Your Love Washes Over Me

As I bang my head against the wall in the halls
Of this home, not my own; sigh and loudly cry,
Your compassion washes over me like waves
From rich love wider and deeper than the sea,
And you had no bed, nowhere to lay your head,
But you’ve said you will take care of my needs,
Sowing seeds of faith that grow ever so slowly
As you provide my daily bread, day after day,
And remind me I do have somewhere to stay,
And so what shall I say? And how can I repay?
I say ‘thank you,’ as I bathe me in love so true,
Which canopies over me like the skies so blue!


Expressions of Love

O my Beloved! I will love you forever and ever more every day
Along the way of the life you have given me in you and for you
As yours throughout the hours of light and each ‘n every night
With no fright or evil thought of flight, but to behold your sight
In the moments of time and eternity, for you love me with love
In everlasting, passionate compassion, understanding and care,
At once like mother with child so mild and, also, like the lover,
Who hovers and covers me with deep and rich, sweet affection
Without any affectation, deflection or defection, dear Beloved;
So, too, I run to you and find the sun cannot outshine your love
From above, but dims by comparison, and so the moon so soon
To rise is but only your prize to give me as I live by you, in you
. . .
O my Beloved! I will love you forever and ever more every day
Along the way of the life you have given me in you and for you

And Heaven Weeps

Let compassion reign o’er malice as we drink from the chalice
Of love and peace from above, even in the face of vile rancor,
And may we stay the course set before us even when reviled,
And let us weep in keep with the tears of heaven for the child
Once meek and mild, now gone wild, where faith once lived
But now only ruins remain to mark the place of dead belief,
And may we pray for the day that hope is revived in his soul,
But above all, let us carry on in cadence with the song of truth
Under the banner of compassion every day along life’s way. . .
Though heaven may weep in keep with all the strain and pain
Of her pilgrim children marching onward through this world
To gain the Promise of the Ages from the torn pages of history

What Love Is . . .

Is love not gracious and living self-giving?
Can love be love apart from self-emptying?
Ah! What is it, then, to think of self first
And foremost while letting others thirst
For genuine, selfless affection that bursts
From a passionately compassionate heart
That puts others first in every part of life?
Yes, this turns modern thought on its head
And puts so much pop psychology to bed!
But let it not be said love is self-centered
When surely we have best been mentored
By those who chose to invest in the other;
Besides which, one learns to love oneself
When he has begun to truly love outside
Of self in an outpouring of adoring love,
For do we ever really learn who we are
Outside of company as our guiding star?
So let us love greatly, both near and far!

Note: This poem is largely in response to not only self-centeredness but also the ideology of radical individualism. It is an aesthetic statement in favor of communialism and the idea that one “finds oneself” within the context of community and, more specifically, that one experiences authentic love in ongoing reciprocity, which begins with the giving of oneself to the other.

You Brought Me Home

Wandering the wasteland with a nefarious band,
You came and found me and took me by the hand,
Led me across the desert sand and even carried me
When I could not stand, so much did you care for me,
And as I cried you dried my many tears
And I could hear you say, ‘I so love you,’
But I was silent and pliant as you tended to my scars
And promised to defend me always with compassion
In the passion of love from heaven above
And this was like treasure with pleasure!
Now I make my home with you so beautiful and true,
Never again to wander and wonder
Where to lay my head and make my bed,
And now I can truly say, ‘I love you, too!’
No more in the wasteland with some nefarious band,
No more . . . I am Home

Do Not Despair, There is Hope for Repair

Terrified soul curled up in the corner like a foreigner to life itself,
Your very own emotions have caused an unbelievable commotion
Inside your mind to bind you in confusion and rank desperation;
Ah! But there is reparation for all of your pain and your suffering,
And there is One who understands and cares, who can help you
Bear your burden, bringing bright light into your darkened spirit;
And there are many, many others who care and will help you bear
With piety your burden of overwhelming depression and anxiety;
You are not alone though you are prone to feel exactly this way . . .
But, maybe, you’ve not been shown that others’ll hear your groan
And respond in compassion, support, affection ‘n love from above;
Do not despair! There is help to repair your ill-damaged psyche!
Pray, pick up the phone and much-needed help will be on the way!

