Sonnet, in pink and red

The day Trump got the virus was
the day after I gifted some dinosaur grass to my
mother, which was the day after some bird with prehistoric motivations
pecked off the tall flower that had stood tall, single, pink and proud.
It was the day I phoned from outside the sushi shop to say
it had holiday hours and was closed and that’s why the
phone calls booking early dinner weren’t working.
It was the day of the roundabout walk home where

red was salient like it always is, and startling
like it often is, and in the form of bottlebush
drops like it is at the moment in the burbstreets.
Whose blood was crying out from the ground?
Waiting for birds to eat, car tyres to smudge and grind.
I took this photo and walked home.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Celebrating the Church’s birthday during a pandemic

A couple of Sundays ago we celebrated a birthday- the birthday of the Church. And like many other family birthday parties, it provided an opportunity to share and re-remember a dramatic birthing story. The dramatic birthing story is found in Acts 2, and is often shared on Pentecost Sunday, the official day of celebration for the Church.

As always, there is a heavily pregnant woman at this birthday party: Creation. Her labour is starting, and she is looking forward to the birth of the New Creation and the end of earthly pain. She groans, hoping that the birth is close in time, imminent. It helps that there is divine presence close by her side, and everywhere, immanent. … But let’s retell the Church’s birthing story before we go there.

That day, the day that the Church was born, nature knew that something was afoot. The wind rushed, the flames arrived. Something new, holy and gale-force whipped up during a moment of high fire danger. The Church was born. It made its own birth announcement, in many languages. Those that heard the announcement were cut to the heart. It was intense, and it made the news. The Church was one person, and it was thousands.

We remember that the birth of the Church occurred at “Pentecost”, a Jewish festival also referred to as the Feast of Weeks. Pentecost celebrated the end of the grain harvest, and involved a time of rest, celebration and thankfulness after the frantic gathering-in.

Was there also some rest and recuperation after the dramatic birth in Acts 2?
There did end up being a period of rest after the Pentecost in Acts: there was a rest from the busy, selfish acquisition that Jesus condemned in the story of the rich, foolish farmer (Luke 12:13-21). The early believers formed a caring community in which food was shared and everyone’s needs were met (Acts 2:42-47)). As it grew up, the community worked together in this way to mitigate one of the consequences of the Fall: the curse put on the land and the human sweat involved in obtaining its produce (Genesis 3:17).

And today, some of creation is enjoying a rest from frantic human activity. As we retreated from our communities and into our homes, flora and fauna showed up in the sudden quiet of public places: grass growing between the stones of Italian piazzas, kangaroos hopping past city-store windows.

At the same time, some of creation is in painful spasm. Many of us imagine Nepal to be a pristine or even magical place in the mountains, but it is in fact one of the most polluted places in the world, and its air pollution has made the population extra vulnerable to COVID-19. All of us (humans) are complicit in this death and devastation. We haven’t worked out how to cultivate this earth without spoiling it for everyone, and everything, and our rich foolishness continues to reap a deathly harvest.

Some of us may have a buffer of wealth and privilege that allows us to enjoy this period of enforced rest without worrying about our financial status. Others may be desperate for money to change hands again for “non-essential” services so that a basic living can be sought. We may be looking forward to resuming “normal” again. However, normal has a trajectory, and we would do well to read nature for divine wisdom about this trajectory.

“Reading nature” is not an unbiblical or pantheistic thing to do. We are part of creation, connected to nature, as we should know, and the wildlife that has crept out of hiding rebukes us in our continued forgetfulness. We are also related to nature. In humility we need to recognise that even what we consider to be “inanimate” nature has always been animated by divine parental love. Nature has God as a parent, too.

God is intricately and lovingly involved in the life of his creation. He is immanent.

Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen? (Job 38:28-31).

We are in dangerous territory when we fail to recognise God’s deep commitment to his creation, and the care-filled responsibility that was delegated to humanity (Genesis 1:26).

We have to be careful that we do not become rich farmers who enjoy the sound of coins jingling in our pockets so much, that we do not notice that the landscape we have tilled ruthlessly has become a waterless wasteland. Who overhear the land cry out to God in the voice of the sibling we murdered as he stood beside us and was simply thankful to God for his food (Genesis 4:10). And, stumbling as the earth rips open before us in disgust, understand that we would much prefer to be Lazarus, whose poverty used to make our wealth look so purple (Luke 16:19-31). Realise that we would kill for a drop of clean water to ease sore throats and quench thirst. Realise that we have, in fact, killed clean, living water at its Source.

