Baby steps

At the wedding reception of one of the sons of two of our closest friends, I had the privilege of holding the first grandchild of another of our closest friends, waltzing him around the reception hall, showing him the sights of the room, giving his mom a break, and, in the process, having the time of my life.


I hold a baby,

give my friends’ daughter a break

as I cruise the hall,


showing him people,

decorated wedding cake,

another baby.


Keeping tears at bay

by varying sights and sounds,

treating his young eyes


to this wedding feast

of men, women, and children

celebrating life.


Young Caleb and I,

performing this dance of love,

moving, mingling


with Christ’s body here

in varied and wondrous forms,

love making water wine.



Purifying fire

This year’s drought has spared us the blight of grass fires. The lakes may be low, but dried grasses haven’t turned to straw, volatile and ready to make the earth a torch. But ten years ago, whole pieces of countryside lit up. Small rural towns disappeared in flames.


The grass fires have slowed

after wiping out a few

local small towns,


farming places

60 to 80 miles

from where we live.


Ringgold is no more.

Almost all its homes burned.

In one small place


up near Nocona

only the white figures of

a Nativity


were to be found where

formerly their home had been.

And these small figures


had once been painted

colors we imagine fit

for a manger scene.


But cleansed by the fire,

this family tells us that

it’s a sign from God,


a reminder that

what is important remains:

their lives have been spared.




Drought or storm?

It’s ten years later, and both dogs have now joined the dust of the back yard, but drought has returned to North Texas. We keep getting these winter rains, but the maps still show Tarrant and adjacent counties in serious drought. I hope the lakes make a comeback, the grass fires stay unlit, and that leaf-ripping storms bring us green coated streets, come Palm Sunday.


This drought continues.

My back yard is so dry that

the trails the dogs make


are loose, crumbled dust,

and the only hint of green

is tiny grass sprigs


in the shriveled brown

of the dehiscent grasses

near my back door.


They spring from the spot

where I empty my dogs’ bowls

of dirty water.


The only water

that touches my bone dry yard

comes from the faucet


where I fill their bowls,

which causes me to think back

to the thunderstorms


that stripped the spring leaves,

carpeting neighborhood streets,

making you think of


the townspeople’s palms

spread on Jerusalem roads.

Our green-tinted car,


on the rain-soaked leaves,

not Jesus’ donkey walking.

Somehow it seems


to take just as much

imaginative thinking

to bring this image


of a spring rainstorm

into reality right now

as the Bible scene.



Once upon a time, they lived happily ever after

My daughter, Amy, may not have been the first to come up with the formulation of the shortest fairy tale ever — around the age of five — but it was certainly something she came up with on her own, and it’s the title of this piece. As soon as she would sit still to listen, and long before she had much speech at all, we started reading to her. She still loves the Narnia books mentioned here. She still loves to read, and she still loves endings.


She loves endings

and I love the beginnings.

We learned through the books


and the stories of

Chronicles of Narnia,

my daughter and I.


Her favorite book

was The Last Battle, but mine

The Magician’s Nephew.


Hers, the coming kingdom,

mine, the beauty of creation,

and each without doubt


or hesitation,

each desiring to witness

these crucial moments.


Like a coin’s sides,

on one, the promise of Hope,

other, its Fulfillment.


Each a nom de plume

for the One through whom it comes,

He who is the Word.




Royal flush — spades!

My friend lives in L’Arche

in communion with Downs folks.

I couldn’t do that,


so I admire her,

the strength of her commitment

to Gospel values.


To me, it’s as though

she’s enfleshed the Gospel words,

laid down her one life


for sake of others.

It’s as though, playing poker,

the rest of us bluffed.



We long for God of substance

Many theologies compete on what should be the sacred square, but has instead become merely the human public square. Denominations place their bets on morning after pills and a form of formless love that places toleration of all behavior above what should be the highest value: genuine, committed, boundless, unconditional love — the kind only our God of substance can both offer and model. How sad.



