Callahan, Henry. “Camera Movement of Street Lights.” 1942.

Callahan, Henry. “Camera Movement of Street Lights.” 1942.

Stalks of incense,
once lit,
continue burning
even if blown out.

They can’t stop.
The burning is on the inside.

The ember
races to the base
of the stem,
irreversible, no brakes.

And you don’t
— can’t —
launch yourself away,
tumbling to a stop
once you leave the moving object

what’s moving is

Hurtling toward
that goal floating
in the distance,
you can’t tell until
you’re closer
and the air clears -
was it really what you

This poem came out of a season when I was contemplating a couple major life changes but hadn't "flicked the match" yet. Having gone through yet another season of change since then, and now settling into the results of it, I am struck again by all that is set in motion when we make a decision to try, whether that's trying something new, re-trying something old, or just trying something different.

The results can almost never be predicted, yet we still must decide if we want to go forward with it. Do we choose the unsatisfactory known, or the complete unknown? Do we choose into a mystery that may be better than what we have? Or do we settle in? What might Jesus be calling us to? Surely he is with us in either direction, but is one better? I believe both the choice to change and the choice not to change can be made from integrity; change might not always be worth it, and change for the sake of change is inevitably exhausting.

And what you know
now is this;

a pebble starts a landslide but
you have to make a move
because there’s the burning of
or there’s the burning of
a slow suffocation
without change.

flick the match.

In this season, soon after the change of the year, we’ve probably all thought recently about what changes we want to make in the new year. I might plan to slowly make an adjustment, but my most satisfying and successful changes have been more like throwing myself down a hill. So my advice? If you decide you want change in your life, make your change like a stick of incense; set something on fire and don't turn back. Give yourself to the changes you want to make and see what happens.


Kaar, Virginia. “January"." 1935/42.

Kaar, Virginia. “January"." 1935/42.

i did it.
i quit that job,
mumbled through
an explanation
of the thread exiting my chest,
pulling me somewhere else,
thrusting me forward.
toward what?
all I could say about it
at the time
“i just feel like there’s something
inside me chanting steadily:
make something.”

and to find out who and what and why
i have to obey, to try
to make something beautiful
to say something worth saying.”

so far i think
all i’ve really learned to say is
“pay attention!”
in one hundred and forty three
different ways.
but I think even that
does bear repeating
until we do it
until we look
until we see what’s around us
and sing
and fall to our knees.

Pouring my tea in near dark, I pour blindly, waiting for the glint of light on water which means I’ve filled my cup to the brim. This is how the dark pours into the winter day, until it’s full to the brim at the end of a long twilight. The stars dance, and the world turns its shadowed face around to meet the next day’s sun. Both are experiences best lived paying close attention. Yet it’s also one of the hardest times to pay attention, these glimpses of sun buried in long nights. The sun is in no hurry at this time of year, the beginning of January, the cycle rolled back round toward lengthening, but still brief, days. We lull and luxuriate in these long nights, sleepy and slow to rise. It’s easy to let our eyelids droop when it seems not much is happening in the world outside. Paying attention is hard in the dark; we are forced to turn inward.

Open eyes, internal or external, always get you far; but to stay awake during this season we must stoke the imagination, which is needed for hope to keep alive. We must imagine: seeds resting underground, their fertility preserved and preparing for spring -- animal friends going torpid, living off of stockpiled food and fat -- burrows in the snow and fluffed feathers -- and finally we must imagine the year ahead, arcing forward with all its joys and woes, our mental image frayed at the edges, where inevitably the unimaginable will occur.

As we pour blindly into the cup of 2019, let us live the experience of this year paying close attention, watching for the glint on the water. May we let ourselves rest in the cradle of the long nights, while staying internally aware, feeding our imaginations from our stockpile, living alive in each moment and also dreaming for what is to come.


Pond, Clayton. “The Kitchen in My Former Studio.” 1968.

Pond, Clayton. “The Kitchen in My Former Studio.” 1968.

the light is out above the kitchen sink,
so cleaning is harder.
this thing is true;
the light is out above the worktable of my heart,
attempting surgery in the dark.
soap, water, brush, rinse.
air dry.

later, on the drying rack
dishes are still dirty.
this lack of light, unbearable.
more soap, more scrub; no difference.
there are always bits left behind
and I must wash again.

oh, to stop scrubbing
my own heart
and let Love
wash it clean.
no bits left behind
although the light is still out.
a perfect clean,
although the light is out.

I stumbled across this, written over a year ago, as I was searching my archives for the perfect first post for The Mustard Seed Conspiracy. At the time I wrote it, I was living in a house whose kitchen boasted but one single light, two bulbs, in the center of the ceiling. On dark winter evenings, I’d wash my dishes and think them clean, only to wake up the next morning and see them in the light - still dirty. My weary disgusted-ness at gross bits of old food are how I feel when I discover my flaws resurfacing time and time again, no matter how I try to amputate them. The annoyance of re-washing dishes over and over mimics my continual frustration at being human, at my endless attempts to get it right and the mistaken feeling that perhaps I could, if only I could see a little better.

