Sacraments Within Sacraments Within Sacraments

On occasion, the boys and I head out into God's first sacrament, the place he first made his grace known to men and women--nature. Our favorite among The First Sacramental places is Steel Creek, a short stretch of the Buffalo River with the best little swimming hole in all of America. (This is not hyperbolic.) After a day in the water, we walked upstream and were treated to witness a sacrament within The First Sacrament. We happened upon them just as the preacher invoked the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, just as he named them husband and wife under the banner of the Trinity. And if this sacrament within The First Sacrament were not enough, after the first kiss, the bride and groom made their way into the river. No, it wasn't a formal baptism, but it turned into a baptism nonetheless.


The world is a sacramental place, a place where God's grace is made known to us through the elements, through vows, through the things that otherwise seem ordinary. Sacraments unfold within sacraments within sacraments, and in that unfolding, somehow, the world is preserved.

Thanks be to God.


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Coming Clean (On The Occasion of Mike's Forty-First Birthday)

Over the last few weeks, I've been working out a poem for a friend. He moved into his forty-first year on Sunday, and this piece was written to memorialize the occasion. We met yesterday at a local restaurant, and I slipped him the poem over Diet Coke and some queso that the waitress had set on fire. There's no more powerful combination than flaming cheese and poetry. I aim to do it more often.

Anyhow, enjoy.


 Coming Clean

Let’s come clean together, wash free tobacco ash, the souring spilt smell of the boozy night. Like children, let’s come clean, like children who bathed at the old mill’s river run, down by where the water wheel turns and turns, and turns, drowns any hope of different water. Let’s wake to a new baptism; the only water is where we are.

Free from the sooty skin, from the coal ash, the black-lung, the moon-crater eyes, free like the dead canary, the fluorescent spirit that flew the coop, we’ll become new.

We are in this one loosing of skin and time, this one explosive moment of breath, our eyes like lamps behind the black, our hands too, but only for this breath (if we learn to breathe at all).

Let’s go down to the riffles, slide under the water wheel and be baptized, rolled over again, and again, and again. Let’s drown dirt and death down by the gristmill wheel and find life rising like clean.