The Law of Seed and Harvest

We desire faith,
yet fuel the fire of doubt.

We ache for hope,
yet nourish fear.

We long for love,
yet reject nearness.

We need peace,
yet seek out controversy.

We crave trust,
yet lust after suspicion.

We yearn for light,
yet are drawn to darkness.

We will harvest the full yield
of what we sow, tend and grow.

Until we feed the needs of the soul,
we cannot know its strengthening growth.

The Darkness consumes all it is given
and takes even more.

All that is given to The Light
blesses the labor and returns greater
than what was planted.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , ,

The Beauty and Power of Humility

Today, if you showed up for supper or a visit at a friend’s house, about the last thing you’d expect would be the offer of a pan of water and a towel. If your friend were to point down toward your feet and say, “Here you go; kick off those shoes and give those dirty puppies a quick bath,” you’d probably consider that a sign of significant mental decline.

Back in the time of Jesus and his buddies, when miles of foot travel was very ordinary, you’d expect it as the least bit of common courtesy, as well as a symbol of hospitality. And, if you were visiting a person of some means, you’d further expect a servant on hand to take care of the washing and drying for you.

So, when Jesus gets up from the Passover feast, strips off his outer robing, picks up a pan of water and wraps a towel around his waist, you’d quickly recognize the significance of that act. “Holy Moses, Jesus! That’s a servant’s role! You’re the Son of God! What are you doing?!”

“What I’m doing,” he could respond as he’s kneeling down and removing your shoes, “is doing exactly what you should do for one another. Don’t you remember me saying about forty-eleven times that whoever would be great among you must be your servant?”

While I’ve never seen that as part of a Maundy Thursday event or an annual Communion Commemoration, I do sometimes see things that remind me of that poignant aspect when the Son of Man knelt and washed the feet of his own followers.

I saw it after our annual Christmas luncheon for our Hospital Auxiliary workers earlier this week. While most folks chatted their way out of the room and on to the rest of their day, a few others set right in to work clearing off the tables. Our nursing director started picking up the glasses and cups. She emptied them out and then set the glasses in the carrying tray from the cafeteria. Other people collected plates from the table and carried them to the back of the room.

At some point, I looked back and saw our Human Resources manager kneeling on the floor beside the cart where the used plates were being stacked. She took each plate, scraped the leftovers into a small trash can and then set the plate on the cart. She didn’t quit until all forty plates had been cleared. I couldn’t help but think about what the Carpenter had said about greatness being demonstrated in the humility of serving others.

I find it inspiring when people do things that other people would probably think was “beneath them.” When supervisors and administrators help cooks and custodians. When cooks and custodians help strangers. When CEO’s stop to pick up a piece of trash in the grass or a gum wrapper from the floor. When a policeman ties a kid’s shoe. When an executive notices a few drops of spilled coffee in the hallway, finds a napkin or tissue and wipes it up. When a maintenance worker holds a door open for a visitor. When volunteers who’ve already volunteered for hundreds of hours spend a few more minutes helping clean up a room.

These aren’t people posing for a camera, staging a photo op, or pretending to be humble. This is the real deal.

Someone has said “It’s amazing how much gets done when no one cares who gets the credit for it.” I think it’s also amazing how much gets done when no one thinks they’re too good to do it. Those are the kind of people I like to hang out with.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , ,

Of Dew and Rust and Renewal

Somewhere on the misty edge of darkness,
night calls to fog and dew,
welcoming the new coming
that coats all that is close to earth.

Silver beads the forms of grass and leaf,
the frames of cars and carriers,
uncovered tools and unshedded tractors,
whatever has been left open to the air.

The cooling vapor
tailors all that is still,
wraps all that is calm,
soothing every unmoving form.

Each glistened surface will testify
in morning’s first light
to the quiet work that nourishes
the green and growing,

yet hastens the darkening change of iron and steel,
the scaling frames of old bridges
and the pocked and pitted bed
of an old black wheelbarrow

leaned against the edge of the shed.
Beneath their sheath of weathered gray,
the oak handles, rusted tray and groaning axle
still bear up to the work of each new day.

Though faith may sometimes seem to fray
and hope may stagger a bit pushing up from the pit,
whatever does not quit from life nor shrink from labor
will find itself made stronger,

more formed in the image of its Maker.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Metaphysical Reflection, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , ,

A Word to One’s Self

Be strong enough to let go
before the rope you’re holding
drags you over the molding edge
and breaks you deep
on the stony ledge below.

Be smart enough to know
that you don’t know everything
and that life will bring you many
who know other than you do
if you are truly willing to listen.

Be tough enough
that your gentle touch
can anchor a heart,
heal scars,
leave fear and wrath
whimpering outside the door,
and give strength to the fragile soul.

Be humble enough
to bow your head
when a beggar prays,
when a child gives thanks,
or when a single drop of rain
clings to the edge of the tender leaf.

Be touched by the grief of others,
rejoice in the births of strangers,
dance at the weddings of friends,
be grateful even at the end of a line,
drink lightly of the smoothest wine,
and dine sumptuously on the truly fine things of life:
love, laughter, peace, mercy, hope, compassion, forgiveness
and grace.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Metaphysical Reflection, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Hold to Such Memories

Loved ones gathered around a table
loaded with enough food to feed half the neighborhood.
Voices and laughter, quips and stories,
college kids and children,
kinfolk who drove in from a few hundred miles away
and have to leave again the next day.

Coats hanging in the entryway,
Tupperware, Corningware and Rubbermaid on the counter,
at least one covered dish shrouding some mystery—
even after it’s been opened—
and at least one kid too young to know not to ask,
(or one too old to care)
“What is that?”

