Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

WHEN I READ THE POEMS OF OTHERS 5-23-17

WHEN I READ THE POEMS OF OTHERS   5-23-17

When I read a poem
by William Stafford, about a wagon
track or wolf or gust
of wind, or lines by Billy
Collins about a lazy daughter
or a lanyard or a gust
of wind, or stanzas by Shelly
about a long-lost statue
in the sand, brushed by a gust
of wind, all I can think
to write is about a lanyard-
wearing wolf walking on a statue
in the sand, and a gust
of wind.

JRMcF

[No, I’m not writing again. I’m still fasting from being a professional Christian, trying to be a real Christian. But I start most days with a poem—unedited, just the way it comes off the top of my head--just because I want to, and because I need to write. You don’t need to read it, though, and I have told no one that I am posting in CIW again, so if you have stumbled in here by mistake, and think there will be something worthwhile to read, I apologize. JRMcF]



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

ONE FLOATS FREE, 5-17-17

ONE FLOATS FREE, 5-17-17

The world will stagger
And need our prayers for mercy
Mercy for the moment
And all the lonely moments
Yet to come
One of us must stay
And one must go
The soul goes on and leaves
The body as a useless husk
One of us must stay in flesh
While one floats free

JRMcF

[No, I’m not writing again. I’m still fasting from being a professional Christian, trying to be a real Christian. But I start most days with a poem—unedited, just the way it comes off the top of my head--just because I want to, and because I need to write. You don’t need to read it, though, and I have told no one that I am posting in CIW again, so if you have stumbled in here by mistake, and think there will be something worthwhile to read, I apologize. JRMcF]

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

POET IN A COFFEE SHOP, 5-16-17

POET IN A COFFEE SHOP, 5-16-17

I decided that I needed
To be a poet
In a coffee shop
This sunny morning
So off I went
To the Pour House
And got myself seated
On a hard and soul-worn bench
With the darkest of the dark roasts
In a red-striped mug
On the scarred table before me
Alas, without my pad for poems
Which watched forlornly
From across the street
In the back seat of my car
So I watched my coffee colleagues
The nerdy but pretty woman typing
At a small high table
The tall and pleasant young man
Behind the counter
Dispensing coffee and politeness
In equal measure
The lone wolves with their laptops
As far away from one another
As Scylla from Charybdis
Two middle aged faculty women
Discussing some arcane topic
Before the empty fireplace
The four bright grad students
Here only for the summer
Studying together for some project
Each just finished with the first
Year of teaching school
Now back for greater learning
how to teach English and arithmetic
While hoping for sex and beer
They all make me smile
I’m glad I forgot my poet pad


[No, I’m not writing again. I’m still fasting from being a professional Christian, trying to be a real Christian. But I start most days with a poem—unedited, just the way it comes off the top of my head--just because I want to, and because I need to write. You don’t need to read it, though, and I have told no one that I am posting in CIW again, so if you have stumbled in here by mistake, and think there will be something worthwhile to read, I apologize. JRMcF]

Saturday, May 6, 2017

CHASED BY A HEADLESS CHICKEN 5-6-17

CHASED BY A HEADLESS CHICKEN

Most little children were chased
By a headless chicken
If they were born between eight thousand B.C.
Or whenever chickens and butcher knives
Had both been invented
And the end of the greater war
That followed The Great War
And ever set foot on a farm
Because adults were intent on cutting
Off the heads of chickens in the presence
Of little children so they could watch
And laugh their fool heads off
As the tiny tykes scrambled and screamed
while the headless chicken
chased them ‘round the yard
Which is why there is a still greater
Great war coming…


JRMcF

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

THANK YOU, BUT I MUST GO T, 3-21-17

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter

THANK YOU, BUT I MUST GO                               T, 3-21-17

I made a deal with God when I was fourteen years old, to be a preacher. I have been preaching since I was nineteen. When I turned eighty I realized that I have been a “professional” Christian all my life. Every prayer I have prayed, every scripture I have read, every class I have attended, every story I have heard, a part of me, often the largest part, was not saying “How can I come closer to God myself through this means of grace,” but “How can I use this in my work?” I realized that I don’t know how to be a Christian for myself, only how to be a Christian for others.

At eighty, if I’m ever going to learn how to be a “real/regular” Christian, I need to be getting at it. I decided that I need to commit to a “fast,” doing nothing for a year in any way that can be professionally Christian. I told my pastors. They agreed to ask nothing professional—retired pastor variety, like doing the pastoral prayer in worship--of me.

I thought I could continue writing Christ In Winter since it is not pastoral or preachly, just one old guy sharing thoughts with other old people. That turns out not to be the case. Being a professional Christian is so much a part of me that CIW keeps me thinking and writing in the ways I always have. So, I shall write no more forever, if “forever” is a year.

I also find that doing things on Facebook keeps me thinking and acting as a professional Christian, so I’m going to fast from it for a year, too.

