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November Twists of Limb-lashed Shadows

Poets are interesting people. When I was young I had a friend who was a poet. They were never really interested in the "ordinary" things of youth, but spent long days wandering in the hills and forests. "What do you do there?" I once asked. "I watch things..." they answered.

My friend didn't simply watch, they absorbed things deeply, sights, sounds, impressions, smells. Whenever they returned to our little community they had buckets and bags of things to share, not simply the "look" of a sunrise, but the way it felt, sounded, moved and changed. Poets help us to see, hear, feel, taste and know; they trade in deep experiences.

A poet's world is organized not by time or task, but by some inner reaction to less-seen life. They hear the starlight calling, the sound of clouds sliding across the horizon, the way rivers talk to themselves... it's as if they are experiencing a world most of us don't know is there. Francis was like this in many ways. He wasn't the best organizer, but he told a great story...

Our formation guidelines tell us that "Franciscans are all about stories". We tell stories to teach, to guide and recommend, to demonstrate and sometimes to mark out boundaries. But in story-form such important understandings are much easier to absorb. I think that stories naturally get around our defenses and prejudices. Which may be why Jesus told so many. It's the reason I like to tell them, over and over. "There once was a man who went on a long journey, leaving his servants in charge..."

It doesn't matter how the story turns out; the important lesson is right up front. We have responsibilities, given to us by Christ.

  • Make peace everywhere we can...

  • Tend and grow pure hearts...

  • Try to be meek...

  • Value a poor spirit without pride...

  • When sorrow comes, let yourself feel it...

  • And if anyone rejects you because you follow Christ, take it as the greatest compliment.

That friend of mine I was telling you about gave me the title for this note. It's a line from a poem they wrote about autumn and the changes it brings. Every time I read it I remember walking home late from a meeting, smelling the aromas of supper cooking in the houses, the pecan leaves on the sidewalk, the warm porch lights and that November wind that says rain is on the way. It takes me back fifty years and it's all real, just like it happened.

This is the power of telling. We not only remember, but we preserve bits and moments of time. It makes our days richer and fuller. It keeps us connected to our truths and gives us much to share.

I hope you take time this November to remember who you are and where you came from. Then, as we go forward into Advent, the season of deep sharing, we will have real treasures to give.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!


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