Category Archives: Spiritual

For Ned

Dear Ned,

It’s Monday morning as I write this. Less than a week ago, I talked with you. You were so full of plans, ideas, energy. The future was emerging. You seemed content, happy with the direction of your life. Not yet satisfied with yourself, that you would never be; always looking for how to grow, how to improve, to do better. It so happened that I contacted you that day, not for any particular reason but because both of our lives had been busy for a while, and we had been out of contact, and as you know I would never want to lose touch in any significant way. We talked about your travel plans, and how we might meet, for the second time only on the ground, some time in the next few months.

I think that was last Tuesday. On Wednesday you had a medical emergency, and on Friday, you died. I got that news late Friday evening.

A gift, a precious flower
Blossoms for a day, a year, an hour.
The beauty that the flower reveals
Is what Eternity conceals.

Once in a fortunate lifetime, the soul on pilgrimage
Finds a companion for the way.
Such were you, for me; though I knew you just a day.

My grief is not for you; you knew the joy
That centers on the Love that moves the world.
I mourn a future lost; in which your light
Would shine, as all your gifts would be unfurled
Like a proud flag, for all the world to see;
Alas, those gifts, now fragments left to me
Must wait for other hands to set them free.

And yet, although your absence gives me pain,
I feel your presence still; this is my gain.


Did you?

In the grand scheme of things, the simple ways are best.
There is no magic word, no litmus test.

Did you believe, as best you could, that love will find a way?
Did you keep hope alive just for a day?
Did you see light in someone’s eyes?
Did you run as for a prize?
Did you keep going, just to keep your word?
Did you keep faith with friends, if not the Lord?

If you can love, then you know how to pray.
And this is life eternal, now, today.

Listening, touching, being

img-0277.jpg I saw a soul pass by, and paused. Was that a cry?
Beneath the noise of argument, was that a sigh?
Stop, be still, I heard my spirit say; who know when I
Will see again this soul pass by this way?

The sighing soul, so quiet, fearful,
heard my silence, spoke
and paused,
fearing my voice would mock her pain;
I held quite still, as if to say
my presence was no joke
and watched the stillness, till she spoke again.

So gently, trembling, from the secret depths she rose;
The tender soul revealed the wounds she bore,
And let me reach, and touch, within the silence,
The beauty of her being,
Nothing more.

An Answered Prayer

“More like Christ, my Savior,
Let me be,” one morn I said.
Then along a rugged pathway
My steps the Savior led.
“Oh, that I might have money
And a help to others be!”
Praying thus, I soon was feeling
The pinch of poverty.
“Oh, might my tongue be ready
With floods of meling speech!”
But only in a lisping
Could I the message teach.
Then musing on my fortune,
I said, “Why is it so?
Why, could I not in these ways
For him unhindered go?”
Then long I knelt and lingered
In silent musing there.
When, like a voice I heard it,
“‘Tis the answer to your prayer.”
“It was in ways most humble
His path on earth was trod;
And you must choose that pathway
If you would please your God.”
And like the lowly Master
Who walked in Galilee,
Choose not, but just accept it,
The path he planned for thee.”
‘Tis not in might, nor power,
The Christian’s service lies;
He has said that through the humble
He will confound the wise.”
I thank him for this lesson
That he to me hath shown,
For now in humble service
Can I walk with him alone.
Content to do his bidding
Is now my aim, my goal,
And trust that through his blessing
I’ll save some precious soul.
——Elpha I. Clark [published in the Gospel Trumpet, January 14, 1926 page 3]
Elpha I. Clark was this blogger’s grandmother.

A day like every day

A day like every day
Dawns, filtering the tentative dew
With misty sunshine. Something new
May come our way.

Another morning brings a choice
Wherein new comforts face old fears.
The sparkling days confront the dreary years;
Hope and struggle in harmonious voice.

Death walks with me today, like every day.
It stalks, perhaps, or offers sage advice.
It’s one of many, or perhaps, my only day, this slice
Of life, today, this glorious day.