How do we read our environment and glean wisdom? Bruce Pascoe has shown us that Indigenous Australians cultivated food in a gentle way that respected the Australian landscape and its rhythms, way before the First Fleeters tried to grow English vegetables. Even if you look further back into European history, land was cultivated in ways that represented a “grateful exchange” between humanity and its environment: coppicing, for example, involved a continuous cutting and regrowth of woodland, and encouraged a biodiversity that would not otherwise exist. And if you look back into the history of ancient Israel, there is a model for this sort of give-and-take in the Bible. The book of Exodus provides that the Israelites are to give their land a rest from cultivation every seventh year, so that “the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left” (Exodus 23:11, and also Leviticus 25:7).

We need to keep working through the curse put on the land as a result of our rebellion against God, knowing that it will be a great day when the Church and Creation have their most “grateful exchange”. In the meantime, Creation groans as it labours, waiting and hoping for the imminent birth of New Creation (Romans 8:18-25).

As the theologian Walter Brueggemann notes in his new book, Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief and Uncertainty, while Creation is in this “struggle for newness”, “we must not pass over the labor pains, cries, and demands too readily”.

Has COVID-19 has given us a break from contractions, a chance to jot down the time in our notebook and record some observations about the pain? Can we pray through this notebook and ask for the Spirit to illuminate us? What should our dreams and hopes for the future be, as Creation groans for renewal? Should we turn in humility to our children and listen for their prophetic voices? (Joel 2:28)

Things to ponder, perhaps, as we pop birthday party balloons and sweep up cake crumbs after Pentecost.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Today, in a sonnet

I hacked at rose bushes that wanted their branches to ramble,
not brace the house in a chokehold.
A crochet flower refused to bloom in my scratched hands.
I overheard a government official talking about
the price of petrol, his voice zooming down the corridor.
My own zoom meeting maintained my social distance, dropping me
out of a work meeting after 15 minutes.
My dinner sang, a neat composition of remainder vegetables.

I talked about the rule of law with my daughter at the dinner table.
She wrote how people sometimes scratch away rights
when they are scared.
I watched a policewoman shuffle her feet impatiently, as
an ex-cardinal was about to be released under the cover of
the rule of our law, and helicopter cameras.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,


The dry air crackled with Baal-smoke.
Next door’s party was infiltrating. I could
read the signs in smoke so I spoke them: No
parch-quitting rain for a while. Things got hot, I hid
in a ditch. Ravens provided stomach-comfort.

Sooner or later, my words would fry my own drinking water.
They did. I scooted deep into Baal-smoke
territory. There I did what I could
for my widow host. No flour, no oil, no
son’s life would run out on this watch. Nothing here hid

from Yahweh-care. Turns out no
life, no quiet widow-life even, can be hid
from the scourge of life-giving comfort.
We waited for water.
The widow’s bread-baking aromas dissolved into the Baal-smoke.

Royal wingman Obadiah: not one averse to providing sly prophet-comfort.
But his king was really angry re: no water.
Also, angry that Yahweh could blow me like a smoke
of Invisibility. Was decided I could
bring everything to a logical confrontation. No

trouble for the Troubler-who-no-longer-hid.
A contest to provide a deluge of comfort,
precipitate fire and burst open realms of heavenly water.
Turns out that ecstasy wearies those dancing for smoke.
Turns out that if anyone could fire up the mountain, Yahweh could.

But under the broom bush it seems all my high-chariot energy could
run out. It seems I’m no better than any, and there’s no-
one who is. That’s why I’m lying here, and that’s why I hid.
But. Turns out no capital-T troubler can escape angelic comfort
and widowy baking skills. This time with water.

Turns out there was no end-time comfort in wind, earthquakes, no
revelation in fire. I hid my face, I could
feel the silence. The whisper like smoke on water.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Daniel: against, with grains

We don’t sit well with rich food
We grow without it
In learning, in everything


Daniel: into exile

Princely sons read campfire sparks
Temple metal clinks
Apocalyptic stars fall


The way home

Some draft song words I wrote after a Christian music conference earlier this year. Any ideas for a title?

