Category Archives: Poetry

Ode to Icicles

icicles-and-snow-fallingOde to Iciclesicicles-seen-from-insideBars on my castle
Iced drops of rain
Jack Frost was crying
Out my window pane.  rings-and-ridges-in-iciclesSnowflakes dissolving
Wept frozen tears
Ringed like a tree trunk
In hours, not years.  icicles-in-the-sunshineTransparent carrots
Grown in the wind
Sunshine to water
But no one to tend. icicles-like-stalactitesCrystal stalactites
Not from a cave
Born in the open
Where birds must be brave. sparrows-sitting-on-rail-in-winter

icicles-growing-in-a-rowSwords of Damocles
Hung from the sky
Begging the question
Is something awry?
icicles-formingFair jewels from snow
Sharp as a knife
More precious than bread
The Water of Life.
long-icicles-12-15-16The longer they hang
The longer they grow
The longer I know
My life must need snow.
(—Kathryn W. Armstrong, December 15, 2016)row-of-icicles-hanging-off-roof “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?” (Job 38:22).icicles-snow-and-sunshine

Crossing the Bar to Reach Eternity

Tanker in stormI’ve been thinking a lot about Bernie Webber having to “cross the bar” (from my last post), which reminds me of the Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem my dad used to quote, “Crossing the Bar,” which is believed to be Tennyson’s last poem. Bernie WebberI never appreciated how treacherous it might be to attempt crossing the bar, and yet—for many people—crossing the bar from this life to the next is as frightening as crossing the bar of Cape Cod was to Bernie Webber. Cape Cod 1952“Crossing the bar” here on earth refers to sailors who have to get across the treacherous, shifting shoals of a sandbar in order to make it out to sea. Coast Guard rescue boat in stormIt’s always dangerous, and in some cases it’s really only possible at high tide when the sailors have carefully timed it so their craft is buoyed up by riding across on a big wave. Light House in Cape CodIn the spiritual realm, “crossing the bar” refers to getting across the last stretch of life as we know it on earth before we put out to “sea” in the ocean of eternity, leaving our physical life behind and going forward into the next. Man on boat in snowIn my imagination, I think of the Word of God, as “the water of life” that can make it easier for us to get across the bar. Coast Guard rescue boatWisdom from obeying the counsel and guidance of the Bible can buoy us up like a high tide, and we can sail across without being shipwrecked if by faith we ride the waves of God’s blessed promises.

Man leaving lighthouse lookout towerThe day will come for each of us when we have to “cross the bar.”
Are you buoyed up and ready to ride the waves?  Crossing the Bar“Crossing the Bar,” by Alfred, Lloyd Tennyson, 1889

“Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

“But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

“Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

“For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

“Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

(All photos were taken while watching the gripping movie, The Finest Hours, which I reviewed last Monday, August 15.)

Super Tuesday, but Where’s our Super Man?

Capitol Building. Washington D.C.The spotlight is on politics today in America, because it’s Super Tuesday…the day for super guides and super delegates who are hoping for a super turnout at the polls in 13 states and 1 territory that will perhaps turn the tide for the upcoming presidential election. If you’re from Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, or Wyoming, I hope you’re getting your hat on! Being from Michigan, I have another week to scratch my head, and believe me, I’m scratching!Sanders-021507-18335- 0004I’m not a socialist, and I’m not God (of course!), but if I were running the world, I’d try to find some way for everyone to work an honest number of hours at an honest job that’s mentally challenging and emotionally satisfying, and then pay them a living wage. That’s a far cry from uncontrolled capitalism, but it’s also a far cry from present-day socialism. I’d love to have kids be able to attend college free of charge and make sure that all the elderly and ill are well cared for, but I don’t think we can pay for this right now without going bankrupt. Utopia is a good goal, but how do we get there? Not simply by spending more. So, I can’t see myself voting for a pie-in-the-sky-good-guy like Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump WikiAt the opposite end is flatten-them-all Trump, who might do our country a lot of good if he doesn’t end up getting us into a war with all his gun-slinging swaggering. I didn’t like bellicose rhetoric when Khrushchev was pounding his shoe on the podium 50 years ago, and I still don’t. We’re told to be wise as serpents…but also harmless as doves. Can Trump really keep out of trouble?Hillary Clinton WikiAnd then, what about sweet Hillary? I’ve lost all confidence in her integrity; her scandals are legion, and her batting average is under low. When push comes to shove, I fear that we, the people, would all get shoved. Secret deals…for whom?!Ben Carson WikiSo, back to the Republicans. I have the utmost confidence in Ben Carson’s integrity, but apart from a miracle (and I do believe in miracles), I don’t think he will win, although I’d love to have him for our president. He’s a true statesman.Ted Cruz WikiFor the life of me, I have trouble feeling comfortable with Cruz, even though I know his dad is a baptist pastor, and I like baptist pastors. Any supporters willing to try to persuade the rest of us on his behalf? Please speak up if so!Marco Rubio WikiMarco Rubio has the makings for a statesman in my mind, but he’s pretty young. (However, nothing to compare with the inexperience of Obama when he was elected!) Despite Trump trying to brush him aside, I find myself often agreeing with Rubio, and I’d vote for him if he ends up on the November ballot.Governor John Kasich WikiI’d  also vote for John Kasich (whom I felt really came through as a level-headed and wise governor during the last debate), but I don’t think either he or Rubio will win against Trump. So, that’s me…maybe it’s good that Michigan doesn’t vote for another week. How about you? I’d love to hear your opinions.  Inside the Capitol Building Washington D.C.Meanwhile, I hope we all study hard and use our great privilege of voting, but let’s be realistic: There is no superman on the American political stage today. Much as I’d love to see someone elected who could “save” our country, I’ve put my hope in God and will wait patiently for his son, Christ, who is the only truly super(natural)man. Through him, God promises to someday restore our world, tranforming earth into a utopian paradise. But, until then, let’s do our best, working hard personally but also trusting that God will use both the good and bad in this world to bring him glory and for our good.