A prayer, for those who grieve

God, Giver of Life
Lover of our souls, Savior
Open up for us in this hour (but not just for this hour), we pray,
 A window on eternity
A glimpse of glory.
Help us to celebrate the moments past
 And await in joyful hope 
the day of promise, 
when there will be no more death,
  nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain,
 because the former things are passed away.
Grant us grace, dear Lord, to release into your strong hand this one,
        beloved by you and by us,
  to be in your care in the promise of life forevermore. 
For those who feel most keenly the pain of separation,
  we seek the comfort of your Presence, 
  for in You all live,
  and in Your presence every moment partakes of eternity,
  and touches every other moment.
  In You, as we draw near,
  all that we love draws near to  us.
Sanctify the memories
  and may they sweeten the hearts of those who hold them.
  And may every prayer,
  even every tear,
 be transformed by your miraculous Presence
  into a gift of joy,
  every memory
   a blessing of gratitude.
In Christ, the victor over death, we pray.


Today is Holy Saturday in the Eastern and Western churches
a day of silence
of waiting
of mourning
and of selfless service
therefore, a day for women
who do, so it seems, a lot of the above.

The sacred time between the crucifixion and the resurrection
when all paradoxes are at their peak
all contradictions brought into the open
the God of Life participating in Death
Holiness punished for sin
The eternal Word, silent

but on Sunday morning, not with fanfare and blazing glory
but in the silence of an empty tomb
a witness to a life unstoppable is born.

In A Surgical Waiting Room

For GeorgeG. A.

the prayers all expressed
the options explained
the loved ones addressed
the doctors fully trained

Now waiting
for skill, art, and care
supported by prayer
suspended in mid-air

for a future revealed
in which a friend is healed

a new phase of life
the end of strife

quieting the mind
waiting to find
the hand of God upon
what the hand of man has done.

(March 22, 3:55 PM) 

While I Pray

Katie I. Philbrick (1856-1928), my mother’s grandmother, whose own mother, Patience Mayhew DeMaranville, was a daughter of Gilbert and Catherine (Tilton) Mayhew of Martha’s Vineyard, kept her first husband’s name even after marrying my grandmother’s father (Frederick E. Potter), because, no doubt, of the strict religious upbringing which would have frowned heavily on remarriage after divorce even in a case of abandonment. In the family her second marriage was thought to have never formally occurred, even though all the children had the surname Potter, until a few years ago my uncle found a note of it, citing date and place, in my great-grandfather’s military records in the National Archives. In her declining years she lived with her daughter (my grandmother) and grandchildren. She eventually became blind, but continued to write poetry. One day a traveling evangelist, Barney Warren, who was also a prolific songwriter, visited for a short time and set one of her poems to music, probably also adding the refrain. The poem itself was first published by the Gospel Trumpet Company in the Gospel Trumpet (periodical) March 29, 1923, and later as a song (the first four stanzas only) in Melodies of Zion and also in Hymns And Spiritual Songs, with a copyright notice of 1926 under the name of B. E. Warren. Her name as lyricist was listed as Kate T. Philrick, incorporating two errors onKate the part of the editor.

While I Pray

by Katie I. Philbrick

While I pray the clouds about me
Are transformed to red and gold,
And each raindrop has a message
From my Saviour yet untold;
Songs burst forth in midnight darkness,
Lights from glory round me play,
All is changed like wondrous magic—
Earth to heaven, while I pray.

While I pray the angels linger
Near me, for they fain would be
Witness of the joy in sorrow,
Strength in weakness giv’n to me;
And my shield, all worn and battered
In the fierceness of the fray,
Glows afresh with heav’nly luster
And protects me while I pray.

While I pray my friends seem fonder
As I ask for each a boon,
And in loving faith I ponder
And expect an answer soon;
And the cares that so beset me
Steal unnoticed quite away,
Leaving only purest comfort
Of God’s presence, while I pray.

O the joy of bowing lowly
Often at the mercy-seat,
Healing favor, radiant glory,
Views of Jesus’ face so sweet!
And tho’ trouble come, or sadness,
I will trust him all the way,
And my heart will throb with gladness,
Praise and rapture, while I pray.

When I reach the flowing river,
Gazing on the darksome tide,
Nothing then shall daunt my spirit—
For my Lord the way has tried.
As my eyes are softly closing
All the sights of earth away,
I shall pass in sweet contentment—
Pass on gently, while I pray.

