Thursday, June 20, 2013

I Rode My Horse to Heaven

     Hippotherapy.  When I mention where I work, I'm occasionally met with a few blank stares, a polite nod or two, but more often than not it is an incredulous look and an exclamation of, "you do therapy for hippos?" or "you do therapy on horses?"  Neither, of course, is the correct answer, but it's a very small field to be sure.

     "The Barn," where I work, is a special form of pediatric therapy that is administered to handicapped and disabled children.  The neat thing about it, though, is that we do most of it on horseback.  It would take far too much time to go into all the details surrounding it (I'll save that for a later post).  Suffice it to say that it is indeed a clinically sound practice, and that I am a horse handler.

    Why am I telling you all of this information?  Well recently we, at The Barn, were very saddened to hear that one of our little "Angel Girls," or girls with Down's Syndrome, had suddenly passed away following a complication after a heart procedure.  Naturally, this got me thinking deeply, especially considering the recent passing of my great-grandmother, who, by the way, is currently filling the Heavenlies with her jazz music.  Also, my younger sister, whom I will call Angel, has lived with Down's Syndrome her entire life.  

   I'm afraid that I don't have anything terribly profound to conclude or say in this post.  I simply wanted to share a poem with you that I madly scrawled out in response to the news of our Angel Girl.  The King alone knows why this precious one was called home, but I rejoice that she dwells in the land where there are no more tears.

   On a final note, the horse that the little girl used to ride at The Barn was put down due to liver complications about two weeks ago.  I'm not one who necessarily believes that animals have souls.  But I still possess a vague feeling deep down inside that the glories of heaven are vastly more splendid and lovely than any we have seen through a glass darkly, and that my God is a God who delights to give good gifts to his children.  Therefore, it warms my heart, even if it may not be precisely true, to think of this little child galloping through the meadows of heaven on the back of a painted mare, the horse who carried her broken body through its earthly trials and who now continues to carry her in joyous perfection.
What do you think?

I Rode My Horse to Heaven

 I rode my horse to heaven,
On the day that I went home.
In the blink of an eye
A star from the sky
Such beauty was I shown.

My family held me tightly
In the arms of Love I lay
But then she came
My sweet mare tame
And then, I slipped away

I rode my horse to heaven
Her copper coat with clouds of white
Led the way
To eternal day
Where there could be no dark or night


Beyond the gates of pearl-kissed gold
Past the canopy of boundless space
What filled my sight
Was endless light
And visions of matchless grace

I rode my horse to heaven
‘Round me rose the angels’ song
Splendor to see
Across a crystal sea
For this, men’s hearts must long

We pranced through fields of flowers
The breath of a rainbow’s dance
No grieving tears
Nor crippling fears
Just the joy of the Great Romance


I rode my horse to heaven
At last, I was at home
With loving care
That gentle mare
She led me to the Throne

 Oh how I’d longed to meet Him
To dance and finally see
My Father’s hand
In the heavenly land
Which gave that horse to me

I fell into His loving arms
His voice, the rising sun
He held me tight
So strong yet light
Welcome home, my precious one

I rode my horse to heaven
I danced with the king of kings
Forever healed
In glory sealed
I flew on snow-white wings

My daddy was my hero
Please tell him that for me
I love him so
Oh, let him know
I am safe and full of glee

Please tell mommy that I love her
That now I dance and soar
And oh, what delight
In His healing light
I don’t have Downs anymore!

You gave me love, gave me life
You named me blessing, saw my light
I love you so
One day you will know
Why He called me from your side

I rode my horse to heaven
No sickness, strife, or pain
I'll wait here
Until the time is near
And then we will meet again

All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Eternal Eyes

I believe all of those who unashamedly claim Jesus Christ as Lord live in a state of constant change, an ever progressing transformation towards becoming more like the King.  For when we bear the blood mark of a race redeemed, how then can we live otherwise?  But at times there are moments that stand above the rest, painfully beautiful life lessons that demand to be shared.  These milestones along the earthly road are not meant to be held within, secret and safe from all eyes but our own.  These revelations and moments of brazen grace are tales on the pages of our earthly existence, words that touch the tongues of poets and yet still are nothing but unworthy description.  With our mouths and hands we offer our human praise, though only shadows in a dim reflection.  For the Story of Love transcends the skill of man’s pen.  Even so I offer my thoughts in response to a dare, a challenge to name 1000 blessings I had been given, both great and small. For by choosing to see beyond the confines of life’s pain, we find ourselves filled with thankfulness and suddenly “surprised by joy.”   