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
Veterans Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255
Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

And The Child Shall Lead Them: Part III

Shall you lead us ore the trail of tears, through our fears in coming years,
As wicked men thrive while they deprive all love, and babies burn alive?
Shall you mend broken heart, extend mercy forgotten, and our wounds attend?
Are you too young for such responsibility without duplicity; pure nobility?
Are your hands strong for such demands while darkness and death expands
As innocent blood flows in Promised Land, while we watch with no reprimand?
Shall the Star misguide us afar, or will your boon be the crescent moon?

Spirit Dove, send us peace;
Let all the wars cease.
Spirit Dove, send us love;
Let it rain from above.

One there was who hunger fed, his own life bled; thorn-crown upon his head;
And how now shall you bear all concerns and care, my young Shepherdess fair,
When ore the ages even gods and sages have been slain in unthinkable pain?
When across the times dross-filled men have nailed such love to rugged cross?
Will you, but child meek and mild, seek truth free and wild, to be reviled
With nowhere to stay as friends turn away, and even family refuse to pray?
Are you thus strong to guide the throng; tend your sheep while so many weep?

Spirit Dove, send us peace;
Let all the wars cease.
Spirit Dove, send us love;
Let it rain from above.

When bullets fly and so many die, tears flood the alley-ways and your days
Are spent in relentless grace-chores no one adores; all your work abhors,
And you tire, well-spent; long for fire of funeral pyre; your eyes glaze,
Once dancing and laughing, prancing and clapping, will you backward gaze,
Long for brighter days? Or stay your heavenly course by strength of force
To be our source of inspiration in animation of peace, consolation, and light
Streaming from God to humanity against all calamity and such vile vanity?

Spirit Dove, send us peace;
Let all the wars cease.
Spirit Dove, send us love;
Let it rain from above.


Shocked By How Many Poor Are Not Considered Poor

karen_matthews_1210012c[1]Something close to my heart ~ particularly as I have lived it ~ is the plight of the poor. Imagine how shocked I was to learn what the actual “poverty levels” are in the United States! Point in fact, these levels measure not poverty, but dire (almost inhumane) poverty; thousands upon thousands of genuinely poor ~ yes employed and non-employed ~ are authentically poor … but not considered so by the government. Meanwhile, we as a nation subsidize multi-billion dollar corporations in what has justifiably come to be called “corporate welfare.” It’s time this stop!

The Current Poverty Level for individuals is set at an abysmally low $11,770 per annum. For families, it is as follows:

15,930 for a family of 2 — $20,090 for a family of 3 — $24,250 for a family of 4 — $28,410 for a family of 5 — $32,570 for a family of 6

For an individual, this breaks down to approximately $980.33 per month, or $245.20 per week. Many supplementary aid programs, as well as taxation systems, are based upon living below the poverty line. Many of these same programs are denied based upon living above the poverty line. The current levels reflect more than poverty; anyone, or any family, living below these current levels can realistically be said to live in dire poverty. Realistically, many thousands upon thousands of individuals earning income within the range of $14,000 to $16,000 per annum are barely making what could justifiably be termed “a living.” The same holds true for families as well, of course. It is far, far, past time to raise the poverty line to at least a somewhat more decent level! Please sign and spread this petition to compassionate friends and family!

Bold Presentation of Modesty

“So, what about modesty, compassion, altruism and genuine appreciation?” Joy Brighterday stood behind the podium centrally situated on the sanctuary floor, just in front of the front pews. “Four important qualities, or virtues, to be sure … four among many, but this evening we modestly begin with modesty.’ Several folks among the group of about 120 smiled; some chuckled. Justin Case was present, as promised, sitting about midway up, at the end of a pew he shared with four college students, (or young folks who looked very much the college-type).

“First, modesty is best and most simply defined as ‘the quality or state of being unassuming or moderate in the estimation of one’s abilities.’ It is ‘behavior, mannerisms, and appearance intended to avoid impropriety, indecency, or insult.’ Some opposites of modesty, besides immodesty, are ‘impropriety, conceit, arrogance, vulgarity, impudence, barbarism…’ You get the idea.”

