ETERNITY

Hate takes us down.
Hate takes us down all the time.
But if your hate takes me down,
it’s a very slippery slope.

If your hate takes me down
the people who see it
will be offended,
they will be motivated,
they will be ready-
for, that hate which takes me down
will not
take down the people
who love me.
The hate that takes me down
will raise me up higher
than you could ever believe.

And that’s the paradox.
You may hate me.
You may loathe me.
But when you take me down
and make me part
of your hate
it becomes something bigger
than just you and me.

It makes me immortal.

You and your hateful life will die.

In the end, hate gives you what you hate.
It is useless.

But not so Immortality.
Eternity is freedom from fear,
freedom from hate-
knowing that I am always safe-
even should I die.
~DGS

Christmas Sermon, 2013

“I love you.”

Christmas Stamp of Ukraine 2006

Christmas Stamp of Ukraine 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The words were tentative, soft and nervous. They were spoken by a third grader- me.
It was the first time I had ever said them to anyone outside my immediate family.

It was a watershed moment for me.

You see, there was this girl who was amazing. She liked all the things I liked, hated all the things I hated, she was smart and pretty and best of all she liked me. She thought I was funny- and cute.

I was.

But I didn’t know what to do about it- I was eight.

I knew that people you liked were kind of like being part of your family. I felt like I wanted to let her know I thought she was awesome- but then I panicked. We were sitting together on the swings after lunch and I just felt the words rising up inside of me.

The words were out of my mouth before I knew what to do.

“Oh, no!” I thought. “What have I done?”

And then- “What if she doesn’t say it back?”

Have you been there?

Lots of rules about relationships.

Don’t go too fast. Don’t go too slow.

Don’t be insulting. Don’t be demanding.

Don’t say I love you first….

Hmmm.

So. Christmas! I love Christmas. I love the music.

“Joy to The World! ….

“Silent Night….

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing….

“O Little Town of Bethlehem…..

“Angels we have heard on high…..

“O Holy Night…..

“Come, they told me….”

Words and sounds so familiar in this season. I bet as I was saying the words, some of you started singing the tunes.

What’s your favorite Christmas Carol? I have two- My favorite is “O Holy Night”. Mostly because it’s so filled with awe.

“Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices….
O Night- divine- O-o night when Christ was born”.

Gorgeous.

It’s a poignant reminder that wonder and awe need to be a daily part of life.

Christmas is a time for Joy.

It’s why I also love “Joy to the World”.
“Let every heart prepare him room…”

Joy is kind of tricky. I tried to explain it to a kid last week who asked, “What’s the difference between being happy and being joyful?”

Like I said- tricky.

I was kind of proud of my answer.

“Well, it’s a lot like like happiness- only better.”

“How so?” he asked.

“I think happiness is about being satisfied,” I said. “Joy is about being loved.”

Yeah. Still proud of my answer.

Today’s Christmas. Tomorrow it will all be over. And millions of dollars will have been spent and tons of food will be eaten and people will still be dying of hunger and disease and only have filthy water to drink.

Except that it’s not over. We forget- Christmas is a season. It actually goes for twelve days- it doesn’t end until January 6th. That’s because the church recognizes that it’s not just a day- it’s a season- and sometimes it takes a whole season to get it right.

So we have presents and food and trees and lights- but that’s not what it’s really about. Not really.

It’s about a story. A story that still is being written.

St Theodore had some very important words to add to this story- you probably remember him-

You don’t remember St Theodore?  St Theodore Geisel?
The world knows him as Dr Seuss. Remember this?:

He stared down at Who-ville!

The Grinch popped his eyes.

Then he shook!

What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,

Was singing! Without any presents at all!

HE HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!

IT CAME!

Somehow or other it came just the same!

And the Grinch with Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,

Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?

“It came without ribbons it came without tags!

“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”

And he puzzled three hours till his puzzler was sore-

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.

“Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!”

And what happened then…?

Well, In Who-ville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!

And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,

He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light.

And he brought back the toys and the food for the feast.

And he- HE HIMSELF…!

The Grinch carved the roast beast.

If those aren’t the words and insight of a saint, I don’t know what is….

Today we are here to celebrate.

We’re celebrating something very special. So with apologies to St Theodore:

We’re not celebrating happiness- although happiness is okay- we’re here

-here as Christians to celebrate JOY.

Joy comes when “I love you” is said and it’s felt,

It comes from the feeling your heart will just melt.

Today is the day that we gather to see

Just how much our God loves us-

Loves you and loves me!

He said it in Bethlehem with a babe in a stall,

He said it real clearly “I love-

love you all!”

But the real trick of Christmas- the thing that we lack

Is the courage all year just to whisper it back.

Sometimes we’re shy and sometimes we’re scared

But the love of this God is just meant to be shared!

He’s saying “I love you” with the birth of this baby

And Jesus still tells us- and he doesn’t say “Maybe.”

It’s true and it’s real- we just have to answer.

It’s not time to dawdle- it’s time to move faster!

Remember that third grade kid at the beginning of this? Me?

Well, she said it back to me. And even though things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped back in the third grade, we’re still in touch. And I still love her..

In fact, she told me she loved me just last week.

And all I can say is it still brings me joy.

Today, we celebrate God saying “I love you.” And it’s meant with deadly seriousness- and complete joy and selflessness. No games.

Today God says “I love you.” And means it.

Always means it.

Even when we don’t say it back.

You Were Born

Yup. It’s my birthday.

