Poems, Personal Stories, and Observations

The Campground from Hell

Early in our marriage, my husband Tom and I decided to go on a camping trip in northern California.  I was pregnant with our first child.

On arrival at the campground, the person registering us asked, “Do you want to be in the adult or family section?”  Tom and I looked at each other, as if to say, “Huh? This is a campground!”  We finally blurted out, “Family section.”

Once we had gotten our tent up, I was puttering around, and I think Tom was getting ready to make dinner.  I had brought along a small “candle lantern.”  While checking it out, I unthinkingly touched a forearm to the heated metal, and burned my arm so that there was a 2-inch by 3-inch brown spot on it.  It was bad enough to need ice, so we made a quick trip to a local grocery and bought a bag of ice.

After dinner and clean up, we probably stayed out at the picnic table at least until dark, and may have been watching for stars.  Then we crawled into our sleeping bags, perhaps around nine or ten o’clock.  There had been some thumping noises in the camp, but we couldn’t see who was making them or what caused the noises.

As I attempted to sleep on my back, because of my pregnant tummy, while holding a bag of ice against my burn, we increasingly noticed the loud thumping noises.  From the voices and sounds, we surmised that a group of college men were throwing rocks or heavy pieces of wood at some big logs; at least, that was our theory.  This went on for two or three hours.  We finally heard a car come into the camp (later we learned it was a police car), and the noise abated.

“Now we’ll be able to sleep,” I thought.  But a noise we hadn’t noticed before made itself known.  It was a radio from another camp, loud enough to keep us awake.  By this time it was somewhere between one and three a.m.  Finally, I said to Tom, “Look, you don’t have to do this, but if you feel particularly brave, could you go over and ask that person to turn off their radio?”  Tom decided he was brave, left the tent, and I heard him walking towards the noise of the radio.

I may have prayed, not knowing what would happen, “Please, Lord, don’t let some angry person attack my husband!”  After a few minutes, the sound from the radio ceased.  Soon I heard the approach of footsteps, and Tom came back into the tent.

“Well, what happened?” I asked.

“I found the camp where the radio was playing.  A man was sprawled, sleeping, in his Volkswagen van, with the door open and the radio playing.  His campfire was still going.  I tried to speak to him softly, but there was no response.  So I gently reached into the van, turned the radio off, and then came back here.”

I really thought that was a brave act, and told Tom as much.  We did fall asleep shortly, even though we felt it was … the campground from hell.

 

That little house
So cozy and warm
It wasn’t a palace
But it surely was home

I’d stand on the heater vent
Placed in the floor’s corner
Until my shoes’ rubber soles
Got warmer and warmer

Though the air could be chilly
There was still welcome comfort
A place of safe haven
From the world’s disorder

Of course, I remember
The times of great sadness
Of arguments, conflict
And even some madness

But because of that little house
I still like to dream
Of warmth and of closeness
With loved ones esteemed

What’s God’s dream for me, for you?
To go beyond this earthly realm?
To stand before a starship’s helm?
Or rather be an earthbound soul,
To till and dig the crusty soil?

To do those many tasks mundane,
The dishes washed, the diapers changed,
To scrub the floors, wipe dirty cheeks,
To fix the faucets, find pipes that leak?

To work with hands, or with the brain?
Or maybe both – a skill explain?
Will you be famous, or not well-known,
To popularity, or scorn be prone?

Will you be rich or destitute –
What will be your life’s pursuit?
God has a dream He can fulfill –
If only you will trust Him still.

Listening for God’s Voice

You woo me in the quiet places;
It’s there you fill me with Your graces.
I long for silence, to still the voices
That tempt me onto errant courses.

The noise of living makes me weary
(Though noise of loved ones can be cheery!).
The “noise” of nature, by contrast,
Brings calm and peace, or makes us wary.

When list’ning for Your mighty plan,
I calmly sit, or kneel, or stand,
Or even on a quiet walk –
By grace, or chance, I’ll hear You talk.

Grant me, O Lord, that blesséd grace –
No matter what the time or place –
In noise or quiet, at work or rest,
By Your sweet voice to then be blessed.

Still Breathing

The cough that kept me up all night,
The speeding car that gave me fright,
The baby crying in the night –
But, somehow, I’m still breathing.

The wrenching pain I thought would kill me,
The choking air that tried to still me,
The people shouting words that sting me –
Yet, somehow, I’m still breathing.

The hurts I thought I couldn’t survive,
The illnesses, the loves I tried,
The wretched times that drove me wild –
Yet, somehow, I’m still breathing.

I’m thinking, now, whatever happens,
I’ll still exist, I still will matter.
My dreams and schemes, although they shatter –
My soul will still be breathing.

A Year That Is New

All things must pass;
Not many things last.
Let go of regrets;
Let go of the past.

As for the present,
Just live it well.
Seek first God’s heaven;
Don’t foster hell.

As for the future,
It’s a blank slate.
Trust it to God;
He knows your fate.

Into God’s hands,
Put everything.
Why fret or worry? –
Won’t accomplish a thing.

Easy to say —
I worry, too.
But I just want to wish you
A year that is new!

Demolition

A creeping vine
Comes through a window.
Torn screens are seen
Through another.

The walls are marked,
Ready for the wrecking crew.
Beautiful French doors
Opening to a room, long unused.

It will all be gone soon.
The oak floors,
So meticulously crafted,
And an attic — did children play there?
What dusty memories dwell in the cobwebs?

Who lived inside these walls?
Were children born here?
Did someone die here?
Was there laughter; were there tears?

The stairs of redwood,
The old laundry and kitchen,
With built-in ironing board.
The back steps, all overgrown —
And the old bathroom.

It will soon be gone,
Too costly to repair;
The land’s so expensive —
Let’s build four new houses there!

Things always change;
Nothing stays the same.

Something More

How long is forever?
Begin now to prepare.
Make sure all your endeavors
Don’t holy goals impair.

Each day must draw you closer
To destiny’s writ scroll.
Another dawn may not be sure –
The funeral bells may toll.

No one knows the answer
To when life’s course will end.
Few or many moments –
How goes the time you spend?

Will all your riches bring you
True happiness and joy?
Or do you need to look within
And search for something more?

We don’t live in the wilderness
But, nevertheless,
Plenty of creatures entertain us
‘Round ‘bout my house

Seagulls and crows –
Didn’t think they’d mix
But they’re up to tricks
Like picking our roof apart

They congregate in noisy flocks
They roost in the ash and redwood trees
They wheel and turn in the chill, clear sky

(Once when the wind was rising
In the California summer
And fires began to rage in the distance
The crows wheeled ominously above
With loud and raucous screeching)

Squirrels add their voice to the chorus
With angry squawking at my cat
Or spiraling up (or down) the trees,
Chasing each other

Butterflies bring silent rest notes
To the symphony

I hear a hum – nothing less
Than a hummingbird
Doing acrobatic dips and swirls

And in summer
The fence lizard skitters shyly away

The animal chorus –
Perhaps out of tune,
But welcome in the silence

The Best Christmas Gift

What’s the best gift to be given?
Not money, shoes, or clothes –
(Except for those with few of those.)

Not boats or cars, maybe a star?

Not gadgets, nor widgets,
Nor books, nor cosmetic looks,
Not TVs or DVDs –
Though they do entertain.

The gifts so needed
(Repeat as needed)
Are loving looks, and kind replies,
And holding tongues that want to curse
Or say the worst.

Not criticism, cynicism,
Ingratitude, nor attitude.
Just humbly listening
When you’ve heard that story 100 times.

Do I have to be first?
I must go to the end of the line.

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