Joy Brighterday’s Wednesday SSS classes had become quite popular in the community, with quite a number of non-members (of her church, or no church at all) attending. She usually presented four to six week series on varying topics not quite so common to typical Wednesday night “prayer meetings” or “Bible studies.” For example, she had just wrapped up a series on the Epistle to Diognetus, an early second century work of Christian apologetics. And usually her SSS series focused on either background and/or contextual material rather than exposition of Scripture, through Sacred Scripture was certainly, importantly tied in with her lectures.

“So we have our working definition, and we have some good antonyms to flesh out the definition,” Brighterday continued like an university professor. “Now let’s introduce a passage of Sacred Scripture that we will use as our ‘tone-setter’ this evening. For this series, as is usually the case, I will not expound so much, or make commentary, on our Scripture readings. Since our series has to do with four interesting virtues, I will focus our attention upon these.”

“Let me say a word again about this series, too, as I did Sunday, because the series may seem a bit odd. We could easily have a series on, say, the classical Roman virtues, or the classical Christian virtues, which would be even better,” she chuckled. “But these four in particular arose out of an interesting conversation I was having with an intelligent, sharp-witted man who challenged me to better explain these four qualities I had mentioned more than once in our conversation. He specifically challenged me to both explicate and provide substantive examples as in, one might say, case studies to, hopefully, show how these qualities, or virtues, work out in real life. So … I took him up on his challenge and here we are, moving on to our ‘tone-setting’ passage of Scripture.” Justin wriggled in his seat a little, wondering if anyone knew he was the one who laid down the challenge.

“Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians, the Apostle admonishes the believers there to ‘make my joy complete by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in harmony and of one mind; doing nothing through envy or through pride, but with humble thoughts of self, let everyone take others to be better … not looking everyone to her own private good, but keeping in mind the needs and goods of others.’”

“We will, of course, come back to this Scripture at appropriate times, but let’s begin with the most common, contemporary idea of modesty, and that’s easy,” Joy grinned a contagious grin. “It’s the old-fashioned dad looking at his teenage daughter’s first choice for prom dress and saying, ‘hell no! Over my dead body!’ Right?” Quite a bit of understanding laughter followed, as well as moms and dads and daughters looking back and forth at each other. “Maybe it’s mamma telling her good-looking, athletic, teenage son, ‘You know, you can dress nice and casual without always showing off your muscles.’ More laughter followed with a few strong, athletic types hunkering down in embarrassment. ‘The girls know you’re good looking and strong; you don’t have to go to school half-naked to prove you work out every day!’ Or better yet, ‘Yes, you will wear pants that fit, and you will pull them up all the way, and if you give me any grief about it, I’ll make you tuck your shirt in and wear a belt, too!’ That brought some rip-roaring amusement with a few strong ‘amens’ from the crowd. “We could go on and on with examples. The 13-year-old has suddenly become hair stylist and cosmetician, while you’re looking at a Medusa-type hairdo with an otherwise pretty face that can no longer be seen behind the globes of make-up.”

“Yes, modesty has to do with our clothing and apparel, and this is important because it does say something, at least, about who and what we are, or who and what we may want to be; something of who and with what we want to identify. So this leads naturally to the question, ‘who and what are you?’ And ‘with whom do you want to identify?’ As Christians, this will certainly have some effect on how we clothe and ‘make-up’ ourselves … if we really need to ‘make-up’ ourselves to begin with; after all, as Christians, we are ‘made up’ in Christ, but anyway… I want to move on beyond this because the virtue of modesty runs deeper really.”

“Yes, it is trying to avoid impropriety, indecency, or insult. To put it another way, it is striving genuinely to be kind, courteous and polite. Loving and revering God first, others secondly, and yourself lastly really is the Christian standard of self-assessment, and it flies in the face of modern, pop-psychology and the teachings of self-help gurus.” Joy was steady, straightforward and plain spoken. “Guess what, though? This standard of self-assessment is not unique to the Christian faith, and is in fact as old as the recorded history of world cultures. All of the great teachers, across the continents, in every generation taught lowliness of spirit, genuine humility as one of the cardinal virtues of the truly good life.”

