Pause to Ponder

Place Called Home

Today I give thanks
for having lived long enough
on the Lower Columbia

To experience a place
where the river and the roads
are not a way but home

One day a road will take me elsewhere,
an island in the Puget Sound
God willing

But home is wherever I live
forever in the presence
of my Prime Mover

…A new poem
in honor of National Poetry Month


Tears have been shed recently
at the death of loved ones
I’ve been privileged to shepherd
at Pioneer Presbyterian Church.

Yesterday teardrops flowed
at news of a dear friend,
two years younger,
whose body gave way to cancer.

While often called upon to speak of hope found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, words can’t express all I feel when I pause for a moment to embrace death as part of the larger experience of life.

So as this National Poetry Month comes to an end
perhaps this little haiku
from Called to be Alive!
will simply have to do:

Raindrops on window
Dead in Mighty River
Heading for the sea

What is Enough?

April is National Poetry Month

Today on the shore of the Columbia River
I am pondering the “what is” in my later life
and what is enough

Meditating on this little poem by Wendell Berry
In The Peace of Wild Things:

The Arrival

Like a tide it comes in,
wave after wave of foliage and fruit,
the nurtured and the wild,
out of the light to this shore
in its extravagance we shape
the strenuous outline of enough

Earth Day Call

Today I give thanks to God, my wife Carol,
and all who encourage me to do my part
in our love and care for Mother Earth.

On this Earth Day
may we all feel the call
to be Alive!

Song from my Called to be Alive! Studio Collection

Earth Day!

Earth Day is Coming Soon!

Mindful of our call to care for one another and for each of us to do our part as good stewards for the sake of Mother Earth, what steps will I take this year for the health of our planet now and for generations to come?

A poem from Called to be Alive!:

Earth Day

Earth and humanity appear sometimes
​Like two ships passing in the dark,
Both destined for extinction.

Be it an impending shipwreck on an island of plastic
Or countless hearts crushed by relentless carbon heal stomps,
​Most continue to mindlessly sail on suffering waters,
Killing fields, swamps, and rain forests,
While mountains of earth’s ice melt faster than
The ever-expanding sea of cold human hearts.

So, imagine my surprise that night
At the Liberty Theatre in downtown Astoria when,
​By a call to life in honor of Earth Day,
Truth and imagination set to music
Spirited me beyond visions of loss and destruction
To imagine what I can do
To stop the death and dying.

If it’s true what I’ve been told about faith—
That it’s not first of all for escaping obstacles
But for experiencing them all the way through—
Then an earnest observance of Earth Day will
​Set the sail for a new faith journey,

Not for quick fixes but for these lingering, heartfelt questions:
What can I do to stop the killing, protect what’s left, and
Imagine new ways to live in harmony with Mother Earth?

Questions can serve as answers for the long run
On Earth Day and throughout the year.
​There are things I can do now—
Pick up litter in the neighborhood and
Bits of debris on the beaches,
Buy more local, naturally grown produce,
Amp up efforts to use less plastic,
Use my voice to vote eco-friendly,
Challenge myself and others to love the earth as we are to
Love each other, not in words and speech but
In truth and action.

Let your Earth Day observance reveal to you this inescapable mutuality:
​Injustice for Mother Earth means injustice for us all and
​From the life of Mother Earth comes life for us all.

​​​​My intention:
I will hear Earth Day’s mandate: “Love Mother Earth as she has loved you,” and I will enter the crisis of climate change and plastic pollution beginning with the simple act of marking the Earth Day on my calendar [April 22]. Then I will jot down the names of one or more people whom I will ask to come forth and join me in a care-for-the-earth service project.

Old Man Giving Blue Earth In The Child Hands – elements of this image furnished by NASA – 3d Rendering elements of this image furnished by NASA 3d rendering, Europe Africa. Photorealistic globe with lots of details. (3D terrain and clouds, city lights, reflective oceans…) Source maps are courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory Blue Marble project, for geographical boundaries

Strong in Song

Wednesday is often practice day for our group Strong in Song. Together we rejoice in the marvelous way music unites our one small voice with others in God’s larger song of life.
Members from left to right: Gary Streeter, Kelly Stiles, Ron Buss, Jerry O’Neill, and Dena McNeel

In honor of National Poetry Month and the poem from which our group drew its name:

My One Small Voice

Mine is one small voice
Strong in Song that stirs
the world to dancing

Whether a place
of solitude and beauty,
isolation, or despair,

Mine is one small voice
Strong in the song always there
young, old, and ageless

Sounding like a song,
reading like the ancient story
This, my one small voice

Harmonizing with the source of life,
dancing in the oldest form
This, my oneness with God

From Called to be Alive!


On this day in 1862, President Lincoln signed an act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, an important step in the long road toward full emancipation and enfranchisement for African Americans.

This huiku, describing a spectacle out my window that occurred about the same time George Floyd was nabbed and killed on a busy street in Minneapolis, speaks to our nation’s continued struggle with systemic racism as the whole world cries out,
“Black Lives Matter!”


Fish out of water
In talons of an eagle
Protesters cry on

From Called to be Alive! In observance of National Poetry Month

Tax Day

April is National Poetry Month

On this Tax Day, as I imagine myself contributing to the health and wellness of my county, the global community, and Mother Earth, I long for elected leaders who will use my tax dollars wisely to that end.

A poem from Called to be Alive!:


A flock of brown pelicans
flew gracefully
by my window last night,
their gregarious and cooperative ways
aglow in the evening sun.

And the sight
of the lead bird
guiding them all
in a peaceful flight
over choppy waters
left me longing.

Longing for a leader
in these troubling times,
One who guides
with grace and peace,
enlisting all in a spirit of
wise and loving oneness.
Longing for all creation
to be a aglow
in pursuit of the common good.

Sabbath Poem

April is National Poetry Month

Saturdays are often my sabbath because I usually work on Sundays. During the other six days of the week, it’s easy to get caught up in all of my responsibilities. Today I can take some private time to turn my thoughts to God’s song in my heart. I find poetry to be a wonderful way to sing along.

A Sabbath Poem
by Wendell Berry in The Peace of Wild Things

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

One Word

April is National Poetry Month

Today is my sermon writing day.
Over the years this task has often felt daunting-
Choosing between 1,000 and 1,500 words to preach in response to sacred words found in the Bible.

Writing poetry is helping me in these later years of ministry to value the practice of sharing what’s life-giving with fewer words, realizing the power of a single word or phrase.

I write about this in my book “Called to be Alive!”

By one word, I am sung into being
By one word I am awakened and belong
By one still quiet voice my heart is stirred dancing
And if today I return one word, one song
One act of kindness,
One will be enough
To fill me with joyful purpose.