And at least one uncle who will be, a little later,
watching TV with his eyes closed and his mouth open.

Somewhere in between or amongst
all the dishes and the “just one more’s,”
the games at the table, on the floor, or on the flat screen tv,
there will be at least one moment—however brief—
when we will sense some bit of quietness,
a pause in all activity,
or perhaps rather even in the most disjointed flurry,
we will look around and note the faces and the poses,
the voices and the gestures,
the particular tilt of the head,
the expression on the face,
and we will try to fix that in our minds

so that a day or a week later,
in the aching quietness of this same house,
we can remember what is that we miss so much,
what it is that that used to fill our moments.

And we will hold to such memory,
this small, sacred tithe
of such holy days.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Family, Poetic Contemplations, Poetry, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , ,

The Love of Laughter

I’m usually not much of one for nostalgia and tend to resent the selective memory that seems to dominate the way some folks look back on the day when… but I would have to say that I have spent more time than usual this year remembering the holidays of my youth. Truth be told, I have smiled many times thinking about Thanksgivings spent on that farm back in Todd County, Kentucky.

I’ve deliberately remembered aunts, uncles and cousins who came to spend the day. Some who had moved away after the War so they could find decent jobs in Chicago or Detroit. Some who lived sixty or seventy miles away in Calloway County. Some who drove all day and some who drove a little over an hour.

Uncle Bob and Aunt Billie, Uncle Lyman and Aunt Betty Jo, Uncle Roy and Aunt Jennie, Uncle Woody and Aunt Katie, Uncle James and Aunt Imogene, Uncle Thomas and Aunt Imogene, Uncle Corky and Aunt Imogene… “Imogene” must have been a mighty popular name back then. There were others but I’d have to help putting the right names on each couple. So many cousins I’d have to have even more help to name them all. (I hope they’ll all forgive the early morning memory lapse and the passing of too many years.)

I remember the table loaded down with all kinds of food, more than we’d see any other day of the year. Dishes the kinfolk had made and brought with them. Mom’s homemade yeast rolls and cornbread stuffing. More desserts than we could eat in a week.

I remember the womenfolk busy in the kitchen, the menfolk talking in the living room. Cousins playing in the hay loft. After the noon meal, after they’d rested a bit to let all that food settle, the men and the boys big enough to be men would go off hunting for a while. The women would clean up the table, cover the leftovers that could sit out until evening, put the rest in the fridge, wash the dishes and then visit in the living room. The kids would go back to their games and romping about the farm.

So many memories from a little boy’s mind… so much visiting, so much playing, so many stories. But the thing I may treasure the most from all of those years of early memories is the sound of laughter.

Laughter in the kitchen, laughter in the living room, laughter around the table, even laughter in the hayloft. I love the way each person’s laugh is so different and yet at the same time, so resonant. The way they all mingle together in a harmonious cacophony. The uplifting of the heart, the reflection of the soul.

Maybe laughter is a mask, maybe a diversion. Maybe it’s a quick and shallow escape from the deeper things that plague us. Or maybe it’s God playing in our hearts, angels dancing in our voices. Maybe it’s love let loose, joy’s delightful foreplay. Maybe it’s the children we once were set free to do somersaults in the hallway.

Whatever it is, I hope that this season of gratitude stirs plenty of laughter in your heart and that it’s shared wildly, deeply, and exuberantly with those who care about you. And that you know that the God Who Loves You takes great delight in your purest pleasures.

Peace and joy to you, my friends.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Family, Relationships, Spiritual Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Tater Diggin’

I remember digging up potatoes in the garden when I was growing up on our farm in Todd County, Kentucky. Dad had an old “tater digger” that was just about perfect for the job. If my memory is working in nearly correct mode, it had four thick, flat metal tines, spread about an inch-and-a-half apart, with an almost ninety-degree bend about two inches below the spine. The tines extended another eight inches or so below the bend. Just above the bend, a heavy tang was welded to the spine and fastened inside a hollow steel handle that was around four feet long. (I’d guess that handle was probably a piece of old water pipe.) The whole thing was the color of old iron, long weathered and worn smooth on the gripping area.

Using the digger was about as simple as tool use gets. Swing it down hard so the tines jam into the ground at a nearly vertical angle just an inch or two away from where you think the clump of potatoes begins. The handle will be at a fairly low angle with your arms extended. Raise the handle up, forcing the tines to pivot on their bend, lifting the potatoes up out of the soil. There was something magical in raising up food from the ground. Hidden one moment and then plainly visible the next.

Simple, yes. Easy? Not quite.

Doing just one or two hills to grub out a mess of potatoes for one or two meals was not so bad. But as frost approached and it was time for harvesting the whole row, now, that was another matter. Swinging the heavy digger, then bending over and picking up the potatoes. A couple hours of that would have my back aching. Every now and then, I’d stand and stretch, bend as far backwards as I dared, hoping that would help.

It did help, but only for as long as I kept stretching. Bend back into the work and the ache returned instantly. And stayed for a day or two. I don’t know and never wanted to find out if doing that for a couple of weeks would condition me enough that my back wouldn’t hurt like that.

I did find that getting done with the job and not having to do it any more was a pretty good fix. That’s not a bad lesson for a kid to learn: just do it and have it over with. Then, move on. That works for a lot of the things that we know need doing. Sometimes, the dreading of a thing is worse than the thing itself.

Maybe that’s why the Lord advised us to leave tomorrow’s troubles for tomorrow rather than adding them to today’s batch. I don’t think there’s ever been a day that lacked enough of its own.

H. Arnett

Posted in Christian Devotions, Christian Living, Farming, Gardening, Spiritual Contemplation, Work | Tagged , , , , , ,