with all my heart, I want so much to hear you.
I’ll keep obeying you always anyway. Can I?
Voice–plaintive, plennary voice! Hearing my voice, you give me
Victory, new life.
Viewed before dawn, life looked so low, but I
vaulted from my bed to cry and call for you.
Viewing my hope, I am firm in your words:
Joyful in the word. Blessed!
Joy in your word! Teach me.
Vast is your mercy, God-of-grace. Hear my voice.
Voice of my new life, teach me these Scriptures.
Vying with me for all things, over all things,
volumes are heaped on me: volumes separate them–evil–from you.
Vexed, I try to understand, to make your reliable words mine.
You are close to me, near by me, Holy One.
Volumes ago, and eons ago, I learned from your words:
Teach me again to cry out like that.

W. Wicked Loss

Where do I find this suffering? How far do I go?
Wandering farther than I dreamed, I still hold your teachings in me.
Wind your words around me. Save me! Toss me your rope.
The Word always was, always will be: New life.
Wicked ones lose out; far from the word, they are lost.
Way, away from you, they are lost–weighed down, lawless.
Wonders surprise me regularly, Great God.
You gave me a new life when I could scarcely imagine it.
Wicked ones still intrude in my life, and I seethe, but
Written deep in me are words that miraculously sustain me.
Wicked ones disgust me, and then the
Wicked ones are losing. I see it and don’t see it.
Wayward sinners–all of us–but the ones who refuse to repent,
they are lost for good. They missed the words. They are set out to dry in the wind.
Willful still and open, I am joyfully blessed!
Joy in the Word! Blessed!
Joy in your Word.

© Tom Bolton, 03/02/2012

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Thinking on a Child, Grown too Fast

      Maibandu, Are You Safe?


I know Maibandu in my mind, and in her letters,
But letters that are written with helping hands.
I see, in little images, the long-past deaths–
Father, Brothers, Play-palls–of
Men and boys gone sooner than imagined.
I see, in yellowed images, Mothers, Sisters, and She-too, raped.
I see her safe now, but the image is too blurry for me.
I see her in school,
I see her working the family plot, and
I see her jumping rope.
Still, years on now, I see no smile.
Maibandu, are you safe as I imagine?
Does a smile yet turn up your lips?
I never see a smile yet.
I never see the image large.
I yearn for the images close.
I yearn for touches and smiles seen close.
Do you see me, Maibandu? How small is my image?

© Tom Bolton, Milwaukee, 03/09/2012

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At Always, God

Contemplating 1 Peter 4:19 in the New English Translation (NET Bible)

So then let those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator as they do good.


At Always, God

In the beginning, it is God.
Creator of beauty and mysteries
that startle us each day,
it is God who makes us, and
makes life and beauty so grand.

Starting our lives fresh and clean,
with that smell of baby hair,
it is God who labors to make us love,
who loves us to accept us,
to gracefully embrace us.

In the sun, as we grow and move,
it is in the son, where we feel
the light, and see in the light, and
too often head off into the shade,
and the light yet shines around us.

In the light now we grow,
and daily we yearn to know,
and in the imagination where we live,
we seek meaning,
to find a master, as we, disciples, seek.

And then there comes revelation;
the Spirit who fills us, and
is with us, and speaks to us, is powerful.
We are transformed, and
we live
in this grand creation,
in this gorgeous light.
We are with Him.

(c) Tom Bolton, West Allis, 10 August 2014

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The Ancient Fathers of the Desert: Introduction and Commentary

Tom Bolton:

I really found this useful and lost myself reading it for much longer than I anticipated last Tuesday. I often am inspired by Pastor Boudreaux’s blog.

Originally posted on A Pastor's Thoughts:

The Saint Photios Greek Orthodox Chapel

I found this article and thought it might be helpful to those who read this blog for information on the Desert Fathers. Click on the link below.

The Ancient Fathers of the Desert: Introduction and Commentary — Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

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My Letter to Myself February 2012

When I was young, did I even listen to me?
Sometimes I heard and sometimes I listened to some, and sometimes to me.
I heard and tucked far back, because it hurt to listen, to hear.
And now in the stillness of the nights, I listen and observe.
The words are soft, and the silent movements fill the words in greater ways.
They shuffle in some days, and I see so many words in their eyes.
The words fall from my pens, and the letters seem to be to me,
or written to someone who once was me.
Who is there left to read these words today?
Do they care?
Do I care today?
I do care, and I write these words for me and for my sons.
And for sons and daughters I know, but miss most days.
Where are they today?
The words press on me in these letters–letters among friends–
and I listen to me and am surprised at what I hear today.

He said, “listen to me. I give you the field and the cave that is in it.”
In the presence of my people, I bury my dead.

What if they do not listen to me and do not believe me?
Until now you have not listened, but you listen now.
Joshua did say, “Come here and listen to the Words of the Lord.”
And I listen.
I lie awake and I listen to the words that I had not written and now will write.
“You warned them in order to turn them back to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, of which you said,
‘The person who obeys them will live by them.’ Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen.
I love to listen to Nehemiah in these years where I am now.
When I listen, am I best when I am silent?
Listen to me, for what I say is trustworthy.
Dare I believe it?

I listen to myself and I listen for the Words that I seek.
I am no more alone.
I read my words and I listen.

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For More than Habit

Exodus 16:15-19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’” The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.”


Here By Habit

I was here by habit, and prayed by habit,
and lost my neighbor because I forgot to look.
And I gathered my manna each day,
and there was ever enough,
but still, without thought, I sought to save it.
Today, God guided me another way,
but of my habit,
I was still going south to meet my guests.
North was the direction I was sent,
but I didn’t notice,
my feet automatically ambling south.
Grace was with me yesterday and Sunday,
but did I miss it today as I went south?
What new possibilities did I miss?
Little ones with busted boots and frayed mittens,
and sad faces, tummies growling,
waited for me,
but I went my usual way.
What did I miss today?
Tomorrow I am going west. I listened to the call.
But tomorrow I will listen to be sure.
Your mercies, Lord, are new each day.

(c) Tom Bolton, February 6, 2013, Milwaukee

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