Pilgrim Path

This blog is the work of a seeker and poet. Walking stick in hand, I head out into the world, not of the world, but in the world. My words and my friends carry me along and light the pilgrim path of spiritual journeys.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Way down deep,
beyond the interstates
even beyond the state roads,
you’ll find some county roads
named with four numbers;
enough to make you wonder
if a name might have been a better idea.
But stop, and ponder a bit,
and you’ll realize
the place you’re going
can’t be contained
by a name.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Footpaths strewn with autumn’s
multi-colored veil of leaves
draw our eyes downward to fallen
acorns and fuzzy caterpillars.

The frantic pace of summer
yields to autumn’s slower gait as
in vain we try to stave off winter’s
chill with our leisurely creation walk.

I, too, am in my autumn years
and as restless as the blowing leaves
I bravely strive to compete with nature
before I’m covered in a blanket of snow.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Alone in God
my soul waits, silent.
My help is from Him.
Alone in God
rest, my soul, in silence.

My hope is from Him.
He alone is my rock, my safety;
I shall not be shaken.
- Psalm 62, V2,6


Five years, perhaps a lifetime, ago,
third floor room in a building beyond
the gates with the overhead sign,
“God Alone.”

Hidden among the folds of Kentucky hills,
Gethsemani – home of Merton and my heart.
Beckons my return in silence and darkness.

Autumn chill and morning dew lingers
to bless the ground; Visions of God’s blanket
sent to comfort those who sit and watch.

Expectant eyes keep watch for geese,
their story well told by old pilgrims
fed by nature’s glory and grace.

What new wonders await this still soul?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


I watch, disconnected, as others reach
deep inside and reveal their shadows.
I see their eyes grow small and weary,
often times they fill with tears.
But when I’m asked to join them
though my lips move easily,
I gaze upon the ground and find no shadow.

Others run as I try to crawl
seeking a pure heart behind the wall
that grows stronger with every pain
remembered; that grows taller with
every missed chance to break through.

A small child cries out to be soothed,
protected, assured that these are new days
to be welcomed with an open heart
illumined by an inner light
that will release the stubborn shadow.

Friday, October 06, 2006

(under reconstruction)

On the first Friday night of every month, Ascension Roman Catholic Church in Oak Park, Illinois holds a Taize prayer service of peace and reconciliation. The service is patterned after the one held daily in the Taize Community in the Burgundy region of France. The major features of this service are music and a time of silence for reflection and prayer. The music is unique in that the short songs of few words are repeated many times. The purpose of this is to let the words sink into our souls so that we may truly feel them.

Ascension Church is a typical "old school" Catholic church with room for about 1000 people and a dome that rises about 50 feet above the church floor. There are lots of marble and beautiful paintings and statues -- certainly a place that you hope God would appreciate as being built for His glory. But, time has taken its toll on the church and the good people of the parish have decided it is time for a renovation.

I've been attending the first Friday Taize service at Ascension for about 6 years now. Some nights the music director is very fussy and his technical concerns can get in the way of a prayerful time. Other nights, the selection of songs includes a large number of new ones that you can't quite get the hang of. But, all the struggles are worth it for the nights when everything runs as if guided by the Holy Spirit.

As I entered the church tonight, I was taken aback by the sight of huge scaffolding in the place where the altar usually rested. The pews, which had been removed last month, were still gone, replaced by cheap, tacky card table chairs. With all of the construction, seating for about 1000 had been reduced to about 400. It would be an understatement to say I was ill at ease. In fact, about 15 minutes prior to the start of the service, I even considered leaving. By then I recalled the many nights over the past 6 years when I'd felt exhausted after a full week of work and the last thing I wanted to do was drive the half-hour it takes to get to Oak Park. Every time, I'd forced myself to go and never regretted the extra effort once. But, I was sure tonight would be a tough one.