In the loneliest of moments,
In the silence of empty space,
In the stillness of a whisper,
We may hear the voice of grace.
The tongue that quiets fears,
And whispers I Am God,
The ear that hears and knows the pain,
Of the earthly land we trod. 
And when tears of strife flowed free,
Upon my knees I cried,
Father, I have seen this world,
For this, oh God, you died? 
I claimed your faithful promise,
To always be near my soul,
But I still I stood in darkness,
On the edge of emptiness whole,
Your word I had long searched,
And then at last upon my knees,
I asked you where to find this joy,
I begged you, Father, please,
No words could I discern then,
No holy prophet’s creed,
But within the pages of a friend,
I was offered a tiny seed.
This tiny humbling grain of truth,
Transformed into a dare,
A dare to live a thankful life,
To name my gifts with care,
With Adam’s mouth I called them out,
The list of blessings mine,
And voiced them into being,
These gifts in holy rhyme, 
I filled my hands with broken ground,
In pain, lifted them high,
For here within created earth,
I was given the land and sky. 
For eyes that choose to openly see,
Still feel the pain of life,
But in daring to purse the beautiful,
We may rise above our strife. 
When mornings of woe dawn for me,
I choose to see instead,
The liquid gold of the rising sun,
As oil upon my head,
When darkness closes round,
The cursed black of night,
I sing of frozen diamond stars,
And the milk-glow of moonlight,
In moments of brilliant beauty,
When I dance with glory’s son,
I bring my praise to the ancient gates,
And thank El Elyon. 
When the pain stabs long and deep,
My bleeding feet I bare,
And thank my God for His great love,
On holy ground I dare.
Upon the bier of sacrifice,
I burn my selfish pride,
I drink from wineskins given anew,
And I cast the old aside. 

For eyes that choose to see,
What oft they had long missed,
See passion in the suffering heart,
And the touch of a holy kiss,
When the storms of life take hold,
When hearts are gripped with fear,
We clench our hands in vain control,
And lose sight of blessings near. 
But the eternal and earthly gaze,
Can pierce the darkening veil,
Voice giving essence to simple grace,
Can steady a hope that fails,
The cup of life I take and hold,
My lips sing of His praise,
And so it shall be evermore,
Unto the ending of my days,
The love song of the ages,
Is the blood of my rescued soul,
I give thanks for o’er 1000 gifts,
And See as He makes me whole. 

* subject to copyright by the author.  2011.  "Eternal Eyes."  Transformed


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Irish Eyes

Jean Butler.  The Queen of Irish Dance.  An ethereal fairy come to grace the waking world with her light and airy steps.  Or at least that was how my childhood adoring eyes saw her.
Ever since I was small, I've possessed a passion for all things Irish, and for a number of years I greatly enjoyed taking Irish dancing lessons with my cousin.  Chiefly, I aspired to be, Jean Butler.  My little brother even put in his two cents by slipping on my fancy black church shoes and impersonating Michael Flatley's fancy footwork across a linoleum floor.  In general, this meant that my early life was filled with reels, jigs, hair rollers, poodle socks, and gillie shoes (for those readers who may have just re-read those last two with a raised eyebrow, they looked something like this).
But there was something behind the music and the steps that drew me towards Ireland.  And each attempt of mine to capture it with words has left me landed in a writer's heap, with nothing much to show for my effort.  Something within the mystery, the beauty, the wildness, and the past invited me into another place in time.  The magic of the music and dance surrounded me with an enchanting feeling that found a home inside my heart, and it has dwelt there quite happily ever since.  It is something that is difficult to describe, yet something I well know.  The dream of Ireland found peace within my love of old stories, fairy tale pages, beautiful music, lovely dances, horse tails, dreams lost and dreams found, mountain peaks, twirling skirts, fire-sides, meadow flowers, bright swords, laughing voices, summer shade, whispering trees, rain-song, and honeysuckle on the wind.  
I wrote this poem for my wonderful Aunt Karen on her birthday, who possesses, perhaps, an even greater love for Irish things than I.  It hardly contains my full excitement and joy when I hear an Irish fiddle begin to play, but even so, I enjoy the story.  
If dreams were for sale, what would you buy?

The Lass From Belfast
 I was marching as a soldier
On holy Patrick’s Day
When I kissed a lass,
From green Belfast,
Before I rode away. 

She’d sold her golden harp,
To buy her family bread
But still she danced,
 And often pranced,
While Irish reels she tread. 

I’d never seen a fairer maid,
Red hair of honey gold,
Her eyes so light,
Were grand and bright,
As blue ocean waves that rolled. 

A spell she wove so archly,
Of music and love that day,
And I kissed the lass,
From green Belfast,
Before I rode away. 

The fiddle scraped a lively jig,
Across the dancing floor,
Alas my feet,
No beat could keep,
After so many an hour. 

But my lovely Irish maid,
By fairy magic blessed,
How fine she could swing,
That Irish fling,
Was more than I could guess. 

But duty to lord and land,
Called me ere the break of day,
And I kissed the lass,
From green Belfast,
Before I rode away. 

Tears were on her moonbeam cheek,
And in her eyes fair blue,
“But from Dublin to Derry,
 On I will carry,
And shall come back for you.”

I mounted my weary Morgan,
And stepped into the road,
With the heavy sigh,
Of that curs’d goodbye,
I bore my soldier’s load. 

But the memory of her dancing,
Stayed with me always,
For I’d kissed the lass,
From green Belfast,
Before I rode away. 

Oh, the music and the laughter!
Her crown of red-gold hair,
Never before,
On the Shamrock shore,
Had there been a maid so fair. 