“And here is where we really come down to it, to the first part of our definition, captured so well in our Scripture reading. We are to cultivate humble thoughts of our self … taking others to be better or, at least, having that attitude and acting accordingly. Of course, this involves having an honest appraisal of ourselves, being moderate in our estimation of our own talents, gifts, abilities and whatnot. You see modesty, when you really think about it seriously and deeply, drives down to your very heart, mind and soul. It’s the big question:  Just what do you really think about yourself, anyway? And that can be a difficult, painstaking question to answer, and you know what? If you spend time in prayer and meditation, really asking the Spirit of Truth to help you answer the question, you might be in for some real shockers!”

“Let me back off from this, however, and offer an equalitarian answer for all of us that should not be shocking, but might be offensive to some, I don’t know. However…” Joy paused for a few heavily pregnant moments, “there is one fundamental truth we all – each of us face – that is expressed very simply but poignantly in the Book of Beginnings, and that is: ‘you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ Let me submit to you that it is within this context of awful, terrifying finitude that we must understand another great truth, that is: ‘God shows no regard (or favoritism) of one over another. Anyone, anywhere who reveres the Lord and strives to do what is right is acceptable to him’ … in any and every nation, no matter the ethnicity or other concomitant conditions, as the Apostle St. Peter taught. The Apostle St. Paul reechoed this truth in his Epistle to the Romans, when he declared simply, ‘With God there is no partiality.’ Period.”

“Every single one of us has an unexceptional beginning and commonplace ending, and between these two fundamental points, each and every one of us stands before almighty God, the Everlasting One on equal footing as children of the Most High, the Divine Progenitor of the Cosmos, our loving and nurturing Lord and Redeemer, who fills those who believe with the Spirit of Life, Light, Love and Truth. Capturing and truly understanding this reality is, or leads to, genuine modesty … modesty as an heavenly virtue.”

“Now, my conversational challenger also urged me to provide examples, or ‘case studies,’ as he called them.” Justin tried not to look at Joy, or anyone else, really. “Well, I’ll admit I could spend the rest of this evening and well  on into the night regaling you with the stories of a multitude of saints, but allow me to mention just a few ‘case studies,’ and then end with some wrap-up comments on modesty and its opposites. But first, the case studies! In our own very well stocked church library, which is constantly being expanded, as should be the case with every church library, we have material on each person, or ‘case,’ I will now mention, to wit: Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Amy Carmichael, Mohandas Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., St. Francis of Assisi, Bl. John Paul II, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and of course St. Gianna. It would take hours for me to present even a brief summary of their lives, and I could add so many, many more names to the list!”

“Anyway, each of these individuals were modest people. They were not weak. They were not cowardly. They were not clueless or without purpose. In fact, these people were really very strong, wise, purposeful, resourceful, determined and courageous. This is why we remember and honor them, but they were modest. Going back to our antonyms of modesty, they also were not licentious, conceited, arrogant, vulgar, or sordid. They were modest and exemplified genuine modesty in their lives in an especially saintly way. It would be well-worth one’s time and effort to visit our church library and check out two or three brief biographies on some of these persons, and actually read them!

“But now, with that, my part has ended and yours has begun! It is time for questions…” Joy looked straight at Justin Case, who only smiled slightly and nodded his head. Evidently, he had no questions … this go-round.

Put on therefore, as the expressly chosen of God, holy and beloved, the clothing of mercy, kindliness, humility, modesty, and patience; bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another. Even as the Lord has forgiven you, so do you also, but above all of this, have charity – divine love – which is the bond of perfection. (The Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians 3:12-14)


Speaking on Behalf of Volunteering

I recently had the privilege of speaking with the local news on behalf of volunteering.

Volunteers Give Back Through 2-1-1

Of course, volunteering is an opportunity to show my own gratitude and appreciation in a concrete way.  And, as I also mentioned, it is a proactive, tangible way to help alleviate pain and suffering in our world, which is fundamentally important.

JDN4If I’d had the opportunity ~ and, obviously, time with the news camera is limited ~ I might have added that reaching out in the spirit of genuine love and compassion is one important way we express our solidarity with one another.

After all, the human creature is a communal creature; we are quite literally made for one another. As the old saying goes, “No man is an island unto himself,” so that separation and isolation are really rather unnatural.

Consequently, when we help or benefit another, we indirectly held and benefit ourselves. And because this is true, strange as it may sound, being other-centered is ultimately the greatest act of self-service possible, whereas self-centeredness is in the end quite destructive.