I’m 46 today and it’s been a year of dramatic change, to be sure. Birthdays are the greatest. I’ve always loved them, even when they weren’t my own. I would always love a cake with candles on it more than Christmas. My Gramma used to say, “Nobody enjoys a birthday more than Greg”.

It’s true.

Upon reflection, I think I love birthdays because they’re a celebration for one simple reason- you were born. Birthdays simply commemorate your arrival on this planet. They don’t celebrate the things you did, the people you know, the money you make, the influence you have. They just celebrate your being. I think we need that reminder. At least once a year. To celebrate the grace of just existing- and the fact that everyone else here is doing the exact same thing.

So, today, I’ll give in to that grace again. And for all the beauty in my life- family, friends, dogs, doctors, my breath and my heartbeat, I am truly grateful. Thank you.

Here’s a little poem I wrote once:

Born

Today, in a year past,
You were born.
Didn’t do anything to deserve it-
Or did you?
And parents who look upon a newborn
Face etched with the promises and
Dreams of fettered hearts
Sigh, knowing they will let go
Sooner than most of them want to
And later than any child would like.

You were born.
Celebrate.
Call your mother-
She did all the hard work.
Then breathe.
Listen to your heart beat.
Eat the cake.
Smile at your life
And go to bed.

The day, much like any other-
except that you noticed it.

~D Gregory Smith

The Voice Of Injustice Is Silence

I’ve been asked by a number of people where I got the tagline for this blog.
It came from a poem I wrote a few years back- and I honestly don’t think I stole it. Many things go through a writer’s brain between thought and writing- at least this writer- and I am never really satisfied when I read on of my published poems. I guess that’s why I keep writing them….

Still

It is time to open your mouth
And shape the sounds that give form
To the deathless moans of pain and suffering.
Because the voice of injustice is silence.

It is the industrial silence of the corporate owners
of the soul of America.
The owner of the rape victim
Has turned out to be the rapist,
who nurtures its growing fetus
with anger and guns,
With temples and sugar and crack.

It happens because it is
Purchased with favors
And scratched backs
And pretended piety.
The silence of fear,
Of the voiceless ones
Who see no Jesus in their
Cornflakes- only the one meal of
Their lonely, silent day.

“Keep them down and quiet,”
the fools say,
Because their money blinds them to
Moral bankruptcy and stupidity
And their power-drunk ears
Are closed to their own heartbeats.

But the voices will wake,
Sleepy maybe, at first,
But rested and ready.
They and the very stones will
scream, shouting from
The driveways of the country clubs
And the walls of the churches and schools
And Capitols, “Enough!”

It will be.
And the peace will not be a quiet peace.
It will be real and full of the sounds of
Life.
Unpurchased and awake.

Wrong

You are wrong about me.
Taking my measure with quick glances.
Pretending you own my story and telling it
With short, ugly words.

The light in my eyes
A stranger to your own, because you
Can’t seem to look long enough to
Recognize yourself- or anybody else, there.

But you know me- even though
You pretend to be completely
Alienated by the audacity
Of my words- which,
Upon second glance
Are held quietly in place
By the light in my eyes
And the spark in my soul
That refuse to bend to
The ugliness you profess to be beautiful.

And you wail at the injustice
and the abomination
and the economy.

And I mourn the loss of your sight-
Praying
That I am wrong about you, too.

~D Gregory Smith

Here’s Me

Here’s me,
With all the things that don’t look to match,
Glaring socks- red, purple, black, yellow, blue.
Wanting to find the mate,
But whatever keeps the feet warm, right?

Inside it’s all the same anyway-
But they wouldn’t like it if
We all knew that all the differences
Are created and maintained by
People who make money on difference.

The outside gets to be the billboard
Or the post-it. You decide, you know.
Whether to believe the voices and the texts
And the strange rustling of yourself
Under the sheets of paper and old, torn cotton.

That wind is blowing again, from the south
This time, bringing a smell of old cannons
And resentment for my freedom from those
Leaves of words that have been worked into
The rat-tailed chains prisoners don’t even try to lift.

But I have the idea that it’s all paper and
Mismatched socks, and thoughts and
Sometimes hearts that have been twisted
through disappointment and fear to give
up ever beating for any other, and so can’t love.

Here’s me, and maybe you. Just maybe,
Untangling and untwisting and looking hard
At words and things and noises that are the lights
Of some contrary star. Wreckage ahead,
Not home. Avoided, maybe. Again.

And those cold, cold feet get to keep watch,
Because I can’t have socks telling me
What to do all the time. I only need
One hat, though, and one map, beating-
And one soul. Quiet and strong and warm.

~D Gregory Smith

Ten Becomes Eleven

A slide show of images
with flashes of faces,
glimpses, varietal vistas
I love and not love, yet.

With sounds and tastes and
scents to complement rain,
snow and sunshine, grass,
flowers and falling leaves.

The highway between
home and Sound, palm trees,
pride, babysitting and dogs,
airports, books and a dream.

The family- biological and
accidental, chosen and
necessary, met, unmet,
imagined and realized, all here.

Joints and hands, hair,
fingers and skin, eyes
and ears- older, wiser
maybe, complain anyway.

And handful of pills-
all different colors, shapes,
do their thing inside
and life, grateful, continues.

The houses, the faces,
funerals, weddings, hospitals,
parties, debates, lonely quiet,
advance, retreat and sleep.

Love as puppy breath,
too-early mornings with
him and them, us, all of us,
at home- anywhere we are.

~D Gregory Smith