The last stanza reflects my best hope for myself: that I could live as God sees me, relaxing into His love and letting it cover over my multitude of sins.


Photo: K. Dagen

Photo: K. Dagen

she resonates with the fall trees,
as they whip about in the fall breeze,
feeling small among these tall trees,
eager to shed off the death in their fall leaves.

eager to shed off the death in her fall leaves,
she resonates with the fall trees.

she clings to her belief
like she clings to this forsaken leaf,
shed by the fall trees
being whipped about by the fall breeze.

being whipped about by the fall breeze,
she clings to her belief.

Photo: K. Dagen

Photo: K. Dagen

the crisp air reveals her breath
as she gazes and reflects on this beautiful death.
each color of leaf
a different shade of gold, a different hue of grief.
just like them she’s changing.

just like them she’s changing.
the crisp air reveals her breath.

in breath, she heaves
a sigh
of relief,
like the breeze
in the fall trees.
in death, she believes.  

there’s beauty in the  f


Photo: K. Dagen

Photo: K. Dagen

I am finally able to sit down in silence with this piece of scrap paper covered in scribbles of half-processed and fast-written thoughts; a slight drizzle drips outside, a cup of hot tea in hand (although where’s the crisp air?), and a cuddly kitten on my lap (who can’t quite seem to decide if she wants to stay or go).

Yes, I can write now.

The top of the paper says “Hutchmoot.”

After five years of dreaming about it, I was finally able to make it to Hutchmoot. That’s a long time. Also, it seems, the best time. A year earlier would have been too soon. A year later, possibly, too late. I entered into Hutchmoot at the tail end of stripping so many things away that don’t belong to me or who I am. I arrived at the precipice of entering into a truthfulness, staring down into it from that cliff of doubt and practicalities, but filled with the courage to finally jump. I knew deep in my spirit that this weekend would give me the wings to glide off. I knew that I was ready.

Yet, as I entered the doors of Hutchmoot on the first day, paging through all of the books, observing the artwork and listening to the conversation, an all too familiar voice whispered to me, “You don’t belong here.” The lie is deeply rooted in the fall of humanity. This lie I have been tempted to believe most of my life. Many times I have reached out and chosen this lie. Many times I have accepted it. I have chosen it out of self-doubt and perfectionism, thinking I could never be good enough. I have chosen it out of protection from opportunities and dreams and people and relationships that I long for and love deeply, that mean so much to me I would break to be rejected. It’s a lie that has usually left me on the outside looking in. This is a lie that seperates.

Photo: K. Dagen

Photo: K. Dagen

Thankfully, the spirit of Hutchmoot is a Kingdom spirit. Thankfully, the Kingdom spirit sings over the lies. The lies feel stupid amidst all the beauty, and they leave. They quickly realize they have no power, even to the smallest of humans, standing on the edge of the cliff, peering off into the abyss below, wings strapped on tight. The fog below ebbs in and out, giving way to patches of intense clarity. Yes, there’s something down there.

I hesitantly walked into the auditorium on the first day for the first plenary, not knowing what to expect, only to be quickly and warmly scooped up by Hutchmoot veterans before I could even find a seat. I would soon find out I was in a place where the welcoming speech mostly consisted of comforting all the introverts. A place where people don’t ask the dreaded, “So what do you do?” - but rather, “What do you create?” or  “What do you write?” or “Why are you here?” A place where even the chef is a writer, and even the meals are immersed in story and meaning. I was in a place where you don’t have to constantly be on the lookout for “your people” because you’re already surrounded by them. A place where every form of artistic expression is deeply woven into each other.

I was in a room full of resonators, and the ring of our notes playing off of each other was loud enough to drown out a thousand lies.  

And the truth is, if I don’t belong there, than I truly don’t belong anywhere. Hutchmoot - it’s essence, is mission, its values, its people, its joy, its community, its passion, its vision, everything! - embodies who I’m becoming as a person. It embodies who I’ve always been. It embodies who I am.

I am a writer. I am a creator. I am a servant in a Kingdom of beauty, with the gift of the eyes to see it, and the responsibility to show it to others.

Hutchmoot gave me the permission to create. It said “YES” to all that needed affirmed. It surrounded me with a group of people to cheer me on, some from the top and some from the bottom, as I leap off of the cliff.

So here I go, awkwardly winged, into the fullest of truths.

The Voice that I love says, “Welcome home. You have arrived.”


Photo: K. Dagen

Photo: K. Dagen

Outside -
a shovel scrapes;
I want to be the one,
I want to be the blessing.

Layer up;

Dig, scrape, lift,
labor -
for me and for my neighbor.
Let me be the blessing.

Don't watch,
don't look,
I need this more than you.

give way to shame;
overcome by my own humanity.
Even my best attempts are ugly.

No stirring, no movement.
Apart from me all is still.
I labor.
But the world waits.

Quick to bless?
No, quick to mess.


My shovel only interrupts a work that is not yet complete.
to see the smooth subtle beauty
before it's destroyed by human frustration;
all for me and for my neighbor.

The snow keeps falling.
It covers over all I've done,
and gives me the grace,
the space,
to try again.

Outside -
the snow falls;
I wait.