It didn't take long for the Holy Spirit to enter this church and my heart. In fact, it happened during the first song. It was a familiar song - one I had sung many times. But, for some reason, it seemed we were singing it in slow motion. This continued for a while. Then I noticed what was happening. Because of the slower pace, the congregation was taking a breath as one. You couldn't hear the intake of breath, but you could sense it. The people of God had become a single breathing organism during this song. We were of one heart, singing in many voices, but of single purpose.

At one point in the service, individual candles are lit and held by the gathered folks. I usually camp out in a side nave near the musicians, but tonight, due to construction, I was forced to find a seat directly facing what normally would have been the altar. After everyone's candle had been lit, and prayers spoken, it was time for everyone to process to the front and to leave their candle in one of many clay pots filled with sand. Maneuvering around the construction during this time was difficult and so, despite the smaller than average crowd, this process took considerable time. Since I had gotten to church early, I staked out an aisle seat. When the procession of people began, I was stirred by the movement of a wide variety of folks walking past me - many different voices, singing in tune and out; young and old; primly dressed and those in jeans and t-shirts; sandals, high heels and gym shoes; healthy and sick. All the components of the people of God passed by me, singing with the voices God gave them.

After the procession of candles was complete, the regular 10 minutes of silence for individual reflection and prayer began. Normally, I am able to close my eyes and just be. Despite being present among so many people, I am usually able to take myself to a place where I feel alone, but not lonely. Tonight, however, the scaffolding was a powerful distraction. Quickly, my imagination ran wild. I spotted a stairway in the middle of the metalwork. I followed the stairway with my eyes as it rose the full 50 feet into the space of the dome. I was unable to see the inside of the dome due to boards placed on the scaffolding as a floor for workers to reach the very top most point. Looking at the weathered wood from below, it was reminiscent of the floor of the attics that I remember as a child. And then, as if a child, I imagined the question: What if that was the attic where God lived? What was up there? Would there be an old trunk with God's special treasures? Old photos of Jesus as a child? Maybe some clothes that God had outgrown? A very warm and wonderful feeling came over me. I felt as if I was home for the first time in a very long time. And because God's home was being reconstructed, I took solace in the fact that I didn't need to be perfect either. God would understand. I'm a work in progress, being reconstructed myself daily.

There was something very special that happened tonight in that church. In some ways, it felt as if we were early Christians, worshipping in a clandestine place. Here were the people of God, in all our various states, gathering to worship and pray to God in a house under reconstruction. And as we prayed, we changed. We breathed together as one and healed one another. And while I can't be sure, I think that God looked down from his attic tonight and saw that it was good. At least, I know I smiled. Amen.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


It could have been a journey
of triumph; a homecoming
in glory and joy
with wild dancing and timbrel playing.
His victory earned, the Messiah crowned.
Gone - with a denial and a single dark arrest.

Now, a dusty, cold, dark road home.
Large black birds perched on bare trees,
their voices chill us.
Pressing our shoulders together,
we adjust our wraps
to cover our necks and faces.

Speaking in low whispers,
fearing the power of dangerous words.
The road crunches beneath our feet
making sure we remember
the futility of hope,
and the weight of our dreams.

Then, the image of a man approaching,
fully cloaked as we,
alone on this deserted road.
A soldier in disguise, perhaps,
following us home,
to uncover others who weep this sad day.

But a foe wouldn’t travel alone.
Despite our dark mood,
soft words echo in our hearts
and we greet this stranger as if our brother.
We embrace this man living out of time;
unaware of the tragedy just a few miles away.

We beckon him come home with us,
to share a meal and shelter.
Lessons well learned stir a hope
dared once again in our hearts.
This feels familiar; we lift our heads
and watch the road home grow shorter.

Monday, October 02, 2006


It had all the makings of a nourishing weekend, but it turned out to feed me in unimagined ways, as well.