And when my lord released me,
Away, like a gull, I flew,
I sang a heart song,
As I rode along,
“I shall come back to you!” 

For a moment my heart was heavy,
And leaden within my breast,
Suppose she had gone,
Or since been won,
By another dancing guest. 

But upon the green I found her,
By a gray stone church she stood,
I thanked the Lord,
And threw down my sword,
And knelt beneath the Rood. 

And as Tristan loved Isolde fair,
In noble King Arthur’s day,
I married my lass,
From green Belfast,
                                           And then came home to stay. 

    Erin Go Bragh!

All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Run the Race

Sunset and evening star,
  And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
  When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
    Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
    Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
    When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
    The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
    When I have crost the bar.
-Alfred Lord Tennyson

     This piece by Tennyson was a part of the Memorial Day Service at the cemetery where I typically volunteer each year. I confess to be distinctly more at home wandering among graves and tombstones than most people my age.  And perhaps it is a bit strange, yet I cannot escape the vast history and memory that lies beneath the towering Chinese elms, standing solemn and watchful.  Men and women, soldiers and civilians all lying beneath an ocean of grass--silent, yet softly whispering their legacy to any who care to stop and listen.
     I'd been thinking about that day and Tennyson's poem when the Captain and I went to visit my great-grandmother this past Sunday.  At 90 years old, doctors are softly warning that it might only be a few more weeks before she goes Home.  She looked mostly tired and wan, as if she could sleep for 100 years like the fabled Sleeping Beauty.  But she managed a few words of special greeting to us, and as a wonderful pianist herself, was glad to hear the Captain play her two lovely songs on her piano.  But her weariness overcame her, and she spent much of our visit resting.  I do not know the plans of the Lord, or if He will choose to bring her to Him soon, but I trust in His infinite and tender care of His children.  For the servants of Christ, there can be no "farewell," but only "until we shall meet again."  And fortunately for us, my wise brother, The Scout, had recently finished an extensive interview with great-grandma, detailing her life, her trials, and her legacy.  I cannot wait to listen.

     I composed this poem in honor of great-grandma's eldest son, my papa, and it is dedicated to his legacy as a faithful Christ-follower and as a long distance runner.  However, I thought it appropriate to bring up now, in light of all that has happened this past week.  I pray that someone in your own life blesses you enough to teach you the lesson of the running shoes.

The Runner   
   For Papa, who runs the race with perseverance,
And who teaches us the lesson of the running shoes. 

The Cool of the morning calls to him
With the dawn not yet awake.
The long road beckons, a voice in the wind,
“Come run with me, come take.
Take the path that wanders far
Into the rising sun.
The race that begins each morning anew
Must once again be won.
His feet are fitted in readiness
In worn out running shoes.
The air is cold and crisp outside,
And he knows he cannot lose. 
At the starting line he takes his place,
Like Sea Biscuit and Red Rum.
He stretches and grins, ready to move,
The race, once again, has come.

With wild rhythm his feet pound on,
Feeling the drums within. 
A thing of wonder, the urge to run,
Will never die in him. 
And as he runs his heart cries out,
 “Oh Lord, it’s all for you,
Give me the strength for every day,
The will to make it through.
Let me run my race with love,
Courage, conviction, and grace.
And one day when the finish comes,
Let me look upon your face.”
The years roll by, refusing to stall,
Time will never tarry.
But with torch aloft, the man runs on,
The yoke of Christ to carry. 

One bleak day the man sits down,
Behind the doctor’s door.
Shocked to hear the spoken words,
“You can run no more.” 
With a sinking heart he shuts his eyes,
How could this ever be?
A life without the welcome road,
He couldn’t imagine or see. 

A porch swing in the early morn,
Is where he sits today.
Looking out at the pavement track,
Where once he ran and prayed.
But turning towards a sound at the door,
To his surprise he finds. 
A child’s face watching him,
And peeking between the blinds.

The child sits beside him,
And at the rising of the sun,
He tilts his head and says, “Granddad,
Will you teach me how to run?” 

Surprised at first, the man is sad,
As he holds his running shoes. 
He had thought to finally hang them up,
For they were of no more use. 
But finally with a knowing smile,
He sets them gently down,
Remembering the many miles,
They took him round and round. 

Turning to the child he says,
“Life is our race to run.
Every minute of every day,
We follow Christ, God’s son. 
Over the mountains and down the hills,
Your race will take you far.
Through mornings bright and darkest nights,
Unlit by moon and star.  
But press on, press on to win the prize,
And serve the Lord above.
Pray each day for strength and peace,
And also for courage and love.
Put aside what you cannot keep,
Run for what you cannot lose.
There’s the start, your race begins,
Never hang up your running shoes.

In the light of day the man looks up,
And he cries, “Lord, it’s still for you.
Give me the strength for every day,
The will to make it through.
Let me still run this race with love,
Courage, conviction, and grace. 
And never hang up my running shoes,
Until the day I see your face.” 


*update: a few days after writing this post, my great-grandmother went home to be with The King.  Until we meet again, GG!

All work subject to copyright by the author.  Use by permission only.