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Tuesday, January 7, 2014


One of the names of Jesus is "bright morning star."  Recently it was my turn to share a devotion with our staff at Central, and I wrote briefly about this topic, thinking about the home where I grew up and some of the ways I first experienced that bright morning star there, and thinking of what it's like to go back to that place as I did several times last fall.  Here's what I wrote:

The fourth step down creaks in the inky black.
I ease around the banister into Mom's kitchen.
It's early -- no glow lights the eastern horizon.
By long memory I leave the lights off, circle the table,
open the cupboard, choose a glass from the third shelf,
run cold water from the tap.  The familiar spirits rise
to greet me here, here in Mom's kitchen.  Eighteen years
and more she is gone from us.  I see her hands in the sink
cleaning dishes by feel, eyes bright out this eastern window.
She loved to stand here, here at the window, looking east 
over the cows at their grazing, 
over her children's blond heads bobbing across
the creek bottom.  Her keen eyes saw
a case of pinkeye in one of the heifers, a hoary woodpecker
at the feeder, a child alone, too long alone, on the creek's bank.
Dad has followed her away, too, now,
and the taut wire fences and Herefords are tended
by other hands -- my brother's hands.  Out the east window --
if it was day -- you could see Dad's lawn chair, where he sat
in the evenings, sat long looking out over the bottomland,
over the creek, over the herd, over Uncle Jim's fields and woods,
over the eastern horizon, watching the twilight descend.
I stand at the sink in the dark drinking cold water.  I remember.  
It is dark here.  One bright star rises above Jim's woods in the east.
It is Venus, I know, a planet of poisonous gas and oppressive heat.
But here I stand in the chill dark, and I choose not to know astrophysics.
To me it is the morning star rising in the dark
Rising to foretell the dawn.  I stand in the dark, but light
is not far off.  My gaze wanders left, north, dark, downward
to the knot of yard lights from houses a mile away
clustered like flies around the church steeple; lit, but dim
in the ground fog.  In my mind's eye I can see the spot,
can pick it out of the dark there like a laser pointer
there, south of the sanctuary where they lie next to each other
under the sandy soil.  The coffins went into the ground just so --
each time I made sure.  Not because I am superstitious but
because when life falls apart, when death rises up to 
swallow you whole, there are only a few details you can control.
They lie there in the earth, feet to the east, as the
undertaker told me once, so at Christ's return they can sit up
and greet him.  But I am not superstitious and 
I don't believe the resurrection is about posture.
I look back to the morning star.  A glow is forming
along the horizon, as though that star at its rising
drags day up out of darkness; the sun of righteousness
will soon rise, and it will fill the sky with light.
Here it is still dark.  But the brightest and best
of the stars of the morning is bit by bit
dawning on my darkness, and my darkness will not overcome it.
One last swallow and silently I place the glass
in the tangle of dishes.  I turn.  My eyes are now used to the dark 
and I can pick out table, chairs, and the bottom step.
I climb the stairs to hope for another hour's sleep.
First, one glance over my shoulder: I see the bright morning star
hanging higher now, rising like hope, rising like the memory
of things yet to come, rising in anticipation
of reunions on a sparkling shore.

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