I was scheduled for a Poetry Publishing workshop on Saturday morning. Of course, it had to be held way up on the north side of Chicago since south-siders can’t even pass their eye exams (or at least that is the consensus of most media types). I left home quite early only to be confronted with exceedingly heavy traffic on the ramp heading north to the Kennedy expressway. My first thought was to search the horizon for a mushroom cloud as I couldn’t imagine why so many folks from Dixie were heading north. The skyline appeared clear and I opted to stay on the expressway and head for Lake Shore Drive as an alternative route.

Lake Shore Drive provides some breathtaking views of, well, the Lake. (Yeah, we’re no dummies here in Chicago…we know what to call a road that runs along the lake!) Once again, I was confronted by a significant volume of traffic. In short order, I managed to figure out that the delay was caused by some hyper-active male glandular condition exacerbated by many beautiful woman running along the lakefront for the sole purpose of saving other womens’ breasts. That resolved, and no other alternative routes being available, I stayed on Lake Shore Drive.

After navigating the narrow main roads of the north side, I arrived at my destination which appeared to be an abandoned warehouse. Checking my workshop receipt against the address on the door, I soon realized that the class would be held in one of those trendy post-modern post-yuppie postcard-size spaces. Before we could begin, however, nature called and I inquired as to the location of a restroom. I was handed a key attached to a rubber ruler (I know, I don’t get it either).

Upon opening the restroom door, I discovered what I think it is safe to say is the LAST thing I expected to see. There in full battle garb was a ninja complete with one of those huge sticks they use for….uh, stick things that ninjas do. Men are congenitally unable to cope with the courtesies of greeting other men when entering a bathroom. But, this took greeting protocol to a whole new level of meltdown, especially because this fella had a really big stick. I opted for the “mumbling-hello-downward-glance-foot-shuffle past him” approach. It seemed to work as after I completed my business, the ninja (and his big stick) were gone. Upon leaving the restroom, I noticed a sign for some zen-battlestar-galactica warehouse space right across the hall. Yes, there were more of them. I stealthily sneaked past the door and headed back to my poetry room.

To my great disappointment there were only 2 other class participants plus the leader. While most of the information imparted required little more than common sense, I at least felt a little rejuvenation from being in the company of fellow “artistes.”

Perhaps it was the afterglow of time dedicated to my avocation of writing on Saturday or perhaps it was the prospect of it being World Communion Sunday, but I felt inclined to break out the new Mexican white collarless shirt that I’d bought in Santa Fe this year. And, being an artist, its extremely rumpled condition fed right into that thought pattern. So, I tied up the ponytail, donned the Don Juan de Santa Fe shirt and headed off to church.

Just as men are congenitally unable to cope with greeting strange men in a restroom, Presbyterians (also known as the Frozen Chosen) are congenitally unable to ask, “What the hell IS THAT YOU”RE WEARING?!?!?” Remarks ranged from, “Well, isn’t that a bright white shirt?” to “How ‘bout those Chicago Bears?”

After some time at the gym, I decided that the Sabbath (and shopping in Oak Park) was calling to me. I apparently hadn’t drank enough overpriced bottled water while I was at the gym because I found myself craving some ice cold diet Mountain Dew. On the drive to Oak Park, I spotted a convenience store and pulled into the parking lot. As I approached the counter, some relatives of the clerk were hanging out, wasting time. One of them, who’d obviously been intrigued by my ponytail AND my shirt, asked, “Are you a chef?” Visions of Mario Batali and his orange clogs danced in my head and I quickly decided that I needed to go back to the gym more often.

But wait, maybe I AM a chef. It seems in the last 5 years, but more particularly in the past year, I have pursued adventures that have added a special salt to my life --trips, events and workshops and seminars and retreats all of which have spiced up my spiritual journey. I’ve tasted the work of numerous authors and educators. New friends have nourished me even as they accompany me on this special road. We are all chefs - taught well by the One who fed us first with bread and wine. Amen.