You came to us, showed that your pain
was your road to royal glory.
Wipe away tears, give us your joy
Lord, help us understand your word.

Jesus is alive, here with us,
we ask him to show us the road:
Jesus, burn our hearts with wonder
Lord, help us understand your word.

We gather today, we repent
of times we did not want to hear.
Now we turn, we call on your name
Lord, help us understand your word.

Spirit, pour out meaning and hope
on every life resurrected.
Cut our hearts, shine the Christ-light
Lord, help us understand your word.

Praise God, lift your voice, all sing
The joy of the Lord is our strength.
Praise God, life your voice, all sing
Our Saviour shows us the way home.

Tagged , , , ,

My Jacob

Empathy here, at the genesis, a garment
worn to wrestle. The hip bone
wrenched at dawn. A new name
for one at the end of himself. Stones
ground under heels overnight. He won’t go,

that heel-grabber, he wants a full-face
blessing. Under his torn garment,
throbbing with honest pain, his hip bone
is ID’d by my thumbprint. My name:
he knows it. He left it with the stones,

that time he gave my house my name,
rested his head and dream-laddered to me on pillow-stones.
So I won’t go,
and he’ll see the lines of kindness that write my face.
And I’ll feel the pain shouldered under his garment,

thumb-pressed into memories of when he had to go,
flee a father who could not see his face,
the hairs barely plucked free of his garment.
He knows the throbbing truth, has picked it from the bone:
his brother was right when he spat the heel-grabber name.

And yet. He grabs the other truth while we grind stones:
I want to make room for him, to let him go
with a memory of my face.
He will get a chance to replace this garment,
the one holy-torn to our contention’s bone.

Fast backward and forward to other bruised bone:
His own father with sticks carried on boy-shoulders, carried in the name
of a ram-surprised sacrifice. Then, those stones
that cried at the sight of battered shoulders, cross-ready to go.
You will cry, too, at my thorn-pressed, pain-readable face.

At the dawn there I am, and you have a new name.
When your pillows are stones, your dreams wrestle with bruised bone,
remember your holy-torn garment, read my love-legible face.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Sestina Baptism

My friend kneels as the water
Drips down her length, slipping into channels of love
The same irrigation system draws my tears-
The beauty of a baptised life
Washed into holiness and gently patted dry
Molecules of dirty dissent wiped out.

Peace. The stones have cried it out
Sleeping now, their salty water
Took an exiled age to dry
My friend rescued by love
From the Babylon shores of her life.
But I weep Babylon rivers of tears

My cracked life again springs leaky tears
I always swim far out
Beyond the buoys of a good life
Struggling in the dark water
Dumped back to beach by tsunami love
Like Jonah, high and dry.

My throat is rich-man burnt and dry
Waiting for the Jesus-wept tears
Waiting for extinguisher love
To put the fire out
Or just a drop of Lazarus water
To sprinkle life back to life.

It’s a woman-at-the-well life
Waiting for Jesus in the noontime dry
Drawing words, love and water
Forgetting the on-the-way tears
Singing all the way out
Of sitting-by-me love.

At the baptism lunch a few people love
My daughter’s ukulele strumming. Life
Is remarked on over fruit and cheese. Inside and out
Children fling their towels to dry
Over the fence. There are tears
As they compete for trampoline space and pool water.

Through trails of chlorine I’m happy to remain dry
I’m baptised by on-the-way tears
My spirit splashes happily in love’s water.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,


Maybe for a

time such as this? When
cousins / fathers stand at gates, and
I’m not sure whether I
won / lost / drew that
beauty contest and / or the
Makerlove, covenanted through history, but

Maybe not for a

time such as this? When
cousins / fathers change minds, and
I’m not sure whether I
am / am not / am becoming, the
braver of sceptres for that unspoken / spoken
Kinlove, exiled into history, and

Maybe not around for a much longer

time than this? Resolve, then,
tendrils every word. Hebrew letters
curve into destiny. My scribe hushes mention of the
Consonant One, but herenow,
providential friends, we can
grab some vowels and toddle into the
Yahweh Godfire.

Tagged , , , , ,