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him,
who is the health of my countenance, and my God”
(Psalm 42:11).

“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

“On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.”
(—Edward Mote, 1834)

(Photos of the political candidate from Wiki; I took the 2 photos of the Capitol a few days ago while in Washington D.C.)

A Different Sort of Night Before Christmas

Cozy fireplace on Christmas EveThis was passed on to my by a cousin, but it made me think of my son Michael, who’s in the military and can’t get home for Christmas this year. However, Mike’s family is hosting some of their closest friends right now, because the father in that family is serving in Afghanistan tonight.

A Different Christmas Poem
The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.Snowy StreetThe sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So slumbered I, perhaps I started to dream.Twinkly Christmas TreeThe sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.SoldierA soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Trooper, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment. It’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said, “It’s really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night.”Soldier on guard duty “It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died in Europe on a day in December,”
Then he said,”That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures. He’s sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and Blue American Flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother.
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”
“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.SoldiersTo fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”

If you’re enjoying a sense of relative peace and security today as I am—no matter where you live around the world— I hope we stop to consider that on a human level, a major part of the equation is the sacrifice and commitment of our military personnel, most of whom are not able to be home for Christmas so that the rest of us can. May God bless and keep them. May God end war and bring peace and goodwill to all people in every nation through the redemption found in Jesus Christ, who came to earth on “Christmas Eve” so long ago.

“The dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Luke 1:78-79


Hiakus Inspired by Visiting Beautiful Asian Temples

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社?)Main Gate#1. Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社?) 3 Magnificent gates, Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社?) Map  Orange ensigns up the mountain,  Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社?)inside Do you know the Way?

Sanjusangendo Temple 8#2. Sanjūsangen-dō (三十三間堂Sanjusangendo Temple 1 Musashi master,  Sanjusangendo Temple 5 Warrior who defends honor,  Sanjusangendo Temple 6 Do you know the Truth?

Sanjusangendo Temple 2#3. Also at Sanjūsangen-dō (三十三間堂Wiki Sanjusangendo_1979.1.55P01B One thousand fierce gods Sanjūsangen-dō 2 Aligned within the temple, Sanjūsangen-dō 3  Do you know the Life?

Sanjūsangen-dō 9#4. Jesus is the Way Sanjūsangen-dō 4 The Truth, the Life. He alone  Sanjūsangen-dō 10 Leads to the Father.  Buddhas in Beijing “Every goldsmith is put to shame for his carved image, for his cast images are a lie; there is no breath in them” (Jeremiah 10:14).

(I took all the pictures except the one of the 1,000 standing statues of the Senju Kannon inside Sanjūsangen-dō. We were asked not to take pictures of these particular deities, which I respected. That one picture was taken from Wiki and is public domain.)

Hiakus on the Allure of Japanese Beauty: Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺)

Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺  2While Alan and I were visiting Japan with Mike and Grace’s family, we enjoyed seeing many gorgeous palaces and temples with them. Several of my favorites, which inspired hiakus,  are pictured here. The first is on Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺), also known as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion.

Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺) 10#1. Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺)

Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺  4 Golden pavilion Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺  5 Reflected in quiet pools, Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺  1  Can you speak English?

DSC_1073#2. Beautiful palace DSC_1060  Nestled in the mountainside, DSC_1113 My steps pursue you.

Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺  3 #3. Flower-laced pathway Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺 8 How you draw me to you, but Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺 9 Is yours the right way?

“Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” (The Bible, Jeremiah 6:16)

Hiakus Inspired by Visiting Japan

Aerial View of Japan#1. On the Prosperity of Japan Kyoto at Night Bustling cityscapes. Factory in Kyoto Japan Ambitious, industrious,  Kyoto Wealth Prosperous Japan.

 #2. Hidden Temples Kyoto Overhung with Cherry Blossoms Along quiet streets, DSC_0641 We chance upon a temple. DSC_0647Which way shall we go?

DSC_0677#3. Decisions DSC_0642 Shall we keep trudging Japanese TempleAlong life’s busy pathway, DSC_0656 Or pause to worship? Japanese Temple“O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker” (Psalm 95:6).