While I pray, while I pray,
God will surely answer
In his own way;
While I pray, while I pray,
He will surely answer
While I pray.

My Valentine

St. Valentine was martyred for his faith,
Met obscure death and fades in legends dim,
Revived by those who seek to honor him
By now declaring love more strong than death.

Love struggles to declare itself today
Though fading and obscure it oft still seems.
In silent sacrifice I bow and pray
Beneath the broken altar of my dreams.

I have emptied my heart.  Why then is it so full?
I have released the reins. Why then this pull?
Now silence has engulfed me, what struggles still to speak?
Now strength has poured into me, why am I weak?

I hold my death within me like a joy, pregnant with birth.
My love will yet arise.
My silence carries songs to fill the earth
My unshed tears
Will touch the skies.

I asked, upon a time, for God to give to me
A love that I could feel, and touch, and see.
And now that God’s own love is mine
I now know what to seek from the Divine.

Turn me, Father, inside out
Glory, glory, glory

When my pain has blessed the world
Let someone tell the story.

Now I ask for nothing more
And, Nothing, you will give—
If I can be truly poor
I will have learned to live.

Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem

By James Henry Leigh Hunt

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An Angel writing in a book of gold:

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?” The Vision raised its head,
And with a look made all of  sweet accord
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”

“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the Angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And, lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest!

What I do; a spin on spin

[First posted January 18, 2004 for a few friends. On the nature of preaching as performance art, and other things.]

Seemed I woke today with nerves of wool, combing through my thoughts
like through a tangle, needing to card and weave,
seeking a thread to spin so fine…

The wool is found, but all the threads are mine.
My fingers spin like magic, making cloth so warm and bright,
to cover all the blemishes that show in nature’s night.
I weave the stories of the past, with metaphors so fine
that all my hearers find today in every other line.
I weave and spin the clouds of heaven into earthly sand,
and bring the jewels of earth aloft to decorate my magic hand.

With threads of sacred song and prayer I spin the hope that wasn’t there;
the isolated souls who hear take hold the threads, release some fear,
and weave together, month and year, a new thread with both sigh and tear..

…so from a tangle old and new spin dreams as strong as oak and yew.
I merely spin, and weave, and give the threads of hope by which we live.


At the empty tomb,
In the upper room,
On the highway,
By the sea,
He will meet you there,
Meet your every care,
Give you peace,
And set you free.

My mother’s Christmas poem

Mom wrote this at the age of 93 years and seven months, and sent copies (written out by hand) to all of her children and grandchildren.


Christmas is the day we celebrate Love
Which God sent from above
When Jesus Christ, our Saviour, Came to earth to live,
His love, peace and Joy to give
To all who accept His gifts day by day
Traveling this earth’s remarkable way
With those in His love and care
Finding nothing more important to share
Than these gifts frome heaven.

We become increasingly rich indeed
When we share with those in need
Who have not had the privilege
Of knowing the security
Which comes from heaven above,
And Christmas comes that we may share
Our Savior’s love, as out we reach
So that others we may teach
How to unite with sisters and brothers
Accepting God’s gifts to share with others,
As we love, teach and pray each day
So others will join in the way
Of Bible reading and prayer, which richly pay.

Thelma C. Buehler

The above was written on November 24, 2005 as a blessing which came to me unexpectedly from heaven above, which I want to share. — (signed) Thelma C. Buehler

Love is many things to many people

Love is many things to many people;
to some, it is a yearning for an unknown joy
an ideal girl or an ideal boy
to others, the comfort of familiar faces
doing pleasant things in predictable places.
To others yet again, love leaps beyond the known
embracing all from pit to holy throne;
another sees in love the voice of need fulfilled
as keys love locks, as milk loves being spilled.

Love is desire, love is greed, love is pleasure, love is need.
All these are love, but love loves none of these
for love is born where death is, and disease.
Love wills the new, the unthought and unsaid.
It heals the sick and raises up the dead.
It brings impossibilities in view,
revives the old, and sanctifies the new.
Love waits forever on the slimmest chance;
it celebrates each promise with a dance.

The world itself will wither and will die,
but love will live, and so will you and I.
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