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Fall Birches (my attempt at #poetry)

I went to a writer’s conference yesterday and took a class called “Listening for your Voice.” The subject focused on poetry, and the instructor stressed– Don’t be afraid to write who you are and where you are. You were given a special voice, so use it. (I contend this is an absolute truth applicable for all genres.)

Okay. Let’s see how I sound.

I’m experimenting with what’s called an Ekphrastic poem, using a photograph I was given in class yesterday.  Poetry may or may not be my strong suite, but it’s fun to write different things, and I hope you enjoy it. I enjoyed writing it. 🙂


“Fall Birches”


Grand and tall, colorful and strong, the birch stands solid and steadfast. Against the clear blue sky, fall inspires fresh new colors of season’s change. Gathered together a forest of trees is simply beautiful.

A rare autumn day in great Northwest, sunshine rays warm and bright. No clouds hinder crisp reds and golds, no rain dampens my spirit; it wanders free, delighting in contemplation on my love for the birch.

Pure white; tall, slender, misshapen body; tender skin etched and scarred in black. Spindly arms hold delicate leaves of fall’s rainbow, silver green in springtime. The birch seems an innocent and fragile creation. Graceful and soft.

Yet under my hands, beneath the tissue-paper coating and knotted blemishes, I feel sturdiness; strength within the trunk. The birch’s core unshakable; branches anchored, unbending under pressure; leaves fastened.

I smile. Intimate exploration with my senses reveals stark contrasts  I’ve come to love about God’s curious creations. Fragility and strength; beauty and blemish; inner truth and outer observations. Time, heart, and wonder lead to hidden places holding marvelous discoveries about life.

So it is with human spirit. Gathered together a beautiful sight, strong and radiant against the backdrop of a vibrant world. As seasons change and life lives on, His dynamic contrasts exude from each–  every heart bruised and scarred in noticeable places carrying a core of fortitude.

Time, heart, and wonder lead to marvelous places. A majestic canopy of fall birches inspires awe for God’s nature.

This single law of life


No matter how advanced we become as a society, there is one rule of life that remains timeless. Love one another.

Whether you are a believer in Jesus Christ or not, there seems to be a generally accepted consensus that loving one another proves to be far more fruitful than hating, judging, and hurting one another. It’s hard to argue with that, right?

Of course, it’s way easier to love on the people who seem to deserve it– those who sacrifice, those who honor, those who are innocent, those who are honest, those who suffer, and those who are our own. It’s easier to have grace and mercy and forgiveness for people we easily love.

The challenge to love happens when we encounter people who seem to embody traits, values, and behaviors that are opposite of what’s easy to love. The automatic reflex is to hold back on showing sincere love to those who are selfish, who are disingenuous, who steal innocence, who are guilty, who are dishonest, who are more successful than they should be, and who are strangers. I mean why should we invest or respond in love for people who don’t seem to deserve the sacrifice and energy that true love needs?

Because the second we turn our back or spew a hateful word or retaliate on someone, we are no better than the person we punish. Thus the cycle of hate and judgement and hurt continues to spin.

This is not to say, of course, we are to love and honor the behaviors that destroy. We should certainly hold, and be held accountable for, actions that are wrong– illegal, unethical, immoral. But we shouldn’t persecute– judge, hate, retaliate against the person–the human— who persecutes.

Hate breaks down that which is already beautiful and stunts the growth of what is meant to beautiful. The groups of people–our life-neighbors–who receive the harshest of hate and judgement–prisoners, mentally ill, prostitutes, homosexuals, homeless, etc.– they are, and are meant to be, beautiful; they should be treated as such.  No one, but especially those who are most marginalized, should be expected to live a happy, shiny life if their own community of fellowmen write them off as unworthy of attention and useless in purpose. But, offer hope and love to those who need it most, and watch them thrive. It’s a fundamental “human thing”–common sense, really. But it’s also a “God thing.”

BiblenJournalGod and his Word get a bad rap in a lot of ways, but one notable complaint against God are his laws, specifically the Ten Commandments. What I don’t think many realized, though, is God really only has one law–one rule of life he asks us to follow. Love one another. Check this out:

The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery’, ‘Do not murder’, ‘Do not steal’, ‘Do not covet’, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Well that doesn’t seem so restrictive or legalistic does it? And didn’t we already agree that loving each other is far more fruitful that hating and judging each other? It’s a “human thing,” right? To be deemed a good person don’t murder, steal, covet other people’s things, cheat on your spouse, etc.

This quote above, my friends, comes from Romans 13:9-10. This is God’s Word. Which means that the foundation of what we agree upon is actually a “God thing.” Sometimes I feel like when we fight about God and who he really is or what his Word really says, we end up disagreeing about God yet finding common ground in generally accepted human common sense.

Okay great, Leanne. You made your point that we’re supposed to love one another, but how do you propose we do that?

I’m glad you asked. God lays it out pretty clearly, and again, I think you might be pleasantly surprised at how non-legalistic the game-plan is:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge , my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’, says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, find him something to drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)

*Quick side note: “heap burning coals on his head” is a metaphor for making one feel ashamed or guilty and thus motivated to change his/her ways toward right behavior.*

I don’t know about you, but I want to receive love that is sincere. I want to cling to what is good. I want others to live in brotherly love with me. I want those who help in community to serve with energy. I want joy in hope. I want people to rejoice with me and morn with me. Do you? If we want these things for ourselves so as to live a peaceful life in harmony with others, then we must also give freely in love to others… all others. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

If we react in ways that are unloving and/or are rooted in revenge or ill-will, we only fuel the fire. But if we respond in ways that are rooted in sincere love (sometimes that means tough-love), we begin to calm the angry flames; we tend a fire that burns for light and life as opposed to destruction.

I know it’s easier said than done. It takes practice, and I am still learning how to do this myself. Love’s adversaries are strong, but love always prevails.

If you ever find yourself lost, angry, confused, and/or feel the whole world is against you– or are simply having a bad day, do not battle back in hate, judgement, blame, irritation, and hurt. Instead, face the people and space around you and respond in love. You’ll find the resolve you seek much quicker and with far less pain. And whether you like to believe it or not (you are free not to), God is with you every step of the way, and He will bless you greatly when you fulfill his single law… “Love your neighbor as yourself.”