Vague and fuzzy, warm and shapeless

bean bag chair of the universe.


Oversoul who makes no demands,

who only wants to comfort us.


How have we manufactured you,

leaving only strands of what once was


the Creator of all that is?

Caricature, stuffed teddy bear,


and lifeless as a rounded stone;

Come save us now. Explain evil.


Redeem us with your own stuffing.

Open our eyes to see the good.


Oh image of our longing hearts,

where is your power, where your strength?


Oh for the God of Israel;

of punishments and rewards.


Come and save us now by your might.

Unsettle us and comfort us.


Make demands that make us better.

Give us the gift of owning sin


that we might know redemption, too.

Gift us with knowledge of the good.


Make us face evil in ourselves

that we might forgive others, too.


Stone hard and incredibly soft,

the God of all that has real substance.




Author! Author!

Doesn’t get much shorter than this, but notice how it demonstrates the way poetry can use only a few words — in this case 63, title included — to tell the reader a great deal. It’s a little hymn of praise to the Creator who gave us emotions to be able to have life to the fullest extent, and his example to make it worthwhile.

It’s Lent, so the alleluias here are reported in commentary and not in actual voiced praise, passing, I would think, any armed liturgist’s, most stringent tests of such things.



Author! Author!

Author of laughter,

Creator of belly laugh

and wry good humor.


Salter of the Earth

with tears that purify us,

cleanse our emotions.


Giver of the gift

of ultimate commitment,

giving us your life.


You alone are God,

worthy of our highest praise,

the gift of our lives.


May Alleluias

flow from our lives evermore

— hearts and acts and all.



Drink deep and remember

Drink Deep and Remember

 by Jeff Hensley

Goblet full of time,

for that’s the stuff life’s made of

whether we quaff it,


sip it or spill it

— or watch evaporation

swift drop the level.


It passes by us

running through the hour glass,

goblet upside down.


Lift the cup, enjoy,

savoring every fleeting drop,

while the liquid lasts.


Know too there is more

beyond this finite wine glass

because of the One


who once held the cup,

asked if it might pass him up,

but drank, nonetheless.


When he faced the pain

he burst the finite limits

all had faced before


making possible

that which had escaped us all

water into wine


and more the miracle:

time into eternity,

wine that never ends.



Appalachian Spring’s Unseen Painter

April 10, 2001

Appalachian Spring’s Unseen Painter

Seeking overlooks

as spring daylight fades to blue,

I seek evening views


from Blue Ridge Parkway,

remembering my last trip

and that light, that light


that fades to reds, blues

from these swerving mountaintops,

these curving vistas.


On that trip I’d cursed,

wishing I’d had a camera.

Now the opposite.


Camera in hand

I scurry from overlook

to next overlook.


North of Charlottesville,

in blues to flood a palette,

I see a pickup


pulled up to the edge,

with spreading Shenandoah

stretched out before them.


I’ve become Martha,

wishing I’d chosen Mary,

seeking the Artist.


true Spirit

February 21, 2001

true Spirit

by Jeff Hensley


The lie of modern thought,

the deepest, darkest of the lies

deceives us into thinking

we are all alone.


All our links this lie would break

until at last we lay awake

pondering our fate.


Are we doomed to be unknown

dying cold and so alone?

If this is true, then

Christ has died for naught,

the God Man coming down

to leave no greater legacy

than buildings tall, Franciscans brown,

the snarls and gurns of gargoyles found

to laugh the last and soundless sound.


But lies are lies

and truth resounds

when unity of life is found,

when atomized illusions drown

within love’s interwoven bounds

of family and mother’s love

of deathless ties, below, above

that worship gives a form.


True worship forms its unity

of faith and song

of words and deeds

of sweat and tears and laughter loud,

of mourning and rejoicing and the day-to-day

persisting in the proven way.

The way trod now for centuries,

not blighted by dissembling.

The trail that leads through dust and stars

that calls to hearts from age to age,

that heals the heart’s most grievous scars.