Some of you have been such faithful readers of CIW that I feel disloyal in quitting, but I’m sure you will understand. You are exceptionally intelligent, insightful, and empathetic, or you would not have been reading CIW in the first place!

Here is one more poem, that seems appropriate…

THANK YOU, BUT I MUST GO

When they reached Emmaus
Their hearts were warm and open
They saw him in the breaking of the bread
They said to him
Stay a little longer
The dawn is long off breaking
He said, thank you, friends
But I must go

I held her in my arms
Bounced her on my knee
Walked her off to school
And sang her to sleep
Cried with her through her teens
Told her she was cool
I said, stay a little longer
She said, thank you
But I must go

When my earthly days are over
And my earthly work is done
Not well, but the best that I could do
Do not seek to hold me
Or ask me to stay longer
When the time has come
I’ll say, thank you
But I must go

JRMcF

johnrobertmcfarland@gmail.com

Monday, March 20, 2017

MY WIFE HAS NO MIDDLE NAME M, 3-20-17

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Life & Faith for the Years of Winter

MY WIFE HAS NO MIDDLE NAME                                   M, 3-20-17

It is not always bad
or wrong, to fall
despite the state
of Adam and Eve
or even the snake
on the way out
through the eastern gate

Neither Adam nor Eve
nor the snake
had a middle name

With no middle name
to mark them different,
it is a miracle
God did not confuse
them with some other Adam or Eve
or snake

My wife has no name
except for Helen

That one name
was enough
to make me fall
and to keep me
in that fallen state

JRMcF

Neither Helen nor her sister, Mary, has a middle name. There are two theories about this. One is that since their father, Earl, was the last Karr, and had no sons, his daughters could extend the family name one more generation by using Karr as their middle name. However, Georgia, their mother, said it was so if they turned out stupid, they could at least spell their names.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

BLINK Sun, 3-19-17

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©

BLINK                                                            Sun, 3-19-17

I appreciate anyone who can pull together a lot of research on a complicated subject and present it in a way that I can understand. So I appreciate Malcolm Gladwell.

I had understood for a long time what Gladwell presented in The Tipping Point: there comes a time when everything shifts and goes the other way. I was about fifty when all my body parts shifted and began to go the other way, down.

Gladwell did not mention that, however. He talked more about various sorts of communities, and what happens when the weight of violence or civility becomes great enough to cause a neighborhood or business or church, or even a nation, to slide the other way, like when one more little kid gets on the end of the teeter-totter and the big kid on the other end finally goes up into the air.

Blink is just as interesting, but without as clear a result. In Blink, Gladwell presents the finding on how we make quick judgments on small amounts of evidence.

We get just a slice of evidence, the way a person walks [body language] or the way she moves her head and we immediately decide if she means us harm. We don’t examine her under a microscope and study her history and hire a detective before we make the call. We just know, intuitively, what we call gut instinct. We decide in a blink.

The problem is that we often decide incorrectly. We decide that a person is going to shoot us just because he’s black, or cheat us just because he has slick hair, or wants sex just because she has a short skirt. As likely as not, we end up with a racial discrimination complaint from the black man, a penalty from the slick-haired IRS agent, and a restraining order from Calista Flockhart. [On TV she played Ally McBeal, a notoriously short-skirted lawyer. I never saw the show myself, but I heard about it.]

It only takes a blink to be right, but it only takes a blink to be wrong. So what’s the difference?

Experience, says Gladwell. People with a lifetime of experience usually make accurate blink decisions.

Obviously, that’s selective. If I’ve never been in the ocean before and I go snorkeling for the first time, my lifetime of experience as a people listener isn’t going to do me much good. Is that fish coming this way in order to eat me or just because it’s curious? If it were a puffed-up person, I could make a blink judgment, and I’d probably be right. A puffer fish, I’ll make a blink judgment, because I have to, but it’s not as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.

Just having lots of experience, just being old, doesn’t cause us to be right in each blink judgment moment. We sometimes forget that.

We do have wisdom when we’re older that we did not have before, just because we’ve been there, done that. Fads come along in fashion and food and religion and technology and we don’t fall for them. When we were younger we might have jumped on the wave and ridden it, teased up that beehive hairdo or worn that lime-green leisure suit or waved our hands in the air and yelled “Praise the Lord” while listening to Stryper on an 8 track. Now we laugh at the fads and go for simplicity. We wear cargo pants not because they’re cool but because we need lots of pockets for all our pills.

Our wisdom comes not so much from being smarter now but from being stupider then. We’ve made lots of mistakes, and we’re at least smart enough not to make them again. We make the right decision in a blink not because our guts have better instincts than those of younger people but because we’ve read the signs longer.

We’re not better people just because we’re older, not better than when we were younger, not better than those who are younger now. We’re just better Blinkers. But that is one of the payoffs for going through all those years.

JRMcF
johnrobertmcfarland@gmail.com

I tweet as yooper1721.